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Posts Tagged ‘change

…a stack of pancakes, but not as nice to experience.

Any good stuff, like syrup, that you pour from the top down, might be absorbed at the top and perhaps dribble down to some of the periphery.

It is very unlikely to penetrate the core and all the way down with the same intensity and flavour. This is how messaging gets lost.

Good things that start at the bottom are even more unlikely to make it to the top. Things are stacked against the ones at the bottom and gravity takes its toll.

Grassroots efforts are even more unlikely to rise to the top. But they might soak right to the centre of that layer.

Moral of this story: If you want your pancakes and eat them too (with the best of top-down and bottom-up), make low, flat stacks.

Or try something different: Middle up and down. This is something I used to teach in a change management course. I still offer it as a series of workshops (pancakes not included).

365.324 - ABC easy as 123 by nettsu, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  nettsu 

To spark and sustain change, change agents need to create:

  • Awareness
  • Buy-in
  • Commitment/Control

Awareness is the first step. Stakeholders need to be aware of the issues (problem definition) and possible ways to deal with them (problem solving). If they do not know, they do not have to care.

Buy-in is a state of mind. It builds on the awareness of “I know” and create states of “I believe in…” and “I want to…”. It is an indication of how much people care about an issue.

Commitment and control are action-oriented. They are indicators of ownership of both the problems and solutions by various stakeholders. Achieving this steady state is critical if the change is to live beyond and without the person who started it.

I have observed some leaders of change start with awareness and stop at buy-in. They imply ownership but do not always create that condition.

Decentralized ownership is the most difficult condition to create. But it is also the element that sustains change and evolves with the circumstances.

Teachers contemplating the flip should first distinguish between the flipped classroom and flipped learning. This article makes a distinction.

I draw my own differences. The flipped classroom focuses on what a teacher can do. Flipped learning focuses on what learners can and should do.

Teachers do not have to change their behaviours very much when flipping a classroom: They still prepare content and dish out homework. They might have to reorient themselves to using class time for more coaching and differentiation, but good teachers should be able to do this.

To flip learning, teachers might have to reconsider what they hold sacred, e.g., their command and control, their content expertise, their curriculum. Teachers who flip learning realize the importance of getting learners to create content and to teach one another.

Teachers who flip their classrooms might know how to swing from being a sage-on-the-stage to the guide-on-the-side. If they use videos, their stage is the movie platform where they create and/or curate; if they use a webquest, their stage is filled with the resources they wish their students to consume online. If they are skillful back in class, these teachers learn how to guide students individually or in small groups towards self, peer, or teacher-oriented help.

Flippers do these but also learn how to be the meddler-in-the-middle. A meddler does not create a fire-and-forget video or tell students to “just Google it”.

Meddlers circulate and are the centre of circles. They move around the class or the online space to interact with learners in order to create dissonance or to restore balance. The demonstrate skills and they model thinking.

Meddlers realize that good questions drive learning, not answers. They direct and connect their learners to resources instead of just dishing out answers.

Meddlers are comfortable taking risks and are willing to fail forward. Meddlers are not interested in labels or rhetoric; meddlers take action. But meddlers also know what works (practice) and why (theory).

Meddlers do not walk past change and ignore it. They are the poster children of change.

This is the second part of my week-long focused reflection on flipping.

In the context of schooling and education, flippers are educators who know the differences between the flipped classroom and flipped learning (example), and promote the latter. For the purpose of this week’s focus, I use flipping to refer to flipped learning.

Flippers view flipping as a philosophical orientation, not just a set of instructional strategies. It stems from the desire to do what is best for the learner, even if this is not what is best for the teacher.

If I was pressed to put flipping in pedagogical terms, I would say that flippers apply principles of the pedagogy of questions (PoQ) and the pedagogy of empathy (PoE).

But I am not reflecting on PoQ or PoE. I am focusing on flipped learning all this week and elaborating on the stories in my presentation, Righting the Wrongs of Flipping.

My journey with flipped lessons started in 2007. I decided to provide lecture content outside of a graduate class largely because it was conducted in the evening. I reasoned that this would help my students since:

  1. lectures were the least engaging part of each session
  2. whole class and group discussions got their energy up
  3. they were mostly adults coming to class after work and could listen to lectures just-in-time
  4. they could also consume content at their own pace and place
  5. we could use the time saved on lectures for meaningful discussion in class.

My experiment was short-lived and failed because:

  1. I was still just lecturing
  2. I was (and still am) not a great lecturer
  3. (surprise, surprise) my students did not like lectures no matter how short or interesting they were
  4. I wanted to try a tool that seemed cool at the time.

I had created the appearance of flipping without actually implementing any meaningful change.

My wrongdoing was changing the medium (from face-to-face to online) without changing the method (traditional lecturing). My delivery was still didactic, designed merely to front load, and driven by the pedagogy of answers.

