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Posts Tagged ‘reflection

In describing how I might design for interaction during what are normally passive talks, I mentioned how I used Google Forms for a quiz, AnswerGarden to crowdsource ideas, and Google Slides’ Q&A tool for a keynote I delivered yesterday.

This is my reflection on how things panned out.

I used Google Forms to get participants to use their mobile devices to take a five-question quiz. They had to Google for information to answer the questions.

Google Forms quiz.

Of the roughly 200 people there, 107 managed to take the quiz in the time I gave. The quiz scores ran the gamut, but that was not important.

What was important was how a low-bandwidth activity could get everyone involved (imagine if each person shared their device with someone else) and that it served as an introduction to the recurring themes of my talk on 21C: Mindsets, expectations, and behaviours.

I think that activity went well as did the AnswerGarden activity.

I used AnswerGarden to get participants to suggest what they thought were important 21C competencies. This is a screenshot of what they suggested.

AnswerGarden word cloud.

The word cloud that emerged highlighted the popular concepts. For example, 33 people suggested communication, 33 creativity, 28 critical thinking, and 21 collaboration. With that information, I was able to make the point that such 21C competencies were not unique to the 21C; they are timeless and it is more about how we model and make these happen with today’s technology.

I opted not to use my go-to TodaysMeet backchannel or close with a one-minute paper on the same platform. Instead I opted for Google Slides Q&A.

Google Slides Q&A.

This tool allowed participants to ask questions and vote them up. The URL to do this was at the top of every slide. However, I found it to be too unwieldy.

The URL kept changing based on the instance of the presentation I ran. This meant I could not prepare a QR code and short URL in advance. Participants had to type in a URL that, while not terribly long, was not very convenient either. It was no surprise that there were fewer than ten questions.

When I first tried this tool a few months ago, Google Slides kept track of the questions. Now I do not know exactly how many there are and what they are. I do not have this problem with any other tools I have used before.

I mentioned in a pre-keynote reflection that I removed three of four chunks of content. I think this was a wise move as that not only provided focus, I had almost 30 minutes for Q&A which meant that I could provide more specific answers to those who had questions.

I normally reflect on my preparation for consultancy services and do post-mortems like this one. I often have one more follow up in the form of unanswered questions, either from a pre-event poll or a backchannel. But since this was a whirlwind engagement, I do not have those closing tasks. So tomorrow I will reflect a travel experience instead.

I reflect after any talks or workshops I deliver or facilitate. My hour-long keynote yesterday, Don’t Play Games with Gamification, was no exception.

If the unsolicited feedback I received online, during the lunchtime conversations, or even as I tried to use a restroom are any indication, the keynote went well.

I also amazed by the efforts of @Reinventionist2 who made his thinking visual at the conference. He was kind enough to show his work to me and to ask for my signature.

All that said, I am my worst critic because I know what I had planned and what I had to leave out.

I shared what I intended to do here. I took the risk of biting off more than I could chew, and despite telling participants we might only have time to cover two of the three main parts, I had to leave out some more.

In trying to create opportunities for participants to interact with one another during the keynote, I took up more time than I should have. I dislike it when others overshoot their time and I am sorry for throwing the schedule off.

My ‘live’ demo of apps using AirServer went off without a hitch thanks to the efforts of people working in the background to unblock ports. I had my mifi device there just in case, too.

Of the three shared online spaces we used, we under-utilised one, Padlet. I had to push participants for time and I resorted to asking people to share their thoughts verbally instead of reflecting online.

I am glad that I decided to stick with TodaysMeet since it was and still is a proper backchannel. Google Presentation’s Q&A is still not quite there yet. A few took to tweeting with the hashtag #simgeconf. Very few. So I am glad that I had my own backchannel and Q&A area.

I was also able to work in answers to questions raised by folks in the pre-conference Google Forms poll. I hope I managed to answer the pertinent questions and I “hijacked” part of the panel session at the end of the day to bring up a sensitive but critical question that someone asked in the poll.

Speaking of the panel, I thoroughly enjoyed the panel session because all of us, moderator included, were candid and humorous. It was gratifying to see the audience laughing and taking notes well into a Saturday afternoon.

Post-draft note: I just received an updated version of the visual map of all four speakers’ talks. Many thanks to @Reinventionist2, aka Thum Cheng Cheong, for his brilliant work! [Full-sized version]

Today’s reflection starts as a contrast to yesterday’s Apple sales chat experience. But I bring it back to a critique of teaching and schooling as we still know today.

Over the last year or so, several McDonald’s fast food restaurants here saw the introduction of self-order kiosks.

McDonald's self-order kiosks.

The demand for these kiosks might stem from efficiency studies or a reduction in manpower.

After collecting data or conducting a study, McDonald’s might have concluded that letting people order and pay for their food without the help of a cashier was more efficient. Without access to data, that is my best guess.

Removing a few human cashiers might also address the problem of a smaller worker population or allow better deployment of existing staff.

