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Using Kolb's experiential learning cycle to assess a creative workshop I gave in 2012 as part of the long gone, though brilliant module 'Creativity, Innovation and Change'

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 09:17

 

Fig. 1. Kolb’s ‘Experiential Learning Cycle’ reversioned.

I did something …

This is my take on Kolb’s ‘Experiential Learning Cycle’ which I will use to explore what I ‘did’. I ran a creative problem solving workshop. The motivation for attendees was to pick up some creative problem solving techniques, to solve a problem we had with using social media and to do some team building. The objective for me was to crack this problem and to introduce a more creative and collaborative approach to problem solving.

Fig. 2. Coach to Olympians running a workshop - part class, part ‘pool side’

I couldn’t help but draw on experience as a Club Swimming Coach planning programmes of swimming for a squad swimmers and as the ‘workforce development’ running training programmes for our club’s teachers and coaches. Planning and preparation when you are putting athletes in the pool several times a week over months is vital. On a smaller scale this workshop required a schedule, to the minute, with some contingency, allowing you to build in flexibility for both content and timings.

 

Fig. 3. Planned to the minute - my creative problem solving workshop

The plan was for five to six creative problem solving techniques to be used, top and tailed by, using terms from swimming, a ‘warm up’ and a ‘warm down’. The modus operandi of the Residential School had been to introduce, experience and play with as many creative problem solving techniques as possible.

Fig. 4. As a prop, food and aid memoir a bunch of bananas has multiple uses

‘Bunch of Bananas’ is a creative problem solving technique that suggests that you include in the group a ‘plant’ - a person over whom other’s will slip, like the proverbial banana. My take on this was to introduce two outsiders - a Russian academic who would bring a different take on things and the a mathematician and senior programmer.

Fig. 5. ‘Mother-in-law, Samurai, Tiger’ is a great warm up.

We did a warm up called  ‘Mother-in-law, Samurai, Tiger’. This is the team equivalent of ‘Paper, Scissors, Stone’ where two teams face each other and on the count of three, having agreed what their response would as a team, they either 'Tut-tut’ and wag their finger like a mother-in-law, 'growl' and get their claws out like a Tiger, or shout 'ha!' while posing like a Samurai warrior brandishing his sword. This is the ‘warm down’ to stick with the swimming coaching metaphor was to have participants get into the ‘streamlined’ position that swimmers adopt - essentially a stretching exercise.

Fig. 6. Human Sculpture and Timeline are useful ways to have people look at and feel a problem in a different way and from a different angle.

In between we did a mixture of physical and mental activities, including Human Sculpture where one person becomes the sculptor and uses everyone else to form a tableau or sculpture that expresses their talk on the problem. Another was timeline where you imagine looking at the problem from the perspective of the past and future.

Now, stand back  …

Standing back I’d say that running a workshop for colleagues has advantages and disadvantages. How would a director or line manager feel about their views being exposed like this. On the other hand if well managed it becomes a team building exercise too.

The challenge is to know what risks to take and how to build in flexibility, not just in timing, but in the kind of activities. This requires that despite the plan you are alert to signals that suggest an activity should be developed or dropped. Workshops and seminars I take have a common element - there is ‘hands on’ activity.The goal is that at the end of the session people feel confident that they could do these things themselves. I’m less comfortable about teaching where the communication is one way - me talking and them taking notes. I value encouraging self-discover and people being on their feet, interacting and having fun.

The workshop was experiential

It was collaborative and iterative, it was problem-based learning that used communication skills.

How did you feel about that ?  

Fig. 7. How we like to be ‘in the flow’ rather either bored or stressed from being too challenged. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1975) Mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level.

I felt ‘in the flow’ for most of the time, suitably challenged and never bored. Though anxious and surprised when a colleague gave me a drubbing the day after feeling that they had been tricked into attending. This came as a surprise, the other surprise was how away from their desk and computers the apparently introverted could become so animated and responsive.

I felt like a party planner. I was hosting an event. The atmosphere of controlled enthusiasm would be down to me. I would be, to use a French expression, the ‘animateur’ or ‘realisateur’ - the one who would make this happen and bring it to life.

Fig. 8. For all the playful activities, we are still reliant on Post It Notes and flip charts

Now what ?

On this occasion we delivered a couple of distinct responses to the problem. People reflected on the experienced and felt it was both enjoyable and of practical value. The request was not that others would host such an exercise, but that I would do more. I was subsequently booked to run a few more workshops on specific topics with different groups in the faculty. The question that we couldn’t resolve was whether were  a ‘creative organisation’ ? My own conclusion being that we quite palpably were not.

