Friday, December 30, 2005

Blog Hui 2006 - NZ international weblog conference!

Blog Hui begins 2006!

Check out the growing list of invited speakers!

Get your paper in NOW! Due end January 2006.... :o)

Registrations are also limited so first in first served - register NOW!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Challenging the status quo - blogging in schools

Update(18-01-06): This post by Will Richardson, is timely to the discussion about blogs and our children. A emotive example, which shows aspects of teenage living that perhaps parents do not yet fully understand. You be the judge.

Earlier: Came across Scott's commentary on a post at 'I Speak of Dreams', about the art of teenage blogging and the reaction by schools to restrict access by students to these blog/journal sites in schools.

We are still seeing the blogosphere as somewhat emerging in terms of teaching and learning, but already there are some excellent examples of its use in education - you only have to see the wave of edublogs, uniblogs and learnerblogs, courteousy of James Farmer, for one!

How is the Establishment going to face up to this? I put the challenge to Ed institutions out there with Scott's pointers and questions as a starting point! I agree with him when he says:
...providing an open yet supportive environment for student writing and communication may not be as difficult or risky as its made out. But you have to understand students, and understand the emerging teen web culture.
These young adults are our future! And I don't think we get to know our students enough to make value judgements about what we teach them. If we continue to hamper students' development as responsible and civil global citizens, how are we to do so if we continue to cast limitations on them? How will they learn responsibility? How will they embrace the critical thinking skills we espouse in our teaching practices, while at the same time locking up their options?

I am reminded of a tale (told many times over, the origin of which escapes me) where a young boy, a diehard Superman fan, dressed in his Superman outfit - including cape, was convinced that in wearing his outfit he could fly. His mother did not deter him as he climbed the fence - his "launching platform." He of course jumped and fell, hurting himself in the "fly" - but learnt a valuable lesson about gravity (and the lack of human flying ability) at the same time. This story sticks with me as a constant reminder of the need to 'love with open arms' as they say. Painful, yes of course - that's life! We often learn best from painful and involving experiences! Often, in sytematising processes and practices (like education), we find ourselves trying to lighten the blow, removing ourselves one step from the action, objectifying and sterilising the experience.

Perhaps we need to bring such topics into the upcoming 2006 Blog Hui Conference in NZ? What can we do to better advocate for blogs and persoanl learning spaces online? How might such technology be better understood in the teaching and learning context? What do we need to do now in order to better serve our students (and teachers!) of the future?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas shopping that's good for the soul!

gift cards
My partner heard about these guys on ABC radio. They're called TEAR and offer Arguably the World's Most Useful Gift Catalogue! Check it out! You can buy donations as gifts for family and friends, like a goat (A$50), or a health worker (A$60) or even a small but significant gift of school supplies (A$5)!

Makes me feel a little better than watching the Christmas ads on TV. It's sort of like making a home grown burger instead of going to Hungry Jacks! If you wanna know exactly where your donations are going, you can check out the slideshow here (3.2MB).

Saturday, December 17, 2005

So this is Christmas...

Artist: Tamara Voorn (see more here and here)

Well, I certainly don't wish to 'bah-humbug' christmas, but it doesn't feel like the festive season (just yet?) and I'm really not big on the shopping fiasco that seems to begin earlier each passing year! The pic above is by Tamara Voorn from Amsterdam and shows a different colour scheme for Christmas! Throws a different perspective on the whole Christmas thing huh!

So, how has 2005 been for you? What will 2006 bring you?

I'm looking for some fresh perspectives, new ideas, ever-widening circles of friends and professional partnerships.

What did you enjoy most about this year, 2005?

I think the best parts of 2005 for me were partially obscured by more negative events, but with everything there is a balancing force! One thing that stands out for me is discovering and making the most of the fantastic collegial relationships within the Centre for Learning and Teaching Support! Brilliant people doing amazing things in a climate that is often stifling and highly bureaucratic.

What will you be looking for in 2006?

As I mentioned above, there will be some new things, but I hope to rediscover my love of teaching, as well as enjoy being newly married to my wonderful partner! ;o) I'm also going to work on making it through to the end of 2006 without feeling burnt out!

I'm also hoping that Australia will continue to grow and develop as a community of caring and open-minded people. There are many different ways of viewing the world and looking at who we are - take Christmas for example; people all over the world celebrate Christmas but in many different ways and some don't celebrate it at all!

How do you celebrate Christmas?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Homespun and heart matters!

Well, this is what I've been up to while taking time out! No, not 'producing' 11 month old bubs, but being Aunty to one! :o)

It's amazing what two weeks of rest can do for you:

1) remind you of who you are and where you've come from,
2) remind you of the people who supported you in becoming the person you are,
3) remembering the dreams and goals you set up that kind of got lost amongst 'life' generally! and
4) when all else seems big and messy, family and friends remind you of the simple things!

Much of this relates to our learning experiences too. We need to remind ourselves of who we are in order to take responsibility for what we do and what we learn (as well as what we teach).

We can also see how our own networks bind and support us, yet remain fluid enough for us to stretch away and bounce back as we need to. Learning is a natural activity that we need to re-discover in ourselves with a renewed sense of wonder about the world and see the beauty of learning as part of our humanity.

