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Collaboration amongst strangers is a tricky one. I’ve seen it work and I’ve seen it fail.

Fig. 1. Performing in an amateur production of the Caucasian Chalk Circle. The ultimate collaborative exercise?

1) It requires scaffolding in the form of rules, or guidelines, mentor or leaders, and incentives in the form of punishments and rewards i.e. the risk of failure as well as recognition and some kind of reward (which might be a qualification, a monetary award, or part of a completed artefact, or pleasure of participation).

2) It requires people with an obsessive common interest; I don’t believe having a common interest is enough. There needs to be an obsession, which means that the level of expertise can be mixed, indeed, thinking of the John Seely Brown concept of ‘learning from the periphery’ this might be best as invariably the natural human response IS to support those on the edge. The classic example is the young and eager student or junior employee keen to learn from his or her elders.

My concern with the role of collaboration in a module on e-learning is that the above don’t fully apply. We are not GCSE or A’Level students. Most are MA ODE students who need this towards their MA, but I’ll stick my head out and say the pass mark is, in my opinion, too low. I believe that it matters to be paying for it out of your own pocket or to have a commercial sponsor expecting results. I know that some working for the OU do these modules almost on a whim because they are free and they do the minimum to pass – I’ve seen this on various courses,  seen it myself and have had it corroborated by other students. Anyone who is along for the ride in a module that relies on collaboration is a weak link – of course plenty of OU people do take seriously, but some don’t and no line manager is looking over their shoulder. At Carnegie Melon they ran an MA course where students gave each other, on a rolling basis, a mark for collaboration – those with the lowest mark risked failing that module. In fairness some people are not born collaborators, whereas others go out of their way to be a participant, potentially at the expensive of other parts of their studies.

To my tutor group I’ve posted too long a piece on a collaborative exercise I have been doing on and off for the best part of twenty years – I’m researching and writing my grandfather’s memoir from the First World War. The Internet has exposed me (in a good way) to several sleuths.

I can however give an example of the learning design MOOC earlier this year that whilst having a good deal of scaffolding and human support relied on strangers each coming up with project ideas then joining forces to complete one. In a rush of activity, with some big name e-learning folk and too much formal theorizing, reading and activities to groups formed. I had no takers and joined a group of three that became five, but very quickly this became two of us … we gamefully pressed on but at some stage felt we were missing out on the real action so eventually pulled out as active participants.

Then there is a two week exercise in a subgroup of an MA ODE module where circumstances brought a magic bunch of strangers together – this has proved to be the exception rather than the rule.

Amateur dramatics, even volunteer cricket, to take a couple of examples, work because the show is the collective reward. We have bonfire societies here in Lewes that rely on volunteers too – though the complaint will be that it is always the same handful of people who do everything. In a work or academic setting should everyone be rewarded and recognised in the same way? It depends very much on a group dynamic or bond, a common sentiment that comes from working together in the flesh.

I believe that the First World War, now that I am an active member of a society and studying it on a formal course, is largely of the type 2 participant. We are ‘trainsporters’ in that nerdy, glazed eye way – with specialists who know everything about uniforms, or tunnelling, or submarines, or dental decay on the Western Front, or a particular general, or like me – a grandfather, or great-grandfather who was a combatant.

My worry about e-learning as a collaborative arena is that it is the process, so we are a cookery or gardening club. However, there is significant variation in each of these – vegetarian cooks, cupcake bake off specialists and Heston Blumenthal wannabes – amongst the gardens there are PhD research students growing dwarf barley and weekenders who’ve keep an allotment. Whilst we have interest and the module to sustain us, only in a conort of 1000 or more would for some, there be enough likeminds to form a team.

I’m off to the School of Communication Arts in London. It operates from a workshop like open studio. Students are put into pairs to work. There is collaboration here between an art director (visualizer) and copywriter (words). Whether students are forever looking each other’s shoulders when they are working on a competitive brief is another matter. I’ve noticed how one creative brief given to the whole studio has now become three. What is more, the ‘collaboration’ as such, comes from a couple of full time tutors, principal and then a ‘mentors’ who go in as a sounding board cum catalyst cum different voice or perspective. What these people are doing is ‘creative problem solving’.

