There are times when you are taught something new that you feel you should concentrate - all I worry about is remembering how to turn it off. An avalanche looks inocuous from a distance, skiing alongside a recent fall you see boulders of snow the size of a mini. Snow like a cloud, turning into a duvet that by mid-after was turning a little like fudge. Falls turned you into a snowman. Skied 'Brown Trouser Ridge' four times - others felt that way, I simply dismissed a moment of panic and tried not to look down.
I have this idea that motivation matters. That the 'desire' to learn is part of it, and that to 'love your learning' is even better - whatever drives that love.
As Vladimir Nabakov said, "It's a matter of love; the more you love a memory the stronger that memory becomes."
Do you 'love' what you are studying? Even a little bit? Sometimes? Very rarely indeed I have sat an exam and loved it.
'Mindbursts' has been the name I've blogged under since 2002. I recently got the .com website and and wondering what to do with it.
The above, to certain educators, probably in higher education, and possibly only academics, puts a doodle of Activity Theory between the heart and two minds meeting. My thinking is that two minds and collaboration is good - though talking to yourself probably counts given how the conscious and unconscious brain works. My thinking is that love of a subject - lust for it, desire for it, motivation to conquer all, to achieve goals, to overcome adversity is in the mix. And like any love affair you can fall in and out of love! Or have impetuous flings. Or have a long lasting deep affection for a subject. While Activity Theory, becoming a little old school, studies the interconnectedness of nodes of interest and action in groups or communities of people - used to problem solve businesses and organisations, yet for me representative of what goes on in a brain - the multiple connections between parts of the brain that interact with another's brain to generate new stuff. Maybe I've got my mental knickers in twist and should be thinking of networking theory instead? Ooops.
|From Skiing New Year 2013/14|
On Sunday I head to French Alps. Ferry and overnight train from Gar du Nord. Old school. Far cheaper and I can read en route.
I am taking Kylie Minogue with me. In my teens it was Donna Summer and 'Love to love you, Babe' - Kylie Minogue 'Kiss Me Once' is ski turn madness. Preparation for the last couple of months has been walks on the South Downs with the dog ... and a rucksack containing three old ski boots and a dried up pot of paint wrapped in bubble wrap. My thighs aren't quite Chris Hoy but they feel like it.
And it's snowing. Skiers care about these things. For the last month the Alps have been in melt down as the freezing point rose over 3000m. By the time I make it early on Monday morning the freezing point will be down to 1000m and there'll be 45cm of fresh snow on the mountain.
Dressed like the someone official if I stood still for too long people would ski over abd ask for directions.
Three years ago I attended a day long course on social media advertising in higher education run by Zoe Cairns. She is a former PR/marketing person from Warwick Business School - I was representing the OU Business School. Those attending included LSE, Bath, Imperial College ... LBS? And several others (blog post someone in here I should think). Zoe has just launched an self-managed e-learning version of the same. Having gone from 120 delegates or so a month she may now globally reach 1,200 a month? All this for the cost of investing in a web design and platform and approach that looks reassuringly familiar. I did a bit of something like this with Manchester Metropolitian a couple of years ago.
Three things strike me:
1) Her plausible transition from facilitator to online brand hoping to reap the rewards of having more participants. This is the hardback book of the past. The 'how to ...' of e-learning in an inviting an saleable package.
2) The prospect, as I see it, of the subject champion, not the institution becoming the educator we seek out in a 'who's who' of learning. You feel, whether it is the case or not, that a big name of the subject is 'teaching you' - Niall Ferguson on history, Martin Weller on e-learning, Richard Dawkins on ... what is his thing? Atheasism? Biology? Zoology?
3) The value of repeating, refreshing or repeating a topic until you feel like you are starting to master it - practice for want of a word: continual professional development for the technical term. I take the view that a qualification is no more, nor better than a motorway sign - do you pull over at the first service station on passing it, or press on? And imagine this motorway on a hill: if you stop you can only roll backwards.
P.S. Over the last 24 hours this blog has received over 2,000 views. I have no way at all of knowing why, or who is reading this stuff! Do say 'hi!'
Looking back over four years can be revealing. In 2010 I was struggling with my third Tutor Marked Assignment (TMA03) in the Master of Arts Open and Distance Education (MAODE). I queried the assignment process. In particular I felt as if it was akin to making a tapestry. Three years on I feel my last couple of TMAs and EMAs weren't simply making a tapestry - but doing so wearing roller-skates on a ship in a heavy sea.
