Moving on up

A few of my recent blog posts have started with a lyric from a track I’ve listened to on the radio or on my iPod. This is no different. This morning it’s the turn of the 1993 hit ‘Moving on up’ by M People.

‘Cause I’m movin’ on up, you’re movin’ on out
Movin’ on up, nothin’ can stop me
Movin’ on up, you’re movin’ on out
Time to break free, nothin’ can stop me, yeah

While I’m sure the original message of the track has nothing to do with my work, January or the winter blues, it did make me think back to the last 31 days of January. For me it’s about a tough (and very long) January moving on, a new (and cold) February arriving and being able to put some things behind me and concentrate on some new, invigorating work to come.

Here are a few thoughts and articles I’ve read and/or talked about:

  • Foldable phones … will these have the same hype afforded to curved TVs, and eventually be seen for what they are: technologically advanced, but actually pretty useless?
  • I started following and reading articles by Melissa Milloway on LinkedIn, in her series ‘This Side Up’. Her latest one is a list of seven resources she finds useful when looking at and thinking about eLearning.
  • Details of the Senior CMALT (#SCMALT) scheme was released in January, which is of direct interest to me in my new role(s) … it is “aimed at more experienced professionals and those whose role includes management/leadership or research focus.”
  • I had a couple of days intensive workshops with colleagues from a partner institution at the Australian Deakin University, working on our joint fully-online PG Cert in Entrepreneurship. Wonderful to meet face-to-face and spend time with people who so far have only been on webinars, skype calls or emails. While working and collaborating remotely together can be very productive and useful (see below), nothing beats being in the same room!
  • The topic of remote working, working from home, or ‘location independent working (LIW)’ keeps coming up again and again. The recent bad weather (by the UKs standards) has meant the need to be flexible in whether myself or colleagues can get to work, so we need to carefully consider how we’ll continue to work and collaborate when not in the same room.
  • This from Australia, posted to the WonkHE website, discusses the themes and benefits (or pitfalls?) of microcredentials“The world of education is changing and changing fast. The era of the microcredential is upon us and now governments and regulators have to scramble to catch up. But as far as I can see, it’s good news for consumers who will not be hidebound to a particular institution or qualification and will be able to mix and match courses to suit their interests, budgets and emerging careers.”
  • I thought about meetings, and whether they’re always necessary or useful. What are your thoughts?
  • Is there a correlation between learning design and student wellbeing?
  • Reading Lorna Campbell’s post learning to love your blog, which led me to revisit an old idea, and . …
  • A new idea for a series of blog posts, maybe one a month or maybe even more regular. More soon as I flesh out the ideas …
  • My last highlight is this, posted by Jane Hart, about three smart things top performers do to stand out at work.

How was your January?

Image source: Roel Wijnants (CC BY-NC-2.0)

What does education mean to you? #EducationDay

Inspired by the tweets I’ve been reading today, and from Sheila MacNeill’s post of the same title, here is something that education and learning means to me. As with everything these days, we have the hashtag #EducationDay to use.

It must be said, or rather I must say it, that without the Internet then I would be as learned as I am. Before I became connected and before I used the Internet for collaboration I read books for pleasure, I never read a newspaper (sometimes watched news on TV), and I rarely read ‘business’ or non-fiction books (beyond an occasional biography). Becoming a Learning Technologist in 2007 opened my eyes to the power of the Internet for learning. Yes, I’d used and worked with the Internet in so much as being a web designer and working with geographically isolated communities of practice using the Internet to pull together for professional and special interest goals. But I’d not considered the Internet for online learning. Yes, perhaps I was behind the curve in this, but I’ve caught up … !

I have benefited from using the Internet to learn from others, to work with others, to collaborate and share with others. The Internet has enabled me to do things previously unknown to me and take my personal and professional development in areas and directions I know I would not have gone without it. Connections made with both individuals and institutions have taught me more than I can realistically comprehend or voice. Opportunities to find, share, connect, collaborate, curate, communicate, etc. through browsing and following online has brought me to you, and you to me.

For me, in short, my #EducationDay is a reflection on 25+ years of Internet use, where it has taken me and why. The link to the #EducationDay above (and here again) says “education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility.” Yes. This. Oh yes, this. If only everyone had this chance. Which is one reason why I am trying to do a little to feed back to the learning community with me tweets, my blog posts or LinkedIn updates, and my interest and involvement a a trustee in Learn Appeal, the learning charity.