We can also take some comfort in the knowledge that once we know things, we will always need to learn more: it's simply a part of living!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

So, it's official - goodbye Monash for me! (well it's in the news!)

Here's a news article from The Australian (you might have to login to read it in full?), outlining the situation some staff at Monash find themselves in - me included! Thus, my lack of "online-ness" recently (I've been in hiding whilst dealing with stuff here, including moving house, etc!)...

I hope to be back on board sometime in November, once I have a break, back in my hometown of Pemberton in WA (beautiful spot!), and I've unpacked my computer once we arrive at our new home in Canberra.

.....stay tuned....! [Whistles: "I'm on the road again...!"]

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

ALARPM workshop: 'Futures thinking: drama as a method of inquiry'

Originally uploaded by margoc.
This image (partly) represents my motivation for running a workshop at the recent ALARPM conference, entitled "Futures thinking: drama as a method of inquiry".

Thank you to the workshop participants for engaging so wholeheartedly in this workshop! Participants are able to access the images by clicking on this image first to enter the Flickr site. (I have taken measures to ensure no participant is identified in the images provided.) You can also view this as a slideshow presentation.

If participants wish to have copies of these images, I am happy to send them to you!


If you wish to share further reflections about the workshop here, please add your comments (you can be anonymous!), otherwise happy personal reflecting!

All the best, Marg :o)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

ALARPM Conference 2005, Sydney

Originally uploaded by margoc.
I was in Sydney last week for the ALARPM Conference at University of Technology, Sydney. What a wonderful couple of days! I feel energised and focused now, having met some wonderful people doing equally wonderful things relating to community action and learning and research!

Here's my presentation for those interested. It relates back to my discussion about experience, design and learning.

Thanks to those who offered their feedback to this presentation. Unfortunately half an hour is nowhere near long enough to engage in deep discussion!

Thanks to the ALARPM team for their organisation and warm welcome. It was lovely to spend some time with likeminded people sharing a vision!

Monday, August 15, 2005

The passing of an inspirational leader

On 4th August 2005, Nola Campbell passed away after a courageous battle against cancer for many years.

She will be missed by many across Australia and New Zealand for her enthusiasm and hard work in her teaching. She was a valued member and mentor of the Flexible Learning Leaders (FLL) program, and one of the first to be awarded FLL funding when it began (FL Fellows then). She has been instrumental in bringing the FLL program to NZ, now in its second year there.

Tributes have flooded in (one example here), personal and heartfelt, which shows how much she touched the lives of many.

Nola, we will miss you. We will carry on your dream to see flexible learning continue to gain the respect and carriage it deserves through the hard work and commitment of many.

God bless.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Futures Forum 2005

In a couple of previous posts, I asked what higher education might look like in twenty years, sharing some of my thoughts with Susan Smith Nash...

Here is a publication of the 2004 EDUCAUSE Futures Forum papers discussing a range of issues facing higher ed in the future. Of interest to me is the article on the 'Artful Brain', along with 'Multimedia Scholarship' and 'Next Generation Educational Software'. See for yourself!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Designing learning experiences: what IS design?

Following on from part one, I'd like to look more closely now at design.

Designing authentic learning experiences means understanding different aspects of what is (potentially) to be experienced. In this way I can become more aware of what it is I'm designing for: What is important (to me AND to learners)? What is needed for a group of learners and for individuals? How much can or should be based on personal and life experiences?

How do I balance the need for some information and the space in which the learning takes place? How does one know when learning has occurred anyway? Going back to Brian's thoughts again;

The three words learning, education and training are not merely interchangeable nor are they equal in status. Education and training are obviously important cultural directives, but they are ideas decidedly less in breadth and depth than learning. Learning belongs to humanity and is present throughout the world; education and training are technological artifacts of culture and do not share the same universal character.

Why does it matter that we understand when learning has occurred? In terms of the institution, perhaps it comes down to systematising and commodifying 'knowledge' as 'artifacts of culture' as Brian describes. But, more importantly, what does it mean for the learner? Critical self-reflection married with an action process (like action learning, research and/or evaluation; see O'Connell & Sharma, 2004), enables meta-learning, along with a chance to re-experience that which is first experienced.

I sense we're now moving to a clearer view of how having an understanding of what experience is may help to shed light on the elements for designing learning experiences! That is, if we seek to enable the learner to re-experience, then what are the elements we need to make that happen? Well, perhaps we should first look more closely at the elements of storytelling. We need a setting, some characters, a sense of place and time, some motivation to propel the story along and perhaps a storyteller or protagonist.

Hmmm, I'm still not entirely satisfied simply with a story though. For me something is still amiss. I keep returning to this word: "knowing". A gut-feeling, an intuitive understanding of "yes" or "A-ha". I guess I'm trying to emphasise that re-experiencing is more than simply re-telling; it is re-enacting so that the 'knowing' is able to once again be revisited within the experience, to once again be reflected on and to once again learn from it overall! Too esoteric? What might be needed to ground this notion further?
We can best explore the multiplicity of learning by bringing ourselves into close proximity to the stories of people's lives that in some manner inform our own (Brian, EDN).
OK, there's a connection here to community and to sharing stories in ways that enable us to re-purpose them to not only inform our lives, but to relate them to our own experiences. There is some sense that the collective view can help us to validate our own experiences and in turn, present our views back to us in context of sociocultural 'norms' and this is necessary to understand a shared language (Krishnan & Rajamanickam, 2004). Presenting multiple viewpoints is one way to explain the myriad roles and positions we inhabit as individuals within the wider community. Again it is virtually impossible to separate learning from the rest of our lives! We experience a connection to self, to peers and to the collective view, validated by self and others and validating self and others simultaneously (see Prpic, 2005).

