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Posts Tagged ‘keynote

Social service meets social media-based learning

I am putting the finishing touches on the keynote that I deliver this week.

To create an interactive seminar — I am told it is called a masterclass — I have asked participants to complete an online poll (Google Form), install a QR code reader on their phones, suggest ideas in an AnswerGarden, and watch a YouTube video. They need to do this before we meet.

During the keynote, I will get the audience to participate in a TodaysMeet backchannel, another AnswerGarden, and a Padlet exit ticket Google Form quiz. They have the option of getting to these resources and my Google Slides via their QR code readers. I will also share some data from the poll and AnswerGarden to help them visualise their learning.

In terms of content, I aim to help participants uncover just two things: 1) three core 21st century competencies (unlearning, relearning, and learning), and 2) using social media to create personal learning networks (PLNs).

I believe that the core focus and PLNs will help the social service sector overcome problems like a lack of resources (by using what they already have) and addressing a diversity of learning needs (by connecting with communities).

I seem to be on an annual “pilgrimage” to the Philippines of late.

In 2013, I delivered a keynote for the Philippine eLearning Society. In 2014, I was a plenary speaker for the Policy, Governance and Capacity Building conference. This year, I was invited to keynote at De La Salle University, Dasmariñas.

My reflection of the keynote I delivered last week in the Philippines has three parts:

  1. The design of the session
  2. The implementation of the talk
  3. Some takeaways from the experience

I have written about 21st century competencies (21CC) but had not delivered a keynote on it. So when the organiser asked me to share some thoughts about it, I crystallised four key thoughts:

  • There are far too many confusing 21CC frameworks.
  • Such frameworks comprise of some competencies that are not uniquely 21C.
  • The frameworks tend to describe 21CCs as destinations even though they are actually moving targets.
  • It is wiser to set direction instead of destination, so I suggested my audience keep learning, unlearning, and relearning instead.

Instead of taking a whole hour as recommended by the organiser, I designed something that could be experienced in 30-40 minutes. Why try to teach more when learning more is the goal?

To that end, I relied on my usual tools of a TodaysMeet backchannel and AnswerGarden brainstorm word cloud to solicit responses. I did this despite knowing that connectivity at the venue was bad.

There was no wifi. About half of the 500-strong audience had phones and perhaps only a tenth had a reliable connection. Up on stage I had a mifi device that swung from 4G to 2G connections on a whim.

Third and fourth year university students also participated in the event. While adults tried participating in the backchannel, some students went off task. But I noticed that the backchannel was self-policing.

The backchannel was not the main topic so I did not refer to what was happening during the keynote. I had also noticed that when I moved from my Google Slides to TodaysMeet to demonstrate the latter, that almost wrecked my presentation due to the unreliable connection. In a different context (and possibly a future one), I would use interactions in the backchannel as a teachable moment.

I tested AnswerGarden several times before I went on stage. Unfortunately, the service was down the morning of my keynote. Thankfully I had the backchannel as a makeshift tool.

Technical aspects aside, I stuck to my plan of telling a series of interconnected stories. Judging from the informal feedback I received, things went according to plan.

Several people walked up to me to tell me how the learn-unlearn-relearn message was easy enough to internalise. They liked the clear structure and stories.

They also liked a slide I use every now and then:

We have 21st century learners taught by 20th century teachers in 19th century classrooms.

I started using this quote several years ago with the hope that I could stop reminding teachers of this. Unfortunately, extremely slow changes in schooling and university means I have not. I can tell entertaining stories as a result, but this is one I would gladly bury. This will only happen if teachers adopt these as core 21CCs: Learning, unlearning, and relearning.

I took a huge reduction in my usual compensation as a speaker because the university could not afford more. But I agreed to do this because I had worked with the contact person two years ago.

There was about 40 days between initial contact to actual delivery. This was a relatively short time considering the administrative tasks that need to happen for an international exchange. But my gut said do this because the message was important. Perhaps having me as the messenger was important too because I live by the tenets of constantly learning, unlearning, and relearning.

These tasks reminded me how administration should support higher tasks like teaching and learning instead of dictating them. If the organisers were not going to let administration get in the way, I was not going to be an obstacle too.

Even though I was in the Philippines for just few a days, I met warm and wonderful people (one outstanding person is Jen Padernal who was recently featured by Microsoft). Like the Bhutanese I worked with five years ago, they do not have much, but they do much with what they have. Like most worthwhile things in life, connecting with people that matter matters most.

With Royston and Jen.