REFERENCE

Ackoff, R.L. (1979) The Art of Problem-Solving, New York: Wiley

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1975). Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-87589-261-2

Experiential learning theory. (Available from http://www2.glos.ac.uk/gdn/gibbs/ch2.htm. Accessed 22FEB14)

Gundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, 2nd ed, Van Norstrand Reinhold. Te hniques 4.01, 4.06, 4.57

Henry, J and the course team (2006, 2010) 'Creativity, Cognition and Development" Book 1 B822 Creativity, Innovation and Change.

Henry, J (2010) ‘Set Breakers’ Henry (P. 96)

Kolb, D.A. 1984 Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

McCaskey, M.B. (1988) ‘The challenge of managing ambiguity’, in Pondy, L.R, Boland, R.J and Thomas, H (eds) Managing Ambiguity and Change, new York, pp 2-11

Henry, J & Martin J (2010) Book 2 Managing Problems Creatively

Schon, A.A. (1983) The Reflective Practioner: How Professionals think in Action, London: Temple Smith

Tassoul, M, & Buijs, J ( 2007, )'Clustering: An Essential Step from Diverging to Converging', Creativity & Innovation Management, 16, 1, pp. 16-26, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 22 February 2014.

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H818 Activity 1.1 Reflection on how collaboration works and fails

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 4 Dec 2014, 07:47

Collaboration amongst strangers is a tricky one. I've seen it work and I've seen it fail.

either

1) It requires scaffolding in the form of rules, or guidelines, mentor or leaders, and incintives in the form of punishments and rewards i.e. the risk of failure as well as recognition and some kind of reward (which might be a qualification, a monetary award, or part of a completed artefact, or pleasure of participation).

2) It requires people with an obsessive common interest; I don't believe having a common interest is enough. There needs to be an obsession, which means that the level of expertise can be mixed, indeed, thinking of the John Seely Brown concept of 'learning from the periphery' this might be best as invariably the natural human response IS to support those on the edge. The classic example is the young and eager student or junior employee keen to learn from his or her elders.

My concern with the role of collaboration in a module on e-learning is that the above don't fully apply. We are not GCSE or A'Level students. Most are MA ODE students who need this towards their MA, but I'll stick my head out and say the pass mark is, in my opinion, too low. I believe that it matters to be paying for it out of your own pocket or to have a commercil sponor expecting results. I know that some working for the OU do these modules almost on a whim because they are free and they do the minimum to pass - I've seen this on various courses,  seen it myself and have had it corroberated by other students. Anyone who is along for the ride in a module that relieson collaboration is a weak link - of course plenty of OU people do take seriously, but some don't and no line manger is looking over thre shoulder. At Carnegi Melon they ran an MA course where students gave each other, on a rolling basis, a mark for collaboration - those with the lowest mark risked failing that module. In fairness some people are not born collaborators, whereas others go out of their way to be a participant, potenially at the expensive of other parts of their studies.

To my tutor group I've posted too long a piece on a collaborative exercise I have been doing on and off for the best part of twenty years - I'm researching and writing my grandfather's memoir from the First World War. The Internet has exposed me (in a good way) to several sleuths.

I can however give an example of the learning design MOOC earlier this year that whilst having a good deal of scaffolding and human support relied on strangers each coming up with project ideas then joining forces to complete one. In a rush of activity, with some big name e-learning folk and too much formal theorizing, reading and activities to groups formed. I had no takers and joined a group of three that became five, but very quickythis became two of us ... we gamefully pressed on but at some stage felt we were missing out on the real action so eventualy pulled out as active participants.

Then there is a two week exercise in a subgroup of an MA ODE module where circumstances brought a magic bunch of strangers together - this has proved to be the exception rather than the rule.

Amateur dramatics, even volunteer cricket, to take a couple of examples, work because the show is the collective reward. We have bonfire societies here in Lewes that rely on volunteers too - though the complaint will be that it is always the same handful of people who do everything. In a work or academic setting should everyone be rewarded and recognised in the same way? It depends very much on a group dynamic or bond, a common sentiment that comes from working together in the flesh.

I believe that the First World War, now that I am an active member of a society and studying it on a formal course, is largelly of the type 2 participant. We are 'trainsporters' in that nerdy, glazed eye way - with specialists who know everything about uniforms, or tunnelling, or submarines, or dental decay on the Western Front, or a particular general, or like me - a grandfather, or greatgrandfather who was a combatant.

