Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘systemic

 
My iPad has a cover that is hanging by its threads. The dust that the cover is supposed to protect the iPad from seems to be holding everything together!

Try as I might, I cannot find the good covers from a few years ago. Stores have flimsy knockoffs or ugly covers, and one online store directed me to a Korean supplier if I wanted a good brand.

I wondered why iPad covers were so difficult to find. Then I remembered some tweets and articles I read.

For example, this was the statistic on the now low reliance of tablets for web surfing.

If you follow the data, this drop seems to be trending over the last few years.

One of the hardest hit might be the iPad. A recent article revealed that the Chromebook was the rising king in US classrooms.

Why? Some answers are generic to any educational technology, but Larry Cuban provided some clues.

Trends like these sound and feel distant. How do these matter to a decision-maker in Singapore, for example?

First, it is important to at least be aware of the data and trends. These are not always objective truths because they are subject to interpretation, but analysing and evaluating these should be the minimum due diligence of any decision-maker.

Second, the centralised purchasing trends need to be juxtaposed with BYOD trends. If teachers and students already have their own devices, the context has changed and so must rules, policies, and purchasing decisions.

If decision-makers collect data in their own schools, they will realise that the BYOD devices tend to be phones, not slates or laptops. The phones are cheaper, lighter, convenient, and essential to learners and teachers alike.

Third, and most importantly, the devices (school-provided or BYOD) need to be custom-integrated into curricula, assessment, and context. What works in one academic subject or school may not transfer to another. And if assessment remains rooted in the traditional technology of pen and paper, there will be little incentive to change.

I doubt that many will draw such extensions and lessons from missing iPad covers. But I do because I reflect on what I read on my iPad about such matters. Now back to my hunt for a replacement cover…

If there is anything that Singaporeans appreciate, it must be our food. If there is something we dislike, it might be our antiquated coupon parking system.

Both remind us of important lessons on systemic change.

TODAY reported the mixed response to an app for ordering meals at a food court.

It was practically an article that wrote itself. Without interviewing anyone, an unscrupulous reporter could have made up a story of customers and store holders who were for and against it.

The same paper reported how coupon parking would be “phased out altogether”, but did not specify exactly when.

What both reports have in common is a new system (a set of tools, expectations, and behaviours) replacing an older one. Perhaps “replacing” is too strong a word. A more accurate phrase might be “working alongside but not yet at the tipping point”.

The older systems prevent mass adoption, further experimentation, and change. In the case of ordering food, there is the unwillingness to learn how to use the app.

Our paper-based coupons are a relic of the 1980s. Based on numbers provided in the TODAY article, 73% of all our public off-street carparks already use the electronic reader system. However, our on-street parking does not have any such infrastructure, so we rely on coupons to pay, and parking uncles and aunties to issue summons.

Almost six years ago, some drivers resorted to using apps like Summon Auntie to alert fellow drivers of parking wardens. This was a sociotechnical system that was not sanctioned by the authorities, but was a ground-up effort instead.

The paper-based parking coupon is also ironic given that Singapore has grand designs on being a Smart Nation. While some of our parking is paper-based, our road tax is not. As of 15th February this year, drivers need not display road tax discs on their windscreens thanks to an online registration system.

The antiquated paper coupon system seems to be tolerated simply because no other system was prepared in order to replace it.

So what are the reminders of opposing forces in systemic change?

There are the new or better possibilities that accompany technology versus the fear of learning new behaviours. The barrier to change is compounded by the lack of foresight and planning, and weighed further by general inertia.

A superficial observation of systems outside schooling provide such insights. The barriers to change in schooling are essentially the same. They are human stubbornness, apathy, and lethargy. They are obvious if we are willing to reflect critically and humbly on ourselves.

Did you hear that? That is the sound of the Internet — specifically the local Twitterverse — sharing their thoughts on how the founder of kiasuparentDOTcom reacted to her son’s PSLE results.

This was a colourful response by SGAG.

Mine was a more subdued share.

I have no doubt that the article has been very “popular” on Facebook as well. It was written to be click and comment bait. But it should also send clear signals to all stakeholders in our schooling and educational systems.

Systemic change is not just about grand rhetoric and stylish posturing. It is about putting boots to the ground and applying elbow grease. The former is typically top-down while the latter is normally bottom-up.

Whether the change efforts meet in the middle and are effective depends on whether the message of change connects, is consistent, and is constant.

MOE sent a clear initial signal of the “change” in scoring for the PSLE, coming “soon” in 2021. That is the shot across the bow to say take notice.

It has bought itself four years to fire more messages and shots, but it is not clear what forms these will take or what the efforts will be. So far we have been told that schools need to prepare themselves. This is still a signal from the top down.

What are the efforts going to be like from the bottom up? How will the grassroots efforts organise themselves? With videos like this? With more SG conversations, forums, panels, etc.? Is anyone trawling the SG edublogosphere, Twitterverse, and Facebook groups?

If we do not shape the agenda, interrupt the conversation for critical inputs, or otherwise organise ourselves, someone else will do these for us.

Hmm, this might be something to discuss at the next #educampsg in 2017.

Mention systemic or organisational change in schools and you will invariably hear a few phrases like taking baby steps, involving stakeholders, and creating buy-in.

These and other practices are critical to making change that is actually worthwhile and effective. However, the change processes often have unspoken assumptions. For example, I unpacked what is wrong with taking baby steps.

Today, I focus on buy-in.

Creating buy-in among stakeholders of change is important because if they are not aware of the need or do not believe in the change, the effort is doomed from the start.

However, it is not enough to simply create buy-in. Buy-in is a state of mind. It is about understanding what the change is, projecting possibilities, and deciding to be associated with it.

The message to buy into can sometimes remain someone else’s property. Stakeholders may understand the rationale for change, but still think “This is not really our problem or that is your solution!”

Buy-in is a state of mind. Ownership is a state of being.

What is missing is ownership. Ownership is a state of being. It is a sense of belonging.

Creating this type of ownership is less traditionally top-down and more socially bottom-up. Depending on the structure of organisation, ownership can also be generated middle-up-and-down by an empowered group that deeply understands both ends.

Creating buy-in tends to be associated with the process of communicating change. It typically involves engaging stakeholders at the early phase of change efforts.

However, ownership is about articulating change. It is not only about connecting with stakeholders, but also moving them and empowering them to take action. Creating ownership is a continuous, multi-phase process.

Buy-in is a state of mind. Ownership is a state of being. It is far more important and effective to create ownership of change.

This reflection is a response to a slow chat question on #asiaED about the role of assessment in systematic change.

The question was:

My response was:

The layperson’s likely view of assessement is summative tests and exams, typically of the high stakes variety, because that is what they have experienced. As its name implies, summative assessment is perceived and practiced as a terminal or downstream activity.

Informed educators might point out that formative assessment (on-going feedback) is more important for learning. Educated instructional designers will tell you that assessment or evalutation should be developed before content. Wise educational consultants and leaders will tell you that assessment is a key leverage point in systemic change.

Assessment is actually an upstream component. Change that and you affect processes downstream like teaching, learning support, learning environment design, and policy making.

Imagine for a moment that exams were removed and replaced with learner portfolios. Now imagine how teaching, teacher expectations, teaching philosophies, teacher professional development, and teacher evaluation might change.

I would like to answer a question directed at me:

I cannot say for sure how assessment should change and I do not think that data collected from such assessment only serve as leverage.

Consider an example of a change-in-progress and my suggestions on how to implement change and avoid pitfalls in the process.

There are at least two significant assessment-related changes in Singapore now. One is an emphasis on values-based education (instead of focusing on just grades) and the other is evaluating of the importance of a degree.

Added after initial posting, a timely tweet from a local rag:

These changes were a result of:

  • parental feedback on the unnecessary stress of high stakes testing (particularly of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE)
  • the recognition of grade inflation (particularly at the GCE A Levels)
  • the mismatch between what employers need and what universities produce
  • new and visionary leadership at the Ministry of Education (MOE), Singapore

All these placed pressures on what we understand and value as traditional, summative assessment.

That said, MOE is not going to sacrifice the sacred cows of tests and exams. But it has started emphasizing other processes and measures.

Values-based lessons are being integrated into previously content-only lessons [news article after its announcement in 2011]. Primary school students can get into Secondary schools of their choice based on non-academic talents with the Direct School Admissions (DSA) scheme.

Experts of systemic change might label these efforts as piecemeal change. They do not profoundly disrupt existing processes and are instead implemented in periodically and strategically in an attempt to create overall change.

However, critical observers might also note that significant and sustained change tends to happen with disruptive interventions. Examples might include:

  • the impact of antibiotics and anaesthesia on medical practice
  • the effect of the printing press on schooling and the spread of information
  • the influence of smartphones on banking, commerce, education, entertainment and gaming, information consumption, content creation, and socialization.

I predict that e-portfolios will rise in importance as a means of recording and evaluating (not just assessing) both the processes and products of learning.

e-Portfolios are a systemic and disruptive change in that they:

  • start and end with the learner
  • belong to the learner
  • emphasize processes and not just products of learning
  • showcase holistic or other attributes (not just academic ability)
  • promote lifelong, career wide learning

The battle to create acceptance, buy-in, and hopefully ownership of what we now label as alternative assessment will probably last a decade or more. During this time, it might be tempting to try to collect evidence during a trial or a full blown implementation of the effectiveness of e-portfolios to convince stakeholders that the change is making a difference.

However, this is not a wise move. Efforts to do this would repeat the mistakes of the slew of early educational and action research comparing the effects of intervention A (for example, traditional instruction) and intervention B (technology-assisted instruction). There are far too many factors that influence learning outcomes, attitudes, values, etc.

If data on newer forms of assessment need to be collected, analyzed, and presented, I suggest that they be part of a much larger plan. Such a plan could include:

  • having regular conversations with stakeholders
  • creating a shared vision among stakeholders
  • relating success stories to create buy-in
  • developing informed, forward-thinking, and informal leadership
  • providing financial and implementation leeway for unforeseen obstacles

In summary, assessment is an important leverage point and an upstream component for changing educational systems. Data on disruptive changes like the adoption of e-portfolios for assessment and evaluation can be leveraged on to convince stakeholders. However, such data should only be part of a larger and sustainable plan.

Large systems trying to change are like the Titanic trying to avoid icebergs. It is hard to change direction especially when trouble is spotted at the last minute.

 
As a servant-leader of a large system until recently, I am fully aware of what this means and how people react in their bid to control or to survive.

After leaving that system, I am still seeing mistakes of Titanic proportions in various places. Here are two quick stories.
 

deal or no deal by fudj, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  fudj 

 
I could have been at a conference overseas today to share my experiences with a thirsty audience. But I chose not to go on principle.

I was invited to present at this conference. To sweeten the deal, the organizers sent an information brief that stated how airfare, accommodation, and an honorarium would be provided.

I suggested how I might contribute and a representative expressed interest and said she would check with the higher ups. In the meantime, I sought clarification about how they would pay for the trip.

After some to-ing and fro-ing, the representative told me that what I offered to share was valuable, but I had to pay for the airfare. I declined because that was not the original deal.

The representative from the organization could have been empowered to rectify a mistake or to make decisions that would have benefitted the organization. Instead they chose to save some money.

This is like crew of the Titanic detecting trouble in the water and realizing that communications were garbled. But they stuck with policy or what they thought was policy.
 

 
On Saturday, I received a message informing me that I was needed as a consultant on an urgent report. What the organization needed were my network of contacts and information (data, readings, evidence) that I might have collected over the last few years.

I also found out that the report was due on Wednesday, so I made myself available on Tuesday to help. I asked that paperwork to bring me in as a consultant be done by Monday.

Better late than never, right? Wrong. Their answer was never. I did not get a call on Monday, and when Tuesday rolled around, I had to initiate a message only to be told that there was no time to bring me in.

In this case, a component of the system reacted to an event too slowly. This is like crew on the Titanic detecting icebergs very late.

One might ask if the crew had an active sensing system so they could see icebergs far ahead. This makes for good strategy given how ocean liners cannot turn on a dime.

Failing that and being confronted with the inevitable crashing into the iceberg, the situation then entered “panic stations” mode. People go on instincts, but such instincts are not always good especially if they have been culturally shaped by an organization bred on maintaining the status quo.

One person had the sense to ask someone with the time, calm, and clarity of vision to help. I have a feeling that an administrative process and/or person said not to take it.

Why do systems take so long to change?

Its people are not set up to actively sense changes nor empowered to implement decisions. To do this requires individuals to think systemically.

A conference PR person needs to evaluate the reputational cost to an organization of turning a valuable asset away. An administrative staff member needs to see why an academic staff needs to outsource help. The academic staff needs to see why administrative staff need time to wade through bureaucracy.

Most systems set up their workers in horizontal silos. They are also stratified vertically in terms of leaders and followers. In their bid to be less stratified, some organizations flatten structure and combine silos. But if this is an administrative exercise and not one to enable sensing, communication, and empowerment, that system will not change.


http://edublogawards.com/files/2012/11/finalistlifetime-1lds82x.png
http://edublogawards.com/2010awards/best-elearning-corporate-education-edublog-2010/

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code


Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

My tweets

Archives

Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: