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Posts Tagged ‘schooling

Most educators worth their salt have heard of Sir Ken Robinson. His TED talks have made him famous.

I wonder how many have viewed the videos of Yong Zhao or read his work. To say that Yong Zhao rarely fails to provoke is to make an understatement.

I am an admirer of his and respect his work. I have referenced some key moments over the last few years.

One of the more recent articles by Yong Zhao builds on yesterday’s theme: What seems to work might be an illusion. Yong Zhao argued that what seems to work in schooling can hurt because of side effects.

His article is an introduction to a longer one published in the Journal of Educational Change. He has a link to download the full article and you will have to visit his site to get it.

Yong Zhao started with this premise:

Educational research has typically focused exclusively on the benefits, intended effects of products, programs, policies, and practices, as if there were no adverse side effects. But side effects exist the same way in education as in medicine.

He suggested that the side effects in schooling and education might occur because:

  1. Time spent on a new intervention results in time lost in something else.
  2. Resources like people power are also redirected to newer initiatives that might distract from important core tasks.
  3. The desired outcomes of schooling and education are often contradictory. You cannot have an obedient and pliable workforce and one embraces diversity and risk-taking.
  4. Different people respond differently to the same treatments. What works with one group in one context can change with the group, the context, or both.

History repeats itself. It has to, because no one ever listens. -- Steve Turner.

All these seem like common sense or obvious points to make in hindsight. Yet we make the mistakes again because we do not learn from others and recent history.

Once again, we need to pull the wool off our eyes. This time it is the wool that we put on and we have ourselves to blame for being so blind.

Yesterday I learnt something new.

Semmelweis reflex.

Thanks to generously and openly shared Google Slides (and this one in particular) I found a label for a phenomenon that has plagued schooling since the very first classroom: The Semmelweis reflex.

It is unreasoned and unreasonable resistance to change. It is the stubborn defence of “it has always been done this way”. It is the Goliath to my David.

The tendency to maintain the status quo or to throw the might of inertia in the face of progress is probably the biggest barrier to change in schools. That is why I fight it.

My hunt for an elusive video brought me to the Singapore Ministry of Education’s Facebook page.

While I did not find what I was looking for, I found a series of images. They served as a helpful reminder of what teachers should stock up on to prepare for the new year.

What MOE teachers will use in 2017...

It was also a stark reminder of the mindset and expectations of teachers. The technologies are not current. If they were, there would be reminders to change passwords, renew VPN plans, update software, check digital archives, etc.

The call to arms was: You will be needing these and more to make a lasting impact on that one student. I get that message and stand behind it because it is a call to individualise, difficult as that will be.

I hope that teachers read this as reaching out to more than just that one student because all students are that one student. However, this task is impossible with the traditional tools and methods because they are largely about centralisation, standardisation, and control.

The newer tools are about decentralisation, individualisation, and self-regulation. This will only happen if school leaders and teachers change their mindsets and expectations about which tools to focus on and how to use them.

 
The start of the school year is a mixed bag of emotions for parents. More so for the kids, but for just a bit let us focus on the people who bore them life.

While there are many parental emotions this week, there are two major ones that different types of parents might swing between. One is relief and the other is anxiety.

A working parent with kids might be relieved that the nanny that is school has resumed business. Cruel as it sounds, these parents are happy that their children are back in school and out of their vacation hair.

The anxious parent is typically a first-timer. Not a new parent, but one whose child is starting kindergarten or primary school or any new school for the first time. There is separation anxiety.

There is a spectrum, of course, not a dichotomy of either one or the other type.

I actually prefer to be with my son during vacations. I like observing how he grows up and revisiting life through his eyes. You might say that I have a Piagetian fascination (Piaget formulated his theories on cognitive development in children based on observations of his own kids.)

It is this same Piagetian fascination that reduces my parental anxiety. I know that one role of parents is to let go and create independent individuals, and hopefully nice, responsible, happy, and self-regulating ones at that.

My small anxiety was not that of separation, but one of travel.

When I was a university professor, my son attended kindergarten at an outfit on campus. When he was in primary school, it was in the neighbourhood and I taught him how to take the bus home.

Now that he has started secondary school, he has to travel about an hour on the train. He has to deal with the possible train breakdowns and the various travel alternatives. He has to think on his feet and grow up in the process.

This is about as authentic as learning can get. No amount of Xiao Ming travelling westward at 90km/h and northward at 80km/h in a textbook will come close to that sort of learning.

So I prepared him during the vacation by familiarising him with travel routes and possible alternatives. I was his guide at his side on the train.

Like a learning scaffold, I was literally at his side yesterday on his first day of travel. Like a proper scaffold, I gave him the choice of using it or not again depending on how confident he was.

He took the scaffold down today. I am happy and proud, and a little sad.

I question the saying that it takes a village to raise a child.

I know what it means, but today’s village also has its idiots and perverts. A few of them even become village chiefs or run for president.
 

 
That said, it does take a village to educate one child, particularly if we redefine the village. Today we are talking about the global village. Some teachers and parents worry that this village has more bad people in it. They conveniently forget that it also has a lot of good ones too.

It might take a village to educate a child. It only takes a school to reduce one into submission. To raise a child who is a creative and critical contributor, we need to kids to know and experience their village well, idiots and all.


Video source

This video should provoke thought.

Those who do not question the purpose of schooling will be the most disturbed. Those that do will likely nod in agreement.

But what are both parties doing about it?

If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

This tweet might include one of the least offensive and slightly humorous uses of Joseph Schooling’s now famous name.

Here are a few descriptions of bittersweet uses and abuses of the newfound fame of Singapore’s first Olympic gold winner:

Those articles say it better than I can. They also hint at the importance of how Schooling might need to manage the marketing efforts so that his name is not dragged through the mud.

Some name dropping was tongue-in-cheek. Some was worthy of eye-rolls. Some wanted Schooling’s reflected glory or to put themselves in the spotlight for publicity.

The use or misuse of our names and identities can happen to anyone.
 

 
The non-Olympians and ordinary rest-of-us need to manage our identities as well. Why? Consider these questions:

  • If you Google yourself, what do you find?
  • If you do not find relevant information about yourself, how do you stay relevant today and tomorrow?
  • If you find information about yourself, does it represent you the way you wish?
  • If you find information that does not represent you or is harmful to you, why did that happen and what do you do?

School is not likely to help you find answers to these questions in meaningful ways because it operates in its own bubble. You will need to find out for yourself just as Schooling will need to school, no, make that educate himself, too.


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