Friday, June 29, 2007

Where is your third place?

I've just been listening to this podcast from the Learning Times greenroom, where Susan and Dan (sorry - I don't know their surnames, and I couldn't find a place on the site where they might be indicated) were discussing FOE2007.

Among other things they touched on the concept of "the third place". Susan had encountered it for the first time during the conference and, being unfamiliar with the term, Susan had sone what any sensible person in this first decade of the 21st century does: she googled it. Her interpretation of what she found doesn't quite gel with mine, particularly with reference to the use of the term within the church. Susan's view is that the third place is the place you go when you you're neither at home nor at work. If I understand her correctly it is her take that it would be the place which would be next on your list of priorities. In the light of this, it is Susan's understanding that the church is trying position itself as the third place after home and work.

From what I read in wikipedia, I would say that the third place is between rather than after: that sort of in-between place between two usual environments. So it might be where you work from when you are neither at home nor in the office. With regard to the church it would be the midweek cell groups that are the third place between home and the Sunday meeting (bearing in mind that when churchgoers use the word "church" they are referring to the people, not the building).

So where is your third place? I occasionally set up shop on the train or in Borders bookshop. Sadly neither of those places have wifi, so I have to operate blind at those times. When I arrive early for lectures, I also make use of the facilities in the staff/post grad room at university. Even there, though, the connection is a bit slow. Once, when stranded in London due to adverse weather conditions, I took up temporary residence in a corner of my husband's company offices

I go green with envy when I read blogposts from unlikely spots on the globe where some weary traveller has stumbled upon wifi in an airport, on a train (as in Sweden), in Starbucks, in a whole city.

Dilbert mission statement generator

Thanks to my soon-to-be-blogging colleague, James West for the pointer to this wonderful resource. Well, how many of the mission statements you have come across are any better?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blogging: In their own words

Via various.

I'd like to get all those reactionary teachers I know who see social media as a stepping stone to unmitigated vice, tie them to their chairs and force them to watch this. Do you think it would make any difference?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Deconstructing school as we know it?

Via various, this post from the Wales-wide web regarding the complete revamp of schooling in Merseyside. I'd be keen to know how they're handling things like staffing, holidays, assessment, etc.

It will be interesting to watch to see whether this model works as well in practice as many of the idealists and theorists amongst us expect (hope?).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

You gotta see this!

Ewan McIntosh has included a totally rockin' video in his post today - check it out. The folks who made it must have an absolute blast...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Spotting the gifted child

I recently stumbled on this site explaining how to spot the gifted child - apparently quite easy to do if you have a trained eye.

My elder son is not included in the G&T (gifted and talented - not gin and tonic) programme at school in spite of the general consensus that he should be, because he didn't score well enough on the test. As it turned out, he was ill the week the tests were taken and had to try to complete them in the back of the room during normal lessons on his return. This might have had something to do with his scores. On one level, I'm kind of sorry - the G&T kids learn thinking and learning skills. On the other hand, this kid already has so much going on in his life - do I really want to add extra lessons at breaktime (recess) to the mix?

The whole thing struck a discord with me on so many levels. First off, because the test was written. Allegedly, gifted children are impatient and just want to get a thing done. A written test is therefore probably not totally conclusive. Quite apart from which, there is no guarantee that a gifted child will be free of learning disabilities such as dyslexia which will hamper his/her performance in a written test. Nor is there any guarantee that a gifted child will not be one of those who goes to pieces under "exam conditions". They don't always have the march on confidence.

To be honest, I recognise my elder son in almost every point on both the positive and negative sides of this document, but I'd still like to know how they came to these conclusions. I was also tickled to see that the gifted child:

  • "Demonstrates strong abilities in math" - what if s/he's gifted as an artist, not as a mathematician?
  • "Displays unusual academic achievement" - how can this be the case if they're also "off task", "disruptive", "sloppy", "forgetful of homework assignments" and inclined to "leave projects unfinished"? From what little I know of it, it is just as likely that gifted children will underachieve - quite spectacularly at times.
I'd be interested to know:
  • How G&T kids are identified in other schools?
  • How reliable is this selection method?
  • Does it benefit or stigmatise kids to be included in the G&T programme?
  • Does anyone else think that this might morph into David Cameron's idea of a grammar stream in every school?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Constructs, perceptions and perspectives

A little over 50 days ago, the UK was rocked by a terrible piece of news. A little British girl called Madeleine McCann, aged not quite 4 was taken from her room in the family's holiday accommodation in the Algarve in Portugal while her parents had dinner a short distance away.

