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Posts Tagged ‘readiness

Whether on mainstream or social media, pundits like to point out that technology evolves so quickly that laws and policies fall behind.

The last week in Singapore saw a rare opposite: Policy preceded technological readiness. I am referring to the differentiated treatments of those vaccinated and unvaccinated against SARS-CoV2.

The policy was to only allow those who were fully vaccinated access to “dine-in at hawker centres and coffee shops, and to enter shopping malls and attractions” [source].

The problem lay in the check-in process to these areas. The use of the TraceTogether app provided a human checker with information about vaccination status and recorded contact tracing information. A person armed only with a TraceTogether token also had to carry a hardcopy of their vaccination status.

Either way, this created delays in entry to buildings. However, this was resolved when a newer scanning system recorded both vaccination status and contact tracing information. This was efficient, but the rollout was uneven across the week and over different places.

The policy was ahead of technological readiness. But I have no doubt that workers in this field were prepared with change options. This is why the rollout of the new scanning system was relatively quick.

I observe a lopsided similarity of edtech in schooling and education. For example, technology enables more independent learning, but antiquated policies and behavioural inertia lag far behind. This is similar to rest-of-world reaction to possibilities enabled with technology.

But when progressive policies push all stakeholders in edtech, people try to force fit what they already do with new technology sets instead of changing their behaviours, e.g., rely on synchronous teacher talk instead of asynchronous, semi-independent learning. They are neither ready nor prepared. 

I cannot blame people for not being fully ready. They cannot be because the changes are so rapid. But they can be prepared by reading up, trying new technologies, and failing safely. 

Whenever I meet a new group of people, I can quickly gauge if my workshop or seminar will have a lasting change. There is something about them that reflects their mindset.

It is not the spring in their step or their punctuality as they walk into the room.

It is not the questions they raise or the comments they make during the time I spend with them.

It is not their level of involvement in the activities that I design for them.

All these matter, but they are not reliable or take time to emerge.

So what is my quick gauge of readiness to learn and to change?

Where possible, I communicate with organisers beforehand and ask them to tell participants to bring “Internet-connected devices” with them.

My quick gauge is how many bring and prefer to use their mobile phones. If most do, this means they are already very much like the learners they teach. This alone is a strong indication of their readiness to change and to learn.

It matters little if they are all punctual, candid, or active if they are also not possessing a mobile mindset. Such a mindset is current and connected. It is about taking ownership, being adaptable, and using what you have in hand.

This week there were a few online rumblings on being “future ready” in education. These are barks woofing up the wrong tree.

You cannot be truly future ready, but you can be prepared. Readiness is a state of body (being); preparedness is a state of mind (thinking and doing).

For example, you cannot be fully ready for an earthquake, but you can be prepared for one. Likewise, you cannot be absolutely ready for the uncertain future of education, but you can be prepared for what comes. In both cases, the unpredictability of events prevents complete readiness. The capacity of people to respond positively is a sign of preparedness.

I came to this realization after reflecting on this at least four other times:

Now I add a bit more to the mix.

Prepare, Adapt, Survive by matthileo, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  matthileo 

I am not playing some petty semantic game. Words not only hold meanings, they also represent values and can shape behaviours. A non-critical use of “future ready” sets people up for an unrealistic task.

Readiness is like a binary state: You are either ready (1) or you are not (0). You are either ready to leave home or you are not. If you think you are not sure, you are actually not ready.

It is all right not to be ready, particularly if the circumstances change constantly. You will manage if you are prepared to adjust, improvise, or change.

Pragmatically speaking, we need thinkers and doers who do not just feed the rhetoric of being “future ready” but focus instead on preparing constantly.

There are bad and good ways to prepare. There are some people in the world who actively prepare for a fictional zombie apocalypse. Sometimes they seem to do this so that if it happens, they can say “I told you so!”.

This is not why educators should prepare for change. We prepare because what we do with educational technology, for example, is important now. Despite how quickly technology can change, being immersed with it keeps us nimble and adaptable. We prepare because such practice helps now and such a mindset also helps in the future.

Last week, this MindShift article suggested that educators not get caught up with the current narrative in most schooling systems.

The narratives that currently play out include systems that do not promote creativity and innovation, rudderless and unsustainable change, and administrative initiatives that do not necessary focus on learners.

The article suggested creating a new narrative instead. It started with this call to action:

If you’re a teacher, you have placed yourself in the most enviable, challenging, fulfilling role possible in the 21st century: You are responsible for co-creating a future that no one can imagine, and helping an untested generation of youth navigate unknown waters. Nothing—nothing—really prepares you for this role.

