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Reflection on keeping an e-learning blog for 1,000 days

Fig. 1. The Open University’s Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE).

Expressed as a Wordle. A personal collection of key influencers based on those tagged in this blog. Includes my own reading and indulgences.

On Friday, at midday, my ou student blog reached a significant milestone.

I’ve been at it for 33 months. I’ve blogged the best part of FIVE modules now – most of which required or invited some use of the blog platform (or another). It required little encouragement – I used to keep a diary and have found since 1999 that in their digital form they are an extraordinarily versatile way to gather, consider, share and develop ideas.

Modules 

  • H807 – Innovations in e-Learning
  • H808 – Technology Enhanced Learning: Practices and debate
  • H800 – The e-Learning Professional
  • B822 – Creativity, Innovation & Change
  • H810 – Accessibility online learning: supporting disabled students

The investment in time, on average, an hour a day in addition to – though sometimes instead of coursework over 1000+ days.

(This excludes 8 months I spent on the Masters in Open and Distance Learning in 2001)

To mark this event, and as I need to go through this online diary, this e-journal, this ‘web-log’ (as they were also once momentarily called) ahead of some exciting meetings coming up next week I thought a simple task might be to click through the tags to identify who have been the key influencers in my reading and thinking over the last two and a half years.

Fig.2. Another way of looking at it. Betham, Conole and Weller are key MOADE authors from the Open University. John Seely Brown is a vital undercurrent, Engestrom one of several enthusiasms like Vygostky. While Gagne, second hand hardback, needs to be on your desk for frequent reference.

What I thought would take an hour has taken nearly 40 hours.

Clicking on a tag opens a corner of my head, the notes take me back to that day, that week, that assignment or task. It also takes me back to the discussions, resources and papers. And when I find an error the proof-reader in me has to fix. Aptly, as we approach November 5th, and living in Lewes where there are marches and fireworks from late October for a couple of weeks peaking of course all evening on the 5th, my head feels as if someone has accidentally set light to a box of assorted fireworks.

Just as well. Meetings these days are like a viva voce with eager ears and probing questions – they want the content of my mind and whatever else I bring to the subject after thirty years in corporate training and communications.

Fig. 3. Wordle allows you to say how many words you want to include in the mix. To create weight I had to repeat the names I consider most important twice, three or four times in the list. I also removed first names as these would scattered into the mix independently like peppercorns in a pan of vegetable stock.

The Task

  • List all authors who have been part of my learning and thinking over the last couple of years.
  • Include authors that my antennae have picked up that are relevant to my interest in learning, design, the moving image and the english language.
  • Visualise this and draw some conclusions

Fig.4. This even makes the key protagonists look like an advertising agency Gagne, BeethamConole and Weller.

The Outcome

I can never finish. Take this morning. I stumble upon my notes on three case studies on the use of e-portfolios from H807 which I covered from February 2010-September 2010. To begin with I feel compelled to correct the referencing in order to understand the value, pertinence and good manners (let alone the legal duty) to cite things correctly. (Even though this post was locked – a ‘private’ dump of grabs and my thoughts).

Then I add an image or two.

These days I feel a post requires a visual expression of its contents to open and benefits from whatever other diagrams, charts or images you can conjure from your mind or a Google Search – ‘the word’ + images creative commons – is how I play it.

Fig. 5. From David Oglivy’s book ‘Ogilvy on advertising’ – a simple suggestion – a striking image, a pertinent headline and always caption the picture. Then write your body copy.

A background in advertising has something to do with this and the influence of David Ogilvy.

I spend over two hours on the first of three case studies in just one single post. At the time I rubbished e-portfolios. The notes and references are there. Tapped back in I can now make something of it. A second time round the terms, the ideas – even some of the authors are familiar. It makes for an easier and relevant read. What is more, it is current and pertinent. A blog can be a portfolio – indeed this is what I’d recommend.

From time to time I will have to emerge from this tramp through the jungle of my MAODE mind.

Not least to work, to sleep, to cook and play.

Fig. 6. In a word

Along the way this behaviour, these actions, me being me, has found me working at the Open University for a year, and then at Lumesse a global corporate e-learning company. In the last month two international organisations have had me in, in the last week four more have been in touch online including interest from Australia, France and North America. Next week a magical triad may occur when I broker a collaboration between two of them with me holding their respective hands to initiate a project. There could be no better validation for the quality, depth, impact and life-changing consequences of seeing this OU degree through.

On verra (we will see)

USEFUL LINKS

Wordle

Date duration calculator

REFERENCE

Gagne, R.N. (1965) Conditions of Learning : Holt, Rinehart and Winston

Is labelling people with results from inventories such as ‘Kirton Adaptor Innovator’ or ‘Myers Briggs Type Indicator’ (KAI/MBTI) such an excellent way to ‘reduce the range of their possible behaviours’?