What about design then? Elements of design? Well, story elements still apply, but it's necessary I think to engage in developing a space for that 'knowing' part. Creating spaces to breath, engage over time in ways that are comfortable and approachable by individuals is of utmost importance. As soon as you try to make that process task-oriented, you risk losing that which is often deliciously intangible and unmistakably necessary for people to engage. In other words, don't objectify the exercise (indeed, don't call it an 'exercise!), but encourage those rough diamonds to emerge, those deeper thoughts to mushroom up to the surface in their own time (forget about the 12 week semester!!!) and allow the thiking and connecting to flow outside of the bounds of your subject for example.

OK, so you designers out there are probably thinking; "she's a wierdo and doesn't know what she's on about, she hasn't even mentioned design, duh!" may be right!

Well, I'll end this section with some design elements I think are the hardest to include:
  1. presence (in addition to identity, and without stereotyping);
  2. atmosphere (in addition to a time/space continuum);
  3. emotion (at the risk of objectification and disembodiment);
  4. satisfaction (bridging the gap between what is designed and what is learned, see a previous post);
  5. understanding (in addition to 'showing and telling about'); and
  6. multifaceted roles (again, in addition to identity, and without stereotyping!).

Stay tuned for some strategies and ideas to help bring these elements to the forefront of how we can design authentic learning experiences!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Understanding how the blog brain works!

Leading on from the previous post, I revisited the Eide Neurolearning Blog and their post on the Brain of a Blogger. I added some thoughts to my new ELGG blog!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Design learning experiences: what IS experience?

I've begun to build a 'voice' on this topic, one which I'd like to research further.....

To me, learning is about experience. I'd like to present this topic at a conference later this year (if accepted) and explore the literature more deeply in the areas of Experience Design, Information Architecture, Educational Design and Experiential name some starting points and areas of interest.

So this post and subsequent others will hopefully help to refine some ideas for my presentation...

I concur with Brian at the EDN on his thoughts about learning and experience and our experiences of learning:
Learning is unavoidable in all human experience. This means that learning is, by default, a worldwide phenomenon in which no one individual, tribe, society or nation can claim superiority. By this I mean that learning is a fundamental interface with the confluence of everyday life, regardless of a person's status or location.
This is a good starting point for my discussion on designing authentic learning experiences I think. I'm also reminded of the work done by Gubrium and Holstein in their book, Postmodern Interviewing, which through the interviewing process we might subvert the notion of the master narrative, and consider more "democratic" action methods of inquiry (well, learning is about inquiry is it not?). While G and H discuss the master narrative and its demise in relation to postmodern theory, their discussion translates well to the way we might discuss the learning environment. That is, in a postmodern reading, the interview moves away from a 'master narrative' paradigm to a more dispersed nature consisting of many voices situated strongly within contexts, socio-political and personal roles. Again this resonates with Brian's thoughts somewhat.

So nowadays, with a more diverse learner group in higher education for example (which includes distance, off-campus and overseas students), together with the dispersed role of teachers (especially with the increasing use of e-learning technologies), the landscape in which we formally learn is dynamically spreading and changing. Rather 'postmodern' don't you think?

So, with this dispersion and diversity, how might one design for authentic learning experiences? How might such design concepts look, for example? In reading Krishnan and Rajamanickam's (2004) piece on "Experience-enabling Design", I was buoyed by the way the authors asked questions about designing e-learning, in ways I could not. So, I've moved from frustrated designer to a clearer idea of, firstly, what do I need to ask?!

My questions then, are shaping into something like this:
1. How do I design for something that has not yet occurred?

2. How does my own experience translate to designing for others' experiences?

3. How do I bridge the gap between what I assume the learner should learn and what the learner assumes they will learn?
These are for starters...and Krishan and Rajamanickam provide some decent pointers to extend expereince design for e-learning.

I sense too, a difference between learner expectation and learner perception, in relation to their learning. In pursuit of this, I've looked through articles and books about research on the psychology of experience and perception, much of which is based on sense-data and not really my cup of tea! (see Follett 1924, 1951; Swartz, 1965). However, Boud, Cohen and Walker (1993) provide a glimpse of experience and how it is we learn through a series of essays they've edited in Using Expereince for Learning. In their introduction, they provide a brief digression in to the nature of experience and its intangibility:
In writing about learning from experience, we have been mindful of the difficulty of writing about 'experience'. It is a term which has preoccuppied philosophers and which many have tried to avoid. It contains ambiguities, it acts sometimes as a noun, at others as a verb, and it is almost impossible to establish a definitive view with which to work (p.6)
So, in the first instance it is obviously hard to design for something that is not easily defined! Again how does one design authentic leaerning experiences when individual experience contains many intangible variables?

Next, I'll talk about the design framework, using some of my recent experiences in designing subjects in higher education. I'd also like to return to Brian's thoughts once more...especially his thoughts about our use of story....