Image source: CadaverTeeth (CC BY-NC-ND-2.0)

Was that meeting useful?

We all have them. Sometimes it seems our days are full of them. Mostly, they’re needed and occasionally they can even be useful. But are you getting the best out of a meeting?

The worst meeting is one where there’s no clear agenda or even purpose to it. Whether there are two or ten of you present, remote or actually in-person, whether it’s for a couple of minutes or a couple of hours, and whether it’s a meeting to discuss a project or a ‘general update’.

There are some things we all learn about meetings, usually from the ones we feel wasn’t time well spent or didn’t achieve what we hoped for. Here’s a few tips I (try) and employ when attending and/or requesting a meeting:

  • Model: If you believe others are not using their meetings to the best or most effective use of time, be a role model of how you will manage your meetings.
  • Agenda: Set an agenda. Even a short, informal meeting ought to have a purpose and goal. The goal could be an update to a project, to pass information on to senior/junior project member, to review or agree actions going forward, etc. but the key is to set the purpose. (see calendar). If you have time, set this ahead of the meeting. If not, then use the calendar (see below) invite to do this.
  • Audience: Only invite (see calendar) those who actually need to be there – no one needs any more unnecessary meetings in their already busy schedule. Also consider the audience availability (below) and avoid times you know might be contentious (too early, too late, too long, not long enough, conflicting meetings, etc).
  • Calendar: If you use an online calendar to arrange and plan your time then use this and send an update through. Most corporate and institutional systems will link the attendees email to their calendar and, if you’re in the same system, you’ll see their availability. (see availability). Use this invite to set not only the time and agenda but also the location, allowing all participants time to travel between buildings if necessary).
  • Availability: No one wants a meeting assigned to a time they’re not available or can’t get to. Consider the purpose (above), audience, location, etc.
  • Time: Allow time for others to have their input. If you need it arrange a second, follow-up appointment and specify when setting both appointments up that one is for the project feedback, the second is for discussion. By setting the time limit for the meeting, which can often be determined by how long you can book a room for, it can be used as a mechanism for keeping the meeting running to the agenda and avoid too much off-topic chat.
  • Formal/informal: Use your own initiative to know how formal or informal to keep the meeting. It might depend on the scale or scope of the project or subject if you prefer a formal meeting, or even line management and disciplinary issues. Informal meetings may not even need an agenda or calendar (see above), but it’s always good to have purpose and goal.
  • Roles: If possible and if the meeting requires it, assign roles for attendees in the agenda and calendar invite. This will ensure only those who need to be present are actually invited and present. Those you invite who don’t have a role, or indeed if you’re invited and aren’t assigned a roll, could quite easily push back and query the reason for the invite.
  • Notes: Whether you’re taking notes for yourself as an aide memoir or for wider dissemination, always take notes. You never know when you need to remind yourself about something that was said or decided. If it’s not your meeting then, hopefully, a set of notes will be circulated after the event, and if it is your meeting then consider circulating the notes and ask for inclusion if you’ve missed anything. If you need to share your notes, you might want to check in advance if your sketchnotes are OK for the audience?

This doesn’t even cover the online meetings we have … !

What about you, how do you plan your meetings and the meetings you attend? Do you go along with the organiser or ‘do your own thing’?

Image source: spin’n’shoot (CC BY-NC-2.0)

Long road to ruin

I’ve borrowed the title for this post from Messers Grohl, Mendel, Smear, Hawkins and Shiflett … more commonly known as Foo Fighters.

Why? Well, over the 2018 festive break I’ve read more than a few reflective pieces from those in my extended network about the direction and increasingly intrusive nature of technology in our lives, and this song title leapt to mind. The ‘long road to ruin’ here is how we are ‘letting’ tech companies access and control our lives.

This control may not be actual control, however the trend for app-enabled and ‘smart’ devices like watches, fitness trackers, toothbrushes, weighing scales, light bulbs, door locks, etc. certainly is trending towards this. Whilst we are paying for the devices, sometimes with contactless payment, we are handing over the data of what we do with these devices (personal, location, health, etc.) to an organisation we know nothing about. Nor do we know what they’ll do with that data. Or who they’ll share/sell it to?