As good as that idea and the ideas that follow it are, I disagree that nothing can prepare teachers for the unknown.

Other sectors like the military and businesses prepare for the unknown by forecasting and anticipating. Schools are no exception.

There might also be a confusion between readiness and preparedness.

Readiness implies that you have thought of everything and have every response in place. Despite any preparation and practice, no organization can say it is absolutely ready for the VUCA future. We call our time VUCA but a look back into recent history will tell us every generation before us felt the same way.

Look at this another way. Schooling should not be an attempt to create learners to are ready to be workers because there are far too many gaps in schooling. Take this US-based example for instance.

Video source

I know of a US outfit that wants to address gaps like this, but focus in the area of soft skills instead. I read about a Singapore-based outfit that has got US-based funding to do something similar.

Even when you know what the gaps and needs are, you cannot get learners to be absolutely ready to be workers. You can only try to prepare them while bearing in mind that the preparation will be flawed.

So how might teachers become educators and prepare themselves better in order to prepare their students as best they can? They must go beyond consuming, knowing, and then ignoring good research or thought leadership. They must get into the mode of doing, failing, and learning.

The MindShift article started with an example of work that embraced social networks. If teachers want to not just monitor the pulse of change but also be immersed in it, they must blog, tweet, Instagram, curate, or otherwise create.

There is no substitute for being a participant in the world of the learner to anticipate what learners need. You cannot stand to one side or stay in your safe, walled-off zone and still claim that you know what is going on.

There is no harm in getting out occasionally to reflect and rise above. But you must jump in, get stuck in, and eventually learn to love the struggle. That is how you will get teachers who are never quite ready but are better prepared for now and the future of kids.

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.

Would’ve preferred something more funky by macbiff, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  macbiff 

The shortage of N95 masks during the current haze reminded me about the difference between being prepared vs being ready.

CeL purchased these masks several months before the haze not because we projected how bad the haze would be. We were reacting to a disease outbreak in the office at that time.

Back then we bought the masks in bulk at low cost. There was no real demand for them.

Fast forward to today and we now each have a mask and a backup. The pharmacies island-wide have no stock of these items.

We are not patting ourselves on the back for being ready. We did not anticipate the haze being so bad and the demand for the masks being so high.

But we were prepared because we reacted to something else and because we took preventive action just in case. It is paying off now.

I see similarities in planning with and for educational technology. There is only so much you can predict because this field has rapidly moving targets. But if you sense the environment closely you might just pick tools and strategies that last long or have transferable value.

All in One Basket by ronWLS, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  ronWLS 

Any forward-thinking organization will want to know if it is future-ready. If it does, I think it is putting its eggs in the wrong basket.

To be ready for the future is to imply that you have thought of every contingency and are ready for whatever comes. The only thing certain about the future is that it is uncertain. You cannot possibly be completely ready.

But you can be prepared.

To be prepared is to not necessarily have all the ideal infrastructure, policies, or people in place. Instead, what you have is ready to change, adapt, and adopt.

Readiness is a theoretical construct. Preparedness is a practical mindset.

The Super Bowl is something not many folks in our part of the world will be familiar with or care about.

Suffice to say that the ads that air during this event are probably the only ones people actually anticipate.

One thing that was not anticipated was a 30-minute blackout during the game.

According to this CNET article, Oreo took advantage of the blackout by running this Twitter-based ad which “caught fire, and… had been retweeted 13,734 times” at the writing of the article.

I think that this is a lesson on being ready to spring into action in order to turn a problem into an opportunity.

That is something I try to do. That is also something I am preparing CeL to do.

Google’s Eric Schmidt remarked that people were not ready for a technological revolution [1] and [2]. It’s not difficult to see why. Even though I see examples every day, my trip to the USA offered more examples with regards to the airline industry.

We’ve been able to check in and print out our boarding passes from home for a while now. The rationale for doing this is that it helps the airlines save of time and money.

But even though I had checked in and printed my boarding pass, I had a bag to check in. Instead of just taking my bag and checking my credientials, the airline representative took away the boarding passes I had prepared and gave me the usual ones even though none of the details had changed.

Then when I clearing Immgrations at San Francisco airport, an immigration officer insisted that I had to show him my e-ticket for my departure. Just as I got my iPhone out, he berated me for not having a printout because he claimed that retrieving an electronic version took too long. This from a person who was getting digital copies of my digits and taking a digital photo of my face while processing my new e-passport.

