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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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Grinning like a child

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 19 Dec 2010, 08:08

I have to confess that I am chuffed at my mark for TMA02.

Whilst the work is mine I feel especially delighted that a result like this is the product of learning with a highly supportive, collaborative group that is expertly nudged, managed and poked by our Tutor. I look forward to 2011 and my final module in the MA in Open and Distance Education.

I'm enjoying this too much to take time off so will blog through Christmas and the New Year. Over the summer I bought a couple of books on e-learning. If I thought they'd be delivered I'd buy in a few more.

Or might Santa bring me an e-reader?

I find some of the best reading I do is in the bath, in bed as I go to sleep ... or sitting on the South Downs looking out to sea. I also find reading away from home is more engaging, somehow my mind engages better when I am somewhere else.

Mixing work and play?

I never thought there should be a difference.

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Interactive Spaced Education that works

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 4 Feb 2013, 11:43

Serendipity took me to Space Ed when I had just started H807 ‘Innovations in E-learning.’

Dr Price Kerfoot is an alumni of Balliol College and he was featured in the College Magazine. This Balliol and Harvard trained doctor had considered ways to improve the way in which medical students learn. A great deal must be learnt rote, you have to know your anatomy (to start with). This means dissecting a cadaver, making the information stick, then testing yourself relentlessly so that exams can be passed.

Here is a professional educator using e-technology to solve a problem.

As an innovation in e-learning nothing compares. It may not use second life or 3D animation, but is addresses a learning problem and offers an effective solution – good-bye factoids on Rolodex cards, hello 21st century email and text alerts probing you to answer multi-choice questions correctly. If you get it wrong, you receive the right answer and an explanation. This question will be resent in due course and sent repeatedly until it is self-evident that you now know the correct answer.

I’m signed up for Core Anatomy.

I haven’t a clue but using Google and go into research mode. It is staggering the wealth of visual materials to support learning, beautifully rendered images of the human body, podcasts from doctors, definitions of the terminology with audio so you learn how to pronounce these things. I still get the first couple of questions wrong, but never mind. I understand what the right answer is, I am building a corpus of knowledge that will in time enable me to answer 100 questions rather than only 25.

Give it a go.

Better still, build your own Space Ed programme. The platform is free to use and you are free to offer the results of your endeavour for free … or for a fee.

REFERENCE

TESTING NEW INSTRUCTIONAL METHODS

Interactive Spaced-Education to Teach the Physical Examination:

A Randomized Controlled Trial

B. Price Kerfoot, MD EdM1,2,3, Elizabeth G. Armstrong, PhD2,3, and Patricia N. O’Sullivan, MD3,4

 

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eLP - letters after your name?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 4 Feb 2013, 12:59

This looks good on a flipchart, I even took photos of it. I wish it were more dynamic, on the paper version the reverse side of each catergory has a set of industry related quotes.

How would you jiggle these terms around?

 

eLP Venn Diagram


How do I create a classic Venn Diagram with a piece of software?

Is there the means to play with diagrams like this collaboratively in a wiki or Google Docs?

I'll produce a reverse image of this with the references.

I also realise that I have about thirty items that would appear where professional, 'e-' and 'learning' cross. Sometimes a handwritten essay with a hand-drawn diagram is so much easier to produce and correct sad

How about handwritten essay produced with a stylus on a Wacom board?

Spent the morning walking along Cuckmere River to the Channel where it became remarkably mild in the sun. Chewing over reasons why efforts to raise finances to produce high-end, TV docu-drama programmes linked to interactive 'edutainment' never got off the ground in 2001, despite fullsome praise from the likes of a founding director of Cisco (John Cage) at NABS where he had the keynote speech and we were presenting.

Cost.

We wanted to wow viewers and spend a great deal and thought there was a way for this to make money. The broadcasters, stallwart supporters of Atlantic Productons with whom were were developing product, were at this very time pulling away from the websites as pits of financial loss. Commercialisation is everything.

It is therefore timely that there was an hour long discussion this morning on the rise of Thomas Edison, the inventor of the 'Innovations Lab.' I was in one once myself, the BT Think Tank. If anyone will have me I'll join a new think tank, if not, I'll form my own.

Cost still matters a great deal:

  • How to radically cut costs by going down the e-learning route (pure online and blended).
  • How to make money creating learning for a global market.

This is how to educate 50% of UK school-leavers. They leave school, but they don't leave home. They take their degree through the OU or some similar while working.

A new generation with a new set of concerns and motivations.

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Retrofitting prose with references, name dropping and blog stats

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 May 2014, 08:24

I consider it to be an expression of the progress that I am making that the first part of the TMA I have just written I completed in a straight three hour run with nothing more than a treatment in the form of a Venn Diagram doodled on a sheet of A3 to draw upon and the assignment title and defining outline pasted onto the top of the page on which I have been typing.

There are notes and figures and grabs all over the place.

I immersed myself in the topic last night when I keyed in 'learning' to MyStuff and found I had 463 assets to ponder. Though nearly discombobulated by the sluggishness of MyStuff I just about had enough in the titles and tags of the saved pieces to know if something was or was not worth reviewing. It was an interesting journey, not least that for me H808 is very much the second module, with H807 feeling like a foundation course before the real thing. And yet for some people I appreciate H808 is their first or even their last module towards the MA.

Talking of which, I registered for H800 in February 2011.

I feel I'm on a roll and don't want to take a break.

Between getting the kids into school and making a fresh pot of coffee the thought I had wanted to share here was the problem I potentially face with the essay I've just written. Previously I have used a list of referenced ideas and strung them together like fairy-lights to produce an essay that may not flow, or wrap well around itself well, but does the business. I fear if I now try to retrofit references and quotes that I may spoil it. On the other hand, this is the difference between writing a letter home and an academic paper.

