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Is falling in love linear?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 21 Jun 2014, 08:09

 Fig.1 A teenager on a quest for love

As a sixteen year old virgin the feelings I had for a girl had me indulging the sensations and plotting where it would go. It ended in tears - she took a fancy to my older brother. If anything happened, it was all in my head. She said I was in love with the idea of being in love. True. I wanted to record and reflect on all that I was going through, attempting to find a pattern in it. Any pattern, any model, is a crude simplification of reality. Learning above love or learning about learning as I've been doing these last four years is just as messy. 

There's a dangerous interface between the academic and the popular, the scholarly paper and the journalist, where a plausible hypothesis passes for the truth. In the New York Times earlier last week a reporter interpreted the entry in a blog where the author suggests that learning isn't linear, but logarithmic. There's a ring of truth to it: achieving a grade, for example, above a certain figure (it differs by person, subject, module, stage in learning, proficiency and aptitude for the subject). There's also a ring of truth in the suggestion that some things are toughest at the beginning, while others are toughest at the end. The mistake is to think that such a model can be applied universally.

Any linearity is a model, an interpretation of reality, not reality itself. Several models I would refer to as alternatives to logarithmic and exponential, offered by this author and the NY Times journalist's misinterpretation would be:

 Fig.2 In the flow

a) a straight diagonal line at 45 degrees with 'In the flow' as the title to illustrate the theory of getting 'in the flow' as a product of responding to stress on the one hand and learning or coaching to meet the challenge on the other as developed over decades by Miihaly Csikszentmihalyi

 

Fig. 3. The Forgetting Curve

b) the 'forgetting curve' developed over a century ago by Hermann Ebbinghaus

Fig.4. The Learning Cycle

c) the learning cycle, so a circle, developed by David Kolb.

 

Fig. 5 The learning thermal

d) My take on this is of an ascending spiral - which assumes constant progress. The reality is that we often hit turbulence, change or minds, come back to ground, gain a propeller, lose a leg ... Enough. I'll work this up when I can in a separate 'paper' and post in due course.

Oh heck. There are another two models I need to add to this:

 

Fig. 6 Activity Theory

e) Activity Theory, which is a triangle with six interconnected nodes (Yrjo Engestrom) and 

 

Fig. 7. Network Theory

f) 'connectedness' (George Siemens claims credit) which is the 21st century take on an ever-present vision of how we learn ... which is related increasingly to 'network theory' which is complemented by current thinking on neuroscience - put crudely that all thoughts and ideas, their creation and memory are the product of the brain connecting at least seven now recognised clusters in different parts of the brain. Is 'network theory' the science behind the assumption of connectedness though?

 

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Connectedness

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Fig. 1. Engestrom flipped This is a Activity Theory flipped in the gale of Web 2.0. It makes nodes and 'knotworking' redundant as people can connect anyone old how.

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Learning Theories meet Activity Theory in a series of doodles

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 May 2014, 06:57

 

Fig. 1 When Learning Theory met Engestrom

(Clicking on this might take you to the original, as well as each doodle as a separate image)

I am forever 'mashing things up' with whatever tools I stumble across - recently adding images and text with an App called 'Studio' - essentially loads of layers, typically text and graphics over a photograph. In an attempt to assemble paper scribles and add annotations I've produced the attached. I'm trying to visualise 'opennness' with this, and by doing so implying that what goes on between groups of people is perhaps similar to what goes on with different parts of your brain - it is contrasts and differences that assemble to create something new. It also relates to learning theories and practices - so didactic behaviorist, for constructed to cognitive. I suppose what I might be proposing is looking at how a person, a couple of people or a group of people interact and how openness in such situations is more conducive to problem solving and creativity.

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Learning Theories in a mind map

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 18 Nov 2013, 13:56

Fig. 1. Learning Theories. Click on this and you can grab the original in a variety of sizes from the Picasa Web Album where it resides. (Created using SimpleMinds APP)

In an effort to impose some logic these are now grouped and various links also made. The reality might be take a large bowl of water then drip into these 12 coloured inks. The reality of how we learn is complex and will only be made the more so with fMRI imaging and advances in neuroscience.

My favourite Learning Theory here is one that Knud Illeris (2009) came up with - not learning at all, resistance too or defence learning. You just block it. That's how I did 9 years of Latin and can decline how to love a table - I have no idea anymore what 'ramabottom' or some such means either. Ditto French as taught before secondary school and Chemistry - right or wrong, tick and box in a multiple choice each week. Still, for someone who couldn't give a fig for either this approach got me through on a C grade. For French the 'holistic' approach worked a treat - French exchange, then back to hitch through France with some French guys who didn't have a word of English, then got a job out there. Chemistry worked best with my Chemistry 7 set.

Activity Theory and Communities of Practice are surely in meltdown with the connectivity of Web 2.0?

The nodes and silos are too easily circumvented by each of us going directly to the source. 'Community of Ideas' works best for me.

Learning Theories

1) Neurophysiological - stimulus response, optmization of memory processes: Sylvester, 1995; Edelman, 1994; Jarvis, 1987.

2) Holistic - Illeris, 2009.

3) Behaviorist - Stimulus response pairs, Skinner, 1974.

4) Cognitive - Communication, how the brain receives, internalises and recalls information, problem solving, explanation, recombination, contrast, building upon information structures, focus on internal cognitive structures, models, methods and schemas, information processing, inferences.; Wenger, 1987; Hutchins, 1993; Anderson, 1983; Piaget, 1952.

5) Constructivist - Learners build their own mental structures, design orientated, assimilative learning (Illeris, 2009); task-orientated, cohort/collaborative group. Leonard, 2010): Vygotsky, 1934; Piaget, 1954; Bruner, 1993; Papert, 1980.

6) Transformative Learning - significant (Roger, 1951, 59); Transformative (Mezirow, 1994); Expansive (Engestrom, 1987); Transitional (Alheit, 1994).

7) Social - Socialization, a psychological perspective, imitation of norms, acquisition of membership, interpersonal relations (Bandura, 1977)

8) Communities of Practice - The focus is on participation and the role this plays to attract and retain new ‘members’; knowledge transfer is closely tied to the social situation where the knowledge is learned, (Learnard, 2010); shared, social and almost unintentional; legitimate peripheral participation (Lave, ); taking part in the practices of the community. A framework that considers learning in social terms. Lave & Wenger, 1991.

9) Communities of Interest -

10) Accommodative Learning - Illeris, 2007.

11) Activity Theories - Learners bridge the knowledge gap via the zone of proximal development, Wertsch, 1984. Historically constructed activities as entities. Thinking, reasoning and learning is a socially and culturally mediated phenomenon. Learnard, 2010. Engestrom, 1987; Vygotsky, 1934; Wertsch, 1984.

12) Organizational - How people in an organisation learn and how organisations learn. Organizational systems, structures and politics. Brown and Dugiod, 1995. Noaka and Takeuchi, 1991.

13) Resistance to/defence learning - Illeris, 2007

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After three years of the MAODE your actual and virtual reading list might look a bit like this:

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 7 Apr 2013, 15:43



20130407-153826.jpg

20130407-153834.jpg

There are a good dozen more books on the iPad/Kindle.

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H809: Activity 9.2 - 9.4. Unscrambling the presumptions of research in e-learning educational practice

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 20 Oct 2014, 08:07

Activity Theory (AT) according to various authors .... , supposes a quest to solve a problem, an 'activity theorist' looking at certain kinds of research, understanding activity system as being driven by outcomes, would therefore annotated the six nodes of the AT pyramid with this in mind.

Fig. 1. Activity Theory (Engestrom, 2008)

In contrast, considering the same subject of research, a sociologist would be inclined to look for power structures.

In turn how might a management consultant, or psychologist approach this? And in relation to H809 and the MAODE, how differently would someone educated in each of the following theories approach the same subject matter: behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism and connectedness?

The suggestion that the theory behind a piece of research or OER from H809 TMA02 predisposes a specific research response is like having an undefined medical problem. In turn each specialist offers a view based on the narrow perspective of their specialism.

