Friday, March 31, 2006

Doing v Becoming

I'm so excited about this post from Explanazine. As someone who spent the better part of two decades as a classroom based trainer, the gap between practising a skill and applying it is an issue very dear to my heart.

During IT training sessions, I would often see people come to grips with features of Word/Excel/PowerPoint that they had previously not known about. They would become very excited about these features and see immediate potential for their use in their job role. However, it was not unusual for these same people to find themselves unable to recognise the circumstances under which to apply the skills or use the features they had learned.

Having an existing framework of understanding to build on, the more confident users without fail found it easier to take ownership of new skills than the less proficient user. Unsurprisingly, they were far more able to make connections between existing and new knowledge. However, even the most experienced and confident user sometimes hits a wall.

I have a confession to make: I have never "got" pivot tables. Let me just say that I lo-ove Excel. I think it's the finest piece of software Microsoft ever produced... by some margin. I taught it on many levels for many years. From beginners to power users. I even taught pivot tables. Many of my learners went on to create the most marvellous pivot tables imaginable in the day-to-day job roles.

The thing is, I never found myself looking at a sreadsheet and thinking, "You know what I need here? I need a pivot table!" I have this blindspot. I can't recognise the situation in which to apply this feature. I know what they are, I know how they're done, I even know why (sort of) - I just don't know when. Those learners who took away from my workshops the ability to create these beauties already had that when sussed. The figures they worked with on a daily basis cried out for a pivot table and, the minute I introduced them to the feature, they recognised that fact. Learning the skill was easy for them, since they could place it in context - connectivism again.

In search of the answer, I underwent every single piece of online learning I could find on the subject. The thing was - any JIT learning was aimed at the person who knew that they needed to create a pivot table, but didn't know how. No use to me. I enrolled on as many ILT courses as I could get away with in search of this vital piece of information. I even borrowed course manuals from friends and colleagues who had attended courses elsewhere. Sadly, every single one of them taught how to create a pivot table. Time after time I would ask the trainer what set of circumstances should make me think that a pivot table would be a Good Thing. It was evident that most trainers were in the same position as I was - they didn't know!

To this day, no-one has yet said the thing that will provide me with my eureka moment. I'm still waiting for that penny to drop. The doing bit is easy. I have "done" pivot tables on a monkey-see-monkey-do basis more often than I care to remember. I have yet to "become" on this point. I can so relate to the tale of Andy Giles.

The Tale of Karyn and the Pivot Table demonstrates that a learner will only "become" when he/she has taken on board the when and why, not just the what and how.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

What kind of worker are you?

For those of us trying to build a career while maitaining a healthy primary relationship, raising a family and giving time to hobbies and interest groups, here is an interesting quiz designed to identify what sort of worker you are. Unsurprisingly, I came out as a balancer - anyone who is trying to keep that many balls in the air is likely to have to have some balancing skills, I suppose!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I rest my case

With reference to my earlier post about generation M, with this link, I rest my case. I feel I want to stand up and shout, "Sheesh, get a life already!"

Iranian bloggers hounded out of town

If ever proof was needed of the power of the blog, this article must contribute significantly!

Gen M - are they too connected?

I found this article in Time thanks to George Siemens's newletter dated 24 March.

The good news is that:

Gen M students tend to be extraordinarily good at finding and manipulating information. And presumably because modern childhood tilts toward visual rather than print media, they are especially skilled at analyzing visual data and images, observes Claudia Koonz, professor of history at Duke University. A growing number of college professors are using film, audio clips and PowerPoint presentations to play to their students' strengths and capture their evanescent attention.
But this bit worries me when I think of the hours every day that my kids spend plugged in:
Although multitasking kids may be better prepared in some ways for today's frenzied workplace, many cognitive scientists are positively alarmed by the trend. "Kids that are instant messaging while doing homework, playing games online and watching TV, I predict, aren't going to do well in the long run," says Jordan Grafman, chief of the cognitive neuroscience section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
I regularly tell my sons to disconnect and spend some time relating to people with skin on for a bit. Talking, interfacing the old-fashioned way. I know there are those who would say that I'm not in tune with the KPI's of the coming generation. However, I would like my sons to be able to relate face to face, person to person. Without this ability, they are likely to experience relationship problems throughout their lives. I have uneasy thoughts of Sandra Bullock's character (Angela Bennett) in The Net. None of her colleagues had ever seen her face, so no-one was any the wiser when an imposter took her place. All her identity was online: it was where she did her shopping, ordered her food, conducted her conversations - she had no life outside of that: no relationships, no hobbies, no trips to the mall, no nothing. She had none of the personal entanglements that characterise us as human. I feel vindicated by the fact that:
Many educators and psychologists say parents need to actively ensure that their teenagers break free of compulsive engagement with screens and spend time in the physical company of human beings
Some months ago, I took a train from London to Milton Keynes - a journey of some 50 miles/80 kms. Two late-teenage/early twenties girls got on. It was peak time and the train was jam-packed, so the girls were unable to find seats together. They took seats about 2 metres apart, facing one another and proceeded to chat to each other on their mobile phones all the way to Milton Keynes. Ingenious? Sad! I'm sure they would have preferred to sit together, but failing that, they missed the opportunity to engage their fellow travellers in conversation. I have learned the most amazing things chatting to strangers in trains and have occasionally been able to give assistance to someone. I have established personal and professional leads and recieved advice on any number of topics. I even learned a little about being a sign-language interpreter - enough to renew my desire to learn sign myself.

By being permanently plugged in to the ether, Gen-M is in danger of missing out on opportunities that present themselves in their immediate surroundings. Most of all, they miss out on the opportunity to strengthen existing personal relationships and develop new ones.

The problem is not with the technology - it is with the people who make unwise use of it. The final paragraph of the article sums it up perfectly - it's about what we're not doing while we're plugged in:
"you are not having family dinner, you are not having conversations, you are not debating whether to go out with a boy who wants to have sex on the first date, you are not going on a family ski trip or taking time just to veg. It's not so much that the video game is going to rot your brain, it's what you are not doing that's going to rot your life."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hasn't it gone quiet?

I've noticed a distinct drop off in my Bloglines since Stephen Downes left the building :-(

The number of feeds I get every morning has dwindled, even allowing for the loss of his posts. It seems he served as a catalyst for reflection and response on a great many blogs.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Why people blog

Someone's opened a whole can of worms, here, and it's got people talking! I found the discussion via Vicki's blog, but I think the catalyst was Will Richardson.

Christopher Sessums then weighed in with this post, which has attracted comments from several people, and to which I added this contribution:

I think I'm not far from Barbara's blog to think approach, or D'Arcy's outboard brain. I guess my blog is my filing cabinet-cum-hairbrush-microphone.

Blogging allows me to record things I might want to come back to later. It allows me to reference stuff I might want to be able to find again. It allows me to get things off my chest. It frees me from the need to remember things, affording me a place to "put my knowledge" without fear of losing it.

You ask how we would be impacted if we didn't have any readers. The audience or lack thereof is the least of my concerns. I was in fact, quite surprised to learn that I had a reader. Then that one reader became two. I don't think that number has grown, and I don't really care.

Many of us, as kids, used to sing along to our favourite songs with a hairbrush-microphone, giving dramatic performances for audiences we knew to be be entirely imaginary. It doesn't necessarily signify a desire for recognition as much as a desire for self-expression. Those who give the wildest performances in the privacy of their homes would often rather have root canal than face a real audience. For those people, the imaginary audience is infinitely preferable. I often write as if I'm addressing someone, but that "someone" is in fact my imaginary audience. If it turns out that there is actually someone out there, great; if not, hey ho.

