Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘change

A few months ago, I tweet-wondered this out loud.

I ask again: If we can now work just about anywhere, what could modern offices offer?

As an educator, I also ask: If we can study anywhere, why do the majority of classrooms still look like classrooms? Why do they not look more like a Starbucks, as this educator envisions?

Mindsets. They not only shape thoughts and behaviours, they dictate design and implementation.

Let me give you an example. I still get requests for contacts for vendors who can construct “special rooms” in schools.

NIE collaborative classroom in 2009.

NIE collaborative classroom in 2009. Photo by William Oh.

There are not many good reasons to have special rooms. Having a place to show off when visitors come a-knocking is not a good reason. Having an excess of funds is not a good reason to build a special room.

Having rooms that challenge pedagogy, perplex teachers, and enable meaningful, powerful learning is important. But do we need special rooms to do that? What messages does that send if we do?

Every room should be special. That way they become ordinary and accessible to all. Every teacher should have professional development to learn how to integrate technology effectively. Every student should be consume and create because of technology-enabled learning.

To do any less is to make lame excuses while spouting 21st century rhetoric.

Most working adults are probably familiar with the Myers-Briggs inventory of personality types. This “test” claims to tell you what type of person you are. Organisations are known to hire and place people on tests like these.

Video source

The problem with the Myers-Briggs test and other inventories like it is that they are invalid and unreliable. The video above outlines how and why this is the case.

Such inventories keep being used because they make money for the companies that tout them and the companies that use them do not question the bad science or lack of evidence behind them.

There are other popularised “truths” in education and educational technology like:

  • Digital natives
  • Learning styles
  • Learning pyramid with numbers
  • Always pedagogy before technology
  • ICT is just a tool
  • Content is king

I used to believe in and teach others these things. But as soon as I found out the evidence against such falsehoods, I did all I could to right those wrongs.

However, it is easier to side with history and inertia. It is reassuring to be with the majority. Furthermore, when challenged to change, we are not as open-minded as we think we are.

To challenge the status quo, some advocate compromise or not being overly aggressive with one’s point of view. This article highlights how that is a mistake:

People may argue that if a belief is challenged in a more neutral manner, it leads to better discourse, but that’s never the case. The more neutral an argument is, the easier it is to dismiss.

That is why I try to create cognitive dissonance in the talks, seminars, and workshops I conduct. I find it to be a more effective way to get people to question their assumptions and beliefs.

I love conducting workshops for organisations that embrace change and take steps to move forward. Sometimes, however, it feels like hit-and-runs as I pollinate one flower after another.

Other times I am invited to return a few times to repollinate. This might happen because I inform participants and any leaders that might be present that change efforts are multi-pronged. While there are key leverage points (like staff professional development), systemic change requires systemic effort.

At least one group took my advice to get their leaders and administrators in on the flipped learning movement. The rationale for doing this was simple: How could they support what they could not relate to?

Last Friday, I conducted a workshop that was specially arranged for leaders, managers, and administrators of the organisation. There were educators and dual-role folks, of course, but it was a rose by a different name.

Working with such a group can be challenging especially if members do not have a strong educational background. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much they took away from the session (see screen capture below of some of their takeaways).

My workshop was designed to provide flipped classroom and flipped learning experiences, deconstruct the experiences, and rise above to catch important concepts that bubbled to the surface. The leaders did not miss several important messages on change afforded by flipping:

  • Experience the change; do not just hear about it
  • Provide support or do not get in the way
  • Shape policies in terms of appraisal, student evaluation of teaching, workload, reward mechanisms
  • Build community, do not just make policy

While it is wonderful to see a few organisations take the lead, it is just as terrifying to see how many more moonwalk. They make forward motion but actually walk backward. This was cool and impressive for Michael Jackson; it is not for educational institutes.

Video source

To keep my own morale up, I will avoid the latter group like Venus Fly Traps. Here is to more flipping good flowers!

