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Posts Tagged ‘change

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The video above seems to have little, if anything, to do with being an edtech champion. But the words of historian Rutger Bregman ring true.

Bregman gained attention at the most recent Davos summit when he emphasised taxation of the ultra rich over philanthropy.

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Change agents who take their roles seriously might take to heart his reminder:

We can’t afford to just be tinkering around the edges. If history teaches us one thing, it’s always that change never starts in the centre, but it always starts on the fringes, with people who are first dismissed as crazy and unreasonable and ridiculous. Every milestone of civilisation, the end of slavery, democracy, equal rights for men and women, the welfare state. All these ideas were dismissed once as unreasonable and crazy. Until they happened.

Be crazy. Be unreasonable. Be ridiculous. But only you have your head screwed on right and are a student of the history of your field. You can project only if you have depth, and that comes from the past. For change agents, this past does not hold back; it anchors to realities that need to change.

During a visitation this lunar new year, a family member played a video of a gathering on an almost 30-year-old video tape.

Through the video “snow”, we watched a snippet of Singapore in 1991. Folks gathered around the TV screen to question their fashion and hairstyle choices, and to gossip about relatives who had since passed away.

Since the video featured the apartment we were in, some marvelled at how little had changed by comparing what was on screen with what was around us.

Only one part of the video caught my attention. While the adults in the video chatted in the living room, a girl busied herself by playing video games on an old console.

Back in the room, my son was sitting in the same place as the girl in the video. In between watching the video time capsule, he played video games on his iPhone. So much time had passed, but so little had changed.

I was not thinking about kids being kids. I was thinking about how quick adults are to judge kids as they explore and learn on their own. I was also wondering how oblivious adults are to the change process (or the lack of, in this case).

For me, the visitation video was a reminder that things might seem to change superficially. But if we dig deeper, things actually remain the same. The way to tell if anything has changed at all it to examine the history of a behaviour or practice.

… and damned if you don’t. That was one of my reactions when I watched this video.

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The video featured volunteers trying to help during the US government service shutdown. But they were stopped by an authority figure because current policies do not allow them to chip in when the chips are down for federal employees.

Therein lies a reminder for change agents in schooling and education. You know that something should be done now and you take it upon yourself (and perhaps a small team) to enact the change. But policies and those that police them will stand in your way.

This reminded me of a series of workshops that I designed and conducted for an education institute. I had recommended that policy makers and administrators also attend the sessions.

My contact enabled this and it was a joy to facilitate. The police makers and administrators were not on the frontline and could not see what progressive pedagogy looked like. At the same time, instructors on the ground could not understand the rationales formed in towers overhead.

The workshops became shared spaces and experiences for these folk to co-learn and to exchange their perspectives. I wish more organisations would enable such designs.

… the more things remain the same. So the saying goes.

Sometimes when folks trying to implement change tell me their stories, that saying echoes in my head.

Inertia, indifference, and ignorance entrench the status quo. Change, if it happens at all, happens so slowly as to be inperceptible.

But isn’t some change better than none at all?

No, not when the change is backward.

No, not when the change is so slow as to leave stakeholders so far behind that they seem to moving backward.

So again I say:

Standing still is like moving backwards if you do nothing as the world rushes by.


… seems like exercise, but you are not moving forward. That seemed to the premise of this reflection by Will Richardson on doing the same thing as you did in the past when you do not know what to do next.

I go slightly further and point out that keeping still when the world passes you by has the same effect as moving backwards. The others move further and further out of view and you get left behind.

Standing still is like moving backwards if you do nothing as the world rushes by.


I have worked with several agencies as an education and technology consultant. I rarely find one that is synchronised with its words and with the times.

Nostalgia is like grammar. It makes the past perfect and the present tense.

The agencies often tout “future-ready” students who have “21st century competencies” like “collaboration”. I am going to repeat what I have said before:

  • Readiness is a state of being, and since you cannot perfectly predict the future, you cannot ensure future-readiness. At best, you can do you try to prepare. Preparation is a state of mind.
  • Just what competencies are uniquely 21st century? Why use a catch-all phrase instead of being specific?
  • How is collaboration 21st century? Did people not need to also collaborate in centuries prior? Furthermore, what you often refer to as collaboration is actually just cooperation. Look it up.

More important than the words are the actions.

There are very basic actions that one can take to be more progressive or future-oriented. Take editing documents for example. I am used to efficient, secure, and effective document sharing and co-authoring with Google Docs. Yet there are times when I am forced to revert to old school exchanges of documents.

Take payments as another example. In just the last four years of operating as a consultant, most of my pay has been facilitated online through secure government portals. Yet I have encountered entities that operate by cheque and cash. In one case of cash, I was given foreign currency, and after exchanging it when I got home, earned much less.

I am tempted to say that such agencies are not in sync with the times. As the rest of the first world barrels forward, these holdouts cling to old and unnecessary ways. They refuse to learn and to do better, recreate old ways of doing things, and remain in sync with the past.

As a result of such actions, they teach and model behaviours that are contrary to their words. Instead of “future-ready”, they are past-perfect. Instead of being “21st century”, they reside in the 19th. Instead of collaborating or even cooperating, they are obstructing or retarding.

So while most folks wax lyrical on the last day of the year, I use a few image quotations I updated recently to remind myself why change is the only constant.

Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.

Tomorrow's educational progress cannot be determined by yesterday's successful performance.

People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.


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The video above is the original music video, We Built This City, by Starship. The song was released in 1985.

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This is a parody, We Built This City …on Sausage Rolls. It was rerolled by LadBabay about a week ago. The actual song starts after some bickering.

If there is one thing about the process of change it is that something different is not always new. But what is new is somehow different. If that difference is not communicated, implemented, or celebrated, then there is not change.

Doing things differently does not always mean doing things better. But doing things better always means doing things differently. -- Hank McKinnell

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