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Why did the people on a course I ran learn what they learned?

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, while stretching like an Olympic swimmer was an apt ‘warm down’ at the end of the session.

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

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

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

Now, stand back  …

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

The challenge is to know what risks to take and how to build in flexibility, not just in timing, but in the kind of activities. This requires that despite the plan you are alert to signals that suggest an activity should be developed or dropped.

Workshops and seminars I take have a common element – there is ‘hands on’ activity.

The goal is that at the end of the session people feel confident that they could do these things themselves. I’m less comfortable about teaching where the communication is one way – me talking and them taking notes. I value encouraging self-discover and people being on their feet, interacting and having fun.

The workshop was experiential

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

How did you feel about that ?  

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

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

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

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

Now what ?

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

REFERENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

A five minute presentation on facilitating a creative workshop

Challenged over the last couple of weeks to create a 10 minute presentation as part of the Open University postgraduate module H818:The Networked Practitioner (part of the Masters in Open and Distance Education) I’ve barely had time to reflect on this experience when I find for Oxford Brookes University I am creating a 5 minute presentation as part of their online course First Steps into Learning and Teaching 2014 (FSLT14).

A 5 minute presentation takes twice as long to write than a 10 minute presentation.

Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte. Blaise Pascal

I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.

Anything less than a minute is a TV commercial and might take months to get right.

I’ve known this ever since I took an interest in working in TV (Drama short on Channel 4, otherwise 150+ videos in L&D)

I am at least starting to get the tools I use to sing:

  • Picasa for my cloud based albums of pictures
  • Brushes to layer images
  • Studio to turn images into graphics

Both these for the iPad (I love the tactile)

Other Apps are available.

My issue with the FSLT 14 brief concerns the assumption that a non-wordy presentation – PowerPoint has been banned, any text may only appear on the overlay – is that the first, second and third rule of any ‘audio visual’ presentation such as this is (to quote Alfred Hitchcock):

‘the script, the script, the script’.

You have to write words to rationalise and order the visual.

You write a script in two columns: one describes what you see (the most important), the second what you hear (which is likely to be the spoken, or acted word – as well as sound effects and music).

This format works

Anyone familiar with a screenplay or TV script will be as capable of reading such a script and seeing that happens as a conductor can read a score and hear the music.

It remains word heavy.

Galleries of images and instant search for images is both distracting and limiting. They encourage the ‘creative’ to shoehorn inappropriate, compromise and copyright images into their work.

Far better, not that I’m about to do it, is to stick to the words in the script (easily edited and re-written for effect) and at most doodle an impression of an image: I like using a drawing pen on a large sheet of cartridge paper, though a stylus on the screen of an iPad might do.

So, I’m locked down in ‘writing mode’ at the best time of the day on the best day of the week – early on Sunday morning.

And I’m sharing this practice online. Though currently my expectation of feedback is limited. I miss the way were over a decade ago writing in Diaryland. Feedback guaranteed on the 24 hour cycle as fellow bloggers picked it up around the globe. I know what’s happened, and this blog is testament to that given that I transferred content from 1999-2004 to this space – I have spread myself too thinly.

Who knows what I am writing about anymore?

In this first years it was a balance of writing and the personal following authors who did the same and that group of us who were ‘always there for each other’ had one thing in common – the desire to develop a ‘voice’ and have stories to share.

It may only be five minutes, but I need at least to remember that this is a story – that above anything else, narrative works. The ten minuter I completed and presented earlier this week was too worthy, too explanatory. Let’s see if I can evoke the feelings that came from the workshop I ran:

  • risk
  • laughter
  • revelatory
  • results

Let’s also see if I can write what in my heart I want to say, rather than trying to write what anonymous others expect to hear. I do so loathe guides on assignment marking which can reduce something exploratory, that should have momentum and flow, into a ‘tick box exercise’.

Onwards.

And the first thing I do?

I turn to Brushes and draw my own graphic and will see if I can, like Julian Stodd, settle on a graphics style rather than relying on images purged from the Web. I want to use my own photos, but this too requires that I take pictures that deliver the right message.

A couple of hours later I have this.  And on reflection, prefer the process of devising your own take on someone else’s graphic, just as one ought not to quote verbatim from other authors, but interpret your take and understanding of their thinking.

 Based on Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle (Kolb, 1994)

REFERENCE

Argyris, C, & Schön, D (2007) ‘Organizational Learning’, Bloomsbury Business Library – Management Library, p. 78, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 February 2014.

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

FURTHER READING

James Atherton http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/experience.htm

Ed Batista http://www.edbatista.com/2007/10/experiential.html

Roger Greenaway http://reviewing.co.uk/research/experiential.learning.htm#3

 

Towards an assessment of my teaching

I often share a post I am writing as I do so. In this case having identified the story to tell : running a workshop to solve a ‘messy’ business problem I am pulling together or creating supporting images, in the above case a grab and mashup from Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ – my goal is to be recognised as one. In a forum post as an Open University ‘Master of arts in Open and Distance Education’ (I graduated in early 2013) I suggested this could be achieved in four years – John Seely Brown thinks that eLearning speeds things up, while Weller reckons on ten years.

Reflecting on a presentation on learning to students at Oxford Brookes University

Fig.1. Rescue having failed a 4 tonne whale is dragged from Stinson Beach. 