Nothing would stitch together. I had far too much wool.
The criteria, meant to be helpful, detailing paragraph, by paragraph if not sentence by sentence what the examiner is looking for ties my head in knots.
I contrast this, favourably, with the MA I am doing with the University of Birmingham. Clunky but effective. I have a reading list. We attend lectures and take part in seminars and I write a 4000 word essay drawn from a list of 12 to 16 titles.
This allows me to be fluid, rather than the ground beneath my feet.
Throughout the MAODE I think the only module the regularly had this 'essay writing' approach was H809: Research practices in educational technology.
I can be accused of over thinking and over preparing a TMA or EMA - yet this, too often, is how the things have been designed. Less would be more. Simpler would not be easier, writing is hard enough without having to second guess what a third party will be thinking as they read while running down a check list to give you a tick and therefore a mark and ultimately a grade.
Reflecting on four years I can see marks in TMAs, and EMAs especially, improve. I think TMAs in 60s, and 70s and the odd EMA in the 40s, then 50s give rise to TMAs of 80s, even in the 90s, though my best EMA was a 76. Of course, in their wisdom, my student grades for each module simply reads 'PASS'. I feel this rather diminishes the effort and evidence. There is certainly a different between a candidate scoring in the 40s and 50s between one scoring in the 60s and 70s and 80s.
I met an MBA student who had achieved a distinction in every module. I was in awe. Not your usual OU student (are any from the Business School). She had a first in her first degree from Oxford: Classics. Some people have a mind for these things. Perhaps it is my head that sloshes around like the proverbial storm, rather than the system I have been part of?
H818: The Networked Practitioner introduced all manner of traits that might be developed in relation to openness and online learning in particular. One idea was that of 'asking' - so crowd funding at one level and direct requests at the other rather than simply passively waiting for someone to come along and as if by osmosis offer their assistance with really knowing what it is that you want.
Asking to some, is selling to others. They are the same thing. We ask for funding, we ask for fees, we ask to be paid for our services.
The simplest example of an easy ask that is a by product of simply 'getting stuff out there' came yesterday from the British Library. They have just launched a web resource that gives free access to many hundreds of files, images and artefacts that relate to the First World War.
The simple ask was for me to link to them from my blog on the First World War. My views aren't big, it is a niche subject to be interest in the Machine Gun Corps 1914-1918! But the 'ask' worked and in a small way this 'connectedness' with a little direct input should help give the subject matter some vibrancy.
I am apolitical. My in-laws used to laugh, saying they cancelled each other out: Tory, Labour and Liberal. (That's, mother, father and grandmother). I never asked and could never figure who voted which way; they kept their politics to themselves. I have voted in all directions from green through blue to yellow and red - I cancel myself out. I often vote different ways in local and national elections only voting for the person, not their party. In fact I wish political parties could be banned, so, I guess like Tony Benn, you can be your own person rather than being forever held to and subjugated by the party thinking.
That's me on politics - an agnostic in religion, indifferent in politics.
Here though to pick up on a phrase used on the BBC obituary yesterday regarding his fifty years of keeping a diary (written, then audio). His view, probably expressed to a journalist to keep things short, was that 'something happens, you write it down, you re-read it, then realise that you were wrong'.
In the aggregation of events, and musings, self-analysis is surely just as capable of creating such an aggregating of similar events and thoughts that you become entrenched, rather than transformed? Surely a bit of both is the reality. Or does it make any difference at all.
I've kept a diary and blog and relate to several others who do the same - the diary/blogging thing is part of who you are or have become, you do it out of habit, like saying your prayers at night. I cannot see across any of these people, especially those published diarists, that suggests that in any way the act of keeping the diary changed them. I rather think the opposite, that those who keep a diary are very set in their ways.
There's barely been a module across the Master of Arts Open and Distance Education (MAODE) that hasn't expected students to blog. I wonder if this though isn't for purposes of reflection, but is a learning journal or portfolio of work, a accumulation and aggregation of course work and themes upon which you build you knowledge. In these instances reading over does adjust your thinking, you become fluent in the language of your subject and wise to the ideas rather than ignorant of them. That should be self-evident in the diary I have kept here for four years.
In the spirit of doing something different in order to effect change I attended a 'Get Together' organised by Wired Sussex and took the attitude that I would be open to everything and say 'yes' to all.