On the other hand, other people's blogs allow me to learn stuff I didn't know before. To find out what other people think about the things I'm dealing with. To enter into an exchange of ideas with people I would never otherwise have encountered. I don't know what motivates them to blog, but I'm glad they do!

I have worn my son's ICT teacher down and he has gotten the kids blogging. There may be those who don't engage and that's fine - it's purely another avenue of self expression and the exchange of ideas, I don't think anyone fools themselves that it's the only option. Some kids may find blogging easier than talking in the same way that some people dare to say things in emails that they wouldn't have the courage to say in person. As an extreme example: imagine the opportunities for eloquence to a child with a debilitating stutter.

The technology is there, it would be a shame not to offer it to people as an option, whatever their reasons may be for using it.

I don't know how other people came to blogging. I was introduced to it by a colleague who calls his blog his "second brain" - a little like D'Arcy's outboard brain. Initially, that was what I perceived to be the purpose of the technology. It was only my tendency to fulminate, and the gradual realisation that this blog was a handy place to do exactly that, that resulted in the evolution of this blog to its current state. Were I less opinionated, perhaps that change would never have taken place. However, expressing my opinions like this gets it off my chest and relieves my family, colleagues and friends of the need to listen to me waffling on.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The blogging revolution

Here is a post from Vicki Davis (Cool Cat Teacher) about her students' experience of and responses to blogging. It's exciting to see how this particular teenage learner has awoken to the revolutionary potential of blogging and has grasped the potential of her own contribution to the blogosphere.

Learning about learning in India

Yesterday I attended a meeting with representatives of the learning division of an Indian company. It was an interesting day of "compare and contrast". While many of their procedures and mirrored ours, they were very much more process driven and the approach to learning was vastly different.

I've read a lot about how India has become a hub of technology, if not The Hub of Technology in the modern world, churning out something like 47 engineers to every one from the United States (I can't vouch for the accuracy of this ratio, since I'm relying on my -possibly faulty- memory of a Tom Peters post I read some time back and can now no longer find). So, I was quite surprised at the nature of the samples of online learning we saw. There was a lot of whizziness in the introductions, like one of those highly animated PowerPoint presentations, complete with sound and flying text. The material itself was slick with high quality graphics, but the learner's role was passive. We asked about interactivity and were shown some assessment samples. The representatives were interested in our questions about hotspots, drill downs and tab screens, requiring the learner to interact with the material itself. Apparently, in India, the learner wants to sit back and be taught, adopting a passive role. Presumably this explains all the whizziness and sound - it's needed to hold the learner's attention. We were told that they are still very much married to the education model of the British Empire in the days of yore. From their descriptions, the push model is still very much in evidence.

Interesting in that it seems to work. Here we are with a system that has moved away from the "shut up and listen" model, thinking of it as progress. There they are still using it and producing (apparently) better results than we are. Urk.

One of the chaps has a daughter in Class 10. I have a son in Year 9. Last year, his daughter learnt SQL. My son dabbles in the shallow end of PowerPoint, Excel and Word. Hmm.

On the other hand, the concept of blogging and communities of practice outside of the confines of The Organisation was alien to them. They were fascinated to learn that I read some 20 blogs every day and exchange views with people all over the world. They seemed to regard this as almost licentious behaviour.

The work ethic also differs. Here, we are placing increasing emphasis on the work-life balance. There, people can be told at the the last minute on a Friday that they are going to have to work all weekend, and no-one would dream of refusing, regardless of family commitments. One of the chaps admitted that family life suffers as a consequence, but was quickly shushed by the others who seemed embarrassed by this revelation, as if it were an inappropriate line of conversation.

All in all, an interesting day in which a great deal was learned, not all of which was entirely relevant to the focus of the meeting, but will all be tucked away for future reference (by both parties I suspect!)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Team development

Yesterday, we had a team development day.

We looked at where we were in relation to the business plan and talked about the projections for the year ahead.