As a student on Oxford Brookes University’s online course ‘First Steps into Teaching and Learning 2014’ here in week 4 we have been challenged to consider an experience from teaching or being taught and in a five minute presentation reflect on this.

My interest is teaching postgraduates and/or ‘in the workplace’.

I should be feeling I’ve stumbled into the right time and place with this one having just given a ten minute presentation online as part of the Open University Masters in Open and Distance Education module H818: The Networked Practitioner, however with that one, despite every expectation to exploit my love of and experience with linear and interactive media I resorted to a Powerpoint. I needed to improve the script up to the line and this offered the flexibility I could not have had with a Prezi or video. There were too many cumbersome technical barriers and trips that I wasn’t happy to pursue or risk.

What I’m doing here is thinking through a presentation I need to prepare. Sharing this, if and where feedback can be garnered, then informs the decisions I take.

My immediate idea, often my best, is to do a selfie-video talking to camera while hurtling around a roller-coaster at Thorp Park. It would sum up the terror, thrill, highs and lows of taking a day long workshop with a class of some 40 year 9s (12/13 year olds) in a secondary school that had/has a checkered history.

The second idea, to change the setting radically, would be a workshop with nine on creative problem solving – the objective was to come up with answers to a messy problem, though the motivation to be present for most was to experience a variety of creative problem solving activities that I had lined up. This nine in an organisation, included MBAs, prospective MBAs, a senior lecture, junior and senior managers and officers: colleagues and invited guests from different departments. This example is probably the most appropriate.

A third might be something I attended as a student – apt because doing this in 2009/2010 in part stimulated me to take an interest in learning: I wanted to know what was going wrong. Here we had prospective club swimming coaches doing everything that was unnatural to them – working from a hefty tome of paper, sitting through a lecture/seminar and expecting assessment to be achieved by filling in the blanks on course sheet handouts. This from people with few exceptions who left school with few or no qualifications – often troubled by Dyslexia. They were swimming coaches to dodge this very kind of experience. It was, you could tell, hell for some. The misalignment could not have been greater. Here the immediate visual image, apt given the subject matter, would be to watch a fish out of water drown – or nearly drown and be rescued. What really grated for me in this course was the rubbish that was taught – too many gross simplifications and spurious science.

Based on the above I should challenge myself to do the video as I need to crack loading and editing. The fish out of water, whale actually, I can illustrate from photographs and the experience this summer of being present as a 4 tonne whale beached and drowned on Stinson Beach, California (See Fig.1. above).

Who would you invite to an e-learning dinner party?

Fig.1. The dining room at Appleby Castle, Cumbria

I posed this challenge to an e-learning group on LinkedIn:

‘If you could invited anyone in the world to a dinner party who would it be?’

I could run this every month on a different continent and keep going for a couple of years … 12 might work better as I’d like to include a few undergraduates and graduates … perhaps guests would be asked to bring a member of their faculty, a young work colleague or inspiring student.

I’ve left myself off. As the host I would be at their service. Running the event behind the scenes and enjoying the conversation before and after.

Martin Bean, Vice Chancellor, Open University. Inspirational champion of distance learning and accessible education. The Open University has over 257,000 active students.

Dame Professor Wendy Hall, DBE, FRS, FREng – Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, UK, and Dean of the Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences.

Vilayanur.S. Ramachandran – Behavioral Neurologist and Professor at the Center for Brain Cognition at the University of California, San Diego. Influential academic/research on how we think in symbols and metaphors

Professor Daphne Koller, Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University and a Third generation PhD. Informed on big data, open learn and the future of higher education.

Cammy Bean, VC Learning Design, Kineo US. An instructional designer who mixes creativity and the pragmatic.

Sugata Mitra – Professor of Education Technology at the University of Newcastle. Best known for the ‘hole in the wall’ computers used in research in rural India (and city slums).

Donald H Taylor – Founder and CEO of Learning Skills Group and annual Learning Technologies conference in London every year.

Kirstie Donnelly, Director of Product Development, City & Guilds. From linear video production to a global leader in applied, workplace learning. 

12-16 would give me more scope.

I’d book the dining hall at the Oxford Union.

Dr Zbigniew Pelczynski – Founder of the School for Leaders, Poland. Retired Oxford Professor of Philosophy and Politics.

Dr B Price Kerfoot – Harvard Medic and educator, ‘Spaced Education’ and QStream

George Soros – Investor, entrepreneur and educational philanthropist.

Thomas Garrod – Wiseman of e-learning Global Network, educator, learning design.

Double the numbers and I’d run it as an exclusive weekend on the Isle of Eriska – the castle would be ours with 32 guests for the conference and another 18 family members for the extended visit.