Thus far, all searches and leads have led nowhere, and the little girl is still missing. Everyone is carefully avoiding articulating the worst imaginings of their hearts (including me, so that's as much as I'll say on that point).

The plight of her parents has remained in the forefront of the British consciousness since that gutwrenching day, and people avidly follow the story, desperately hoping for good news, for resolution. This is illustrated by the fact that it is impossible to go anywhere in the UK without encountering a poster showing Maddy's picture and recounting the details of her disappearance. Ostensibly this is in order to encourage people to be on the lookout for the little girl with the characteristic anomaly in the pupil of one eye. The problem is that the posters are all over the UK. Maddy disappeared in Portugal. So I suspect that it is in reality a desperate attempt to fend off the sense of helplessness that we feel at being unable to change reality.

Many people assume that the entire European continent and beyond is in a state of equal alert. This is how we are about things that loom large in our perceptions. We assume that things that are important to us must carry weight in the wider context. We cannot, will not conceive of a perspective that does not take cogniscance of the things that matter to us above all else. Sadly, my husband's dealings with business interests in both Italy and France would seem to indicate that few people in those two countries are even aware of the drama that is playing out here and in Portugal.

I remember South African politicians during the time of apartheid defiantly telling us how the "eyes of the world were upon us" - upon this insignificant third world country. Perhaps they were right, but since settling in the UK and travelling abroad, particularly to the USA, I have come to doubt the truth of this assertion. The general populace everywhere I have been is seldom aware that there is even a country called South Africa. Many assume that this is a geographical description, and don't appreciate that the second largest continent contains over 50 countries. To most people, "it's all Africa, isn't it?" And yet, South Africa is the country in which the last 5 generations of my family have lived out their lives, raised their children, earned their living and been laid to rest. It shaped me, it moulded me, it nurtured me. I was born there, I was schooled there, I knew enormous heartache and loss, I found love, I was married, my sons began their lives there. My blood pulses with the rhythm of a cowhide drum. And when I left, although it was by my own choice, I felt as if my heart had been ripped out. No matter how long I am away, for better or for worse, I realise that the memory of it will always be home, long after the place itself has ceased to be. How can the world not know of this place? How can something so important, so seminal to me be a non-issue for the vast majority of people on the face of the planet? How can those who know little of it, not be desperate to learn as much as they possibly can? How can their blood not be stirred by the sounds of its music?

And yet, this is how it is. Little is known about Africa, beyond her own shores, even less about South Africa, other than the name of that greatest of all South Africans, Nelson Mandela, and the world is by and large content that it should be thus.

Similarly, the British population aches with the significance of Maddy's disappearance, while, in the rest of the world, it is business as usual.

I started this post with the intention of drawing from these accounts a few parallels to perspectives in learning and learning provision, but I find I have lost the heart for it. Please understand as I leave it there and allow you to draw your own parallels and analogies as you see fit.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Reflecting on Stephen Downes's Trends and Impacts of eLearning 2.0

I have just worked my way through a combination of the video of Stephen's presentation in Taipei, together with the slides. I suspect some of the slides may have been missing from the end, but by that time, I didn't need them anyway.

A couple of observational nonsequiturs to start with:

  • I noticed that Stephen was enunciating very clearly and carefully, especially at the start - presumably out of repsect for the fact that Enlgish would not be the first language of many of his audience
  • I don't know whether it was due to the setup of the sound recording system, but the audience seemed very quiet - no laughs, no heckling, no interruptions, none of what South Africans call "chirping from the peanut gallery". I imagine this is a cultural thing and, if previous recordings I have heard of Stephen's presentations are anything to go by, it must have been quite a novel experience for him!
Much of what Stephen had to say was not really new to those of us who have been involved in this amorphous conversation for the past while. However, it was interesting to hear it all packaged together and presented as a journey.

And although he never once mentioned the word as far as I can recall, he sang my song: the song of learner empowerment. I wax lyrical and come over all misty-eyed on the subject of learner empowerment. I have this almost protective passion for the learner, and I tend to husband their cause with vim, vigour and volume.

