Posts Tagged ‘Training and Education’

Is the information landscape in which we currently find ourselves a wasteland or an oasis?

Posted on: May 31st, 2011 by admin-kablooey 1 Comment

I set out to write about the current South African education system; and what, in my opinion, is lacking in this space, how it is not serving the youth of today and how business (and ultimately the economy) is suffering because of the shortfalls that exist. I was a high-school teacher for 7 years and so this topic in particular is a passion of mine. Before I begin to interrogate this subject, please consider that I am talking in general terms based on my experience and understanding. I know everybody has great school stories and has experienced a favourite teacher; and believed that they benefitted in some way from the system; and we all have bad school stories too. Lots of people have children who are thriving in the current system and lots of people don’t. Lots of business owners, HR practitioners and team leaders recruiting and managing young people within organisations are pleasantly surprised at the calibre of the talent coming into the workplace; and lots of people are shocked at the little even graduates appear to know and do. But my intention is not really to write about the experience of school or education or teachers, my intention is really to look at the fact that we are now living in a world with more information in it than ever before. So I want to ask whether the current systems of learning really equip us (especially young people) to deal with all this information?

Hence my question, is the information landscape in which we currently find ourselves a wasteland or an oasis? What is the school system doing to prepare our children for the amount of information that now exists, openly, for anybody to engage with and interpret, from a skills perspective? So much of what is ‘out there’ is opinion; and are our children being taught how to differentiate between factual information and opinion, for example? What are parents doing to prepare their children (because in my opinion education starts when one begins to understand language) for the new world of work, academically, socially and emotionally; and what are businesses doing to bridge the gap for young people who have often fallen through the cracks of the ‘system’ – both the education and the family systems; and should they be responsible for bridging the gap?

The School System:

As far as I can see governments all over the world are looking at reforming their public education systems, which must indicate that there is a general perception that the old education systems are no longer useful in preparing young people for the new world of work. Essentially governments are asking two critical questions:

a)     how do we prepare young people (on a skills and knowledge level) for a workplace and economy that in unstable, that we don’t understand and that is unpredictable?

b)     how do we maintain our cultural, institutional and economic identities whilst also preparing young people for increased global inter-connectedness?

Historically most public education systems were built for; and modelled on, nineteenth centaury social and economic needs because that is when they were constructed. They were carefully put together for both economic and academic achievement in an industrial, hierarchical and patriarchal age. They were very specific: you were placed in the system according to a bunch of variables like your age, your subject choice, your academic abilities, your ability to work individually; and sometimes your gender. Essentially the system judged intelligence by how well you were able to process information and regurgitate this information in a test; and hopefully along the way you realised that if you worked hard, towed the line, committed to the system and did what you were told to do, you would get a good job. That’s why the system provided a standardised curriculum, standardised testing (of knowledge) and standardised practices. I know I am simplifying this massively. But for the most part this all kind of worked for the type of social and economic system that was then.

But the world has changed.

Young people currently being educated are the most stimulated (visually, aurally and kinetically) generation in social history; and therefore, I would argue, the most stressed. Think about what they process everyday via multiple channels like television, radio, the Internet, cell phones, ipods, ipads, billboards, 24/7 shopping and lights and traffic and newsprint and social media and video games etc., all of which move and make sounds and come in multi-faceted colours and spaces and dimensions. How can a nineteenth centaury education system, as described above, possibly keep up with holding their interest?

Not only this, but also working really hard and doing really well at school no longer guarantees you a good job; and young people know this. So even if they don’t know why, they are dissatisfied, disillusioned and distrustful of the system. Coupled with this they live with the uncertainty of an unstable world, primarily economically and environmentally.

In 1998 South Africa embraced a new education system known as Outcomes Based Education (OBE), which in theory sought to reform education. Very simplistically OBE’s objective was to equip young people for a changing and increasingly diverse and versatile world by focusing on teaching not just knowledge but also skills, values and attitudes. Moreover the system, in theory, focused on what the learner had a) learned and b) been able to apply to different tasks, by way of providing teachers with specific ‘outcomes’. Outcomes, in this context, are essentially variables used to measure a learner’s achievements, supposedly a method to assess what the learner now knows based on what they had been exposed to. In theory OBE is a wonderful system. It allows for holistic and creative learning, facilitates collaboration, fosters lateral or multi-faceted thinking, encourages tolerance of others, embraces the idea that there are multiple types of intelligences, recognises different talents and very importantly makes learning fun – because from a teacher’s perspective there was no prescriptive manner in which you had to teach, as long as you met the outcomes. This is great if you have a confident, creative, innovative teacher with access to lots of resources; and a manageable number of students in your class. This description probably applies to less that 10% of the teachers and school environments (public education) in the world; and South Africa is no exception. In July 2010 South Africa officially dropped OBE; and there has been much in the media pointing out how it did not work.