  1. Jonathan Vernon – A career in video communications, training and coaching.
  2. Matt Bury – Wiseman of e-learning Global Network, learning design.
  3. John Seely-Brown – Learning from the periphery, former Xerox educator.
  4. Yrjo Engestrom – Cultural historical activity theory and knotworking
  5. Gilly Salmon – E-tivities, e-moderation
  6. Agnes Kukulska-Hulme – Professor of mobile learning at the Open University
  7. Martin Weller – Digital Scholar
  8. Diana Laurillard – Chair of  Learning with Digital Technologies
  9. Gordon Bell – long lived, lifeblogging, Microsoft research and experimenter.
  10. Jay Cross – educator, speaker, inspired thinker on learning and e-learning
  11. Sir Jonathan Ive – SVP Design, Apple
  12. William Hague – Oxford, Insead and UK lifelong politician. Engaging and extraordinarily bright.
  13. Walter Isaacson – A pupil of Dr Pelczynski (see above), journalist and author of the Steve Jobs exclusive biography.
  14. Steven Pressfield – Author, thinker, influential pusher of the ‘War of Art’ (overcoming resistance).
  15. Marc Lewis – Advertising entrepreneur and Dean of London’s highly influential School of Communication Arts (SCA 2.0)
  16. Viktor Mayer-Schonberger – Director of Advancement of the OII and Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation
  17. Sir Martin Sorrell – WPP CEO. Highly influential and well regarded businessman.
  18. Richard Davey – Founder, owner of influential global law publishing group.
  19. David Waller – Ex FT Lex Columnist and Bureau Chief Germany, Founder of PR agency, Author, Head of Communications at Mann Group, previously for Deutsche Bank.
  20. Susanna White – award winning documentary and filmmaker.

(At the time this photograph was taken Appleby Castle was, aptly, the HQ and Training Centre for a UK based PLC. Managers attended from the US, Australia, Hong Kong, South Africa, the UK and various parts of Europe.)

 

All you need to know about blogging that you can’t be bothered to research for yourself because you’re too busy blogging …

Fig. 1. Passion at work: Blogging practices of knowledge workers (2009)
by Lilia Efimova
Doctoral thesis published by Novay.

I’ve come to this thesis for a number of reasons:

I’ve been blogging since September 1999, sometimes obsessively so, such as the couple of Blogathons I instigated in 2002 and 2004 where participants had to post 1000 words every hour on the hour for 24 hours – words were meant to be written during the previous 60 minutes. Three of us made it to the end.

I’ve posted regularly since 1999, with several years never missing a day – that’s the diary writer in me. We created ‘circles’ in Diaryland a decade before Google used the term for those with 100, then 500, then 1000 posts.

I know of one blogger from that era who is still there, plugging away ‘Invisibledon’. 

I’ve written on a theme, typically creative writing, parenting, swim coaching and e-learning.

And added to this typed up entries from diaries. There are some 2 million words ‘out there’.

My credentials therefore are as a participant, as a player.

Perhaps I am too close to the hubbub to see what is going on?

I blog as a means:

  • To learn
  • To collate
  • To share
  • To test and practice my knowledge (or lack of … )

Fig. 2 It helps that I’ve kept a diary since I was 13. Blogging since 1999. On WordPress since 2007.

I’m used to gathering my thoughts at the end of the day or logging them as I go along. And learnt that a few succinct sentences is often enough to bring back the day. My first blog was NOT assembled in ‘reverse chronological order’ – I posted to a set of 32 themes. It works better that way.

  • One diary covers my gap year working in the Alps.
  • Another diary covers a few weeks of an exchange trip to France.
  • A third covers a year with the School of Communications Arts.

I personally value blogging to form a  writer’s journal and as a student’s journal, particularly over the last three years during which time I have successfully completed the Open University’s Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE).

  • I read everything I can on blogging. 
  • I’ve just read this engaging PhD thesis by Lilia Efimova. 
  • She is Russian, works in the Netherlands and writes perfect English.

Her supervisors were:

Robert-Jan Simons
Robert de Hoog

My interest is twofold – blogging and methodology, as I am doing a postgraduate module on research (H809 : Practice-based research in educational technology)

The methods used (Efimova, 2008. p. 1):

  • Use of unconventional research methods
  • Cross boundaries
  • Define and defend choices

Blogging can support a variety of knowledge worked activities to:

  • articulate and organise thoughts
  • make contact with people interested in the same topics (like minds)
  • grow relations with other bloggers
  • work on a publication

Caveats

  • personal
  • crossing boundaries passions and paid work, private and public.

I read ‘Uses of Blogs’ for the second time. Edited by Dr Axel Bruns and Joanna Jacobs. I had a OU Library copy so bought another through Amazon. A book on blogging that only exists in print. I far prefer eBooks. I’ve posted on that elsewhere. (Versatility, notes and highlights in one place, search and having as Lt. Col Sean Brady described it a  ‘university in my pocket’).

My take on blogging – who does it, is based on Jakob Nielsen’s 2001.

I can’t find figures that suggest that this has changed in the general population, though research with undergraduates might give a split of 5/35/60. The problem is, what do you define as a blog? And can your really say that someone who posts once a year, or once a quarter is blogging at all?

Fig. 3 For everyone 1 person who blogs, some 90 don’t and the other 9 are half-hearted about it. (based on stats from Nielsen, 2006).

According to Nielsen (2006) most online communities show a ratio of creation, commenting and simply reading of 1% – 9% – 90%. With blogs, the rule is more like 95% – 5% – 0.1%.

Introduction

I agree with Efimova that we learn from the edge. We come into everything as an outsider.  She cites ‘legitimate peripheral participation (Lave & Wenger, 1991) and moving from being an outside in a specific knowledge community to a more active position. I would John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid. (2007)  Awareness, as a starting point of this process, comes through exposure to the ideas of others and lurking at the periphery (observing without active participation), learning about professional language and social norms. Efimova cites (Nonnecke & Preece, 2003). I would add Cox (1999).