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Getting students to become productive bloggers!

DK Robinson (at To-Done!) makes some deft points about productive blogging, which are useful both to the novice blogger and to students using blogs for learning. Just as we have tips for online moderation, so too it would be useful for teachers to learn and then pass on this list of tips to their student bloggers!

I would also add:
"Know your audience".
Who do you want to write for? For example, I have multiple blogs, and have tried to maintain some sort of continuity of 'character' (?...if I can call it that!) between my blogs, yet maintain an awareness of who might be interested in reading what (and how they can find it to read it!).

"Think about your peers".
Should your thoughts/work/articles be accessible in such a way as to be 'peer reviewed'? or do they help to extend an area of research? or simply connect with thoughts and articles of likeminded people just for fun?

"Know your sources".
This is something we constantly remind our students of; so when blogging we should encourage the same practice to combat plagiarism and mediocrity! This way students become discerning information architects and knowledge managers! :o)

These points may be 'secondary' points to Robinson's list, but worth reviewing if you're thinking of using blogs in education especially, or for business purposes.

What do you think of Robinson's list? What of my additions? Any others you can think of?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Influenza and coping with a cloudy mind...!

I've been 'off air' for a bit due to a decent bout of flu, which I haven't had for a couple of years now! I noticed a couple of things while I languished in bed (mindlessly sifting through the day drinking lemon tea and eating toast...!) about how:
1. a cloudy mind can stifle creativity and awareness
2. mind and body are indeed intricately linked through memories
3. much benefit sleep offers when you give yourself (mind and body) over to the joys of sleep to speed up healing and recovery!
I did indeed feel removed from the world around me, or more that my world closed in on me to do some fixing! Cloudiness though is an odd experience, that is, to not be able to do and think and react in the ways you are used to! I mean cloudiness in the sense that things are foggy, muffled, almost surreal. And in thinking about this I wondered if the refugee experience was like a "cloudiness"? Surely there must be a sense of feeling not only depressed, anxious, frightened, but also to feel silence (silenced?), foggy about the future, about the process of applying for refugee status, and of dealing with systems of which you have no comprehension! These systems also include cultural systems, that you have never experienced yet are often left to deal with.

Deeq Yusuf's (2001) online article about the refuge experience and their coping strategies is brief, but interesting. This quote particularly caught my eye.
Refugees have experienced the most complete dislocation of their social world and are deprived of power as social actors both in the country of origin and the country of reception (Joly, 1996). They have often suffered a severe defeat.
Being dislocated, deprived, powerless, when everything about being human concerns location, privilege and provision, and power in its myriad forms!! But also, in being human (and in nature too), is the sense of the balance of things. Yusuf describes how refugees often manifest a range of coping strategies both individually and in groups and
are active agents who, despite unfavourable conditions, will try to utilize the options open to them like anyone else (Jackson, 1987). Given their limited resources and predicament, coping is the best alternative that the individual can achieve resulting in varying degrees of individual and social adaptation.
We are a resilient lot! But in 'fixing things' we need to be aware of clearing the fog in a way that enables refugee groups to rebuild based on their "knowing" - past experiences, connections, beliefs and cultural identity. Some last words from Yusuf on the matter:
[T]here is a serious need for a humanistic approach that holistically views the issue as social healing and reconstruction of valued ways of life and institutions cannot be managed by outsiders.
So what is the Howard government doing to ensure this is happening on Aussie soil? ...and what do others think is currently happening???

How can we ensure the safety and security of ALL people to foster wellbeing in individuals and as a community?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

HEWRR...Get a bus to town and be heard!!

You will have heard about today's National Day of Protest to changes to Workplace Rights at universities, that is, the Federal Government?s Higher Education Workplace Relations Requirements (HEWRR).

If you're heading to town, make sure you go along to support the protest!

Jenny Macklin voiced Labor's stance against the HEWRR, in a media release earlier today. Here's a snippet from that release:
...The Howard Government has announced unprecedented workplace relations conditions for university and TAFE funding that have nothing whatsoever to do with the core function of universities and TAFEs to provide education and training. ...... The Howard Government?s conditions will mean:
  • Australian Workplace Agreements to prevail over certified agreements that must be offered to all staff
  • Threats to existing conditions including current levels of redundancy payouts and maternity leave
  • The removal of limits to casual employment levels.
...and so the pendulum swings...

"Telling Our Stories"....Conference Coming Up!

You might be interested in this upcoming Action Research/Action Learning Conference organised by ALARPM, supported by the Centre for Popular Education, UTS, Sydney.

The Conference runs from September 30th to October 2nd, 2005. Call for presentations are due July 1st!
Info should be on the ALARPM site fairly soon, or try UTS.

I love the idea of performance rather than standard conference presentations! I look forward to this conference particularly! Maybe this is a sign of things to come at conferences.....moving on to engagement and embodied experiences, rather than simply returning with a head full of words and information!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Freire and....frightened!

I am not very optimistic about the pending Workplace Relations Reforms about to hit Aussie workplaces, and what it will mean for Australian higher education institutions. Our PM has the upperhand in the Senate and that makes me ...s c a r e d !!!