What really cracked it for me was the realisation that, in my current projects, I have been designing solutions that aim for exactly what Stephen is describing and I have instinctively striven towards all the D's Stephen lists at the end of his presentation:
  • Decentralisation
  • Distribution
  • Disintermediation
  • Disaggregation
  • Disintegration
  • Democratisation
  • Dynamism
  • Desegregation
Yes, yes and yes. All of the above. I won't bore you with the detail, but I could explain how my solutions tick all those boxes. I love it. So I tend to bounce all labrador puppy and jolly hockey sticks into the meeting with the client and all but shout "Tada!" as I unveil the concept. But you know what? They seldom like it. Much of the market doesn't seem to be ready to embrace 2.0 just yet. To them user-driven online resources are an information resource, not a learning resource. They want it wrapped for elearning. They want courses.

I am so sure I know what they should have, what they should do, but they have a different certainty - they know what they know... and they sign the cheque.

Scott Adams does it again

This is too good to miss! I haven't even read the rest of the post, yet, but the opening paragraph of a post rather dubiously titled Who Will Kill All the Senior Citizens, Scott Adams (he of Dilbert fame) provides one of those moments when all is right with my world:

"...I was doing some research on the Internet. And by research, I mean I clicked on a link that led me to another, then another, until I was reading something written by a stranger with no credibility. That’s how I learn."
Beautiful. Just beautiful. eLearning 2.0 in a nutshell.

I have nothing further to add - I must now go and read the rest of his post to find out if it lives up to that gem.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Some interesting 3D tools

My non-blogging (don't ask me why) colleague Brett sent our team the links to these interesting resources today. Some of them I have seen before, others are new to me, but it's quite fun to list them all together and think about their potential application within my field of corporate learning solutions design. I think I would need a client who wanted a fair degree of whizziness!

  • Google maps' interactive streetview feature - click the streetview button(c'mon Google peeps, let's jack that up to include a few cities outside the US - there's a whole world out here!)
  • Papervision 3D - this one gives me vertigo, like those virtual rides or the iMax, but it's quite fun
  • And the two examples at Blitzagency - I can see so many uses for the second one in particular
He also sent another link to some material on Microsoft Photosynth that I have so far not managed to get to work (note: it apparently only works with IE - being a Microsoft product and all) but many people have probably already seen this video of Blaise Aguera y Arcas's demo at TED in March this year. I like the fractalness (if that's the right word!) of Photosynth - it's a sort of visual version of what I understand Dave Snowden's fragmented narrative to be.

To paraphrase an oh so American expression: Have a great play! ;-)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Parent teacher meetings

Yesterday I attended parent meetings with some of my sons' teachers at their school, and the following are my observations of what transpired. Please note that I do not agree with the current system of assessment, but it's what we have, so I feel that it is important for my children to do as well as they possibly can under this system in order to be considered by the universities of their choice. Perhaps some people might see that as a sell-out of my principles, but I am not prepared to risk my children's future because the system fails to meet my expectations.

These curriculum progress meetings are designed to afford an opportunity to check progress. An afternoon is set aside during which 10 minute appointments can be made with any teachers a parent might feel that it would be of benefit to see. In my case, the meetings were all held at the request of the teachers. No fewer than 7 teachers asked to see me. No parent wants to know that no fewer than 7 teachers are unhappy with the performance of their children. I only managed to squeeze in 5 and will have to make other plans for the other two. One of the things I respect about the school is that these meetings are not only conducted with the child present, but the child is expected to be an active participant. My older son has always had the ability to speak up for himself, and he adapted very quickly to this concept. My younger son is still battling a little, but seems gradually to be finding his voice.

Nevertheless, when my older son's English humanities teacher made an assertion about the amount of work he was putting in and his lack of adherence to assessment requirements, he agreed with her. This in spite of the fact that I had seen him sitting and working his way through the requirements and ensuring that he had met them all, and in spite of the fact that the low marks he had scored had generated howls of "What does she want from me? I did everything she asked and it's still not good enough!" This says a great deal about how the traditionally authoritative role of the teacher is still in place in this supposedly non-traditional school. I pulled him up short. "Hang on a minute! This is a discussion, not a lecture - you don't have to agree." I prompted him to remember the things he had said to me about the work and the discussion took a more fruitful turn. We established that there was a disconnect between what he thought was expected of him and what actually was expected of him. He realised that some of the ideas he had had and rejected as being out of scope would, in fact, have secured him a higher grade on the coursework. It frustrated me that the teacher had not had this conversation with him much earlier, that my intervention had been required before his voice was finally heard on this matter. A plan of action was duly set in place and we hope to see some more positive consequences going forward.

