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Leadership in Covid19 – Obstacles

In my previous posts, I raised the crucial role leaders play in times of crisis to manage the mental state people are in, and lead them through these difficulties (Post 1). I also discussed the importance for leaders to “CHOP the FEAR’ of uncertainty and non-clarity through constant communication to staff and stakeholders (Post 2).

In this post, I’d like to touch on how can leaders get their business out of the maze of obstacles created by the Covid19 crisis.

The global shutdown and lock-down impacted the economic situation of many corporates, organisations and government entities. This will influence the financial stability of individuals as well as companies.  What can we, as leaders, do to overcome the obstacles and turn them into stepping stones for growing the business?

I have learnt that the way we view things is how we do things. When people played the Tetris game for hours and then went and looked at the world, they viewed the world differently, impacted by the way the game forces your mind to match different shaped tiles together. We can also change our thoughts pattern to view things differently. (Starting, for example, by changing “this is impossible’ to ‘how can we make it possible’).

Thinking creatively, may be easier said than done, especially when our mind is in stress and constant worries due to cash flows, employees ’salaries etc.

Some tips to use different methods to change the way we think about the problem:

  1. Talking to people (not only from our industry), the more diverse, better opportunity to ‘think out of the box’. Staying away from our ‘box of network’ and reach out, even to distant acquaintances.
  2. Asking questions, using our inquisitive minds; ‘what good can come out of it’? How can we turn this obstacle into opportunity? “What a brilliant opportunity is disguised in this impossible obstacle?
  3. Crisis moves us; does it move us backwards or forwards? Asking different questions in different ways and discussing them also with our employees and stakeholders may create a breakthrough in our thinking of the situation.

ORT SA, is an educational NGO and part of a global network ORT, we have had long impact on people’s lives through education, since ORT was established in 1880. We have been asking many questions since the Covid19 crisis, as it impacted the schools, the youth and businesses we are working with. One of the question we still ponder about is; “How has this crisis and its’ emergency response to COVID-19 will impact the future of education and re-imagining of schooling?” This question keeps moving us forward to redesign our programmes and our offering to move remotely so to ensure we can reach each of our beneficiaries wherever they are. We have the opportunity now to draw the picture of education of the future, narrowing the gap with the less privileged communities, while doing so. It is not Impossible until it is possible.

Education Crisis Post Covid19

There is no question that the toll of Covid19 and the lock down on the economy, education, and nearly every industry has been heavy. Time will tell how badly.  

While our rights for freedom and education has been jeopardized, it was done to ensure that our rights to health and life are intact. Therefore, we should leave the guidance on the next step of restrictions to the health experts. Those experts have gained their expertise after years of observations, studies, and experience with the ability to analyse the situation better than any of us can. It should be done in a transparent manner, taking into consideration economic and educational needs.

This is why I find it disturbing that experts in the field of education are pointing fingers criticizing decisions made and producing their own guidelines of when and how we should open schools, for example. Rather let’s spend this time finding collaborative solutions for bridging the gap of knowledge and regression in skills due to the absence of schooling in the past two months. If anything, this pandemic emphasised the importance of traditional schooling, especially in disadvantage and poor communities that have no access and infrastructure to enable remote learning. Let’s use our expertise in education and leverage this challenging period and the time we have to work together to find a solution for the benefit of our children.

Oscar Wilde said, “I am not young enough to know everything…” Answers are not found with the young nor with the old but many times they are the product of brain power coming together

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Education in times of crisis

(Insight from Webinar http://www.ort.mx organised by ORT University Mexico)

One of the things that Covid19 brought with (together with worldwide chaos and uncertainty) is the understanding, that this is a crisis, in its full definition; the virus targets human lives, is unexpected, it creates uncertainties and poses a threat to human existence.

Another interesting phenomena is happening, almost parallel to the spread of the virus; the break through of usage of virtual platforms such as Zoom, MS Teams, Google Hangouts and YouTube streaming. Many of the online webinars and forums are dealing with the crisis in various ways, from the psychological to professional and economic impacts.

One of the most interesting virtual webinar I attended, recently, was organised by the University of ORT Mexico and World ORT, discussing ‘education in times of crisis’. What I found enlightening in the discussion by top professors in the field of education, is the forward thinking and ‘out of the box’ ideas that were shared with almost 500 participants from all over the world.

