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Posts Tagged ‘change

In the context of educational leadership, do you agree that “Culture is like a tree. It takes years to grow, yet it can be chopped down in minutes”?

I see the point, but I have also observed something different.

The tweet presupposes that culture is good. There can also be withholding, “always done this way”, or otherwise negative culture. Such a tree-shaped culture needs to be cut down because we do not need a tree standing in the way progressive change.

Changes in leadership are sometimes carried out to prevent group think and inertia. However, the entrenched school culture not only persists, it can sometimes shape the new leader.

Some gurus advise that leaders not mould organisations to be like them. But if these leaders are adept to change and forward-thinking, isn’t the point to reshape or even cut down the tree?

There will always be rhetoric about the good old days and the good old ways. While the vessels of that rhetoric might mean well, they sometimes reinforce the position of those who oppose change.

So instead of saying that some good values are “old”, I say we call them “timeless” instead.

 Saying only

This is not a semantic game, but a strategy for change.

One element of systemic change is articulation. This means using powerful words and stories, and yes, rhetoric too. This could mean reassuring people that worthwhile values are not abandoned while simultaneously not leaving people in their comfort zone.

Timeless values and practices like “do unto others as you would them do to you” endure. They persist because they are socially adopted and adapted by people. There is no logic to resisting them.

There is no logic to labelling them old either. They are here now and as current as ever. They are timeless and we should value them as such.

The thread that runs through my rant yesterday and today is how people talk smart talk but walk dumb.

Several weeks ago, I had an unpleasant dining experience. It gave me food for thought on why technology-led change in school flows slower than molasses.

I revisited an eatery that made some changes. One such change was a subtle one. There were QR code stickers on the tables which linked patrons to an online menu and ordering system.

The process was straightforward: Scan, select, order, pay, wait.

While waiting for our food to be served, I dealt with a technical issue on my son’s phone. It took a while to deal with because the problem was quite serious. I spent almost 20 minutes trying to troubleshoot the problem. I know this because my food order did not arrive and I checked to see why.

Online order.

I walked to the counter staff and asked if there was a problem with my order. They replied that I not ordered because I was “just sitting there as if I was waiting for someone”. Forgive me for doing what customers do, i.e., order and wait.

They also said that they tended to rely on online orders at lunch when things got busy. Apparently I was supposed to know this. Forgive me for not being a mind-reader.

A staff member then reluctantly pulled out a previously hidden iPad and saw the order. Almost as soon as she tapped on her screen did a confirmation appear on my screen. Forgive me for not reminding you to check your ordering system.

I am sorry. I apologise for the portion of the human race that holds the rest back because they cannot overcome their inertia and bias. They do what is good and comfortable for them instead of focusing on others.

I am not sorry. I make it a point to create dissonance. I tell and show people — teachers in particular — why and how to teach better with technology. The process is sometimes painful and difficult, but we do this because we focus on our learners.

Most of us would not put up with shoddy service at an eatery. I cannot put up with schooling that pretends to be education. I see through the lip service and push or pull people along if necessary. If this makes them feel uncomfortable, then so be it. Better to be honest than a hypocrite.

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.


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