As the thesis more reason to blog, or reason not to are offered. Efimova also commits to looking at blogging in the workplace, amongst Knowledge Workers. Efimova (x.p )  In 2000 we used the term ‘infomediaries’  people who dealt in information and knowledge on behalf of others.

Worker use of blogs to

  • develop ideas and relationships
  • inspire conversations
  • work on specific tasks

Early adopters experimenting with the medium. Here I think a full consideration of the diffusion of innovations (Rogers, 2005) would be beneficial too. Efimova offers some ideas from Gartner, though without offering the self-explanatory chart that I offer below.

Fig. 4 . Gartner mid-2005 projection (Fenn & Linden, 2005)

I know of all three company types. Whilst a very few at A can be hugely successful, the safest approach is to come in at C – as Virgin do, time and time again, letting others make mistakes. On the other hand, for example in e-learning, if you aren’t willing to behave like a Type A you may find your clients start speaking to companies down the road. Ditto advertising and social media.

Efimova talks of the  ‘peak of inflated expectations’ and the ‘trough of disillusionment’.

Fig. 5 Evaluation criteria for this research

This is where I need to put in a good deal more scrutiny. Whilst I don’t question the validity of the approach, I do wonder if a more ‘scientific’ approach would have produced something more revealing that observation of 34 work related blogs – which is how this thesis plays out. We wander into the questionable arena of informal interviewing and participant observation as central way to generate ‘ethnographic data’.  This smacks of anthropology to me. Of social anthropology. But perhaps such qualitative techniques are as valid, and may be the only way to study subject if you are going to take the challenge of researching it at all.

The best answer I have read and give myself now when asked, ‘what is a blog?’ is to say ‘electronic paper’. That is how broad it has become, in 2001-2002 a handful of us in Diaryland set out and shared our standards:

  • A minimum of 250 words
  • Post every day for a least a year.
  • Fact not fiction (unless expressed as otherwise)


At the time it was rare to post images and you wouldn’t and couldn’t include video. Today a blog might be a stream of images or streamed video. It can be multiple users too, posting on the hour for a year in a team of six if they wish, which can be the way Andrew Sullivan (2013) posts to ‘The Daily Dish’ which gets a million views a month.

Efimova uses a technique called ‘triangulation’ to help validate her research – this is the use of multiple sources and modes of evidence to make findings stronger, by showing and agreement of independent measures, or by exploring and explaining findings (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Schwartz-Shea, 2006).

i.e. Triangulation by study – studying blogging practices from three perspectives using a variety of methods.

She also used ‘data triangulation’ – including in the analysis different types of data ( e.g. text and statistics), data sources and data collection methods. So including non-elicited data (Pargman, 2000) from public sources (e.g. weblog text) as well as recorded interviews.

I can’t fault Efimova (2008) introduction to Blogging

‘Since their early days, weblogs have been conceptualised as personal thinking spaces: as an outboard brain (Doctorow, 2002), a personal filing cabinet (Pollard, 2003a) or a research notebook (Halvais, 2006). In fact, the first academic publication on blogging (Mortensen & Walker, 2002) discusses uses of blogging in a research context, particularly in relation to developing ideas, and the weblog of its first author, Torrill Motensen, has a telling title: “Thinking with my fingers”.  I soon discovered that a weblog worked well that way, but also that this “thinking in public” provided an opportunity to show how ideas, my own and those of other bloggers, develop over time.

Pacquet 2002 discussed the use of blogging in research.

Fig. 6 Number of weblog posts per month

Blog analytics are mystifying. We count the undefined.

What is a blog?

What is a blog post?

A group of us asked these questions in 2000 then got on with it. We had our guidelines to post at least 1000 words every day, with no post less than 250 words. We did this as others flooded online and in the race to have 100 or 500 posts would put up a random string of letters and post every few minutes. As it become feasible and easy to post images was a picture worth a thousand words?

Was it still a ‘blog’ in our sense of the definition if it had no explanation behind it. And in my case, by storing by category not date in defiance of conventions could what I do still be called blogging?

And if used to archive diary entries was I now an archivist?

Looking at the fall-off in posts in Efimova’s blog I also see that when things get more interesting, when there is more to say – we post less. From an earlier generation I stopped keeping a diary when my fiance and I moved in together.

Had I found what I was looking for?

Around this time, 1998, Ellen Levy featured in the Washing Post for keeping a ‘blog’ (not called this) for a year – writing up business meetings and how attended, even adding photos. She struggled to post when she was ill. Over time knowing when we fall ill can start to explain why. And if, as we can now do, our daily life is captured automatically, is that a blog? To what degree must the blogger select, frame, write and edit what they have to say rather than a device, like your own CCTV camera hanging around your neck does it for you?

