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That tune you can’t get out of your mind? That something triggers out of the blue?

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Fig.1. Punk Rock People Management – Peter Cook MBA, Dingwalls

Earworm‘ is a loan translation of the German Ohrwurm – it is a portion of a song or other music that repeats compulsively within one’s mind, put colloquially as “music being stuck in one’s head.” Wikipedia

Getting stuff to stick in your head for learning is useful. Use the idea in revision. Hum the tune in your head during an exam.

There are dozens of songs that I will forever associate with a person, place or mood.

Where the ear worm isn’t lodged I have tracks that I know will evoke the time and place, just as a time or place will set the music off.

Today BBC Radio 4 treated us to some insights on the ‘earworm’

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Fig. 2 Shaun Keaveny on earworms – today, BBC Radio 4

Various examples are given of that tune you can’t get out of your head, triggered like all memories by a siteor smell, thought or mood – then stuck. Not just a tune that is getting airplay, but obscure soundscapes from your past. A lecture in psychology from Goldsmith’s London shares ideas gleaned from three studies. Powerful stuff.

In relation to learning I’d suggest using an ident and a sting. Have an opening theme that is repeated – library music serves its purpose though professionally composed music is pretty good too and far less expensive if you know who to ask such as new comers to the industry with unrecognised talent.

Associations are changed – for me Ian Dury was me and Carolyn B and ‘Storm’s’ house when I was fifteen, now it is Peter Cook outside Dingwall’s Camden, some thirty years later.

I heard Johnny Cash performing ‘Hurt’ exactly two years ago (Johnny Vegas on Desert Island Discs) and now have the tune lodged in my head. And the sheet music downloaded so that I can sing it.

With a piece of video you can set the tempo with a ‘click track’ against which you then cut. Either a composer comes up with music against this tempo or you find something that fits. As a director the choice is what you consider professionally to fit – but how about in a learning context you encourage students to lay in their own track of music? Synchronised with the click-track might it be more powerfully remembered as a result?

Is curation a better way to engage the quieter and less active learner online?

Fig.1 Hockney

I’ve nearly always been on the outside looking in, a ‘creative’ on the outside who is commissioned regularly to deliver learning content – historically a great deal of video, interactive DVD and then online.

There was often an interesting difference between projects for internal audiences and how or whether they were well promoted compared to externally commercially sponsored learning that had to attract and retain a large audience. The internal projects got a fraction of the budget to promote it than that spent on producing the thing in the first place – often, by all accounts, the entire budget. This for better where the learning was integrated into the landscape of regular internal communications – the monthly video news magazine being typical.

Looking at it we came to understand that in the UK we are very good at making stuff, but not so good at getting the message out.

We used the ratio  of 5:3:1 to suggest, for example, how £80,000 might be spent on an interactive and online project – say £50,000 on the design, writing, graphics and build, £30,000 to support it over a shelf life of a year or two and £10,000 to publicise.

In North America it went the other way.

Have a neat idea, but keep it simple and sweet – spend far more marketing it and then with audience engagement and from lessons learned improved the product and develop a relationship with the audience so that they keep coming back for more.

If curation is the way forward then the next step will be to draw on my experience as a visitor to countless museums and galleries, houses and castles – from the mishaps of a rainy day to the inspired and repeated visits to museum events. Does this become a journey through your mind? Is it any wonder that people who demonstrate extraordinary feats of recollection do so by pegging images to a journey through a familiar space? Might a way to prepare for an exam to create a temporary exhibition of your own?


Fig. 2. Production stills from a cross-section of training projects written, directed and produced by Jonathan Vernon – on YouTube @JJ27VV

How to create a ‘community of learning’ online

From a post to my OU Student Blog, 17th March 2012 – shared here for the first time

11th century Bologna

We’ve had a thousand years of learning based on being somewhere. Location mattered for the teachers (Masters) and the libraries.

21st century Cyberspace

We’ve had a decade of learning that still relies on community, but we can be anywhere (within reason) we like. Broadband Internet access matters. We are guided through the resources by a mixture of people and artifacts. A good deal of it is a pot-lunch at best, with people bringing something to the table, a smorgasbord at least, where we help ourselves.

One part of the community has not changed one jot – like minds gathered to talk, whether like this, through our finger-tips and a keyboard, but best of all in a live synchronous meeting.

These should be made compulsory.

No everything can be what we want, when we do or don’t want it. We have to submit papers, We have deadlines. Why not this? Better still bring in the online viva – I’ve had one twice, the Job Interview across the Atlantic via Skype.

Have things changed that much?

Our minds are the same? Our desire for compassion, to be heard, to contribute, to be recognised even rewarded. We crave friendships, we make mistakes, we learn or don’t learn from these, many of us marry and raise kids and grow old, have ideas, good and bed, published or not.

Life will go on, with or without the e-learning?

