Friday, October 22, 2004

Action research methodology in designing for active learning

I am continuing with the notion of action research and action learning. I have found the characteristics of educational design and the work of an educational designer (ED) to be similar to the action research process. You take a small task, you workshop it, you devise methods to support the task, you design for that task, you evaluate then make improvements - all in collaboration with others such as the content expert/academics, multimedia developers, etc.

So too with a problem, for example, designing an online unit to be delivered to local Australian students as well as students based in Singapore. One issue that may arise might be that the student group is mainly mature age students who have not studied in a long while, nor used computers to a great extent. So again, the ED refines the problem - breaking it down into its components for consideration; review materials to assist in getting to know that problem; devise methods to approach the problem; discuss the problem with others; and so on...!

Action research and action learning are similar too. In a big picture too, educational design is not just about developing materials then closing the door. In the convoluted dynamic process the ED establishes and builds on their relationship with others like the academic, the librarian, the graphic artist, etc. A network of skills, experience and learning come together and are strengthened over time (mostly over many development cycles too). The ED also aims to influence others like the academic - the lecturer or tutor - to consider online and multimedia approaches learning and teaching approaches. The ED hopes to change another's way of thinking and doing - for the better!

This aligns with the bigger picture outcomes of action research and action learning - to change a situation, to resolve wider issues, to create positive change and to promote ownership through participation, sharing and responsibility.

I have included a link (click on the post title) to an article I co-wrote with Dr Umesh Sharma, Education Faculty at Monash, where we attempted to document the action research/action learning processes we took to develop his unit online. Our aim was to try to capture those intangible elements that often get lost once the word 'product' is used!

We would very much welcome your comments, criticisms and questions relating to the use of action research and our paper. Cheers!

Friday, September 24, 2004

Embodying experience in order to learn...

I've been on leave these last three weeks in Malaysia (although one week has been 'work') and have travelled to various parts in that time. What an experience! To me, it redefines experience in many ways and I haven't yet thought how, but I feel it. I guess I still need to distil this experience, or more correctly, myriad experiences!

In terms of my week of work in KL, it feels less like 'work' (with it's connotations of hard, tiring, etc) and more about experience (I chose to immerse myself, to reflect and provide input, etc). I have gained some great insights into my own psyche from such experience, although limited in terms of time (which I equate with depth of experience I guess...)

In relation to my work in educational design it has spurred my creativity in terms of my thinking. That is I have begun to redefine my thoughts in relation to this experience. In terms of gaining further personal insights, I guess it is safer for me to say that it is I who has changed from this experience - I cannot talk for the experiences of another!

BUT...we often do this, we undertake to define the experiences of others, that is attempting to define the space of another, rather than beginning with ourselves. of course I generalise and I see this beyond the individual level, more in cultures, groups, teams, cohorts, whoever they might be.

So what can I do with my experiences and my further insights into my experiences? Well, LEARN! What does that mean? A good friend of mine, Kaya, discussed a concept known as a Cannon of Creativity. The diagram is shown below (made with my crude hands, with apologies to Jacob Moreno!)...

cannon of creativity depicting the cycle of spontaniety, warm-up, creativity, conservation

This really talks to me in a similar way as Kemmis and McTaggart's Action Research cycle of 'moments'. So, in order to generate some understanding of a context in which you might be exposed to (eg. being in Malaysia for three weeks), there is I feel, much benefit in immersing oneself in an experience. Not to find out about external stuff, more internal stuff - what does this do to ME???

The learning however, can then become enculturated in many different ways. In my ed design work, I can revisit these experiences in a range of different ways which will inform aspects of my work. Such ways may include empathy with the context/position/life of another, or more pragmatically, taking on board comments that provide me with other options and directions in my way of working (eg. streamlining a certain way of doing things).

This word ENCULTURATION has begun to take on more meaning for me. I think it's because I have a sense that some are inclined to gather up an experience in which they have remained OUTSIDE. To me, one cannot understand processes and experiences by doing this - by NOT becoming immersed or affected in some way.