Fig. 7 Using a Weblog to store information  (Efimova 2008. p. 58)

To understand the mind of the blogger should we look at the reasons why people in the past have kept a diary? Or is keeping such a record, a journal simply one strand to something that has become extraordinarily multifarious? The 17th century diaries of Lady Anne Clifford and Samuel Pepys, the 20th century diaries of Anne Frank, Virginia Woolf and Anais Nin, the audio-cassettes of British MP Tony Benn …

Surely to say you want to study blogging in 2013 is akin to saying you want to study printed matter in the 17th century. That the field is too diverse. In a way we have gone from the mechanical era of print, to the organic era of the blog. Even to study one facet of blogging, such as the business or corporate blog,  would be like studying the ecology of a meadow in order to understand the interplay between different plants and creatures.

Efimova speaks of ‘sense-making’ (2009. p. 70)

‘As with writing, blogging is not simply formulating in words an idea already developed in one’s mind. It is also about connecting, developing and redefining half-baked ideas. When writing, I often go through the weblog archives to explore connections with what is already there. Reading and rereading what I wrote before shapes and changes what I’m about to write: I often find something unexpected or see patterns only in retrospect’.

And others some reason to blog … and just one reasons not to.

  1. Somewhere to “park” emerging insights until the moment they are needed. Efimova (2009. p 75)
  2. Doesn’t require much effort
  3. Somewhere to park ideas
  4. Reading and engaging with others to become aware of issues and themes
  5. Topics accumulate and connections grew and things become clearer.
  6. A set of sense-making practices
  7. “Everyday grounded theory” Efimova (2009. p. 75)
  8. Connecting multiple fragments
  9. Getting into the writing flow
  10. Strengthened by readers’ feedback
  11. A channel for distribution
  12. Publication additional motivation to document emergent ideas
  13. A legitimate place to share thinking in progress
  14. -ve when the need is to be extremely selective and focused. Efimova (2009. p. 80)
  15. To collect in one place the fragmented bits relevant to my thinking Efimova (2009. 3.5.4)
  16. Clusters of conversations
  17. Conversations unfolding
  18. A personal space and a community space simultaneously.
  19. A personal narrative used to articulate and to organise one’s own thinking. (conversation with self. p 90?) around 4.3
  20. An example of hypertext conversation. Efimova (2009. p. 129)
  21. Weblogs provide a space that helps both to develop one’s own point of view and discuss it with others.
  22. Bloggers present their ideas to the world, readers learn from them. Efimova (2009. p. getting things done. staying in touch)

This would make a good topic for debate.

And if I post multiple entries on my personal life is this content less of a blog when it is locked, then when made available publicly or in a limited way by password?

Eight functions of corporate blogs are offered (Zerfab, 2005, Juch & Stobbe, 2005)

  1. Public Relations
  2. Internal Communications (knowledge transfer and contract negotiation)
  3. Market communications:
  4. Product blogs
  5. Service blogs
  6. Customer relationship blogs
  7. Crisis blogs
  8. CEO blogs


Fig.  9 Conversations with self. Efimova (2009)

To mean something plotting ‘conversations’ requires annotation and even animation for it to start to make sense.

It is also very difficult, even unrealistic, to isolate activity on a website from other forms of synchronous and asynchronous ‘conversation’ – the dialogue in a forum, through email, even on the phone or Skype. This is why as a metaphor I return to the notion of an ocean, in which all these digital assets, this ‘stuff’ is floating around, mixed up by the currents of search engines, micro-blogs and social networks, churned by new Apps, software and kit and made dynamic as it is remixed, shared and transformed through translation, borrowing, plagiarism or mash-ups.

In this way an ocean of content is thrown into the cloud, circulated and recycled like a virtual water-cycle.

Others will see it differently, many talk of an ecosystem, of something organic going on. Would a zoologist or ecologist make more sense of it? Or a biologist, mechanical engineer or psychologist? Some of these questions, and this eclectic mix of folk have been gathering at the University of Southampton for the last three years under the umbrella title of WebSciences – a cross-disciplinary faculty that works with computer scientists and educators, with the health sector and social sciences, with the creative industries, geographers and historians. It’s as if a mirror has been held up to our off-line world and by translation, as Alice through the Looking Glass, transformed the real and explicable into the surreal and the unexplainable.

The history of blogging at Microsoft, Groundup from 2000 to 7000 internal and external by 2005. What it brought and what was hoped for:

  • Humanizing the company.
  • Visibility to its author (Efimova 2008. p. 187)
  • Recognition as an expert
  • Communicating about product
  • Reader expectations and visibility-related risks shape the content. Efimova 2008. p. 191)

‘Employee blogging creates tensions by crossing boundaries between work that is paid for, regulated and controlled, and personal passions that enhance it, passions that could be recognised and appreciated at work, but couldn’t be easily specified in a job description.’ Efimova 2009. p. 199)

For 11 months I worked in a business school in social media.

My efforts to support those who didn’t blog to do so, or to encourage those who said they blogged to post something more often than once a quarter or a couple of times a year failed. If they had wanted to be journalists or politicians and got up on a soapbox they would have done so in their youth. They saw no individual value or purpose to it so wouldn’t. As academics they have readers and their pattern of research and writing is long set. Some do, some don’t. Some will, some won’t. And it would appear that those inclined to share their point of view online are just a fraction of the online population, and just a fraction of that population who read blogs – i.e. 1% (Nielsen, 2006)

‘On the downside, blogging requires an investment of time and effort that could be a burden. Although potentially useful, work-related information in employee weblogs is highly fragmented and difficult to navigate. Although the visibility of bloggers, their work and expertise, can have many positive effects, it may also result in undesired communications overhead, time spent dealing with high reader expectations or with taking care of negative effects.’ Efimova, 2009. p. 200)

  • Lack of control of the company’s message
  • Dependence on personalities
  • Challenged hierarchies and communication flows

Efimova (2009. p. 201)

  • To illicit passion for knowledge (Kaiser et al., 2007)
  • Change the image of the company in the eyes of others (Kelleher & Miller, 2006)

It’s easy to blog, so more should do it.

