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When Bloomberg posted an article titled Singapore wants kids to skip university: Good luck with that, it was click bait.

How could you not want to find out what Singapore was up to and wonder if such a socio-economic experiment could work?

It has worked elsewhere (i.e., Germany), so the question is not why (we have gone past that thanks to forecasting) and have moved on to how (albeit a bit late).

Bloomberg cited Pasi Sahlberg, who was in Singapore recently for a leadership conference.

“There is a clear international trend in the developed world to make vocational education a true choice for more young people,” said Pasi Sahlberg, a visiting professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The larger trend among developed countries is a glut in degree holders (too many graduates, not enough jobs) and/or poor fit (universities were not providing what industries needed).

If the USA is any indication, thought leaders are fond of pointing out that we might see the first generation of kids that will not be as well-employed or as financially well off as their parents.

The question is not “Can the non-degree strategy work?” but “How can we make it work?”.

Some changes to the system have already taken root.

Right here in Singapore, I learnt over closed conversations what initially seemed to be a surprising statistic. A top school here revealed that about 60% of its graduating cohort was entering polytechnics by choice instead of by circumstance.

Skills Future was launched this year as was an earn-and-learn programme. The civil service will provide equal opportunities for non-degree and degree holders alike [example].

We are not going to abandon the pursuit of degrees, but the charm offensive of promoting vocational and non-degree jobs has gone beyond rhetoric to implementation.

So far these designs and implementations are the domain of systems designers like politicians and economists. What can parents and teachers do?

Most parents are unlikely to let up on wanting degrees for their kids regardless of whether their offspring need degrees. Parental concern is what they are familiar with: A degree commands a higher starting salary. The thing to realize is that a degree no longer guarantees a job, much less a career.

The other thing to realize is that parental concerns are not their childrens’ concerns. Not immature children, but adults who grow up with more opportunities than their parents and look forward to finding themselves, social enterprise, or doing good for larger causes. And finding realistic answers to the question “Is money really that important?”

The expectations and pressures of the employee today and tomorrow are different from those of yesterday.

Teachers need to take heed and learn to operate outside their bubbles. There are no more single-trajectory careers and no more iron rice bowls.

Curricula are less important than nurturing flexible, adaptable thinkers. Assessment that ultimately leads to a strong degree printed on fancy paper is less important than a portfolio of experiences.

I shared these two images I created with #eduality recently as messages to teachers.

Teachers are in a unique position to shape the mindset of the next generation. But teachers sometimes view the world through the distorted lens that is their classroom bubble.

Teachers cannot afford to teach the way they were taught. If they persist, they do their students a disservice and they sabotage the plans of a nation needing to go forward.

Yesterday I shared a trinity of ideas that stemmed from conversations I had with stakeholders. Today I share something that has guided my thoughts and shaped how I operate over the last decade.

Information Technology or IT tends to be one-dimensional. It is often one way and standards-based, but often necessary as a basic step. Leveraged on correctly, IT is a wonderful servant. Managed incorrectly IT becomes terrible tyrant.

Think about your workplace’s IT policies, approved hardware and software, and the communication of said policies and usage of devices and programmes. Think also about how IT can enable you to do your basic work, but when you want to innovate or do something different, IT policies and practices hold you back.

Information and Communication Technology or ICT tends to be two-dimensional. The communication component in ICT brings in processes that are two-way, consultative, and based on negotiation.

Think about communication tools Skype or Hangouts and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Think also about authoring tools like blogs and curating tools like and Diigo. The idea is to seek and to share, not harvest and hoard.

PowerPoint is IT because it enables mostly one-way presentations. Google Slides can be ICT because the audience can be participants if the facilitator allows slides to be commented on or collaboratively created. IT is about control and it is typically teacher-centred. ICT is about communication, creation, and collaboration, and it is best used when student-centred.

ICT is also a better acronym. When I first started offering MLS125 in NIE four years ago, I would meet school teachers who were Subject Heads of Information Technology. Who wants to be a SHIT?

Interactive Digital Media or IDM is literally and figuratively three-dimensional. IDMs include, but are not limited to, virtual worlds, simulations, and video games. They can take advantage of the best that is IT (e.g., programming) and ICT (e.g., distance but real-time communication).

I am tempted to include the next wave of technology, wearable computing devices, the Internet of Things and the semantic Web (Web 3.0), as IDM.

Current and emerging IDMs contribute to the individual learning to be. Who a person is, what they do, how they do it, as well as when, where, and why they do so, are already influenced by ICT. Think about how people walk or talk in the presence of technology. But I think that our being and our sense of who we are will be shaped even further by IDMs.

We are already precursors of cyborgs as we have memories like thoughts, photos, videos, and audio in blogs, online galleries, YouTube, and podcasts. When we need information we reach out to Google or an online community instead of just reaching into the limited recesses of our minds.

If we want progress, to innovate, or to push for meaningful change, we should keep in mind the current affordances of IT. But that should not dictate planning or policymaking. We should be taking advantage of forward-looking ICT or testing emerging IDMs. To do otherwise would be backwards and irresponsible.

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It’s that time of semester for me to resume teaching.

First up on my list is the elective MLS118 which starts tomorrow. It’s meant for school ICT heads and is just labelled “Information Technology” in the handbook.

I don’t like the sound of IT because communication is missing. IT, like PowerPoint, has a transmissive feel to it. ICT is more about two-way communication and leveraging on opportunities to collaborate.

I have gone further by defining my course as being about Planning, Articulating, Leading and Sustaining Change with ICT. It’s a mouthful so occasionally I abbreviate it to Enabling Change with ICT.

I used Edmodo, QR codes, Skype and various Google Apps last semester to promote change via social, open and mobile forms of learning. This time around I am simplifying the assignments and bringing in video game-based learning (vGBL).

Why vGBL?

Rather than just read, talk, share or videoconference about change, I would like to my participants experience elements of change. By doing so, I hope that they will be better able to relate to the concepts of change and adopt/adapt models of these concepts in action. It’s about making concepts real.

To provide these shared experiences of change, we will be playing various video games. (I normally do this with preservice teachers for the ICT course.)

I will also bring in mobile gaming. I will require my participants to play with Angry Birds and Tiny Tower. I’m guessing a few already do!

These games are deceptively simple and addictive. But they will also reveal elements of systemic change if my participants think deeply enough.

Here are some questions I am thinking of asking my participants to reflect on:

  • Why do you think you were asked to play those games?
  • What might students learn from such games?
  • How might teachers incorporate such games into teaching?
  • How might teachers integrate GBL into their teaching without playing games?
  • What do these games have to do with change?

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