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Posts Tagged ‘reflections

I am back from my short family vacation to Georgetown, Penang. I was last there in November 2015 and enjoyed the trip so much that we paid it another visit.

While my wife and son chilled the school out of their systems, I wandered around the city with fresh Poké stops and gyms telling me where to go.

This is what part of the city looked like in game.

Georgetown, Penang, in PoGo.

And these are just a few of the cat-themed murals that litter the place.

#Cat got your tongue? No, cats caught my eye in #georgetown #penang revisited.

A post shared by Dr Ashley Tan (@drashleytan) on

The art was not the only expression of creativity in the city. I noticed how some shop owners set their public wifi passwords — a sourdough place used “fermentation” and a book-and-cafe place used “nookienook”.

I also appreciate Apple’s simple but quality-of-life wifi connection feature — only one of us had to type in a wifi password and connect successfully. After doing so, the phone would prompt the first person to share the password with everyone in a trusted list to connect to the same wifi network. This process is illustrated here.

I do not know if Apple has a name for this feature. If it does not, it should call it Easy Peasy.

I tweeted this yesterday because I have been reflecting in my blog while bed-ridden with a fever.

I was not exaggerating or taking creative license when I said that thinking and typing hurt. A hot head, sensitive scalp, and headache made it hard to think. My achy joints helped me empathise with someone with arthritis.

Looking at my daily entries from this week alone, I realise how my fevered pitches were riddled with construction errors and logical gaps. I have tried correcting what I could find, but I am sure that some persist.

So have I learnt not to blog when I am ill? No. The only time I stopped blogging was when I was hospitalised briefly in 2014. Then I did not have my tools or my wits about me.

Reading and openly reflecting is a discipline I have developed over the years. It should take a lot more than a fever to prevent me from doing this.

Not that I wish to tempt fate. I am perfectly fine with the universe leaving me to muddle about with my mundane thoughts.

I have several takeaways and positive memories from Bett 2015. I will share them in a few parts.

As in the norm now, this conference was an opportunity for me to reconnect with folks I have met before (like @timbuckteeth above) or with folks that I have only seen online.

It was frightening to hear of the challenges my higher education peers faced in their contexts, but I also celebrated their resilience and successes.

It was equally frightening to see the number of educational technology vendors who have learnt to use phrases that appeal to educators, even if a few of them had their hearts in the right place. While was thrilling to see the efforts happening in other parts of the world and to get offers to collaborate, I wonder how many will keep their promises.

I predict that the “conference syndrome” will repeat itself for most participants. They will be energized and inspired by the vendors and speakers they chose to listen to. But that will peter out in the weeks and months to come if they do not actually make the effort to keep those connections alive and to make change.

Earlier this week I was privileged to be invited to speak at CSC 2013 as a panel member and to present with my colleagues and staff our free CeL apps for mobile learning.

I think I was invited because I tweet and @Cambridge_CAS follows me. I wonder how many other speakers got invited this way.

This reminds me of Julian Stodd’s thoughts on how authority or reputation nowadays is based less on “positionality” or titles. I am getting used to invitations that start with how someone Googled a topic and found a digital artefact I shared, read this blog, or followed my tweets.

That said, I doubt the organizers would have invited someone who had a track record but did not have some sort of title. I guess they were entitled to be somewhat conservative in their first regional conference in Singapore.

And conservative they were. How do I know?

The things I heard and saw were about the same as at other education-oriented conferences. Things like technology is disruptive, we must change, technology can enhance learning, teachers are indispensable, etc. All good messages, reminders, or takeaways because not everyone is on the same page.

But if you look at the Twitter backchannel (#csconf2013), you might get the impression that little was happening. The quality of a modern conference is as much a function of how much the delegates participate in all channels of communication as how well it was organized, if not more so.

A discourse analyst might notice there were several official postings and other socially interactive ones. If you coded for the latter, you might wonder if actual conversations took place.

I use a backchannel as a barometer of change and change acceptance. I have been to events where the backchannel topic trends locally or internationally and it is difficult to keep track of what goes on. That tells me that participants have embraced a change mindset, are thinking actively, and wanting to share and act on what they know.

Photo courtesy of Eveleen Er (@EdTechLink)

Prior to my panel discussion, I asked the organizers if I could project resources on screen should the need arise. This was not driven by ego (I do not like the sage on stage mentality). This was driven by a basic teaching strategy (send the same message over different channels).

I had to go though three people to be told no. The corporate background had to be in place for the video recording and photo ops. I respect that. They are entitled to do that. But I wonder if they realize how that also speaks volumes about the prevailing mindset.

I had been asked to think of a main question and to provide evidence. Much of the evidence was visual. All of the resources could have been hyperlinked. People would not have to photograph slides. I would have liked to gently push the boundaries of presenting or discussing in an attempt to model change.

In all other panels I have been involved in, I have had to meet fellow panelists beforehand either in person or online. I have no problem with being spontaneous, but I also see the value in establishing expectations or agreeing to certain themes so that the audience gets the most out of the combined experience of the panel.