Last week I read Will Richardson’s thoughts on the constancy of purpose. He lamented how the turnover of leaders might work against positive change.

At first I wondered if this was counter to what he stood for about change. After all, change in leadership is the fastest way to bring in new ideas. However, it is also the fastest way to undo good ideas that need time to be tested and built upon.

If positive change is like growing trees, then enough time, space, and resources must be given for seedlings to take root and grow. If something comes along to uproot those trees, then why bother planting them in the first place?

Richardson was thinking about frequent change that prevents meaningful change. An organisation or a system might have an overall mission, but the people who steer it have different ambitions and agendas. Put the wrong players in place and they will seek to destroy instead of build.

One thing I do at the beginning of each year is change the passwords of my most frequently used online services.

The good thing about changing an Apple password is the security. Two-factor authentication is the default and Apple’s online systems will “harass” you with logins and authentication.

However, changing your Apple password could result in services like iCloud and apps like Messages to not work in both iOS and OSX.

Reconnecting to iCloud services is easy enough. Sign in again on iOS and on OSX when prompted. You might be prompted to sign in twice in OSX.

Messages works if you stay strictly in the Apple ecosystem. But if you forward text SMS from your iPhone to your iPad and computers, this service may stop working. These SMS could be from non-iOS users or are text verifications from banks or online services, so they could be vital.

Text Message Forwarding

The forwarding service was re-enabled on my iPad after I logged into iCloud. However, I could not receive SMS on my MacBook and iMac.

I found out that I had to:

  1. Log out of Messages in OSX.
  2. Relogin to Messages with the new password.
  3. OSX will indicate that there is something wrong with iCloud settings. Sign in to iCloud again on OSX.
  4. Re-enable text forwarding in iOS for each iCloud-linked device.

Enabling SMS Forwarding

I have also discovered that changing passwords for Twitter and the Google universe (Maps, apps) can have unintended consequences. I will share what I did to solve these problems in another blog entry.

Yesterday I wondered out loud on Twitter:

It reminded me of another tweet.

Getting your items checked out at a grocery store is like schooling in this respect: You are taught that someone else does this for you.

The point is we pick up what we want by ourselves. Why not take control of the whole process by checking the items out and packing them?

This process could be faster, you learn to be more independent, the store needs fewer people at the gates, and people can be deployed elsewhere more worthwhile.

The analogy is not perfect. Unlike a grocery store, you cannot choose exactly what you want in school. But you have to pass through a gate that someone else controls.

While your schooling is prepackaged, your education is not. Your schooling becomes your own education when you take ownership of all aspects of learning. There seems to be more opportunities to do this only the further you go up the hierarchy of schooling. This is the case only if we let it.

If there is resistance to such an effort, the reasons are similar to the tweet replies I received:

  • Fear of technology
  • The perception that it takes more time
  • The process seems more challenging

Every technology-enabled change is feared and might take more time initially. However, when it normalises it also becomes transparent.

CC source

When we look back at older technologies like the pencil and printing press, we wonder what the worry was about back then. It was about changing the status quo.

Change is inevitable. You can either kick and scream as you go or embrace and improve the processes. Education, like such change, is what we make of it.

Tortoise are relics that have somehow endured despite being slow and seemingly unsuited to the broader ecosystem.

Tortoise by montuschi, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  montuschi 

They persist because environments like the Galapagos and zoos provide conditions where they are protected or otherwise not threatened.

The educational arena has players like schools and universities that are like tortoises. What conditions help them survive?

  • The results of schools and universities are not immediately obvious
  • Such results are measured largely by high-stakes but narrow-band tests
  • The teaching profession tends to attract the risk-averse

These conditions contribute to inertia that is hard to overcome.

While it is easy to justify the preservation of tortoises as part of of our biological heritage, old school practices that keep us mired in the past are puzzling.

Every time we prevent access to mobile learning, do not question a lecture, or say “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, we retreat into our collective shell. We create the conditions for such behaviours to persist. We do this despite the fact that we know better than to keep doing this.

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