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Posts Tagged ‘behaviour

Do some descendants of our former colonial masters think that Singapore is part of China? That was the impression I got when I read this article.

A video recording crew travelled all the way here from the British isles only to discover that their footage looked like it could have been shot at home. So they decided to get a post-production house to digitally alter signs in English to Chinese.

I could also point out that the article was edited after my screen capture (compare my tweet with the article) without adding a footnote about this change, but that is not the purpose of my reflection.

My reflection is about how perceptions drive reality. If people believe something outdated and inaccurate but do not check against reality or newer information, they will continue to shape their realities to fit their beliefs.

More disconcertingly, if people want to perpetuate their mistaken beliefs, they will do so, even if presented with more current and conflicting information.

To be clear, Singapore is not in China, we have a Chinese majority but our lingua franca is English, and some of us might speak and write better English than “native” users.

My design manta has always been this: Mindsets shape expectations, expectations dictate behaviour. If we do not change mindsets, beliefs, and attitudes), we cannot hope to change actions, environments, or cultures.

I cannot change your behaviour if I do not first help you change your mind.

This is why I try to address mindsets when I have short term engagements like seminars or workshops. I try to attack the tip of the brain; the change makers I influence have to deal with the long tail of expectations and behaviours.

We have all received email or snail mail notifications claiming to contain “gentle reminders“. They might also request that you “revert back” to someone, possibly as a response to the gentle reminder.

I do not take kindly to messages telling me to “kindly” do something. Just say please.

Then there’s “cum”. Its ambiguous use makes for much sniggering. For example:

Hat tips to @hsiao_yun and @genrwong for contributing some of the ideas and links.

What all these awkward phrases share is that no one actually taught an office administrator or poster maker to write like that. Someone started using the phrases, the words seemed official or high-sounding, and uncritical readers became uncritical users.

They did not need to be taught such phrases. They caught them like a cold. Sneeze, snort, pass it on.

I have reflected on things are that more caught than taught. I am referring to how people learn by observing, mirroring, and picking up behaviours of others.

One need only marvel or be surprised at what kids say or do. How often have you heard or said, “I did not teach them that! Who or where did they learn that from?”

If you are a teacher, the answer is: They learnt it from you. There was no curriculum, lesson plan, objectives or outcomes, practice, assessment, etc. But the kids learnt it anyway. And these unintended lessons stick like superglue.

Video source

The video above is a good example of what I am referring to. But this sort of learning is not reserved for kids.

The lessons here are:

  1. Recognise that learning does not just happen in the classroom. More often than not, it starts, continues, and ends outside of it.
  2. We should be mindful of not just what we say, but also how we model desired outcomes.
  3. It is important to be reflective and critical. If something bugs you, do not brush it off. It might be your common sense screaming to be heard.

In the Singapore context, code switching might refer to a person’s ability to alternate between different forms of the same language.

For example, in a formal context like a meeting or presentation, a person might speak proper, standard English. In an informal context like lunch with colleagues or a neighbourly chat, that same person might speak Singlish.

This happens intuitively for those that actually have at least two switch positions. The problems that language purists might have are when users do not know when to switch according to context and if there is only one code to choose from (typically Singlish).

Those are problems for language experts to discuss.

There is behavioural code switching that all of us should be concerned about.

Oriental City Food Court by Route79, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Route79 

We used to clear our food trays after eating at fast food joints or other eateries. I am not sure when, but a generation of people have stopped doing it. This has become the norm so much so that signs and posters that urge patrons to return their trays are happily ignored.

Most schools require students to clear their trays when they are done in the canteen. The kids do it or pay a penalty of some sort. So it becomes normal or expected behaviour.

But these same kids nonchalantly leave their trays behind when they are done at fast food restaurants or food courts. There is no legal or social penalty for doing this after all.

They have learnt to code switch their behaviours. This is a sad thing.

What is sadder is that some adults justify or defend this behaviour. They might point out that this is how kids behave at home because their maids do the clearing.

They might also say that tray-clearing provides employment for the “aunties” and “uncles” at these places. But they fail to realize that these jobs would not be necessary if they cleared their own trays or that these folks could be better deployed.

Worse than this behavioural code switching is if there is only one not-clearing code or if the switch is stuck in that mode.

In the grand scheme of things, this sounds trivial. But the little things count because they all add up.

When we eat out, I make it a point to clear my own tray. I make sure my son does the same too. We can do our part in making our place a little kinder and cleaner.

Video source

There are several iterations and remixes of the Did You Know/Shift Happens video by Fisch and company. Now from New Brunswik, Canada, comes a video I’d like to call Do You Realize.

The Did You Know series presents thought-provoking factoids that might stimulate questions or discussions about whether current schooling prepares students for the 21st century. The Do You Realize video goes a step further and provides some examples of how we might actually do this.

But we might need to take a step back before pushing forward. I think that we do not have a common and clear vision on what these desirable 21st century attributes are. A quick search will reveal many definitions and frameworks of 21st century thinking, skills, attitudes, behaviours, etc.

For example,

One could try to identify the similarities from all these examples and say that this distillation represents the wisdom of many parties. But I think we need to be more critical. Just what makes a 21st century property something that is uniquely 21st century?

A commonly cited 21st century trait is collaboration. Is collaboration only important now or in the future? Did generations in the past not collaborate? The obvious answer to both questions is of course not! The same could be said about other traits like communication or creativity or empathy for others.

At the risk of oversimplifying the argument, what these separate bodies have suggested as 21st century traits are actually ones that are mediated, emphasized or exacerbated by rapidly evolving technology.

Current and future technologies are allowing us to publish, share and communicate more easily. The world is flatter and smaller because we are not only acutely aware of what is happening in some other part of the world, we are possibly working with someone there. A call to create a shared document, video or Prezi can originate anywhere and find collaborators and contributors all over the world.

Video source

The video above is oDesk’s vision of the Future of Work but you already see some of it happening today. We are doing this with various technologies and over a distance instead of being face-to-face and over a handshake. This in turn creates problems and opportunities. But these problems and opportunities are not what schools prepare students for.

Yes, there is talk of revision, reform or evolution in schooling. But there is little action. Compared to the rest of the world, schools are used to life in slow motion. Its returns are not immediate and its primary clients (the students) influenced by so many other factors that one cannot fully attribute success or failure just to schooling. If education has not changed much since the 19th century, what is its hurry for the 21st?

Fortunately, some educators on the ground sense the need for change and do not wait for administrators and policymakers to make up their minds (see Will Richardson’s recent entry on this). I am particularly heartened by Richard Byrne’s blog entry and I hope that more teachers think and act this way. It is part of the culture and expectation of the 21st century to believe and behave as such. If we put our children and our students first, we will figure out what we must do, with or without help from the higher ups.

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