By way of example, with sinus/earache like symptoms from which I have always 'suffered' I in turn visit a neurologist, immunologist and dentist. I discover from each in turn that I must be depressed/stressed, have an allergic response to something, need a tooth filled/crowned. In turns out that I have a pronounced response to house dust mite and due to physical damage to a channel in one part of the maxillary sinus it doesn't drain so the slightest infection, a mild cold, will cause inflamation and pain. The response that works is primarily preventative with self-medication of prescription pain relief at a dosage that works - co-codomol and occassional antibiotics. (The above over a 33 year period of investigations that included several other excitable consultants who each in turn gleefully hoped that I might have a very rare condition X or Y that they would investigate).

Just as medical specialists are inclined to come at a situation with too narrow a perspective, so too can we when wishing to study, in a learning situation, what is going on ... in there (the brains of each student) and externally, the context and situation of the 'learning' that they are doing (or having done to them).

Reference

Conole, G., and Oliver, M. (eds.) (2008) Contemporary perspective in e-learning research. Themes, Methods and Impacts on Practice.

Engestrom, Y (2008) From Teams to Knots

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H809: Activity 9.1. Scrambling your head in the nodes and interludes of Activity Theory

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 24 Feb 2014, 15:34

When something important to me is about to come to an end I tend to lash out to make the parting of ways less uncomfortable.

I sense with OU graduation looming while this bridging module trundles on to who knows what that I will pretend I'm fed up and I don't care. But I do. So I'll try to bite my lip over the next three months as the inevitable parting of ways occurs.

Onwards to who knows what, though H809, with a bit of a spring it, ought to send me in the right direction.

Whether or not there is an institution out there ready to catch me is another matter - though I am looking, and I am talking to them.

In my dreams I'll be taking Activity Theory into the outer realms of the Internet - San Diego preferred, though Helsinki is the alternative.

I like sand, and I like snow ... but I prefer sand and snow ... and sun.

But that's not why I'm here is it? And does it matter a fig where any of us are situated anymore?  ... so long as it stimulates rather than stultifies.

(Yawn, yawn to bring it up but when will the weather forecasters stop talking about snow, frost and high pressure lingering over Scandinavia and just say 'this is so boring' - so here's a weather related picture we asked David Hockney to do instead and because he created it on an iPad using Brushes we can animate it - just like a weather front coming up form Nova Scoatia).

H809: Activity 9.1 (and a quarter)

Fig.1 Third Generation Activty Theory ... after Engestrom (2008) It's not just a theory, not just model ... it's a game. Photo by the author in his back yard (in England this means it really is a concrete space with junk in it. We have a garden for the plants and grass for the dog to wee on).

What functions do these ‘theoretical perspectives’ appear to be serving here?

Placing activity theory in context, both historically through previous learning theories and ‘geographically’ in relation to other disciplines. Is it a theory or a model (it can function as either or both); where is it of use? Anywhere people, groups of people or institutions interact with related, or closely related objectives.

Do you think Activity Theory is a ‘theory’?

It builds on past theories and is a model dint of the its visualisation. It can be considered and used as a theory or as a model, or both. Or, picking up some current reading as neither - the suggestion being that the connectedness of the Internet renders the parameters of each of the prescribed nodes of an Activity System redundant - as everyone and everything can  connect directly rather than through an intermediary tool, community or division of labour etc:

What do you understand to be the gap in Activity Theory that AODM is filling?

I don’t. Could someone offer a suggestion??

Try to summarise the authors’ view of ‘collaborative knowledge building’.

That knowledge creation, insight as such, is outside the head ... situated like

Engestrom’s ‘Object’ or ‘Outcome’ as at arm’s length, between people and distinct activity systems. This is where 1+1 = 3.

I prefer to see two or more activity systems NOT as systems or groups or departments ... but as the equally complex interaction of two people. Perhaps an image of a schizophrenic is Engestrom’s third generation activity theory where two apparently distinct system are in conflict ... but in the case of the schizophrenic, this happens in their head.

 

To get my head around Activity Theory I had to get it out of my head and onto paper. The idea of putting in chess pieces was intuitive - like improvisation at Youth Theatre.

At any one of these nodes, not absolutes, just suggestions for the model, there are people. People are complex and never act as distinct interlopers. We have the bagage of our lives behind us - parents, siblings and friends. So an Activity System is always a great leap into simplification. Add too much complexity and why bother?

This third generation concept of two interacting activity systems has also had 'historicity' added ... they are in constant flux, Think therefore of a series of overlapping frames. Whatever you look at now is soon gone ... there is too much happening in such a snapshot for it to be set.

This fluidity now has another force to pull it apart - the Internet.

I'll go and dig out the author of a paper, approved by the editor of the book it is in by its editor Yrjio Engestrom (Mr AT himself) where  the argument is that the Web means that all nodes are equally connected with all others.

I visualise this as drops of ink in water. They are unstable.

This instability, more brain like in its connectivity, is where we need to move on from Activity Theory.

 

Of course, carrying an examiner along with you in an OU assignment is quite another matter. I am currently challenging the OU where  I feel a paper I wrote was slashed at a) because I dismissed Wenger and didn't have another 1000 words to make my case and b) put all my money on Activity Theory only to conclude that 'we' had already moved on ...

Picking up tick points for an assignment is one thing - getting to the 'truth' seems to elude the OU. Too often I have felt that far from being on a postgraduate Masters programme I am in my first year as an undergraduate.

I guess having been brought up by the OU these lass three years I am like any teenager ready to exhurt my independence.

 

Where is the discourse? Where is the innovation? What is the point in any of this if every word has to be written as if pasted into cells of an Excell file so that someone can tick you off?

Is there anyone observing the MAODE for even the slightest sniff of orginality ????

Fig. 2. Division of Labor (sic)
Like a cabal of trade unionists or a gang in the school playground.

 

P.S. For anyone interested I have accumulated a libary on Engestrom ... some books that with some reluctance I have propped up on top of the fridge or somewhere and a bunch of eBooks.

 

Engestrom as author are the books to read, especially the case studies. There are a few collections of papers that are indigestible and IMHO are an embarrassment to their authors. I'd has might as well have bought a phone directory. Communication, or the inability to do so, will define the next generation of 'digital' scholars. If you cannot say what you mean and for this to stand up to the scrutiny of anybody then don't bother. Academics should never have dreamt they were only ever supposed to be writing to each other. If you cannot sit you grandmother down and tell her what you think, then you need to go away and think a bit more. Not meaning to be disparaging to mega-super hyper intelligent grandmother's out there - the same would apply to describing all the above to the 7 year old boy who is kicking a ball against a fence down the road.

 

P.P.S. Yrjio Engestrom is based in Helsinki and San Diego.
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H809 Activity 7.3 First part of the Conole et al. paper

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013, 06:57

Activity 7.3: Reading the first part of the paper (2 hours)

Read the first part of the Conole et al. paper through to the end of section 1, ‘Introduction’ (pp. 17–21).

As you read the paper note the different purposes the authors envisage for their model. Then consider and make notes on the following questions:

  • Who do the authors see as the main audience for this paper?
  • What is the main aim of the paper?

Try to fit the readings met so far in the module into Table 1 of the Conole et al. paper.

The main audience of the paper would appear to be fellow academics of tertiary education and postgraduate students of the same with a particular interest in e–learning. This might include PGCE students, teachers and educators, learning designers and e–learning designers. The main aim, purpose or outcome of the paper is to provide insights and practical skills, to isolate and match theories and application so putting theory into practice and allocating theories to design decisions and choice indicating implications, objectives and choices. Models help to Visualise and clarify.

The dichotomy suggested as existing between reflection and non-reflection is a false one.

We reflect on everything we do in our subconcious whether we like it or not otherwise we'd be dead. This is what is going on when REM is observed in our sleep - our brains are going through stuff, mixing it up with and across some 15 parts of the neuronal network and slowly turning a short term thought into a long term memory. Or some such, I'm neither a neuroscientist nor a psychlologist.

By stating non-reflection the authors may be suggesting this is a conscious decision not to do a formal exercise of reflecting. We can't, as I said, turn our brains off.

The 3D model doesn't work for me while the 2D do.

Three years of reading Conole and I still find some of her visual conceptions hard to comprehend, bucking the trend or coming from a conceptualisation of the world that I don't get - or reinvention where it isn't necessary. I recall the triangle of Vygotsky and Activity Theory by Engestrom transmogrified into a diamond.