My worry about e-learning as a collaborative arena is that it is the process, so we are a cookery or gardening club. However, there is significant variation in each of these - vegetarian cooks, cupcake bake off specialists and Heston Blomenfal wannabes - amongst the gardens their are PhD research students growing dwark barley and weekenders who've keep an allotment. Whilst we have interst and the module to sustain us, only in a conort of 1000 or more would for some, there be enough likeminds to form a team.

I'm off to the School of Communication Arts in London. It operates from a workshop like open studio. Students are put into pairs to work. There is collaboration here between an art director (visualiser) and copywriter (words). Whether students are forever looking each other's shoulders when they are working on a competitive brief is another matter. I've noticed how one creative brief given to the whole studio has now become three. What is more, the 'collaboration' as such, comes from a couple ofcfull time tutors, principal and then a 'mentors' who go in as a sounding board cum catalyst cum different voice or perspective. What these people are doing is 'creative problem solving'.

Why, historically, does one band stay together while another falls apart? Collaboration is a tricky business - and maybe only in a business setting between employer and employee, or between contractor and client can it be sustained?

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Worked with day dreams

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Day dreams are easier - you wake up and you have the energy and time to write it down. All the papers I am reading I send to the iPad. I got reading, then gently closed the iPad and slept. I filed and sorted papers in the dream. If this sounds like a nightmare then I should add that they were each like a highly starched duvet. The 'clarity' came later walking the dog. Doing something else and working with dreams are valid techniques by the way.
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My first ever OU exam in 2 hours

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 5 May 2012, 06:50

VanbeckclimbSNIP1.jpg

My first and only ever exam too as 'normal' MAODE modules don't require them relying instead on asignments.

I wish I was this keyed up before tackling an assignment, that feeling that I can now sit down and write actively, with a smile on my face, for three hours.

A lesson I may take forward, putting far more into the preparation of an essay so that I write fluidly rather than assembling stuff.

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How to define a 'wicked' problem?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 24 Feb 2014, 15:12

'I could use a colourful swimming costume'.

This pegs the following ideas:

Interconnectness
Complicatedness
Uncertainty
Ambiguity
Conflict
Societal Constraints

And recalling the authors Mason & Mitroff (1981)

However, I need to visualise this. Perhaps the actor James Mason (in his Nabakov role of Herbert Herbert from 'Lolita') with a Russian girl called 'Olga Mitroff'. Everyone around them are wearing colourful Versace swimming costumes whereas their's are plain black. She is black and young, suggesting the 'complexity' required here and they are standing on the end of a springboard, like walking the plank, and holding hands to give me 'conflict' and 'connectedness' even disaproval from those around them and so 'societal constraints'. All I need to do now is peg this further with an orange flavoured fruit Polo. And then be able to add a couple of relevant sentences to each. Assuming there is a question from which this 'mind dump' can provide some detail.

Why does this all matter?

I've been learning in B822 how to apply a variety of creative problem solving techniques to business problems; both the theory and practice says the the problem you are dealing with has to indicate all the above to warrant a creative problem solving approach.


Beyond the exam I can and will apply this to what I do which has in the past been solving communications problems using creativity in the execution of ideas.

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Creative Problem Solving B822

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 21 Feb 2014, 17:46

I stumbled upon this. It is timely for anyone faced with an exam on 24th April for B822 'Creativity, Innovation and Change', so much so I am going to transcribe this, analyse and learn its lessons as going through old exam papers this short video, in a fun and engaging way, answers to questions precisely.

This is why I chose to study B822 as an elective within the Masters in Open & Distance Education.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFYLeT9q8tk

 

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Creative Problem Solving Database

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Problem Solving Techniques Database
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B822 TMA2 Creative Problem Solving

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 19 Apr 2012, 13:18

Today’s Creative Problem Solving workshop went well.

Why?

DSC02998.JPG

I planned, but didn’t over plan. I kept it simple, doing a combination of what I know, what I’ve done or had done to me, with an intuitive inclination to two straightforward exercises that I stumbled upon in the B822 Techniques Library: ‘Advantages, Limits and Unique Qualities’ is the first exercise in the book. This sounded like my people, something they’d be familiar with. That they could do. I had it down as an opening exercise, then rejigged it to the end of the cession to assess our plan of action. Then there was Help/Hinder, I’m glad to say a ‘pure OUBS’ exercise as if was devised by Jane Henry and John Martin in 1997 for the Creative Problem-solving Guide.