Ms. Mariana Ludmila Cortés who is the former Vice-president for development of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), where she traveled to over 40 countries developing and implementing large scale education projects for disadvantaged children, claimed that there is a crisis in education worldwide, regardless of Covid19. According to World Bank (2018), globally, 6 out of 10 children and youth are not meeting proficiency levels in reading and mathematics despite of completing years of schooling in the developing world. The Learning crisis calls us to be specific with the terms we are using while trying to tackle the problem. Learning vs Teaching ; Education vs Schooling. She suggested that we need to change HOW we deliver education and urged people to take charge of their own learning.

Prof. Sidney Strauss Director of Research at Ammachilabs, professor at Amrita University and former Professor of Education has vast years of research in education. He shared the finding, that children are able to teach each other (from as early as one year old). Teaching is natural to human beings. He claims that evidence in caves of our ancestors shows that, already at the times when human were making stone tools, they had managed to transfer the knowledge.
If this is the case, what are the implications on education? we need to rethink of schools and the roles they play. We need to find ways to harness this natural ability of people to teach and for children to teach each other.

Prof. Moisés Salinas Fleitman Rector of the ORT University Mexico, examined the roles of education in times of crisis. In addition to the obvious roles of being a source of reassurance , reducing stress and ensuring delivery of practical and psychological tools to confront the crisis, he added that the crisis could be seen as an opportunity for innovation. Crisis has a disruptive manner and it could be a tool for us to switch from threat to opportunity for innovation in education.

I do believe that, we now have an opportunity to analyse the disruption in a creative and collaborative manner. We could learn from different industries and how they have been adjusting to the changes (such as communicating and expanding stakeholders networks through virtual platforms). We also have to be mindful about those communities that do not have the privilege of technology and accessibility to connectivity.

Screenshot of the ORT.MX Webcast April 2020

WHAT IF OUR ANCESTORS WERE INVITED TO A TECH SHOW?

If we were to organise an exhibition of current technologies and invite our ancestors and descendants from the past to attend, what would their reaction be?

Our forefathers walked in the desert for 40 years to reach their desired destination. Imagine! After all the suffering, starving and struggling in the harsh climate and tough terrain to find out that with ‘flying technologies’ they could have made the journey within an hour! Moreover, with global positioning satellite (GPS) technology, it would have been so much easier to navigate their way. And oh! How crazy they’d think we are, counting our steps, with IoT devices, and sending information to a ‘cloud’…not to ask for direction from G-d but to…monitor our health!

Imagine Florence Nightingale, known for founding the modern discipline of nursing, and a key figure in introducing new professional training standards for nursing, visiting a robot display to reveal moving machines replacing the service of human care. Japan’s aging population (30% of its population is older than 65), faces a crisis of a shortage of human resource in eldercare. To resolve this predicament, robots have been placed in nursing homes. Robots that move, cry and cuddle are replacing the human work force, from lifting people from bed to entertaining them, with much success. The elderly absolutely love them!

All those involved in getting our internet to where it is today! Who would have imagined that with all the impact of the internet on our culture, commerce, communication and technology that it will also generate the biggest crime, globally? According to the latest information, cybercrime will cost the world more than six trillion dollars annually by 2021. It will be more profitable than the combined global trade of all illegal drugs!

However, if we had Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein entering some of the current classrooms, they’d most probably see no difference from their own classroom, a hundred or more years ago. They will also notice that not much has changed with teaching and assessments, using a curriculum that is mostly outdated with techniques and pedagogies that prepared children for the industrial jobs of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Companies invest in enormous amounts of research to explore the use and impact of new technologies in the global economy (McKinsey, World Economic Forum and so many other papers and reports have been published on the topic.) But what about education? Isn’t it time that we explore transforming education to keep up with the pace of change and to prepare our future generation for their world of work?

We now know more than we knew in the past on how children learn and we know that new technologies are transforming jobs as we know them. But we continue to skill our children for jobs that soon will vanish.

It is time that industries, corporates, government and educationalists work together to transform education through updated policies, curriculum and implementation of technologies as tools to assist with the digital transformation. It is time that we start implementing the use of technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science and IoT in emulating successful methodologies and incorporating them in our classrooms.

The return on our investment will be higher than any business will ever generate. And who knows, the fruits of these investments may be showcased one day in an exhibition featuring future technologies produced by our own future generation.

Written by Ariellah Rosenberg, CEO ORT SA

@Ariellah @ORT_SA

Education for the future

The below article was published online on World ORT and Biz-community Websites

Education has to change and adapt to tomorrow’s world. What should we study for the future workplace?