I would like to explore this term enculturation more and would like to hear the thoughts of others on this. Right now though, it's Friday afternoon and I'm fully aware of my thirst for a cold beer or the like! ;o)

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Essays on web design interaction usability experience architecture

Scott Berkun hosts uiweb -- I think I've referred to it before. It's a great blog with a keen focus on the more intangible yet totally necessary aspects of designing online (and other environments too). Berkun calls it, "Essays on web design interaction usability experience architecture".

One particular essay looks at how to run a brainstorming meeting, July 2004. Often the climate in which we work may feel contrained to 'getting things done' and then moving on to the next task on our things to do list. Berkun's account opens up potentially more productive meetings through brainstorming and also on how you can get the most from those brainstorming sessions - a key issue.

I've been working with some academics in a Social Work course as well as with my ed design colleagues where brainstorming has occurred to try to flesh out ideas across the course that can be developed for the online units and the course website. The process has been a social one as much as a professional activity geared twoards achieving outcomes. The group processes involved in communicating ideas and queries has engaged people across fields of interest to share an understanding that will ultimately inform the development of the units in the course. This helps make the process of design and development much more meaningful for everyone involved. I have certainly enjoyed such as experience and it has already benefitted my work within a unit of the course itself.

Question: What successful brainstorming stories can you share? Post a comment here.

Now, off to finish Berkun's essay! Why not have a look too?! :o)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Yawn! Moving between blogs...

I've been working on a project called Global knowledge, local learning and we've set up a web log to encourage ongoing discussion etc, as we progress our research, You can visit the site if you like! :o)

In spending time on that, I've neglected my blog here but am looking at ways to connect between the two. Well, I am going to kick on with my masters fairly soon, so that is one way to gain a solid connection! As the project centres on internationalisation of education and the local/global parallels of knowledge and localised learning (I'm cutting to the chase here, check out the site for a slower version!) and focusing on IT degrees as a case study, being that IT is often consdiered a 'global' degree. So, with this in mind, I'm considering the scope of a masters which maintains an ed design focus yet does so through a global lens if you like. I'm still working on it so stay with me!

I also came across a revelation on blogging - a penny dropping moment you could say (love those!). From the eLearning resources and news, came a link to a blog focusing on elearning design challenges, moderated by one Ron Lubensky. Ron, I take my hat off to you! This is what blogging should be about! Well, for learning and teaching anyway! Check out the planned approach taken in the set up of the blog...

Lubensky has set up a highly structured blog which has been well planned and does not rely on one person's monologue-style writing to carry the tone of the blog! Lubensky has set out parameters in which others can participate actively, rather than simply adding a response in what might only be described as sms type gaff (in many cases, I am generalising of course!).

There are articles questioning the validity of blogs as a learning and teaching tool/environment and have questioned how it differs from a threaded discussion forum. In many ways I'm sure it is similar but the environment is more aesthetic to me in a range of ways. A couple of things include a certain style which perhaps captures the personality of the main writer (or moderator in this case); a web page look and feel rather than an application like a forum; and most often than not it is publicly available without the need to log in (although these options are available depending on the intention of the blog in the first place).

In pointing out these features that is simply what they are. The crux of the design is in the content and the intention, which either a blog or a discussion forum are capable of handling! It is the quality of the content or the focus that gives life to the blog (or the discussion forum) and how one's approach to guiding, structuring, planning and implementing this content or focus is maintained.

I have been given cause now to review my thoughts on blogging at this juncture. My previous postings about my blogging process was intended to somehow extrapolate from the experience some reasoning behind how blogs are used, why they are used and in what ways could they be used beyond personal (perhaps self indulgent) reflection (although some blogs I've visited show no signs of actual reflection at all! More my preference I guess...).