DSC02975.JPG

It helps that

a) I am a professional (though part time) swimming coach.

b) As a director, often working with members of the public of client members of staff, I can give clear direction and put people at their ease

It matters enormously when you stand up in front of 10, 20 sometimes 60 young athletes that you know, to the minute what you want to do (and know why it has to be done). It matters to your assistant coaches too. This isn’t so different. I will be on my feet for 90 minutes (a senior squad group runs 2 hours, the junior swimmers an hour). A handwritten plan might suffice, often put into a day per page diary. This gets written up on a large whiteboard poolside. With swimmers this is very much for them to see bit by bit what is expected of them, but it also provides for the stressed-out coach with a million things on their mind with an immediate aide memoire. Swimmers perform to the second. At the top level we expect them to swim within the tinniest of tolerances, hitting during training a specific, personal time of Personal Best (PB) + a number of seconds. The expert amongst them do it.

I digress.

This was a different kind of class entirely. Adult swimmers, I could say. Not a group of unknowns though, with strangers I may have thrown them in a the deep end, but I knew with my colleagues that resting their legs in the water, a Jacuzzi perhaps or floating around in the shallow end would be enough. I was right, finger-painting, super-hero role play, or hypnosis would have been the equivalent of Mr Bean on the High Diving Board.

It would be egalitarian, whatever their position (we had directors, managers and officers). In this respect, I would have to take it carefully, advancing them into exercises and responding as they do. In practice each planned exercise came off and with care I kept people engaged in what I wanted them to do, even where I sensed they were feeling a little uncomfortable.

Laughter in the warm-up exercise helped.

WARM UP

It felt appropriate as someone they know to be a swimming coach to do a short ‘poolside’ swimming related practical. My initial thought had been ‘hot potato’ a version of what we did at Residential School and I see trotted out all the time, the throw the ball, say your name add an adjective pass it on. Exactly what I do with young swimmers as they join a squad for the first time and will soon be competing together. In this case, with one exception everyone knew each other very well. To begin to form a bond between strangers yes.

To teach sculling I get swimmers to place their hands on their face, look at the shape of their hands, then describe ‘infinity’ elbows in hands in front of them. They did a bit of this and I added floating off the bottom of the pool, making whirlpools and polishing a bald man’s head.

We did Samurai Mother-in-law, Tiger in a Tutorial. I felt a quick team go of Paper, Scissors, Stone would be a valuable intermediary step. I can see now that I have this set of steps I want them to take with me, and that I have to be the judge of how to place the ‘stones’. Here I am still looking for an easy buy in.

Team Game : Paper Scissors Stone

Two goes at this and we were ready for the next one.

Team Game : Samurai Mother-in-law, Tiger

The first of these drew laughter, the second fits of giggles. I don’t know what the scores were and didn’t want to start thinking about doing it often enough to find a winning team so swiftly moved on.

(More to follow once I have extracted the confidential or the controversial)

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When is a problem 'wicked' as opposed to 'tame' ?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 5 May 2014, 06:30

 

Fig 1. Creativity Problem Solving Precepts

Mindmap 7 From the OU MBA Module 'Creativity, Innovation & Change' (B822)

Discussed in Jonathan Vernon's Blog 'My Mind Bursts'

The term was coined in the late 1960s by someone born in 1919, (Ackoff) it isn't contemporary street speak, or even in Norman Mailer's words 'Beatnik'; rather, in this manifestation of the word it is the opposite of 'tame'.

(Ackoff might be 'messy problems' while I mean Rittell here)

Put it this way, a tame problem can be contained and tamed, like a lion in a cage.

  • Chess is a tame problem. Science problems are tame too.
  • But in the social sciences most issues are complex, hard to fix, shifting, and a lot of bother as they appear impossible to resolve and whatever you try impacts on the problem.

Like trying to catch water in a sieve?

  • It is vital for me to understand that a problem is 'wicked' before I try to tackle the thing with a creative problem solving technique. Not meaning to be flippant, but I don't figure out a chess move by finger painting - though a mind-map or brainstorming might help?
  • Or not?
  • I am hopeless at chess because it doesn't respond to my intuitive approach to everything.

Is the problem 'messy'?

  • Probably, if it requires finger painting, even Flipcharts and PostIt Notes.

Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber

Rittel and Webber's (1973) formulation of wicked problems specifies ten characteristics, perhaps best considered in the context of social policy planning.