Will it be a better life?

I suspect not, just different.

Where is all the Leisure Time we were promised in the 1970s.

We have become slaves to the technology, being measured and observed as we tap out our lives, and machine-like we could be judged on how many words, and where these words appear and how often and who often reads them, measured in click-throughs, and page views and other site analytics.

A decade ago I envisaged my then infant children studying six A’Levels then two degrees – simultaneously. To differentiate yourself maybe this becomes necessary and possible.

I’ve come across people online with the Open University studying TWO degrees simultaneously.

Perhaps this cross-fertilization will generate new ideas – or ware us down by the need to compete.

We’ll see

The BBC offer references. Not only can you listen and take notes, and listen again, but you can then follow it up with further reading. I liken this to a wrap. The main meal comes from the OU canteen every day.

How to solve a problem?

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‘If you can’t solve a problem, then there is an easier problem you can solve: Find it’.

Link : http://www.cs.rutgers.edu/~mdstone/class/503/readings/polya-classroom.pdf

China-Britain Business Council – opportunities today

China Britain Business Council – Business Development Event – Free for IVCA Members (£40 for non-members)

The China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) would like IVCA Members to join us THIS EVENING for the Wuxi City Creative, Cultural, Media & Digital Event.

This is an excellent opportunity for you to meet key government officials in the creative and media industry. Wuxi City, and the surrounding area is home to many major players in the creative and media industry in China. Further to this there may be some good contacts made for you and the International Visual Communications Association which can hopefully lead to excellent business opportunities in the future.

The event is taking place in the  London Film Museum and will start at 4.00pm and finish at 7:30pm.

We would be grateful if you could attend, or even pass this information on to anybody in your company who would be interested in attending. Our delegation from Wuxi has specifically asked for members in the creative industry or people who are just have a general interest. It would be a pleasure to host the IVCA at this high-profile event.

For more information about the event please click here. Also, please give me a call if you wish to hear more about the event and if you would like to register.

Kind Regards,

Pravin Wadhwani
CBBC Events Team

China-Britain Business Council
Tel: +44 (0)207 802 2006
Email: pravin.wadhwani@cbbc.org

National Policies on provision for people with disabilities

I work for a global e–learning company Lumesse which has 73 offices spread around some 40 countries. It would be interesting for me to see what accessibility policies exist (I’ll search online) probably a nod in each case to national or regional policy and legislation.

Of greater interest and relevance and running in close parallel to education at all levels: primary, secondary and tertiary and beyond – is the policy for sports in the UK and for swimming in particular. (I’m familiar with Swimming Governing bodies in the US, France and Australia so could check these too).

As the ‘Swim21 co–ordinator’ for one of the largest swimming clubs in Southern England I compile a report with supporting evidence every four years to achieve various Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) national accreditations. This includes provision for disabled swimmers. The award is used as a management tool – the club is a limited company with over 1000 members, some 26 paid staff and 60+ volunteers.

Swim21 – which stands for ‘Swimming for the 21st century’, goes beyond national legislation regarding disability, equality and inclusion – so much so that it impinges on the Data Protection act – those party to the information we make available have a current CRB check and have signed various documents agreeing to abide by certain disclosure rules, an ethics policy and an equity in sport code of practice.

Educational institutions would benefit from taking a look at this – I can see that it would, if permitted, cover far more than they do or are prepared to do in Tertiary Education. Would they carry the cost, even the potential risk?

The Swim21 report is divided into three parts: Compliance, Athlete Development and Workforce Development. In each of these there are criteria the club must reach regarding disabled swimmers. I believe that most institutions – universities and businesses, tick boxes for compliance but fail to address the development of and support of their people – including disabled staff. There are notable corporate exceptions, but I can’t think of a university other than The OU that champions learning for disabled students … or provides so well for disabled staff (I worked on The OU campus for a year).

What I find interesting in relation to H810 and ASA policy is the close interplay between various apparently innocuous or tangential criteria that make what the club does such a success – in fact our club is a regional centre of excellence or ‘Beacon Club’ for disabled swimmers. It is this weave that integrates what we do that makes provision, and therefore access for disabled swimmers possible.

Crucial to this is a good working relationship with the pool operator, local schools for disabled students and a couple of champions who hold on tenaciously to what we can provide.

The relationship with the pool operator, meetings, adherence to their emergency and health and safety policies, provision of appropriate facilities and so on is a starting point. Tangential, but crucial to have in place. There has to be physical access for disabled athletes to changing rooms, toilets and the pool(s) with trained, sympathetic staff on hand.

The fundamental ingredient is what we call ‘water time’ – access to the pool or pools at times that suit the swimmers, rather than being marginalised to an evening slot on a Saturday or Sunday which is the policy in many pool operators when it comes to disabled swimmers. In relation to H810 then access to ‘air time’ is key, access to include the right, motivated, experienced and educated tutors, with appropriate resources – with access ring–fenced, protected and treasured.