Again, I am drawn back to the idea that it has nothing to do with technology - it being good learning and teaching (and good ed design for learning and teaching)! Nothing new really, but sometimes (well, quite often) we try to see technological advances as helping us out - doing stuff for us, especially the menial or the harder bits. We'd all much like to sit back with an ice cold cocktail and soak in the sunshine wouldn't we?

As I'm writing this, images of terminator come to mind. How the machines (artificial intelligence) rise up to take over, because of two opposing human characteristics: 1. obsessive ambition, and 2. innate laziness! Both of these factors contributed to the breakout of the machines. humans became complacent as the machines took over the work previously done by humans.

I'm also reminded of The Matrix when Neo is 'injected' with knowledge and says, "I know kung fu", before being challenged by Morpheous in combat.

Is it human nature to look for the easy way out? Or is it that because we are intelligent beings that we search constantly for "the answer" - the thing that will make life easier for us! As with Neo, it might be the harder road to travel but I'd rather take the red pill!

Monday, June 28, 2004

Blogging - still on the radar

Blogging is still on my Ed design radar! I haven't posted in a bit due to the busy time of year.

Headspace is such a fragile possession don't you agree? Still, we are now in an era of "making time" rather than "having time"! It sounds rather like a potion for those in the know doesn't it!

Dreamworks SKG Animation Fansite - Shrek 2

I saw Shrek 2 on the weekend and all the potions of the fairy godmother would be worth a mint to the CEOs and directors of our various organisations I'm sure! I couldn't go past the "happily ever after" potion myself - it's the idealist in me I think!

So what about blogs then?
I was speaking with my colleagues about how blogs are being used in teaching and learning. We will do well to follow up on some of the current uses out there at present. USA, UK and Australia particularly are making strides in blog use. From and ed design perspective, it presents a more human / less techno-driven focus to designing for teaching and learning.

A good place to get started with blogs is at And of course, click the link to Blogspot in the top banner of this page to see how this free service works! There are some very good free blogging services available and most cater for the low-end technical user (providing excellent help fetures, templates and user-friendly customisable features like comment tools). Audio an dphoto blogging are being catered for more readily too. The age of the personal webspace is booming! No need to learn html (although it adds functionality to your sites in many ways I think!) and lots of features that usually require your own server-side system to be set up to capture information (like comments).

    How long will the blog phenomenon last?
    To what level of sophistication will it reach?
    How will blogs work to encourage further user-centred behaviour?
    Will we see a more sophisticated user rise from the blogging medium as the quintessential learner of the future?
    Will users be the producers of the future?

Many questions arise and many are currently being question dear to my heart is how does it promote the learning experience?

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Through the Lens: the blogging process (or, Notes from the Blogface) - Part 3

Into R. Blood`s site I travel. Hmm, clean site. Has a bloggy feel. I casually scroll the page, taking in the links right of screen and headings as I go. The first item in the list of links is `weblog`. I click. The first three posts have something to do with gas prices, including a post on an article in Newsweek on taxes. I side track now to the right side of the screen and scan the extra links available. Quick links to other sites; a link entitled `a few thoughts on journalism and what can weblogs do about it` and my mind returns to the articles I had reviewed on blogs and journalism. Interesting. The next link points to Blood`s book and includes a list of Amazon editor`s best of 2002, digital culture. I sense there is a raft of reviews of Blood`s book from my initial searches, so click to see what comes of the Amazon review. Blood`s book is 6th of the Amazon list. I close the window thinking cynically that there are many ways to advertise your wares!

Back to Blood`s blog. There is a section entitled `recent press`. I scan and note `blogging, breakfast radio national`. How interesting. Some audio amongst all this text. Where might this link take me I wonder? ABC Online! So, ABC Breakfast Radio has stepped into the blog hype as well!

