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The only reason I have newspapers is to use them to cover walls and floors while I clean or paint. I unearthed an almost 10-year-old “relic” while doing some home improvement.

I used to receive a campus newspaper when I was the head of a department in a local university. This is how it was labelled.

An old label -- internal newspaper sent to me when I was Head of CeL.

It probably kept some people busy and ensured publication numbers. Whether it was read or taken seriously did not seem to matter as much.

I recall trying to stop the delivery to me since my department was located in an obscure place on campus. But I kept running into the policy wall. I tried to reason that there was no need to send two copies to my department — one for me and one for my staff — but the habit was deeply ingrained.

So as not to waste the paper, I recycled them, used them as stuffing for boxes, or for home improvement works.

The old label reminded me not just about the work I used to do but also the resistance I faced even on mundane matters. Old institutional habits do not die hard, they cling on to holds and ledges built by nostalgia and the status quo. I used to fight those battles every day. Now I get to pick the fights.

Most people celebrate happy annual events like birthdays or marriages, but not sad ones like the departure of a loved one.

I left NIE at exactly two years ago today. I removed the labels of Head of the Centre for e-Learning, lecturer, and professor.

Before leaving, I made this goodbye video (Be happy, OK?) with the help of my motley crew.

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Watching the video brought a stupid grin to my face as I recalled working with a fine group of individuals.

Then again, as an independent education consultant, I smile every day now. I get to choose what work I do, which meetings to attend, and who I work with.

I might be pushing 50, but I am just two-years-old as far as renewed growth is concerned. This is because I stepped out of my comfort zone and am happier and wiser for it.

July 31st is my last day as a faculty member of NIE. Before I leave, I have some parting words for members of my work family, the Centre for e-Learning.

You have started experiencing the changes that typically happen with the change in leadership. The pains are normal. Here are three tips to deal with it.

  1. Do not complain. Do something productive about it. Complaining gets you nowhere and demoralizes you and those around you.
  2. Help yourself by helping others. By this I mean two things: Take the perspective of others when you need their help. Then work towards a purpose larger than yourself.
  3. If you must (eventually) leave, do so with no regrets. Do not stay and implement half measures. Know that you have done your best so that you never have to say “I wish I had…”.

P. S. This is not goodbye. I am quite sure that it is more like see you later. 😉

Video source

I received feedback online and in person that I made CeL version of the “Happy” video sad at the end.

In true Singaporean fashion, my response was: Sad, meh?

It was designed to be poignant. After all, I was ending my CeL Monday video series after almost a year of experimenting with it. I was also leaving as Head of CeL after four years of leading it.

Today marks the end of my appointment as Head. So I think I had a right to make the video end that way. It is not an entirely sad note, but a happy one. The department is proud of what it has achieved over the last few years and I am proud to have been part of it.

I should repeat what I say to all the middle managers and leaders who take my MLS125 course: Often when leaders leave, many initiatives die or go with them. The only thing you can really leave behind is people who have changed for the better.

Where there used to be a group that knew the meaning of hard work, there is now a group that also knows how to adapt, to take the initiative and ownership, to think and act more broadly, and to be loyal.

I have shaped that culture and belief system, so I have no regrets. I am happy.

The Centre for e-Learning (CeL) tried two slightly different professional development (PD) strategies so far this year.

The first was our Beat the Haze series in early April. This was our listing in the Learning Edge and photo records in Facebook albums [1] [2] [3] [4] [5].

The strategy was simple but effective. Our tagline was: Our online platforms are ready for the haze. Are you?

There will always be a segment of people who worry about the “business continuity” in the event of an environmental disaster or inconvenience. This could be a flood in Thailand, a typhoon in the Philippines, or the haze shrouding Singapore.

Unfortunate as the circumstances may be, these are perfect opportunities to turn the mindset of emergency learning into e-learning.

Our second strategy was to modify the “brown bag” discussions that take place in some universities. We wanted something bite-sized, informal, and meaningful to participants. This strategy is currently in play in the month of May.

Instead of requiring participants to come to a centralized location, we went to them. Instead of asking them to bring something to eat, we brought them items to dabao or to take away (see Facebook photo album).

This was our first foray with a more informal, but I think more effective, strategy. This was not designed to be a series of briefings disguised in brown paper bags. Sharing was short, bidirectional, and open to change. Academic staff were free to air their grievances or to share their own tips, and CeL staff had to be ready for anything.

CeL is still learning despite the successes we have experienced with the strategies. Like a reflective teacher, we know that what works in one semester and with one group may not work in another context.

I attended an event recently where a speaker tried to impress upon the audience how much the world was changing. One of the examples was how modern countries outsource low level work to other countries.

Such work is typically mundane or repetitive, and has relatively low cognitive demands. Such work is outsourced also because it is not popular with citizens of the more modern country.

I think we outsource a fair bit of complex work too.

Come Fall Asleep by xcode, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  xcode 

Many working parents resort to hiring domestic helpers for child-rearing and elderly care. In Singapore, these domestic helpers come from the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar (amongst others).

I would not consider what domestic helpers do to be simple. They have very heavy demands because parents offload some parenting responsibilities to their helpers. Often this creates such a dependency that the option to outsource becomes a norm instead.

I am not against outsourcing. I am wary of not considering the long term consequences of unthinking behaviour.

Often a move like outsourcing is a knee-jerk or urgent response to a need. The needs become wants. The wants become expectations. The expectations become culture. And then it is hard to change.

In a recent dialogue that I had with visitors to CeL, I described how we outsource some work like mobile app creation and ICT skills-based workshops to interns and vendors respectively.

But unlike how the outsourcing of parenting creates a dependency or absolves the parent of parenting, our outsourcing efforts allow us to be better at our core work, offer a wide variety of services, and improve in the areas we are weak in. I am confident that should circumstances change so much so that we have to stop outsourcing, we will be the better for it, not worse.

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Choo is CeL’s Technical-Admin while Niko is a Video Content Developer.

Choo and Niko are standing in for Uncle Chee as he was unwell leading up to the video series. (Do not worry, Chee is better now.)

Choo and Niko will lead us into the weekend with fun tips on video-related edtech. Both of them are a bit camera shy, but their screen alter egos are as entertaining as they are!

Subscribe to Friday with Choo & Niko

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Fareed is one of four Educational Technologists in CeL. He is cool, calm, and collected.

Fareed will will coolly and calmly present short snippets he has collected on educational technologies that interest him. I trust that they will interest you!

Subscribe to Thursday with Fareed

Yeu Ann takes care of Hump Day.

If Monday is blue, Wednesday must be grey. But I think Yeu Ann will add some colour to a dreary week day.

Video source

Yeu Ann is one of two full-time Multimedia Programmers in CeL.

He is a creative spark, and despite needing a hearing aid (due to a childhood illness), he is not short on interesting things to say.

Subscribe to Wednesday with Yeu Ann


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