We talked about process. As with all teams, we find that we sometimes have communication and expectation issues. The challenge is how to deal with these. As a designer, I need to make commitments to my clients. When I do so, I make commitments on behalf of the production team. The thing is, I'm not really in a position to know what their commitments are and how they're set for work. This can result in my making promises that they can't keep. I guess it boils down to project management, which has been identified as a skill we lack.

We discussed the challenges facing us as the world moves forward and we have to keep rethinking the tools we use to meet client requirements. The existing tools are closed boxes and are not able to move forward to keep up with the changing requirements of the client. Our recent projects have required a move away from familiar tools. We're looking at eXe, which is an open source design tool. We've been using Etomite to build websites. This is a content management system - once again open source. I know not everyone supports the concept of open source, but for now these tools are doing the trick. An advantage is that the tools themselves are moving forward, as they are constantly being adapted and improved upon. I know some of my colleagues feel a little insecure about using something that's not complete. I guess it could be akin to standing on a bridge that doesn't quite reach the other side. Plus, of course, the user has the opportunity to contribute to the building of that bridge as they walk on it. I quite like the idea, although I can't see myself ever making a worthwhile contribution.

On the agenda for the team day was an item that piqued my interest: "Enjoy the freefall experience" it said. Hmm. My home town recently acquired one of these silo type things with the huge fans at the bottom, where you can experience a form of skydiving. Nah. Not enough time available. Could it be one of those dreadful teambuilding exercises where you have to fall straight backwards into the waiting arms of your colleagues trusting them to catch you? Gulp. All the insecurities well up - what if they conspire to let me fall? I can see that happening - my big mouth has ensured that I'm not universally popular. As it happened what had to freefall was not us, but eggs. We were given a list of equipment from which we were able to "purchase" what we wanted to use up to a certain number of points. Using these items, we had to construct something that would carry an egg safely to the ground when dropped from an upstairs window. Out of three teams, two eggs survived intact, while one cracked a little.

The object had obviously been team building, and we were grouped together with people outside of our usual teams. We also had to adopt unfamiliar roles in the process. In our team, the project leader more or less appointed himself, and fulfilled that role to start with. However, we all contributed to the design phase and it was all hands to the pumps when it came to the build, because of time constraints. So the division of roles was dropped pretty quickly in the interests of getting the product out. I don't think I need to spell out the implications...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Learning something new

I'm busy with the first stage of a project for a client at the moment. This phase involves transferring a printed managers' guide to employment practice online. Although my field is learning, as a website, this first phase is not directly learning-focused. However, it is knowledge-focused in that it affords the user JIT access to the current company policies and procedures on dealing with staffing matters.

During the scoping phase, the client asked that the material be divided into three sections: Policies, Procedures and Guidance. Policies, of course, would lay out the company stance on various issues. Procedures would provide information on how to observe the company policy in practice. Guidance would offer hints and tips, flowcharts and so on to support the manager through unfamiliar processes.

The website was constructed. The site architect decided on Etomite. He could tell you why. Me? I know nothing! I just trust him to know. He usually does.

It looked good and worked fine. The HR professionals who were testing it sang its praises. But something was not quite right. Don't get me wrong - this wasn't an Etomite problem. The site architect was not comfortable about the fundamental structure of the site. Would a manager dealing with a grievance for the first time, lacking the HR training and experience of the testers, know whether to look under policies or procedures (or even guidance) first? The site had a search facility, but to conduct a search on "grievance" would return too many hits to be helpful. Hmm. What to do. He felt that the architecture should be based on the issues arising: grievance, discipline, recruitment, flexible working, etc. He raised this point in various ways in a few meetings with the client, but she didn't bite.