The methodology I see here is that of divide-and-conquer. Pit individuals against each other and their attention is diverted from bigger more meaningful things, to smaller detail, the kind that keeps you from engaging in more 'real' things I suppose. Individualisation and economic rationalisation go hand-in-hand. Both remove self from the context in which we live. It disconnects us from the heart of our communities and from each other. In this, we become desensitised to the plight of others, focusing inward on our own situations - like wearing blinkers.

If I'm OK, then things are OK. I just don't buy it at all! Our voices are continually silenced by big brother. We are talked down to, rather than engaged in meaningful conversation, that might mean we could actually change things and own the change, being responsibile for its outcomes, and ultimately our progress forward as human beings.

The thing is this is happening everywhere and at every level of one is exempt! At home, in schools, at work, in our communities. Of course, it's not all bad, there are those who continue to subvert the common paradigm and good on them! We need to maintain a critical mass of those types in order to not crash and burn in a rationalistic flame! What to do? Remain aware I guess! Yoda says it best:
The dark side clouds everything. Impossible to see the future is.'s Sunday morning, so I'll lighten up a tad...maybe images speak louder than words?

Image hosted by
...Artist Unknown

Friday, May 20, 2005

Busy-ness and business

Phew! I can't believe it's Friday AGAIN!

I thought I'd do a quick wrap on events taking place over the past two weeks, as I've struggled to have enough reflection time to formulate a more considered response enough to feel I can post is a collection of incoherent, disjointed thoughts to end the week...

* When will it RAIN in Melbourne??? My lemon trees are shrinking.
* Thank you Cathy Kell for visiting us at Monash Uni from the University of Auckland! I have a strong feeling we will meet again!
* I had a wonderful meeting with an academic in the Education faculty, who is biting the bullet and giving blogs a go with her Singaporean students, beginning end of May! I'm buoyed by this, as we will finally have a chance to evaluate how well the blogging process works in action!
What makes a good blog anyway? (Ken Smith)
Check out a blog conference underway in Sydney at present!
* The more I act the more I know we as human beings must enact our experiences for them to become meaningful! I'm really enjoying being a part of a small playback performance group at the moment!
* I'm gearing up to travel overseas in a couple of weeks. It's an interesting process shifting your mind from one place into another and back again. It's not just a border-crossing, but a transfer of mind and experiences!
* I'm thinking of my sister who has just flown to Costa Rica to undertake 10 weeks of community based volunteer work. Man is she gutsy! Hope you have fun and learn heaps girl! :o)

...and finally, a line from Freire (just coz it's Friday after all!)...
...while humanization and dehumanization are real alternatives, only the first is man's (sic) vocation (p.20, chapter 1, Pedagogy of the Oppressed).
Have a wonderful weekend world! :o)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Freire Friday (urr, Monday?) ... on revolution

(Well, I missed my self-imposed Friday deadline, so it's Freire on Monday instead!)

Freire said:
I interpret the revolutionary process as dialogical cultural action which is prolonged in 'cultural revolution' once power is taken. In both stages a serious and profound effort at conscientization is necessary. It is the necessary means by which men (sic), through a true praxis, leave behind the status of objects to assume the status of historical Subjects (p.128, chapter 4).

I thought it quite timely that I landed on this quote! Given our organisation's current state of flux under a restructure, this stood out to me. How I read it was like this...

...the revolutionary process works like a conversation which helps to define the actions undertaken, or enacted, by the memebrs of a community. In order for this process to indeed be revolutionary, memebers must be fully conscious and 'present' in their awareness of the conversation(s) unfolding.

In this way, only then can we truly connect with one another and engage in a reflexive process that enables us to reflect on our actions in the process, as it is occurring. We can do this by acknowledging where we have come from but instead of being stuck in the past and in hisotrical favourites let's say, we can move into new territories, trusting that we have learnt something from the past, rather than engaging in the same drama over and over again!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Freire Friday...on leadership

As soon as [potential community leaders] complete the [leadership] course and return to the community with resources they did not formerly possess, they either use these resources to control the submerged and dominated consciousness of their comrades, or they become strangers in their own communities and their former leadership position is thus threatened. In order not to lose their leadership status, they will probably tend to continue manipulating the community, but in a more efficient manner.

When cultural action, as a totalized and totalizing process, approaches an entire community and not merely its leaders, the opposite process occurs. Either the former leaders grow along with everyone else, or they are replaced by new leaders who emerge as a result of the new social consciousness of the community (p.112, chapter 4).

Leadership has been a buzz word for so long, I think we've misinterpreted it to damaging proportions.

For me, leadership is like a night out with dinner at a nice restaurant, where the waiter is the leader. You are greeted warmly and shown to your table...your chair is pulled out for you (nice extra touch that!) are offered a drink to start...the specials are explained in wonderfully appetising detail to are given a moment or two to chat lightly and collect your thoughts as you settle in for the evening...your order is taken (with the occassional nod of agreement, "nice choice ma'am") your meal arrives in its ala carte stages, while in the depths of mealtime conversation, you hardly notice the plates being cleared, your water topped up (the new knife by your plate to replace the one you dropped!)...all because of the attentive, yet slightly distant, waiter.

15 minutes of fame and glory just doesn't work in leadership!!

Educating the Net Generation...

