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Posts Tagged ‘ready

This is a sincere enough tweet.

And so is the question in this one.

So why bring them up? Both share the word “ready”.

Readiness implies a state of being. Ready to fight for something. Ready to embrace a change. So what is wrong with that?

We cannot and should not be ready in education. Assuming that you should be ready sets you up for the impossible.

If you ask some teachers why they do not change their practice, they might mention they are not ready for what is next. Readiness is a barrier.

Being ready also presumes there are standards or guidelines to meet. You might think that you are ready for them, but the goalposts will shift. Nowadays they seem to move so quickly you cannot claim to be ready.

Saying you are ready could mean that you have reached a certain level of knowledge, expertise, or skill. What is to challenge you to keep learning?

Readiness is a state of being. Can you really be ready to do actual CPR when a situation calls for it? You will not know until it happens in real life. (BTW, I have done actual CPR in emergencies just twice in my life — in one case the person died and in the other the person survived.)

So if we cannot be “ready”, what might we be instead?

I use my CPR example to suggest that we can do our best to be prepared. This means adopting growth mindsets, constantly learning new skills, and being humble enough to know that we do not know enough.

Goal! by tee.kay, on Flickr
Goal!” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by tee.kay

Preparing and being prepared means being in a constant state of flux and motion. It is realising that while the goalposts shift, you still have goals to score.

All this starts with the rejection that we can actually be ready. We should stop normalising readiness in tweets, slogans, or calls to action. I say we prepare to change instead.

This tweet made me pause for thought and to recall what I think about “the future” of schooling and education.

Individuals and collectives that perpetuate the rhetoric of being “future ready” might be wasting their energy. The only thing we can say about the future is that it is uncertain.

We might know what is going to happen in 15 minutes. But how about what is going to happen in 15 hours, 15 days, 15 weeks, 15 months, or 15 years? How certain are we of determining the future the further away it is?

An alternative is to consider the perspective of William Gibson. I prepared two similar image quotes based on photos here (from Brazil) and here (from the Philippines).

The future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed. --William Gibson

The future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed. --William Gibson

This perspective does not mean that we ignore the future or not try to prepare for it. Instead, it helps us think about more concrete actions.

You cannot be future-ready because you cannot predict it; you can try to be prepared because you can shape what happens now. Trying to be ready is an impossible state of being; being prepared is a constant state of mind.

Part of our effort to shape the future is recognising that segments of our community or population are stuck in the past, perhaps due to circumstances beyond their control, e.g., they are born on the disadvantaged side of a divide. Their future is our current, so we need to bring them forward.

Consider a few examples. We have kids who do not have access to current technologies. We also have kids that have access but do not have permission due to outdated rules and policies. We put all those kids in classrooms that are kept separate from the wider world. These classrooms focus on content and curriculum (learning about) instead of context (learning to be).

Blindly focusing on the uncertain future and trying in vain to be ready for it could be selfish and wasteful. Focusing on the now and near-term future of the have-nots — and there will always be have-nots — is certainly a more giving and productive mission.

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.

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.

Sometimes I am consulted by agencies outside my own about adopting “future ready” platforms.

While there are many ways to address this issue based on different contexts, I find myself repeating one answer. I tell them to avoid an enterprise learning management system (LMS) like Blackboard.

LMS tend to be expensive and their cost will only go up over time. Even without extras they are bloated with features most instructors will not need or care for. Where there are missing features, you will pay handsomely for them to be included. Upgrades will tend to become more complicated rather than easier to use.

Your buy-in will eventually lead to lock-in. The LMS will be the go-to place even when it ceases to be relevant. It will influence pedagogy (instead of the other way around) and entrench itself so that your organization will find it hard to let go.

You will likely end up with a closed system that is great for administrators or technical-minded staff. This does not serve the needs of learners or instructors who may require lifelong learning or more open resources.

Providing more open resources and services is not just being future-ready; it addresses what is needed here and now!

To adopt a traditionally oriented LMS is like adopting Singapore’s paper coupon parking system even when electronic forms exist.

This ridiculously antiquated system requires you to tear tabs from paper coupons to indicate the date and time you park, and leave the correct number of coupons on your car’s dashboard based on 30 or 60-minute intervals.

Such a system allows people to cheat, does not take into account the actual time you need, is a source of litter and a waste of paper, and when you consider the policing mechanism, is unnecessarily human resource intensive.

On the other hand, the electronic reader system can charge you more precisely or in the same blocks of time, does not generate paper waste (with the exception of top-up receipts), and is more convenient for the user.

An LMS is like the paper-based parking system. It is designed not for learner needs but to satisfy what an administrator wants. Like the parking authorities/companies who make a profit, the only ones who are really happy the LMS are the ones who make money from it.

To be future-ready, we should refine the electronic parking system and abandon the old paper-based one. To be future-ready, we should avoid LMS that are designed with a different time and purpose.

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