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Posts Tagged ‘change

Come early February I can correct a two-year mistake that I tied myself to — my TV subscription.

Two years ago I committed to a contract to my go-to telco for something they called Home Hub. Where home Internet, phone, and TV services were once separate, all three were bundled under that then new scheme.

The promise was that I would get more for less. That was true to some extent because I got a higher Internet speed for less cost per month. The digital home phone line was something we rarely used, but it was a comforting backup.

What was a waste of money was the TV subscription. My family and I do not watch it the way we did when my wife and I did when we were growing up, i.e., based on someone else’s timetable. We watched on demand.

The meant relying on platforms like YouTube and Netflix. This in turn meant that we paid for what we did not use or need — conventional TV delivered through a fibre optic cable.
 

 
Soon we will “cut” that cord and rely solely on data access for everything we need in terms of employment, education, enrichment, entertainment, etc. I will pay even less to get Internet access speeds that I could only dream of when I first went online.

I wish we had done this sooner when the competition was heating up among service providers and prices dropped even as options increased. The telcos had no choice but to listen to their customers and ride the trend of cord-cutting.

Still I wager that I am in the minority. Why else would the other options persist? The telcos create customer lock-in and retard change.

The status quo is comfortable for the telcos and most customers. However, this denies everyone a better experience. If customers take the initiative or are presented with newer options, they get better experiences for less cost. Happier customers mean better retention for telcos.

As I relate almost everything I experience to schooling and education, I see two reminders for educators and change agents.

If your plan is for one year plant rice.  If your plan is for ten years plant trees.  If your plan is for one hundred years educate children. -- Confucius

First, unlike telcos the school system changes very slowly because the impact on its bottom line is seen or felt very late. This is like watching a tree grow.

Second, the telcos respond to their customers because the latter speak loudly with their wallets and credit cards. If they are unhappy, they move to a better provider. The onus is on the telco to be progressive.

Most schools, on the other hand, have captive audiences. Like the telco customers, students have changing needs and wants. Unlike telcos, schools do not respond to these changes because the pressure is less immediate.

As educators, we need to ask ourselves if we can afford to wait. The cost of waiting does not come directly from the wallet. The cost is maintaining mindsets, expectations, and practices of teachers that are quickly losing relevance.

Standardised and fixed-time broadcasts used to be novel and then became the norm. The same could be said for teaching and delivering content. But just as TV viewers found another way with technology — on demand, just-in-time, and just-for-me — the learner of today needs a school embedded in today, not yesterday.

How else is schooling supposed to prepare the learner for tomorrow?

…is the same word every year: Better.

Make the year better by making the place and people around me better. Be a better father, husband, educator, learner, etc. Become better by learning constantly and never being satisfied.

That is why I do not opt for “change” or “different” as my words. I seek not to change for its own sake, nor to be different (which could be better of worse).

Better is better.

December is often a time to think of March. The march of time to be precise.

This photo is a variant of many before it, but I had not yet seen this version.

It could very well have been photoshopped, but the message it clear. Time, tide, and technology wait for no man.

Change matters.

Here is something I shared last year thanks to this CC-licensed photo.

My message then and now is the same: We can use technology to do the same things we have done before or to help us conquer the impossible. If we believe change matters, we will do the latter.

Every now and then a manuscript comes along that describes an actual paradigm shift. Todd Rose’s The End of Average is one such book and it is a must-read for those who think of themselves as progressive leaders, human resource managers, or educators.

On my iPad: OverDrive app and audio book in my account.

Processed with an open and critical mind, a reader might wonder why we trap ourselves with non-existent norms and false averages. A doer might chomp at the bit to enact change or accelerate it.

Rose has a personal story of how he rose from a man so poor that he had to steal toilet paper from public restrooms to being the Director of the Mind, Brain, & Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He attributed this to breaking out from the averages-and-standards paradigm of school and work to one of individualisation and fit.

Compelling as his personal account was, Rose also cited how companies and educational institutions were doing this at scale while focusing on individuals.

The companies were not small rafts. They were large and successful ones like Costco, Zoho, and Morning Star. The universities he cited included Western Governor’s (with its all-you-can-learn approach) and Arizona State University (which partnered EdX).

The fact is that we have already started questioning the status quo, but these efforts are still at the fringes of society. To push towards the centre, Rose suggested that in the arena of education we focus on:

  1. Competencies, not grades
  2. Pathways, not fixed curricula
  3. Credentials, not diplomas

His call to action seemed to be this: “We must create professional, educational, and social institutions that are responsive to individuality.” Why? Fit creates opportunity for all, not just some.

Why change at all?

The current and dominant paradigm is the the Age of Average which has provided equal access to standardised processes that serve the system, but does not cater to individuals in that system.

With enabling technologies and changing expectations, we have taken our first steps into the Age of Individuals that accommodates equal fit (I call this equity). This means that individuals are judged against themselves and not arbitrary averages that do not exist in reality.

