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Posts Tagged ‘good

Three is a significant number for me today. It marks my third year as an independent education consultant since leaving my “cushy” role as a university don.

Three years ago, I shared why I was leaving. This year I use the movie title, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, to shed light on the past, present, and future of what I do, though not necessarily in that order.

The Good of being an independent consultant is being able to unpack what I do and only work with who I choose.

As a professor and head of a department, I was pulled many ways (teaching, service, research) and had to take care of teams of people. Now I can focus on what is important , e.g., conducting workshops. Now I need not lose sleep over extended family members who had little idea how much work and love went into taking care of them. I feel no guilt in taking better care of myself even three years down the road.

Oh, and just not attending long, dreary, and unproductive meetings puts a skip in my step. Now I choose who I meet with in order to encourage or be encouraged.

The Bad, if I can call it that, is needing to do EVERYTHING myself. I am my own promoter, administrative assistant, accountant, paralegal, designer, developer, facilitator, speaker, ad nauseum.

The work itself is fun and fulfilling. The administration and bureaucracy is stifling. Sadly, many of the administrative people that I meet who should know what to do range from incompetent to ignorant.

This sounds cruel and insulting, but I do not mean it that way. Mine is a valid critique because it is the job of these folk to enable learning while not doing anything illegal or unethical.

The big Bad is that administration is inherently conservative, often unnecessarily so. It serves its own purpose instead of the people it is supposed to serve. But I take each opportunity to gently educate these administrators.

The Ugly is something I have kept to myself for three years. I left my former work place even though I loved the work and colleagues with progressive mindsets. As an appointment holder, I could not bear with the politics that stood in the way of change.

I had an appointment letter that outlined my role for a number of years. I was also given a new contract offer. Before I signed the contract letter, I was told that my appointment letter was not going to be honoured.

That moment pushed my decision making past the tipping point. I followed the advice and example of ex-colleagues before me and opted not to sign on the dotted line.

I have had no regrets. I choose to ignore The Ugly. I embrace The Bad in order to work for The Good of teachers as learners.

Every day I try to live up to a mentor’s motto: Do the least harm. Except now I have tweaked it to: Do the most good.

Do the least harm. Do the most good.

When most people speak of “blended learning”, they might actually be thinking about blended instruction. (Here are some considerations of blending that focuses on learning.)

There are many ways to blend instruction. Some might involve the modes (off and online), the content (seamless multidisciplinary content), and the pedagogy (direct instruction with x-based learning).
 

 
Most would justify blending based on the best possible outcomes. For example, in the case of blended modes, being face-to-face affords immediacy in social learning while still being able to leverage on timely resources online.

Not many might point out the worst of blending, particularly blended instruction. For example, someone might blend boring didactic teaching with YouTube recordings of irrelevant content.

Blending the teaching or learning processes does not necessarily lead to better outcomes. The contextual design of blending is critical. Online strategies and tools might not work as well in a low bandwidth environment, language might be a barrier in one context, and pedagogical expectations might be different in another. Here are examples of each.

When I lead talks, I find out how comfortable my participants are with going online with their phones. Depending on the country, venue, and people, I might resort to low bandwidth texting-like activities and think-pair-share instead of challenging them to watch and recommend YouTube videos.

I have conducted a variety of workshops for equally varied groups. When English is not the common language, I rely on activities and succinct pitstops to get the messages through. When I am with a group more familiar with training instead of teaching, I need not worry about much pedagogical baggage from my learners.

Bloggers, Pinterest boards, and tweets might declare blended learning to be engaging. They might be referring to blended teaching instead. Such an experience is not automatically engaging, and if blending is left only with the one who is teaching, is certainly not empowering.


Video source

I love this video of congressman John Lewis sharing his thoughts on what it meant to get into “good trouble”. This is the sort of trouble that sparks change.

According to Lewis, good trouble was necessary because got in the way of the status quo and prevented it from continuing as it did before.