I quickly review the program synopsis and see that ABC breakfast radio is talking about blogging in response to the recent furore of the blog by Salam Pax, a guest at the Sydney Writers Festival. On the discussion panel is the inevitable Rebecca Blood, press critic Jay Rosen and Lea Rainie, head of PEW Internet and American Life. The synopsis ends with a link to Blood`s weblog.

    Of course, the blogging phenomenon has been elevated into the news by the recent Salam Pax book, "Baghdad Blog", based on his blog, Dear Raed. The blog documents Salam Pax`s thoughts and comments during the Iraq war. I jump back into AlltheWeb to search for Salam`s blog. There are many news stories related to the blog and the resulting book (Amazon appears a number of times in the search results). I click on a number fo the links sensing the pages will link to the Dear Raed web log. However, most of the links are broken! I attempt to control my frustration, but can`t help thinking that professional news sites should make an effort to keep their links up to date! An article from looked interesting, covering the diary of Salam Pax, but again the web log link was broken.

    Back to AlltheWeb and another result pointing to the Baghdad blog. I click but still no link! My frustrations increase as I begin to consider that Salam having now published and reaping the financial rewards in the book world, has disappeared from the blog world and taken his blog with him! Traitor! I find another interesting link to the Guardian, publishers of Salam`s blog-turned-book. The site contains the first chapter of the book, downloadable to whet the appetite. Of course, I download the chapter for later reading.

    Finally! A link within an article in Wired News is live. I click to reveal the Dear Raed blog. I am gratified.

    I bookmark the blog for later reference (in my Blogging bookmark folder), realising the Friday afternoon is quickly slipping away.

So, I have now come full circle. `Self`, I say, `I must document my experience of the last 90 minutes, as it has illustrated a process greater than simply blogging`.

If I am to write on blogging in my own blog, surely I should create a ?mindful? space in which to write and the academic in me says I should collect such evidence and marry it to the recent articles I have read on blogs and their potential in teaching and learning.

My blogging here is done. (Now for the critique...!)

Through the Lens: the blogging process (or, Notes from the Blogface) - Part 2

Now here`s a tangent.

Like a comet, my next moves are deft and precise: I must search for the first blog EVER! Back to Allthe Web. Type in `first blog ever` and click search. Pause. No way. How many blogs are called `My First Blog Ever`?!

That can`t be! Perhaps I should Ask Jeeves? `Jeeves, who has the first blog ever?`

Jeeves replies in much the same way as AlltheWeb. I feel deflated. My efforts have not been fruitful, so I abruptly halt my investigation: there are certain things the WWW just will not bend to!

A few more clicks back on the Amazon site and I`m growing bored. I hjave not yet tried Blood`s blog, so back to AlltheWeb to my first search page. I do a quick scan and see an article at Slashdot.

I quickly scroll down through the article (`scroll` in this context could be interchanged with `glance`), then I spotted a linked phrased towards the end of the document; ?freely available on her website.? Here was my door to Rebecca`s website! But not before scrolling quickly back up through the Slashdot article for another quick ?glance?. I subconsciously scan the screen for the oft-present `print this article` button, but was unable to find one, so hit the print button in my browser instead. This article would make for juicy reading later on, curled up in a warm bed! I continue with my scrolling and happen upon readers comments at the bottom of the page! What a find! Always an interesting read. I skim the first few comments and am struck by two. Interesting to note that of the first 6 comments, 3 were from the same user.

At this point, following my printing of the article, I remembered I had some other articles on blogging so again swivel back to my paper-cluttered desk and sift through he stack until I find what I am looking for: one article by Rob Enderle and another given to me by a colleague, entitled, `The Revolution Will Not Be Blogged` (Packer, 2004). Both of these articles refer to the tension between the blogging phenomenon and the current state of play in journalism profession, particularly in relation to online news and electronic journalism. Other articles I recall focus more on the potential of blogs in teaching and learning. So, in all this I think to myself, `Self` I say, `Would it not be a good idea to dig deeper into blogging and see what has gotten so many people into a spin?`

I finally return to my article on the Blogosphere once more to finish my highlighting and pen-scrawling comments, having previously decided midway through reading that I`d search for `R. Blood`.