To my credit, I had shortened the lectures and tried to provide outlines or key takeaways. I am aware of other lecturers who do not change lecture duration (same X minutes) or design (e.g., non-interactive, no questions, no strategically placed quizzes) because that is the most efficient way to create “e-learning” resources.

How might one right these flipping wrongs?

Where delivery is still required, video lectures might be redesigned to complement other learning resources like readings or other videos. Such “lectures” might provide summaries or outlines and serve as launch points to other resources. To use an analogy, the “lectures” should be more like tweets and less like book chapters.

Most teachers will be concerned about delivering content and be advised by instructional designers to chunk content. I do not recommend just relying on the chunking strategy. Chunking is like cutting up an elephant into small pieces to force feed a group that is not hungry or unsure why they are sitting at the table.

A more significant way of flipping is to rely on the PoQ. The “lecture” does not focus primarily on content but on actual questions for students to answer, meaningful problems to solve, or challenges to struggle with. I used this strategy when I designed my video series on flipping.

The PoQ requires learners to seek content to answer their questions. It is part of a just-in-time strategy and counter to the just-in-case, front loading strategy that most instructors are taught to employ. As front loading often provides information devoid of need or context, this might explain why learners do not connect with this approach.

Flipping the first wrong so that you do right is not about finding a different method in order to teach the same way. It is about understanding the learner and what drives them to learn. It is about leveraging on questions, application, or problem-solving instead about delivery. It is about changing the way you teach.

What do Kodak and Instagram have to do with schooling? Read on.

A Kodak moment used to be associated with a beautiful or meaningful event that one wished to immortalize on film. At the turn of the century, Kodak became synonymous with not changing quickly enough with the times.

To cite Godin in a recent blog entry:

Ubiquitous doesn’t mean forever, and popular isn’t permanent. Someone is going to fade, and someone is going to be next to take their place.

That someone else in Kodak’s context was digital photography. This NYT video paints a sad picture of a mountain of a company reduced to a pebble. (I cannot embed the video as blogs do not allow some HTML tags, but the video is worth your time.)

Video source

The irony is that the first digital camera was invented in 1975 by a Kodak engineer, Steven Sasson (see Vimeo video above), but Kodak only started selling digital cameras in 2001 [1] [2].

Now consider this tweeted perspective:

The core thing both Kodak and Instagram have in common is photographs. I do not think that it is logical to compare the diversity of products, company timelines, available technologies, and other circumstances.

But the the tweet brings up at least two important points on what it takes to produce and how to act when change knocks on your door.

Kodak operated on the traditional industrial model. It had to in order to provide high quality photography film worldwide. Operating under such a model, Kodak needed large and common campuses to house their people.

Instagram works with ones and zeros, and it does so in a mobile and app driven space. Their people could fit in a large apartment or work offshore and independently in holes-in-the-wall.

Kodak is not quite dead yet, but its main campus is now occupied by other companies, one of which bottles food. They serve as a warning to those that do not stay relevant or do not spot the next wave and prepare for it. Kodak suffered the consequences of reducing staff a hundredfold (30,000 to 300 according to the NYT interview), going bankrupt, and needing to reinvent themselves.

Instagram, however, was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for US$1 billion. Instagram was just two years old when that happened. But both Facebook and Instagram took the opportunity when they saw it.

Which world and what circumstances are we preparing our kids for in our schools and at home? Kodak’s or Instagram’s?

Are we teaching our kids how to do more with less? Are we unleashing their energy or nurturing their creativity? Or are we holding them back?

Schools have changed. The rank and file tables and chairs remain as do papers and writing surfaces, but some teachers have responded by aligning their philosophies and pedagogies to the times.

But not enough. Not MUCH enough and not FAST enough. Innovative teachers and daring principals are still the exception instead of the norm. Very few systems have the moral courage and political will to take measures like augmenting subjects with authentic phenomena like Finland.

Kodak might have justified its dithering by saying that the timing was not right because the technology or their consumers were not ready. But Kodak had at least one visionary in their midst. If only they had listened more carefully. If only he had spoken more loudly. If only they had been braver.

If only foresight was as clear as hindsight.

If only they had taken their Kodak moment and Instagrammed it in Facebook.

We cannot predict the future for certain, but we can learn from the past. Better still, we can invent it.

We must decide our Kodak moment in education. When we look back at it, will it be a one of regret or one of joy? Decide now and do something positive about it.

Like Instagram, we do not have to wait to grow big or get permission to create. A few pockets of innovation will eventually be recognized and assimilated into the larger whole. This is the world we live in, so live it.

This blog entry might look like a departure from what I usually reflect about. But I will find some way to link it to educational technology.

Like most Singaporeans, I received SG50 stickers in the mail. I thought that the sticker for loan sharks expressing themselves “artistically” in the heartlands was missing.

Earlier this week, I also received a threatening letter in my snail mail box. I should point out that I am not in financial trouble, I have not borrowed money from anyone, and I do not owe anyone money.

