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Posts Tagged ‘moment

There is much we can learn from newspapers. Perhaps not so much from the news but from the mistakes they make.

STonline tweeted these two videos of an interview with our Prime Minister. The tweets are a teachable moment on the need for digital skills, literacy, and fluency.

Poor optics.

Optics is everything in politics and policymaking. If you take a look at the original screenshot, our PM does not look his best in both thumbnails.

Had the ST folk(s) the skills to select a better thumbnail in the video? Did they know they could do this or upload a better image to represent the video? This is a basic digital skill that one must have to share embedded videos on behalf of an organisation.

Did the tweeter or social media team have the digital literacy to consider how the current screen grabs send a different message from the ones in text? Do they know the importance of optics? Do they possess the ability to recognise when and why to apply their digital skills?

Can the people behind the tweets strategise and apply their skills without being told? Have they practically forgotten that they possess these skills and apply sound strategies automatically? This is digital fluency.

I have shared a teachable moment. Is this a learnable moment for the ST team? How about teachers who are responsible for far more prosumers (producer-consumers)?

I hate teachable moments that should not be necessary. For example, I thought that I would not have to explain to an adult why is it important to meet deadlines. Here is a screenshot of my message.


Some context: The student is pursuing a PhD and was late because the assignment deadline coincided with a journal submission deadline.

I could have pointed out that all of us have the same finite amount of time and that both written pieces did not sneak up. There was ample warning and time to draft, reflect, rewrite, and submit. But I did not say this because the approach is old and tired.

Instead I chose to focus on the importance of being on time because that is a basic thing to do. It is basic human decency, or what I call BhD.

As a figurative watchdog, I bite, bark, or growl. This time I growled: There is no point pursuing a PhD if you do not first have BhD. A very smart person in a very narrow field is not as valuable as a decent human being in general.

Was this a teachable moment? Does teaching it mean the student has learnt it?

Recently one of our Deputy Prime Ministers (DPM) gave a series of speeches to youthful audiences. TODAYonline covered one such talk at a pre-university seminar at the start of the June school vacation.

The headline read More flexible ways of learning needed for jobs of future: DPM. If I was a fly on the wall, my wings would probably have buzzed and resonated with the message.

I could not find a transcript online of the speech. This was a pity as I am still puzzled by what our DPM meant when he quipped about “our Angry Birds moment”. According to the article:

Mr Tharman also expressed confidence that innovation would result in Singapore firms and brands being leaders, with a reputation for being safe and ethical, and with attitude and character. “We would have had our Angry Birds moment in the 2020s,” he said.

I have two interpretations.

One is that we are the little bird that can. 

In its heyday, Rovio conquered the world with Angry Birds. You could not walk anywhere without bumping into a flock of its merchandise.

Angry Birds in the HDB heartlands.

I took this photo of Angry Birds paraphernalia in an HDB heartland in 2011 when I was preparing for a TEDx talk on game-based learning. Yes, back then I used Angry Birds as a vehicle to deliver a message on change.

Video source

Another interpretation of our collective Angry Birds moment is doing too little too late. This is like trying to jump on a bandwagon after it has rushed past and falling into its dust cloud instead.

It is like Rovio releasing the Angry Birds movie now when it is five years too late.

It is like McDonald’s Singapore partnering with Rovio to sell Angry Birds-themed meals and merchandise even though hardly anyone will admit they play the game.

Angry Birds was cool and current then. You distance yourself from the apps in your phone or the plush toys in your car unless you want to look old and outdated. 

Five years is not a very long time in a human lifetime. It is a long time to take advantage of an Angry Birds moment. It is not long enough to change mindsets of generations of people weaned on spoon-feeding and extra tuition.

Politics is sometimes about posturing and rhetoric. The tone and words are crafted to try to change mindsets and move hearts, but not every message resonates. DPM’s strategy then might have been to create cognitive dissonance. Instead of telling people what they want to hear, tell them what they need to hear.

We need more talk and action that challenge the status quo of irrelevant and ineffective. Dissonance is honest, refreshing, and I would wager, more likely to seed change.

Reunion dinners during the Lunar New Year are ripe for conversations that are inane and mundane.

Two people at my table started talking about how my son inherited my flat feet. As if to go one up, my wife worried that she might have passed her thalassaemia to him.

Forget the inane and mundane, we were downright depressing!