My belief is that I know to whom I am referring when I use their ideas and dropping in their names and correcting any misquotes and incorrect expressions of their ideas will do the job.

On verra.

Another figure that I spied ... I've hit 10000 hits in my OU blog, which translates as 1000 per month. As we have no way to read the stats that underly these figures I can only make a conservative guess that 50-75% of all of this action is me. On the other hand, I do notice that I've been getting 25, then 50 and possibly 100 'hits' a day even when I've not blogged at all. Vanity or curiosity, or both.

Do emerge from the electronic woodwork please.

A comment is part of the collaborative process that is the essence of the full e-learning experience.

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The 'professional' TV 'production team

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 12:30

There was a point, certainly when the industry was unionised, when you could only specialise in one function. Production teams, even for something as simple as a 'talking head' interview cutting to a presenter might need six or seven people: producer, production assistant, director, camera, assistant camera, sound, assistant sound and a runner. This doesn't even include the presenter!

Tvprodution role pyramid

With thanks to Neil Anderson for directing me towards the Dia software.

This represents two things, a hierarchical division of roles in TV production, but also as you come towards the base the 'multi-tasking' of the various specialist roles.

When the unions lost influence in the 1980s the technology wasn't there to divide roles too much, but we settled into producer, director, camera, camera assistant and sound as the basic team. Then the producer/director roles merged. With lighter kit with fewer parts the camera assistant or runner would be dropped. Then along came the 'Video Journalist,' basically the self-operating producer/director/camera person with the sound engineer required as a second person and expected to carry kit, set lits etc: too. Meanwhile in post-porduction the editor is gradually taking on the mixing of sound, the creation of title and graphics (one a separate job/function). And then our producer/director/camera person, who can to a basic level edit using software built into the camera, takes on the editing role too - not just what we called 'off-line' editing, but the whole business to finished product. i.e. In broadcast TV, as well as for a wedding video, the production 'team' might be a one man band.

The relevance to H808 regards professionalism and the 'jack of all trades' syndrome that might see or expect a subject matter expert or tutor to have within a portfolio of skills, a growing number of other technical and craft skills. In other words, might a 'professional' be less so as and if they are expected to take on more tasks. If professionalism requires x hours of experience and y amount of technical proficiency, at what point is a subject matter expert tripped up or denied a 21st dialogue with their students because their skills with HTML are poor or non-existent?

From a TV and Film production point of view, with exception, the more roles the producer takes on the small the budget ... and the potential for amateurism.  At the base is any of us with a webcam and some basic software. In every one of these functions if you have the budget, then hire someone who has the kit, 3-10 years experience and who knows their 'craft.'

 

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A variety of e-learning journeys

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 27 Aug 2011, 13:43

6e9399373764315ab877e7689d27a708.JPG

The point being that people learn a great deal that improves their knowledge and ability to carry out tasks, however this does not receive formal recognition so is not able to contribute to any professionalisation of their occupation.

Daft. The paradigm must shift. Or be ignored.

I'm spending time with a mate and colleague next week (weather permitting) who has put mobile learning into the Middle East and now has the financing to do more in 3D.

His qualifications?

A great mind and practical delivery of learning as linear, then interactive video and CD, to websites with a good deal of programming in between over the last twenty years.

There is a time to ditch the gaining of a further qualification.

Indeed, when I took up a version of this MA course in February 2001 it was for me nothing more than a piece of CPD on top of another post-graduate course I was doing in the production of cross-platform multimedia, the only person to be doing this through the EU funded programme EAVE ... all of this to feed into a full-time job producing innovative, cutting edge and online learning. I was studying at my expense to improve or tweak my practical application of all of this.

Surely the collobartive exercises of the last two weeks have shown that several people can do more than one person on their own? Why do teachers and educators operate in isolation trying to re-invent the wheel for the thousandth time when a learning experience or product shared is going to deliver something effective and fantastic?

CPD, which is the OU's MAODE, does not turn me into an e-learning professional.

I'm not interested in letters after my name; I have the M.A. and have put a couple of other post-graduate courses under my belt too.

The ONLY thing that counts is how I apply this learning.

The letters or professional tag mean diddly-squat.

All us of should be willing to be judged by our peers as to our professional status ... are we employed in this capacity? Do with have clients to serve or clients to win?

Don't get me wrong, for me this course is invaluable, a treat and indulgence, like grated Truffle on pasta.

I guess my mate and I will be back on Skype if the roads look poor. I'm not going to waste a hour of my life, let alone a day stuck in traffic on the M23, M20 or M40 trying to get to Bath on Tuesday.

My motivation? A good idea, a sponsor ... then do it.

Then pick up from what I've learnt in TV, have 26 ideas on the go with various grants, sponsors and clients supporting further development.

My next course, or refresher course?

Sales

REFERENCE. Professional Development fo Elearning. A Framework for the NEw Zealand Tertiary Education Sector. 2009.

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E-learning tools for e-learning professionals

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Just when we thought we could rest comfortably at night, I would come across a compilation of what a group of some 600 e-learners consider to be the current 'Top 100 e-learning tools.' mixed

 

100 e-learning tools 2009

 

http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/recommended/

 

Like all lists it's reassuring to see ones you use and like, of interest to find something new, worrying if something you swear by isn't on the list at all.

 

 

 

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H808 Core activity 4.1: Multimedia as evidence

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 12:34

How can you create and store evidence of your engagement with different media in the following types of activity on H808?

Contributions to online discussion

  • Select and export to MyStuff
  • Screen Grab. Date and name.
  • Export to word, cut and paste. Store on hard drive.
  • Note any references, when accessed and URL
  • Cut and paste into PebblePad
  • Title and tag for easy search at a later date


Personal blog postings or comments on others’ blogs

  • As above
  • Or leave them where they are with links to the page(s) concerned.


Contributions to the course wiki

  • Link to course wiki where current content, history and edit history can be viewed.
  • Screen-grab of edit page
  • If not self-evident highlighter tool of contributions made (though this is hardly the point, its a collaborative effort, what your left with on the screen may be minimal if your contribution was to edit) i.e. the history of participation is more important than words you may 'claim' as your own (which you can’t and shouldn't - you wouldn't have written them if you hadn't been prompted by others ... and ohters might have written it if you hadn't) by the end of the thing,


Notes and informal reflections written by hand

  • Scan, label, store and back-up (as above)
  • Turn hand-drawn mind maps into bubbl-us or Compendium documents.

But why on earth keep all of this stuff?! At what point deos the storing and collating of assets become a neurosis or obsession? What matters is the end result (though not apparently in learning). Once was a time you teacher or tutor knew you were doing the work a) you turned up b) you wrote the essays c) you could talk intelligently on the topic in class and tutorials d) you passed exams e) you submitted a thesis. Do we know need a webcam grab to prove we are sitting at the coputer? An image of us in a library taking out a book?

Examples of formal writing (TMAs, reports, etc.)

  • Copy and paste into MyStuff
  • Upload into MyStuff as a file
  • Put in a file on hard drive.
  • Back up specific folder and/or hard drive

Extracts from PowerPoint presentations

  • Screen grab, date and label.
  • Note any references.
  • Cut and paste selected slides, content and notes.
  • Download the entire PowerPoint presentation and flag the slides/notes that are of interest
  • Store as above. (hard drive, zip, url link, as animation/movie in YouTube)

Extracts from audio presentations

  • download as MP3 files
  • transcribe and store as text
  • store online or offline as a podcast
  • Store or link in podcast host such as Podbean

Extracts or screen dumps from websites or video presentations

  • download to desktop
  • store in any of a variety of video playback tools

Link to YouTube favourites

  • link or add to Flickr
  • Cut and paste URL with dashboard into your blog or elsewhere online.

Comments from peers and tutors

  • Attached to the saved document where the comment(s) occur as a file or cut and paste into MyStuff
  • Downloaded onto hard-drive and saved/backed-up to zip drive.
  • Save/export selection into MyStuff, label, include access date and tag.


Extracts from published sources (images, newspaper/magazine stories etc.).

  • Linked or flagged in proprietary webpage
  • downloaded as text or saved as HTML
  • Scan and load as JPEG in any photo gallery (Kodak Easy Share, Picasa, Flickr, Tumblr etcsmile




 

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Taking steps to migrate MyStuff content to PebblePad

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 08:00

I'm reaching the stage where I feel I may have to type entries such as this in Word and then paste them in. Why? Too often it closes before I save or finish and everything is lost. My loss, not yours.

Just owning up to buying an annual subscription to PebblePad. All the pointers say it is the right step to take, I can see that it will absorb everything I've put into MyStuff these last seven months about (700 pages) and allow me to do much, much more with it.

The movies that run you through how things work are clear. The buttons and actions seem intuitive and desirable. For example, when it comes to reflect I can follow the prompts. Even I can do this. And in relation to building evidence, once again, I will follow this H.E. inspired creation to perform as a graduate should.

Otherwise I'm finding Filemaker Pro as easy as when it first came out in Clarisworks in the 1990s and the various versions I've used since. It's just a pain and a shame that I'll have to buy a new version once the 30 day trial is over and a greater pain that details of 800 swimmers and 44 teachers/coaches will have to be added manually. (I may be able to get around this only if I very carefully ensure that most of the many fields I use match. Though refreshing my memory with the swimmers and deleting out of date records might be worth the effort as poolside all this stuff has to be in your head).

Today I've had fun with Bubbl.us and have been introduced a a slide-sharing tool - both courtesy of fellow student Lesley Morrell. Always one to want first hand experience of a tool before I can recommend it, I plan to take the Bubble I created on Reflection (see below) and work it through with Compendium, seeking out and adding reports and references as I go along. Whether the end result can be written up as a 500 word report is quite another matter.

This and plans to have a professional crew video a number of swimmers above and below water to then put through a broadcast post-produciton house come to fruition. The plan is then to generate material for a substantial 'reusable learning object' or what Salmon (2002) wants us to call an 'e-tivity.'

So a busy day.

Risotto done, Mushroom soup to make.

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The Institution for Learning and PebblePad

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I've joined the first and believe I get the second free as a result?

If this works then the contents of my MyStuff will be exported to PebblePad.

In terms of my journey towards credibility as an 'e-learning professional' this marks a step outside the confines of the OU.

Volunteering my thinking to three e-learning projects marks a step towards 'professionalism' in the sense of being paid.

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The skills I need as an e-learning practitioner

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Jul 2012, 08:32
The skills you need as an e-learning practitioner

Training as a TV producer I picked up some skills editing, writing and directing. A project was never too small that a person fulfilling each of these tasks wasn't required. Indeed, the 'one man band' was frowned upon. Some TV crews were still unionised so you had a cameraman, assistant and sound engineer, minimum.Today in TV production a producer may not only direct and write, but operate the camera and edit the piece. To be a TV professional in 2010 you need this variety of skills. I do. I did the courses. Camera, editing ... even six months as a sound engineer.

To be an e-learning professional it strikes me that as well as research, design and planning skills, with a healthy foundation from an appropriate course that takes in learning history, theory and practice, that you will also need more that just a modicum of IT skills. IT literacy is a given, but further familiarity, even a confident working knowledge of a variety of 21st century e-learning tools and platforms will be necessary, as well as that 20th century skilling of touch typing. (I have that).
With this in mind I am tackling some software that I have to date resisted. I managed without Outlook, now I'm using it through-out the day. I hadn't moved away from my original blogging platform of 1999, so have in the last two months started three new blogs in three different places, as well as continuing with the OU blog. I wanted to feel confident I know what these are doing. I signed into Facebook a ferdw years ago but have let it pass me by. It may feel like the exclusive domain of my children, nephews and nieces, but I am now determined to master it, instead of it having ontrol of me.
And finally, though I have grown familiar with MyStuff and have mine well stuffed ... I must decide on a second e-portfolio system to embrace. I want to try one, two at most. I'd like to run with Filemaker Pro as I'm familiar with it, but there is a cost and it won't be of any use to others who don't have it installed.
Time to look at the Tutor Group Wiki.
Google Docs Zoho Mahara Wiki MyStuff DropBox PebblePad Reflect Google Wave Edublog Adobe Acrobat FilmMaker Pro WordPress Windows Live ThinkFree

Which will permit easy export from MyStuff?

Can anyone explain this to me?

Export your MyStuff in the LEAP2A atom feed format (which enables transfer of data to and from other ePortfolio systems). Please click refresh feed if you have made any changes recently.

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Management is not a profession

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 17 Sep 2010, 09:44

Management is not a profession. Harvard Business Review

I came across this, read and rejoiced.

http://libezproxy.open.ac.uk/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=51600603&site=ehost-live&scope=site

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Author Steven Pressfield on overcoming resistance by being professional

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 10 Sep 2010, 23:31

The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle

by Steven Pressfield

The key word through-out ‘The War of Art’ is ‘Resistance’ – i.e. that which prevents us from doing.

Steven Pressfield’s advice is to sit down and do it like a pro.

That’s the book in two lines.

Professionals and amateurs

‘The word amateur from the Latin root meaning 'to love'.

The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does if for money.

Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his real vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time’. Pressfield (2002)

This is familiar territory.

I heard it first from Richard Nelson E Bolles in ‘What Color’s Your Parachute?’ (New editions most years 1970-2011)

His advice is:

‘You become a professional by behaving like one.’ Bolles (1970)

Pressfield is derogatory about amateurs who toy with their art and blame the way they toy around for their failure.

‘We're all Pros already’ he encourages us to believe.

‘Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and over terrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyses him’.
Pressfield (2002)

A Professional is patient

Resistance outwits the amateur with the oldest trick in the book: It uses his own enthusiasm against him. Resistance gets us to plunge into a project with an over ambitious and unrealistic timetable for its completion. It knows we can't sustain that level of intensity.

We will hit the wall. We will crash.

‘A professional accepts no excuses’
Pressfield (2002)

He knows if he caves in today, no matter how plausible the pretext, he'll be twice as likely to cave in tomorrow.

‘A professional does not take failure (or success) personally’ Pressfield (2002)

Resistance uses fear of rejection to paralyse us and prevent us, if not from doing our work, then from exposing it to public evaluation.

‘Starting is not my problem.' Pressfield (2002)

Starting something else is my problem. Being distracted is my problem.

I need to be behave like a professional BECAUSE I am not paid ... and then I will be.

REFERENCE

Pressfield, S (2002) The War of Art.

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H808 Activity 1.1. The e-learning professional Professional

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 27 Aug 2011, 12:08

The following bullet points list the views of the Senior Tutors regarding professionalism. There were speaking in the introductory podcast to the module ‘The E-learning Professional.’ (H808)

What does it mean to be a Professional (or simply professional)?

Robin Mason

* Has been doing it for a long time or hasn’t.
* PhD vs. Undergraduate.
* Has put in the hours or hasn’t.
* Mature or not.
* Experienced or not yet.

Gill Kirkup

* An established field vs. new field.
* Follows standards. vs. No standards followed.
* Part of a professional association. vs. not.
* Part of the UK Higher Education Academy or not.
* Part of a legitimate community or not.
* Committed or not.
* Respectful of learners or not.
* Licensed or not.

Robin Goodfellow

* Genuine vs. not.
* Recognised vs. unrecognised.
* Experienced vs. Inexperienced.
* Independent or not.
* Has a technical foundation or doesn’t.

Chris Jones

* Takes time or doesn’t.
* Specialist (secretive) vs. Part of the mainstream.
* Enthusiast or not interested enough.
* The professional sports person vs. amateurs.
* Autonomous vs. dependent
* Independent vs. not objective or balanced.
* Part of such a trade association or not.
* Specialist vs. generalist.
* Part of something vs. an outsider.
* Formalised standards vs. none
* Monitored vs. Unmonitored
* Little ‘p’ pr big ‘P.’

To these I would add:

* A Professional had form whereas a non-professional does not.
* Self-taught or received a formal education (HE and beyond)?

I disagree with Gill Kirkup suggestion that only in an established field is something professional. I agree however, with Gill Kirkup’s views regarding ‘respect’.

I disagree with Robin Goodfellow’s view that a professional must be independent. Being Professional doesn’t mean you can’t also be biased or bigoted.

‘Big P, little p’ is an interesting idea.

Depending on how your measure up, by Chris Jones’s definition, you are either Big P or Little p. Is it the case that a practising lawyer is a Professional, while a painter and decorator can be professional? Is a good lawyer a professional Professional, while a good decorator is simple a professional painter?

The term ‘professional’ is an adjective and a noun.

Anyone can be described as ‘professional,’ (adjective) by dint of their behaviour and experience, however to be a ‘professional’, (noun), various criteria should be met.

Might a professional be defined as someone with ‘qualified confidence in their field?’

Professionals put in the time and effort, and follow rather than ignore guidelines for the community in which they operate. It matters that you are paid for something you are good at; being a Professional implies that you are paid.

A final thought

What’s a professional Professional? The opposite of an amateur Amateur.

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The e-learning professional. (v. long)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 31 Jan 2013, 06:23

The podcast H808 e-learning SMEs.

(Makes them sound like a prog rock band of the 1960s. Perhaps they were?)

[V. Long version here. 4,000 words +. 1,000 or under in H808 Tutor Forum.

Edited versions in the next 24 hours/couple of days in EduBlogs at www.mindbursts.edublogs.org]

Week One

I may be a professional swimming coach (amongst several things), but my head coach told me ‘I think too much.’ Think less and get the athletes to do more. Keep it simple. If there is any context however where thinking is the currency, literally if we are talking professionalism, then the more I think the more professional I become.

(Or not).

Many would say that a 3,000 word blog entry is 'unprofessional.'

I call it shared reflection, the 'uncut version.' It is the outcome of over five hours thinking on the topic. Hours banked. Ideas turned into cash. By definition when I have made two years worth of regular deposits I may call myself and even be defined as an 'e-learning professional' with the MA to suggest I have joined that club, and a job that for the remuneration I receive makes me a professional rather than a wishful thinking wannabe.

It is unprofessional as a post-graduate student to be flippant and/or verbose.

A professional would keep this down to 500 words, yet I am stretching it to 3,000. The uncut version. Reflection in action. My mind at work. Not the athlete sharing a few ‘mots justes’ after a successful race, but the race itself and all the training before hand. The choice words, bullet point form only with an abridged commentary goes into my Tutor Group Forum. Under 250 words there, is my targert. Under 1,000 words per OU blog had been my thinking too. Blown that then.

Watching the TV I fall asleep.

Listening to the radio (i.e. any audio) I do something else - I’d be distracted anyway, I have to.

In an effort to get into my head the points being made by OUr E-learning Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) I first read the transcripts provided and then listened to the podcast while reading the text.

What shocked me was how much I had missed.

I do less than skim read it appears, all I must do is to look at patterns and shapes. No wonder I learn so little when I do nothing more than read.

Lesson learnt?

This isn’t an 'airport thriller' I can read at break-neck speed chaisng the protagonist as he is in turn chased; this requires a different kind of reading.

It requires effort.

I must work with the text, make notes. Just highlighting choices words and sentences isn’t enough either. Effort I can do. It is consistent effort unless I am working under exam conditions where I struggle. There is always something more interesting to read.

Historically, when successful academically, it has been a huge effort and very time consuming for me. I have to take notes (long hand). Then I have to take notes on the notes. I have to make lists, take quotes and re-order the material. I may still not make sense of it. I need to chase up a few references. I need to find my own patterns. I need to discuss it. Argue about it, agree and disagree. And then, gathering up a wad of papers and scraps of paper the whole lot needs to compost for a few months. Then, and only then, might I start to ‘get it,’ and have something constructive and original to say.

Do any of us have this kind of time anymore? Did we ever?

(My late father, my daughter and a friend, a partner in one of the world's leading law firms, all have/had photographic memories. They would have read the transcript and been able to pick out its salient points after the first swift reading. Not so me, not so us?)

The process you see playing out here is an attempt to mulch the content, slow cook it and hope that I can achieve something in five hours that would normall require five months.

Keep cooking.

The second time round with the SME podcast I first worked with the text, highlighting points and generally trying to get my head around it. If you’ve come across Jakob Nielsen’s ‘Writing for the Web,’ this is what I did – isolating sentences and ideas, creating headings, sub-headings and bullet points, in a word ‘chunking. In fact, I begin to get close to doing what Richard Northridge recommends in the ‘OU Guide to Studying’ (1990) note taking, creating concept cards and then even looking for links and patterns in the text itself.

Lesson learnt?

This takes time and requires effort. I’m not great on effort. My modus operandi is (or has been) to take in volumes of material, but if this is only at a surface level no wonder I am often more frustrated than informed.

Lesson learnt?

Less is more. Rather than chasing a reference, another report or book, I need, at first, to ensure that the text I have in front of me has been dissected, not consumed, not afforded nothing more than a passing glance, but pulled apart, then reconstructed.

Lesson learnt?

Effort

Not the expected outcome of this simple task – my faltering approach to learning laid bare, but a valuable lesson at the start of the module.

At last I’m listening to the podcast.

I made myself think, made myself listen, I 'sat forward' (the technical term for interacting, for engagement.) I made myself read and take notes, made me list the contrasting ideas, the arguments for and against, the justifications ... and to cluster these ideas and adjust my own thoughts accordingly based on my experience.

I had something to think about as I listened.

Do I have anything in common with these e-learning professionals in relation to assumptions and aims?

  • Do I have different understandings of what it means to be an ‘elearning professional’?
  • Is there a distinct elearning profession, or is elearning simply an aspect of other professions?
  • The profession of teacher?
  • The profession of a university lecturer or academic?
  • The profession of a trainer or staff developer or a human resources developer in private corporate bodies?
  • Is there an elearning professional?
  • And should I be describing my job as that of an elearning professional?

My short reply, given my background in sports coaching, is simple.

  • If you are paid you are a professional.
  • If you are the athlete and not paid you are an amateur.
  • If you’re the coach and not paid you are a volunteer.

Therefore, if someone is good enough and experienced enough (or simply good at selling themselves and their ideas) – and they are remunerated for their efforts, then they are a professional.

Rebecca Addlington is a professional athlete. Bill Furness, her coach, is a professional too.

At my swimming club all the swimmers are amateur, though some through bursaries to pay for County and Regional development training are by definition quasi-professional as they are receiving benefits if not in cash, then in kind. Some of the coaches and I do not define myself as a swimming coach; it’s a hobby that’s got out of hand.

I have ‘put in the hours.’