Both are often part of the rationale of replacing people with machines. Though this example (machines replacing people) starts differently from yesterday’s example (people replacing machines), the theme is the same: Let people do what people might do best; let machines do what machines do better.

Computers, machines, robots, and other forms of automation replacing people is not new. We did this since we became sapient and found that tools were more efficient or effective than blunt mass force.

Initially people might feel sore about being replaced because they are robbed of their livelihoods. However, we eventually get over it because we realise how much better things can be.

For example, if all cabs and buses become self-driving, there would likely be a riot from drivers at first. But when people realise that the drivers can provide speciality services or do something else, and the roads are much safer and public transport more reliable, a new normal will set in.

McDonald's self-order kiosks.

What does the kiosks replacing people have to do with teaching? Sometimes the change is a good thing, but most times teachers struggle with the transition until they take ownership of the change. Still other times the change does not happen because teachers hang on to old practices.

The emerging self-help culture among some of today’s students and a small proportion of teachers means that both groups do not need traditional schooling and professional development as much as before. This is a good thing as this is more efficient and effective; it is a bad thing for schools and vendors.

The people who do not like the McDonald’s kiosks might complain that using the devices is slower than joining a normal queue. After all, the kiosks create two queues instead of one. Before the kiosks, you joined one queue to order, pay, and collect your food. Now you join one queue to order and pay, and another queue to collect your food.

Teachers, like the anti-kiosk patrons, need to take ownership of the do-it-yourself or help yourself movement. This is a trend now, but it might become a culture later. How soon this happens depends on when both parties embrace technology.

What prevents anti-kiosk patrons and teachers from doing this is McDonald’s and school authorities maintaining old systems alongside new ones. McDonald’s still has the old queue system just in case; schools still operate with industrial age machinery in an information age. There is little incentive to jump from the old ship because it is kept afloat.

Yesterday I concluded that we should not get in the way of either people or technology unless one enables the other to do and be better. The introduction of McDonald’s kiosks is a change that does not appear help us do better. Likewise the changes in curricular, assessment, and educational technology policies may threaten a shakeup. But teachers can comfortably ignore those policies if they do not appear to be effective. They would rather go to McDonald’s to enjoy some fries with that shake.

Some people travel to experience a different culture. Ask a group of travellers what “culture” means and you will get different answers.

Culture is hard to define, but you know it when you see, feel, or otherwise experience it. The same can be said of the culture of a workplace or school.

The first thing I do when I work with a new group is ask to walk around and get a feel of the place. I do this to get a sense of the culture of the workplace and the mindset of its workers.

I have visited the headquarters (HQs) of two technology giants in Singapore several times. One giant’s name sounds like a fruit, the other sounds like a large number. Just sitting in their waiting areas provides a palpable sense of the different cultural mindsets of the organisations.

I am not talking about the decor. I am talking about how they treat their guests.
 

 
The current campus of Fruit HQ is divided into two main blocks, each with its own waiting area. You speak to a human at reception to have your identity verified and to get a name tag sticker.

I had a series of visits where I met different people from Fruit HQ. Some told me which block to go to while others did not even when I asked. I found out the hard way that the check in system and the human receptionist do not tell you if you are in the wrong block.

I always arrive early for my appointments. On one occasion I waited for a long time to be met by my contact. The receptionist decided to call the person and discovered that my contact was in the other block. I scurried over to the other building and was told that I had to check in and wait some more.

Had I not already done that? Was my contact not already waiting for me? Apparently there was protocol to follow.
 

 
At Number HQ, you self-register and get a sticker at a computer kiosk. There is more than one kiosk and people can be processed individually or in groups efficiently. There still is a human receptionist if you need one, but you see the kiosks before you spot the person in the background. Better still, there is just one meeting spot.

Another way I look for how an outfit welcomes its visitors is its guest wifi policy. The access points are easy to see on any modern mobile device. How you join them is a different matter.

I asked the receptionist at Fruit HQs how I might access guest wifi and I was told that my contact would have to request it. This meant meeting the person first, being asked to show something, saying you need wifi, the person going back to reception and making the request, processing the request… it is tiring just recalling and typing the process.

This is why I have a mifi device. Unfortunately, Fruity HQ does not have the best reception and things only get worse inside its core.

At Number HQ, you hop on their guest wifi by registering with your mobile device online like you would at a mall or public library.
 

 
The people that you meet at both HQs will generally be schooled and skilled in the art of social interaction — these are the 1%. That is not an accurate picture of the culture and mindset of the workplace — this is the 99%.

While the people on frontline are a good show, the protocols and processes are a better indicator of the culture and mindset of workers. The latter are a result of how well an organisation takes the perspectives of the people it serves and policies it puts into play.

The technology giants are very successful even though they vibe different cultures. That said, would you rather have a closed and controlled environment, or would you like a more open and expressive one? Both seem to lead to the same end, but what would you like to invest part of your working life to?

