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Posts Tagged ‘change

This press piece began with this question.

Why is the question not: Why are some people less productive than others when working at work? It is not as if working outside of home automatically makes work better for everyone.

A similar and equally uncritical question could be asked of schooling and education: Why is home-based learning so difficult? We should instead pivot to the question about the difficulties of learning in the classroom.

One direct answer for avoiding the pivot is that refocusing on work and school highlights what we fail to do well and somehow keep ignoring. For example, it is easier to ignore how administrative needs at work or school might be placed higher than working or learning needs.

Another simple answer is that the home is not made for work or school. Often it is a place to get away from both, i.e., to rest, pursue an interest, spend time with family, etc. We can make adjustments to home just like a scuba diver dons a suit and air tank, but such adjustments are temporary. 

So, no, the tweeted question is not a good one. It is an attempt at clickbait. It is not an attempt to actually challenge or develop creative and critical thinking. 

A question that might actually create some dissonance might be: What can we learn from the online pivot at work/school and apply to the workplace/classroom when we return?

Martin Weller recently critiqued how we tend to do the same thing differently:

We decry the tendency to simply replicate lectures online, but then do the same with meetings. We call for educators to use technology to its advantage to realise new pedagogies, and then recreate face to face conferences in Zoom. We stress the need to rethink your teaching approach to ensure learners are not adversely affected and then conduct line management via Teams.

In short, we think almost exclusively inside the work/school box even when circumstances (pandemic) throw us firmly outside it.

Now that we have enforced experiments with telecommuting and remote teaching/learning, why not use these experiences to address the weaknesses of the office and classroom?

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I was a bit disappointed that respected educator, Larry Cuban, decided to air the concerns of a scholar, Rick Hess, who is from the American Enterprise Institute and director of Education Policy Studies.

My disappointment aside, the piece is worth the read.

Hess had opinions that probably carry some weight for a likeminded readership. For instance: 

Tech isn’t a replacement for the human face of schooling; at its best, it augments and supplements it. The goal is to give teachers more time and energy to get to know their students, to put a hand on a shoulder, to ask the right question, to engage a disengaged learner. It’s hard to do all that in the best of circumstances—it’s that much tougher when schools are using tech to normalize remote learning, asynchronous days, or eyeballs glued to devices.

Hess considered these to be a bitter pandemic legacy for schooling. To be fair, Hess seemed to be concerned about technology being used for its own sake and driving change that does not change teaching and learning for the better. I share that concern.

But I worry about the dichotomy of thought. The split is that technology is only for enhancing and not for enabling. Why can’t edtech be used to engage, encourage, and help create cognitive dissonance?

Taking a step back, the desperate push to use edtech during the pandemic might have created some semblance of continuity in schools. With this push came quick answers like adopting current technologies, shortening school days/weeks, and redesigning curricula.

But what are the important questions we should have asked and should still be asking? For example, why is the use of technology a second-best option or even a last resort? How might edtech be integrated into everyday schooling so that it enables learning rather than just enhancing teaching? What is not right about returning to normal? How might we change for the better?

The pandemic is an opportunity to rethink what it means to school, educate, teach, and learn. It would a bitter legacy if we keep relegating technology-mediated teaching and learning to second class.

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This YouTube video was designed for entertainment, but that does not mean we cannot use it for education. 

Its main message seemed to be that factual information can change over time and circumstance. To paraphrase what one reactor said: A fact is a fact until it isn’t.

What we accept as facts, be it about our planetary system or people in history, change because we acknowledge and overcome ignorance. This is not just due to the accumulation of more information. It is due to the willingness to do so because of a simultaneously open and critical mindset. In the context of the USA, the change is recognising that their history has been whitewashed, i.e., told largely from the Caucasian point of view.

The video also compared how physical education (PE) and sex education has changed in the the USA. A snapshot of what idealised PE looked like in the JFK era looked different from an anecdote now, but sex education in some states in the USA might not have changed much since then.

The fact of the matter is this: As far as we might have come from schooling then, it is not far enough for the now. Schooling is inherently conservative because it is steered by committees. Once we accept that fact, we might then insist that these committees play by the principles below.

If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow. -- John Dewey
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.
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I enjoyed the video embedded in this tweet about how academics write.

But I had a different application of the video. Mine about how it applies to folks who arrange for professional development for their staff.

I have observed that such events are often standalone, i.e., they do not serve a longer term purpose or are not linked to an overall theme. Some organisers are just happy to check off an item from a to-do list.

Seminar on new policy, check. Workshop on new skill, check. But do these sessions result in learning and changed behaviours? If not, the interventions are like the person pulling the sheep out of the rut. But the sheep has not learnt anything and jumps back into the rut.

There is nothing inherently wrong with arranging on-going development for your workers. It is the responsible thing to do. But it is irresponsible to not also address mindsets that affect behaviours. 

Everyone and their grandma seemed to jump to make memes of the stranded ship in the Suez Canal [example].


Video source

Most seemed to contrast the huge ship against the relatively tiny digger. The effort of the latter seemed futile against the hulking mass of the former.


Video source

I am glad I resisted the impulse to create my own meme because the ship is free now. This was thanks to factors within and outside our control.

For me this was a reminder about what influences change against seemingly impossible odds.

Efforts within our control might include interventions like the digger and tugboats. The equity of these in edtech might be e-learning days and mobile initiatives.

Then there are factors outside our control. In the case of the stranded ship, this was a high tide that allowed the controlled interventions to work. In the world of edtech, these might be the current pandemic and shifting policies.