(Which I can qualify by saying I have put in the appropriate hours. i.e. time will not make you a professional, the enduring focus of your efforts will)

One of the key themes of the podcast made by each of the speakers is that a professional has put in the time.

They have put in the effort, gained experience that is directly or indirectly relevant to their e-learning expertise – and by dint of this expertise (and being paid by the OU, for books and reports, lectures and workshops too perhaps) they are all professionals.

At the swimming club many of us (its the biggest club in the South of England) have earned our places through years of experience, gaining qualifications and attending regular courses (CPD) to retain a licence to teach or coach aquatics. Many of us, paid or not, can call ourselves 'professionals.'

Just as I’ve reduced my core thought to that of the contract between a professional and an amateur, by picking out the ideas of each speaker and doing something similar a number of interesting points regarding what it means to be an ‘e-learning professional’ emerge.

In this see-saw of ideas the protagonists have a habit of changing places.

By defining professional we should also think what it means to be unprofessional.

I’ve allowed this dance to play out as it leaves me with an image of a professional being circled by the professional wannabe, the unprofessional (as yet), the layperson, the naive, virgin student. A mass of non-professionals clamoring around the few.

The points and arguments frequently fall into another diametrically opposed set: the qualitative vs. quantitative, an objective point vs. the subjective, a value judgment vs. the facts. Everything overlaps - a Venn Diagram of the points would show sets within sets.

Adrian Kirkup

· Amateur vs. Professional (there are many highly ‘professional’ amateurs)

· Ineffective vs. effective.

Robin Mason

· Hasn’t done it for long vs. been doing it for a long time

· Undergraduate vs. PhD (A sub-set of the above)

· Hasn’t put in the hours vs. has put in the hours (more of the same)

· Immature vs. Mature (a variation of the same. Though professionalism is not a consequence of maturity)

· Inexperienced vs. Experienced.(Experience that takes time to acquire, and a certain manner to be effective)

Gill Kirkup

· A new field vs. an established field. (Disagree. Though a new field of subset of a professional activity would be definably professional).

· New vs. Established. (as above)

· No established standards vs. abides by general and specific received standards.

· Acting alone or part of a professional association.

· Part of the UK Higher Education Academy or not. (a subset of the above)

· Part of a legitimate community or not. (as above)

· Committed vs. Uncommitted.

· Respectful vs. Disrespectful.

· Respect for the individual learner, incorporating research and scholarship, the development of learning communities online is a hugely strong component in professional elearning practice. (successfully combines the subjective and unquantifiable with the quantifiable and objective)

· Juvenile and professional vs. professional only if matured. (as Robin Mason)

· Unlicensed vs. Licensed.

Robin Goodfellow

· Genuine vs. not genuine.

· Unrecognised vs. Recognised.

· Inexperienced vs. Experienced.

· Independent vs. tied (to government or a business).(disagree)

· Technical foundation vs. no technical foundation

· No need for a label, e-learning professional vs. professional enhancer. (strongly agree)

Chris Jones

· Takes time vs. no time.(as Robin Mason and Robin Goodfellow. You have to put in the time to become a professional. Which I guess applies as much to the professional criminal, as the Professional lawyer. Little p, Big P- see below)

· Part of the mainstream vs. Specialist. (disagree)

· ‘Lone Ranger’ and early stages of innovation ... vs. early majority and established (themes of Rogers)

· Enthusiasts vs. the not interested. (strongly agree)

· Society and the professionalisation of modern life (quotable)

· Sport in the 20th century and professional vs. amateurs in sport

· Traditional and modern professionals

· Autonomous vs. dependent

· Trustworthy vs. (spin/PR/Branding/Agenda)

· Not part of a trade association or governing body vs. part of such an association

· Generalist vs. specialist

· An outside vs. part of something

· Formalised standards vs. none

· Unmonitored vs. monitored

· Is there a distinct elearning profession, or is elearning simply an aspect of other professions?

· Little ‘p’ pr big ‘P.’

Jonathan Vernon (moi)

· Doesn’t look the part vs. looks the part.

· Lacks form vs. has form.

· Self-taught vs. ‘done a course.’

· Qualified (with the piece of paper to prove it) vs. Unqualified (however expert they may be).

Some thoughts on the points identified above

It is worth reflecting on Robin Mason’s point about ‘putting in the hours.’

The suggestion that genius and expertise requires 10,000 hours of effort is no urban myth. A study carried out at the Berlin Music Conservatoire identified three groups of graduates. Asked to estimate how many hours of practice and playing each student had put in since picking up an instrument they were then divided into three distinct categories: up to 4,000 hours, up to 8,000 hours and up to 10,000 hours. The first became teachers, the second category got places in orchestras whilst the tiny number who had put in 10,000 hours (takes around 10 years to do this) were most likely to be the solo artists, the concert pianists, the mavericks, the Vanessa Maes and Mozarts. Whilst all these categories are professionals, they are paid for their skills, the use of the word ‘professional’ to distinguish those who are expert, who have attained a certain standard, would in my view apply to the musicians who have made it into a top orchestra – with the soloists in a category beyond the ‘professional.’ Our ‘OU H808 E-learning SME professionals', given the decades of thought they have put into what we now define as ‘e-learning’, have been part of this ‘orchestra’ of professionals for some time, and who knows, we may have a Mozart amongst them. Personally, I've not read enough from any of them yet to know any better. I look forward to hearing what they have to say and how they say it.

Interestingly, Robin Mason returns repeatedly to a theme of time passing, of gaining, requiring or acquiring maturity of thought. Though I feel as if I am clutching at ideas in an amorphous cloud here, my sense is that whether it is professional with a big P or a little p, that the word ‘maturity'; might say it all.

What does maturity imply?