The Family System:

As the nuclear family began to break down en masse in the late 1970’s and 1080’s the role of the family system as educator and supporter changed and I think for the last 15 to 20 years we have really seen consequences of this. I can tell you from experience that a lot of what parents used to shoulder in terms of social, emotional and cultural education for their children is now shouldered by teachers, school curriculums; and more recently the media, which cannot possibly provide the psychological and emotional support and engagement young people need in the same way as parents and families can.

I think that as children increasingly find themselves in crèches from a very early age they miss out on the wonderful time when they are most curious and perhaps then lose their natural ability to be a divergent thinker and maybe even their desire to learn.  I read somewhere that children between 0 and 6 learn to read and thereafter should read to learn; and if they cannot read by the time they are six, they are less likely to catch up with their contemporaries who can. The skill of reading in itself is becoming antiquated as it competes with other skills like playing video games and navigating efficiently around social networking sites.

A Corporate Response:

OBE wasn’t all bad, but I have to admit that I think what did happen all too often was that teachers were so focused on the outcomes that they forgot the process and as a result how well educated the children who have been through the system since 1998 are is up for debate.

I believe that an over whelming majority of literate learners can recall information. However, that number would drop if we really looked at their ability to comprehend information. Even fewer young people are able to analyse information and I think only a minority can really apply information. It is not their fault, they have never been taught how. And I am not talking about the 12.5 million South Africans under the age of 24 in 2010 who will never in their lives have a job, because they simply will never have the skills set to obtain one, I am talking about Matriculants and even university graduates.

I do believe it is going to become the responsibility of corporate South Africa to assist with fixing this problem, starting with teaching young people the skills of comprehending, analysing and applying information; and how to find information and summarise information. Ironically we have never needed these skills more because there is so much information, but we appear to be getting worse at this.

What is the answer?

I don’t know! It’s complicated and to some extent will be industry specific. Professional services, engineering and medicine will be asking different questions to advertising and IT companies I am sure. But what I do know is that we all have to be asking questions, because our education system is in crisis and I think that it has become a financial and business imperative to help young people with what to do with information. Whether you are a teacher, a lecturer, a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a neighbour, an HR practitioner, a greybeard, a manager, a team-leader, or a member of a team we all need to embrace being a teacher and a learner. In order to do this I believe we have to become increasingly self-aware so that we can be humble enough to learn, brave enough to teach and wise enough to know which side of the fence we are on today.

Here are some things to possibly think about:

a)     we have to view differently our human capacity to think and to interpret and engage with information

b)     we have to lose the school-taught perception that everyone is competition with us, that copying is not allowed and that the answer is always found at the back of the book. But rather see that experiences and all types of people can be our teachers, that collaboration and sharing is the way forward and that there are many answers to any given question

c)      we need to really begin to recognise that there are many different types of intelligence. I don’t even think we realise how brainwashed so many of us are into thinking that ‘these are the rules’ and this is how we have to behave. I know some people dress differently and therefore appear to be breaking the rules, but have you ever looked at how creative and innovative you could be if you just allowed yourself to view ourselves as creative and innovative

d)     the system has taught us so well and for so long to absorb information and then regurgitate it that we have forgotten how to ask questions, think independently, learn differently; and teach abundantly

So we are living in the greatest age in social history when it comes to the amount of information we have at our disposal. Is it an oasis, i.e. do we really know what to do with it, or is it a wasteland because we don’t know how to really use it? That being said, whichever way we see it, we face massive challenges: an out-dated school system, a school system (OBE) that failed our children (generally) in terms of skills and knowledge, an unstable economy, a support system in the form of family which is fragile and a workplace that is competitive and time-pressured. Makes you think, doesn’t it? I hope so…

What’s your digital lifestyle?

Posted on: December 1st, 2010 by admin-kablooey 6 Comments

I am a firm believer that every person hasa certian level of digital integration in their lifestyle. The is something in almost all of us that uses the digital landscape in someway or another. This is what excites me about digital media – its different for everyone.

Each person experiences the digital landscape in their own way, from their own vantage point and with their own personal agenda. This is the Consumer 2.0 I have spoken about before. I go into this in more detail in our presentation but I wanted to share a bit of insight into a study by TNS Surveys which outlines six digital lifestyles. These are:

INFLUENCERS

The internet is an integral part of my life. I’m young and a big mobile Internet user and generally access everywhere, all of the time. I’m a blogger, a passionate social networker with many social network friends. I’m also a big online shopper, even via my mobile. I want to make sure as many people as possible hear my online voice.

