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Posts Tagged ‘change

I am rewarding myself with a short break after intensive week of evaluating assignments.

But even as I relax by playing Pokémon Go (PoGo), I observe behaviours that remind me why implementing change is so difficult. People keep old habits because they see only what is around them.

Niantic, the company behind PoGo, recently re-released past legendaries Kyogre and Groudon alongside the current Rayquaza in an attempt to spice things up. What players collectively catch more of determines what normal but rare (or rare-ish) Pokémon hatch from eggs.

There is currently 85K people in a Facebook group of PoGo players in Singapore. A group poll showed that an overwhelming majority favoured the catching the current legendary, Rayquaza. The experience is fresher (it was just released) and the consequences are better (the rarest normal Pokémon will hatch from eggs).

That said, a poll and an online community does not necessarily represent what happens on the ground.

If you find a gym with a five-star rating (legendary boss), you have a one in three chance of battling Rayquaza, and a two in three chance of battling the other two.

If the poll held true, you would expect most people to invest time, effort, and their free or paid passes into the Rayquaza raids. Very few walk away from non-Rayquaza raids even though they said they would.

A few who stay might not actually be raiding. They might just be there for a friend or are clearing up their game inventory. But even a cursory glance will reveal the telltale tap-tap-tap battling motion of the players that remain.

What people say is not what people always do.

Likewise, when there is change, it is easy for people to buy-in to rationale, but it is not as easy to take ownership of action. I have shared before how buy-in is a state of mind while ownership is a state of being.

Buy-in is a state of mind. Ownership is a state of being.

So why is it difficult for people to take ownership and create change?

While there might be shared purpose, there might not be shared plans or strategies. In PoGo, there might not be a social signal to abandon a futile raid, so people keep raiding even though it is short-sighted. In schooling, there might not be a signature pedagogy, so teachers keep doing what they have always done.

An edublogger I respect once wrote that is it important to not just look up and beyond, but also look down and at what is immediate when implementing change. I agree, but only to a point.

Only the skilled and wise know how to balance the actions of keeping their eyes on the prize while dealing with the daily grind. Ignore one or the other and you lose your way. The PoGo players see only what is immediate — people around them raiding and using up a daily pass — so they do not change tactics. Teachers see what the majority of their peers are doing — buying in but not taking ownership — and they do the same.

PoGo is a game with consequences that are relatively short-term and do not have much of an impact outside the game. However, teaching indifferently has consequences that are long-term and go far deeper. Both benefit from shared strategies and looking beyond the immediate.

Sometimes I leave home without my wallet. In my wallet are various forms of identification, of which the most important is my national identity card.
 

 
I wonder if I am asked to prove my identity that what I have on my phone will suffice. After all, I use a biometric to unlock it. Alternatively, I use a code that only I know.

Once the phone is unlocked, I can launch apps with another round of verification with biometrics that show:

  • Scans of my identify card and passport
  • Credit cards in Apple Pay
  • Bank accounts via apps
  • Store accounts via apps
  • Various bills and statements via apps

I also have photos and videos of me and my family on my phone. My social and other media apps are linked to my identity.

Like most people, I would freak out if I lost or damaged my phone. If there was a fire at home, the first thing I would reach for is my phone. If there was an emergency, my phone would be my lifeline.

I am certain most people would relate to this sentiment: You wring my phone only from my cold, dead hands.

Our phones are insidiously and significantly linked to us. So why are some classrooms still so phone-resistant, phone-absent, or phone-ignorant? Why are administrative bodies still so paper-based? Why are both so stuck in the past?

I am not asking you to prepare for the future. I am just asking that you stay relevant to the present.

The best way to start change is to identify what needs changing in the first place. This seems so obvious as to sound redundant, but you have probably seen how blind change initiatives can be.

So if we are to desire change in schools, we must know what is wrong with them. Here are two videos that outline some critical issues.


Video source

The video above highlights how most schools:

  • Are based on outdated Industrial Age values.
  • Do not promote student autonomy.
  • Perpetuate inauthentic learning.
  • Do not accommodate student passions.
  • Provide little or no room for individualisation.
  • Rely on lecturing.


Video source

The video above uses social conflict theory to explore social inequalities that school reinforce or perpetuate. While the video focuses on schools embedded in US systems, the principles apply to any system that claims to be based on meritocracy.

Both videos shed light on what areas need urgent change.

Both videos are also not perfect — both equate education with schooling. They could have drawn distinctions between the two terms because both seemed to desire movement away from schooling and progress towards education.

Schooling is about enculturation. Education is about self-actualisation.

This WatchMojo video highlighted ten things we did not have ten years ago that are essential now.


Video source

Well, not quite. Some of the items mentioned in the video have been around for more than ten years, e.g., Facebook. Some people do not consider all the items things are what “we can’t live without now”, e.g., Twitter.

However, their Number One item, the smartphone, is worthy of its placing. Apple marked its tenth year in this market with the iPhone X, and while there were other smartphones before, the iPhone was a watershed moment.


Video source

The iPhone was accompanied by a larger ecosystem, the App store, and iCloud. The hardware spawned other industries like case, cable, and accessory makers. Innovation bred innovation.

Despite all this change in technology, people remain constant. Yes, the way we walk and talk with our phones has changed, but many of us remain stubborn at our core. Many websites we create are not mobile-first and the attitudes behind changing online resources and practices lag far behind the technology.

Quick videos highlight the glitz and glamour; everyday practices reveal the dust and inertia. I wager that most adults will feel that ten years is not long ago. I also wager that many of the same adults have the same mindsets today that they had ten years ago.

Reflect on that as we head into 2018. What can you change now so that you make a difference by 2028?

Banksy recently tweeted this:

If you Google for its source, a cursory review will reveal a vague attribution to “African proverb” or a specific one to the Dalai Lama. Look even further and you will discover a few more sources.
 
If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito in the room.
 
Regardless of its source, there are lessons for change agents seeking resolve for 2018. You may be small and you can effect change, but there are conditions if you pursue the mosquito analogy.

You may need to be a periodic noise, even to the extent of being irritating.

You need to be persistent to find your opportunities to bite.

If you manage to bite, you must leave a mark effective enough to cause the status quo to itch.

You risk being repelled or removed because the status quo is intolerant of noise and change.

If you are sacrificed, know that others will come after you. Sometimes you pave the way. Sometimes you might swarm the place. Either way, there is always sacrifice.

The last weekend saw a “big read” from TODAYonline with the ominous tagline, What the demographic ‘time bomb’ spells for Singapore’s education system.
 

 
What is our demographic ‘time bomb’? An aging population due to couples having fewer children. This is not news as Singapore has had one lowest replacement birth rates in the world.

To oversimplify a complex issue, this is the line of thought that binds several paragraphs or pages: Our falling replacement birth rate led to reduced enrolments in school, and schools were merged to optimise resources. Fewer children born, fewer schools needed.

According to the news article, observers and experts suggested centralisation of programmes and co-curricular activities so that kids could pursue their interests even as those items were labelled extraneous in shrinking schools.

The same observers and experts also revisited reduced class sizes so that schools would maintain similar numbers of classes and keep as many teachers as possible.

The centralisation has already started, but as I have argued previously [1] [2] [3], the class size issue will not be taken seriously yet.

Part of the resistance to the class size issue is the unwillingness to operate outside the box or the blindness to possibilities. Both stem from the fact that the problem and solutions have a largely administrative foundation. They start with student-teacher ratios (or pupil-teacher ratios, PTRs, as our Ministry of Education calls it).

A social issue as complex as a declining replacement birth rate is complex and has far-reaching consequences. It cannot be solved with a spreadsheet mentality. The social issue needs needs multiple social approaches.

In the schooling front, we need to also change qualitative issues like changing mindsets, expectations, evaluation, and pedagogy. Mindsets like kids should be siloed by age and ability. Expectations that there should be only one teacher in the room. Evaluations that stop at conventional assessment, i.e., tests and projects. Pedagogy that is defined largely by textbooks and fixed or approved curricula.

Each of these elements is complex in itself and cannot be reduced to numbers on a spreadsheet. Collectively, changing all these elements can diffuse the so-called time-bomb and turn it into an opportunity to transform our schooling system into a truly educational one [examples].

Simply put, when the factory model stops working because you no longer have enough workers, it is time to think of boutique approaches.

I am recreating some of my favourite image quotes I created some time ago. This time I use Pablo by Buffer and indicate attribution and CC license.

Change is not about asking for permission first. It is about asking for forgiveness later.

This quote is about recognising that we are all part of a larger social system, e.g. schooling and education. If we are not part of the solution, then we are part of the problem. If we are not pushing and pulling for meaningful change, then we are maintaining the status quo to the overall detriment of the system.

Sometimes change agents need to move or create movement even when the system is not ready and terribly unforgiving. If the attempts to change fail, change agents need to apologise for the fall and pick themselves up.

If the change succeeds, everybody wins. The change agents might still need to apologise for creating a fuss in the first place.

Note: I am on vacation with my family. However, I am keeping up my blog-reflection-a-day habit by scheduling a thought a day. I hope this shows that reflections do not have to be arduous to provoke thought or seed learning.


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