Thursday, April 2, 2015

B is for Back to the future and C for Change is afoot

Over the past few weeks I have been spending a significant amount of time focussing on the ideologies that our education system in the past, and largely still in the present was founded on. You may have even read my post, Education's great wicked problem where I explore some of these ideas. However there is always more to the story...

Our ideologies are the things that we think with rather than about. It is how we think rather than what we think. There are examples of this everywhere. What we think about any given thing, a government proposal, gay marriage and even whether you recycle, is driven by your underlying ideologies. What we value drives our choices. Hence, if I value the earth and the future generations who will have to deal with the problems created by current generations (environmental degradation, over population, global warming etc.), I might be more inclined to actively promote and participate in ideas and actions around sustainability. Equally, if I value honesty, I will be more inclined to be honest. Although in both cases I might actively think about the fact that I value sustainability, or that I value honesty. What I am less likely to think about is what caused me to value it. What experiences shaped my world view, my perceptions to value those things? And further, what experiences has shaped others to think about the world and all that happens therein, differently? And without actively stopping and thinking how and why did I come to think in a certain way, I am likely to simply think about the what, e.g. recycling, asset sales, education reform and then find the evidence to support my argument. Most likely, and without meaning to, I would probably be employing some selection bias to bolster whatever I was thinking about.

It seems that everyone has an opinion about education, and rightly so since everyone has experience of it. Perhaps, what we spend less time on is thinking about what shaped our underlying view of what an education system might be. For example, most people would agree that education is a means of addressing inequality. However, have you stopped to think about what shaped that view? If you were going to cite some facts and figures now about how education has allowed some to break the cycles of poverty, I might remind you of my previous comment about selection bias. Again, what we think is that education should address inequality. But how we think is a whole other ball game. How have you come to believe your views? 

The above seems very philosophical, and you might wonder what it has to do with you. Remember those arguments you have with colleagues when you are taking risks, trying to be more future focussed? And it seems that they just can not get on board? Chances are, the way you think about the world is different. Although what you think about is the same, students, pastoral care, assessment, developing thinking, how you think about it is probably different. Given the breakdown of the ages of teachers in New Zealand, the types of thinking and socialisation that each generation would have encountered is likely to be different. 

Currently falling in the under 25 to 29 category, it is very likely that I think of the world as a constantly changing place. In fact, it is what I expect of the world, that it does constantly change. Perhaps some things stay the same, like human nature. Many other things are not the same. Society, the way it works, what we value, what our goals are, has changed. Once upon a time it may have been the case that you could go to university so that you get a good job, and then you can buy a house. You might have gone to work and spent time with your friends and family on the weekend or the evening. Some might even have travelled to other cities and countries for work. What are the chances that many if not most of the 59% of the teachers over the age of 40, currently in our education system still has a world view that resembles this? Many of those in their 30s and below will also have this world view. Go to university to get a good job. 

However, Is this a likely future for the students currently in our schools? Or are they more likely to work with many individuals, in many countries, possibly without ever needing to leave their home? I know that already I regularly Skype people from across the country and across the world, working alongside on a range of projects. I also know that the current success in my career can not be solely attributed to a university degree. It is only one brick in the wall, it is not the foundation. It is a ticket to a big party in town, with many many other guests. So I am nothing special having this ticket, but not having it just makes things a lot more challenging. Last night I attended the TEDx Auckland launch party. Of the range of people approximately my age that I spoke to, not a single one of them went to work, and then went home at the end of the night, only to repeat it the next day. They all collaborated on projects outside their 'main' job. They use social media, and any other resource available to make connections. They carve out niches for themselves, not ones that are predefined roles. And there are many people like this.Think Michelle Dickinson, Jade Leung, Oscar Ellison, Emma Winder, Claire Amos. These people don't just have a day job. The manage a portfolio of projects.

People often cite that old pearl "there is nothing new under the sun". But that is just not true anymore. Do you realise, that the question "where are you?" is a new question? Because before mobile phones, email, internet, you could only contact someone if you knew where they were.

The way we communicate, they way we network, the way we build relationships, the way we run companies, the way we organise events have all changed. Children working abroad don't get occasional letters from their family or friends that they left behind. They can Skype them, see them, interact with them, on a daily basis. Talking to an employee at Spark's Lightbox (TV programme streaming service), she commented on the distinctive difference between viewing habits of those above and below 30. If you ask my 14 year olds at school how they would go about learning something new, they would say Youtube and Google, usually in that order. We are never going to go back to the local library being the place for information. It is not just book publishers and journals that are publishing and creating knowledge. They key difference to note here is that although anyone might recognise that trends come and go, what everyone does not recognise is that they way the world works is fundamentally shifting. Where things might have stayed largely the same with a few trends changing around the peripheries, we are moving to and already largely living in a world where things are constantly changing and a few things are staying the same around the peripheries. 

You might recognise some other events in history that caused fundamental changes in the way the world works and how people view it. Namely, world war one and world war two. You can imagine the massive paradigm shifts that people experienced when women all of a sudden had to work. You can imagine the personal conflicts that many would have experienced, debating whether some individuals were taking too many risks, letting their daughters go to work! Can you imagine the outrage. Yet, compare that with how we view woman in the workplace today. Can you imagine the personal conflict, the emotional lashing out against those who challenged world views? 

Granted, and thankfully, we are not experiencing another world war. But we are experiencing another fundamental change in the way the world works, in how people view and create their identities in the word. We are experiencing fundamental changes in how and where people work. We are experiencing changes in the skills needed to do our jobs. An example being a conversation I have heard time and time again, "I was hired to be a teacher, not to build a website" - this is in reference to adding resources onto a student learning system for learners to access. Where one used to be hired to do a job, chances are, you are now hired in an 'evolving' role. To prove my point, use a job search website and search for the word 'evolving'...  Does evolving really just mean that we can not guarantee that your job is going to stay the same, because the world is changing? Given that there were literally hundreds of search results for this...

These screenshots were taken from today...

Change is the new normal. No wait, break neck, constant, large scale change is the new normal. In other words, the way the world functions is and has changed. Hence, when we still maintain our old paradigms about how the world works, it is likely that we will struggle to embrace change. It is likely that our organisations and companies will struggle. But also, if we do embrace change, unless we realise that the way we view the world is different, it is likely that we will encounter dissonance with our ideas. Our new New Zealand curriculum states "New Zealand needs its young people to be skilled and educated, able to contribute fully to its well-being, and able to meet the changing needs of the workplace and the economy." Has the way you view the world meant that you assumed that the world is changing and students need be prepared for this 'new world', or, has it meant that you assumed that every job that a student will do, will constantly evolve? Even check out operators at supermarkets work differently nowadays... 

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