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Posts Tagged ‘five

I am in the middle of an intense grading exercise. This happens every semester because I get at least one Friday class which has deadlines on Friday evenings. This means that I burn weekends to give timely feedback to my students.

This practice is not unusual because I was a teacher and professor. I am married to a teacher and my parents were teachers. Marking scripts on weekends is a sad family norm.

What I find irritating is that I need to have at least five (sometimes six) web browser tabs open to provide feedback and grade. These is a tab each for:

  1. The institutional LMS (to access the online scripts)
  2. The feedback tool (for commenting on student work)
  3. A timer (because the LMS page times out every 30 minutes)
  4. A Google Sheet (for recording my marks)
  5. A Google Doc (for backing up my comments)

When I am in a public place like a library, I have a sixth tab to play soothing music through my headphones. I do this to drown out inconsiderate users who talk in the study space.

Technically I should need only three tabs open: The LMS (to get the scripts), the feedback tool (to read and comment on them), and the Google Sheet (to record the marks).

However, the auto-timeout of the LMS page requires me to refresh it, so I need the timer to remind me. If I do not pay attention, the LMS page times out in the background and my last set of comments does not get saved. The feedback tool also just freezes.

I need the Google Doc tab to back up my comments. I have been burnt by a systems administrator who removed my LMS account and its data (all the assignment comments), so I need the Google Doc for continuity between semesters.

Then there are the people who talk in the library… sigh. Ambassador-at-large, Tommy Koh, recently described us as a first world country with third world citizens. It is the small things that add up. Small things like being considerate in a shared space.

Needing five (or six) tabs open to grade and give feedback is a first-world problem. But the problems that cause them have been around for as long as Man has soiled the Earth.

This rant has been brought to you by Misanthrope Plus.

Tomorrow marks my fifth year as an independent education and technology consultant. During that time I have reflected on being a consultant. I have this generic list and this specific entry at the end of year three.

I could have copied and pasted everything from that third anniversary reflection here because I think and feel the same way today. But what good would that do? Instead I look outwardly this year and reflect on five truths I have rediscovered.

Organisations repeat the mistakes that others have already committed even while they call themselves learning entities, e.g., putting old wine in new wineskins. I constantly remind my partners to let learning needs drive technology implementations, instead of administration, policy, legacy frameworks, etc.

They do not seem to learn effectively from others. This is despite (and perhaps because of) enforced learning journeys. Such chats and visits might provide inspiring ideas on HOW but ignore WHY, WHEN, and WHERE (these describe context). I harp on the importance of context over content and will continue to do so.

Admininistration comes first. There is the necessary “evil” of proposing ideas, responding to RFPs, vetting expertise, etc. But there is also playing purely by the numbers game.

I am not referring only to getting the lowest quote (you get what you pay for) but also the practice of spending left over money so as to get it again the next financial year. The “educational” or “training” engagements procured this way seem like afterthoughts instead of well-planned trajectories.

Efficiency trumps effectiveness. This mindset spreads quickly and deeply in most organisations. It starts with administrative and policymaking groups and ends with educators and learners. Examples of efficient but ineffective implementations might include large class sizes, tight deadlines and semesters, and sorting on a curve.

Inertia. The unwillingness to change is uneven in organisations — some groups learn and move fast, others make snails look like speed demons. I offer to provide perspectives that I have gained from working with different organisations, but I recognise that relevant ideas are not received the same way. For example, policymakers might like an idea while an infrastructure or IT group might not. The first group sees opportunity over a hill while the latter groups see a climb to avoid.

These truths hurt because they are real. They reveal mindsets and shape behaviours. They also drive me to be a better consultant.

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