COMMUNICATORS

I just love talking and expressing myself, whether that’s face to face, on a fixed line, mobile or on social networking sites, instant messaging or just emailing people. I really want to express myself in the online world in the way that I can’t in the offline one. I tend to be a smart phone user and I’m connecting online from my mobile, at home, at work or at college.

KNOWLEDGE-SEEKERS

I use the internet to gain knowledge, information and to educate myself about the world. I’m not very interested in social networking but I do want to hear from like-minded people especially to help me make purchase decisions. I’m very interested in the latest thing.

NETWORKERS

The internet is important for me to establish and maintain relationships. I have a busy life whether it’s my profession or managing the home. I use things like social networking to keep in touch with people I wouldn’t have time to otherwise. I’m a big home internet home user and I’m very open to talking to brands and looking for promotions. That said I’m not really the kind of person to voice my opinions online.

ASPIRERS

I’m looking to create a personal space online. I’m very new to the Internet and I’m accessing via mobile and internet cafes but mostly from home. I’m not doing a great deal at the moment online but I’m desperate to do more of everything, especially from a mobile device.

FUNCTIONALS

The internet is a functional tool, I don’t want to express myself online. I like emailing, checking the news, sport & weather but also online shopping. I’m really not interested in anything new (like social networking )and I am worried about data privacy and security. I am older and have been using the internet for a long time.

Which one are you?

I would love to hear your comments on which digital lifestyle most described you. Feel free to comment. Thank you

Calling out to those connecting to – and connected to – call centres

Posted on: October 20th, 2010 by admin-kablooey 1 Comment

“Call centres are the electronic assembly lines of the new economy” – Phil Jennings, Union Network International

The last few months have been a busy and exciting time for Tomorrow Training. We have been up to a lot of good things, which have been really fun and educational and so it is not always easy to decide what to talk about. But after some deliberation I have decided to talk about call centres, since they are such a prominent part of how we do business today.

Call centres became widely used in South Africa in the 1980s although one could argue they have their origins in the humble ‘telephone exchange’, which was used in South Africa even up until the 1960s. Their wide-spread use, globally, coincided with the quickly emergent Computer and IT industries, as companies needed to set up ‘support centres’ or ‘HelpDesks’ as they came to be known. These centres promptly came to be seen as useful in promoting efficiency for communication between the inside and outside of the business. To a large extent, they really have changed the face of how companies interact with their clients or customers (although the use of social media is now becoming increasingly popular in some sectors). Essentially the need for call centres rose out of massive and relatively fast population growth globally, increased competition, and a major increase in the volume of activity necessitating communication between big organisations and their clients. Simultaneously, conglomerates were being developed, multi-national corporations became more widespread and mergers, both national and international, took place.  So much so that in South Africa in the mid-1980s about 500 people were employed as call centre agents. However, it was in the 1990s that call centres really ‘took off’ in South Africa with companies like M-Net (later to become MultiChoice), Eskom, ABSA Bank, Standard Bank and First National Bank pioneering this sector.  Today there are about 150 000 people employed in call centres across South Africa (although the majority are in Gauteng); and this sector is currently one of the fastest growing economic sectors in South Africa, according to the Department of Trade and Industry. (more…)

Sir Ken Robinson – 30 minutes of inspiration about learning and the future of education

Posted on: May 24th, 2010 by Graeme Codrington 1 Comment

I am a huge fan of Sir Ken Robinson. He has spoken twice at the TED conferences – once in 2006, and again earlier this year. His two talks follow on from each other, as he talks so brilliantly about education and how we can help the next generation access their futures through creativity in education.

He is a remarkable speaker. I have embedded both videos below so you can watch them in sequence:

Right Brain people will be a-head in the future

Posted on: May 14th, 2010 by admin-kablooey 1 Comment

Ted.com is one of the best internet resources I’ve ever come across for short, powerful and interesting inputs on a broad cross-section of topics that loosely fall into the categories of Technology, Environment and Design (TED). Most inputs have a future focus, and one of the themes I’ve often picked up on has to do with what we’ll need, as human beings, to compete in the future. Interestingly it’s not going to be only each other we have to compete against, it’s also going to be technology.

This is not unprecedented either. Over the last 200 years or so, many countries around the world have seen their workforce move from Industrial type activity to Service orientated activity. One statistic I’ve seen has the US population moving from a 98% industrial type workforce (1820) to just 2.5% (2000). There’s no doubt that technology’s new focus is in the service industry, as computers and machines take over roles people have filled. Call centers, processing departments, flying planes, medicine, education, tourism (think GPS and augmented reality), etc, etc.

So how do we compete? What will we do when technology replaces us once again? The response of many is that it will never happen, but it has before, and there’s no reason to think it wont again.

Dan Pink is a contributor at TED.com. If you’ve seen him on TED then you’ll know his talk on re-thinking rewards and motivation. I was recently alerted to another short input of his on YouTube, via a friend on Twitter (@MJH1004)

In this input, ‘Education and the Changing World of Work, Pink suggests that left brain activity has dominated the way in which we’ve worked up until now. Of course, those of us with dominant left brain abilities have succeeded in this particular paradigm. Technology, however, is stepping into left brain spaces, leaving a massive need for right brain abilities (it will be all that’s left for us to do). It’s our right brain that is creative, sees opportunities where our left brain doesn’t. People with dominant right brains are the most valuable in this new world of work, suggests Pink.

Dan Pink isn’t the only one suggesting this. Another great TED input (my favourite) is by Sir Ken Robinson (recently released his book, The Element) talking about whether Schools Kill Creativity. He makes similar points.

Of course all the right brained people smile a little at this thought. They’re the ones who struggled at school and university. They’re the one’s who’ve battled to get ahead in traditional business models. They’ve been on the fringe for a long time. Labeled as outsiders, the weirdoes, the dreamers, the impractical, the nice-to-haves when you’re smoking a doobee, but the not-so-nice-to-haves when you’re trying to run the world. The idea of an about turn on who’s valuable into the future is an attractive fantasy for right brain dominated people. Let’s hope they dream less about that day, and instead work out how they’re going to capitalise on it : )

Here’s Dan Pink on Education and the Future World of Work.


Why Gen X parents are so painful

Posted on: February 16th, 2010 by admin-kablooey No Comments

Susan Gregory Thomas writes a great article, ‘Teachers Guide to Gen X Parents‘. Possibly the best description I’ve read as to how Gen X parents are experienced in a school context by educators and administrators, and then why they are as they are? To be honest, as a Gen X parent myself, I found myself very sheepish reading it. Having been fairly proud of my activity and involvement in my children’s school, I suddenly found myself being exposed with the possible truth behind all that ‘involvement’.

In preschool, we’re the ones anxiously arranging developmentally appropriate playdates for our Siouxsie-and-the-Banshees-T-shirt-clad three-year-olds. In kindergarten, we’re frantic that other parents’ children are starting to read cat and rat, while our Ruby and Dylan are still having trouble identifying lowercase letters. We think the gold-star system and its ilk are archaic and punitive, and we want to have a meeting to present our suggestions for alternative achievement systems.

By grade school, we’re demanding to know why the math program is not challenging enough for our child. We email our complaints about the seating chart. We openly deride the arts instruction and may rally other parents to the point of a coup d’état. By middle school, our kids have schedules and professional support staffs that resemble those of corporate lawyers. Look out, high school: We’re coming.

Thomas suggests the reason Xers as parents, are like they are, is because of their own school experience. Because we didn’t have, in our opinion, a great education experience, we’re determined not to let that happen to our own children. It’s not that we have any evidence that this is in fact what’s going on, we’re going to make sure there’s absolutely no chance it will.

We’ve been taking care of ourselves since we started going to school, and we don’t trust authority figures, because they weren’t trustworthy when we were growing up. Our parents didn’t know what was going on at school, and our teachers didn’t know what was going on at home. We’re not going to let this happen to our children — not even for a second. We’ll do whatever we have to do to make sure our kids get what they need.

One of those great articles worth reading. Be warned if you’re an Xer. It may knock you, as it did me, down a notch or two : )

A Sandpit to Entice

Posted on: October 28th, 2009 by Keith Coats 1 Comment

Just been part of a conversation that happens all too infrequently. You know, one of those conversations that leave you buzzing, unable to sleep or concentrate on the ‘next thing to be done’. A conversation that ‘gets the juices going’ – a conversation in which you suspect the seeds of greatness sit; A conversation in which you see and sense the future. Around the table sat a person with years of experience of managing the Comrades Marathon, an Everest of event management if ever there was one. The other place at the table was taken by one of the most respected Educators in South Africa, a man who has presided over some of the best that SA schools have to offer. The subject? The need to rethink…to seriously rethink, how we go about leadership education.

The current models of leadership education are tired; they are not doing the job. There is lots of effort and endeavor but nothing much is changing. Imagination has given way to efficiency; conversation given way to curriculum; thinking given way to planning. Something is wrong but leadership education is big business and we all know that rethinking current ‘successful’ business models is not something we like to do.

This conversation will see other voices drawn into the mix. It will see a leadership ‘sandbox’ being build and just wait and watch what emerges from such a playground! The genie is out the lamp…it is going to be magic!