Growing up, lessons learnt, age, growth, adult hood, a way of behaving, able to fit in and contribute to a community and so on.

I disagree with Gill Kirkup

If I have understood her correctly regarding her suggesting that only in an established field is something professional whilst in a new field this is not possible. We can all think of (or at least imagine) an unprofessional ‘professional.’ The corrupt lawyer, the doctor struck off the medical register, the TV food expert who is not a doctor at all (and so a sham professional).

In 2000 I would have defined myself, as some of the panel here would have done, as what is now termed an ‘e-learning’ professional. After fifteen years in corporate communications, training and learning, creating linear, then non-linear and ultimately web-based materials the companies and government department for whom I worked through various production companies had to see me as ‘professional.’ I hadn’t done the post-graduate studying, but I’d learnt through observation and experience (first carrying video kit into the changing rooms of a nuclear power plant age 17 assisting with a training film for BNFL at Sellafield).

Interestingly, I don’t currently consider myself to be an e-learning or a learning professional and even with the MA I hope to gain in 2011 I will by my own definition not be a professional until I am being paid for my expertise.

To use a horse-racing term I lack 'form.'

I'm literally out of the race (for now).

Being studious here and building my confidence is part of the plan to regain the 'professional' tag.

Does a barrister on retirement cease to be a professional lawyer?

Socio-econonmically he/she would still be defined as a 'professional' would they not?

I agree however, very much, with Gill Kirkup’s views regarding ‘respect’ and her definition of an e-learning professional within the academic community.

Respect for the individual learner, incorporating research and scholarship, the development of learning communities online is a hugely strong component in professional elearning practice.’

(This, for me, successfully combines the subjective and unquantifiable with the quantifiable and objective. i.e. you can be a professional Professional).

I disagree with Robin Goodfellow’s view that a professional must be independent vs. tied (to government or a business). If we look beyond e-learning professionals and academia it would be quite wrong to say that someone is not professional simply because they represent the interests of an organisation or government department, let alone are being paid to take a certain stance or have a strongly held view (left or right wing politically, religious or atheist and so on).

If nothing else, I believe I have shown above that there is a natural dichotomy, if not a debate even an implicit conflict, between views on whether a person, or institution, or field of study, can be defined as professional or not, worthy of study or not.

It is engagement in such a debate where a professional proves their credentials.

A professional is a match for anyone, whilst the unprofessional would not play by the rules, make excuses, bow out...

Dare I imply that all the above are differentiating between the educated and uneducated?

Is it so black and white? Students at school, scholars as Edwardian’s would have defined them, and undergraduates, graduates too, in terms of education can never be defined as ‘professional.’

Or can they?

The government pays students to go to college, to stay on in secondary school after the age of 16 – does not this make them pros, like a boy of a similar age getting paid to play football in an academy, they literally ‘turn pro.’

I agree with Robin Goodfellow that there is ‘need for a label’, that what is currently the e-learning professional may be the ‘professional enhancer ‘of the future if the UK HE Academy has their way (though I doubt the term will stick). Just as Robin was (we were) once web-based learning professionals, or learning professionals, or professionals in education...

Big P, little p (Chris Jones) is the most memorable expression of an idea in relation to the professional Professional that I take from this and a worthy talking point. And 2,500 words in I could sum it up with a Twitter count.

Professional is an adjective and a noun.

Anyone can be described as ‘professional,’ (adjective) by dint of their behaviour and experience, however to be a ‘professional’, (noun), various criteria should be met. Depending on how your measure up, by Chris Jones’s definition, you are either Big or Little P.

(I can think of other categories where a similar way of looking at things could be applied, for example, ‘engineer’. The person who fixes my washing machine may call himself an ‘engineer,’ but Isambard Kingdom Brunel was an ‘Engineer’. A sports psychologist is no longer allowed to call themselves such, they are sports scientists. So Psychologist, if not professional, not has a legally binding form of expression and use).

I disagree however with Chris Jone’s view that Professionals (big P you notice) have to be specialists whilst implicitly, if they are professional at all (little p) they are not, or unlikely to be so if they are part of the mainstream.

Or do I?

(I'm changing my mind as I write this, reflecting on a matter tends to do this. You twist yourself in so many knots and then find you are looking in the opposite direction - and happy to do so)

Onwards

Is there an implicit elitism here that makes me uncomfortable, an obvious them and us?

As a Professional I am not ‘part of the mainstream’ ?

Yes, that’s it.

You see the ‘mainstream’ is the population, everyone, in the universe that we are discussing. Professionals are of the mainstream, of society, even if they are a subset community within the broader community.

The likes of Richard Dawkin and Stephen Hawkings are 'professional Professionals' by their engagement with the world, not because of an elitist, hide-themselves away hermit like attitude to knowledge acquisition. Do Simon Schama and Neil Ferguson fall into the same category of professionalism?

Be published and damned, broadcast and be damned even more?

But you don't have to be famous to be Professional (though I dare say you'd cease to be professional if you became infamous).

Or have I been making a mistake through-out this internal debate ... this reflection – that we have always only been discussing Big P professionalism ONLY as part of ‘the whole thing,’ i.e. the specific category of the ‘e-learning Professional’ and just as this time round I haven’t given a moment’s thought to ‘e-learning’ as a term, I have nonetheless unnecessarily dissected the term ‘professional.’

I’m yet to click through the OED online.

I daren’t. It may be my undoing.

Back to my idea of a Venn Diagram.

If ‘professionals’ is the universe then we have two subsets, Professionals (Big P) and professionals (little p) (the noun only). Far smaller, and intersecting both these sets, we have ‘e-learning.’ There are in e-learning little P and Big P professionals.

Still with me?