Most of the other meetings consisted of this is where things are good, this is where things are bad (both my boys talk too much and lose focus in lessons - shades of their mother!), this is what is needed. I did not miss the opportunity to voice my concerns about the gradual decline of my younger son, reminding them that they were talking about a student, while I was talking about a whole person, and that pressurising an already anxious, possibly depressed child for improved academic performance was not going to bear results.

However, and this is the doozie, I learnt something in the last meeting of the day that rocked me back on my heels and is, if I am totally honest, the main reason for this post. My younger son had indicated something that was happening in one of his science classes and I was sure that he must have misunderstood the situation. This meeting revealed that he was absolutely on the money. It seems the children take regular tests, and are then seated in order of their scores until the next test is taken. So the kids with the highest scores sit on the front row, while the kids with the lowest languish at the back of the class. On one occasion, more children had higher scores than my son than had been the case on the previous test, and he was made to move a few desks down the pecking order, with a sad, "Slipping a bit, there" from the teacher. I was incensed. I thought that kind of teaching had gone out when I was a child (we had the same deal in my Grade 6 class over 30 years ago) or was restricted to fiction of the order of Malcolm in the Middle. Sadly (or perhaps fortunately, because I can't guarantee I would ahve held my temper) the teacher I spoke to was a different member of the team and not the one responsible for this atrocity. Not only was I angry for my own son, who is a fairly high-level achiever, but I was furious on behalf of all those kids at the back of the class for whom the results they got might have represented a major achievement in the light of their own capacity and potential. How dare she make them feel that their gutbusting effort to get 10/20 was less worthy than the child who sailed to an easy 20/20 without breaking a sweat? Can you tell that I am working myself into a lather all over again, just thinking about it?

I would be interested to hear from readers - particularly those who teach high school - how they respond to both the incident of my elder son and his experience of disconnected expectations and my younger son's science teacher's methods of motivation.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Physical and virtual - to divide or not to divide?

There has been a bit of a debate lately between Dave Snowden and Stephen Downes on whether there is in fact any difference between virtual and physical realms. If you use my links, don't miss the comments on these two posts. Dave also continues the debate here.

Both of these men are people for whom I have a high regard and of whose intellect I am more than a little in awe. They tend to operate on a different plane from me, and I often feel a bit like Hansel as I try to keep up with their reasoning, only to turn around and see that the birds have eaten my trail of crumbs and I am thoroughly lost!

Nevertheless, this physical v virtual concept is one that I have visited myself earlier this year (here and here). While I am not yet ready to consider that there is no line between virtual and physical. I do think that the line of separation has either blurred or moved or both.

Friday, June 08, 2007

This digital native/immigrant thing

On Wednesday night someone in the chat channel of the FOE2007 conference made a comment that caught my attention. The speaker was talking about digital natives, and the concept had the chat channel buzzing. Is it relevant? Valid? Will people who were born into the era of the computer be noticeably different from those who had to "migrate" to the technology?

Then someone said, by way of a metaphor, that we have all had TV all our lives. You know what? That's not true. TV only arrived in South Africa when I was in high school. 1975 I think it was. The National Party government fought hard to keep TV out for as long as possible - in fact, it was referred to as "the devil's box". When TV first arrived, it was heavily censored. So, if I am a digital immigrant, then I am a TV immigrant, too. Yet no-one uses that term. No-one thinks in those terms.

In 1982, the kids starting school in South Africa were the first intake ever to have been exposed to TV since birth. There was a flurry of interested speculation - how different would these kids be? Within a very short space of time, it became evident that they were not somehow magically more able to use the TV or interact with the content presented than those who were not born to the technology.

Is there anything at all about me that tells even the most diligent observer that I was born into a TV-less world, whereas my younger cousins were not? That they are natives, while I am an immigrant? I very much doubt it - our usage of TV is indistinguishable.