Why, historically, does one band stay together while another falls apart? Collaboration is a tricky business – and maybe only in a business setting between employer and employee, or between contractor and client can it be sustained?

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Where do I stand academically? Where and what next? And the madness of being.

Master of Arts  in Open and Distance Education (MA ODE) with the Open University, UK (OU)

H800: Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

H807: Innovations in eLearning – Learning outcomes

H810: Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students

B822: Creativity, Innovation and Change

H808: The e-learning professional

This completes the Masters Degree. I graduate on Saturday 27th April 2013

Currently (March 2013) I am taking H809 as a bridge towards doctoral research or professional consultancy. Complete in June 2013.

H809 Practice-based research in educational technology

I joined the #H817open MOOC for one part of this module. I will register for 2014

H817: Openness and innovation in e-learning.

I am applying to undertake doctoral research in education – using learning technologies.
 
H809 will help prepare for applications starting in January 2014 for an October 2014 start. Most are now a 4 year programme, with a Masters in research to begin. WebSciences at University of Southampton is an interesting option – I attended an Open Day in January.
Too many active interests was a stated issue on childhood school reports. Nothing’s changed.
 
I am looking at an MA in History with the University of Birmingham which would give me the opportunity
study the First World War. (I have written extensively about this through my late grandfather’s memoire ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele’)
There is more.
 
I attended the School of Communication Arts, London. A full-time programme in copywriting, art direction and design and have worked in the ‘creative’ and ‘communications’ industries all of my career.
And ‘EAVE’ (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs)
 
My first degree (BA, Hons, Oxford), MA is in Geography.
My dissertationn was on demographics. I love maps. Perhaps I should try to match maps, e-learning and the First World War. Animated it all and add some interviews and ‘drama reconstruction’.
See what happens when you let something fester and wake up in the middle of the night.
 
Neuroscience and long-term memory are fascinating too.
I need my life over. I need to split into three and start again. I need a coffee and a long walk on the South Downs. (I need to go back to bed)
And then there’s Fine Art.
 
And Creative Writing. And cooking. And the garden. There’s teaching, and moderating … and blogging. There are movies. And sailing and swimming coaching. There’s family and friend … ah. Friend? I knew there was something missing in all the above.
Scrap the lot and have a belated 50th birthday to celebrate 20 years of marriage, parenthood and the madness of being. Then sign up to crew in the Round the World Yacht Race.
And if that doesn’t kills me …

 

Where do I stand academically? Where and what next? And the madness of being.

Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) with the Open University, UK (OU)

H800: Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

H807: Innovations in eLearning – Learning outcomes

H810: Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students

B822: Creativity, Innovation and Change

H808: The e-learning professional

This completes the Masters Degree. I graduate on Saturday 27th April 2013

Currently (March 2013) I am taking H809 as a bridge towards doctoral research or professional consultancy. Complete in June 2013.

H809 Practice-based research in educational technology

I joined the #H817open MOOC for one component of this module. I will register for 2014

H817: Openness and innovation in e-learning.

I am applying to undertake doctoral research in education – using learning technologies.
 
H809 will help prepare for applications starting in January 2014 for an October 2014 start. Most are now a 4 year programme, with a Masters in research to begin. WebSciences at University of Southampton is an interesting option – I attended an Open Day in January.
Too many active interests was a stated issue on childhood school reports. Nothing’s changed.
 
I am looking at an MA in History with the University of Birmingham which would give me the opportunity study the First World War. (I have written extensively about this through my late grandfather’s memoire ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchandeale’)
I attended the School of Communication Arts, London. A full-time programme in copywriting, art direction and design and have worked in the ‘creative’ and ‘communications’ industries all of my career.
And ‘EAVE’ (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs)
My first degree is in Geography.
My dissertation was on demographics. I love maps. Perhaps I should try to match maps, e-learning and the First World War. Animated it all and add some interviews and n ‘drama reconstruction’.
See what happens when you let something fester and wake up in the middle of the night.
 
Neuroscience and long term memory are fascinating too.
I need my life over. I need to split into three and start again. I need a coffee and a long walk on the South Downs. (I need to go back to bed)
And then there’s Fine Art.
 