I learnt that the Filipino higher education system will experience a seismic shift next year. Their pre-university or college experience is K-10, not K-12. The K-12 system starts in the middle of 2016 and there will be no first year cohort in universities. This has huge implications on the faculty members. At the university I spoke at, only about 10% of the faculty had Ph.Ds. and the majority were teaching staff. This meant that quite a few could be asked to leave, retire, teach in high school, go on extended leave, or become researchers.

Even though I was not aware of this impending shift before I made my way to the Philippines, my message was poignantly relevant. While this academic earthquake happens, they will need to learn new ways to teach (e.g., video is the new text), unlearn wrong things they learnt in school or university (e.g., lectures do not have to be the default method), and to relearn (e.g., what it feels like to be a learner).

I delivered my keynote address at De La Salle University, Dasmariñas, yesterday. I am sharing it openly here.

Many thanks to @jen_padernal for taking the photo while I was in action!

How Do We (Re)Define 21st Century Learning

I leave today for the Philippines to deliver a keynote address for De La Salle University.

I have been offering sneak peeks at a few of my slides on Twitter. I share all the sneaks here in this blog entry along with one other slide that did not make the cut.

The slide I decided not to use was the alternate cover below.

Alternate cover slide.

I referenced MOE’s 21CC “Swiss roll” in my slide deck and thought this cover might have been a cheeky nod (or not) to it. I decided against using it as my audience might not relate.

The frustration of being confused by a variety of 21CCs and models was a more likely concern. So rather than invite them to bite into a model designed for our context, I share some directions (instead of destinations) they can take.

How Do We (Re)Define 21st Century Learning

I opted to do this to illustrate the frustration and biting into something.

Some 21CCs are not unique to the 21C. Most competencies are moving targets.

My critique of most 21C models and frameworks.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. — Alvin Toffler

A famous quote to lead up to a simpler, more dynamic 21C model.

Lectures then and now.

Lectures: One of several things to unlearn in the 21C.

Learn with technology the way students live with technology.

My call to relearn what it is like to learn today.

I had a delayed reaction to Sir Ken Robinson’s keynote last Friday’s at the BETT 2015 conference. It was sparked by something I read when I returned home.

Video source

SKR shared this video of technology being used to enable the physically disabled to create art. It was a wonderful example of combining technology-enabled creativity which was a theme of SKR’s keynote.

But I wonder about an unintended message that this example sends: That technology is used for the extreme or the exceptional instead of the everyday. The fact that SKR wondered how “social” social media was underlined that point.

We do not need both those messages to be broadcast. They are already prominent and do not add much value or change to education.


My reflection was prompted by a notification from my son’s school about their e-learning portal (excerpt above). One of the lines in the letter was “The e-learning portal has been enhanced with commercially produced simulated lessons and worksheets…” [emphasis mine].

The language is telling. The lessons are simulated. Does that imply that they are not as real or as good? Why was there a need to reassure parents that real lessons happened in classrooms?

The letter also mentioned the two purposes of e-learning: 1) promoting independent learning, and 2) emergency learning (“should there by a national crisis resulting in school closure, pupils will have access to online assignments”).

How are students learning independently if they have to wait for teachers to tell them to do online homework? Are they not already learning independently by watching YouTube videos whether their teachers and parents are aware or not?

Why is the “e” in e-learning still associated with emergency or extra?

I will tell you why. Very few people challenge the conventions that in integration of educational technology must be special. Not many thought leaders take advantage of the stages they are put on to push those buttons hard.

This is not a slight on SKR’s talk. I enjoyed it immensely. But he pushes the let-our-children-create-and-be-creative agenda. He was not the person to illustrate how to do this with technology transparently.

The technology does not have to be on a grand scale like the one in the video. It does not have to simulate lessons. It is already in the hands of learners even as they walk around with heads bowed while doing the Blackberry prayer.

Most people cannot look beyond the surface and creatively take advantage of the wonderfully ordinary. I would like to show them how.

Like most people who attended the Bett 2015 conference in the UK, I looked forward to Sir Ken Robinson’s (SKR) talk on Friday, 23 Jan. 

Even though he rehashed much of what he said before about unleashing the creativity of kids, I was not disappointed. His charisma and humour are hard to beat. 

Using the #bettarena hashtag, I ‘live’ tweeted what I thought were interesting points. Here is something I drafted during the talk and forgot to tweet until later.

SKR made a withering comment on social media with the photo. It seemed to say: You can this behaviour social? However, he seemed to do this in the overall context that we cannot always predict the way people will use technology. 

I am reminded a quote by Marshall McLuhan: We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. 

That is how technology and creative endeavors are intertwined. If we allow educators and learners to explore possibilities, we will find problems and we might create new problems, but we will also solve them. 

