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Posts Tagged ‘revolutionary

Yesterday, an ex-colleague reminded me of a quote attributed to Roy Pea in 2011.

We need revolutionary transformation, not evolutionary tinkering. -- Roy Pea.

In the context of educational change and embracing technology, he said: We need revolutionary transformation, not evolutionary tinkering. (I found the source and it is mentioned twice in this NETP report.)

Evolutionary tinkering might be likened to piecemeal change. This can create short returns, but can come across as busy work that is not particularly meaningful.

Revolutionary transformation is often uncomfortable and messy, but it can also be organised chaos that actually makes a difference in the long run.

We need only be students of recent history to see why revolutions change policies, processes, and people.

Recently I shared my thoughts on Turnitin’s latest attempt, Feedback Studio. I gave a lightning review of its iOS app and commented on how form did not meet function in its web app.

A colleague of mine also used the same tool to grade and provide feedback on student essays. He contacted Turnitin directly by email over a form-does-not-meet-function issue: Papers were not arranged in alphabetical order once the tool was launched from an LMS.

He described the problem clearly and provided a simple programming solution. The various tech and other support people he communicated with practised tai-chi, i.e., they deflected and redirected.

I will not share the details of the email exchanges because they were restricted conversations. But I will say this — they were amusing and frustrating to read.

I had a wry smile on my face as I identified immediately with frustration of trying to get someone from tech support to recognise and empathise with a problem.

I actually LOL-ed when I read the standard signature that the Turnitin folk used: “Revolutionizing the experience of writing to learn”. What was revolutionary about bad design, low empathy, and deflective service?

The email exchange and my own experience reminded me of Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi.


Video source

The Soup Nazi wanted things done a certain way and was closed to feedback. Any suggestion (no matter how good) or complaint (no matter how valid) was ignored and summarily dealt with — no soup for you!

My colleague and I were only thinking of improving the service and helping other users. This would ultimately benefit our learners if Turnitin took our critiques in the spirit they were offered.

Turnitin seemed to behave more like Turnyoudown. Perhaps some revolutions are the dictatorial sort.

From the perspective of systemic change, it is important to distinguish between evolutionary and revolutionary change.

This video of elders reacting to the Apple Watch illustrates that.


Video source

Some people would have you believe that the Watch is revolutionary. It is not.

The Apple Watch helps you do what you can already do with app-enabled iPhones in a smaller form factor. Some of the things are more convenient (e.g., fitness tracking) while others less so (e.g., texting).

The Apple Watch is not fully independent; it needs to work with a recent iPhone. It is the very early stage of what is to come, much like Google’s unfairly maligned Glass.

Watch and Glass are evolutionary, not revolutionary. They have not changed how we behave or what we can do by a quantum leap.

The video of the elders reacting brings up another important point: How far an evolutionary product gets (and if it gets a chance to be revolutionary) depends on the attitude of its users.

One elder put it wisely at the end:

Old people get older when they stop accepting the changes that are happening and stop expecting new change to come around.

The statement does not only apply to “old people” but to anyone with a closed mindset.

I should tie in what I reflected on recently about the A-B-Cs of change and the broad 1-2-3 strategies for adopting change.

The A-B-Cs of change are awareness, buy-in, and commitment/control (ownership). It is one thing to be aware of the Apple Watch, it is another to believe that it is worth your time. Buying the product also means adopting Apple’s processes as your own.

Apple has shown that is can do this successfully with some of its product lines. It does this by manipulating the three broad strategies of personal relevance, emotional ties, and shared interests.

I have read of people who were initially non-committed or skeptical about the Watch and were sold on getting one after a hands-on demonstration. One or more apps create strong relevance to the user. The minimalist look and human-centric design might stir excitement, desire, or joy. The desire to be in a relatively exclusive club drives ownership and interest.

Slowly but surely, companies like Apple and Google bring about change. What do schools do about the A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s of change?


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