From the data we create and hand over one of these purchased devices to the data we create on free services like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc, we have the illusion that we are in control, using features such as how private we keep our account, opting in or out of different settings, yet we don’t have the control we think we have. Amazon is using our browsing and purchasing habits to tailor itself to what it’s algorithms think we’ll want next. Not to mention what we ask Alexa or what we watch or listen to through your Prime membership. Whilst you can link accounts between these services, and the cross-analytics you generate there, you think you’re being clever by not doing it and preventing that kind of access/data control over you, it turns out it doesn’t matter anyway, these organisations are sharing your data/control anyway.

I now have too many devices in the home that have the ability to listen. With only one device actively set up to do this (Amazon Echo) the others all have microphones that could, if hacked or otherwise taken control of, listen without me wanting or knowing it. I hear you cry ‘if you’re that paranoid, don’t have them!’ which I’ll agree with, but I’m also a sucker for making my life easier, or access to information or family or news or games or a good deal on Lego easier. I have chosen to enable these devices and have chosen to bring them into my life. But what they do, that’s the device itself and the organisation that ends up collecting the data I create, with that data still troubles me.

Apart from these devices that collect data on what I do, where I do it, who I’m with, there are also devices and organisations that know more about me than probably I do. Devices with fingerprint or facial recognition. Companies that use voice recognition or voice-stress analysis in an attempt to root out hacking in an attempt to keep us safe, even from ourselves.

So, why a ‘long road to ruin’? Unless we have a full and very frank understanding of this data we create and precisely what is being done with it, by and with whom, then I believe we are all in for a very hard lesson to learn when it comes to light exactly what we’ve allowed to happen in the name of simplifying our lives – “we are entering the post-privacy age.”

Image source: Alan Levine (CC BY 2.0)

Time to Think

As part of my new role at Coventry University Online I have been exposed to the world of the ‘Thinking Environment’. This is, in essence, a series of practical, value-based exercises intended to inform and share a pedagogic and coaching approach to how we work and collaborate (Wikipedia). I think. 

I say ‘I think’ as it is all still very new to me and can be very confusing. I’m not completely engaged with it yet but I’m gaining a greater understanding and appreciation with each instance the approach is used and implemented. What it is doing, however, is encouraging a structure and collaborative, consistent approach across the whole business to how we work and work with each other.

Based on the work of Nancy Kane, the summary of thinking environments is that “the quality of everything that we do depends on the quality of the thinking that we do first.

The 10 components of Time to Think and the Thinking Environment are the basis of creating an open and collaborative working environment, which are:

  • Attention: Listening with palpable respect and without interruption.
  • Equality: Treating each other as thinking peers. Giving equal turns and attention. Keeping agreements and boundaries.
  • Ease: Offering freedom from internal rush or urgency.
  • Appreciation: Offering genuine acknowledgement of a person’s qualities. Practicing a 5:1 ratio of appreciation to criticism.
  • Encouragement: Giving courage to go to the cutting edge of ideas by moving beyond internal competition.
  • Feelings: Allowing sufficient emotional release to restore thinking.
  • Information: Supplying the fact. Dismantling denial.
  • Diversity: Welcoming divergent thinking and diverse group identities.
  • Incisive question: Removing assumptions that limit our ability to think for ourselves clearly and creatively.
  • Place: Creating a physical environment that says back to people, “You matter”.

If you’re interested in more, then this PDF available from Southampton University is a good place to start:

“Everything we do begins with thinking. If our thinking is good, our decisions are good, our actions are good, our outcomes are good. So, what does it take for us to think for ourselves – with rigour, imagination, courage and grace?”

How does this look in practice? Meetings often start, or should start, with a reminder of the premise and basics of the Thinking Environment; trust, respect, inclusiveness, appreciation, etc. Team and progress meetings will then have a short round-table opportunity for everyone present to highlight or bring to the groups’ attention a key update or success story, if the meeting scope permits it. Throughout the meeting the chair will often issue reminders about the components listed above, not necessarily to stop the flow of the meeting or indeed because discussion is getting out of hand or order, but to ensure everyone is mindful of the meeting scope.