For another event earlier this month, a fellow panelist and I did a Google Hangout and prepared a Google Site which housed our Google Slides, a SoapBox backchannel, and links to resources. How much more do you think an audience appreciates such an effort?

That is not to say that I did not enjoy being a panelist at this conference. There was lively chat, challenging questions, and humorous moments.

Not many people know what happens in the background of something as seemingly straightforward as a panel discussion. For me, this was not just an opportunity to teach but to educate. To reach, to connect, to inspire action. I am not sure what impact I had.

I did get the usual post-talk phenomenon of audience members wanting to meet, exchange business cards, and have extended conversations. I also received appreciation and praise for my insights. But this was not an ego trip for me. Words are easy, actions less so.

In any case, that is three out of four talks down this month. I have one big one, a keynote, to go at the end of the month.

My biggest takeaway from MobiLearn Asia was the need to unpack what we might mean by any technology-mediated process being a disruption.

A disruptive technology or innovation should initially challenge and eventually replace the norm. Like the way the mass produced car disrupted the horse-drawn cart or how the mobile phone disrupted the pager. Cloud storage might disrupt USB drives the way downloadable music has replaced CDs.

These are manifestations of what Thomas Kuhn might call paradigm shifts.

I liked how a conference panel polled the audience on whether they thought some current technology-mediated processes were disruptive.

My answer to all the three examples is: It depends.

Flipped classrooms are disruptive on the surface. One would hope that you would get more independent learners and more facilitative teachers if varied content is consumed at the learner’s pace and discussed, dissected, and debated (amongst many other worthwhile processes) in the teacher’s place.

But it is not quite disruptive if the initial content delivery is still just traditional lectures on video. I will have more to say about this in my YouTube series on the dimensions of flipping.

xMOOCs could certainly be disruptive if they become the preferred mode of self-organized education and employers value that over university degrees. But xMOOCs might end up being extensions of institutes of higher education and maintain the academic paper chase.

Furthermore xMOOCs are now just offered by the relative few to the many with access. I am not sure how exclusivity of being a provider might be a disruptor if more are not allowed in.

What of mobile learning? I paused at that one. We learn a lot informally thanks to our mobile devices. Research presented at the conference reveals that students are not really embracing it in formal contexts.

During my presentation, I shared how the use of mobile devices in classrooms challenges authority in terms of classroom management and content expertise. But that is not disruptive in the same sense.

If people abandoned desktop and laptop computers and relied on smartphones or wearable technologies for what they used to do on computers, that might be disruptive.

So is mobile learning disruptive? Maybe not quite the way we expect.

John Traxler (@johntraxler) mentioned how disruptions were typically peripheral and could become central. But in the case of mobility, those in the realm of education look at the mainstream use of mobile devices in the realms and wonder whether/how to embrace it. So is higher education in the periphery?

One thing I can definitely label disruptive is the adoption of open educational resources (OER). Faculty in higher education would have to change their mindsets and practices with regards to where and how to publish, what resources to use to teach, how to share resources they create, and so on. They would have to be more concerned about Creative Commons licences and reputational capital.

I asked Terese Bird (@tbirdcymru) what she thought were concrete ways of promoting OER. Her tweeted replies:

Good advice!

My unpacking has led me to reflect on potentially disruptive innovations. It might be premature to label them disruptive if there is no eventual paradigm shift.

It is far more important to put thought into action. Good vibes and intent are not going to change things. Good tribes and attempts are.

First came the phrase “disruptive technologies” to describe things like smartphones because they could change the way we normally do things.

For example, you can take a geotagged photo, upload it a photo or map mashup site, tag and describe it, and in the process provide a view for the benefit of others. This bypasses the experts for photo developing, editing and curating. Take another example: Record an event with your phone (or tweet it), upload it on YouTube (or have it amplified by retweets) and bypass traditional media completely.

Then someone said that the technologies alone did not do these things. It was people who acted with the technology to create these disruptions and “disruptive activism” was born [1] [2].

Logically, you need both. If you’re going to shoot something, you need a gun. The gun isn’t going to fire itself. You need to give it a hand. Conversely, you may have the intent, but if you do not have the means, you can’t do anything.

What else do we need? I think we need “disruptive policy”. These give the impetus to act. These force us into action. What policies? Policies like embracing mobile technologies. They could force us to rethink the way we conduct classes, meetings, briefings, and more.

How do we get these policies in play? These could be generated top-down, bottom-up, or middle-up-and-down. With the first and third method, you need to create buy in. With the bottom-up method, the users have already bought in. They are already the activists with the technologies in hand. If there are enough of them, you get to a tipping point and policies follow.

If management fears the change, then the policies are restrictive. If not, they enable disruptive. Simplistic? Yes. Unrealistic? No.

I thought that the SOUR music video was a great illustration of collaboration. Then this comes along…

Video source

What’s interesting is that the music video is not a finished product. Nor will it ever likely be because visitors get to replace video frames with webcam shots of themselves.

It’s practically like any Wikipedia article: Subject to constant tweaking.

But with this video you get to be creative while maintaining more of the same. On Wikipedia, you have to be critical and the directions each article takes can be quite different!

Click to see all the nominees!

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