Now transfer this philosophy to schools. Then consider these questions:

  • What are your school’s cultures and mindsets? What is real and what is perceived?
  • If you say you are a leader or teacher in a school and do not know the vibe it gives off, how do you find out?
  • If you are aware of the vibes, what would you like your stakeholders to resonate with?

Like the tech giants whose success is measured by how much money they make, the success of schools here are judged by standard exam results. However, as we swing back to values-based education, academic results fade into the background. It is the cultures in different schools that help them stand out and apart.

I have not facilitated an evening class for a long time. My last time was probably an advanced ICT course for instructional designers several years ago.

I avoid evening classes because they take up family time, i.e., dinner, watching YouTube videos together, bedtime rituals. I am also always buzzed after each class is over so I find it hard to sleep.

However, it helps when the learners are active and receptive to change.

One of the things I did was to lead my learners through a roughly hour-long experience on what it means to merely enhance with technology and to enable learning with it. I did this by getting them to collaboratively concept map in groups.

Concept mapping: Enhance or enable?

One set used a whiteboard, another used a mobile app, while others used an online tool. I impressed upon them how a whiteboard map might be easier to do, but it was not as manipulable, archivable, sharable, or media-rich. An online concept map is viewable and editable to any or all and does not suffer from bad handwriting.

The mobile app was disconnected from the web and was thus a mere enhancement of what could be done on a whiteboard. The online map enabled cross-team collaborating and critiquing.

While there some value in enhancing learning, there is greater value in enabling it. Consider how some autistic folk interact with others in Second Life, how the mute speak with voice apps, or the blind consume with screen readers.

This makes sense in the case of learners with special needs. But as I pointed out yesterday, all of us have special needs. Why stop halfway at merely enhancing instead of going all the way by enabling with technology?

Why have school wifi only to block sites technically instead of having a social management system?

Why get students to tweet quiz answers to you when they can reach experts or tap cultures different from their own?

Why use two or multi-way communication mobile apps for one-way dissemination?

Why operate in fear or worry and seek to merely enhance when you can go boldly and learn from mistakes by enabling?

 
It has been a hot month of April in more ways than one. 

I rarely rely on air-conditioning, but I have had to use it several times this month to get a decent night’s sleep. 

I have also enjoyed the most varied work ever since striking out on my own as an education consultant since August 2014. 

In early April, I evaluated the ability of future faculty to facilitate modern learning. Last week I sat with colleagues in what might be called a Board of Examiners meeting. We were bored of examining because the series of learning experiences is unlike anything I have ever been involved in. 

In the middle of April, I delivered a keynote and participated in a panel for the Social Services Institute, the professional development arm of the National Council of Social Services, Singapore. It was wonderful to see a major player wanting to shrug off the shackles of traditional education. 

Not long after that I flew to a conference overseas to facilitate conversations on the flipped classroom vs flipped learning. The strange thing is connecting with Singaporeans there that I could more easily meet at home. 

After returning from my trip, I met with a passionate edu-preneur and professor after we connected via my blog.

Another connection was a result of my keynote. It will take place via one of two Google Hangouts that will bring April to a close. I hope that it will bring more opportunities in the months to come.  

The other Hangout is a result of my flipped learning talk last January at Bett 2015. I am tempted to call it remote mentoring and hope to repeat a strategy I tried at the more recent conference. 

The exceptionally warm weather here is not the norm at this time of year. The variety of work I have had is not the norm either. While I hope the muggy days and nights go away, I do what I can to keep the sizzling work in play.

I love conducting workshops for organisations that embrace change and take steps to move forward. Sometimes, however, it feels like hit-and-runs as I pollinate one flower after another.
 

 
Other times I am invited to return a few times to repollinate. This might happen because I inform participants and any leaders that might be present that change efforts are multi-pronged. While there are key leverage points (like staff professional development), systemic change requires systemic effort.

At least one group took my advice to get their leaders and administrators in on the flipped learning movement. The rationale for doing this was simple: How could they support what they could not relate to?

Last Friday, I conducted a workshop that was specially arranged for leaders, managers, and administrators of the organisation. There were educators and dual-role folks, of course, but it was a rose by a different name.

Working with such a group can be challenging especially if members do not have a strong educational background. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much they took away from the session (see screen capture below of some of their takeaways).

My workshop was designed to provide flipped classroom and flipped learning experiences, deconstruct the experiences, and rise above to catch important concepts that bubbled to the surface. The leaders did not miss several important messages on change afforded by flipping:

  • Experience the change; do not just hear about it
  • Provide support or do not get in the way
  • Shape policies in terms of appraisal, student evaluation of teaching, workload, reward mechanisms
  • Build community, do not just make policy

While it is wonderful to see a few organisations take the lead, it is just as terrifying to see how many more moonwalk. They make forward motion but actually walk backward. This was cool and impressive for Michael Jackson; it is not for educational institutes.


Video source

To keep my own morale up, I will avoid the latter group like Venus Fly Traps. Here is to more flipping good flowers!


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