The meeting will end with a further round-the-table opportunity, this time for each member to show ‘appreciation’ to the person to their left (or right, it doesn’t matter). 

What this is doing is reminding everyone present that there are individuals present, not just representatives of roles and/or departments. By enabling, through process, the opportunity for everyone to have time and space to have their voice and experience heard (‘equality’) without interruption (‘attention’) and that these voices have value (‘diversity’). 

More on this as I/we develop the thinking environments work.

Image source: Jesper Sehested (CC BY-2.0)

The way I learn

When thinking about what kind of course I want to create and what kind of learning experience I want my students/learners to have, I think about the resources and technology I can use. I also think about how I learn. Or rather, what learning experiences have had the impact on me that I want others to have.

This isn’t about learning styles (in the sense of the published research and/or theories). This is about me. As someone who has taken classroom and online courses, read books, watched videos, etc. I’ve learned about myself.

  • Learn by doing – show me how to do something and I’ll be able to repeat some of it. Show me what I’m doing as I do it and I’ll be able to replicate it quite accurately, quite quickly. I (hope) I also learn from my mistakes this way too.
  • Learn by watching/listening – I like listening to music and watching TV and films, and I can remember lyrics and scenes and what happens as part of the story. This doesn’t mean I can learn that way – videos and audio files as part of a course are great but I find myself distracted and/or bored quite quickly.
  • Learn by discussing – Put me in a room with other (face-to-face or online) and I can learn by being an active (or passive) participant in the conversation. I can learn from others’ background and perspectives, and from voicing my own perspectives.
  • Learn by reading – Give me a book to read (fiction) and I’ll devour it in a couple of days if I like it, and I’ll remember characters, events, plot lines, etc. Give me an article or non-fiction to read as part of a course and I’ll dip in and out as my interest waxes and wanes.

What I’m trying to say here is that the above is MY learning style. It changes. Frequently! I don’t fit into a defined learning style, nor do I want to, and how I learn changes with my mood, the availability of time, the level of interest in the subject, etc. I’m not interested in the theories, at least when it comes to MY learning, I’m interested in finding a course and delivery method that I can relate to and invest time and effort in. This is difficult as it’s not usually until you get in to a course that you find out what this is.

How about you? Do you fit any defined earning style or, like me, it changes based upon many different inputs.

Image source: Alan Levine (CCO 1.0)

Making the most of Lynda.com

I’ve been using the institutional partnership Coventry University has with Linkedin/Lynda.com and have been taking a few short, video-heavy courses to further my understanding in a few area. In light of this I took the opportunity to attend a ‘making the most of Lynda.com‘ course too, presided over by a LinkedIn representative and someone from the DMLL (Disruptive Media Learning Lab) here at Coventry.

I had three goals I wanted for this one hour session: firstly to see if I ‘understood’ of Lynda.com or could get better at using it, for my own personal learning. Secondly I wanted to see what I could do with it in relation to my management responsibilities, and lastly I wanted to explore what LinkedIn (and Microsoft by relationship to company/organisational ownership).

Notes from the 1-hour course:

  • Access Lynda.com for free using your Coventry [institutional] access (select ‘use organisational sign in’ on the login page and enter username/password. This will be remembered the next time you visit.
  • Lynda.com will be rebranded as LinkedIn Learning (already accessible, but content behind a paywall on LinkedIn Learning) within 12 months. All data (login, courses, playlists, etc.) will move across.
  • Access to Lynda.com (and subsequent to LinkedIn Learning) is free when a staff or student of Coventry university.
  • Very keen to highlight benefits of using Lynda.com with students (and staff) as flexible learning, just-in-time learning, micro/macro learning, self-directed and mobile learning.
  • Develop new skills within the workplace according to immediate or anticipated skills, use courses or individual videos accordingly.
  • Certificates available on course completion, not credit or qualification bearing.
  • Courses categorised into
    • Education
    • Technology
    • Business, and
    • Creative
  • Currently staff use outweighs student use.
  • “What’s in it for me?”
    • CPD
    • Blended learning or supplementing existing learning opportunities
    • Tutorials
    • Best practice (depending on the course creator/SME)
  • ‘What’s in it for the student?’
    • Supporting campus-based CU learning
    • Study skills / professional skills
    • Time- and self-management
    • Career management
    • Interview skills
  • ‘What’s in it for managers?’
    • Recommended course based on algorithms and other institutional users
    • Watch & reflect
    • Engage & retain
    • (Productivity related CPD?)
    • Skills and competencies learning (measurable?)