Our disabled swimmers, themselves divided into two ability groups, have slots on a Saturday morning and a late afternoon/early evening on Wednesday. We integrate certain disabled swimmers into mainstream learn to swim and teenage swim groups and when they come along or develop would include them in squad sessions too. Here too Tertiary Education needs to understand the need not only for total, or part time integration, but also the provision for full or part time specialist, niche provision. This is provided by and should be informed by national organisations for sight, hearing, physical and learning impairments.

Provision for disabled swimmers is ASA Swim21 policy and includes: self–assessment on the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), attendance by coaches on an ASA approved Disability Awareness Course and partnership with local disability organisations.

Supporting this, coach/athlete ratios are moderated to match the needs of the swimmer with 1:1 for some disabled swimmers, even 1:2 or 1:3 at times. We have to declare these ratios and demonstrate that they meet criteria by swimming level, age group and disability. There is a club Child Protection Policy and Equity Policy, and coaches agree to abide by a Code of Ethics – these embrace all swimmers.

In relation to H810, and where Tertiary Education might learn something – we maintain a record of club personnel which includes CRB and current relevant qualifications, as well as safeguarding and protecting children training. Most significantly with membership we capture medical conditions of all participants, disability information and emergency contact information. Teachers and coaches, on a need to know basis, have this information too (though it is wrapped in a data protection statement). We attend ASA approved workshops on Swimming for Disabled Athletes. All members, which includes parents and other volunteers, agree to a code of conduct. Anyone working with or likely to work with children have a current CRB check whilst every three years the club puts on a Child Protection Workshop which includes working with vulnerable and disabled swimmers. This is now supplemented by several ASA e–learning modules that include niche topics on coaching swimmers with visual impairment, physical disabilities, learning difficulties and/or behavioural issues.

The note on a swimmer is vital to a teacher or coach – just a line or two and we can seek further advice and of course speak to the swimmer themselves leading to conversations on what they want to do and where they have problems to overcome. We improvise, compromise and accommodate. The context poolside is of course very different to e–learning if we think of e–learning as distance or independent learning, however, if we think of it as social learning online and do more supported synchronous and quasi–synchronous learning, then there are close parallels. The mistake is to think of e–learning purely in terms of ways to get 1,000 people a year through the same induction process or 2,000 through the same postgraduate module – wherein lies the importance of access to and the engagement of the tutor, and other people in support. People create access, improvise, accommodate difference, find ways around barriers … and come to understand one person to another, what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Reflecting on this, there is another vital component – we very often know the disabled swimmer from age 9 or 10 into their late teens – volunteers who work in specialist schools may well have known the swimmer for even longer. Some stay on to swim as adults. Given that there are so many kinds of disability and such a spectrum for each, this knowledge is vital. For example, it helps to know that a swimmer who is barely able to walk can, with assistance, balance on a starting block long enough to start a race. I’m starting to wonder where the equivalents exist in higher education and for e–learning in particular – perhaps this same swimmer using a specialist keyboard to be as active on social networks online as anyone else, not quite an avatar, but as ‘free in the airwaves’ online as they are in the swimming pool.

Towards my own theory of learning

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How do we perceive and share knowledge? What matters most in this equation? Society, the institution, department or the individual educator? Learning occurs at the interface between individuals, between the teacher and pupil, between pupils and of course between the thinkers, the educators, researchers and academics. This interface is expressed as an artefact: a lecture, a book, a TV appearance, a podcast, a chapter in a book or a paper – as an expression of a set of ideas. This interface is also a conversation, in a tutorial, at a conference or less formally in passing over a meal, or drink (in the Oxbridge experience at the High Table, in the senior, middle or junior common rooms, in halls and rooms where societies and loose groupings of people meet, as well as in studies and rooms).

On the one hand we like to put the institution above the person, whether in academia or the commercial world we rank and recognise Oxbridge and the Russell Group ‘above’ other universities while, for example, in Law we put Freshfields, Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith in the top ten of 125 or 500 legal practices. However, it is an the individual level, at the interface between one person and another, one mind and another, where the learning occurs, where the knowledge is applied and changed, and in various forms written up or written out to cause or record effect.

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

Turning thoughts into action – the life of Z A Pelczynski remembered

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Read cover to cover yesterday, into the evening and small hours. I’m now onto the second read, with various notes to add, references to pursue and further research to undertake.

Yet to be published, I’ll give detials in due course of how to get your hands on a copy.

Why read ‘A Life Remembered’ ?

It’s a fascinating life story from surving the Warsaw Uprising as a teenager to achieving as an Academic and educator in England, Scotland then at various leading universities around the world while pursing various interests and causes with passion and dogged determination. A life lesson? I think so.

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