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Posts Tagged ‘mrt

It is one thing to advocate that we think outside the box, it is entirely another to operate outside it.

But operating outside the box does not require a total rejection of existing ideas. In the example above, thinking outside the box is operating outside the boxiness of the old design.

The improvements are that the newer map is more pleasant to the eye, easier to read, and more geographically accurate.

One might start with spreadsheet thinking and policy making, but one should not end with it unless one desires tables and charts. People and their problems are curvy, nuanced, and messy. Sometimes it does not take much to incorporate that.

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You do not have to click through and read the article linked in the tweet to find out why we were not informed of flaws in our MRT trains.

You only have to process how the tweet was phrased. It was written as an answer, i.e., I am telling you. This is why and that is it.

It was not written as a query. A question like “Why were hairline cracks not made public three years ago?” could indicate curiosity or a challenge to authority, amongst other interpretations.

The adage is that it is not what you say, but how you say it. The same could be said about teaching. It is not just what you teach, but how you teach it.

Preferring answers over questions creates students who are spoon-fed, dependent on, and uncritical of information.

Emphasising questions over answers promotes the opposite. Students learn to seek and be more independent learners. They have a model lead learner who questions so they learn how to ask questions and to think for themselves.

For the record, the official answers were that 1) the cracks “did not pose a safety risk”, and 2) the return of the 26 trains to the manufacturer in China “did not impact the capacity of the North-South East-West Lines”.

However, it took a revelation from a Hong Kong news agency for the news to break three years after the fact.

The defective trains were brought to light by Hong Kong online news portal FactWire only last week, raising questions about why the issue was not made public before.

If the issue was not danger to the public, one has to wonder why an announcement was not made in the spirit of transparency. After all there is the other issue of accountability in light of very public train breakdowns.

All that said, the information is out there and someone will create or share it. It is no longer enough for teachers to say, “Let me tell you what you need to know”.

There is too much information, too many variables, and things change quickly. Teachers should be able to say, “Let me teach you how to think”.

Take a lesson from this attempt by the SMRT to improve travel experience. One of the ideas is to redesign cabins in order to create happy commuters.

The article also reported that:

whether a stranger gives up their seat to someone who needs it more has more impact on a commuter’s mood than infrastructural factors such as layouts and signs. A total of 43 per cent of respondents said they were affected by other commuters’ behaviour, 29 per cent by personal comfort and space, and 28 per cent by infrastructure and the environment.

Less than a third of the commuters think the physical environment made for a better ride. Compare this to under half who were more concerned with commuter behaviour. Despite the data that SMRT has, it is going ahead with the idea to make cosmetic changes to train cars.

Decision makers, particularly those that may not travel on trains every much, will realize how much easier, faster, and concrete it is to decorate a train interior. It takes more time and effort to change human behaviour and the results are harder to measure.

An effort that is more efficient is not necessarily more effective. A redesigned physical environment might change behavior, but it does not ensure it.

There are companies and vendors who make a big business of designing learning environments for schools. Like the transport decision makers, they often go for the low-hanging fruit and not many take the perspective of educators or learners.

A rigorous review of who the people are in such companies should be one of the first things school leaders can do. Doing this is just as important as having blueprints, funding, and good ideas.

Even more important is having data from kids and teachers to base decisions on and then making wise decisions. Above all, it is about putting the learner and learning first. It is not about a shiny new plan or doing what only looks good.

Equally as important is learning from the mistakes of the past or from other seemingly unrelated projects. The same article reported how SMRT train redecoration projects did not work as well as expected. The data indicated that cosmetic changes were not high on the list of commuters. Researchers even concluded that “We basically realised that we needed a paradigm shift that goes beyond just infrastructural or policy-type service”. Yet they barrel down the same tracks.

It is easy to look at another system and make judgements about it. We should cast an equally critical eye on our own and not make the same mistakes.

Short read: I am not saying that improving the physical environment is not important. I am saying that it is obvious, but obvious is not necessarily effective in itself.

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