There is a good reason for a copywriter and art director to sit together in the creative department of an advertising agency - one words, the other visuale. It is rare for a person to be good at both.

1) Hiltz and Meinke (1998) Virtual Classroom in a traditional setting. Behaviourist/Cognitive leaning towards constructive where content can be viewed and reviewed at leisure. Experiential in 'suck it and see' what happens from the research point of view.

2) Wegerif and Mercer (1997) Computing to analyse large amounts of text. Socially–situated and Activity Theory / Experiential.

3) Laurillard (1994) A conference presentation where others listen and observe - both the presenter and the slides they show. Behaviourist. Didactic. 'Telling' in a lecture.

4) Oliver et al (2007) A chapter in a book. Written for academics and students to read.Behaviourist. Didactic. Read our wise words as an absolute. Constructively formed via a peer–reviewed paper. Two authors collabirating.

5) Rouen and Eliahu (2000) is a conference presentation too, financed by the Centre for Education. Behaviourist. Didactic. 'Telling' in a lecture. Constructed between the authors.

 

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OLDS MOOC 2013 'Methods & tools: The activity checklist: a tool for representing the "space" of context'

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014, 09:44

Fig. 1. Durer's Rhino.

I dutifully followed an OLD MOOC 2013 link to an article that pertained to offer a checklist for a would-be e-learning designer to get their head around the 'context of learning.' The article takes the model and theory of an Activity System and implies they will then offer this as a check list - I literally expected a set of questions and a check box set against the key concepts/issues of an Activity System:

  • Tools
  • Subject
  • Object
  • Rules
  • Community
  • Division of Labour

Though by doing so forgets crucial hidden issues such as the 'action' or activity between these points, the historicity of an activity system in a chronology of change, the interaction of more than one activity system to generate an alternative object  ... and so on.

It has to be a matter of choice and working practice, but for me an Activity System drawn up as a triangle with interacting nodes on a large sheet of paper is a far better way to visualise and share the components involved. The very process of explaining what each node represents becomes a point of discussion, disagreement and compromise that forces ideas into the open.

Fig. 2. Engestrom's Activity System in practice - addressing accessible e-learning

I have even gone so far as to take out chess pieces and put them at these nodes to represent 'community' for example ... and have pieces of string to denote the activity and interactions.

Fig.3. Getting an Activity System visualised and closer to the real world - as interaction between people.

Then if people aren't flummoxed to add a second activity system to represent separate communities or system with a common goal that through interaction will produce a valid, for different, new and unexpected outcome (or Object 3 if you follow Engestrom closely). In this respect sharing how Activity Systems can help explain the context becomes a creative problem solving exercise and a crucial part of early learning design analysis.

Fig. 4. How Engestrom takes Activity Theory to the next step and conceptualises the interactions between two systems. A meeting of minds or a meeting of institutions?

I found reading about Activity Theory without the classic equilateral triangle rather like trying to describe a rhinoceros without a picture.

Fig. 5. From 'Methods & Tools' (1999) Not a checklist so much as a table.

The above strikes me as rather like itemisizing the parts of a jelly-fish in an Excel Spreadsheet. This works for some people - a unique a tiny minority. The entire purpose of laying out an Activity Sytem as a diagram is to help make the complex seem less so - Kaptelinin et al have done the exact opposite.

REFERENCE

Engeström, Y (1999) ‘Activity theory and individual and social transformation’, in Y. Engeström, R, Miettinen and R.-L. Punamaki (eds) Perspectives on Activity Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kaptelinin, V.; Nardi, B. A. & Macaulay, C. (1999), 'Methods & tools: The activity checklist: a tool for representing the "space" of context', interactions 6 (4) , 27--39 .

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H810 - How to turn 13 issues into 3 for our End of Module Assignment

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 6 Jan 2013, 21:13

Courtesy of browsing through my own and two other tutor groups, and looking at the lists produced by a couple of student friends who did H810 in 2010 and 2011 I've developed this 'long list' of 13 issues. I wanted to eliminate concepts and models, which were distracting me. I struggled repeatedly to get these in any order until I did two things:

1) put the issues into my context, knowing the set up and people, what could or would result in something happening for the better in relation to delivering any learning, let alone accessible e-learning for those for whom there are barriers from a variety of known impairments or disabilities

2) create a table of all 13 issues and compare one to the other as less or more important IN MY CONTEXT.

My chosen context is the coaching and teaching of swimming in the UK - with e-learning available for teachers, coaches, club officials, parents and athletes.

I particularly want to thank Simon Carrie who has my point 3 as his first issue - I hadn't given it a moment's thought but in my context, and no doubt in the context of most of us, it cearly is very important - people and tools cost time and money.

(The ones I am likely to pick for the EMA are highlighted - skewed by the needs and practices of my chosen context)

1 Objecti(ive) - The importance of and scoping of the objective as means to an outcome
2 Subject - Significance or role of the subject (student/lecturer) User Centred Design. Involve users in the design.
3 Incentives - Incentives to invest
4 Universal Design - Universal Design/Equity
5= Novice 2 Expert - The role of the novice to learn, participate and develop expertise.
5= Framework for change - A framework for change - An Activity Systems as a model for analysis and action
7 Tools - Role of tools - assistive, web pages, equipment and 'design for all'.
8 Contradictions - Contradictions , conflicts of problems with the actions between components of a recognised activity system
9= Rules - The role of rules (legalese and guidelines) - informal and formal
9= History - What the history of such efforts says about what should be done next and what can be achieved in the future.
11= Division of labour - Division of labour - who is responsible, who is the broker?
11= Community - The community as a ‘community of practices’ or a constellation of connections that engage and participate.
13 Game-like - Game-like play between institutions

What are your thoughts? In your context? How would you prioritise or word these issues? Are there more still (probably).

The two other contexts that interest me are from the point of view of an e-learning agency and from a client point of view.

For the latter - Object(ive) as everyone works to the brief once this is written with clear objectives, universal design for those for whom design as an expressions of creativity and problem solving is important. Tools as agencies are expected to come up with a 'clever' technical response. Framework for change - as in a consultancy capacity the agency will be expected to offer some actionable plan.

For the former - Incentives (as performance Improvement), Rules (legal and mission compliance) and division of labour (who does what) are likely to be significant.

 

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A note here on the learning process and the online learning experience

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 12 Jan 2013, 13:33

I'm still thinking this through so share it here - actually I'm finding support from fellow MAODErs who did H810 in 2010 and 2011 as our tutor group is so exceptionally quiet sad.

I've also been following other tutor groups and can't wonder why some of these groups weren't merged some time ago for the benefit of all - putting us in silos isn't working, which shows the lack of flexibility in this 'system'. One caveat, I know from past experience that there will always be some who care to be more active online than others - I recall being part of one tutor group where some six of the 12 were highly engaged online on other platforms anyway so that anything any of us posted was immediately picked up by the others.

Just a note here on the learning process and the online learning experience

Having the opportunity to share thoughts, get it wrong, be corrected, think through the complexities and come to your own conclusions is surely a vital part of learning online? Indeed, using tools such as this, the blog ... and the wiki are what differentiates online learning in 2012/2013 compared to distance learning of a decade ago or more when you got a box of books and DVDs through the post with some instructions on what to read and when to hand in an essay. (Decades ago I've had a file insert sent in the post each month, or an audio cassette - self-directed learning requiring a huge amount of will power).

So, for anyone who wishes to consider why some issue are more important than others, and to clarify the difference between an issue, a model or a concept, here are my thoughts on what to take from Chapters 11,12 and 13.

Having cut out the duplications and overlaps and categorised the 'issues' I can only find ten. I would have thought one way or another THREE can be selected for the EMA from these. The next step is to rank them. I've loaded these into a table and cross-referenced each. I could write 500 words on each - the problems is to write 1800 or so on each of three.

From Chapter 11

1 Game-like play between institutions
2 Investment
3  The role of rules  (legalese and guidelines) - informal and formal


From Chapter 12

4  Role of tools
5 Significance  or role of the subject (student/lecturer)
6 The importance of and scoping of the objective as means to an outcome.
X Rules (see above)
X Community (see below)
7 Contradictions , conflicts of problems with the actions requires between components of  a recognised activity system
8  The role of the novice  to learn, participate and develop expertise.
9 What the history of  such efforts says about  what should be done next and what can be achieved in  the future.