Discuss, asks an exam question from B822 ‘Creativity, Innovation & Change’

This one got my goat, which may be a good thing as I’d probably execute the thing in a state of quiet anger, adrenalin pumping and doing a brain extraction at speed and with passion.

I have an issue with ‘labelling’ anyone as restrictive. In any case, Kirton himself talks of people ‘reverting to type’ under stress as if being stressed is the modus operandi. Kirton puts me well into the innovator camp, however under stress I become an autocratic, process focused adaptor. (I like to find others to take the stress, which in advertising/agency work is the account handler, and when I had one as a writer/director, an agent or publisher to handle the opportunities and the c/r/a/p)

Whilst KAI mostly and MBTI in part, with a nod to Belbin Team roles (however much decried) it is vital to balance the benefits and problems with inventories, so mention:

  • fallibility
  • reliability
  • acceptance
  • interpretation
  • cost
  • universal/updated
  • as well as the context, time and their use.

I would query the use of the word ‘excellent’ in the question too, as dependant on context and application; it is a subjective, value judgment.

I question ‘reducing’ range of favours as wrong-headed, that it is better to manage like a sports coach, to identify, enhance and develop traits that are beneficial rather than in any way draw attention to behaviours that are ‘undesirable’ or at most ‘not required’. (I’m a professional swim coach so may draw on some theory and experience in the largest Swimming Club in the South of England).

Using one’s own Myers Briggs indicator seems inevitable here. I came out as:

  • ‘ENFP’. How does this inform my response to the question?
  • ‘does things differently’ so in theory am useful at times of change.
  • ‘challenges and reframe’ so add value through innovation
  • ‘offers many solutions’ and am ‘inclined to indiscipline’ both which may therefore relate to the question and a need to ‘reduce the range of behaviours’ ?
  • takes risks which in the right context may be either highly desirable or undesirable.
  • something of an idealist, again context matters as I respond to visionary leadership and wilt where it is lacking.

My NEO-FIVE was revealing too, and once again, may help me answer this question (if of course I have understood the question) as taming or ameliorating behaviours.

I’d need to list:

  1. Openness
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Extrovert
  4. Agreeableness
  5. Sensitivity

and whether I can recall the score or not at least recall that in relation to the mean I am significantly diverged from the mean in relation to ‘Openness’ (I am open to the degree of exposure and making myself vulnerable and may do the same for a project or organisation); I am hugely diverged from ‘conscientiousness’ (I am very much so) and ‘Sensitivity’ (ditto).

See, I’m prone to excessive ‘openness’.

‘Reduce the range or behaviours’ in this case if I reduce myself to an ‘example’ or ‘case study’ requires compensatory actions.

Specifically in the creative industries there are stories of highly creative types whose ‘sensitivity’ is legend, in my experience (not me!) a v. successful creative now the Creative Head of one of the largest agencies on the planet, back in the late 1980s threw a video recorder out of the agency window when he disagreed with the producer of his TV commercial. Did this person need what Goleman (1998) calls ’emotional maturity’? Letting a ‘creative’ be so is the way to get the best from them, and in less extreme or pressured circumstances those who come up with ideas and innovate, whether products, processes or services require careful handling. The opera sometimes needs a prima donna? Are athletes and sports people ‘creative’ some would say so?

So, pluralism and acceptance, not reducing behaviours favourable to creativity, indeed nurturing creative ‘types’ and playing to their strengths is going to be the best approach. Respect difference and deal with the reality.

Is that Goleman too?

Motivation (and nurturing) is key: climate, customer, mentality, procedure, communication (Brown, 1988)

Once again, a twisting though ultimately conclusive response? Or have I gone off on a tangent.

Kirton Adaptor Score

Photos – Google+

I’ve always known something was up, an impatient to do, a relentless curiosity, not someone who likes to be at a desk, indeed live events, the thrill of the ‘Big Day’ responding to people and circumstances in a frenetic quick moving environment is far more my thing. Think the busy reception of a Five Star Hotel, a location-based live TV broadcast or even in the thick of a major sporting event as the coach. This doesn’t excuse my getting my head down; I’m perfectly able to schedule, prepare budgets, write scripts and prepare reports. The reality is that I work best in a team that has an extreme adaptor at my side, however much we irritate each other.

Are you in Kirton Adaptor-Innovation terms an ‘adaptor’ or an ‘innovator?’

Adaption-Innovation

There are two styles of decision making. (Kirton, 1976, 1977, 1980)

  • Adaptors ’stretch’ existing agreed definitions. They proceed within the established mores. Dominates management.
  • Innovators ’reconstruct’ the problem, they separate it, emerging with much less expected and probably less acceptable solutions.