Update: Go to my Apcala blog to access the short intro talk I presented at the session mentioned below. I'd love to hear your views on the topic! I'm rather more interested in the general learning and teaching challenges that arise with all learners, using a conversation like this (ie. about generational learners) to get us kickin'!

I'm co-presenting today at a new series of colloquiums at Monash called Learning Over Lunch. Today we're talking about Educating the Net Generation. It should be quite fun and my aim is not to provide answers (heck, I'm but one person!), but to encourage a lively discussion about coming to terms with the changing student demographic now gracing the university campus (virtually and otherwise!).

I'll post my short intro 'talk' after the session here, if you're interested to read, plus some links I've found worth a read...or a play!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Freire Friday ...on libertarian education

The important thing, from the point of view of libertarian education, is for the people to come to feel like masters of their thinking by discussing the thinking and views of the world explicitly or implicitly manifest in their own suggestions and those of their comrades. Because this view of education starts with the conviction that it cannot present its own program but must search for this program dialogically with the people, it serves to introduce the pedagogy of the oppressed, in the elaboration of which the oppressed must participate (Chapter 3).

I really think that we can blame others until we're blue in the face for the wrongs in our world and in our systems, like our education systems, for example, but it freezes any possibility of further, more meaningful, dialogue! We tend to blame our ministers and political folk for our wrongs more so than we probably should...after all we're they voted in by us the decerning public?! Sure, there's a need to rant and rave and oftentimes at these people especially (if you vote them in and they don't do their jobs, then why not?!), but when we use it to vent our spleens and not much else its pretty pointless don't you think?

So, if we want something fixed, need something now, are concerned about something important enough, we should get physical and act on it!

Where do we start then? I reckon, I'm pretty comfortable with having a "can do" attitude. Something needs doing and I'm feeling a connection with it, then I say, "self, go for it".

In what other ways might be find a starting point?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Taking the a-ha! moment to another level

Dave Pollard has fleshed out the AHA! strategy a little more with the help of comments from critics and friends. He has also included some insightful stories to illustrate how the AHA! would be used and to "articulate its unique attributes better".

It might be worthwhile fleshing out the AHA! Learning Curriculum too, as an exercise...stay tuned!

I am always bowled over by the approach Dave Pollard takes in his writings - something I admire and aspire to! Thanks for your insights Dave! In this latest post, Dave is looking to set up AHA! A Discovery and Learning Centre - "The means to get things done."

Dave has included a Session structure, a business model, vision statement, assests (human and physical0 and of course his inspiration for the concept. As always Dave seeks to walk the walk, above the talk!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Touching a raw nerve or two...

George Siemens spotted an article from the NZ Herald about the technological rewvolution takin gplace in higher educaiton and remarked that the article as with many in the past gloss over the real issues around learning in today's world. Seimens argues that the emphasis should be on relevance to today's learners, not on systems and tech-based "solutions"...and I agree! I'm just as annoyed with this article and many others out there, as George is! It begs the question of who is leading whom in the HE industry?!

Check out the article for yourself...what do you think?

Speaking of education going global, you might be interested in this upcoming conference to be held in Malaysia next year.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Friere Friday...on teacher as narrator

Freire said:

The teacher talks about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable. Or else he expounds on a topic completely alien to the existential experience of the students. His task is to "fill" the students with the contents of his narration -- contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance. Words are emptied of their concreteness and become a hollow, alienated, and alienating verbosity.

The outstanding characteristic of this narrative education, then, is the sonority of words, not their transforming power. "Four times four is sixteen; the capital of Para is Belem." The student records, memorizes, and repeats these phrases without perceiving what four times four really means, or realizing the true significance of "capital" in the affirmation "the capital of Para is Belem," that is, what Belem means for Para and what Para means for Brazil.

Narration (with the teacher as narrator) leads the students to memorize mechanically the narrated account. Worse yet, it turns them into "containers," into "receptacles" to be "filled" by the teachers. The more completely she fills the receptacles, the better a teacher she is. The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are.

How far have we moved in this view of teaching and learning? How has the role of teaching changed over time? What of the role of the learner in today's world? The last section is quite poignant I think - that to consider you have provided students with lots of information (filled them with information!) you are a 'good' teacher! If students are thus full of information, they must be good students...

...but what have they really learned?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Freire Friday...on manipulation

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Manipulation, like the conquest whose objectives it serves, attempts to anaesthetize the people so they will not think. For if the people join to their process in the historical process critical thinking about that process, the threat of their emergence materializes in revolution. Whether one calls this correct thinking 'revolutionary consciousness' or 'class consciousness', it is an indispensable precondiiton of revolution (Paulo Freire, 1972, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Chapter 4, p.118).

It seems the hierarchy of traditional organisations is illustrative of the class 'struggle'. Manipulation is a powerful tool and although it is often used in full knowledge of that power, it can also be used with little awareness of its power, which makes it highly volatile I think! Our lack of awareness of the common good which sits quietly as we yell and stress and carry on, needs still moments and quiet, supportive spaces in order to be heard. We have for too long neglected the common good in this way.