Throughout this process I carefully thought to not only print articles for further reading, but bookmarked pages for future reference, thinking I might include these references in my blog post! I have hundreds of bookmarked pages and articles. My bookmark manager has become my virtual `safe place` for storing all that interests me online and beyond! I`ve learnt over the years to be methodical about my bookmarks and now have a rather sophisticated filing system that rivals my `My Documents` folder!

Through the Lens: the blogging process (or, Notes from the Blogface) - Part 1

So, this blogging thing is pretty big now, huh! Well, I was curious having recently read articles and papers to really dig into this process that is blogging.

In this rant, I don`t intend to throw out an opinion on blogging, more to chew the fat on blogging a little deeper and record a blogging process. So I said to myself, `Self, I should note done in detail my own blogging process in preparing a blog post as I would, any other day.`

So, this is my story, from the blogface!

I log into my blog and open a second browser window in preparation to search the web as needed (AlltheWeb is my preferred engine).

I swivel around in my chair and grab an article I had scanned recently, by Ferdig and Trammell, on content delivery in this ?thing? called the Blogosphere. I begin to read the article more deeply and with a purpose, which is, to reference my upcoming blog post on blogs. As I read, I take up my fluoro-green highlighter pen and begin highlighting phrases and comments that stand out for me, and in addition, I jot down comments in the margin with my pen. I note in the article, extensive reference to Blood (2002). Swivelling back to my computer station, I type `R. Blood` into my search engine. Missed. Results returned referred to something about W.A.T.E.R. Blood...not what I envisaged at all! I refine my search a second time, after reviewing the reference in the article once again, to read `weblog handbook`. Bingo! Lots of Amazon links and all sorts of reviews. Things look very promising.

A quick scan through the first page of search results and I notice a Slashdot article with a partial line `...time weblogger Rebecca Blood`s The Weblog Handbook`. I have a name. Rebecca Blood was a blogger. It would be most interesting to see her blog then!

I scan the list of search results looking for interesting phrases, when a heading catches my eye `a romantic view of weblogs`, the summary concludes:

    Rebecca Blood`s The Weblog Handbook is an inexorably romantic guide to building and...

I must read more! I click (my AlltheWeb preferences are set to open search results in a new browser window) and up pops a book review on Blood`s book, at HYPERTEXT|NOW| by Eastgate Systems Inc. It looks fairly legit to me. I scroll slowly through the review. A couple of quotes from Blood`s book punctuate the article and already I`m thinking that this is worth printing! I scroll quickly through to the end of the page and note with a smile that the author, Mark Bernstein, also has a blog!

I hit the print button in my browser (no sign of the oft-present 'print this page' icon) and hear the networked printer groan to life down the corridor. At this point I think to myself, `Self, now is probably a good time to actually check out this book by Blood, at`. The HYPERTEXT|NOW| review links directly to it.

Wow! Before I even notice the book by Blood on the Amazon page, I see a screen full of books related to the art of blogging! How can this be? Surely blogging is still fairly new isn`t it? Perhaps there is call to be alert to the hubbub that is blogging!

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The education design and development process - Part 2

Moments in the Process

I've mentioned moments a couple of times in my last post. Kemmis and McTaggart (1988) talk about moments in their work on Action Research (see The Action Research Planner and The Action Research Reader)

I feel comfortable with the use of the term 'moment', as it does not hang on to any particular part, stage, phase or any other pre-determined element of a process and is not necessarily constricted to a certain time or space, or even a topic!

A 'moment' allows some space to breath, to experience, to 'be', and to not do anything really at all! A 'moment' can be described along a continuum (although somewhat primitive and perhaps more appealing to the pragmatist in all of us!):

At one end sits the "flash" - that moment that almost slips by unnoticed and is very hard to put into one's conscious mind, let alone into words.
At the other end sits the "momentus moment" - that moment which is, well, huge! - all engaging, life changing, steeped in meaning and cannot be missed!