During the Q and A session, SKR was asked about how the affordances of things like Google Glass affected privacy. The example the facilitator brought up was what might happen at men’s urinals. SKR replied that such a privacy issue pre-dated Glass.

Men could compare and contrast with or without Glass. The problem was not new nor was it due to the introduction of technology. Most lay folk, teachers, and school leaders need to realize that and I was glad that SKR was the mouthpiece for this message.

However, I was rather disappointed that SKR chose to support Prensky’s “digital natives” (DN) even though it has been largely debunked by thought leaders in education almost four years ago [example]. I am guessing SKR did so because Prensky’s concept was aligned to his own ideas about the innate potential of kids.

The DN model is unnecessarily divisive (them and us), defeatist (e.g., it is difficult to learn how to use technology because I am an immigrant), and innaccurate (e.g., adults might be more native to Facebook than kids are).

I throw my support behind David White’s digital resident-visitor continuum. It is far more relevant than Prensky’s dichotomy. But a continuum is harder to understand than an either-or dichotomy.

Good communicators understand that simple ideas float and hook fast. Then they reel their audiences in with little struggle because there is little cognitive dissonance.

It is tempting to fish like this and I tried that in my own talk by sharing the simplest wrongs about flipping. But it did not sit quite right with me in the end because I like creating lots of dissonance and questions.

Several weeks ago, I was asked to deliver a 15-minute keynote at an informal event. The event was so informal that an organizer forgot to ask me to speak.

I did not get to share some important ideas at that occasion even though I had put a lot of thought and effort into providing a thought-provoking session.

Rather than be disappointed, I wondered if I could apply my keynote strategy at another occasion.

resurrection by GoShiva, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  GoShiva 

It only took two weeks for serendipity to knock on my door. I was invited to speak at a more formal occasion and for a longer time. The topic was also open enough for me to test a new opening story and the strategy.

I was glad that I took the opportunity because it got an otherwise passive audience emotionally and cognitively invested in the experience.

I like reminding people that it is better to be prepared than to try to be ready with technology-mediated change.

It is nearly impossible to be ready because the technology evolves, the circumstances change, the strategy grows, or the content becomes irrelevant by the time people think they are ready.

While readiness is a function of skillset and knowledge, preparedness is more a function of mindset and attitude.

By the time you read this blog entry, I should be done sharing some ideas on educational innovation.

An ex-colleague invited me to deliver this keynote less than two weeks ago. It was very short notice, but I decided to help. I titled my session Educational innovation: Thinking and acting outside the box.

My modus operandi for talks is to use Google Slides and have a TodaysMeet backchannel and this morning’s session was no exception. I also included an online poll and an exit ticket with the help of Google Forms.

I strung together seemingly disparate items to tell a story on innovation at the classroom level:

  • A Jerry Seinfeld story
  • Time travel and emotional learning
  • Jailbreaking
  • Never being ready and failing forward
  • Informal professional development
  • Setting aside time
  • Unkilling learning zombies
  • Stepping outside yourself

I also featured this video to remind them how innovation (creativity in action) happens.

Video source

The idea was to get teachers to think and operate outside the box they put themselves in. Only time will tell if I have tilted the box enough for them to fall out.


I experienced a series of unusual evenings last week. These were not something I could do if I was not my own boss.


Last Thursday night, the TEDxSingapore Brain Trust met to discuss an ambitious project. We had met before and this was the first time we remembered to capture a moment.

Not all the folks in the photo are board (bored) members. A few were guests. But all wore their passions on their sleeves and had wonderful ideas. It is uplifting to meet people with positive and practical ideas for the future.

The next evening, I met a core group of #edsg members for a tweetup at a public space in Fusionopolis. We met to plan an informal online project we hope to implement soon.

Many thanks to @rachelhtan, first-time visitor and impromptu photographer, for the snapshot.

On Sunday evening, I attended the inaugural Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU) as keynote speaker and judge.

I have not received any photos yet.

I also did not get to deliver my keynote as we were short of time and it was late. We had to make a decision for the good of the audience. But I might outline some ideas I had for the keynote in an entry tomorrow.

It was lovely to meet such passionate people at the event. I was very encouraged by the ideas and enthusiasm of the participants. It gave me hope for the future of education in Singapore.

It was a shame that there had to be winners and losers at the event. But this practice was still more authentic than a test.

In fact, I look forward to a day when tests become unusual and irrelevant fossils studied by future educators as something that plagued us and stunted possibilities.

By the time you read this, I should be in the middle of my keynote at ICE2013.

The Google Slides are here.

As is my practice now, I will be leveraging on a backchannel, online polls, and interactions with the audience so that they become participants.

I like creating dissonance, but I hope I do not scare them too much!

Click to see all the nominees!

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My tweets


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