Posts Tagged ‘mindset’
My hunt for an elusive video brought me to the Singapore Ministry of Education’s Facebook page.
While I did not find what I was looking for, I found a series of images. They served as a helpful reminder of what teachers should stock up on to prepare for the new year.
It was also a stark reminder of the mindset and expectations of teachers. The technologies are not current. If they were, there would be reminders to change passwords, renew VPN plans, update software, check digital archives, etc.
The call to arms was: You will be needing these and more to make a lasting impact on that one student. I get that message and stand behind it because it is a call to individualise, difficult as that will be.
I hope that teachers read this as reaching out to more than just that one student because all students are that one student. However, this task is impossible with the traditional tools and methods because they are largely about centralisation, standardisation, and control.
The newer tools are about decentralisation, individualisation, and self-regulation. This will only happen if school leaders and teachers change their mindsets and expectations about which tools to focus on and how to use them.
Some people travel to experience a different culture. Ask a group of travellers what “culture” means and you will get different answers.
Culture is hard to define, but you know it when you see, feel, or otherwise experience it. The same can be said of the culture of a workplace or school.
The first thing I do when I work with a new group is ask to walk around and get a feel of the place. I do this to get a sense of the culture of the workplace and the mindset of its workers.
I have visited the headquarters (HQs) of two technology giants in Singapore several times. One giant’s name sounds like a fruit, the other sounds like a large number. Just sitting in their waiting areas provides a palpable sense of the different cultural mindsets of the organisations.
I am not talking about the decor. I am talking about how they treat their guests.
The current campus of Fruit HQ is divided into two main blocks, each with its own waiting area. You speak to a human at reception to have your identity verified and to get a name tag sticker.
I had a series of visits where I met different people from Fruit HQ. Some told me which block to go to while others did not even when I asked. I found out the hard way that the check in system and the human receptionist do not tell you if you are in the wrong block.
I always arrive early for my appointments. On one occasion I waited for a long time to be met by my contact. The receptionist decided to call the person and discovered that my contact was in the other block. I scurried over to the other building and was told that I had to check in and wait some more.
Had I not already done that? Was my contact not already waiting for me? Apparently there was protocol to follow.
At Number HQ, you self-register and get a sticker at a computer kiosk. There is more than one kiosk and people can be processed individually or in groups efficiently. There still is a human receptionist if you need one, but you see the kiosks before you spot the person in the background. Better still, there is just one meeting spot.
Another way I look for how an outfit welcomes its visitors is its guest wifi policy. The access points are easy to see on any modern mobile device. How you join them is a different matter.
I asked the receptionist at Fruit HQs how I might access guest wifi and I was told that my contact would have to request it. This meant meeting the person first, being asked to show something, saying you need wifi, the person going back to reception and making the request, processing the request… it is tiring just recalling and typing the process.
This is why I have a mifi device. Unfortunately, Fruity HQ does not have the best reception and things only get worse inside its core.
At Number HQ, you hop on their guest wifi by registering with your mobile device online like you would at a mall or public library.
The people that you meet at both HQs will generally be schooled and skilled in the art of social interaction — these are the 1%. That is not an accurate picture of the culture and mindset of the workplace — this is the 99%.
While the people on frontline are a good show, the protocols and processes are a better indicator of the culture and mindset of workers. The latter are a result of how well an organisation takes the perspectives of the people it serves and policies it puts into play.
The technology giants are very successful even though they vibe different cultures. That said, would you rather have a closed and controlled environment, or would you like a more open and expressive one? Both seem to lead to the same end, but what would you like to invest part of your working life to?
Now transfer this philosophy to schools. Then consider these questions:
- What are your school’s cultures and mindsets? What is real and what is perceived?
- If you say you are a leader or teacher in a school and do not know the vibe it gives off, how do you find out?
- If you are aware of the vibes, what would you like your stakeholders to resonate with?
Like the tech giants whose success is measured by how much money they make, the success of schools here are judged by standard exam results. However, as we swing back to values-based education, academic results fade into the background. It is the cultures in different schools that help them stand out and apart.
Would you ban people from using Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram outside of school? Why or why not?
Would you do the same in school? Again, why or why not?
If you answered no to both initial questions, you do not have a closed mindset. Continue to do good work or do not block others from doing so.
If you answered yes to both questions, there is no helping you. No amount of conversation, debate, professional development, or even an order from above will change that stance. You need to leave the system because you are doing more harm than good. You will find people who agree with you and they need to leave too.