There is also reflective moments, challenging moments, tense moments, moments that slip by, "just a moment" and so the list goes on... but if you take these moments and set them within the design and development processes, it almost allows you to capture those often intangible 'moments' that tend to move fluidly back and forth through the processes developing and maturing.

Scott Berkun talks about design being a reflective process, in which he too mentions 'moments':

    Some moments require an emphasis on the logical and rational. Others demand creative exploration and expression driven work.
    May 20, 2002

Capturing Moments - more than Serendipity

How can we capture the more intangible elements of the design and development process to then use to inform better practice and clarify expectations and outcomes? One approach I hope to take is to write case by case stories of the developments I work on and capture firstly my thoughts, insights and questions, then the views of those others who might collaborate on the development, most especially the academics for whom we support in such developments. There are many examples of case studies, written to reflect on processes, extend conversations and record a series of moments for future reference.

I feel case stories are much more than a reflective journal or a professional diary, and offer a more consolidated view into some of the intricacies of the development as told from one or more viewpoints. On that note, I'll leave you with a great piece from Seth Kahan, who interviewed John Seely Brown about the nuances of storytelling.

The education design and development process

Just last week I presented a poster with others involved in a university-wide project aimed to accelerate the development of units across most faculties, to provide a 'showcase' of exemplar units using online technologies.

It was an interesting activity and although a small-ish turnout, got many people talking especially about experiences of processes.

With every development a different approach was taken but within a similar process. The developments are dependent on many factors mostly consisting of;
- level of skills of those involved
- roles of those involved
- motivation of those involved
- rationale or agenda of those involved.

As you can see it's all about the people! Without people there is no process! I was keen to not just talk about or display in my poster what was developed, but attempt to highlight the intangible developments of the collegial relationship between myself as education designer and the academic, and the collaboration with multimedia artists and developers to bring a 'product' together. In using the word product, there were 2, a CD-Rom and a webCT site, at the one level, and mutliple intangible products at another level - things like negotiating a "common dialogue" between education designer and academic to vocalise each other's understanding of moments occurring in the development over three months. Gradually, a "shared meaning" resulted from active and reflective conversations between the two.

This relationship brought professional development processes to the fore, as well as making the process of development more explicit, another 'product'. As education designer, I am now more familiar with sytematic processes which support (and sometimes confuse!) the development process. I am also aware of an increase in my own confidence in supporting academics during this process, with a greater understanding of elements and moments that occur in the development process.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Creativity, education design and evaluating process

I must convey my recent collection of experiences on work I've done with a bachelor of nursing unit for post registration nurses (across the globe).

Since beginning my education design career, I have felt bombarded by the magnitude and scope of the myriad tasks which constitute my workload. I seem constantly to get stuck inside the mundane, administrative activities, and have forgone reflecting on the more creative elements of my work - of which, I must say, are quite substantial. I ask you to broaden your definition of 'creativity' to encapsulate the elements of personal development to be learning experiences (most are aren't they?!)...

I find the problem solving aspects of my work offer a creative challenge - this, to me, is the essence of education design. The learning is immense - and intense! I have, in the last fortnight or so, reflected more closely on the actions and conversations of and with my colleagues in light of this word 'creativity' and my problem-solving thesis has been proven many times! You can almost feel the cogs turning, well-oiled, with full service history!

Having turned my focus more to these creative moments, I have felt new life being breathed into my work. That is not to say I've dropped all administrative and other mundane tasks (oh to dream!), but I have realigned my thinking to centre more on the processes of creative thought instead. Now, many would say "I told you so!" - but as with all experiences, you must feel it yourself, rather than rely on others to be your 'wise eyes'. Although, I do recall a saying that goes something like this:
    A fool learns from his mistakes; a wise person learns from the mistakes of others.