At that point, my now ancient Biology background kicked into gear. I almost shared how some scientists have postulated that blood-related conditions like thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia might be evolutionary survival strategies.

These states are not life-threatening to people under non-extreme circumstances. They also happen to provide unfavourable conditions for agents of disease. For example, sickle cell tends to be endemically high in populations in malarial hotspots because the condition affords some resistance to malaria.

I almost shared it. I decided not to because very few appreciate unsolicited information.

Then I asked myself: When does a teaching moment become a learning one?

A teachable moment is one that good teachers recognise and grab intuitively. But just because a teacher senses a moment does not mean the learner shares the same head space.

What makes a teachable moment a learning one?

Not attention, the over-cited engagement, or even juicy information nuggets. These are what the teacher thinks is important and tries to create.

Questions matter. Not questions from the teacher, but questions from the learner. Questions that come right before the teachable moment and questions that follow. These show that the learner is vested in the problem or process.

Need an example? I think that @genrwong’s recent reflection on the butterfly effect is an excellent one. It illustrates perfectly how the context and questions come first and that the teachable moment is a response to these elements.

More teachers need to take advantage or create such teachable moments. They remind us what the best forms of teaching take: A question-based pedagogy, not an answer-based one.

What do Kodak and Instagram have to do with schooling? Read on.

A Kodak moment used to be associated with a beautiful or meaningful event that one wished to immortalize on film. At the turn of the century, Kodak became synonymous with not changing quickly enough with the times.

To cite Godin in a recent blog entry:

Ubiquitous doesn’t mean forever, and popular isn’t permanent. Someone is going to fade, and someone is going to be next to take their place.

That someone else in Kodak’s context was digital photography. This NYT video paints a sad picture of a mountain of a company reduced to a pebble. (I cannot embed the video as blogs do not allow some HTML tags, but the video is worth your time.)

Video source

The irony is that the first digital camera was invented in 1975 by a Kodak engineer, Steven Sasson (see Vimeo video above), but Kodak only started selling digital cameras in 2001 [1] [2].

Now consider this tweeted perspective:

The core thing both Kodak and Instagram have in common is photographs. I do not think that it is logical to compare the diversity of products, company timelines, available technologies, and other circumstances.

But the the tweet brings up at least two important points on what it takes to produce and how to act when change knocks on your door.

Kodak operated on the traditional industrial model. It had to in order to provide high quality photography film worldwide. Operating under such a model, Kodak needed large and common campuses to house their people.

Instagram works with ones and zeros, and it does so in a mobile and app driven space. Their people could fit in a large apartment or work offshore and independently in holes-in-the-wall.

Kodak is not quite dead yet, but its main campus is now occupied by other companies, one of which bottles food. They serve as a warning to those that do not stay relevant or do not spot the next wave and prepare for it. Kodak suffered the consequences of reducing staff a hundredfold (30,000 to 300 according to the NYT interview), going bankrupt, and needing to reinvent themselves.

Instagram, however, was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for US$1 billion. Instagram was just two years old when that happened. But both Facebook and Instagram took the opportunity when they saw it.

Which world and what circumstances are we preparing our kids for in our schools and at home? Kodak’s or Instagram’s?

Are we teaching our kids how to do more with less? Are we unleashing their energy or nurturing their creativity? Or are we holding them back?

Schools have changed. The rank and file tables and chairs remain as do papers and writing surfaces, but some teachers have responded by aligning their philosophies and pedagogies to the times.

But not enough. Not MUCH enough and not FAST enough. Innovative teachers and daring principals are still the exception instead of the norm. Very few systems have the moral courage and political will to take measures like augmenting subjects with authentic phenomena like Finland.

Kodak might have justified its dithering by saying that the timing was not right because the technology or their consumers were not ready. But Kodak had at least one visionary in their midst. If only they had listened more carefully. If only he had spoken more loudly. If only they had been braver.

If only foresight was as clear as hindsight.

If only they had taken their Kodak moment and Instagrammed it in Facebook.

We cannot predict the future for certain, but we can learn from the past. Better still, we can invent it.

We must decide our Kodak moment in education. When we look back at it, will it be a one of regret or one of joy? Decide now and do something positive about it.

Like Instagram, we do not have to wait to grow big or get permission to create. A few pockets of innovation will eventually be recognized and assimilated into the larger whole. This is the world we live in, so live it.

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