From Chapter 13

10  The community  as a ‘community of practices’ or a constellation of connections that engage and participate.

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H810 Activity 35 Chapter 12 Tutor Forum Response

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 13:25

Hi Adam, yes I agree that 'responsibility' comes up and that is what I come across even before people start to look at the tools - eyes glaze over on the discovery that there are many tools and lengthy guidelines and they'll conclude that it is potentially not worth the effort for them or the client ... in certain contexts - sports have strict guidelines relating to accessibility, as do places of education ... workplace education is another matter and I sometimes wonder if people just don't think there could possibly be anyone in their workforce who could have a disability that would prevent them using the internet ... otherwise how could they do their job. A number of charities have paid for an insightful video that introduces the viewer to a dozen or so people with disabilities in the workplace to understand where assistance and support comes from. We should remember that many have been on top of this themselves, often being early adopters of the technology for the benefits it brings to them - they don't need help necessarily, but could probably show you a few things if you need to personalise a browser.

I've had an incling that Engestrom has something interesting to say and I've misquoted him and convinced people that it means x, when it actually means y with no one wanting to correct me. As I indicated above to Christopher I wanted to crack this once and for all, especially as I am in the final weeks of the MAODE.

This therefore is essential reading. Find a case history that you might be familiar with and take it from there. These are thorough case studies from beginnign to end of consultancy like projects he and his team have undertaken for, amongst others, a TV production company, a court, a regional health service in Finland - so hospitals, specialist clincs and GP surgeries ... courts and think and several others.

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

This brings it up to date.

Engeström.Y (2011) Learning by expanding: ten years after (last accessed 19 Dec 20-12) http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm

My take on it includes drawing up an activity system on a large piece of board and adding some chess pieces - to get it into my head that all these nodes are people dealing with oither people even if they manifest themselves as tools or rules - someone wrote or designed them, and someone effectively holds the 'keys. Also to remind myself of the historical point of view .. a half eaten Toblerone.

Various manifestations of this in my Blog.

http://learn1.open.ac.uk/mod/oublog/viewpost.php?u=jv276&time=1355917285&post=0

If you want to share thoughts and have time to get your head around it do please get in touch. It is my hope that I can research, construct and use an Activity System for real. I just think it is a way to get inside a subject thoroughly to understand the actions that are working and those that are misfiring or getting stuck, blocked or shredded.

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H810 Using an Activity System to improve accessibility to e-learning by students with disabilities.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 20 Dec 2012, 09:45

 

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Fig.1. The consequences of an activity system - loads of action. Here a tutor group over a period of 27 weeks. 'Activity' is represented by messages in a tutor forum. H810 is an Open University postgraduate course in Education. Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

Visualizing actions between people, concepts and things required more than words - models and metaphor start to create meaning.

Why use any model?

A model should be a well-founded visual simplification of an aspect of a complex reality that communicates its concept clearly, is based on thorough research, and is easily shared for feedback and review. Users should find that a model, like an experiment, is repeatable so that in time a body of work including case studies and a critique of the model builds credibility. A conceptual model such as an Activity System is ‘particularly useful when one wants to make sense of systemic factors behind seemingly individual and accidental disturbances, deviations, and innovations occurring in the daily practices of workplaces’. Engeström (2008:27)

Conole and Oliver (2011) mention four levels of description:

1. Flat vocabulary
2. More complex vocabulary
3. Classification schemas or models
4. Metaphors

The vocabularly is inevitable, though talking this through to an audience would be my prefered approach, so that with engagement reponse is invited. The models used here, from Vyogtsy and Leon'tev to Engestrom may appear familiar and set - they not. There is a group that likes to see everything 'triangulated' - diamonds and stars, though evident in the literature on education - maybe akin to complex rather than plain language. From models we move to various metaphors - and you are certain to have your own. While Engeström himself moves on to ideas of 'knotworking' and fluid, organic representations.

Engeström (1987) took a current model - that of Vygotsky (1978) and made it his own and has since offered a metaphor to explain it further.

Why use an Activity System?

Activity Systems derive from a century of analysis of the way people construct meaning (Vygotsky, 1978. Leon’tev, 1978) that later researchers applied not simply to how people think, but how groups of people (Engeström, 1987) act in collaborative ways.

 

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Fig.2. Application of Engeström’s (1987) systemic model of activity featured in Seale (2006)

There are two parts to an Activity System - upper and lower. The upper part is the triangle drawn to represent the interaction of Subject, Tools and Object.

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Fig. 3.  Vygotsky.L.S. (1978) from Mind in Society.

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Fig.4. The structure of a human activity system. Engeström 1987.

Historically this is where Vygotsky began in Moscow in the late 1920s (Fig.3) Engeström and others turned the experssion of Vygotsky's model the other way up. This split of upper and lower serves another purpose - Yrjö Engeström likens this expression of an activity system to an iceberg where the top triangle - Subject - Tools - Object is what we see, while the other actions, that give the system context - he added when developing Vygostky’s (1978) original model, are beneath the surface. Engeström. (2008:89). (Fig.4) It's worth remembering that Vygotsky was working on how people create meaning, while later thinkers have adapted this to help scrutinise how communities or groups of people, tools and sets of guidelines create (as Engeström puts it above, 'sense meaning' Engeström 1987).

When is the construction of an Activity System useful?

Engeström (2008:27) suggests that it is particularly useful ‘when one wants to make sense of systemic factors behind seemingly individual and accidental disturbances, deviations, and innovations occurring in daily practices of workplaces’. Someone needs to think it is necessary to study the status quo - perhaps because there is an awareness that something, somewhere is going wrong, or that there has been an actual downturn in business or collapse in profitability, or a desire simply to look at things in a different way to understand where improvements can be made, a change in policy and law, or a reinvented or renewed.

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Fig. 5. Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work.

Engeström (2008:207) suggests that there are five principles in relation to theories of activity systems.

  1. Object Orientation
  2. Mediation by tools and signs
  3. Mutual constitution of actions and activity
  4. Contradictions and deviations as source of change
  5. Historicity

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Fig. 6 A White Knight from a Lewis Chess Set (replica) playing the role of the Object - the purpose, motivation and idea behind the activity in the system through whom sense is made or an outcome is derived.

1) Object Orientation

The Object is a problem, the purpose, the motivation and opportunity - the modus operandi behind the activity. ‘Object orientation’ (Engeström 2008:222) is a crucial prerequisite of working with an activity system. In the context of accessible e-learning Seale (2006:165) creates an Activity System in which the object(ive) is ‘to make e-learning accessible for disabled students’. As an exercise considering its widest application this object definition suffers because the object is so broad it embraces a myriad of issues and circumstances, each word is open to interpretation - what, for example, is meant by ‘e-learning’, what is meant by ‘accessible’ by ‘disabled’ and by ‘student’. Rather than an object as an opportunity or goal as Seale uses, a fix, the desired outcome, is more likely to be found where, at least in the first instance, we identify a particular context and a tightly defined problem.

Not only that, but to contain the likelihood of ‘ruptures’ across the activity system clarity and agreement is required on the problem that needs to be fixed. In relation to accessibility to e-learning for students with disabilities there are multiple problems, many unique to a student with a particular disability or, where feasible and appropriate, a group that can be identified by the nature of their disability, for example, deaf students who are seen as, and many want to see themselves as a ‘minority language’ group. What is more, a disabled student may have several impairments and the degree to which these are a barrier to e-learning is fluid, perhaps ameliorating with treatment, or getting worse, transmogrifying, or simply being intermittent. As these are known issues that would cause problems or clashes within the activity system and prevent its working it seems futile to build an activity system on this basis - knowing that it will fail.

A problem well stated is a problem half-solved’. (Charles Kettering)

This may be an aphorism, but it rings true. Problem scoping is necessary but where a problem remains elusive, or is ‘messy’ rather than ‘tame’ (Rittel and Webber's 1973, Ackoff 1979, Ritchey 2011) a variety of creative problem solving techniques (VanGundy, 1988. Griggs, 1985). Knowing what the problem is enables innovation - identifying the problem and devising a fix, and in communications, where, for example, advertisers prepare a creative brief that begins by clearly identifying the problem.

‘Object orientation’ and in this context, problem definition and refinement, is the first in five principles set out by Engeström (2008:207) for using activity systems. The drive, purpose and motivation for all the actions between the six identified nodes depends on the object ‘that which is acted upon’. A key component of activity theory is the transformation of this object into an outcome i.e. to solve the problem. If solving a problem is the goal, and recognition of a successful enterprise undertaken, then all the more reason to get the definition of the object correct - the process can be repeated for different problems, at different scales and over time. Without absolute clarity over the object you may find that different people in the system have differing interpretations of what it is. Kuutti (1996) found that having more than one object under scrutiny was a reason for an activity system to fail.  An answer where there are two distinct problems may be to treat them as such and attach them to separate activity systems. Whilst for the sake of scrutiny it is necessary to isolate an activity system, they do of course interact - indeed it is by looking at how two activity systems interact that you may reveal how problems are solved or innovations produced. However, if the object is wrong, or ill-defined or ambiguous then the motives may be out of kilter and it would therefore be necessary to transform all of the components of the activity system, especially and including those at the bottom half of the ‘iceberg’. Engeström (2008:87)

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Fig. 7. The black Queen from a Lewis Chess Set representing 'Tools'

2) Mediation by Tools and Signs

Tools might be evaluation and repair tools and assistive technologies, software or legislation, guidelines or staff development. Tools are a mediating factor between the Subject (student, lecturer, facilitator of the desire outcome) and the Object - the purpose of all this activity.

Tools play a significant role in the history of tackling accessibility issues, to undue, out do or transform resources or interpret platforms in a way that communicates their meaning offering some if not all the affordances of the tools as designed for students, who, having gained a place to study a degree  in Higher Education might be thought of as some the most able’, not simply the ‘able’.Tools in this role at the apex of the Activity System and can include guidelines and legislation where they are an applied ‘tool’ rather than a rule or standard. ‘ A functioning tool for the analysis of teams and organisations’. Engeström  (2008:229) Of course the category includes evaluation and repair tools, assistive technologies and software and equipment. Tools ‘mediate’ between the Subject - the facilitator of change through activity and the outcome of the activities - the Object. ‘To build a website that complies to level AAA’ may be achievable whilst ‘to make e-learning accessible for disabled students’ Seale (2006smile sounds like wishful thinking, rather ‘to build an e-learning module that when scrutinised by a representative range of people with dyslexia’ receives a grading of ‘satisfactory’ or above’. This would suggest the involvement therefore of dyslexic students in the testing of a navigation interface for the virtual learning environment as an ‘action’ between subject and object.

There is a particular congregation of ‘contradictions’ stemming from the relationship between Tools and both Subject and Object:

  1. The array of design and evaluation software applications (Seale, 2006)
  2. The mastery of external devices and tools of labour activity (Nardi, 1996)
  3. No rules of practice for use of that tool (Isscroft and Scanlan, 2002 )
  4. Tools that are overly prescriptive (Phipps et al, 2005)
  5. How do you choose from amongst such a plethora of tools?
  6. The context in which tools are introduced (Seale, 2006:160)

3) Mutual constitution of actions and activity

The links between each component - object, tool, subject and so on - should equate to a burst of electricity or perhaps a chemical induced response between a synapse and a neuron - Engestrom (2008) goes as far as to liken an activity system to a type of fungi - mycorrhizae like formation  Engestrom (1997).

 

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Fig.8. Mycorrhizae - one way Engeström sees an Activity System

An Activity System should be seen not as a concept of a static entity, but rather a living and growing thing. The actions, the double-arrows between each concept, are what gives an activity system structure  - it’s the management  of the disturbances, contradictions and conflicts along these lines of action that disturb effective flow where the role of an activity system comes in - identify then fix these and you move towards achieving the object orientation or outcome. Knorr-Cetina (2003) talks of 'flow architecture' and if neither of these concepts ring true for you in realtion to activity systems then Zerubavel (1997) talks of 'a mindscape' while Cussins (1992) talks of 'cogntive trails'.

4) Contradictions and deviations as source of change

I would have opted for Subject as the third issue, but reading Engeström made me think again. Subject, Tools, Object reduces the Activity System to the far simpler upturned triangle Vygotsky devised to explain how people create meaning (Vygotsky, 1978:86)  without further thought to the deeper and wider issues once learning is put in context, that Engeström (1987, 2008, 2011) added by broadening this way of showing how ‘meaning is created’ in the workplace by adding Rules, Community and Division of Labour.

Rather than picking one more of these concepts at the expense of leaving the others out I think that the ‘Actions’ the double arrows that indicate something happening between the elements is of interest. I believe this would be the fourth of Engeström's five principles - Contradictions and deviations as source of change. This after all is, literally, where all the ‘action’ takes place, what Seale (2006:164) describes as ‘problems, ruptures, breakdowns or clashes’.  (I need to go back and to understand what is meant by Engeström's third principle - ‘Mutual constitution of actions and activity’) I think this is the principle that the Activity System has to be seen as a complete, self-contained entity, that any break or failure or misunderstanding in the system would call it to fail so you’d be better of starting again from scratch until the scale or context works. Engeström uses the metaphor of a very particular kind of lichen (‘mycorrhizae’, Engeström, 2008:229) to describe Activity Systems - he doesn’t suggest however that you attempt to work with this kind of complexity, rather it is a reminder that an activity system is fluid and changing and depends on activity taking places between the defined nodes.

5) Historicity

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Fig. 9. A discontinuous series of Activity Systems ... like Toblerone at Christmas.

'Historicity' - Engeström's experssion (2008) - is a term referring to 'the historical actuality of persons and events',(Wikipedia, 2012) suggests the need to see an Activity System as a snapshot, a sequence and a discontinuous one at that. So take the familiar equilateral triangle of the Activity System model and run a line of them. Seale (2006) suggests there is value to be found by doing some 'archaelogy' - I think 'historical research' would be an adequate way to think of it, for what this may reveal about how these 'rupture, conflicts' Seale (ibid) or 'contraditions and devistions as a source or change' Engeström (2008:223) along the lines of activity. Seale (2006) talks of how an activity system 'incesstanly reconstructs itself. Engeström (1994) talks of an ideal-typical sequence of epistemic actgions in an expansive cycle.

Subject

By definition here the ‘non-disabled’, particularly in the cognitive sense though sometimes with athletic promise too. Ironically whilst ‘non-disabled’ is not a favoured term it does at least relate to a homogenous group, while ‘disabled’ does not given the range, scale and potentially shifting nature of impairments to learning from hearing, to visual, cognitive and mobility.

Subject to be of most importance - this is the person, actor or lecturer, indeed a student - anyone who is responsible for facilitating and supporting the student’s learning experience. This may be a practitioner who works with a Higher Education Learning Technologist or the digital media access group if there is such a thing. Engeström (2008:222).

Any of the team members may be a novice, which may be a positive or negative influence for the actions in the system. A novice is inexpert, on the other hand they are free from the habits that may be causing problems and creating barriers. Because of the way a novice learns they are more inclined to innovate as they are not bound or even aware to rules, guidelines and beliefs that may hold them back.

Rules

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Fig. 10 A collection of pawns from a Lewis Chess set representing 'Rules'

These can be formal, informal or technical rules. They are institutional and departmental policies and strategies. These are rules of practice, and legislation, as well as strategies and research. They are explicit and implicit norms. These are conventions and social relations. These in the context of accessible e-learning are the various guidelines related to web usability and legislation related to accessibility and equality. Universal Design and User Centred Design are rules too. Rules mediate between the subject and the community. The actions, the 'doing in order to transform something' or 'doing with a purpose' are the activities that link Rules with Subject, Rules with Object and Rules with Community.

Community

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Fig. 11. An Activity System represented by chess pieces.This 'Community' comprises the King and two bishops from replica of the Lewis Chess Set.

These are 'people who share the same objective' - their being in this activity system is dependent on their wishing to engage with the object, the opportunity, to strive to achieve the stated outcome. Any ruptures are therefore not a consequence of having the wrong person in this community - this grouping, this loose gathering of like-minded people, is what Engestrom has come to describe as a knot and the actions these people take as 'knotworking' Engeström (2008:194) - latent, informal, sometimes impromptu gatherings of people who assemble to address a problem or to take an opportunity - what Rheingold (2002) describes as 'smart mobs'.

Division of Labor (sic)This concept, or node as an ethereal entity is 'how people are organized to realise the object'. Not one to represent by a chess piece and one may think that this ought to be the link that joins people together ... this is where working with a model as the beat of a heart, not the heart itself, requires acceptance of the way a model is designed to work. Division of labor (US spelling for a Finnish academic ... who has bases in Helsinki and San Diego). This is planning and funding, designing and developing, implementing and evaluating, using, specialists vs. the mainstream).

Conclusion

Digitization of assets is akin to the creation of an ocean in which the binary code are the molecules of water - apt then with the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 and our adopting the use of ‘the Cloud’ and ‘Cloud Computing’ to take this metaphor into a more dynamic form and think of it as a water-cycle. This system is shifting continually horizontally with currents and tides, but also vertically - the exponential growth in computing speeds and memory capacities the energy that drives the system. This global system hasn’t taken adequate account of people with disabilities - as in the real world there are barriers to access caused by visual, hearing, mobility and cognitive impairments - just as these have been addressed in a piecemeal way through legislation, funding, programmes and promotions, by disability groups or holistically, so too with adaptations or changes to the digital world - there is no panacea that will remove all barriers for all people with any disability, of any kind, type or stage of deterioration or amelioration.  Stretching the metaphor further I wonder if at times this digital water-cycle, again like the real one, is polluted, that translucence as well as flotsam and jetsam in this ocean are the barriers - on the one hand the pollutants have to be removed - the barriers taken down - but at the same time, cleaner purer water, in the form a universal design that is simpler and usable would gradually cleanse some of system. Once again, a mirror to the real world responses, specialist schools and associations, say for those with dyslexia are blind or deaf, become an oasis or island in this digital system. 

‘Those not engaging with technologies or without access are getting left further and further behind. We need to be mindful that the egalitarian, liberal view of new technologies is a myth; power and dynamics remain, niches develop and evolve. Applications of metaphorical notions of ecology, culture and politics can help us better understand and deal with these complexities'. (Conole. 2011:410)

FURTHER  READING

Cecez-Kecmanovic, Dubravka, and Webb.C (2000) "Towards a communicative model of collaborative web-mediated learning."Australian Journal of Educational Technology 16. 73-85. Towards a communicative model of collaborative web-mediated learning  (last accessed 20 Dec 2012) http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet16/cecez-kecmanovic.html

Hardman, J (2008) Researching pedagogy: an acitivty system approach Journal of Education, No. 45, 2008. PP65-95 (last accessed 20 Dec)  2012 http://joe.ukzn.ac.za/Libraries/No_45_Dec_2008/Researching_pedagogy_an_Activity_Theory_approach.sflb.ashx)

Engeström’s (1999) outline of three generations of activity theory (last accessed 20 Dec 2012) http://www.bath.ac.uk/research/liw/resources/Models%20and%20principles%20of%20Activity%20Theory.pdf

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Engeström.Y (2011) Learning by expanding: ten years after (last accessed 19 Dec 20-12) http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm

REFERENCE

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

Conole, G (2011) Designing for learning in a digital world. Last accessed 18 Dec 2012 http://www.slideshare.net/grainne/conole-keynote-icdesept28

Conole, G. and Oliver, M. (eds) 2007 Contemporary Perspectives on E-learning Research, Themes, Tensions and Impacts on Research. London, RoutledgeFalmer.

Cussins, A. (1992). Content, embodiment and objectivity: The theory of cognitive trails. Mind, 101, 651–688.

Engestrom (2008-04-30). From Teams to Knots (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives) (p. 238). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

Engeström, Y. (1987) Learning by Expanding: An Activity-theoretical Approach to Developmental Research. Helsinki: Orienta-Konsultit.

Engeström, Y. (1994). The working health center project: Materializing zones of proximal
development in a network of organizational learning. In T. Kauppinen & M. Lahtonen (Eds.) Action research in Finland. Helsinki: Ministry of Labour.

Engeström.Y (1999) Learning by expanding. Ten Years After. http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding/intro.htm

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

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

Issroff, K. and Scanlon, E. (2002) Using technology in higher education: an Activity Theory perspective. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 18, 1, 77–83

Knorr-Cetina, K. (2003). From pipes to scopes: The flow architecture of financial markets. Distinktion, 7, 7–23.

Kuutti, K. (1996) Activity theory as a potential framework for human–computer interaction research. In B. Nardi (ed.) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human–Computer Interaction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 17–44.

Leon’tev.A.N. (1978) Activity, consciousness, and personality. Englewood Cliffs. NJ. Prentice-Hall.

Moessenger, S (2011) Sylvia’s Study Blog (Last accessed 19 Dec 2012) http://sylviamoessinger.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/h809-reading-oliver-et-al-chapter-2-a3-6/

Phipps, L., Witt, N. and Kelly, B. (2005) Towards a pragmatic framework for accessible e-learning. Ariadne, 44. Online. Available HTTP: <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/ issue44/ phipps/> (last accessed 19 Dec 2012).

Rheingold, H. (2002). Smart mobs: The next social revolution. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

Ritchey, T. (2011) Wicked Problems - Social Messes: Decision support Modelling with Morphological Analysis.Springer.

Rittel.W.J., Webber.M.M. (1973) Dilemmas in a general theory of planning Policy Sciences, June 1973, Volume 4, Issue 1,

Seale, J. (2006) E-learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice

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

Vygotsky.L.S. (1978) Mind in Society. The development of higher psychological process. Cambridge. MA.

Wikipedia (2012) Definition of 'Historicity' - (last accessed 19 Dec 2012) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity

Zerubavel, E. (1997). Social mindscapes: An invitation to cognitive sociology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

 

 

 

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H810 - Navigation Tips for students with visual impairments

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 4 Jan 2013, 16:50

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Fig.1. Google Docs help center - navigation

I was looking for a way to an an Umlaut to the name 'Engestrom' in Google Docs help but instead stumble upon something far more valuable in relation to access to e-learning for students with disabilities - navigation short cuts. These apply to how a person with sight impairment might move through a text and so, like basic web usability, informs on best practice when it comes to writing, proof reading and lay-out, i.e. editing with a reader with a visual impairment in mind.

Somehow the clear way the guide is laid out caused the penny to drop in a way that hasn't occurred in the last three months however many times I have observed, listened to, read about or tried to step into the shows of a student with a visual impairment.

Web usability recommends a way of laying out text that is logical, clear and suited to the screens we use to access content from the web. This logic of headings and multiple sub-headings, let alone plain English in relation to short sentences as well as use of paragraphs makes reading not only easier for those with no disability, but assists those with varies degrees of visual impairment as content is then better able to respond to standard tools of text enlargement and enhancement, but also of screen readers that work best when reading through text.

What assistive technology does, a control that doesn't require a mouse and keeps a manageable set of keys under the fingers rather than needing to run back and forth across the keyboard, is to reduce the above commands to actions that a visually impaired or blind person can then use to control their web viewing experience.

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H810 : Conflicts in an Activity System

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 13:23

Fig. 1 Seale (2008) chapter 12 on activity systems in relation to accessibility in e-learning as an Activity System

The six potential areas of conflict Seal identifies occur, from the Activity System, between:

  1. Objects and tools - if we agree that the tools currently available are weak (or too many of them, or too specialist or too expensive)
  2. Objects and division of labour - a fragmented division of labour that is pulling the different stakeholders apart and preventing them from working together to meet the objective.
  3. Community and division of labour - a contradiction could be perceived to exist between community and division of labour if the rules that the community develop divide labour in such a way as to mitigate against the objective of the activity being achieved
  4. Community and rules - a conflict with the community whether guidelines are seen as tools or rules. A contradiction may be perceived to occur between community and rules where the community cannot agree on the rules and how they should be applie
  5. Rules and subject - where the rules or guidelines are not specific to the object, or difficulties in interpreting the results having used tools. A contradiction may be perceived to occur between the rules and the subject where the rules are non-existent, weak or inconsistent and so not good enough to enable the users of the rules (subjects) to meet the objective of the activity.
  6. Tools and subject - If the subjects of an activity system are unable to use the tools in the way they were intended, then conflict or contradiction may occur.

There are a further 8 discussed tangetially in relation to the Activity System, some within individual nodes. In total the full list looks like this:

  1. The array of design and evaluation software applications
  2. The mastery of external devices and tools of labour activity (Naardi 1996)
  3. No rules of practive for use of that tool (Iscorft and Scanlon)
  4. Tools that are overly prescriptive (Phipps et al 2005)
  5. How do you choose a tool?
  6. The context in which tools are introduced (Seale, 2006:160)
  7. The array of guidelines and standards and lack of information on how to use these.
  8. Constraints caused by formal, informal and technical  rules and concentions of community (Seale, 2006:161)
  9. A framework for desscribing current practice both individual and social (Seale, 2006:160)
  10. More than one object (Kuutti, 1996)
  11. When different but conntected activities ahre an object or an artefact but place a very different emphasis on it (McAviia and Oliver, 2004)
  12. Conflict over who does what within 'Divisions of Labour'
  13. Novice or expert ... good thing or bad? The novice is more likely to be the innovator - if brought in from outside the system, while the expert in the system may be too set in the ways of the 'community'.
  14. Excuses about the lack of information. Steyaert (2005)

I like Seale's concluding remarks - Subject and object, object and community, subect and community - Contradiction in any or all of the relationships described in the previous section has the potential to threaten the central relationships between object and community, subject and object and subject and community.

And the over all thought:

‘Design for all’ probably requires a commitment to ‘design by all’.

According to Activity Theory, any or all of the contradictions will prevent accessible e-learning practice from developing and therefore accessible e-learning will not develop or progress unless these contradictions are resolved.

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Activity Systems are repeated, uneven and discontinuos

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 17 Dec 2012, 17:51

DSC06465.JPG

Fig.1. Activity Systems as a chronological, though broken sequence. Fruit & Nut Toblerone (Kuutti 1996)

To understand Activity Systems I produce tables and charts - I annotate these then revise initial drawings until I have something that is clear. I may fill several sheets. My conviction is that Activty Systems have a great deal to offer when it comes to trying to understand how actions are playing out, producing contradictions and confict.

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Fig.2. A detail from an annotation of the Activity Sytem I am working on in relation to accessibility and e-learning.

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Fig. 3. Detail showing where the idea of the half-eaten Toblerone came from. An Activity System has to be seen as a broken chronology of Activity Systems.

REFERENCE

Engeström, Y (2008) From Teams to Knots. Activity-theorerical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Kuutti, K. (1996) Activity theory as a potential framework for human–computer interaction research. In B. Nardi (ed.) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human–Computer Interaction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 17–44

Seale, J. (2006) E-learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice

 

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H810 : Accessibility in e-learning as an activity system

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 4 Jan 2013, 16:32

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Fig. 1 Seale (2008) chapter 12 on activity systems in relation to accessibility in e-learning as an Activity System

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Fig. 2 From the chapter - annotations, animation and notes

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Fig.3 Another way of looking at Activity Systems 1

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<Fig.4 Another way of looking at Activity Systems 3

REFERENCE

Engeström , Y (2008) From Teams to Knots. Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

Kuutti, K. (1996) Activity theory as a potential framework for human–computer interaction research. In B. Nardi (ed.) Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human–Computer Interaction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pp. 17–44.

Seale, J. (2006) E-learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice

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MAODE Students - All the Hs: H810, H807, H800, H808 ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 16 Mar 2014, 05:54

Enlightened and loving the MAODE, but always keen to have a book on the side that I can read, take notes on, think about and share. This, I have come to understand, is largelly because I was taught (or indoctrinated) to learn this way - books, notes, essay, exam.

Though never sharing - learning used to be such a secretive affair I thought.

How The OU has turned me inside out - the content of my mind is yours if you want it, and where we find difference or similarity let's bounce around some ideas to reinvent our own knowledge.

As I read this in eBook form on an iPad I add notes electronically on the page, or reading it on a Kndle I take notes on the iPad - I even take notes on paper to write up later. I highlight. I also share choice quotes on Twitter @JJ27VV. Which in turn, aggregates the key ideas that I can then cut and paste here, with comments that others may add.

Simply sharing ideas in a web 2.0 21st Century Way!

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MAODE - some contemporary theories of learning - all levels including the workplace

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 Nov 2012, 22:03

Expansive Learning

Engestrom (2006) The idea of internal contradictions of change, with a model of learning activity based in horizontal, not vertical learning and 'knotworking' whereby the nodes and collective ownership of learning changes.

 

Learning that is top down and stems from:

  1. Socialization
  2. Externalization
  3. Combination
  4. Internalization

Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995)

Learning comes about from participation in culturally valued practices in which something useful is produced – though participation and acquisition alone cannot be enough to make major change. Engestrom (2006:61)

When it comes to learning on campus think about the 'hidden curriculum of what it means to be a student'. Bateston (1972)

REFERENCE

Bateston (1972) Steps to an ecology of mind: collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution and epistomelogy. New York. Ballantine Books.

Engestrom Y, (2006) Learning by expanding. An activity theoretical approach to developmental research. Helsinki. Orienta–Konsultit.

Lave and Wenger (1991) Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge.

Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) The Knowledge Creating Company: How Japanese companies create the dynamics for learning

 

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Towards my own theory of learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Nov 2012, 18:14

photo.JPG

How do we perceive and share knowledge? What matters most in this equation?

Society, the institution, department or the individual educator?

Learning occurs at the interface between individuals, between the teacher and pupil, between pupils and of course between the thinkers, the educators, researchers and academics.

This interface is expressed as an artefact: a lecture, a book, a TV appearance, a podcast, a chapter in a book or a paper – as an expression of a set of ideas. This interface is also a conversation, in a tutorial, at a conference or less formally in passing over a meal, or drink (in the Oxbridge experience at the High Table, in the senior, middle or junior common rooms, in halls and rooms where societies and loose groupings of people meet, as well as in studies and rooms). Recreation of this online as minds meet, discuss and share. Informal or proactive groups or societies coming together. People with people.

On the one hand we like to put the institution above the person, whether in academia or the commercial world we rank and recognise Oxbridge and the Russell Group 'above' other universities while, for example, in Law we put Freshfields, Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith in the top ten of 125 or 500 legal practices.

However, it is an the individual level, at the interface between one person and another, one mind and another, where the learning occurs, where the knowledge is applied and changed, and in various forms written up or written out to cause or record effect.

It is at this interface, where minds meet, where ideas are catalysed and formed.

Towards my own theory of learning ?

Or trying to get my head around Engestrom's Activity Theory that fits the bill for me?

 

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More on 'Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age'.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 09:24

Why does the OU put the novice and expert together in the MAODE?

Although I praise this approach and after two years have been a beneficiary I wonder if the research points to the need for greater flexibility and mixing, more akin to several cohorts of students being able to move around, between their own tutor group, contributing to discussions with the newcomers while also being able to hobnob with the experts?

The learning theory that I am coming to understand does not favour a fixed approach.

It isn't simply a case of playing to the individual, though this is certainly very important as some people will favour being the teacher or the taught, or simply relish periods when they sit at the feet of the expert or stand up in front of newcomers. Rather it is apparent that people learn well within a peer group of like-minds, with people at a similar stage to themselves while having planned opportunities to hear and participate with 'great minds' while also from time to time contributing to the efforts and feeding off the enthusiasms of the 'new minds'.

Nothing is fixed, neither learning vicariously (Cox, 2006), or learning from the periphery to the centre (Seely Brown and Duguid, 1999).

Stage one of my approach to reading these days is to highlight, even share quotes and notes on Twitter as I go through a book.

I then type up my notes and add further thoughts either by cutting and pasting from the aggregates notes in my Twitter feed (eBooks don't allow you to cut and paste) or from handwritten notes I take on cards.

Then I share my notes here, tagged so that I can revisit and others can draw on my notes too or take the hint and read the chapter or book for themselves.

This too is but a stage - next step is to wrap up my developing thoughts, comments and other conversations and put a version of this entry into my external blog my mind bursts.