Perhaps not a very practical idea, but it sounds promising!

I have digressed...back to creativity...
Another 'creative catharsis' arose from presenting the findings of an evaluation conducted on the same unit mentioned above, which ultimately informed the development I worked on. Reflecting on the evaluation has me reflecting again on the creative experience and the time spent building a rapport with the academic coordinating the unit. This relationship combines a fluid arrangement of creative input and negotiating the academic terrain, which often involves critiquing the content presented within the unit itself. Content poses many challenges and education design often asks the academic particularly to release this content from the 'sanctuary' within which it resides. This means building avenues of trust and allowing time for this 'release' (usually more than one development phase, often at least two) to manifest.

Education designers have become quite adept at not only supporting this release, but empathising with the academic position. The content, in its released form, becomes 'public property', 'naked' for all to see - transparent.

Sharing content in this way is perhaps challenges the legitimacy of the academic's own position. So too, education designers are challenged - often their position is in danger of being construed as lacking academic discipline. However, education designers usually display a wide ranging scope of interests and skills, which stand them in good stead for the work they must do.

My partnership with the academic of the nursing unit has brought this very interesting relationship struggle to the fore, not for her acknowledgement of a lack of my position, but has shown herself to build her own picture of me as an education designer. This has developed through the negotiation of tasks and of initiating and supporting various aspects of the development process, as each stage has presented itself. to me it is reminiscent of constructivist learnign theory, that we all bring prior knowledge and experience to a new learning encounter; where we then restructure our knowledge framework to distill and appropriate this new learning with our existing knowledge. Constructivist learning approaches seem to most naturally fit the education design paradigm.

I am most grateful for this experience with this academic and to be privy to such a relationship early on in my career is a big plus - I feel my ideals have not been sullied to the point of anonymity!

Long live education design!

Monday, February 16, 2004

Flexibility - hitting the surf ...

Well, after a windy day down at Jan Juc near Torquay and watching surf lifesaving events with growing exhaustion, I was quite motivated to sit on my comfy sofa and read some more on the notion of flexibility and have found some interesting resources.

What intrigued me was the change in context in which flexibility has been discussed. Prior to about 1997/1998 the notion of flexibility was talked about in relation to open and distance learning. From 1998 onwards the context switches to significantly include online technologies, e-learning and flexible delivery. this may not be a new observation, but have always wondered about the way in which we use such terms and what determines or drives their usage. I asked the question do semantics really matter? I think discourse has it's place in critical analysis and certainly in this context it can be explored further.

Resources from the Distance Education clearinghouse might prove useful. As would the journal of Distance Education (ODLAA).

I think as society and culture changes and shifts focus, so too must the dialogues and discourses shift or as Richard Edwards (1997) comments, to be rewritten and reread. With this shifting and changing, so too do the power structures. Thus, I think we are seeing a great push for effective change management strategies as communtiies, institutions, businesses and governments attempt to articulate and cope with this change.

Much is address through economic rationalist glasses and this is problematic - we need to acknowledge more readily the cultural shifts which also impact the status quo.

Food for thought! Ciao.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Melbourne's 'cool' summer...

So far my summer hasn't felt much like a summer [and before any Melburnians jump down my throat, yes, the Xmas weather was spectacular! :o) ] - I am still acclimatising to the lower latitudinal, more temperate climes of the east coast, having spent a good deal of my young adult life in Perth and then more recently Geraldton! It's so distinctly different - even the air is different! There must be a more apt meteorological explanation than my poor efforts here, but it does make a difference to one's demeanor I feel. So, what does it mean to feel displaced? Misplaced? Dislocated perhaps? When will I get around to relating this back to educational design and flexible learning you might ask?... About now!