In half the time it might have taken you to read the paragraph above, I could have had shown PDF copies of my e-ticket on my iPhone or iPad. I could have lectured him on this after he lectured me on the merits of a hardcopy, but I wanted to be on my way and did not relish being “interviewed” later.

So when will the general public or even just key members of our public be more accepting and competent with what will become such basic technology? I’m not holding my breath.

But I will continue playing peek-a-boo with them and see how many play in return…

[source, MOE source, click on the above for larger archived copy]

Dr Cheah Horn Mun, the director of ETD of the MOE, responded to a contributor to the Straits Time forum who asked, “What’s the update on digital learning?”

Horn Mun was a colleague of mine in NIE before taking the post in the MOE. I wonder if he (or one of his people) will read my blog entry as I have a critique on his response. I have nothing against him, of course, as he is a really nice guy and I think I know where he is coming from. I realize that he has to represent an organization, so his personal views may be clouded. It is the content of his reply that I critique, not the person.

I am glad that he informed the public about financial assistance schemes for bridging the technology divide [see text blocked in green]. I am also glad that he mentioned the cyberwellness efforts in schools. We in NIE have introduced this concept in our ICT course a semester ago and made it part of a graded assignment so that new teachers are aware of the concept.

In trying to provide a succinct reply, it was not possible for Horn Mun to list all the schools and all their ICT and “digital learning” efforts. But I was left wondering why the usual suspects keep appearing. Are there no other schools worthy of mention?

Why don’t stakeholders (parents in particular) know what is happening in schools with regards to ICT integration? Why do they have to wait for limited and selective coverage by the press? Every school should be proudly publishing its efforts in its Web 1.0 school site, or better still, taking advantage of Web 2.0 to regularly update the school’s blog, Twitter or Facebook account.

Perhaps most schools have little to say. Why? In my opinion, they are not, as the director of ETD wrote [see text blocked in orange], “well resourced with the computing infrastructure and digital resources to harness ICT for learning”. It might appear so administratively on paper and on VIP visits to schools, but the reality is that most schools do not yet have early 21st century tools in place because of industrial age hangovers.

Yes, a few schools have 1:1 computing programmes and campus wide wireless networks. The majority do not. A few more schools have IWBs and “special” rooms. But these tools and venues are of little use (and little used) if pedagogy does not change with the times.

How do I know? I have friends and former trainees who are school principals, heads of departments or teachers. I follow teachers on Twitter, Facebook or their blogs. As a supervisor, consultant and teacher educator, I visit schools regularly and make it a point to ask about their ICT infrastructure and actually see the rooms. I do school-based research and collect uncensored information from teachers about their schools. Finally, I was a teacher before I was a teacher educator, so I know how most teachers think and react.

Teachers will complain that the infrastructure is not in place. They are right but it will never be in place because technology changes so rapidly. Instead, they could use what the students already have or think of ways to work with businesses and the community to get what they need.

Teachers complain of a lack of time despite efforts to reduce curriculum time for more innovative instruction. The integration of ICT does make lesson planning and implementation more complex, but it does not have to be overly elaborate or time-consuming.

One thing I model for my teacher trainees is how to facilitate ICT embedded activities that are only 5-15 minutes long. Think about how you might conduct a 5-minute brainstorming session using a collaboratively generated online mindmap. Think about 10-minute learning stations that students visit and where they search for information, solve mini problems (that are part of a larger problem) and reflect on them… all using iPod Touches and a wireless router. Think about a concept that no one, including the teacher, is sure about and everyone uses their iPhones or netbooks to instantly get information from the Web and then have a class discussion to clarify that concept.

What schools should invest in are technologies that will support pedagogies and strategies that last. Pedagogies that build upon experiential learning, problem-based learning, case-based learning or game-based learning. Digital learning then becomes learning that is enabled, not just enhanced, by critical, powerful and meaningful forms of technology.

So what exactly do schools need? Wireless Internet access anywhere in school and mobile computing devices like iPod Touches, variants of the Nintendo DS, Sony PSPs, smartphones or netbooks. Do schools have these in place? Most do not. Do some students already have some of these kid-friendly devices? Yes, they do and half the need is potentially fulfilled. Are most schools taking advantage of this? No, they are not. They need to put technology in the hands and minds of the learners. After all, we are in their service and preparing them for their futures, not our past.

So it there digital learning in schools? From my point of view as a teacher educator, a researcher and a concerned parent, I’d say certainly not enough.


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