While the latter factors are not within our control, they can be studied, predicted, and/or prepared for. So what seems like a miracle move actually is not. It is a lot of thankless and invisible work that shifts to a sprint when the signal goes off.

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Better edubloggers than me have reminded us why schools should not return to normal post-pandemic.

In a moment of serendipity, Seth Godin just blogged this:

…we learn in ways that have little to do with how mass education is structured…

…The educational regimes of the last century have distracted us. It turns out that the obvious and easy approaches aren’t actually the ones that we need to focus on.

How likely is meaningful change to happen? Not very, but we can hope while pushing from whatever edge and corner we are at.

If nothing substantial happens this time round, perhaps the next pandemic will bring a more forceful reminder.

History repeats itself. It has to, because no one ever listens. -- Steve Turner.


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What started as a retelling of the fable of a frog slowly being boiled to death ended with a reminder on how short-sighted we are.

The original story: A frog in increasingly hot water would not jump out until it was too late. This was supposed to be a reminder not to ignore the warning signs.

The scientific application of the story was that frogs would not sit in hot water for long. They would jump out of it if they could. Humans, on the other hand, are less inclined.

The rest of the science pointed to how we are gradually “boiling” our planet while ignoring the data and warnings about our irreversibly harmful behaviour.

The video is not only a good example of how to create a hook with a less expected sinker, it is also an example of how to use seemingly peripheral or tangential phenomena to dive deeper into a topic.

I agree with the observations in the tweet above, particularly the one about education.

Actually I don’t, not fully. Schooling operates like that, not education. Education is not fully dependent on policymakers, administrators, and teachers because you can educate yourself and do what works.

But I digress.

Why do we know what works and yet not do it? A simple answer: We take the path of least resistance. A longer answer: Doing what works is hard work, has a long tail, and is difficult to measure.

The hard thing to do is to focus on the learning over the teaching. Ideally teaching should lead to learning, but teaching does not guarantee learning. Why? For the same reason that speaking does not ensure listening.

Learning might involve processes like independent study, discussion with peers, authentic and repeated practice, reflecting on feedback, switching strategies, etc. These are not always facilitated by a teacher in a classroom and this contributes to why this is hard to do.

Teachers and administrators have also been conditioned to rely on tests to measure learning. While these might gauge if immediate or short term learning has occurred, it does not guarantee if what is learnt now can be used later when it matters.

Longer term learning is influenced by many factors, among them the learner’s motivation to keep at it, the opportunities to practice, the availability of resources, the interaction with likeminded peers, etc. Some might call this lifelong or career wide learning, but it is just the continuation of learning.

Such learning is unique to the individual, so standardised processes are poor measures. The one toolset that might possibly capture snapshots of such learning is portfolios and these have yet to be common because we seek the path of least resistance.

This tweeted declaration and its elaboration in the news article seem obvious, do they not? That edtech should serve educational purposes must be as obvious as how we fall down because the earth sucks.

But the answer to the question on the purpose of edtech depends on who you ask.

  • If you ask a vendor of the technology, it might be to sell as much as possible for as long as possible.
  • If you ask a university administrator, it might be to fulfil a budget line item and to follow procurement procedures.
  • If you ask a teaching staff, it might be to pivot as little as possible so as to recreate a face-to-face experience online instead.
  • If you ask a student, it might be to make the best of a bad situation — campus shutdown during the pandemic — and get as much out of the tuition fees as possible.

The president of the university from whom the headline quoted elaborated:

…we use technology to make the best of the situation, and we deliver the best experiences that we can until such time that we can pivot offline.

So if you take that out of context, it might be to salvage a bad experience and hope that normalcy returns.

For me, what is obvious is that learning outcomes are not always the concern or priority, no matter what anyone might claim. It is not what you say that matters, but what you do.

It should be obvious that all stakeholders need to learn from the shared experience, i.e., realise that some of the differences are better, and not return completely to normal by adopting what worked better. That should be obvious, should it not?

This reflection has two parts.

 
If we took this Facebook post seriously, a naysayer might agree with its sentiment point out the ridiculous lengths it now takes to charge an electric vehicle in an emergency. But a more objective person would point out how the environment is not ready for a progressive change, i.e., there are not enough charging stations.

If we look back in history, we might find that petrol-based cars had the same issue when the system was optimised for animal-drawn vehicles. There would not have been enough fuel stations, the laws would have favoured horses, the roads would not have been tarmacked, etc.

So it does not make sense to judge an incoming change with the standards of an outgoing one. Instead, we should make way or embrace change, even if it might look ridiculous or feel uncomfortable now. How else is change going to happen?

But the premise of that Facebook post was false. Two news agencies [Reuters] [USA Today] pointed out that the premise was not accurate.

“The photo was actually misinterpreted,” Christian Klejna, a technical expert at ÖAMTC, told Reuters via email. “This is not a petrol generator, but a mobile power bank for e-cars. The “Mobile Electric Vehicle Charger” consists of several lithium cells and can deliver electricity for about twelve kilometers to an electric vehicle.”

The rescue vehicle was diesel-powered, not petrol-driven. The charger was not diesel but electric instead. If the argument is still that the rescue vehicle was not electric, it misses the point.

Using factually incorrect “memes” does not make you correct. It does not counter the fact that change in transition, particularly in its early stages, looks clumsy. Resisting progressive change with ignorance does not strengthen a laggard’s cause.


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