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Posts Tagged ‘difference

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


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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?

The whole world seems to be talking about the Charlie Hebdo tragedy.

Through their actions, terrorists make spectacular statements that make most sit up and notice. But, for the most part, the terrorists are not making the difference they want. They have got the world’s attention, but if the mass rally against such violence was any indication, they strengthened the resolve against terrorism.

Making a statement is relatively easy. Celebrities donned or carried Je Suis Charlie paraphernalia at the recent Golden Globes ceremony. I wonder how many would actually want to be Charlie. Did any claim a more worthy cause, Je Suis Ahmed?

 
It might take courage to stand up and make a rhetorical statement, but the hard work is putting your money where your mouth is.

Making a difference is taking action. That applies whether it is on a grand scale or a local one.

This week I travel to London to deliver a short talk at the Bett conference. I am going to make statements on what I think is wrong with some mindsets of flipping classrooms. I have asked myself if I am going to make a difference.

I am making the effort to fly to another country to spend a message. Some people will agree with what I say and a few will take action. But is that difference enough?

I remind myself that I left a very cushy job as a university faculty member last year to try the VUCA world of educational consulting. I wanted to say yes to the individuals and agencies that asked me, “Can you help us to…?”

It is still way too early to tell, but I am going to keep trying to make a difference.

Ask ten people to define “innovation” and you will likely get ten different definitions. Like creativity, innovation is difficult to define. But you know it when you see it.

I like to define innovation as “creativity in action”, but that does not make the definition any clearer.

Before I gave an interactive talk on educational innovation two days ago, the organizers mentioned how innovation could be defined as “doing different things” or “doing the same things differently”. They preferred the latter stance.

I get what they mean by doing the same things differently if by different they mean better, more efficient, or more effective.

But I wonder if they have considered how doing the same thing, however different, eventually leads back to the same thing.

Take flipped classrooms for example. Most teachers have the impression that flipping their classrooms is different because they must prepare videos (instead of teaching ‘live’) and that their students learn outside class. How exactly is this different?

What if the teachers are still teaching didactically? What if the videos are as long and boring as ‘live’ teaching? What if the videos are worse due to lack of interactivity?

In other words, what if teachers are merely changing the medium, but not the mindset and method?

Kids are already learning outside classrooms when they ask their parents at home, tuition teachers at a centre, or their peers on social media.

Doing things differently is a matter of degree. Just how different is your difference from the status quo? Is it a marginal shift or a paradigm shift? The latter, or doing very different things, are more likely to be attempts at being innovative.
 

 

Imagine a satellite orbiting a planet and how it is kept on its path due to the planet’s gravitational pull. As long as it orbits, it is maintaining its path and the status quo. Updating the satellite, adding new bits to it, or even replacing it are not really changing or innovating. There is no change to its purpose.

But imagine how this craft might break from orbit and be sent to intercept an asteroid or to explore space. It has a very different purpose and must be redesigned on the run, refitted to do this, or ideally be redesigned from the ground up.

It is a lot tougher to do the latter, just as it is a lot tougher to really innovate instead of just making marginal improvements. Innovation is a commitment to do something different, not just to do the same thing differently.

 
Some weeks ago, the New York Times wrote a piece on David Karp, founder of Tumblr. The company had been acquired by Yahoo for US$1.1 billion.

Karp did not complete high school. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs walked similar paths (they did not graduate from college), but they were hugely successful. Their successes seemed to be a confluence of innate talent, daring-do, and good timing and circumstance.

Consider what actions Karp’s mother took early on:

When David Karp was 14, he was clearly a bright teenager. Quiet, somewhat reclusive, bored with his classes at the Bronx High School of Science. He spent most of his free time in his bedroom, glued to his computer.

But instead of trying to pry him away from his machine or coaxing him outside to get some fresh air, his mother, Barbara Ackerman, had another solution: she suggested that he drop out of high school to be home-schooled.

“I saw him at school all day and absorbed all night into his computer,” said Ms. Ackerman, reached by phone Monday afternoon. “It became very clear that David needed the space to live his passion. Which was computers. All things computers.”

Why do we struggle to nurture our own Jobs, Gates, and Karps?

First consider how any parent with more than one child will tell you that one child is very different from the other. But we try to treat them all the same in schools. We even go to the extent of putting them in uniforms.

Same clothes, same books, same speed, same treatment. I am referring to rank-and-file mindsets and procedures, fear of meaningful change, and paying lip service to calls for change.

Yes, we have different paths in our schooling system. But learners are treated the same in the name of efficiency and tests. They are subject to the same differences.

The promise of individualized learning tend to happen outside the classroom. Unfortunately, in our context this refers to “extra” tuition and “enrichment” classes. Those who can afford these are subject to the same differences again.

If we watch and learn from our kids and the MOOC movement, we can learn a thing or two. Like how they are learning languages, dance moves, or gaming strategies on their own from YouTube. Like how learners can pursue their interests and nurture their talents by reaching out on social media and taking courses that matter to them.

They are all doing the same thing. But for them it makes a difference because they can be different and do different.


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