Perhaps on Monday we can think about listening out for the common good, to become aware of its presence again.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Peter Haeusler on 'Student Perceptions of Learning'

I'm really excited about hearing Peter Haeusler talk about student perceptions of learning at our next Pedagogy and Practice meeting! This will enhance my questioning from my previous posting on expectations versus perceptions, I'm hoping!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Perceptions of learning versus expectations

I've had this question playing in my head for a little while: when we talk about designing for learning experience what does it really mean? We tend to look to the learner for guidance on things like
  • learner characteristics (such as the general characteristics of the learner group or student cohort),
  • professional applicability (subjects like nursing, business, ambulance services, etc),
  • timeframe for the learning to occur (most often in the form of 12 week semesters), and
  • learner styles and context (based again on learner group/s as well as individuals).
This is by no means an exhaustive list of factors relating to learning design, but hopefully it premises my next lot of thoughts here!

So, how do we know that the learner knows what they want? In other words how do we seek to differentiate between the learner's expectations leading up to a 'learning event' from what they perceive they have actually learned? You might say well, one occurs prior to learning and the other after the learning - no? I disagree. Firstly the two terms are different in their use for one. To expect something is to have a preconceived notion of something; to be expectant, anticipating something. To me this carries a value judgement to a degree. An individual can hold expectations about a film where they may have read rave reviews, only to be disappointed on viewing the film themselves -- their experience was almost 'tainted' by the overlaying of their expectations shall we say.

Perception then is what you perceive something to be... To me this acknowledges the moment, as in 'to be'. We cannot perceive something unless we are involved in it! It is about observing, gaining insight, developing an understanding of something. It is becoming aware. This is worlds apart from expectation, which is more about anticipation and probabilities - it is more a measurement or a forecast.

Now to get to my point (taking the long way round!)...if we are designing in line with the learner's perception of how they learn (as well as what they are learning) then we are theoretically closer to designing a lived and embodied experience. We thus decrease the gap between the design and the actual learning taking place. Well, this is a good thing isn't it?! If we design for the learner's expectations then surely we're perpetuating the myth that runs counter to learning how to learn?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Apcala now available!

The team from ELGG have opened up Apcala, a shared blogging environment.

You can register for free and you have many features to play with, a personal blog, links to friends blogs, group blogs, you can also make up your own templates! The user-side features are many - you have control of your 'space'!

I've just signed up - I hope to make some use of this to trial a group of student teachers to develop a reflective professional development 'space' both individually and collectively!

If anyone else is using this for educational purposes, particularly in developing an e-Portfolio 'environment', I'd be most interested to hear!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Action learning, action research and performance management

I've registered at PARnet, a 'knowledge gateway' for action researchers around the world. It's part of the Cornell Participatory Action Research Network (CPARN).

It would be great if the site had a blog and/or RSS! I think their guestbook is getting spammed majorly!

Anyway, I'm always on the lookout for others who are doing research and undertaking action learning practices in educational settings, if this rings bells for you! I'm planning out my thesis and looking at relevant and manageable approaches, including a balance between well researched methodologies and new ways of research too!

One project I'm currently a part of, Global Knowledge, Local Learning is aiming to bring forward some new ways of doing research especially when we focus on learning and teaching experience, cultural aspects of learning and teaching and international education and what it means for one's learning and life experience. A phenomenological approach coupled with action reserach and reflective practice (in many forms including drama, imagery and music for example), can prove to be highly effective in research where we seek to uncover cultural nuances, personal experience and perceptions of learning and teaching.

I've also just popped my memebership form to ALARPM in the post! I've been meaning to do it for such a while now (sheesh!). I'd love to get to their conference this year among the mountains of other stuff going on!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Connectivism Portal

So here I am, c r a w l i n g to the end of a Friday!

I have just signed up to George Siemens' Connectivism Portal!
Tagline: "This site has been created to foster discussion on how our thinking, learning, and organizational activities are impacted through technology and societal changes."
Can't wait to play around there and there's lots of good ideas floating around from George and his counterparts. Thanks George for creating such a space - it's a sign of things to come in learning!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Connecting with others of intelligence!

Updated: 24th Feb, 2005 - addition from Headrush

Ken at Weblogs in Higher Education talks about a posting he read by a blogger, Dhar, on hiding the moves. Check it out here.

This relates to my earlier postings about Connected Intelligence and The Design Process. See, what goes around comes around! Reusing information! ;o)

I'm buoyed by the fact that there are others out there in the world who are thinking of the way we do-the way we be-the way we think! It's a nice connection...

Good timing from this post at Headrush - Creating Passionate People. Again, this applies to Dhar's thoughts about making things look simple - I am a visual person and really make lasting linkages when working with graphics or diagrams. I begin to see relationships between concepts, structures, theories, etc in this format. Not only that I seem to be able to recall things more easily where I possibly didn't before!

I still think it's important though that we also create a space in which people are able to experience things, not just be told or shown things. We learn much better by doing! The E-Learning Queen has much to say on this topic too!

From the balcony of the privileged...

I am in wonderment of our relative freedom of speech in 'the West' in light of this article in The Age about the plight of journalists in Zimbabwe:

Three reporters for major international news organisations have fled Zimbabwe and a fourth is apparently in hiding after police and intelligence agents searched their offices and threatened to arrest them for espionage and slandering the state.

The actions appear to be part of a campaign to suppress international coverage of events in Zimbabwe before crucial national elections on March 31....

Even this fairly short news story does not fully capture the gravity of the situation in which these journalists find themselves! We are so removed from this! News stories are being told with much more involvement of the journalist (remember Hunter S Thompson?). This example from a site called InteractiveNarrative shows how journalists are developing stories and breakiong down the line between objective journalism (if there is such a thing anyway) and participatory journalism!

What really captures me in this is that my senses get involved -- I am a sensing, experiential person, over being logical and rational per se. That is, I am more comfortable following my intuition than I am following logic and rules! Not that I totally disregard thopse of course, but it is my preference to rely on intuition and 'sensing' in order for me to feel comfortable in hanlding situations on a daily basis.

Online journalism asks a lot of us these days but is also quickly responding to viewers preferences in accepting news in various forms. I used to open my email program first thing when logging into my computer, now I first click my Bloglines to check for updates on my subscribed blogs!! Things change with your needs as they become better faciltiated by technologies I think...

...again, a rather privileged position don't you think? I'll leave with something by reporter John Donnelly.

Ciao from the balcony -- for now!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Is the future academy about connected intelligence?

Following on from recent posts about designing the learning experience, etc, I came across this great post at the Experience Designer Network!

I would ask: Are our educational institutions about developing intelligence? Or do they simply perpetuate the socioeconomic status quo?

Also, Ana Viseu writes about a connected intelligence workshop and argues for its relevance with references to Castells, Levinson and Olso, among others...and higlights
how Connected Intelligence as a practice fits into the landscape of the current theoretical discourse about the development of media and current concepts of the essentially social nature of intelligence. This fit of theory and practice is exciting and indicates potential of CI both as a pragmatic approach as well as a field for research.

And here's more about connected intelligence and its impact on the education system: Connected Intelligence Impact.

Sweat shop academies

Susan Smith Nash writes a very clever article about How to Eliminate Academic Sweatshops in Xplana (Feb 9, 2005).

Her suggestions are commonsensical and to the point. I love her comment about doing away with poorly designed LMS:

Get Rid of Bad LMS Design. Perhaps the quickest way to a sweatshop is to use a horrible learning management system that does not archive in any sort of effective way, does not integrate with online support services (the Oracle database, or whatever is being used), does not allow group uploading of files, and requires absurd levels of clicking between screens.

And I agree, that it is all too easy to nag about the problem - it IS about time we got in and did something about it!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

...and then there's this!

If the world DOES fall into social and indecent chaos, I want to be in Dave Pollard's camp!
His uplifting article titled "In the year 2045..." was timely to the current discussion on our changing social fabric worldwide!

Perhaps I'll listen and take notes with Tony Delroy tonight when he talks with his guest about Pain Management! ;op

Knowledge workers - the millenial academic?

Pink's article in Wired on the left brain-right brain paradigm, tells us that '... Peter Drucker gave ... professionals an enduring [endearing?], somewhat wonky, name: knowledge workers'.
What distinguished members of this group and enabled them to reap society's greatest rewards, was their 'ability to acquire and to apply theoretical and analytical knowledge.

Pink calls the new age of information the Conceptual Age.

This reminded me of a recent ABC Radio feature on Tony Delroy's Nightlife, with Demographer, Bernard Salt (Wednesday 9th Feb, 2005). They discussed the changing demographics of Australian society from the seachangers to the 'treechangers', helicopter kids, and more! They discussed the characteristics of the babyboomers, gen x-ers and the y generation (today's teenagers and early twentysomethings).

This is quite topical at the moment. Salt commented in reply to a talkback question that todays 'millenials' are not intersted in blue collar jobs and want to get into the business, IT, communications, etc white collar world.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Learning Space - new ways of knowing

It's funny, I've tried to write this entry three times over the last two months - each time it comes out sort of stale... new ways of knowing using new ways of communicating? There is a lot that is new, but old ways prevail often in terms of comfort, reliability (ie. better the devil you know!), habit...all those things!

I've decided NOW to post this - gotta get the prickly fuzzies out! ;o) It was while reading this post at Weblogs in Higher Education, that I thought well, this is kind of saying how I'm feeling right now... a little frustrated, perhaps even a little jaded? Maybe jaded isn't the right word - more 'challenged' and not knowing exactly what the best tool(s) is/are to get into the swing of dealing with it! [Hmmm, sounds like a Gemini trait to me!]...

Source: Regina Russell

...bloggers stretch their own job descriptions, making new things normal a bit at a time...

The same goes for those of us hoping to push the bounds of our job descriptions, particularly in academia. What will the millenial academic be like? What will drive them? What will they strive for? Who will they look to? History? The future? The here and now?

I think, with this second, more considered, wave of e-learning particularly, we have a great opportunity to explore new ground in light of our pedagogies and practices in teaching and learning. We're on the verge of new discoveried... that's if we don't drown under the growing weight of administrative tasks and job descriptions which read more like video player instructions!

OK, maybe it's not that bad, but managing these frustrations is important if we are all to perform our duties and still feel creative and enthusiastic about our work/professions. As an ed designer, it's important to transcend these frustrations to be able to work with teaching academics on developing possibilities that can enhance their students' learning. I'm all for opening the curtains and sliding the window open a little to let in the fresh air, rather than saying don't open the window the fumes will come in!