Reflection:

The purpose of the course was mainly to highlight the possibility of using Lynda.com materials as part of an academic’s teaching and learning strategy. Each academic would need to evaluate each video and/or course before being certain it is of the right ‘message’ and tone to fit into their learning, but the presentation quality is extremely high. Individual course authors and presenters are invited to write and deliver the course, these are the ‘leaders’ in their field, but anyone can can apply and suggest course idea for LinkedIn consideration. Videos are created at one of two LinkedIn studios.

The LinkedIn representative was keen to try and get Lynda.com used as part of the student learning, but I think this has more potential as an on-going and informal opportunity to team members to keep skills up to date and learn new skills, just by nature of offering a free course (Lynda.com) as part of a purchased course. By installing an on-going objective in ClearReview (Coventry appraisal system) each team member could keep track of their own personal development, and act as a reflection on their own development. This can be shared, should the individual want to, with other team members who are doing the same or similar courses, the opportunity for team collaboration is here should individuals want it.

The search function on the website is extremely good, with the platform ‘learning’ about your preferences based on activity in courses and matching new courses with your history, and that of the wider Coventry University audience. Courses are split into functional areas of ‘speciality’ (as above), you can ‘save’ courses to playlists and share certificates on your LinkedIn account (or download as PDF).

Lynda.com courses are typically 50-70 minutes in length, 100% video based, and may have a pre- and post-quiz. I don’t know what happens if you fail either one, but the courses I’ve done you get a certificate for your effort. The quizzes are not typically very difficult or time consuming.

Demonstration courses that may be of use:

Image source: Zeev Barkan (CC BY-2.0)

Conversations

At the moment I’m celebrating some, online, 10th anniversaries – in October 2008 I started blogging, I joined LinkedIn in November 2008 and I joined Twitter in January 2009.

These are quite special, I wasn’t aware of this achievement until I started thinking about something else: conversations. 

When I started blogging and tweeting, and connecting on LinkedIn, I was all about the network and conversations. I was building an interest and understanding of my role (learning technologist), my work place, and the kind of ‘things’ I needed to understand. Now, ten years down the road, 901 blog posts and 50,000 tweets later, I realise that my use of these systems and the networks I’ve built there, are changing. 

Back in March 2017 (“Dear Twitter. It’s not me, it’s you”) I wrote about my disappointment at changes to Twitter; not necessarily about the platform but how it is being used by the user base and my network. What started out, for me and many more like me, it was all about the conversation; the links and collaborative nature of being connected to likeminded individuals on a global scale, the ability to search and question and learn from others in different organisational and societal cultures, to connect and engage with senior or specialists ‘experts’ in the field of EdTech. The conversations and engagement I used to get in the early days of Twitter and LinkedIn have, I’ll admit, help me grow personally and professionally into the senior role I have. I would not have produced, managed, edited and published four books, nor would I have gained the peer-reviewed CMALT qualification, the invitation to be a trustee for the Learn Appeal charity, or the various accolades I’ve collected over the years.

What I get in my timeline feeds now is very different. There are fewer conversations in and around the work or collaboration. What conversations there are seem to be more broadcast approach rather than sharing. Being connected through Twitter or Facebook or other networks has obviously had an affect on us, we are all more informed (?) about world politics, the environment, culture, etc. and this is what most of my timeline is about now. That’s fine, I often add to the noise too, but my primary purpose for Twitter, etc. is work. I want to learn and help others learn about online/distance learning opportunities, be they MOOCs, SPOCs, online degrees, short courses, micro-learning, etc.

I also acknowledge that I have been part of the above problem too, which is why I’m annoyed. Annoyed at myself for setting sucked in and annoyed that I’m getting annoyed at the changes. Change is OK, I don’t have to like it or like what it’s changing to, but I should be able to step back and reassess what it is I want from my networks. That is what i am now doing … reassessing my use of online social tools, Twitter, LinkedIn, this blog, etc. I’ve already dropped a few (and not really noticed), will I drop those too … ?


