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Posts Tagged ‘public

This tweet woke me up yesterday morning like no alarm clock could.

Here is the short version of the article:

  • By May next year, civil servants* in government offices will only be allowed to access the Internet via dedicated terminals
  • These workers will be allowed to use their own personal mobile devices for “web surfing”
  • “Public servants will be allowed to forward work e-mails to their private accounts, if they need to”
  • The Asia-Pacific executive vice-president of global computing security association, Cloud Security Alliance, described the move as returning to the 1990s
  • The move is by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and could affect 100,000 computers

*These do not include mainstream schools teachers.

Part of me wants to react emotionally and scream why not also limit workers to electricity, water, and toilet breaks? Have the authorities not caught on to the revised hierarchy of needs?

Another part of me is confused. Did the same agency not trumpet our plans to be a Smart Nation?

Are we sending a message that we want the Internet of Things but not the Internet of People? Perhaps it is wise for just objects to communicate with each other. The weakest links tend to be the humans after all. If you do not believe me, imagine what has happened, already happens, and will happen with the forwarding email policy.

Perhaps this is an accidental conspiracy by the IDA to get civil servants to use their own mobile devices. That way government agencies spend less on digital bandwidth and can claim that they have people-centric BYOD programmes. Smart, eh?

Since we like to call these devices smart — smart phones, smart boards, smart rooms — we can stop thinking altogether.


The powers-that-be might not have embraced the fact that the Internet is a socio-technical system. The clampdown is an attempt to minimise stupid human behaviour like security leaks by addressing the technical component. This will still allow ignorant people access to limited terminals and their own “smart” devices.

Where is the long-running, long-term educational or professional development programme in all this? Perhaps there is one and the press found it too mundane to highlight.

Whatever the scenario, anyone who has worked in a large organisation knows how their IT departments operate. Instead of supporting work and learning, they end up determining policy and creating more red tape. They would rather dictate than educate.

Computer security is important in the modern workplace, but it should not be an excuse to revert to dumb or blind practice. The very people that security policies seek to control are the same assets it needs to inform and educate instead.

We need to play the long game of creating a culture of tech-savvy and actually smart practice. A policy like restricting access has immediate returns on the security front, but it does little to nurture a long term culture of trust, critical thinking, and ethical practice.

I think the press tried to litter their pages with click bait in the form of the “new” cleaning programme in Singapore schools.

The programme is not entirely new. It is just more official and part of the Character and Citizenship Education programme according to MOE’s press release.

There was no major kickback by adults on why kids should sweep floors and pick up after themselves. The lack of a reaction is a good thing this way.

It is not if, like me, you think the programme has not gone far enough.

The cleaning of toilets is outside the limits according to this news article. I am not the only one to wonder why this is the case.

I know of kids who refuse to use the school toilets because they are disgusting. My son is one of them and he paints a vivid picture of what they are like at his school. You can almost smell the pong from the descriptions.

I hope the aunties and uncles who clean them get biohazard pay. If not, they should be given hazmat suits.

The cleaning of classrooms and shared areas is easy. It is also very public. The cleaning of toilets is more personal and private.

This is like the difference between honesty and integrity. Someone once described honesty as something you display in public while integrity is something you had in private.

I look at it this way. If you are not honest, you cheat others; if you lack integrity, you cheat yourself.

Someone might say this is a semantic game, but I take the terms seriously. Do we want kids to learn that you can behave one way in front of others and another way when no one is looking?

Kids pick up these lessons more quickly than we give them credit. Take for example how most schools have tray return policies. These are monitored and enforced, so kids do this in school. But after school they have a meal at a fast food joint and leave the trays and litter at the table and walk away.

There are things kids do when someone is watching and making sure. The motivation to do good is extrinsic because they will be punished if they do not toe the line or they might be rewarded if they do. However, when someone is not watching, they learn that they can ignore the task. There is no intrinsic motivation to do the right thing simply because it is right.

Can we call it an education when only half a value system is taught and caught?

storm-in-a-teacup by jbraine, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  jbraine 

A small storm brewed in a teacup recently. Locals responded to the announcement that the athletes participating in the upcoming Asean Para Games in Singapore might have to rely on public transport to move between the Games Village and the event venues.

The responses were predictably divisive. For example, those against the move pointed out that public transport delays or breakdowns might affect the athletes’ concentration.

Those who had no objections pointed out that this was another way to show that the para-athletes were on equal footing with their able-bodied counterparts. I wonder how many able-bodied athletes have to take public transport during a major sporting event.

When Singapore hosted the Youth Olympics in 2010, I recall long lines of air-conditioned coaches picking up and dropping off youth athletes and plying specially marked stretches of road.

If equality is the issue, then the para-athletes should get at least the same treatment as other athletes.

Equality is treating everyone the same. Equity, on the other hand, could mean giving people more (or less) so as to level the playing field.

If we want to treat para-athletes the same, then we should give them dedicated transport like we would able-bodied ones. The latter get comfortable coaches or private transport so they are not distracted by inconveniences like longer routes and transport delays.

If we attempt to create equity, then the para-athletes should be given a leg up so to speak. We do this if we recognize that they are already disadvantaged because we do not design the world for them. We make accommodations not because we feel sorry for them or because we want them to keep relying on us. It is just the right thing to do.

Video source

Equity might not be necessary for the Games. The athletes are not asking for it. If they are anything like the ones participating in the Rio para-games, they are already better than us. We can aim lower at equality. Give them the transport we give other athletes.

Video source

The video above presents the science of stage fright.

I lie somewhere between being totally comfortable with public speaking and terrified to an inch of my life. I like to use the butterflies to keep me on my toes.

But I disagree with a premise in the video that giving a talk is something we do as social creatures. I think the social processes happen partly before and largely after a talk. If you are an amateur or professional sage on the stage you know what I mean.

Unless you live the life of a hermit, you are going to present information to a group of people. Sometimes the context is preparatory or artificial like a class presentation. Other times the context is more authentic like a mass company briefing or an academic keynote.

Often these talks are part of a larger communication plan or change initiative. Often the energy starts and stops there. How many people actually follow up with action after feeling inspired by a Sir Ken Robinson talk?

Very few take sustainable action after a talk. Those that do tend to already be agents of change. They might find some validation in what you have to say or they find will find a way regardless what you say.

Then there are the curious or those that live in their ivory towers. They will ask questions that skirt the topic but little progress actually happens.

So this is my perspective on countering stage fright. If you are effectively reaching the already converted, why be nervous?

I’ve had a Netvibes account ever since Netvibes promised new ways of pulling and pooling content. But I abandoned it a while back when it did not deliver as much as I wished. I have renewed my interest in it because of a helpful comment from a visitor to my blog recently.

As a result of the suggestion, I have created publicly-accessible pages to all of my teacher trainees’ group blog entries and comments (see screenshot below, click for larger version).


What I like about the Netvibes format is that I can share not just the initial entries of my trainees but also their comments and responses. If they do not wish to subscribe via RSS, the URLs to those pages gives them a one-stop shop to get updates on what the other groups are discussing.

Of course they can visit their peer groups’ blogs directly, but new comments are not obvious. Furthermore, by visiting a page that gives them both a bird’s eye view and detailed views of their blogosphere, they can see who is contributing, who is not, what is being shared, etc.

Want to know how to do this yourself? Check out the Thinking Stick.

Now if there only some way to be able to “star” and markup select postings or comments like you might do in Google Reader or Kwout. This would allow me to highlight key concepts in the online space.


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