If you answered no to the first and yes to the second initial question, ask yourself critically and reflectively why you have different answers. Why encase the school in an artificial bubble instead of connecting it to the wider world? What greater harm are you doing by attempting to protect?
This is a video that warns of the supposed dangers of social media. It has the wrong title. Instead of the danger of social media, this was about child or sexual predators.
The YouTuber did a great service by alerting parents of the dangers of inadequate parenting, the trials of growing up, or gaps in schooling. All these and more could have contributed to the 12 to 14 year-old girls agreeing to meet a strange male who was not who he claimed to be online.
But he did a disservice by perpetuating the message that the problem was social media. Child or sexual predators have and will use any tools they can, so social media is not what causes the problem. Social media does not stop the problem either.
The medium does not write the message just like a car cannot make you a considerate driver or a murderous one.
Such messages are borne of ignorance and fear. It is not too late to be informed and to be brave. Let us not blame the tools when stupid, irresponsible, or depraved people wield them.
Do the commonly labelled “new media” bring new dangers? Or are they just old dangers magnified or reinvented? Do “new dangers” actually hide something more insidious?
Put “cyber” in front of any established danger and it becomes “new”: bullying, stalking, theft, crime, and so on. I am not making light of these. I am merely saying the dangers are not that new.
They are new to traditional publishers who wish to spread fear. They are new to those who lack a critical lens with which to read what these publishers disseminate.
Such electronically-mediated crimes might be easier to commit and more difficult to detect, but that does not make them new. You might kill a person by remotely stopping his heart’s pacemaker, but that does not make it new murder.
What “new media” does require is for people to stay informed, keep up, and take action. So it might actually be fear, ignorance, or inertia that are the dangers. When not wanting to try something new, it is easier to call it “dangerous” from afar.
I know very intelligent people who make very poor assumptions or take questionable action because they choose not to know and do. The more frightening thing is that some of these people shape policy in large organizations.
New media use does not necessarily lead to new dangers. But there are many people with old mindsets fueled by old fears. I know which I am more afraid of.
You are biased and I am biased. If you choose not to admit that, then you are stubborn and biased.
We are biased because we learn things that help us survive. Things like talking or acting a certain way. We are biased even when we learn to balance a bike a certain way.
This amusing and informative video illustrates just that. If you ride a bike that turns right when you try to turn left, you cannot ride it even if you already know how to ride a normal bike well.
The creator of the video declared: Once you have a rigid way of thinking… you cannot change that even if you want to.
Most people can relate to this if they think about value systems or mindsets. Change agents learn this lesson the hard way and very quickly when trying to implement change.
But an anecdote with multiple demonstrations, no matter how intriguing, is not necessarily representative.
The man and his son illustrated that it was possible to unlearn something deeply embedded. He learnt to ride the “backwards bike” in eight weeks; his son did it in two weeks.
He then made a statement about neuroplasticity that reeks of Prensky-speak that should be ignored in this context. Neuroplasticity is a physiological process that refers to how the brain can change throughout life.
While it might be true that a young brain learns faster than an old one, we also retain the capacity to unlearn and relearn throughout life. It is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. It just takes time and effort.
One thing the video did not explore is mindset. This is not a function of brain physiology but of many other things like work culture, social environment, individual drive, risk-taking capacity, etc. We will change only when we
- are aware there is a different way of doing things (e.g., just-in-time and just-for-me learning via Twitter)
- realize that there is a problem with the status quo (e.g., meaningless mandatory workshops), and
- think we have the capacity to change (e.g., mentors to guide).
If you want to teach an actual old dog new tricks, it will require practice and rewards. The process is Pavlovian.
If you want to change people, you must not only persist and incentivize. You must also address their mindsets.
I noted then that all of us had broken this rule in order to take photos, videos, use the app, or do anything else related to the workshop. Perhaps the rule applied to students and not to teachers.
Fast forward to this year.
Recently I attended a ceremony where the emcee reminded the audience to do two now rather standard things: 1) not use mobile devices, and 2) give full attention to the stage.
In the case of a formal ceremony (as this was), you might understand the requirements. But if this was also a session to teach or model behaviour, I wonder what the emcee might have said if she and the organizers could read the minds of everyone present.
How does one give full attention for an entire two hours? In this day and age, how does one take notes without resorting to typing or recording with a device?
How about not saying “give me your attention” and responding instead to “give me something worth my attention”? How about enabling current forms of learning instead of falling back on old ways of teaching?