  • low-threshold creation of entries
  • a flexible and personally meaningful way to organise and maintain them
  • opportunities to retrieve, reuse and analyse blog content
  • opportunities to engage with others.
  • fitted in while working on something else
  • providing a way to keep abreast of others ideas
  • capturing ones’ own emergent insights
  • clarifying matters for a public
  • over time ideas on a topic accumulate and connections between them become clearer.
  • feedback from readers turns blogging into a sense-making practice
  • eventually an ideas is ‘ripe’ and ready to become part of a specific task.

Efimova (2009. p. 208)

The reality, if Nielsen (2006) has got it right, is that only a tiny fraction of any population want to go to the trouble or has the inclination to post something. Better that those with something to say and a voice to say it do so that everyone is obliged to express themselves online. I liken it to cooking on holiday. I disagree with obliging everyone to cook on a rota, for some it isn’t a chore, it’s a joy and if they do it well encourage them. With the proviso that others make their contribution in other ways – laying on the entertainment, doing the drinks … it’s what makes us human?

Conditions for a weblog ecosystem Efimova (2009. p. 232):

  • Scale and reach
  • Readership
  • Visibility
  • Feedback
  • Lowering thresholds – a tool for everyday tasks
  • Making it accessible
  • Crossing boundaries

Ecosystem suggests that blogs exist in something organic – they do, the Web is fluid, shifting and expanding. What value would there be in studying blogs in a way that is somehow ‘scientific’ as if blogging were a natural, evolving feature? Like trees in a jungle?

What other metaphors might contribute to such understanding and how, if at all, can they be justified in research?

Could I look at the Web as a water cycle, as oceans with clouds, as currents and climate? Or is this shoe-horning systems we understand in part to explain one that we do not? Is it presuming too much to look for a natural rather than a machine model for the Web and where blogs fit in?

FURTHER LINKS

Plant CPSquare : communities of practice in the blogosphere.

REFERENCE

Bruns, A. (2006). What’s next for blogging? In A. Bruns, A & J.Jacobs, J (eds) Uses of Blogs (pp. 247-254). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Brown, J, & Duguid, P 1991, ‘Organizational Learning and Communities-of-Practice: Toward a Unified View of Working, Learning, and Innovation’, Organization Science, 1, p. 40, JSTOR Arts & Sciences IV, EBSCOhost, viewed 15 February 2013.

Cox, R, McKendree, J, Tobin, R, Lee, J, & Mayes, T n.d., (1999) ‘Vicarious learning from dialogue and discourse – A controlled comparison’,Instructional Science, 27, 6, pp. 431-458, Social Sciences Citation Index, EBSCOhost, viewed 15 February 2013.

Efimova, L. (2009) Passion at work: blogging practices of knowledge workers. Novay PhD
Research Series 2009 (www.novay.nl.dissertations)

Halvais (2006) Scholarly Blogging. Moving towards the visible college. In A. Bruns, A & J.Jacobs, J (eds) Uses of Blogs (pp. 117-126). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Kaiser, S, Muller-Seitz, G, Lopes, M, & Cunha, M n.d., ‘Weblog-technology as a trigger to elicit passion for knowledge’, Organization, 14, 3, pp. 391-412, Social Sciences Citation Index, EBSCOhost, viewed 15 February 2013.

Kelleher, T, & Miller, B 2006, ‘Organizational Blogs and the Human Voice: Relational Strategies and Relational Outcomes’, Journal Of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11, 2, pp. 395-414, Communication & Mass Media Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 15 February 2013.

Lave, J. & Wenger, E (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Miles, M.B. & Huberman, M.A.  (1994) Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

Mortensen, T & Walker, J. (2002). Blogging thoughts: personal publication as an online research tool. In A. Morrison (ed.)., Researching ICTs in Context. InterMedia report 3/2002 (pp. 249-278). Oslo.

Nielsen. J. (2006) Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute. (Accessed 16 February 2013 http://www.nngroup.com/articles/participation-inequality/ )

Nonnecke, B. & Preece, J. (2003). Silent participants: Getting to know lurkers better. In C.Lueg & D. Fisher (Eds.), From Usenet to CoWebs: Interacting with Social Information Spaces. Springer Verlag.

Pargman, D. (2000). Method and ethics. In Code beges community: On social and technical aspects of managing a virtual community. Department of Communications Studies, The Tema Institute, Linkoping University, Sweden.

Pollard, (2003) Blogging in Business – The Weblog as filing cabinet. How to save the world, 3 Mart 2003.