And Creative Writing. And cooking. And the garden. There’s teaching, and moderating … and blogging. There’s movies. And sailing and swimming coaching. There’s family and friend … ah. Friend? I knew there was something missing in all of the above.
Scrap the lot and have a belated 50th birthday to celebrate 20 years of marriage, parenthood and the madness of being. Then sign up to crew in the Round the World Yacht Race.
There’s a reason why I call this blog ‘mind bursts’.

What is TV? What will TV become? The Gartner Hype Curve in relation to TV connectivity

What is ‘connected’ TV?

Jen Topping spoke of connections to a plethora of devices through TV and to the Internet. Stuff changes.

Jen spoke of the creative opportunity, of how people work and come together – not just 4OD, but how it changes the way producers, directors and web designers conceive TV. She is looking for people to come up with programmes that work from the start across all the opportunities.

Richard Griffths, Principal Lecture in Computing from Brighton University gave an insightful talk on innovation in relation to interactivity at Connect TV as part of The Brighton Digital Festival through Wired Sussex. Jen Topping from Channel 4 Online introduced the speakers.

The internet changes the device, as happened to phones , so will happen to TV.

20120921-203625.jpg

Richard introduced the Gartner Curve of Hype to talk about what was going on here in Brighton in 2001, placing web agency Victoria Real at the top of this hype curve.

At this time along with some more conventional web work, I was pitching interactive support for linear TV documentary ideas at TV markets in Las Vegas, Cannes and London. We too were at the top of the hype curve because . We had commissioners who wanted to hear – however, understandably, they wanted to know how it would make money. Anthony Geffen of Atlantic Productions opened the doors – commissioners knew the content would be awesome, but how would the interactive component pay for itself? At the time many listened to how a BAFTA and EMMY award-winning production company would partner with an agency – we were at the top of the hype curve and sliding rapidly down the other side.

This is how we might populate such a curve with developments in IT.

Hype cycle of emerging technologies

In the next slide Richard as scribbled out the Plateau of Productivity and redrawn the Slope of Enlightenment lower down – this is where our second presentation came in.

Is the answer to put a digital person into a TV company, to get that head space –hard enough to make great TV, even harder to do the two together.

The answer lies in the personality of the protagonists and their relative power in terms of ownership and successes to date (even if these successes are in a different field). How do you get people to work collaboratively from quite different fields? I have found working collaboratively using a wiki enlightening – a team of eight, from client and producer, through to programmers, designers via learning designers. It facilitates assembly and contributing in a what is largely chronological, though if we were to think of this as a production line in car manufacture, in e-learning or in this case building interactive content, we need a production circle, or ascending series of loops.

Richard continued:

What was TV?

  • Seeing stuff in places where you are not or that don’t exist
  • The electronic hearth
  • Shared national experience
  • An economic phenomenon

What is TV?

  • Transition from an economy of scarcity to an economy of abundance.
  • It will stop being a distinct technological, social and economic identity.

What will become of TV?

  • Hold on
  • Co–opt the competition
  • Adult and betting – again
  • Attempts by rights–holders to control

Eternal verities

  • Technology changes – people don’t
  • Richard made a quip about a visit to Pompei where he say an advertising slogan above a shop along the lines of ‘Zeus buys my fruit!’

A technical industry

The key is that it is an industry – it’s commercial so understand how the bills are paid.

;

Is this the reality? Start-ups eagerly clinging to their big idea and struggling against the odds and sense, without financing, to make things happen?

SPEAKERS:

Richard Griffiths, Programme Leader: Postgraduate Programme in Interactive Technologies, University of Brighton

‘Employability for Connected TV

Anna Carlson, Consultant & Steve Winton, Head of Applied Technology, Nixon McInnes

‘Converging People Before Formats’

Andy Eardley, Founder & Director, TV App Agency

‘Why Connected/Smart TV?’

LOOK FURTHER:

Mashable

How I see myself as an educator

I’m in this group. The cartoon/illustration was drawn in 1987. It was the idea a friend and I came up with to promoted the School of Communication Arts. It wasn’t used. Shame. Too generic perhaps?

The sentiment still holds true. Instead of being sprinkled upon (back row, three in from the right) I now, in several ways wield the watering-can.

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