Households, Work and Flexibility is an EU project which looks at how changing forms of flexibility affect work and family life. What intrigues me about this project is the notion of flexibility, something I want to research further in relation to educational technologies. The 2000 - 2003 project report series is available from the website in PDF. The project's use of the term flexibility is simplified in my view, but they offer further terms of reference with which to later discuss the notion of flexibility.

Interestingly, if you type the phrase "flexibility of space" into your search engine [I prefer Google], the EU project site is the second one on the list!

What are your thoughts on the notion of flexibility?
Are we sometimes careless in the use of such terms? Do semantics really matter? How does flexibility apply to the discussions surrounding educational technologies and good pedagogical practice? Before I get carried away with mind-boggling theory, I'll say...

...Ciao until the next!

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

...and so on to 2004!

Again, the circles turn into another fast! More change, more push to streamline and realign. For what? With what? By whom? Organisational change in my rather cynical view, is about costing out time and resources to sit and think about better, more "innovative" ideas than the person or persons before us. A lot of change is simply for the sake of change! Hmmm, any challenges there? The race to lead change with innovations is on!


Syn: To alter; vary; deviate; substitute; innovate; diversify; shift; veer; turn.

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.


\In"no*va*tive\, a. Characterized by, or introducing, innovations. --Fitzed. Hall.

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.


adj 1: ahead of the times; "the advanced teaching methods"; "had advanced views on the subject"; "a forward-looking corporation"; "is British industry innovative enough?" [syn: advanced, forward-looking, modern] 2: being or producing something like nothing done or experienced or created before; "stylistically innovative works"; "innovative members of the artistic community"; "a mind so innovational, so original" [syn: innovational]

Source: WordNet ® 1.6, © 1997 Princeton University

Question: Innovative at what?
The question was brought to my attention at the 2003 presentations of Flexible Learning Leaders in Victoria.

The push to be innovative in an atmosphere of constant change echoes a need to keep people 'on the ball', to keep motivation levels high, in order to sustain efforts of change. To be innovative is to keep rolling out new and exciting ideas, brainstorm suggestions of better practices and more successful outcomes - and creating those outcomes along the way! Just as we tender for project funds, we also tender for a slice of the innovations cake, hoping our ideas and sughgestions will be selected from the many put forward to "those in a position of power and influence". If we jump through those flaming bureaucratic hoops with enthusiasm and effort we might just get what we deserve!

Where should I go with all this? My role as an educational designer in my institution is one which puts me and my colleagues in a position of supporting academics essentially through a process of change which incorporates their experiences of a changing workplace and a changing educational environment. Educational Designers are not new to education settings, but their role has increasingly become one involving necessary well-developed skills of change management.

Change management as a skill? Certainly! Think back to those managers you had the priveledge of working with who were able to and comfortable with leading co-workers through change on a daily basis! Many learnt to manage from their experiences over a time and the qualities they exhibit as individuals. Time helps hone such skills. The trick I think is to remember how and when to use these skills in the most appropriate ways. That means being highly sefl aware, that is aware not only of oneself, but of others around you - emotional intelligence or EQ.

I had the priviledge to attend a personal development workshop through the Philosophy of Living Centre and relished every restful and reflective minute of it! I chose such a workshop over the myriad workshops to do with organisational development, management and leadership and countless others offered by various well respected institutions.

"...we point people in the direction of their own common sense and they learn through insight how to solve thier own problems, how to enjoy and appreciate life more. In essence, they learn to listen to their own wisdom" (Spittle, 2001).

Three points the Centre focuses on in its workshops are Mind, Thought and Consciousness. These three principles are used to explain and describe the experience of life, our "reality". Throughout the workshop, many participants told their stories and the workshop facilitator told some wonderful, simple, insightful stories too - they got us thinking and reflecting, much like the buddhist methodology of bringing one back into contact with and trusting one's own life experiences. One of my favourite books is The Tao of Pooh. Check out some of the thoughts here. For a reflective individual such as myself, I relish these texts! It mirrors the texts that are our life experiences.

Until the next ...