Monday, February 20, 2006

About procrastination...

Let's look closer at the 'procrastination' element of our work approach model...

Why DO we procrastinate? LifeHack takes us through some of the causes of procrastinating at work (which can be applied in daily life too no doubt!). Being Monday morning too, I'm feeling slightly 'mondayitis' and thus prone to procrastinating right now! :oP

According to Lifehack, we procrastinate because either
  • we don't like the task in the first place,
  • the results aren't immediate,
  • the work involved is too complicated, or
  • we feel concerned about failing the task.

I can see how each of these points can impact on developing an online approach. I also think that as human beings we put up barriers for ourselves too! I was reading a book last night called The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman (1984) and the protaganist in the story is told by his mystical teacher that in order to cultivate new (good) habits he must channel his anger in the right direction, because anger forces action. We must 'act', as LifeHack concurs, in order to overcome procrastination!
Conquering procrastination takes activity. And the keyword in ?activity? is ?act,? which is consequently a distinct action that we physically do or cause to happen.

I guess that means identifying the elements that bring on procrastination, for example, if a task IS complicated how might we break it up into manageable chunks? This is what I'm getting at with the planning model for designing an online approach. I reckon people don't give the planning stage enough consideration and often this is their downfall. Thus, people tend to comment that it's too hard, it doesn't make sense, the technology is to blame, and so on! Sure, some of this might be true, and often all it takes is a little time to develop an understanding, and, I think, through understanding we build the confidence to act. To forge opportunities for understanding, I see my job as offering a structured process to support this. When we see some progress it makes us feel good and spurs us - hopefully - into further action.

Right! ...back into it then! =o)

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Planning your approach to developing e-learning

I have been thinking more about the 5-way approach I described earlier and keep coming back to the planning factor. I come across Mark Harrison's article about developing a learning strategy master plan, beginning with Part 1, which talks about Alignment (to organisational goals).

At first, on reading Part 1, I thought it was too 'big picture' for a development model version of planning...but on reflection, Harrison's points bring me to a point I consider much in need of further discussion: if we are to really get e-learning into our mainstream processes and strategies and fundamentally shift our thinking in that direction we've got to get serious about learning generally! I guess I'm saying drop the 'e' altogether and consider learning strategies and e-learning strategies to be one in the same! Cos they are! :o) This is still a hurdle teachers feel they must continually jump and frankly, it's tiring! We still struggle with technical jargon and different practices for e-learning as opposed to "what we normally do" and this won't change until we take our current organisational processes and embed e-learning into them 100%.

People are doing this you say? Well, yes, but if you check out the recent work done by the AFLF Industry Engagement Projects, and David Day's research, the uptake of e-learning as part of an organisation's overall training and PD strategy, for example, is still minimal. I'm not wanting to bag anyone who has pushed for greater involvement and inclusion of e-learning into learning strategies (especially teaching and learning institutions for which learning is their core business!), more I'm simply pointing out that we still have gaps between what occurs on the ground with teachers and what management perceives is needed/wanted/really going on!

Which takes me back to Harrison's discussion about alignment. Harrison addresses 8 points against which you can check how well your strategy fits your organisation's goals (and what to check if it doesn't). These 8 points are:
  1. Confirm your Organisation?s Vision, Goals and Drivers
  2. Work Closely with Senior Teams
  3. Look for Areas Where Alignment Is a High Priority
  4. Always Offer What People Want (and Need)
  5. Make Evaluation Aligned to Organisational Needs
  6. Work Closely with Each Part of the Organisation
  7. Make Sure You Have Quick Decision-making Processes
  8. Match Training Spend to Its Importance to the Organisation?s Goals
So, back to the 5-way approach then...well, I guess it's about narrowing that gap between what teachers are doing and what management are thinking/planning. With the right support at both ends a common understanding can be developed. I think this is becoming more common as management is more willing to listen to teachers. Overall I guess we're really talking about the culture of an organisation. If there's a sense of 'can do' about the place, and at all levels, then tackling strategic development does not need to be such an isolating and sometimes divisive activity.

For teachers developing e-learning approaches this means simply being able to feel confident that their foray into educational technology is acknowledged, supported and part of the organisation's big picture stuff! Oh, and if it's about being effective with what you do, then here are some tips... :o)


Monday, February 06, 2006

A five-way approach to e-learning design and development

I was reading this post about 5 ways to improve productivity and began thinking about my constant battle to outline an approach in working with teachers to plan their online courses. I've always found this process hard to pin down, although I'm not a great stickler for systematic approaches! Having said that, I find I continually start from square one with many teachers, mainly because there's a need to get acquainted, as well as spend some time (however brief) attempting to understand how a teacher thinks and what their teaching habits and preferences are!

So, I'm attempting to represent some sort of workflow, based on my previous experiences with teachers, as a way to not only outline some sort of process, but to identify (for myself mostly) any gaps/omissions that might impact on the eventual design of the online course. Nothing is really foolproof, but I find the process of reflection a good motivator in keeping my personal work standards fresh and relevant. Here's a bit of a skeletal sketch so far...

The pentagon model above takes the five points discussed in the blog post at LifeHack and illustrates the fact that this is usually not a linear process, and the starting point depends on what the teacher (and myself) brings to the discussion at the start of a development project. For example, we might start straight out with a plan of sorts from which other aspects are then considered and in turn applied. I've kept 'Procrastination' there because it speaks volumes about the nature of work, human interaction and our own motivations! It's an important aspect that we need to factor into the process, because it is often caused by a number of factors, or barriers. I've included learning here as well; my reasoning is aligned with Maslow's hierarchy of needs. You can't do something if you have other more pressing needs to address first. Often in my line of work that has to do with either technology (and the varying levels of one's technical skills) or the fact that teachers are often entering unfamiliar territory when they approach online learning and teaching. Apprehension, anxiety, confusion, frustration, misconception, and busyness are all factors I think contribute to procrastination (and thus impact other elements like prioritising!) - it is an entirely internal thing that we foster as individuals! Other aspects outlined are prompted by those ever-present questions, 'what', 'how', 'why', 'when' and 'who'. Simple questions often result in informative and relevant answers. You can ask these questions over and over until an answer emerges! You can repeat these questions after receiving an answer to help refine ideas, as teachers (and designers) come to know the development more intimately (kind of like an acquaintance becoming more of a friend).

Overall, I see this an an active process, one in which all parties are able to reflect-in-action (or "thinking on your feet") and respond accordingly. This is a key part of developing teaching praxis and an understanding of what it means to teach and learn using technologies. This obviously doesn't happen overnight and is very much an iterative process (thus the spiral).

So, what do you reckon?

See also: Maslow's hierarchy of needs

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