But there are also non-professionals, and even  the unprofessional to consider. Can they also be defined as Non-professionals (Big N) and Unprofessionals (Big U).

Final thoughts

Might a professional be defined as someone with 'qualified confidence in their field?'

Not finished yet

I've got a Venn Diagram to draw, some visualising to do.

Can a loner be a professional?

I enjoyed Chris Jones's point about the ‘Lone Ranger’ that in early stages of innovation there are maverick, loners having a go at something new way ahead of anyone else - think Dr Emmett Brown in 'Back to the Future' tinkering away at the construction of a time-travelling automobile. Are such people professionals or even professional? Does this 'odd-ball' behaviour disenfranchise you from the professional community, even if you have the mind the size of a planet?

A consultant escapes the hospital ward for a couple of years to undertake research. Just because they are beavering away on their own, being a 'Lone Ranger' doesn't disqualify them from the category of 'Professional,' (Big P), or even 'professional Professional' (little p, Big P).

Dare I suggest that our panel of e-learning experts are 'professional e-Professionals' ?

I don't even begin to delve into the thinking behind innovation diffusion. This is an entire module in its own right. It is called 'Innovations in E-learning', or H807 for short.

For more read 'Diffusion of Innovations' E.M.Rogers. (2005) 5th edition.

Nor am I going to teach the definition 'e-learning.'

Is there a professional 'look.'

Forgive me if I make a comparison here between the need for barristers to put on the appropriate garb in court and so look Professional with a big p, compared to those wishing to be called professional and seen as Professional who don't look the part. Poolside as coaches it is expected that all teachers are appropriately dressed in the club colours and well groomed - this looks professional. There was once a time when teachers wore a jacket and tie, so looked professional like fellow professionals such as lawyers and doctors. Don't academic look the part, 'look professional' in their gowns and mortar-boards?

And having addressed 'looks' can someone sound 'professional?

Think how a director chooses actors to play a role. Look at Michael Cane in 'Educating Rita,' is this the stereotypical professional Professor?

Another discussion, but coming from corporate communications we have been through exercises of using authentic presenters (people who work at the place) compared to buying in 'professional' presenters. To do justice to the message in the TV medium the professional broadcasters were far better at putting over the points the client wanted to make.

As I said, another discussion, a different thread.

P.S. It would be unprofessional to post such a long entry into a tutor forum, where a 500 word, even a 250 word version will be posted (the bullet points, or just my thoughts on the key bullet points ... or just where I strongly agree or disagree).

Lesson Learnt ?

Professionals put in the time and effort, and follow rather than ignore guidelines for the community in which they operate.

It strikes me that academics, like creatives, are more interested in reputation and recognition than money.

Is it not striking that not one of our panel mention it?

Can you be a professional without it?

And what about spelling and grammar?

The ability to communicate. Have I mentioned that. Can the professional spell?

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An hour in the middle of the night has been spent reading through the first task and all the various forum entries in H808 'The E-Learning Professional.'

This and applying for a job. Stymied by the need for three references. I've been such a hermit these last few years I worry that beyond family and friends the only reference I could get would be from my hairdresser and she might say something like 'he may be on time but I know he's seeing the barber down the road as well.'

Three dreams over the last ten days are bugging me - my lengthy reflection on these will go into the WordPress Blog (unless they prove to have something to do with the OU). I use a 27 point survey that usually reduces the dream to some mundane conclusion, though occasionally offers something more profound.

Ever on the look out for 'e-' words I spotted 'e-nose' in last week's New Scientist.

The e-nose refers to an 'electronic nose' rather than an 'electronically enhanced and largely online nose' that is the 'e-' of e-learning. The e-nose can identify certain scents electronically, it transpires ... (though not across, the Internet) ... yet. It wouldn't surprise me if a Google-e-nose were developed that could be used to search for and then offer recipes for food from your fridge that has escaped its packaging. Hold it up to your webcam and Google will advise.

The following was written out long hand with an ink pen.

I wonder if there is a stylistic difference, greater fluidity? (My son had squirreled the lap-top away and being the dead of night I didn't want to disturb him).

Is there software that can spot the stylistic difference of something written directly into a word-processor, like this ... or written out long hand, like this:

Reflection

Whilst reflection is meant to help tackle complex problems, what if the issues are so chaotic, long term and intractable that far from helping to resolve a problem the act and habit of reflection simply re-enforces the mess?!

E-Learning

How much of it is online?

And how much of it is even electronic and/or enhanced?

This happens to be a reflective note being written long-hand onto a recyled A4 ruled pad of paper. It is anything but electronic, or digital. Nor, as yet, is it shared or offers any chance of interaction, let alone collaboration with a group of friends, community of fellow students or the wider world.

The most important part of this experience is taking place in my head and is either one step behind, or one step ahead of this writing process. It is stream of consciousness. It is a singular, lonely and individual occurrence from which little will be gained by sharing it.

This is it: learning in which the 'e' is highly tangential.

Indeed, I'd go as far as to say that the 'e' component of my online learning, or web-based learning, or iLearning experience with the OU thus far is one in which the online quality of the process can be as discretely packaged as you would a book, a lecture or a face-to-face chat with a fellow traveller - it is one part, even a distinct part, an entity with barriers, parameters and a physical presence.

It is a part, not even a large part. But a catylst. A resource. A tool. A track. (a word-processed addition here)

An audit of how this learner spends his time studying shows that half is off-line doing that all too traditional act of reading and taking notes; that of the remaining half another 50% is spent at a computer keyboard sometimes not fully aware or bothered about whether I am working online or off, using software on my hard-drive or the OU server.

(a hand-written omission here replaced with the following while typing online)

And if I continue this fractal-like halving of time spent studying, at what point do I reach 'e-'

And does it matter?

The 'e-' is the fleck of saffron in a risotto.

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