Lewis did this during the Civil Rights movement in the US, and he and other congressmen staged a sit-in in US Congress about guns in a response to a spate of shootings.

My wife and I had the privilege of meeting him when I was doing a project in the USA in 2003. One of the few records I have is photos I took during the meeting and book signing.

Meeting John Lewis.

You might not have heard of Lewis even if you are in the US. Lewis has found a way to reach a new generation — graphic novels. That is what the latter half of the video is about. How do you reach a group that might not relate to the message. According to Lewis: Be plain, be clear, and be real.

Not everyone gets to meet a leader and living icon of such a significant moment in history. They do not have to. They need only live and pass on the message of getting into good forms of trouble. That is an plain, clear, and real as anyone can do.

It started with a tweet from @hsiao_yun.

I weighed in with this:

Why did we tweet? The original photo was supposed to feature Singapore, but the two men in the foreground were wearing cold weather gear.

Then @RoughGuides tweeted:

I have interacted with many individuals and organizations on Twitter. At least, I have tried. More often than not they do not reply. If they do, they drop canned messages, are ill-equipped, or forget to be social.

@RoughGuides’ tweet had the components of a well-crafted response to critical inputs. Here is a sentence-by-sentence deconstruction.

  • Acknowledgement: Hi there, well spotted on the photo.
  • Admission: This was our mistake!
  • Action: We’re looking into changing it now.
  • Appreciation: Thanks for nudging us!

It changed the main photo of the online resource shortly after tweeting. If only more Twitter entities acted like this.

Being on social media is not about bearing down in silence or ignoring sincere comments or questions. Far too many people and organizations using Twitter do this (@TwitterSG included!). I am ashamed to note that I know teachers and educators who do this too.

Learning on Twitter is about engaging others whether you are right or wrong*. It is about having honest and open conversations. It is about giving back. If we do these consistently, we would learn what it is really like to be social in social media. We would learn something about ourselves and want to be better.

*Addendum: The exception might be responding to trolls.

Yesterday I rambled on why too much of a good thing is bad. Today I reflect on why too little of a good thing is also bad.
 

42/365 - feeling low by jypsygen, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  jypsygen 

 
Unlike mine, Steve Wheeler’s blog is always a quality read. That is why it is one of my must-have RSS feeds.

Using RSS is a bit old school. So is taking the trouble to comment on a blog entry.

Wheeler recently shared the number of views and comments his top five blog entries of 2014 generated.

I calculated the percentage of commenters over viewers to illustrate how rarely people bother to comment or reply.

  • No. 1: Learning first, technology second, 22 comments, 8602 views (0.26% comments)
  • No. 2: Flipping the teacher, 16 comments, 6082 views (0.26% comments)
  • No. 3: Education, schooling and the digital age, 07 comments, 5872 views (0.12% comments)
  • No. 4: Watch and learn, 00 comments, 5688 views (0% comments)
  • No. 5: Vygotsky, Piaget and YouTube, 20 comments, 5586 views (0.36% comments)

Perhaps a decade ago, an edublogger might be fortunate to get one out of a hundred readers to say something. Now an edublogger with a large following might settle for one in a thousand.

A few caveats to the numbers.

  • The number of comments might include Wheeler’s own replies, so the number of commenters might actually be lower.
  • The low percentages are also exacerbated by the high number of views. If the top post garnered 860 views (one-tenth of the actual readership), the percentage would shoot up to 2.6%.
  • Comments and conversations on the blog entries on other channels (Twitter, Facebook, email, etc.) might not have been included.

This illustration is with just one anecdotal case. But I think I have selected a good example of the phenomenon I am highlighting.

This is not a slight on Wheeler not drawing comments because most edubloggers do not write specifically for views or comments. They share because they care.

This is about readers and lurkers who do not give back by critiquing ideas. This is about taking ideas and running away with them without saying thank you. This is about a culture of mute consumerism.

