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T is for TED lectures

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 30 May 2014, 07:31

 Professor Melissa Terras - Digital Humanities at UCL



Technology Transfer

TED Lectures

Tutor Marked Assignment



Timeline Apps

Technorati - E-magazine


To mind the best TED lectures I've see that are education, and especially e-learning related, were given by Daphne Koller (on MOOCs), Ken Robinson (on education) and Randy Pausch (on fulfilling your childhood dreams). 

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

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


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

I did something …

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, stand back  …

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

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

The workshop was experiential

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

How did you feel about that ?  

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

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

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

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

Now what ?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It took me too long to realise that things are in a module for a reason ...

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- some intelligent educators have sat down together to figure out what would be best for 'us'. For this reason I try to do all the activities rather than question them - often I am surprised.

In H817, the timeline of technologies we did to which learning theories were to be added is one of these (there's more in the wiki and I'll keep adding to this, and eventually have my own version in Google Docs). I could have cut to the chase three years ago - all I wanted to know was how to match learning theories to e-learning practice. I thought there were a set of off-the-shelf 'solutions'. The reality is of course far more complex.

Every kind of learning surely existed before someone came along and packaged as a theory?

The ability to keep learning, and to learn from eachother, and to solve problems is what makes us human and has enabled us to survive and thrive over the last 70,000 odd years.

Turning back to learning theories - there are only a few, at least they can be grouped under (with overlap): cognitivism, behaviourism and constructivism. While 'connectivism' is supposedly what the Internet delivers I would suggest that actually 'connectivism' came first, and is learning as an infant and child from a mother, parents, siblings and extended family. All the the Internet does is to amplify or permit such relationships on a global scale - keeping families close who might now live thousands of miles apart.

Surely we need to turn to Socrates and 'Socractic discussion' to understand the origins of discussion as a form of guided learning?

The simple relationship between someone who doesn't know something and someone who does. In H807 three years ago I interviewed a retired Oxford philosophy tutor on 'the Oxbridge Tutorial Method' (search Dr Zgigniew Pelczynski H807) and this is how he explained it - for the most part, someone who knows something pouring content into an empty vessel (John Locke).

My brother learnt to fix cars from his grandfather, I learnt to cook and draw from my mother, I taught my children to swim and my wife to drive ... this for me is what is missing in most online learning as developed out of distance learning by The OU.

In three years I have never had discussions with Grainne Conole, Martin Weller or Diana Laurillard.

The couple of MOOCs I have done, OLDS MOOC and #H817open have had these names participating, getting away from their research as I see it and showing their true colours as 'educators' (or not). My chosen pattern of learning would be to gravitate towards the expert, something I have to try and get right if I am to move into doctoral research.

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H809 Week 2 Timeline Creator

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 20 Oct 2014, 12:07
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Kent & Medway's Timeline of the Great War

Made with Tiki-toki

And someone's wonderful creation




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B822 Techniques Library : Human Sculpture & Timeline

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 21 Feb 2014, 17:40


(These are not the original participants though it may be interesting to introduce a fun version of 'human sculpture' as a Christmas Entertainment. As a team creating a tableau from a movie or some such?)

The Human Sculpture

We were invited to offer a personal problem; it was made quite clear that we had to be comfortable with this. Without saying what the problem was and with the facilitator's help a 'human sculpture' was made to represent the problem. In this instance there were forces pulling him in two directions (partner and ego) with this person's current/former employer behind and his future employment/employer in front.

There were therefore FIVE participants who made up the 'sculpture'.

It was fascinating to have each factor comment on how they felt, even if this 'factor' was an entity, psyche or 'unknown' future.

This was recognised as a way to see the problem for what it is, for the problem owner to see it as others see it, to get the sentence that an entity, played out as a person, can have feelings.

I particularly liked the idea of being able to talk to the desired or possible outcome in a kind of role play.

The technique from the B822 Technique Library where you do something similar is with 'Timeline' placing people at points now and in the future. In a way I did this years ago to visualise a careers advice video using members of a Youth Theatre who had to be someone 1, 5 and 10 years along a career path based on different decisions they took at 14/16 regarding school, a job, training or university.

From the B822 'Creativity, Innovation and Change' Residential School

P.S. The image above might offer part of our conclusion, that all the factors should be brought into consideration. What is more, where the problem isn't too sensitive or the individual/participants want an aide memorie then a series of pictures could be taken.

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