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Posts Tagged ‘change

I am in the midst of preparing for a Masters course that will debut early next year.

The last three weeks has seen me spending between three to six hours every day reading, writing, revising, and reflecting. I have done this despite technically being on vacation with my family.

The last few years of being an education consultant have taught me how to be constantly working while simultaneously taking a break. That is not an oxymoron. It is simply a sign of the times. So my revisited image quote is timely.

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

The revised image is above and it was based on the one below.

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

I actually like the original because of what it contains and the way it is composed. Technology is the enabler for this mindset, but it is our children’s interest that is the impetus for such change.

So why change the background image? I could not resist the visual message that combined a space-age suit and crumbling books. It is contrary to tell our children to reach for the stars while burying them with our hangups.


Video source

Kenya banned plastic bags. They are not the only country to do this; they are just the most recent.

How did they do this?

It is hard to answer this question because the video shows a result and not the mediating processes. One might guess that political will and courageous activism were high on the list of change processes. And yet the video only hints at such processes.

Therein lies a lesson for those who go on “learning journeys” or “site visits”. You see the obvious products like policy documents and classroom layouts. You might even see model classes in action.

But these products do not always reveal the culture and processes of change. Learning about those important but insidious elements requires immersion or constant sensing, not snapshots or quick visits.

I am not saying that the visits are not worthwhile. I am saying that they are incomplete. If we do not take the effort to learn more about a system and how it changes, we kid ourselves into thinking we can do the same.

This is the MOE press release that accompanied the announcement on reducing tests in Singapore schools.

First comes the policy shift (long overdue, in my opinion). Then might come the years-long mindset shifts. Next is the decades or generations-long behavioural shifts.

The press release ends as most documents that herald change do.

You could apply points 15 and 16 to any change in schooling, but that does make them any less true.

The stakeholders hardest to reach and change lie immediately outside the school arena, i.e., parents and enrichment tuition centres. This is what makes the change process arduous.

Like teaching, the policy announcement is neat. And like learning, the actual change processes are messy. It is time to muck about.

 
Larry Cuban cited the work of his friend and ex-colleague who wrote about his experiences with classroom technologies from the 1940s to early 2010s.

The technology in the classroom had certainly changed and will continue to change. But what of the dominant pedagogy?

I thought of tweeting a response to this tweet. But I realised that a short form reply might send the wrong tone and not provide enough fuel for thought.

For the record, I wanted to caution against taking that particular adaptation of a Kübler-Ross curve seriously.

First, how valid is applying the original concept for stages of dealing with grief to organisational or systemic change? Just what, if any, transfers from the stages of grief as a result of the personal loss of a loved one to a complex system of seemingly disconnected parts?

Next, the curve is an over simplistic representation of how change works. The graphic illustrates assured directionality (left to right), and clear and fixed phases. Change is not that straightforward or guaranteed.

It is also one thing to describe possible patterns in various forms of change, it is another to prescribe the graphic as a model. I cannot imagine any well-read change leader taking all the graphic seriously.
 

CC usage rights of image

This reminds me of another oft-cited visual: The Gartner hype cycle for technology adoption.

Critics of the Gardner cycle point out that it is not actually a cycle (duh!). However, it has better utility than the adapted Kübler-Ross curve — one can slide forward or backwards on the Gartner curve.

For example, a technology like Second Life was in the trough of disillusionment, headed for higher ground, and then firmly slid back.

Both representations of change do not seem to have been rigorously tested. Both are devoid of contexts where other factors might dictate the rate and processes of change.

One example of a non-represented factor is change in leadership, and along with it the changes in policy. The actions that follow can seem quick and drastic.

My takeaway is a reminder to be skeptical within reason. Visuals can captivate, but they can also misrepresent. It is tempting to simplify; it is more important to embrace nuance.

I watched this two-part video report how mandarin is taught now. It featured a journalist who revisited a classroom and immersed herself in the student experience.


Video source


Video source

The intended message seemed to be that the methods were more progressive now compared to, say, the time of the kids’ parents. Given the examples and strategies, you might agree.

But I wonder about how the narrative was crafted.

Was three days enough to gauge how the teaching of mandarin had changed? Pragmatically speaking, a journalist is not a researcher and it is tough to get permission and time to record the classroom. That said, three days was not representative compared to three months or three terms.

The class comprised a group of a Secondary 2 Higher Chinese students. These were the minority of students and they enjoyed a smaller class size. How was the class representative of the larger population of students?

That said, the teaching of mandarin, like most other content areas, has changed with the incorporation of various technologies and curricular interventions. Perhaps both were too difficult to show.

I am not referring to the journalist’s toting an iPad. It could have been her own and it did not feature prominently. White boards dominated and this could indicate more a change of medium (from blackboards) and of methods (peer instruction).

An example of a curricular change is the different levels of mandarin in Primary school — foundation, standard, and higher — for students with different abilities. Instead of one size curriculum fits all, it was three sizes fits all.

Perhaps even more insidious is how the type of teachers of mandarin has changed. They are younger, more open to different strategies, and effectively bilingual. If mindset and cultural circumstance have any influence, the way these teachers practice their craft is different from their teachers.

The changes on how content is taught is more nuanced than two videos can reveal. Perhaps a focus on the type of teacher might have been a better narrative.

After I took this snapshot, I thought: Change does not mean the past goes away.

The past often fades into the background. It comes back into focus when someone notices it or waxes nostalgia.

The past is not irrelevant. It might serve as a backdrop or foundation for what we do or believe in.

But the past should not dominate or dictate. A backdrop without actors is not a play; a foundation without infrastructure above is not a building.

In edtech, the history of technology in schooling and education provides many warnings. One is that the tools change while the techniques do not. This means that the tools are not used optimally.

If the medium changes without the method, we see only the veneer of change. To see what change really looks like, we need to dig into mindset. This takes immersion, not a drive-by visit.


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