Too little of good things like online civility, connections, and content co-creation are bad. So here is another thought: How well do cyber “wellness” programmes address that?

If you buy five small items from a pastry shop in a local mall or heartlands shop, you are likely to carry them off in six plastic bags. Each item will be in its own bag and all five will be in a larger one.
 

 
This example sounded familiar to me because I wrote about this in 1999 when I used to maintain my own website. Back then I asked myself, tongue firmly in cheek:

Why did each pastry need its own plastic bag? Were they “psychologically insecure” so that they need their own space? Was there some “racial” hatred among buns?

I noticed our insecure bun phenomenon almost 16 years ago. Why is our wasteful plastic bag legacy so hard to get rid of? The simple answer is that we have collectively enabled it.

Take another example.

In a letter to the ST forum, the co-founder of the Keep Singapore Clean Movement described how appalled he was with the state of littering post New Year’s Day parties despite the provision of 400 rubbish bins. Hundreds of workers had to clean up after party revellers. It reinforced the fact that we are not a naturally clean city but a cleaned one.

He compared Taipei with us:

  • Taipei: Three million residents, 5,000 cleaners
  • Singapore: Five million residents, 70,000 cleaners

A Singapore task force visiting Taipei found the Taiwanese city to be cleaner than ours. Why? In Taipei, people learn to pick up after themselves. In Singapore, we learn that someone else will clean up after us.

Back to bagging things.

According to this ST article, a cotton-based recyclable bag must be used at least 11 times to have a lower carbon footprint than the normal plastic bags liberally provided at grocery stores. The problem was that we receive too many recyclable bags. We do not use them as often as they should be used, or worse, dispose of them.

Providing so many rubbish bins or recyclable bags so that it is convenient for us has made us lazy. What should be a scaffold to promote good behaviour has become a crutch.

Look at how the authorities here encourage mixed recycling because they have statistics that show that if they insist on separated recycling, they do not meet KPIs. But they forget that doing this enables laziness: People do not learn to take the trouble to clean and then separate recyclables.

Recycling is as much an attitude as it is a habit. There is no point encouraging the habit by making it convenient, but forgetting about the long term value system of recycling and an equally long term education programme.

Such a programme may take more time and effort. It is also more painful to all stakeholders, but it can be very effective.

The world marvelled when Japanese fans cleaned up after themselves during the World Cup in Brazil. More recently, the Myanmar football fans did the same after a match in Singapore. Such behaviour is learnt and eventually embedded.

When I lived in Arizona, I had to pay for a rubbish collection fee and a recycling bin fee. If I did not recycle, I still had to pay for the latter fee. I was more conscious of what I threw away and what I recycled as a result.

Too much of a good thing is bad when a scaffold, no matter how well-intentioned, becomes a crutch. The better thing to do is to educate and change mindsets even though this is more painful and takes a long time.

The best thing to do is not wait for someone else to run a change programme. I teach my son how to recycle. I refuse multiple bags at pastry shops even though this confuses the aunties who bag the buns. I do these things because enduring processes start one person at a time.

Turn on your TV, read a newspaper, and fire up your online feeds. What do you get by way of news? Typically misery, calamity, and the world going to hell.

It is no secret that news media (old and new) know that bad news sells. But this misshapes the perception of our world.

There is still good in this world.


Video source

You do not have to look to a leader, policymaker, or politician to do good. Quite the opposite actually. Everyday people do good deeds every day.

How many of us take the time to thank these people? Probably not a lot, but here is an exception.


Video source

We have much to be thankful for, no matter what the mainstream media tells us. But do not take it from me. Consider what one of the most famous astronauts in recent history, Chris Hadfield, had to say about the global efforts and changes for good.


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I do not make resolutions because they are often too ideal and vague. But here is a promise I make to myself: To do what good I can in the arena of education and to thank my peers for their good work.

I am good to go.


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