I probably do not do the book justice by summarising my takeaways the way I have. Like averaging, details and meaning get lost in such a reflection. The book is an easy read, or in my case, an easy listen (but the app was frustrating). There is much distilled wisdom to benefit from in the chapters.

I recommend The End of Average highly. It was a great way to bring 2016 to a close and look forward to 2017 with renewed clarity.

Did you hear that? That is the sound of the Internet — specifically the local Twitterverse — sharing their thoughts on how the founder of kiasuparentDOTcom reacted to her son’s PSLE results.

This was a colourful response by SGAG.

Mine was a more subdued share.

I have no doubt that the article has been very “popular” on Facebook as well. It was written to be click and comment bait. But it should also send clear signals to all stakeholders in our schooling and educational systems.

Systemic change is not just about grand rhetoric and stylish posturing. It is about putting boots to the ground and applying elbow grease. The former is typically top-down while the latter is normally bottom-up.

Whether the change efforts meet in the middle and are effective depends on whether the message of change connects, is consistent, and is constant.

MOE sent a clear initial signal of the “change” in scoring for the PSLE, coming “soon” in 2021. That is the shot across the bow to say take notice.

It has bought itself four years to fire more messages and shots, but it is not clear what forms these will take or what the efforts will be. So far we have been told that schools need to prepare themselves. This is still a signal from the top down.

What are the efforts going to be like from the bottom up? How will the grassroots efforts organise themselves? With videos like this? With more SG conversations, forums, panels, etc.? Is anyone trawling the SG edublogosphere, Twitterverse, and Facebook groups?

If we do not shape the agenda, interrupt the conversation for critical inputs, or otherwise organise ourselves, someone else will do these for us.

Hmm, this might be something to discuss at the next #educampsg in 2017.

Is Apple innovative? This tweet featuring the number of dongles the company and third-parties sell should provide a clue.

According to this CNET article, Apple now sells 17 unique dongles. That few? I have several of them for my iPhone, iPad, and Macbook Pro. I use a Cocoon Grid-It to keep things organised.

Cocoon Grid-It.

When Apple removed the 3.5mm audio jack from the iPhone 7, everyone and their grandmother seemed to have an opinion. It was a first world problem to use a wireless headset for audio or rely on a lightning-to-3.5mm adapter.

The complaint against the adapter was that it was easy to lose and you could not charge the phone and listen to audio at the same time. Enterprising people stepped into this newly created niche to offer solutions for the first and second problems.

People made fun of the Apple’s own wireless AirPods. Here is a video parodying an old Apple iPod silhouette ad.


Video source

Again people and companies stepped up to bridge that gap.

Is Apple trying to change things without asking everyone’s permission? Definitely.

Is Apple being innovative? Only time will tell. In the meantime, it has created opportunities for others to take advantage of.

One larger issue that accompanies the bid for change is dealing with legacy issues. Apple seems to be pushing for one port to rule them all (USB-C) and wireless connectivity. The problem is the variety of peripherals and other devices the Apple products might connect to.

The trouble for Apple — and any schooling or education system for that matter— pushing forward is staying connected to the old ways which are still common, possibly dominant, and expected. But as the people responding to this need attest, they can be creative, innovative, and even elegant about it.

Another larger issue is whether the change is desired. The rhetoric for change in schooling and education is loud and common in the blogosphere and Twitterverse. The demand change on the ground is more muted.

This is just guesswork as no one has definitive data on the demand for and measurement of change. Leaders in the schooling and educational arenas like to describe the process of change as three steps forward and two steps back. I have seen organisations that take two steps forward and three steps back.

Apple on the other hand seems to be having an easier time. The much-maligned new Macbook Pro with only USB-C ports seems to be in demand. CNET claims that its sales are going to surpass the 2015 Macbook.

People do embrace the change, even when it creates inconveniences (dongles galore!) and is costly (the new iPhone/Macbook costs how much?). Perhaps there is something that those of us in schooling and education can learn from Apple.

 
Not preventing something is not the same as promoting, sanctioning, or allowing it. This might sound obvious when you say it, but this seems to escape people who seek change.

For example, take how many educational institutions adopt a standard learning management system (LMS). When a few instructors ask if they can not use it or operate outside of it, the reasonable response from higher-ups is that they are not prevented from doing this. However, these independent or alternative efforts are not supported either.

Since components are often tightly linked — content storage and delivery; online discussion; assignment checking, submission, and grading — operating outside an institutional LMS takes know-how, courage, and persistence. Instructors have legitimate concerns about what others think about their actions and if these impact student feedback on teaching and their appraisals.

But ask any instructor who has had legitimate reasons to move beyond institutional LMS if their students’ feedback or instructional appraisals have been bad. You will more likely than not find that when these educators put their learners’ interests before their own, neither feedback nor appraisals suffer.

So the issue of higher-ups or IT departments or current policies not supporting innovative educators is a non-issue. The main thing that prevents change is the mindset and determination of the educator.


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