Then three things happened in quick succession:

  1. My colleague showed the site to someone whose views he respects, who made exactly the same suggestion about the architecture that he had had a growing conviction about.
  2. The client sent in a list of amendments grouped by "issue": absence management, disciplinary, equal pay, etc. rather than as Policy, Procedure and Guidance. On a subconscious level, she obviously agreed.
  3. The client asked for the order of the related pages list to be changed... for the second time. She wasn't happy with the system by which users navigated through the site, but she couldn't put her finger on what was bothering her.
I took the bull by the horns, phoned the client and suggested a fundamental restructure of the data... at no extra cost. So I want to have a product out there that is intuitive, so sue me! I even agreed to do this work myself. She gave the okay. She even got quite excited about the idea.

Was I nuts? I know nothing about building websites. However, the chap who built the original site showed me how to edit existing pages, add new ones and delete those no longer required. Sheesh! It's a doddle. Even I could do it. It is a bit slow going, since it means working online all the time, but that I can handle.

Next time I see my colleague the architect, he will show me how to use key words and such. I know I have my work cut out for me, some of which is deadly dull and repetitive, but wahey - it's easy... so far!

So the basic structure of the site is being reworked. However, as a famous politician from my homeland once said: time are few. I'd best get cracking then!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

International Women's Edublogging Day - my views

Josie Fraser picked up on my reluctance. I think I have been misunderstood on this point. So let me explain myself. Let me also make it clear that these are my views and do not represent those of my employer or of any organisation to which I belong. I have two reasons for objecting to the International Women's Edublogging Day.

1) It is patronising. In some sporting events, competitors are separated out for good reasons. Women don't play tennis against men, they don't run in the same sprinting races. Why? Because they would be at a disadvantage due to the differences in physical make up. There are also separate sporting events for blind people, people in wheelchairs, people with Downs' Syndrome, etc. - all these people have different requirements and abilities and the events are adapted to suit them. It would be impractical to do anything else. Fine. However, there are some competitions where men and women compete against one another, because the men do not enjoy any natural advantage simply by virtue of being male. Showjumping, for example. To my mind, men enjoy no natural advantage in blogging or in education. However, by creating a separate "event" for women is to imply that somehow that we can't cut it on a level playing field.

2) It is part of a disturbing trend. For how long have women fought to overcome the stigma of sexism? Some women even died for this cause. Some still do in places where the battle has hardly even begun. So while I accept that the idea was never to "dis" men, I worry at the way women are starting to carve out "women only" niches. We feel okay about excluding men when we fought so hard for inclusion. We feel okay about doing men down in our advertising campaigns and the jokes we tell at work when we have seen to it that the reverse has become politically incorrect, and a litigious minefield. We feel that we are allowed to feel smug about the areas in which we are the ones with the natural advantage, when we have been at such great pains to explain to men that you can't take credit for something that is genetic. Women are great about taking care of women who have been physically abused by a stronger man, who takes care of the man who has been psychologically abused by a more manipulative woman? Sauce for the goose and all that...

Where physical (or other) requirements dictate, I accept that competitions need to be kept separate on the basis of gender (or number of functioning limbs, or visual acuity, or whatever). Where no such natural advantage exists for any group, I'm in favour of keeping the playing field level. The online community is the one place where we are (almost) all on an equal footing - as a blogger, I am not held back by any constraints of gender, weight, disability, age, appearance, race, religion.... the list goes on.

I am blogger, hear me roar ;-)


Monday, March 13, 2006

"Learners want control of their space..."

George Siemens has published this post about learning ecologies on his Connectivism blog. George is always readable and well argued. I am particularly interested in this section:

"People don’t want to visit your content. They want to pull your content into their sites, programs, or applications. This is a profound change, largely not understood by educators. We are still fixated on the notion of learning content, and we think we are making great concessions when we give learners control over content (and start to see them as co-creators). That misses the essence of the change: learners want control of their space. They want to create the ecology in which they function and learn."

I'm not sure that I agree entirely, though. At the leading edge, that may be what learners want, but I think many, if not most learners have yet to reach that level of pro-activity. In my team we define learners as follows: volunteers, conscripts and prisoners of war. As a learning designer, I still have to keep those POWs and conscripts in mind when I design learning material. Even within my own team, i.e. a team of learning designers, I would consider myself arguably the only volunteer. The rest are conscripts whose level of enthusiasm varies from person to person and waxes and wanes in each individual case.

What I do agree with, though is the notion that:
"We need to stop thinking that learners will come to us for learning content – our learning content should come to them in their environment." This is in keeping with Mark Weiser's concept of ubiquitous computing. Ubiquitous computing supports ubiquitous learning.

The most aggressive learning volunteers will always be pushing things forward and testing the limits of what can and can't be done with technology in learning. Perhaps they should have a title of their own: scouts? recces? Whatever they are, they lead the way for us bears of less brain who enthusiastically romp along in their wake, making happy use of the solutions they sweat blood to find. Thanks guys!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Creativity in the classroom

Here is an interesting article from The Guardian.

Anybody who has had any formal education knows that the teachers who took the trouble to find creative ways to teach were the ones whose lessons were most enjoyed and best remembered. I remember making a flower garden at the age of 9. What were we learning? Oh, we were learning a language (Afrikaans, as it happens). You see, everything we said in that garden had to be in Afrikaans. I also had to keep a journal about the garden, with a photograph of myself in the front. So the whole experience of having my photograph taken, choosing the best one and sticking it into the book had to be undertaken in Afrikaans. Another group of children kept a vegetable garden. This was the first of many projects like this: we baked cakes, bought sweets at the local corner shop, visited the library, played sports, created portraits using styrofoam and seeds... all in Afrikaans.

It worked.

Although my first language is English, I became sufficiently fluent in conversational Afrikaans that I was once chosen ahead of several native speakers to present an Afrikaans series on national television. Many years later, my Afrikaans neighbours asked me to help their twin daughters (aged 9) to improve their conversational English. Guess what? We made a garden, baked cookies, bathed my baby son, went to buy ice cream from the local corner shop, visited the library...

To Miss Evert, who became Mrs Taylor, wherever you are: you were the single most inspiring teacher I ever had. And not a computer in sight. Okay, so they weren't invented, yet, but the fact remains that creativity is not the sole province of the ICT-excellent. However, I suspect it is the teacher who looks for creative ways to inspire learning who will seek to find ways to use ICT to enhance their lessons. Could this be why English teachers are leading the way in educational blogging?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Stephen Downes has left the building

So, Stephen has decided to call it quits for a while. The edublogging world is understandably wearing sackcloth and ashes. I have to confess that most of what he had to say was too far outside of my weight division to be accessible to me. However, it was via links in his posts that I came into contact with many of the blogs in my Bloglines.

I can understand that he is feeling drained - was there ever a more prolific reader/researcher/writer? He's like a living, breathing aggregator with the added value of insight and opinion. Every day, without fail, my bloglines would show more new posts from Stephen than the rest of the list put together. It's going to be a much shorter task to catch up each morning while Stephen ejoys some R&R.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

International Women's Edublogging Day - my commendation

As my last post probably revealed, I have a problem with the implications of an International Women's Day. It smacks of sexism to me. Before I have another soapbox moment, however, and get sidetracked from the main point of this post...

I would like to commend Vicki Davis for all that she is achieving for technology in education. I am a particular fan of her Cool Cat Teacher blog. Although our professions differ in many respects, I am always inspired by Vicki's attitude towards her vocation (and I choose that word quite deliberately). I can't remember when I last heard a teacher refer to the profession as a "noble calling" which is a phrase that Vicki uses regularly and unapologetically. Would that there were more like her.

Friday, March 03, 2006

International Women's Edublogging Day

I think I found myself in The Open Classroom courtesy of Cool Cat Teacher. Anyway - I found this post and thought it worth noting. The idea is to post about women who edublog on International Women's Day (8 March).

I'm just curious - is there an International Men's Day?

Dealing with the dangerous

Here's a post from Cool Cat Teacher about children and the www that hits home.

I attended a parents' meeting with my son's teacher yesterday. I expressed my growing frustration that the entire class has had their email accounts suspended because some of the kids were sending inappropriate messages. This sort of kneejerk reaction renders me (almost) speechless. Did teachers swoop down and snatch away all pens and papers when kids wrote rude notes or drew rude pictures? How can we expect kids to become competent and appropriate users of tools if our first reaction is to snatch them away the minute they step out of line?

Giving guidance is hard work, whether you are a parent or a teacher. Taking the line of least resistance by removing all tools with the potential to be used for mischief teaches nothing. Before kids are given access to any tools, they need to know what to expect. While they are learning to use them, they need supervision. On an ongoing basis, evaluation and open discussion must be on offer. If we keep taking things away, we'll wind up back in the dark ages!

Okay - soapbox moment over... for now.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Work life balance

While we were in Sweden earlier this week, we spent a fair amount of time discussing working practice and policies in general with our hosts. It seems the Swedes are streets ahead of us in the UK. They really appear to have it sorted on the work-life balance/flexible working front.

Their maternity/paternity leave structure is great. A new mother, for example gets 470 days (I think that's what it was), which she can use in any way she pleases up until the child goes to school. However, if the child becomes ill and she needs to stay home - those days are not included in the 470 - there is other provision for that. The new father has fewer days, but he is also free to use them in any way he sees fit within a certain time frame.

Our hosts have a three year old son. They have their work lives arranged in such a way that Mom will start work at 7 some days, while Dad starts work at 9.30, having dropped the lad off at day care at 9am. Mom then picks the little fellow up at 4pm. Very civilised. The next day, Mom will start her working day later, so that she drop off their little boy, who is duly collected by Dad who had the early start that day. Either or both of them can choose to work at home at any time, and they often split the day between home and office - each taking half a day at home so that their son can spend time in his own home. Life revolves around the family, not the job.

In my current role, I have this flexibility as well, but I know that my team is very much in the minority.

My husband and I chose for me to work freelance around the children while they were very small. I then went back to work on a part time basis for a few years, returning to full time work when my younger son was 9. The job was 9-5.30, with no option for remote working. This was not with my current employer, by the way. The stated credo fo the organisation was "family comes first" and this phrase was regularly trotted out. But it was bunkum. On one occasion, during the school holidays, my younger son (then aged 10) took ill. I nipped home to check up on him at one point when he was in particularly bad shape, and was back at work inside half an hour to face a severe reprimand for having left without first seeking permission from my boss (who had been out of the office at the time). I could not promise that there would be no repeat because I knew, under the same circumstances, my response would be the same.

Some time later, she herself had a baby and her attitutudes changed. However, her original attitudes were informed by the general ethos among employers in the UK.

My husband, who holds a fairly senior post in a London-based company is not afforded the option for remote work. This is strange, because he manages the functions in four other countries as part of his job, and he does that remotely both from his office in London and from home when issues need to be resolved outside of UK working hours. So why should he not be able to manage the London function from home a couple of days a week?

We have a long way to go!

And speaking of clouds...

I recently heard that there are plans afoot for the creation of a wifi cloud over the city of London. Cool! Imagine being able to connect to your company network from a park bench.

I wish there was one over my house. I spent at least half an hour this morning with tech support, trying to sort out my remote access problems. They are now sorted, thanks to a very patient techie.

I spent a couple of days with family in Sweden at the beginning of the week and we heard that their trains are wifi-ed. In fact, our hosts told me that they get better signal on their laptops than on their phones. This in the land that gave us the Ericsson - I'm impressed.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Word clouds

A couple of blogs in my Bloglines have sported one of these on their blogs this morning. So here's mine. This was generated by snapshirts. A great idea, I reckon, not only to put on a t-shirt/mousemat/whatever, but also to see what a prospector would find if he sifted your blog.