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The value of networking face to face not just online

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 Simon16 (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 enteringmy bathroom talking agile eaterfalls, Kanban abd SCRUM techniques while Simon was on the landing with our dog – his blonge haird 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.


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.)


Here’s your 2013 reading list – one a week for the year.


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What are the pros and cons of curating content or following someone’s choices? Do you curate?


Sam Burroughs spoke at the Wee Learning evening in Bath on Thursday.


It turns out that I have been playing this curation game for some time, that it is nuanced aggregation of content – go public with it on a consistent theme are you are blding your own audience, serving a purpose by pulling in content that you rate. A simple list of links is a start, the next step is to use an RSS feed to have content patchedin regularly or to use an aggregator that assembles the content for you as it it uploaded. You get your own daily paper as it were in some instances. Start doing this for colleagues and you find yourself curating a learning and news resource.

Sam Burroughs represents thousands of learners in the commercial secotor when it comes to continual professional development his drive is to get internal learners to have their a personal development plan and to seek out pertinent courses and content for themselves rather than waiting for and relying on a course list. As well as self–development reading and curating content themselves will make them more connected in and out of the company as well as gaining a better understanding of the technology. – so looking for relative content to solve their problems that they can share or make available to others.

Sam introduced Beth Kanter, Robin Good and Howard Rheingold.

Beth Kanter
Seak, Sense, Share – take the pain out of finding content.

Robin Good – master curator

Robin Good on curation
Published on11 Jun 2011byHoward Rheingold

In interview Robin Good, that master of new media (http://masternewmedia.org) about curation — what it is, what it requires, why it’s important, how to do it.

Robin thinks of Google as Macdonalds, whereas the curator runs a bespoke restaurant. He talks about curation as ‘sense making’ not just links. That curation helps people to learn better and faster from people they know or respect.

He describes curation as ‘curiosity’ – something done with passion and antennaes. As any publisher or author would do, he stresses the need to Know the audience, not simply the artists.
He atresses also the need for transparench, to correctly add citations and links to the content you pull in.

Robin Good on curation
Published on 11 Jun 2011 by Howard Rheingold

In interview Robin Good, that master of new media (http://masternewmedia.org) about curation — what it is, what it requires, why it’s important, how to do it.

Howard Rheingold
see video for shaf he thinks curation is a DJ … when did I coin the phrase BJ.

Are the following curators, journalists, academics or publishers?

Names I would mention include:

Hugo Dixon
Andrew Sullivan
Martin Weller

Hugo Dixon established Breaking Views in 1999, got ahead of Reuters by providing institutions, for a subscrtion, with opinion on busienss news as it occured – after 8 years Reutersbought him out.

Andrew Sullivan blogs five or more times a day, some of this pulls in content from elsewhere, more is original journalism. They are a team of five at The Daily Beast getting 1 million views a month, financed by online advertising. Publisheror curator, it strikes me that a curator does it for the loveof the subject – the ‘objects’ in their collection.

The Edtechie is the blog from the author of the Digital Scholar, Martin Weller – He has over 3,000 followers. As an academic does he curate his own publications and ideas? Or does that make him a specialist librarian?

Sam likes the idea that you ’learn for myself’, and how it started with blogs then moved onto tools such as Delicious, the Digo +tag, organise with key words and RSS feeds.

There are various RSS aggregators.

Sam has come across 250 curation tools. How do you know which are the best? You give them a whirl or ask others what they think. Some to try include:


What tools for curating content can you recommend?

My teenagers curate images on Tumblr, a tumbling riot of choice images grabbed and reblogged into a visual expression of who they aspire to be, or who they are or the people they want to attract.

Fig.1. Head in the clouds

My teenagers curate images on Tumblr, a tumbling riot of choice images grabbed and reblogged into a visual expression of who they aspire to be, or who they are or the people they want to attract.

The museum of the person, for the person rather than a museum by a person for the people.

