Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘change

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.

Singapore’s mrbrown shared his snapshot of a presentation.

The statement — we cannot allow regulation to catch up with innovation — is not restricted to business or change management. It extends to education as well, but this is not the mindset of most teachers or leaders in this field.

People involved in schooling were themselves schooled to be compliant and are self-selecting because they tend to be cooperative and nurturing. They toe the line and do not question policies and practices even though they might stifle innovation.

So how do schools innovate? They need to let in people who have this mindset: Change is not about asking for permission first. It is about asking for forgiveness later.

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

Innovation in schooling is almost an oxymoron. It does happen, but very slowly. The catalysts are mavericks and trouble-makers who have good intent.

There is more than one way to innovate. The fastest is not to ask for permission first.

When I read the STonline headline, You don’t need much space to have sex: Josephine Teo on ‘no flat, no child’ belief, I wondered if the paper was making a mountain out of a molehill.

After I read the article, I concluded that it was, but it had a good reason to.

There is a mountain of an issue in family planning and housing, and there were reasonable sound bites from the rest of the interview. However, all that logic seemed to be negated by the juicy molehill quote: “You need a very small space to have sex.”

What was the context for the quote? Senior Minister of State, Josephine Teo, was addressing the fact that couples seemed to prioritise getting a flat before coupling and having children.

Given how long saving for an apartment, waiting in queue, waiting for a flat to be built, getting rejected, and trying again takes, a candid response might very well be a Nike-inspired, “Don’t wait. Just do it.”

There is being candid and there is being Trump-like. A comment referring to the “small space to have sex” is was a Trumpet and shortsighted.

The act of copulation is takes a relatively short time (insert snigger here) compared to the duration of rearing and nurturing children. Most people, including the Minister herself, know that.

I recall a verse that someone wrote in an autograph book (yes, those things existed) when I was in school and it went something like this:

What is love
It cannot be explained
One night’s pleasure
Nine months pain

A young teen could see the mid-term consequences albeit tongue-in-cheek. An adult with fiscal and family responsibilities looks at longer term consequences and the larger picture.

I point this out plainly not to score political points (or get demerits as the case may be) nor to poke fun at an off-the-cuff comment. As with most things, I make links to schooling and educational technology. At the moment, I have more questions than answers.

Why do many teachers still take the short term view by refusing to move away from teaching methods that do not include meaningful and powerful technology?

Why do they focus on the immediately obvious (e.g., curriculum-driven content and exams) instead of the larger picture (i.e., the holistic development of the child?

Why do we make it easy for them to operate in “a very small space” that is the schooling bubble?

While at a university campus recently, I decided to get lunch from a canteen food stall that I had not visited in about two years. The tenants were no longer there, but there was a replacement.

I decided to try their fish and chips. That is all I got: Some overcooked breaded fish and a few potato wedges. I guess I expected too much given what the previous tenant offered.

I asked if they could give me some coleslaw. The server looked offended, plonked a teaspoonful on my plate, and mumbled, “Normally we don’t give!”


Video source

This clip of Oliver asking for more came immediately came to my mind.

I quickly forgot the clip as the food not only cost more, it also tasted terrible.

It was not just me. A group of undergraduate students sat at my table and one who opted for another dish from the same stall complained about the cost, the taste, and the unpleasant service.

As I returned my plate and cutlery, I remembered what the server said: “Normally we don’t give!” Normally, I would expect better service and food.

However, what is “normal” can change. When new management takes over, they can prioritise quantity instead of quality. When they do, they go for the biggest bang for their buck. It makes the most sense on paper and it can be profitable. If the tenant gets bad reviews, they leave, and someone else runs through the revolving door to take their place.

While I ruminate on the food experience, this is really about university education. I was on campus to conduct a series of workshops to change the teaching mindsets, expectations, and behaviours of future faculty.

By sheer coincidence, one future professor/lecturer gave a blunt assessment when I asked the group what they would build on from the previous sessions:

Teaching methods at {university name removed} are TERRIBLE!! Lecturers have no interesting [sic] in eliciting an emotional response from the students.

Perhaps this was that person’s way of saying “Normally we don’t give… a damn about teaching.”

Not everyone is as candid. However, just about anyone with a current experience as a university student can probably relate.

There are a few very good university educators who stay up to date with technology and the latest developments in pedagogy. However, this is not norm.

This is why I like being part of a small group of educators that is trying to change what is normal. If we cannot change existing faculty who are too set in their ways, we will work with future faculty who are more in touch with learner expectations. When they become professors in their own right whether here or elsewhere, they might bring their new insights with them.

There is no guarantee that all will change for the better. Whatever changes that happen will also take at least a generation of instructors to turn over. However, we play the long game and we hedge our bets.

If we do nothing, nothing will happen. If we do something, something might.

 
I do not think that I have heard of scientific thinking and design thinking differentiated this way (emphasis mine):

They are many methodologies, frameworks and ways of problem-solving. Two of the most popular approaches that I use are “scientific thinking” and “design thinking”. The former focuses on the problem, the later on the solution. Scientific thinking proposed by Taylor is evidence-based and focuses on the problem. Design thinking is intuition-based and focuses on the solution. This isn’t simply semantics but different methods of thinking. The difficulty with focussing on the problem is that it assumes that you either already believe that you know what the problem is or you’ll data the heck out of the problem so that only one solution can exist. The flip side is that you focus on solutions, fail fast, amplify what works and drive at a far better understanding of the problem but that’s not what we teach in schools.

The article seemed to paint the scientific process and thinking as reductive and limiting, and design thinking as expansive and exploratory.

Schooling based on reductive thinking and methods might explain why we have content silos, age groupings, and the strive for uniformity. If you see nothing wrong with that, then take a leaf from that reductive book and reflect on what happens to children: They are reduced to taking tests alone and not allowed to collaborate or use current technology.

Reductive problem-solving and schooling is also formulaic as it is based largely on content consumption and recreation of said content. This makes it ripe for automation, which means we might not need teachers as we know them today. The article went on to give an example of how the Pearsons of the world want to bake a new schooling pie.

If I read the article correctly, teachers who teach the same way they were taught (reductive and content-based) are teaching themselves out of their jobs by not reinventing themselves.

The provocative piece is something every school leader and teacher should read and reflect on. If not, they should bear in mind this rebuke and call to action:

If you all you think is that school and the role of teacher is fill our children’s head full of stuff that you can test and then slap yourself on the back for all those A’s but don’t think you have for a second done your job. Your job as a teacher is to ignite curiosity and wonder and to design programmes that allow our children to use that wonder and intuition to learn how to navigate the world and to question authority and invent new solution as collaborative teams.


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