By Ariellah Rosenberg, Chief Executive Officer, ORT South Africa

You wake up in the morning anticipating your bowl of cereal to fuel you for the rest of the day, but find an empty carton of milk. It’s a scenario that may be familiar to many of us. You reach for your phone and after a few clicks 10 minutes later you get a two-litre carton of milk delivered to your door by a flying robot.

This is not the preface of a science fiction book – it is becoming a reality in many places in the world. In Finland, a special pilot project has been launched in Helsinki that intends to have drones deliver goods and packages of up to 1.5kg within a distance of up to 10km.

Thousands of years ago we would be approaching prophets and asking them to look into the future to help us paint the picture of the significance of all these changes. The technology pace is so fast that it is difficult to predict how the changes will impact our lives, but mostly how they will impact our livelihood and how best we need to be equipped for jobs that not only don’t yet exist, but that we perhaps cannot even imagine.

When ORT was established in 1880, in the midst of the second industrial revolution, the invention of electricity brought about many changes in the way people lived. When electric power expanded into mass production it also changed the work environment. These changes have had implications for the workforce skills, and ORT’s mission of teaching people skills was significant in helping them adapt to the world of work by providing artisanship and vocational skills training.

Now, 139 years later and with operations in more than 30 countries, ORT faces similar challenges.

In the light of the so called fourth industrial revolution there is the understanding that we have to continuously examine the curriculum, pedagogies and methodologies offered by schools, colleges and universities to adopt and prepare this generation for the future workplace.

In the 1990s the internet transformed all industries through communication, commerce and sharing of information. A few years later, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and automation (robotics) are fast and furious and require us to adapt or be left behind.

Technology is changing the world of work in the way we process information, the way we communicate and the way we share information. There are pros and cons to those changes, but unarguably, it makes our lives easier, cheaper and much more productive.

Digital technologies allow the encoding of analog information into zeros and ones so that computers can store, process and transfer this information. According to The Future of Professions by Richard Susskind, in 2010 only 20 per cent of the world’s information was stored digitally. Today it is 98per cent! And with the shift from print-based information to internet-based information, it further facilitated the creation, access and spread of knowledge. 

The ubiquitous access to professionals and to professional guidance is increasing and provides ample opportunities for both businesses and professionals.

Automation generates anxiety and fear of the society of robots replacing human labor. According to The changing nature of work, a World Development report published by the World Bank Group in 2019, technological progress leads to the direct creation of jobs in the technology sector. Robots are and will be replacing workers, but it is far from clear to what extent. Interestingly, technological change that replaces routine work is estimated to have created more than 23 million jobs across Europe from 1999 to 2016, according to the report.

Technologies bring promise but also possess threats and we need to learn how to maximise the promises that the technologies bring – and minimise the perils of the changes to come.

Alec Ross, author of the Industries of the Future explains that the change driven by digitisation creates efficiencies but everything that we do digitally creates security problems. He calls it the “weaponisation of code”, the most significant development since the missile weaponisation and identifies cyber security know-how as a talent that needs to be developed.

This is why education has to change and adapt to tomorrow’s world. What should our current generation study for the future workplace?

McKinsey’s May 2018 report The Skill Shift Automation and the Future of Workforce indicates skills that will be on the rise and skills that will be shrinking. Physical and manual skills as well as basic cognitive skills will be in less demand, whereas higher cognitive skills, social and emotional skills and technological skills will be high in demand for future jobs.

Therefore, in the same way that any learning curriculum includes reading and writing, so too the basics of computer science have to be incorporated. Coding is becoming the alphabet of how the future will be written.

In a world of zeros and ones where software makes robots so powerful, it is important to ensure we also include emotional intelligence and humanitarianism in the curriculum to create more resilient people. Empowering our youth to not only compete in the world of tomorrow but to become the future leaders.

So here we are, back at home, waking up and ready for our breakfast cereal. But this time the drone delivers the milk before we even open our eyes. Because, hey, IoT (Internet of Things) and Artificial Intelligence already know you are out of milk!

Follow Ariellah Rosenberg on Twitter

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Do we still need schools?

ORT, one of the most respectable educational NGO’s in the world, held discussions questioning the role of schools and the need for change in order to keep up with trends and the needs of new generations. ORT, which started in 1880, is a global network of schools, academies and operations in nearly 40 countries. The question of the role of schools in light of technological and economic changes is relevant to the sustainability of this organisation more than ever.

