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Posts Tagged ‘different

…is the same word every year: Better.

Make the year better by making the place and people around me better. Be a better father, husband, educator, learner, etc. Become better by learning constantly and never being satisfied.

That is why I do not opt for “change” or “different” as my words. I seek not to change for its own sake, nor to be different (which could be better of worse).

Better is better.

Doing things differently does not always mean doing things better.  But doing things better always means doing things differently. -- Hank McKinnell (Former CEO of Pfizer)

Anyone who has a hand in designing and managing systemic change should relate to this. They should also be able to provide insights on what needs to emerge in between the lines. That is why the quote is a great conversation starter on topics like innovation or leadership.

As is my practice from this quotable quotes series, I share the sources with which I made the image quote.

The words are courtesy of this tweet.

The original photo was shared under Creative Commons.

There are not many circumstances in which doing the same thing differently is innovative. This might be one exception.

Video source

Why do I make this exception an example of innovation? The singer is obviously talented in several ways. While he has taken someone else’s song and applied the identities of others on them, he has taken enough creative license to make the mix his own.

Likewise moving from PowerPoint to Google Slides or Prezi is not innovative. But opening the Slides or Prezi for public comment or collaborative construction could be. The innovation is not in the tool or the delivery. It is in the human endeavour.

It is not enough to think differently, you must do differently.

I make it a point to do something a bit different each time I take to the stage or operate in the centre of a workshop. Often the action is not obvious to my audience because they do not know what I have tried before.

However, doing different is important to me because I want to create a new learning opportunity for myself. What I learn might benefit my current audience and will certainly help my next one.

At my last seminar, I accessed all my online platforms (Google Slides, Forms, Sheets; TodaysMeet, Padlet, websites) with Safari. I did this as I had read about the battery savings of using the default browser over Chrome.

While my sessions are not so long as to worry about battery life, it helps to know “what if”. What if I was running low on juice if a session stretched long? What if I was unexpectedly invited to do an extra session?

I tested the resources beforehand on Safari and tried them when on stage. I noticed that my Macbook Air’s battery was still clearly in the black. If I had used Chrome, I would have had 30-45 minutes less battery time.

However, as might be expected, Google Chrome plays nicer with Google Apps. It may be a memory and power hog, but it is like luxury car when you need it to perform. Safari felt unsure with sudden stops, bursting forward, or taking sharp corners. Yes, I do not present in a conventional, linear way.

I learn as I do different things each time. I wish more of the people I work with or advise did the same.

I have worked with partners who organize events. They typically choose quantity in the hope that it will bring quality. I advise going for quality first.

For example, to get their money’s worth, they invited more people to the party instead of inviting only the people that matter. The problem with inviting everyone you can is getting party-poopers.

At another event, I suggested providing participants with a choice via conference strands. Most modern conference organizers do this already so that people are not forced to attend single, linear tracks.

In both examples, the event organizers soon realized the effect of inviting people who 1) do not really want to be there, 2) have different expectations, or 3) do not want to be treated like sheep.

This is like time-tabling, treating everyone the same, and rushing through curriculum in school. Doing this is ironic given how most of the events are designed to suggest how to break out of such treatment.

So I end this reflection with the statement I used to start it: It is not enough to think differently, you must do differently.

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.

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.

It has been an interesting two months for me as an independent consultant.

I have met an assortment of people online and in person. Most are nice and a few are just rude. But all have these three things in common.

One, they need pedagogical guidance. They are passionate and savvy, but they are rarely able to justify the foundations upon which they build their work.

Two, they want something for free or on the cheap. Like it or not, you get what you pay for. I have met the penny-wise but pound-foolish. They will end up with something that will cost them more in the long term.

Three, after I spend some time listening and responding to them, I often get a look that I can only describe as the late Gary Coleman’s semi-accusatory “Whatcha talkin’ about, Willis?”

That happens when I have spotted weakness in their foundations or gaps in their plans, or when they realize that not all advice comes for free.

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