Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘education

This STonline article lead with this opening line:

The education system needs to be aligned with the structure of the economy, so that people will continue to be armed with the required skills to find jobs in the current age of disruption.

We probably take this stance for granted in Singapore. The refrain is like white noise and the blue sky that envelops our tiny Red Dot.
 

 
The economic focus has its merits, of course, and the news article mentioned a relatively low post-graduation unemployment rate and a renewed focus on skills over pure academic results.

But surely our education system must align itself, without conflict, to more than just the economy.

  • How about the arts in all its forms?
  • How about the development of individuals to their fullest of their abilities?
  • How about helping these individuals by focusing on equity instead of equality?
  • How about nurturing citizens of the country and the rest world who are compassionate problem-seekers and solvers?
  • How about not calling these approaches idealistic and investigating how they actually contribute to the economy and more?

What else should an education system align to?

When a few people talk about the Netflix-ation of education, they might be referring to the online, customisation, or on-demand aspect of Netflix.

Coursera seems to have already taken a leaf from the Netflix book by offering courses by subscription.

We will have to wait and see if this has any legs and becomes a worthwhile trend. In the meantime, I offer a perspective on a Netflix-like education that I would NOT like to see.

Ever since Netflix went global, I lost access to the US listing and gained a Singapore listing.

Now some favourites of mine, like Black Mirror and Rock and Morty, are labelled in Chinese.

Why?

Singapore is not in China, and even though we have a Chinese majority, our lingua franca is English.

My preferred language setting is English and most other titles are in English, e.g., Werner Herzog’s Lo and Behold (see screenshot above).

So again, why?

For some reason, Netflix also recommends a section of movies to me that is labelled “Western Movies”. Why not call the category “Corrupt Bourgeoisie Shows” since there is an implied value system?

The issue is not so much the language or the labels. It is that there is a one-size-fits-all standard that I do not have control of. Isn’t Netflix-ation supposed to provide more choice based on my preferences?

So while having a Netflix-like education might offer more customisation, it might also view us more like a customer. However, this customer is not king, nor is he or she always right.

This customer is to be mined of data and possibly manipulated into accepting labels and making false choices. This is not the Netflix-like education I look forward to.

Most educators worth their salt have heard of Sir Ken Robinson. His TED talks have made him famous.

I wonder how many have viewed the videos of Yong Zhao or read his work. To say that Yong Zhao rarely fails to provoke is to make an understatement.

I am an admirer of his and respect his work. I have referenced some key moments over the last few years.

One of the more recent articles by Yong Zhao builds on yesterday’s theme: What seems to work might be an illusion. Yong Zhao argued that what seems to work in schooling can hurt because of side effects.

His article is an introduction to a longer one published in the Journal of Educational Change. He has a link to download the full article and you will have to visit his site to get it.

Yong Zhao started with this premise:

Educational research has typically focused exclusively on the benefits, intended effects of products, programs, policies, and practices, as if there were no adverse side effects. But side effects exist the same way in education as in medicine.

He suggested that the side effects in schooling and education might occur because:

  1. Time spent on a new intervention results in time lost in something else.
  2. Resources like people power are also redirected to newer initiatives that might distract from important core tasks.
  3. The desired outcomes of schooling and education are often contradictory. You cannot have an obedient and pliable workforce and one embraces diversity and risk-taking.
  4. Different people respond differently to the same treatments. What works with one group in one context can change with the group, the context, or both.

History repeats itself. It has to, because no one ever listens. -- Steve Turner.

All these seem like common sense or obvious points to make in hindsight. Yet we make the mistakes again because we do not learn from others and recent history.

Once again, we need to pull the wool off our eyes. This time it is the wool that we put on and we have ourselves to blame for being so blind.

I am not necessarily for the Uber-ification or Netflix-ation of education. Some principles and practices do not transfer.

For example, the customer is not always right and the bottomline is not always immediate nor about profit or mindshare.
 

 
However, the changes that Uber and Netflix bring signal the need to adopt and adapt some ideas. I suggest a few less radical but important ones using company slogans.

Burger King’s favorite ditto seems to be “have it your way”. I am all for nurturing independence and critical thinking by getting learners to decide what they need to learn and to determine if they have learnt it.

IKEA says that “you do not have to be rich to be clever”. I am a proponent of open educational resources and open access journals being the norm rather than the exception, particularly if education is to be the great leveller.

McDonald’s would like its patrons to say “I’m loving it”. I would Iike our children to say the same thing about their education and following their passions.

Right now it is the privileged few who hate school but have opportunities to love their personal journeys thanks to family-sponsored rides. If all our children had access to more open resources and were taught to give back, we would have the equitable system that dreamers imagined.

I have a thought that is more question than statement. Why do countries with modern economies implement bracketed education?

By brackets I mean this: Open parenthesis, something in the middle, close parenthesis.
 

 
This thought was spurred by an article I read a short while ago about an Italian approach to early childhood education here in Singapore. Approaches like these focus on the learner and natural ways of learning, e.g., questioning, play, just-in-time and contextual information, unfettered curiosity.

Even the first two years of Primary school education have been affected by newer kindergarten approaches. Fewer worksheets, no exams for promotion, let kids be kids. The prototyping for this move started in 2010 and it is the norm now.

Skip past the middle block to higher education in a polytechnic and university. These institutes serve simultaneous purposes of preparing a workforce and helping young adults to find their purpose. As lecture-driven as these places may still be, the variety of learning opportunities astounds with field and overseas trips, lab work, internships, longer term projects, portfolios, and more.

The middle schooling group might also do these things, but the learners are younger and perhaps less ready for them. The relevance of these experiences might not be yet real to them.

The between-the-brackets education is more accurately labelled schooling. Comply to instructions, complete curricula, concede to tests and exams as measures of worth.

The brackets seem to embrace authenticity. The bracketed seems to be a bubble that has yet to burst.

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.

Every now and then I get requests to be interviewed, to write an article, or to have something I wrote be part of someone else’s site.

I say no almost all the time and I explain why based on the context of the request. But there is one reason that is common to all requests: I do not want to be manipulated into pushing someone else’s agenda.

Everyone has an agenda, even if they say they do not. Having an agenda is fine if you are honest about it and if you have your heart in the right place.

Quotes taken from what I say or write might get decontextualised. An opinion piece that I write might get edited until its original message gets diluted or warped.

These are probably why some politicians who are interviewed by the press also post their speeches or thoughts on platforms like Facebook. Better to hear from the horse’s mouth.
 

 
The sad thing is that not all do this. Instead of allowing people to thinking critically and make their own decisions based on source material, the sources and the press conspire to leave it up to the press to publish selectively.

What is our excuse in the realms of schooling and education?

Is the source material unavailable?

Is the source material available, but not accessible?

Is the source material available and accessible, but not understandable?

If we say yes to any of these questions, why is this the case and what are we doing about it?

In the wider world, people can take control of the information they generate. They create, share, and discuss, largely on social media.

If the goal of schooling and education is to prepare kids for the wider world, then why are we not allowing and insisting that students create, share, and discuss more openly?


http://edublogawards.com/files/2012/11/finalistlifetime-1lds82x.png
http://edublogawards.com/2010awards/best-elearning-corporate-education-edublog-2010/

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code


Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

My tweets

Archives

Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: