Monday, February 02, 2009

Going anonymous

I can't decide what to put in my profile.

Its a problem because I do want to contextualise what I write and yet by doing so I may need to be more conscious of the sensitivities of those readers for whom such contextualising might be uncomfortable. At least if the context is obscure this cannot happen - and I guess that's the main thing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reflection on reflections - a look in the mirror?

From time to time something makes you stop and have a look at what you've been doing and makes you ask the usual questions beloved of systems analysts ... the where, why, who, how, which and when type questions; and that is where I find myself as I type and, ironically (or is it), concerning what I'm actually doing now.

At the moment one of the large questions looming is 'where'. Should a reflective journal of this nature, i.e. where I brain dump, be in the 'public domain'? To what extent is this blog public? Hmmm. I'm not hiding it from the 'public' but neither have I advertised its presence. Anyone who has visited in the past and finds some entertainment, empathy for or synergy with my thoughts may perhaps be a continuing reader ... but would anyone come looking for my views? Does this matter? Should this curtail my thoughts? Should I stop writing with a natural flow and edit my reflections?

How would the situation differ if my journal was of the Noodle variety? Would that be more or less public? I would feel that my writings were more public since Noodle areas are a focus for a learning community whereas I think it unlikely that the majority of learners would venture this way. I would feel self conscious and moderated and then the whole notion of reflexivity would be lost as I became a writer for a community view rather than a writer for my own development. So why not keep it all to myself? Simple ... I would't feel a responsibility to my self, the motivation would decrease ... and as I write I can't think why.

I've got a bit bogged down here and my five minutes of brain dump must have run out some time back. I've got a few meetings to attend/orchestrate/drink caffeine for and so I will come back to this train of thought later.

And I guess that tells myself that I haven't convinced myslef not to continue with this blog! Hummm!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Revisiting the Module Handbook and refining ideas

Yesterday I started to put together some reflective thoughts on the kiwi activity, with much of the first section leading me to question whether or not the activity was an 'epistemic game'. I visited David Schaffer via Spotlight and watched the 'movie'. There was an emphasis on fun within learning and motivational design which, within the context of our kiwi activity, has somehow eluded me. A couple of us discussed this further courtesy of Facebook and concluded that the kiwi activity in itself did not fit with our understanding of the concept of 'epistemic games' therefore either we need to better said understanding or revisit the activity as planned by the course team.

This morning I revisited the Module handbook and found that the wording on page 7 opens the original design of the activity to include 'innovative technologies such as wiki'. There was such an emphasis on the use of the wiki from within our noodle community that the wording in the activity descriptor was lost. It might be interesting to revisit the community and try to establish where exactly we lost the emphasis ... I know I certainly did ... and this loss had an impact on instrinsic motivation potentially due to a percieved imbalance in symmetries of knowledge (Dillenbourg, 1999).

OK - so .... if we are looking at 'innovative technologies such as wiki', could the activity be described to engage participants in a way such that there was fun and some aspects of motivation. I guess the answer has to be partially. The focus on the wiki was a demotivator (for me) but I worked in a group whose core comprised two peers with whom I had enjoyed considerable interaction through social networking media and in whom I had (and have) considerable trust ... and I looked forward to engaging with them academically ...that aspect was motivating. We chose a topic which would benefit ourselves (motivating) but did not have adequate time to address the development of the topic fully (potentially demotivating), and had to request an extended availability of the kiwi so that we can continue to develop content (motivating). Skype was fun. We made progress and had a laugh. Sundays will never be quite the same (thank you John)!

We took roles ... Debbie was a very able Chair and kept us in order (and in a permanent state of surprise at the speed of her typing), Justin and Barry were brilliant resources and John a catalyst (making us think differently and more deeply). So what role did I play? Hmmm. That's a harder one and requires a little more thought perhaps....

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A post Christmas update

The meeting due to take place on 17th didn't happen ... and due to the very aspects cited in my last blog post, I suspect. There has now been a complete breakdown in communication through that channel and it will be necessary to work to develop alternative channels or to reconstruct the original. How to do the latter beats me almost entirely at this point in time ... and I guess, since it wasn't from our end that the cancellation of the meeting occurred, it must be supported by all parties - in principle at least.

Preparation for Christmas was hectic though enjoyable - made all the more so by doing the preparatory 'work' both co-operatively and collaboratively ... though there are always aspects to these things that have their tricky sociocultural aspects. Nuff said. Unfortunately exhaustion of a type hit soon after the last 'official' Xmas visit and laid me low for a few days. This has really been the first day that I've had any inclination to be reflective or even creative from an academic perspective. This too is likely to be hijacked as 'famerlee' matters take over from tomorrow for a couple of days. So I guess I need to make the most of today.

Am going to start on my report today. I was telling two of my colleagues about the potential structure of the report (as I have conceptualised it so far), one on FB and the other on Skype ... and the discourse helps, though I am having trouble with the 'so what' factor here - how exactly did it help; what was the nature of the help; how did it add value to my thought process? Maybe it didn't help. Maybe it just provided me with a platform to vocalise my intentions which in return made them more concrete and less conceptual. Hmmm. Food for thought.

Going now ... back later.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One post, many thoughts

Today is the first day that I've been able to make time to update this blog ... so much seems to have happened. I just hope I can recapture the essence of some of the events, and my reflections on them, since last I blogged.

I've been involved in both annual moitoring discourse and self assessment validation meetings, all of which provide huge scope for reflective practice ... and yet again and again the 'so what' factor keeps coming through. The 'so what' factor' is, for me, an indication that the impact of an action or consideration had not been sufficiently clearly expressed.... and it occurs to me that when I come back to use my reflective blogs to write up a report on the kiwi activity that I need to be aware that not all my postings have had a 'so what factor'. I wonder why that might be ... is it because when writing for oneself you just record the feeling - or have I gone further than that? I don't know ... I haven't yet looked back - and deliberately so. In our report we are asked to reference relevant literature and I guess I will be looking at the 'so what factor' there too. And then of course I have to think of another mini-project. Wooooo, urgh!

Three of us have been working hard, with the help of other colleagues, to resolve a data anomaly that was of the appropriate potential severity to cause sleepless nights for at least two of us. The work started in a co-operative fashion, through data cleansing and updating and causal and comparative analyses ... and the situation seemed to improve. It was only, however, through collaboration that we solved the problem; we constructed sufficient knowledge to understand more clearly the underpinning issue, were able to benefit from the co-operative work and collaboratively find a solution to the problem. (And I slept on Friday night). I dont feel we have sufficiently problematized Action Research to be following that pattern in the kiwi to date; maybe this is because our initial knowledge base did not have sufficient grounding to anable more than co-operatiion in the first instance. This is where longevity of the activity will help - and I'm so pleased that we are to be allowed to continue our work on this area. As we start to consider personal/professional applications of Action Research we will be better able to problematize the construct and thus collaborate more effectively on 'solving the problem'.

Yesterday I ran two identical staff development sessions which at one point asked participants to consider 'risky' activity i.e development outside their comfort zone and with a knowledge that their own skills would be challenged. In both groups, despite their very different approaches to the activity, the notion of Action Research as a potential change agent came through. This is really exciting for me as we have hitherto supported only individual research projects. Encouraging innovation through participative and iterative research activity will be very exciting. I will need to be more aware of the critiques if we are to monitor progress in these areas. Wooo!

There's other stuff too ... but I can't write about it here. I'm not sure as yet how it has benefited me (from a reflective point of view). I do, however, have a very difficult meeting tomorrow morning with some of the two-legged sources of the problem. I am not sure how this will work as in theory we should be both co-operating and collaborating and yet the former has broken down completely. This leads me to consider the role of trust (as well as symmetries) in collaboration. Justin (I think) has mentioned this before and certainly our group has discussed getting to know peers and develping trust as being an important aspect of collaborative activity - but is it a pre-condition? Does co-operation allow a test of trust before collaboration? Hmmm - food for thought ...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Letting off steam

Today I'm tired. No, let me correct that - I feel completely shattered. Juggling soap has been the order of the day (thanks Debbie - that expression has been sooooo useful) and the multiple identities of worker, mother, student and partner have become too fuzzy round the edges to retain any aspect of complementarity.

The activity on which we are working is not well timed; this is not to say that it is not timely but that the constraints on time for the activity are frustrating in the extreme and might only work effectively for a full time student cohort.

We have generated huge quantities of reading and I am struggling to get through anywhere near the amount I feel appropriate ... though these will provide a very useful resource for future reference. The saving grace is the determination amongst our group to maake the activity serve our own purpose - a decision made in the context of a lack of clarity of required outcome. But then that's part of the game.

We suspect that we may be part of some Action Research and we know that we have been asked to participate in research interviews in the latter part of this module; is this part of the same activity?

My group is great. We have had a couple of Skype sessions which have provided for both work and fun too. This is all part of the hidden agenda ....

Too tired now and this posting is probably full of errors - but hey - that's a free writing journal for you!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Group dynamics, symmetries, synchronicity et al

The kiwi activity is making me think about group dynamics - a topic also in my thoughts at work - and the way in which the composition of a group can impact on learning and/or working. A balanced group, in terms of accessibility, motivation, knowledge, cognitive and transferable skills with mutually satisfactory levels of synchronicity can make collaborative (or co-operative) activity work well. Imbalances in any of these aspects can adversely affect the group dynamics and thus the effectiveness of any resultant activity.

I decided to have a look at the wiki changes for each of the group kiwis today and it showed an interesting tale. I wouldn't want to make any conclusive comments relating to the histories but suffice to say that the balance of each group differs not only from group to group (level of output, organisation of wiki et al) but within each group ... and I have to wonder whether perceived symmetries (Dillenbourg 1999) between group members has been one of the impacting forces.