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

Brown, J.S.  (2007) October 2007 webcast: (accessed 16 Feb 2013 http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?whichevent=1063&s=31 )

Schwartz-Shea, P. (2006). Judging quality. Evaluative criteria and epistemic communities. In D. Yanow & P. Schwartz-Shea (Eds.), Interpretation and Method: Empirical Research Methods and the Interpretive Turn (pp. 89-113). M.E. Sharpe.

Sullivan, A (2013) The Daily Dish (accessed 16 February 2013 http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/jan/03/daily-beast-andrew-sullivan-daily-dish )

von Hippel, E. (1986). Lead users: A source of novel product concepts. Management Science, 32 (791), 805.

Weller, M (2011) The Digital Scholar : How technology is transforming scholarly practice.

Zerfaβ, A 2005, ‘Assembling a Localization Kit’, Multilingual Computing & Technology, 16, 7, pp. 60-11, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 16 February 2013.

When it comes to e-learning how do you see yourself? Learning Designer, Writer, Architect?

Fig.1. Building Construction W B McKay 1943

Are you the learning architect or the learning builder?

It is flattering to the group from Learning & Development that they can be likened to architects. Whilst many will have a degree, some don’t – whilst some may have a post graduate qualification, very few do. None I’m sure will have spent six or seven years in formal study that has lead to recognition by the Royal College of E-Learning Designers – there is no such professional qualification, nor is there any period of formal study, a mix of studio work and academic research, that leads to a qualification of  this calibre.

The exceptions are those with first degrees and MBAs and at the pinnacle of this discussion, Christopher Alexander who has first and second degrees from Cambridge and a PhD in architecture from Harvard.

Many in academia have the second degree and PhD – but they generally lack the experience designing learning outside undergraduate and postgraduate tertiary education, which is quite a diffderent beast to the short courses and continual professional development desired in the workplace.

If I were to take the building trade by way of an analogy I would say that the learning and development manager is the client – while the architect is an agent or agency that you hire in for their design expertise and knowledge of foremen and project managers, builders and electrcians – the project leaders, programmers and art directos of e-learning creation.

The L&D manager may be a subject matter expert but is far more likely to draw upon expertise from within their organisation.

Which of the following made the biggest contribution to your learning when you first set out in your current career asked Clive Shepherd?

Fig.2. What has contributed most to your learning?

This depends of course on when a person knew they were set on a career path.

How many people come into Learning & Development (L&D) having decided on this path as an undergraduate?

As a graduate trainee I expected a mix of on the job and formal training – this mix turned out to be around 95% to 5% while contemporaries elsewhere were getting 50/50 of none at all. This is the formal way of graduate training and can last two or three years. Think of lawyers (barristers and trainee solicitors), accounts, bankers and teachers … doctors, dentists, vets and architects.

Clive Shepherd who recently gave an insightful presentation on The New Learning Architect says he got the idea of the new learning architect at presentation gave by Jay Cross on informal learning.  

Away from the presentation I like to click around as for me to understand a concept it helps to perceive its inception.

In turn, if you check the references for Jay Cross’s 2006 ‘Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways that Inspire Innovation and Performance’ you’ll find where his ideas may have came from –  Robert A Heinlein (1961) ‘Strangers in a Strange Land’ and R Nelson Bolles (2005) ‘What Color’s Your Parachute’ are there along with John Seely Brown (2005) ‘The Only Sustainable Edge’.

There are some inspirational ideas and link here:

Jay Cross : Important Stuff

Informal learning

Workflow learning ties learning into the actual workflow within an organisation. According to Jay Cross it takes us to support and on-demand services that are designed to exist within the real tasks we do in our everyday work.Out of this work on workflow learning came an even wider, and what he regards as more important set of reflections.



Fig.3. Zoom.It History of Corporate Education.

This timelines the history of corporate and executive training. It is like a touch-screen and zoome control all in one. The Bayeux Tapestry in digital form (now there’s an idea over 900 years old). I spotted a typo – you’ll find it says something about  ‘Toyota: Clean Production’ rather than Lean Production. We should consider the content in other ways – I know a PLC that set up an internal ‘university’ in the mid 1970s – or maybe they called in a training centre. Same difference?

If Clive Shepherd got his idea of the learning architect from Jay Cross I imagine Jay Cross  in turn got the idea from a Christopher Alexander.

Christopher Alexander’s Notes on the Synthesis of Form was required reading for researchers in computer science throughout the 1960s. It had an influence in the 1960s and 1970s on programming language design, modular programming, object-oriented programming, software engineering and other design methodologies.  He is cited through-out the Open University’s Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) as an originator of design practice that was applied to computer design and therefore could be applied to e-learning design.

Here’s the education of someone who can rightfully call themselves an architect and do so in the context of learning, even of e-learning.

In 1954, Christopher Alexander was awarded the top open scholarship to Trinity CollegeCambridge University in chemistry and physics, and went on to read mathematics. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and a Master’s degree in Mathematics. He took his doctorate at Harvard (the first Ph.D. in Architecture ever awarded at Harvard University), and was elected fellow at Harvard. During the same period he worked at MIT in transportation theory and in computer science, and worked at Harvard in cognition and cognitive studies.

Fig.4. The Timeless Way of Building

‘The Timeless Way of Building’ proposes a new theory of architecture (and design in general) that relies on the understanding and configuration of design patterns.It is these design patterns that came to the attention of creators of e-learning modules in the 21st century, the idea that designs for subjects or cohorts might be replicated and shared across the online learning community so that you might say a fits an undergraduate arts course, while b is the model for a health & safety module in industry, c gives you language learning in primary school while d offers an elective in urology to 4th year medical students.