Sometimes an exchange here or elsewhere develops my thinking further - today I will be sitting down with a senior learning designer, one of five or six in the office of an international e-learning agency to talk learning theory and educational principles.

Chapter 2

Regarding Quality Assurance - there should be no inconsistencies between:

  • Curriculum
  • Teaching methods
  • Learning environment
  • Assessment procedures

So align assumptions:

  • Learning outcomes
  • Suitable assessment

N.B. Each outcome requires a different kind of theoretical perspective and a different pedagogical approach. L757

(Easy to say in theory, not so easy to deliver in practice?)

Three clusters of broad perspectives:

  • Associationism
  • Behaviourism
  • Connectionism

Associationist: gradual building of patterns of associations and skill components. Therefore activity followed by feedback.

Simple tasks prerequisites to more complex.

Gagné (1985 and 1992)

  • Instructional task analysis of discrimination, classifications and response sequences.
  • Simpler tasks built step by step followed by coordination to the whole structure.

Instructional Systems Design

  • Analyse the domain into a hierarchy of small units.
  • Sequence the units so that a combination of units is not taught until its component units are grasped individually.
  • Design an instructional approach for each unit in the sequence.

Then add:

  • Immediate feedback
  • Individualization of instruction

Behaviourism: active learning by design. Immediate feedback on success, careful analysis of learning outcomes, alignment of learning objectives.

The Cognitive Perspective

  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Concept Formation

Knowledge acquisition as the outcome of an interaction between new experiences and the structures for understanding that have already been created. Therefore building a framework for learning vs. learning as the strengthening of associations.

Piaget (1970) Constructivist Theory of Knowledge.

‘Conceptual development occurs through intellectual activity rather than by the absorption of information'. L819

Vygotsky (1928:1931) Importance of social interaction.

Interactions – that e-learning teams call ‘interactivities’.

The Situative Perspective

  • Learning must be personally meaningful
  • Authentic to the social context

(problem-based learning and cognitive apprenticeship). L862

The concept of community practice

Wenger (1998) identify as a learner derived from the community. (Aspires, defines, accredited).

Mayes et al (2001) learning through relating to others. E.g. Master Class

Social-anthropological belonging to the community. L882.

Beliefs, attitudes, common endeavour, also ‘activity systems’ Engestrom 1993

Learning relationships

Identify, participate, individual relations. Dependent on: context, characteristics and strength of relationships in the group (Fowler and Mayes, 1999) L902

What was exotic in 2007 in common place today?

See Appendix 1 L912

Learning as a cycle through stages.

  • J F Vernon (2011) H809 assignments and end of module assessment. The concept of riding a thermal of gently rising circles.
  • Various references L923.
  • Fitts and Posner (1968)
  • Remelhart and Norman (1978)
  • Kolb (1984)
  • Mayes and Fowler (1999)
  • Welford (1968)

If ‘as it proceeds from service to expert, the nature of learning changes profoundly and the pedagogy based on one stage will be inappropriate for another’. L923

Fowler and Mayes (1999)

Primary: preventing information

Secondary: active learning and feedback

Tertiary: dialogue and new learning.

REFERENCE

Beetham, H and Sharpe, R. (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and delivering e-learning.

Cole, M and Engestrom, Y (1993) A cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition. In G.Salmon (ed.) Distributed cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations, New York, CVP.

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Gagné, R (1985) The conditions of learning. New York. Holt, Rhinehart and Wilson.

Jonassen, D.H. and Rohrer-Murphy, L (1999) ‘Activity theory as a framework for designing constructivist learning environments’. Educational Technology Research and Development, 47 (1) 61-80

Seely-Brown, J.S and Duguid, P. (1991) ‘Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation’, Organizational Science, 2 (1): 40-57

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Breakthroughs, Activity Theory and Agency Creative Teams

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 9 Mar 2012, 06:20

'There's never been a breakthrough as a result of writing a memo, breakthroughs occur when two or more people, get inspired, have fun, think the unthinkable'. Lars Kolind, Oticon.(in Mayle 1998) 


If you're on the trail of the MAODE then look at Engestrom's 'Activity Theory' which shows in a chart how not only two people, but two entities interact and create a unique response.
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Does the learning never end?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 12 Feb 2014, 15:22

I introduce an 85 year old to an iPad, he wants one for what he can read, spots Engestrom's 'From Knots to Networking' and he doesn't look back.

Here he is taking a tutorial on Hegel some 50 years ago.

How the iPad works is less interesting than the subject matter. He takes to his first touch screen with little introduction.

He set up 'The School for Leaders' in Poland some 20 years ago and thinks he can use Engestrom's ideas; I bought this and a few other elearning related books.

Googling his name he stumblesupon a gallery of pictures of himself he'd never known had been taken and decides he wants at least one of these for his biography so calls his son over as the book is due to be published in the New Year.

Dr. Zbigniew Pelczynski makes for an interesting father in law; he's not the only academic in the house, art history, philosophy and politics are always part of the conversation between meals, walks and picking through bundles of papers and journals that sit in stacks around the house.

As my daughter is thinking about A Levels that includes History and Philosophy she is invited to sit with her grandfather so they retire to another room and listening in to bits of  it I overhear what by all accounts becomes her first tutorial. He has such a gentle touch, listening, showing interest in how she is schooled, what she knows, how she is taught.

I press on through Book 2 B822 and reach chapter 6. Through-out I think how I might apply the ideas.

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How as an OU MAODE student the way I learn has been turned on its head

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 18 Apr 2012, 06:25
A year ago, maybe 18 months ago, courtesy of this student blog platform and forums in H808, H807 and H800, how I approached 'academic knowledge acquisition' if I may put it like that, was turned upside down. Being a blogger is part of it, disclosure or exposure comes into it (with discretion). Rather than study in isolation, assembling a rare, carefully constructed essay potentially only for the eyes of my tutor, tutor group or assignment assessors, I found value in sharing both my ignorance and my knowledge. There is no better way, I have found to come to love a concept that I hated, than to share my struggle and be sent in a variety of different directions, still sharing my incomprehension where it existed. Indeed I do find that the less I like the look of something when it first confronts me the more likely I am to become evangelical about it: take Engestrom's 'activity systems', I see them everywhere having (in this blog) started out as a skeptic. So, excuse my ignorance, that's why I'm here.
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B822 Reflection

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Nov 2012, 23:51

It is intriguing and of value to be covering learning processes from a different angle; there is some overlap.

The MAODE of course offers greater depth, how we learn is its modus operandi.

The weakness of someone else's conception of learning processes offered in relative isolation is apparent. I am surprised that Engestrom gets no mention as 'activity systems' were developed and used in business settings.

Several such models need to be be offered together:

a) to expose a model for what they are, a conception of reality

b) one person's take, their simplification of something complex.

Tangently Deguid and John Seeley Brown are brought in so I could search my own blog for 23 points where I have read them before, my knowledge, like coral, growing and firming up in the process. 'Metaphor' and 'analogy' are discussed, though the only resource offered leaves me befuddled as the concepts are written up in academic business-speak.

I'd like a far broader reading list; rather than three or four chapters offered in the resources book I'd like to see the reassuring long and personal list of the authors, linked by URL to papers that are readily available online. I can see myself Googling authors to see what they have published most recently.

I feel the case is made for external agencies as I don't see too many of the techniques occurring in large organisations.

As our authors say people quickly acquire the mindset of the organisation they work for, this becomes the default position for solving problems.

Certain functions from advertising to consultancy, web, PR and design are best bought in under competitive tender.

Whilst the case is made for intuition over objective analysis I don't see the 'hunch' outside the privately run business or agency as a means to get an idea through.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter may talk of the 'Hollywood' approach to projects, but I don't see the flexibility or process that has pots of money to invest on ideas that are pitched 'Hollywood' style.

I find, at times, I feel as if I am defacing the script from 'Good Morning Vietnam' in which an army communications paladin theorises about what makes a joke in a services radio show whereas the Robin Williams character is intuitively, on a hunch, inventive, engaging and witty. As he is in 'Dead Poets Society'.

Is creativity therefore meant to educate an organisation, department or person on how to improvise?

And surely such opportunities are only possible where systems, seniority or shortness of contract offers.

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