Here is a digital scan of the letter. On the left is something some Chinese people burn as currency for the dead. On the right is the latest in a string of varied but infrequent harassments.

A quick read will let you know that 1) my neighbour is the one in trouble, 2) the loan shark is using me to get to him, and 3) the latter has terrible grammar.

Here is some background information first.

There are four apartments on my floor. Three have been hit with paint, mine included. I have received one anonymous phone call. All this has happened in the space of about a year and a half. All three of us have CCTVs now so our floor looks like Big Brother central.

We have reported all the harassments to the police. This latest version includes a Malaysian phone number and a local bank account number. I am guessing that the phone number will be linked to a prepaid account. But I hope that the police can use the bank account to track the criminal.

The investigation is underway and I put security measures in place a while ago. So what else is there to do? I thought I might correct the loan shark’s grammar. Here is my attempt:

To the occupant, [Notice that I am not using ALL CAPS.]

Your neighbour [You spelt this big word correctly, kudos!] (insert name and personal information) owes me money. [No need to try to be bombastic with “outstanding debt”.] Tell him to call me to settle the debt within three days. [You should date your letter otherwise we may not share the same timeframe.]

[Start a new paragraph as you are now turning your attention to me.] If I do not get a call, I will lock your gate [Not door because I doubt you have the keys and I can unlock it from the inside] and throw paint on your door. [Be specific about the door because throwing paint upward might leave you with a red face.]

Don’t get into trouble [Is there necessary trouble? If not, there is no need to say unnecessary trouble]. Call me by (insert date and time) [Not NOW. I have to call the police first. How about if I text you to see if the timing is convenient?]

Pay me now! (provide bank account number). [Wait, do you want me to pay my neighbour’s debt or do you want my neighbour to pay you? If you are using a template, remember to edit the content. How about you pay me for this lesson on grammar and logic? If you can’t afford it, you know who to borrow money from.]

Sign off [Always sign off whether or not you want to wish someone something. You can be proper without being polite.]

[Here is a freebie on your design: Do you think that it is wise to extend your circle of intimidation, but in the process bring more police attention to your activities?]

Lest I be accused of not taking this seriously, know that I am. I have done what I can within legal limits.

What is the edtech lesson here?

Loan sharks are resourceful. They go out of their way to get their message across. For example, they use old media like paint, experiential learning like chains, and phone calls before the Personal Data Protection Act kicked in. They might have also used spell check in Word to get spelling right (but they need to pay attention to the squiggly lines that highlight bad grammar and sentence structure).

Now they use mobile technology for communication and e-banking for money transfers. Given time, there might be social media intrusions, augmented reality messages, and virtual reality projections.

Loan sharks move quickly with the times. How about teachers?

I have shared this slide and quote before. I use it at some talks I give. As juicy a sound bite as it is, I have also mentioned before that I wish I did not have to use it to make a point. But as long as teachers refuse to burst their classroom bubbles, I will keep saying it.

Perhaps teachers have a lesson to learn from loan sharks about moving with the times. I hope that it does not take threatening letters, chained gates, and vandalized doors to feel left behind.

I had a delayed reaction to Sir Ken Robinson’s keynote last Friday’s at the BETT 2015 conference. It was sparked by something I read when I returned home.

Video source

SKR shared this video of technology being used to enable the physically disabled to create art. It was a wonderful example of combining technology-enabled creativity which was a theme of SKR’s keynote.

But I wonder about an unintended message that this example sends: That technology is used for the extreme or the exceptional instead of the everyday. The fact that SKR wondered how “social” social media was underlined that point.

We do not need both those messages to be broadcast. They are already prominent and do not add much value or change to education.


My reflection was prompted by a notification from my son’s school about their e-learning portal (excerpt above). One of the lines in the letter was “The e-learning portal has been enhanced with commercially produced simulated lessons and worksheets…” [emphasis mine].

The language is telling. The lessons are simulated. Does that imply that they are not as real or as good? Why was there a need to reassure parents that real lessons happened in classrooms?

The letter also mentioned the two purposes of e-learning: 1) promoting independent learning, and 2) emergency learning (“should there by a national crisis resulting in school closure, pupils will have access to online assignments”).

How are students learning independently if they have to wait for teachers to tell them to do online homework? Are they not already learning independently by watching YouTube videos whether their teachers and parents are aware or not?

Why is the “e” in e-learning still associated with emergency or extra?

I will tell you why. Very few people challenge the conventions that in integration of educational technology must be special. Not many thought leaders take advantage of the stages they are put on to push those buttons hard.

This is not a slight on SKR’s talk. I enjoyed it immensely. But he pushes the let-our-children-create-and-be-creative agenda. He was not the person to illustrate how to do this with technology transparently.

The technology does not have to be on a grand scale like the one in the video. It does not have to simulate lessons. It is already in the hands of learners even as they walk around with heads bowed while doing the Blackberry prayer.

Most people cannot look beyond the surface and creatively take advantage of the wonderfully ordinary. I would like to show them how.

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