To become an architect requires a considerable commitment.

Take the three year undergraduate course in architecture at the University of Cambridge

Entry Requirements: A* AA : Likely to include Maths and Art or History of Art.

Students may stay on at Cambridge to complete an MPhil at RSA exams to qualify in six years (this includes a year in a placement)

‘The three year BA(Hons) course is unusual in the University in combining both arts and sciences. As such it provides a unique range of skills which lead to a wide range of careers, not just architecture’.

Throughout the BA tripos studio work carries 60% of the marks.

The remaining 40% is made up from exams and other forms of coursework (dissertations, etc). Studiowork in all years is handed in for marking at the end of the year. Studiowork is time-consuming and probably requires more hours per week than any other course in the University. Students are also expected to work during the Christmas and Easter vacations.

I labour this point because as someone who has gone from corporate communications and video based training to computer based training and e-learning I would never liken myself to a cardiologist, even a qualified lawyer or certified accountant, let alone an architect. An educator perhaps, but I don’t have a formal teaching qualificaiton, only sports coaching and the MAODE when I graduate early next year.

Fig. 5. BRICKS – Building Construction W B McKay 1943

Several other analogies have been used in the e-learning literature, some that still have a building or architecture theme to them.

What we get here is learning design broken down to brick sized components, some call them ‘interactivities’ (a term I often here working in a design agency). I find the idea of atoms in a chemical reaction (Wiley, 2001) too small, even if we are dealing with binary code it isn’t something that we see anymore. Gilly Salmon (2002) would have liked ‘e-tivities’ to catch on – she puts these in a logical sequence, building blocks towards a module. At the Open University they tend to be called ‘Learning Objects’. Chris Pegler (2004) finds this too static and unresponsive preferring if we go with the Lego analogy, or Technics. Littlejohn et al (2008) describe these components as:

Digital assets – a single item, image, video or podcast or an nformation objects: a structured aggregation of digital assets designed purely to present information.

Learning activities -tasks involving interactions with information to attain a specific learning outcome.

Learning design – structured sequences of information and learning activities to promote learning.

Fig. 5. BRICKS – Building Construction W B McKay 1943

For pure aspiration I like the digital architect as a goal for an undergraduate setting out on a long course of formal and applied study. L&D directors and managers approach an e-learnign agency as they would a firm of architects and together they write a brief. This is propoposed, scheduled and costed then a scheme of work begins.

The delivery, depending on the scale of it, might be akin to anything from a brick arcade (health and safety induction to leisure staff) to a bungalow to a housing estate (induction of trainee solicitors in an national firm of solictors), an office block or a factory (long term management development for an international engineering business).

REFERENCE

Alexander, C (1970) The Timeless Way of Buidling

Cross, J (2006) The Informal Learner

Downes, S (2000) Learning Objects. Available from http://www.newstrolls.com/news/dev/downes/col;umn000523_1.htm

Littlejohn, Falconer, Mcgill (2008) Characterising effective eLearning (sic) resources

Pegler, C and Littlejohn, A (2004) Preparing for Blended e-Learning, Routledge.

Salmon, G (2002) E-tivities

Shepherd, C (2011) The New Learning Architext

Wiley, D.A. (2000) Connecting Learning Objects to instructional design theory: a definition, a metaphor, and a taxonomy. In D.A. Wiley (ed), The instructional use of Learning Objects. Available from http://reusability.org/read/chapters/wiley.doc

Clive Shepherd – the book, in person, ideas on learning and development in the World Wide Web 2.0

20121115-075700.jpg

Fig.1. Learners in the second decade of the 21st century – needs and expectations. Shepherd (2011:16)

A few weeks ago I shared a few books I had read, cover-to-cover, extolling the virtues of listening to someone’s thesis over several hours or days rather than consuming only the sound bites offered by the Internet.

This was one of the recommendations. The platform was the Linkedin group ‘Giants, Wizards and Goblins’ for alumni of the OU MBA module B822 ‘Creativity, Innovation and Change’.

I can pass on the recommendation as I enter my second read – a second round of highlighting, adding notes and sharing excerpts via Twitter and Facebook – no copyright infringement here surely – like any of us I am promoting the book and the man, as well as into the orignal interest group in Linkedin. I’ll get my head around it vicariously.

For the umpteenth time I might like to ask an author to sign the book, but yet again I only have the eBook. Is there a problem here looking for a solution? Perhaps I should put it to Clive Shepherd this morning at an event hosted by e-learning agency Kineo at the City & Guilds, London.

Studying entirely online with the Open University (Masters in Open and Distance Education) I find I seek out opportunties such as this, to hear someone talk, to be in the audience, so as to sense ideas as they bubble up in a context that makes them more likely to adhere as a memory. The advantage of course doing this online is that we generally speak through our fingertips so there is a lasting record that is more easily absorbed.

For me, sixty ideas worth sharing from the book ‘The New Learning Architect’ may coalesce into five or six of most significance and value to my current projects and plans.

REFERENCE

Shepherd, C (2011) The New Learning Architect

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