‘They are less concerned with ‘doing things better’ than with ‘doing things differently’.

Across a population, Kirton and others have tens of thousands of people to go on from completed inventories to go on, there is a Normal curve of distribution (Kirton, 1977)

I am an innovator and somewhat out on the far edge of the scale. Does this render me and people I have met who are ’innovators’ unemployable? With certain teams, in certain organisations we are incompatible unless you want us there to act as a catalyst, consultant or communicator.

Any problem goes through a series of stages:

  • Perception of the problem
  • Analysis of the problem
  • Analysis of the solution
  • Agreement to change
  • Delegation
  • Implementation for most was two/three years after the problem became apparent, whilst a few were tackled with the bare minimum of analysis. Objections were often only overcome (then collectively forgotten) as a result of some crisis. Rejection was often based on WHO was putting the idea forward.

Cf. P111

Disregard of convention when in pursuit of their own ideas has the effect of isolating innovators in a similar way to Roger’s (1957) creative loners.

32-item inventory, theoretical range of 32-160 and a mean of 96.
Cultural innovativeness see Indian Women p114
Solutions sought within the structure by adaptors so nothing changes.

‘Tolerance of the innovator is thinnest when adaptors feel under pressure from the need for imminent radical change.’ Kirton (2011:115)

It is unlikely (as well as undesirable), that any organization is so monolithic in its structure and in the ’demands’ on its personnel that it produces a total conformity of personality types. P115

How an innovator or adaptor can be an agent of change where all around have a cognitive style alien to his own. Kirton (2011:117)

Reference

Kirton. M.J. (1984) Long Range Planning 17, 2, 137-43 in Henry.J. Creative Management & Development 3rd ed. pp109 (2011) Ch8 Adaptors and Innovators: why new initiatives get blocked. M.J.Kirton
Kirton.M.J.(1977) Manual of the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory.
Rogers.C.R. (1957) Towards a theory of creativity. In H.H, Andersen. Creativity and its cultivation. Harper.

Creative Problem Solving Workshop (B822: Creativity, Innovation & Change)


I had a Swim Plan; the idea worked on several levels.

As a professional swimming coach (squads to Regional & National Standard) I am used to planning many hours or ‘activity’ that in some cases operate within tolerances of PB+/- 5 seconds. i.e. within 5 seconds of their ‘Personal Best Time’. With this exercise I built in +/- 5 minutes with a set of exercises where none lasted longer than 15 minutes.

For the fun of it the group were shown how to scull in a couple of minutes at the start, then how to flutter kick at the end.

I doubt this used up more than 90 seconds in total of a 90 minute CPS workshop.

There were several formal CPS techniques, two quite physical the others more cerebral.

  1. Samurai, Mother-in-law, Tiger
  2. Human Sculpture
  3. Problem Definition
  4. Help/Hinder
  5. Problem Review
  6. Time Line
  7. Advantages, Limites & Unique Qualities

There diverge/converge pattern was followed, though I am glad I came across the idea of ‘clustering’ as this better represented an intermediary phase that occured more than once.

It worked.

I am looking at where to go next with these as being someone who clearly likes being on their feet, directing and coaching (I have directed well over 150 training & information videos in my career, often with actors or large teams) I rather took to the unscripted, guided improvisation that is the lot of the facilitator.

Last Saturday I was a Wembley Arena for the induction of some 10,000 of us ‘Gamesmakers’.

Now that would be a group to facilitate!

REFERENCE

Ackoff, R. “Systems, Messes and Interactive Planning” Portions of Chapters 1 and 2 of Redesigning the Future. New York/London, 1974.

App. I (2011) B822 Tutorial 21 Jan 2012 Guilford

Henry, J (2010) Creative Techniques Library

Henry, J with Martin, J., Bell., R and the B822 Course Team(2010) Book 2 Managing Problems Creatively

Kirton, M.J. (1987) ‘Adaptors and Innovators. Cognitive Style and Personality’. In S.G. Isaksen (ed.), Frontiers of Creativity Research, Buffalo: Bearly Ltd.

Osborn, A.F. (1993) Applied Imagination, Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem Solving (3rd revised edn, 1st edn 1953). Creative Education Foundation Press, Buffalo.

Ritchey, T; (2007) Wicked Problems: Structuring Social Messes with Morphological Analysis, Swedish Morphological Society, last revised 7 November 2007.

Rittel, H (1972) ‘On the planning crisis: systems analysis of the “First and second generations”, Bedriftsokonomen, No. 8, pp. 390-6.

Tassoul, M & Buijs, J (2007) Clustering: An Essential Step from Diverging to Converging. Creativity and Innovation Management. Vol. 16, Number 1.

Wherret, R (2011) B822 Residential School 12th January 2011, Marriott Hotel, Heathrow.

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