Perhaps this is the answer – blurring the boundaries between blog, gallery, library and museum we each become the curators of the external expression of the contents of our minds forming in total a waterfall of information and ideas. As a reader, visitor or learner you are the fish swimming in this river, dipping in and out and through it. The space is an interplay between what others contribute and what you elect to tangle with.

Curation is more than aggregating stuff, there is a sense of purpose, a theme, even if it is a current in this river, this torrent, this deluge of information – the content is gathered, and presented in a certain way.

Someone has made choices on the visitor’s behalf. The collection is assembled for a purpose, to change minds, to open heads, to instigate a journey, to act as a catalyst for learning and and the creation of understanding.

Whilst blogging implies creating content or self-publishing, curation is aggregating content by one person for others – going out with a broom to sweep autumn leaves into a pile then picking out the russet red ones. It isn’t publishing either, these leaves are literally individual pages, not entire books, they are, in the parlance ‘bite–sized’ pieces of information.

At what point does it cease to be curation?

The London Underground Lost Property Office is not a curated space – this stuff has been pushed into the space, not pulled. Push or pull are key words when it comes to curation, especially where the curation is prompted by the desire to respond to a problem – such as engaging people to take responsibility for their own learning by providing them with a space with blurred boundaries that will contain, more often than not, objects that satisfy and pique their curiosity in order that they then go on to construct their own understanding.

The curator doesn’t orginating content then?

Tell that to … a History of the World in 100 objects.


Neil McGreggor


Fig.2. An online diary or journal

Over a decade ago, to some a web log and now a blog can embrace curation – 195 posts on blogging and my favourite definition is ‘digital paper‘ – a blog is anything you can do with it.

Curation is perhaps therefore, a digital museum, library or gallery?

By defintion less self–publishing, and more aggregation of the works of others.


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

Getting the message across


Getting the message across


If the thought put in lessons such as this could be applied to the national curricullum would more be remembered? Walking around Newhaven Fort I’d like to see GCSE, A’ Level and even graduate’trails’ set to help lodge in a student’s minds some of the events and facts they require.

I’d like to seethe develoment of augmentedreality so that dead exhibits could come to life. I’d like to see a number of ker War movies played on a loop too.

A new(ish) model for blended and applied learning (or is this an institutionalised form of apprenticeship?)

These guys and several other teams are doing some great work

25 years ago I was at the School of Communication Arts under John Gillard, an inspired educator with an original approach – get the ‘industry’ to do its bit by providing cash, thought, care, time and opportunity. My own tutors read like a who’s who of advertising and the visits to the school included industry leaders from Saatchis and Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

School of Communication Arts 2.0 works

From a learning point of view what works?

  • Attracting the best
  • They pay (it is expensive, though there are scholarships)
  • ‘Industry’ has a responsibility to make it work (and the opportunity to have first dibs at the students)
  • Ideas, on brief, well thought through, imaginative and implicitly likely to add considerable worth to a product or service.
  • Motivated students and motivated ‘mentors’ doing it for free.
  • A form of shadowing and with industry briefs and placements a form of apprenticeship too.
  • Embraces the technology, using tools to ‘sell’ ideas and to communicate with supporters
  • Simple and low cost (modest)
  • FREE of a qualification (though one is now offered). i.e. the emphasis has to be on the output, on developing the teams as creative thinkers, on making them valuable contributors to a commercial enterprise for what they can do rather than the ‘qualification’. Unlike a driving licence, a diploma in the creative arts does not mean you can ‘drive’.

Does this threaten tutors in distance learning?

What does it suggest?

Better to have those in the industry providing guidance and motivation than those with a teaching qualification or academic research pedigree and bias.

Where else does this apply?

Film & Television production, engineering, law, medicine, hotel and catering, sports coaching, fine art:

  • Taught by your heroes.
  • Use flexibility of employment and ease of communication to keep in touch.
  • Have some basic platforms and at the hub a dean with commitment and a sense of purpose.
  • Bricks and mortar?

A research basis as in tertiary education? I think not.

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