According to Ritchey (2007) the ten characteristics are:

  • There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem (defining wicked problems is itself a wicked problem).
  • Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
  • Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but better or worse.
  • There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem.
  • Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one-shot operation"; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error, every attempt counts significantly.
  • Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan.
  • Every wicked problem is essentially unique.
  • Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem.
  • The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem's resolution.
  • The planner has no right to be wrong (planners are liable for the consequences of the actions they generate).
  1. The solution depends on how the problem is framed and vice-versa (i.e. the problem definition depends on the solution)
  2. Stakeholders have radically different world views and different frames for understanding the problem.
  3. The constraints that the problem is subject to and the resources needed to solve it change over time.
  4. The problem is never solved definitively

ABOVE FROM WIKIPEDIA 9FEB12 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem

Messes and social messes

Russell L. Ackoff wrote about complex problems as messes: "Every problem interacts with other problems and is therefore part of a set of interrelated problems, a system of problems…. I choose to call such a system a mess." [19]

Extending Ackoff, Robert Horn says that "a Social Mess is a set of interrelated problems and other messes. Complexity—systems of systems—is among the factors that makes Social Messes so resistant to analysis and, more importantly, to resolution."

According to Horn, the defining characteristics of a social mess are:

Ackoff, Russell, "Systems, Messes, and Interactive Planning" Portions of Chapters I and 2 of Redesigning the Future. New York/London: Wiley, 1974.

  1. No unique “correct” view of the problem;
  2. Different views of the problem and contradictory solutions;
  3. Most problems are connected to other problems;
  4. Data are often uncertain or missing;
  5. Multiple value conflicts;
  6. Ideological and cultural constraints;
  7. Political constraints;
  8. Economic constraints;
  9. Often a-logical or illogical or multi-valued thinking;
  10. Numerous possible intervention points;
  11. Consequences difficult to imagine;
  12. Considerable uncertainty, ambiguity;
  13. Great resistance to change; and,
  14. Problem solver(s) out of contact with the problems and potential solutions.

 

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Creative Problem Solving : Role Storming

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 19 Aug 2012, 21:39

IMG_0902.JPG

Griggs (1985) idea generation as someone else.

Easier to be silly in character (see Superheroes)

1) start with conventional brainstorming to sift ideas.

2) individual or joint role play to develop it further.

Our subgroup we busy having a go with finger paints while our fellow participants went off with balloons and masks. One of this number then spent much of the afternoon, even after the session, with two balloons stuffed up the front of his jumper. (We're an all male group).

The night before someone had played another participant's wife in a 'Human Sculpture'. You get used to the idea of this, yet another person had been 'The Army, or MOD' while yet another had been an 'ego' as distinct from the person.

This is the point of role play. Feels very Ibsenesque. Or Brecht. Theatre of the absurd.

REFERENCE

Griggs, R.E. (1985) 'A Storm of Ideas', reported in Training, 22, 66 (November)

Based on: VanGundy, A.B. (1988) Techniques of Structured Problem Solving, 2nd ed., Van Nostrand. Technique 4.48, p. 163

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B822 Techniques Library: Visual Brainstorm

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 5 Jun 2014, 05:24

 

The Perfect Essay(as described to me by my Geography A'Level Teacher, D.Rhodes, 1979)

After McKim, 1980.

Defer judgment. Don't be critical of others.

Aim for quantity. e.g. 30 thumb-nail sketches in 60 minutes

 PHASES

  • Idea Generation
  • Evaluation phase
  • Display your ideas
  • Offer constructive comment
  • Try different tactics
  • Compare sketches
  • Make written notes

How many of my early essays turned out.

REFERENCE

Adapted from McKim, R.H. (1980) Experiences in Visual Thinking, Belmont, C.A. PWS Publishers (Wadsworth Inc.) pp. 125-7

 

How many of my essays turned out even as an undergraduate: journalism. Heavy on the main idea but light on facts. 

 

No introduction, no conclusion. What a shame.

Skewed. How those with a political stance write.

Short, but beautifully formed. More of a blog post than an essay.

A bunch of ideas that show potential, though none of them are relevant to the question. Sounds like me. I do get distraced. I like variety.

The seasonal distraction. Could be Easter or Summer, Halloween or Guy Faulkes. Something in the news or on your mind. It has nothing to do with the assignment. With a TMA deadline and a job interview coinciding I re-wrote the TMA coming out of the interview and just scraped a pass. Enthusiastic, full of ideas but no referencing.

Anyone like to offer some more:

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