Schools are more than mortar and bricks

When debated, the issue of the role of schools and if we still need them in their current form, opinions were mixed and some even emotional. Professor Sidney Strauss (80) recalled his junior teachers’ names and characters. Geoff, ORT Director in North America could list his teachers from grade 1 to grade 6. Teachers have the potential to leave eternal marks in our heart. I believe that technology will never be able to replace that.

When visiting an ORT school in Argentina and ORT University in Uruguay, I have observed that committed and passionate teachers and lecturers can create an incredible and nurturing environment of learning and growing for children.

Schools for developing minds not ‘stuffing minds’

An excellent curriculum combining project / problem -based learning will ensure that we equip learners with the skills and knowledge needed for future jobs. The curriculum delivery needs to embed current pedagogical approaches, such as deep learning and peer-learning and where possible, adjusts to society’s needs. For example, in ORT Argentina, Grade 10 learners select between 10 streams. The newest addition is the Humanities and Social Research stream where kids do actual market research, analyse the data and with the use of social media, present their findings. Understanding the needs of new generations, the requirements of future jobs and the market are crucial in designing a curriculum that is practical and relevant.

Partnerships are key in achieving success in education

The responsibility for educated and equipped future generations lies in the hands of different stakeholders. It cannot rely only on schools, teachers and parents. The efforts must be a combination of government, corporates, teachers and parents. In fact, having an umbrella body such as World ORT contributes tremendously to these efforts by being the catalyst, the match maker and sometimes the ‘glue’ that holds everything together.

It must be clear what the problem is that we want technology to solve

Miguel, who heads the agency for innovation in education in Uruguay, has provided some insight into embedding technologies together with changes in pedagogies. His advice is to first focus on the problem we need to solve, then use technology to solve it as an accelerator for better pedagogies. In short, Technologies are the accelerator of new pedagogies.

In conclusion, technology was, is and will always be, the tool or the device through which new pedagogies or approaches in education are implemented. The schools may not be brick and mortar, they may be virtual, online or in the cloud but should never lose the human interaction, the coaching, mentoring and facilitation provided by teachers and learners.

Below is a slide show from ORT Argentina, demonstrating the interaction and practical experience students gained during their studies:

Women’s achievements

My thinking about women’s achievements  in society…

Considering the advancement of human being on this earth, one is in awe of what we have achieved. We have found ways to defeat hunger, disease and pandemics and even strive for immortality. According to Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, in his book Homo Deus, the source of human power is continued growth and subsequent technological improvements.

When thinking of innovators who have contributed to technological advancement and innovations, who comes to mind first? Thomas Edison, Bill Gates? How about Marie Curie who won the Noble Prize twice for the work she did on radioactivity? How about our own Joan Joffe, known as the first lady of ICT in South Africa?

For decades, women were denied education and opportunities to be able to achieve as much as their male counterparts and in some countries we still need to fight for the rights of women to education and employment.

Over the past years, more and more women are contributing massively to economic and entrepreneurship innovation. But do we hear about them?

The book Innovating Women by Vivek Wadhwa and Farai Chideya, asks this question and provides examples of tech women we rarely hear about. Such is the case with Kay Koplowitz who founded the USA Network. She developed the novel idea of using satellite for commercial use and brought sport to cable television; she is also the first woman to serve as a network president in television history.

The book also makes references to research which shows that businesses run by women tend to be highly successful and consistently out-perform their male-owned counterparts. A study by American Express found that among businesses with revenue greater than $10 million, women-owned business experienced a 47% higher rate of growth. Between 2002 and 2012 female-owned business grew 28.6% compared to 24.4% owned by men, putting women-led companies in the lead.

The book notes that despite the success shown above, businesses led by women often struggle to get funding. The Centre for Business Women Research discovered that a significant reason for this can be directly tied to gender bias.

Social change enables more women to innovate, make a difference and impact our environment. More work is needed to be done if we, as a society, are to maintain our power and continue growing to ensure women have their rightful place to contribute but also to be acknowledged.

And this has to start early, by promoting STEM education for girls from an early age as well as ensuring that the workplace gets rid of gender discrepancies and adopts policies that empower women.

Just as we managed to defeat some biases and diseases and dominate earth with our advancement, so it is our obligation to fight gender biases and discrepancies and create space for women in STEM careers, innovation and entrepreneurship.