Over two hours I listened to, shared with and learnt from Neil, Gerry, Olly, Karla, Tristan, Simon, Michael ... and 'TV Simon' as I will call him to differentiated from business managing director 'Simon 16' (16 = number of employees). I only remember the people, what they said and names to faces as, shared with them, I did this thing of pegging a face to a place on a familiar journey - walking through the house.
And so I found Carla at the front door designing jewellery, Gerry on the stairs coaching folk in life skills, Tristan entering my bathroom talking agile eater falls, Kanban and SCRUM techniques while Simon was on the landing with our dog - his blonde hair and scruffy beard in keeping with our blonde Labradoodle perhaps?
Olly was in the garden talking to John, while Neil moved away and subsequently left.
These are only those I met.
There is no so much to follow up on: things to do, things to research, people to get back in touch with. So here's me making some kind of public promise to do so, including having a business card by the time of the next meet up. I own the domain name 'Mind Bursts' which is where I plan to seed ideas and seek ways for them to flourish and bare fruit.
Much of the conversation came from my experience of the Open University's Master of Arts on Open and Distance Education in general (graduated in 2012) and the module H818: The Networked Practitioner that ends tomorrow having submitted End of Module Assignments last week.
There is big O, and little o ... and so, so 'o'. The open movement is I believe big O: a movement, a philosophy, even an evangelical drive to 'put it all out there'. Little 'o' is more circumspect, less brash, less demanding of attention and is, without scaring people, as much as should be expected of the 76% who don't get it, or don't want to get it. Then there is the 'so, so 'o': even the 'no, no 'o' where exposure becomes indecent. I'm not talking about THAT kind of exposure, rather that revealing and sharing of too much, especially if your enthusiasm to be online means that you talk about and show other people like a suburban or office paperizzi.
Trying to rationalise and reflect on what next I've reduced it to this mnemonic:
C=Connectedness, Collaboration and several other Cs
In that order too.
S =Strategic is a term I know a few fellow students of the MAODE have used. This means time management to some, curbing the desire to disappear down intellectual rabbit holes to others ... while for me it probably means taking on less and being more focused and less distracted. Immediately on leaving this space I will refine my contacts on Linkedin and reduce the groups I am in yet further. I should concentrate only on people I know or strategically relate to and then make time for them - ditto the groups. I only need to be in a couple. These can be vibrant and worthy of your attention. "S' might also stand for 'sustainable' - see 'financed' below.
C=Collaborative is probably key for me. Historically success has always come from at least two, sometimes a small team of us doing something. I find the second person or others creates a responsibility to see a thing through to its conclusion which may not happen when I am left to my own devices. And of course, two heads are better than one from a problem solving point of view.
A=Applied, over the other 'a' word 'academic'. While the MAODE usually draws from your real life experience I really want to be spending most of my time putting into practice the many insights and skills I have gained on the MAODE and had to bring into play for H818. This means, most likely, returning to L&D - agency side rather than client side. This may happen sooner rather than later as I have a second interview with a learning company this week. This would see me designing learning for workshops and online. 'A' needs also to stand for 'ask' - see 'Financed' and 'O' below.
R=Reciprocal. This I have known for a decade. There is no 'gaming' the system to create collaboration or connectedness online. You have to be less selfish and more altruistic. It pays to seek out like minds and take an interest in them as they will return the favour. Just a handful of people will do. I feel I had deserted a few of the folk I used to converse with all the time ... and have let relationships with some people from earlier MAODE modules slip. No more!
F=Financed. So funded too. Contracted or raising funds for my projects. Applications have gone out seeking funds for the Quick Response Codes Poppy thing - either to apply it to the activities, say of the Western Front Association, or simply to go to schools or associations and give a talk ... which would in due course become a self-contained why and how to e-learning module. This means asking for money. Yes, it is about selling. Amanda Palmer is a reminder of this. Crowd funding is a little distance, while applying to appropriate sources of funding is another. The entrepreneur in me has raised funds commercially too in the past. If I need financing I have to ask for it.
There ought to be an 'O' in this coming out of H818, but I have to differentiate between 'Big O'', 'little o' and 'gratuitous exposure'. I tend to have been the former. It all goes online whatever its value or not. It doesn't take much to make more postings closed and use a blog as an e-portfolio so I will. I use to say to people that the best place to hide a secret was to post it in a blog - the sophistication of the probing search engines means that this is no longer the case (if it ever was?). Serendipity isn't as effective as a request i.e. 'ask'. So 'open', but nuanced. Early in this module we reflected on this. So I wonder what the outcome might be? For some it would be the value of being open at all, whereas for me it is to be less so.
Pushed to reflect on H818: The Networked Practitioner, and unique amongst MAODE modules the final unit comes after the EMA. Here we are encouraged not merely to reflect on the experience, but to share our future plans.
I put mine down to significant changes to behaviour based on the mnemonic SCARF:
S = Strategic
C = Connected and collaborative
A = Applied
R = Reciprocal
F = Financed
I'll expand on, then act on these on dues course.
Reading a history of the Armistice after the First World War - I'm a few years ahead of the centenary of 1914, I learn the Lloyd George preferred the former: picking the brains of experts was preferable to resding widely. Studying with Open University can be neither: reading is tightly focused by the content provided and you are penalised rather than admired for widing readily: you are supposed to stick to the text as it is on this that your tutor will assess you. And the participation of experts is random: my seven modules with the OU has had some of the more prominent names of distance and open education as the chair and as tutors, though more often they appear only in the byline or tangentially not daining to take part in discussion or debate - it is their loss and ours. Nor should I sound as if I am denegrating the tutors as here my expectation has come to seek in them an 'educator' - not necessarily a subject matter expert, but a facilitator and an enabler, someone who knows there way around the digital corridors of the Open University Virtual Learning Environment. Studying with the Open University can also be both: it depends so much on the course you are taking and serendipity. If you are goash you ought to be able to approach anyone at all in your faculty - not that you have much sense of what this is. You can read widely simply by extending your reach through references courtesy of the OU library, though I think whst is mesnt here is a more general and broad intellect, that you take an interest, liberally, in the arts and sciences, in history and politics ...
Being online affords a thousand opportunities to both read widely and to pick the brains of experts; what this requires is Web 2.0 literacy - the nous to drill deep when you read in a way that has never before been possible, unless, perhaps you have been privileged enough to have ready access to and the time to use one of the world's elite libraries and your father or mother is a senior academic, government minister or captain of industry who loves to hold 'house parties' at the weekend. For the rest of us, there is now this new landscape - if not a level playing field (there are privileges based on cost and inclusion) - it is one where, with skill, guile, knowledge and experience you can gravitate towards and rope in the people and the books.
I stumbled upon this succinct article on MOOCs by Ben Betts.
MOOCs are why I returned to the OU having completed the Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) at the end of 2012. I followed H817:Openness and Innovation in eLearning, joining the Open but, and have now complete two further modules: H809: Research based practices in Educational Technology (with an eye on research) and the phenomenal H818: The Networked Practitioner (just completed) ... this as the field keeps transforming I intend to stay abreast of it. Indeed, I'll keep on eye on H817 for 2015 as this is a considerable advance on the old H807 I did in 2010 that had its content stuck somewhere between 1999 and 2005.
What is interesting in this article is that the author Ben Betts ponders as a passing thought at the end of the piece on the need to 'learn how to learn'.
This for me is where too many practitioners go wrong - they have their eye so firmly fixed on the 'next big thing' that they forget or ignore the understanding we have gained about how we learn over decades. There needs to be a healthy loop that obliges us to consider the basics: learning theories and to see MOOCs in context - all learning is 'blended' - even the purely online learning module is conducted by someone with their feet or bum firmly on the ground or in a chair.
The other mistake that other authors make too often is to sensationalise activities or developments such as the MOOC. Every advance builds on something else, and for all their strengths they have weaknesses too, and whatever affordances they have may be exploited or ignored. Interesting times and delighted to find an expert author and practitioner to follow.
What I needed, and got from H809 was a grounding in learning theory which at last I am starting to master. If a further course is required for me it would be more on the application of learning theory, probably in the broader setting of 'education' rather than an e-learning context and probably informed by a role educating on the ground - so practice based and applied. Which rather suggests in business - as indeed I did for the best part of 15 years.
Spread the word if you blog
I posted my first content to an 'online journal' - no one called them blogs way back then, on the 24th September 1999. I've been at it ever since - every day for at least the first four years then I reviewed my practice, split into a number of parts and specialised. I also took an MA in the next best thing 'Open and Distance Education' (MAODE). So, yes, blogging fascinates me. Twitter as a 'microblog' is not - it is chatting. And many so called blogs are actually something else too - corporate marketing brochures, magazines, radio shows, TV channels, photo dumps and galleries. For me, and those of us writing in 'Diaryland' over a decade ago a blog, like a diary, is something you kept up every day, reflected your daily life and was largely secret: you wrote amongst friends rather than to an audience. This meant that they remained authentic, deep, even 'in confidence'. Has all of that been lost? I wonder.
What we have here is either a 'learning journal' or 'an e-portfolio' - that's if you want to attach it directly to your studies. Because of it's odd nature and history it is also what was once called a 'Bulletin Board', indeed, I had a go of an early one right here - sort of, that as on a Masters in Open and Distance Learning module in 2001. It really was posting to a bulletin board, a sentence or two attached to any others that were going up. More like an early version of a Student Forum.
Having said all of this, as a direct result of just completing H818: The Networked Practitioner (EMA away last night). I plan to review, refine and redirect my blogging behaviour. Here it will be business as usual, though only if my relationship with the Open University is continued in some capacity or other (I got up early to do some application forms). Beyond these 'walls' I will professionalise my blog on e-learning and post continent aimed squarely at practitioners - for educators, on learning. I do think the 'e' is redundant regarding e-learning, indeed the 'm' from mobile learning is redundant too. Currently at 'My Mind Bursts' this will go into the fledgling 'Mind Bursts' which will go live once I've got 100 of my choicest posts in there. Or, 25 ... my 'A to Y' of learning, named so courtesy of the Open University where you will find the Computer Help Desk has no 'Z', so don't think you can look up 'zipping files' as I did while struggling to post an EMA. The response I got back was characteristically obtuse.
The blog I stopped posting to on swimming teaching and coaching (I did for ten years as a direct consequence of taking my kids down to the pool eleven years ago) gets more views per day than any of my other blogs - go figure! It is useful. I answer direct daily questions. The biggest 'seller' is the 45 minute lesson plan for teaching or coaching swimming - I have all strokes, all stages and all problems addressed. That should tell me something. More at the catchily named 'Coaching and Teaching Swimming'.
This by the way is called 'reflection'. I should have Kolb's Learning Cycle spinning through my head right now. I don't. My head is fudge and I need the coffee that is brewing on my desk,
The other blog, 'That's Nothing Compared to Passchendaele', which requires and deserves tidying up started out as the memoir of my late grandfather, a machine gunner in the First World War - the only one who survived it would appear. Actually, in 1992 there was a 75th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Ypres) and there were four of them. One was an ammunition carrier. The other two were machine gunners, you could tell from their thumbs - like the beak of a spoonbill, squished flat from periods of anxiety pressed against the triggers of a Vicker's MKII Machine Gun. Like the swimming thing I need to hone this down to a resource of value - just his story, his words (over three hours of interviews) and photographs with references which would do the historian in me proud.
There will be a lot of 'ditching of babies' - there will be a good deal of painful unknitting of layouts and extraction.
Are these blogs? Actually no. I ought to think of them as books and give them the professional focus that is required before you can go to print.
And finally, a blog on the use of Quick Response codes in education. This as a consequence of H818 and the ten minute presentations we gave a couple of weeks ago.
Is this new?
I've just looked at the statistics and was rather overwhelmed, ok over 600,000 views is going some, but I have been doing this for four years and use this as a blog and e-portfolio by default.
Are there over 4000 posts! I guess from what I've said this is feasible, perhaps 40% are 'hidden' cut and paste jobs or links or references to books or papers I may never read.
And if I'm less engaged directly here this last year it is because those fellow students on the MAODE haven't been using the OU Student Platform at all ... or very little indeed. I'd recommend it.
The temptation is to stick around to take the 'views' up to 1 million. This will require a few more years. The thing is I don't see myself back on an OU module 'til the autumn of 2015 at the very earliest. I wrap up H818 today then concentrate on things elsewhere.
I say it often.
Working in some capacity or researching at the OU would change things.
Alerted to the nature of being 'open' and online you'd think someone who has been doing this kind of thing since 1999 would know better.
Taking part in a Google Hangout on Monday with educators in Australia and being away from home I decided to give it a go on the iPad. The awkward thing here is that you can't open a second screen ... and as I eventually discovered you can inadvertently flip the camera.
I decided to sit in one corner of the guest bedroom with the back of the chair and corner of the room as a back drop - what I didn't realise is that somehow, when swiping away from the Google Hangout screen I had flipped the camera so that everyone was now seeing the bed I'd climbed out of earlier that morning. At least it was 10.30am in the UK and 9.30pm in Melbourne - I had made the bed.
Towards the end of the session the assumption was that I'd left - actually I was holding the iPad very carefully as I didn't know, having lost the image, if they were seeing me, the top of my head or my lap, They could hear me perfectly well and they said they had wondered about the bed which rather explained the smirks on some of their faces ...