Conversations are powerful learning opportunities. So why am I annoyed that social networks have changed the conversation?
Click To Tweet


There, semi-rant over. Thanks for reading.

Thanks for Sheila MacNeill for inspiring me to blog again. I’ll try and do it more often now; it’s good for the reflective soul searching and a good way to focus and unpick my very full and random thought process. I’ve missed it.

Image source: FHKE (CC BY-SA-2.0)

Podcast: What’s in your #EdTech bag (#EdTechRations)

Nearly two years ago I was invited to appear on Vicki Davis’ Every Classroom Matters podcast to talk about self-publishing books and to give advice to teachers and educators on what to do and how to do it. Last month I was again invited by Vicki to appear on her new ’10-Minute Teacher Show’, this time to talk about our choice for technology we choose to buy for ourselves, for own use and our own bags/pockets. This follows up on my last book, the ‘Emergency Rations #EdTechRations: What’s so important we can’t leave it at home?

David Hopkins, author of Emergency Rations #EdTechRations: What’s so important we can’t leave it at home?, talks about the educational technology that educators around the world carry in their bags and pockets.

In the podcast Vicki and I briefly discuss bags, pockets, cables, charging, devices, technology, connectivity, connected lives, and many many more EdTech-relevant things.   

Listen to the podcast on the link here – What’s in Your Edtech Bag: Trends and Tools from Educators and the World – or on the embedded player below:

It’s not a race

Two tweets have stood out for me this week that I want to connect. One from Seth Godin (my tweet, his blog post – please read it). Seth is “a teacher, and I do projects”. The other tweets was from Alejandro Armellini, Dean of Learning & Teaching at the University of Northampton.

Here are the tweets. 

Why, I hear you ask, these two? Well, for me, they both link back to the same thing … the appropriate and considered approach to using and implementing new technologies or new systems for learning. That learning can be a classroom, a library, online, coffee shop, etc. It doesn’t matter.

Seth wrote about giving up when you get behind, about never reading as many books as someone else, about website traffic so just give up:

“Should you give up?
There are people who have read far more books than you have, and you will certainly never catch up.
Your website began with lousy traffic stats, in fact, they all do. Should you even bother?
The course you’re in–you’re a few lessons behind the leaders. Time to call it quits?”

Linking this to Ale’s tweet, about technology enhancing learning. About the default setting of always looking to the new, the shiny, the different, the ‘cutting-edge’ or ‘leading research’ in designing and delivering meaningful or quality learning. For me these two are linked … we should not always look ahead at new ideas, ideals, or technologies, just as we should not always look back at try and stay 2-steps behind everyone else. We, the learning technologists, the instructional designers, the learning and development managers, the content delivery teams, should look both forward and back – learn from our journey to date (successes and failures), learn about where we are, learn about where we could be going.

More importantly, we should also be learning about how to get there. How do we take an existing course, module or unit and make it better. Who defines what ‘better’ is? Who decides whether it’s to strip out an activity because it didn’t’ work (was it the activity or the students? Let it run again and see if a different cohort has a different experience) or to update an activity because it relies on ‘old(er)’ technology. How do we decide what to take out or leave in? Do we rely on our knowledge of what is pedagogically ‘sound’ and ignore what the students didn’t ‘like’? Is liking an activity or it being popular enough of a motive to keep it in the course if it’s not getting the results? 

Ultimately, we (faculty, learning technologists, instructional designers, etc.) have to make many of these decisions based on our experience of what works (or not), and of what is good pedagogical practice (or not). New technology solutions, be they hardware or software, should still be rigorously tested and trailed to make sure it fits the learning, the policies for 3rd party tools, data compliance (who mentioned GDPR?), etc. 

It’s not a race. We’re not trying to do something before someone else does, or we shouldn’t be, and we’re not trying to beat someone to the finish line … in fact we’e all got different ideas of what the finish line is anyway. The key is and always has been to find a good use of technology that fits the intended purpose or intended learning, that is appropriate for the audience and their technical competence, that is appropriate for the time for study and subject to be studied. 

Let’s not rush to force technology, of any strand, into the learning. It’s better to understand both purpose and implementation, work on the foundation to build a solid stable solution upon, get them both right and the technology will take a backseat for the actual learning.

Image source: Chrissy Hunt (CC BY-NC-ND-2.0)