I took the iPad to the bedroom window - not to throw it into the garden, but at least to give them something more than a view of the bed - pink blossom on an overgrown shrub looking into a wet garden in the Cotswolds. I find it striking that when a tractor went up the lane the moderator in Australia had to mute the sound - so instant. We can be and are so very much closer than we think courtesy of the Web, that you can be transported into a space so close to another person that it feels you are invading their privacy.
More care next time? Not bother?
There are plenty of people who will have little to do with the Internet and plenty of others who reveal as little as possible. I'm just glad I hadn't taken the iPad into the bathroom - it does happen.
It was a discussion on creativity in education - one worth doing. I'm yet to look at the recording.
Back at my desk NO WEBCAM even attached, just as well, I'm eating breakfast, in pyjama's having crawled out of bed far, far, far too early in a drive to close down a 5,000 words EMA for H818: The Networked Practitioner.
I should look back at how this has changed over four years. Taking on more technology took a while. I remember the days of printing off. Then I migrated to an iPad and constantly looked at ways not to come offline ever. Now I mix it all up: I use a white board, I doodle in a notepad and I shift between devices as everything is done in Google Docs.
I have some favourite apps:
And load perhaps 50-100 pictures to Picasa Web Gallery every day ... there are over 2000 images and screen-grabs from the MAODEs alone. And far too many pictures of the dog hiding when I take her for a walk.
My only bete noire are the ruddy cables you need to supply power to the kit; I went away for a few days armed with iPad and Macbook Air but forget the charger for the laptop. The iPad cable feels as if I am packing a coil of rope - it ways more with the plug and takes up more space.
My test over the next couple of months is when I set off for a month to Belgium, France and the Alps. Will I hanker after a robust broadband signal all the time?
Not at home and thinking of excuses not to get on with this - I have my laptop but left the charger at the front door, poor signal out here in the wilds of ... The Cotswolds, and busy.
But instead I find the connecting is good, the last draft in Google docs is easy enough to work on (though no tables) and sitting by an open fire it is very conducive to refkection - though not hard graft. Just two days away from it makes it all look like a gargantuan task. I'm not short of words, rather the opposite, having to extract the bare bones to generate 5000 words from notes - this is where keeping a blog can feel counterproductive. Must I work through the 70+ posts on H818 in order to write the EMA? Apparently so.
I may try to tackle it as a 12 minute presentation - could I get up and talk it through with an audience unfamiliar with the module ?
Fig. 1 What kind of greenhouse or green-shed does your EMA look like??
Why is it always the hardest thing I've ever had to write before?
I feel like an architect/builder, who having spent five months on a job thinks he has finished and is told that NOW they want me to build a model of the building and present this for scrutiny.
In other words, the work has been done, the lessons have been taken, the knowledge has been gained ...
And now they want me to prove it. Couldn't I just be scrutinised over Skype?
This isn't an essay title, but rather 5000 words in three parts with it tightly prescriptive both on required content and how any of this will relate to marks. It does my head in because, to go back to the architecture or building analogy I do find that I put up a greenhouse only to find they wanted a garden shed with solar panels. By the time I realise this I have a day left and decide to put in a bit more glass ... and paint it green.
So it sort of fits the bill!!!
Anyway, I've got a week to get it written and plan to get it done in the next couple of days. I've got the parts laid out across the floor and the instructions in my hands.
A greenhouse from Ikea.
Fig.1 Odd that, 12 years and I've gained hair, glasses and a tie.
In February 2001 I began an OU module on Open & Distance Learning - last year I graduated with the Masters in Open & Distance Education (MAODE). Since then I've taken a couple more MAODE modules to stay up to date. Impossible given that any MAODE module is out of date before it goes live?
In 2001 distance learning looked like this:
Fig.2. Some of the books that came in my OU 'Box' at the start of the module
The next direction has to be horizontally into the Open University (again), or vertically towards a PhD. Or both? Or neither.
Meanwhile, I sincerely recommend that anyone with any interest in the way education is going to follow the BBC tonight.
BBC Radio 4 8.00pm
Is it an OU co-production? These days these things usually are.
'If you're not lost and confused in a MOOC you are probably doing something wrong'. Martin Weller (18:45 25th March 2013)
How things change in a year.
Far from feeling lost and confused I have felt engaged in a couple of Future Learn 'MOOCs'
Are these the new non-fiction book? Are they the branded game-changer akin to those lovely Dorling-Kindersley books?
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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