So I don't think the flurry of speculation about the divide between the so-called digital natives and immigrants will carry much weight either.

There is another analogy to draw from South Africa's late adoption of TV. They didn't start with the old black and white valve powered sets of the first world's yesteryear and follow the path taken by the trailblazers. They jumped straight in with state of the art technology and (for one thing) their sports coverage was recognised as being world class, pretty much from the off.

I see no reason for things to be any different in respect of web 2.0 technologies either. Why should late adopters have to start where the innovators and early adopters did? They'll jump straight in at the point that these leaders have reached, and pretty soon be indistinguishable from them!

Why not?

Growing up - will I ever get around to it?

Years ago, my mother read a definition of youth as that stage in your life when you take umbrage at perceived injustice whether or not you are the victim. I distinctly remember her declaring that by that definition she was still a youth. I am probably at least as old now as she was then, and I guess that I, too, am a youth by that definition.

That said, I don't know that I agree with the definition, I think youth is more likely to be a time when your self absorption is often a hindrance to noticing injustices to others. Don't get me wrong, there are good reasons why teenagers are self-absorbed and it is a normal and natural phase of growing up.

But when do we get to the end of those "phases"? When can we categorically say that we are grown up? My sister in law considers me very grown up. She says so often and she gets in touch with me when she wants a grown-up opinion on something. She is 9 years older than I am.

When I was 16, I used to say, "I am looking forward to being 30. I reckon at 30, you know who you are, you know what your limitations are, and you are comfortable with them." I was 30 a long time ago, and it is true that I had pretty much made my peace with what I was and what I was not by that time.

What I only recently came to appreciate is that it is one thing being comfortable with your limitations. It is quite another to be comfortable with other people's recognition of them!

Yesterday, I was having a discussion with my line manager about a difficult project that I am working on. I said that I felt that part of the problem was that I am not politically astute. I have mentioned before my tendency to naievete in dealing with people. Also, because of the lack of boundaries in my life, I tend to speak to clients the way I do to everyone else. Some clients really like that - they feel they are dealing with a "real person". Others presumably find it unprofessional - whatever that means - because my boss responded to my remark that there had been "feedback to that effect". And that was when it got weird.

I know that I am not politically astute. I know that I take everything at face value. I know that I am naieve. I know that I have neither the head nor the stomach for corporate politics. That I am not skilled in the art of detachment and the professional facade. That I take it all too personally. It has come up before, usually at my instigation. But when my line manager said those words, my instant reaction was that I was hurt. I wanted to defend myself. To deny the very thing I had just said myself. How daft. I had to remind myself that I had fed him the line - he was simply agreeing with my judgement of my limitations. As my manager, it is part of his job to know my strengths and weaknesses and to support me in both.

So I guess I'm no so grown up after all. Blast!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Playing the education system...

Note: this is a personal anecdote/reflection

My sons are both in their teens and attend the local high school. It's a huge, non-selective school, which means that there are no entry criteria, other than proximity to the school. In theory I support so many of their forward thinking approaches, but...

My elder son is now in his third year, and is doing pretty well. My younger son, in his first year there, is drowning.

My elder son is one of those internally motivated kids who goes after what he wants and sits very firmly in the driver's seat of his own life and takes nonsense from nobody. He is also one of those infuriatingly blessed people who is good at almost everything he turns his hand to (except singing - only don't tell him I said so) and knows it! He is brilliant at sport - competing for the district in many disciplines, played chess for the county team, plays the electric guitar, has a physique to die for and is set to score As pretty much across the board in his GCSEs.

My younger son suffers from anxiety and stress, lacks confidence and tends to be a reactor rather than an initiator. He gets bullied at school because of his funky clothes and long hair (well past his shoulders). He isn't keen on sport, has to work hard to get good results, and buckles under when things go awry. Since he started at this school we have had to bring in both the school authorities and the police due to bullying, and his academic performance is slipping. We find ourselves taking issue with teachers on a regular basis and the whole thing is becoming very hard work - like wading through treacle!

So we decided to look at some alternatives. Today we went on a tour of a "grammar school". There aren't any of these in our town, so this option would mean traveling out of town to a different authority. It would mean a different exam board. But kids from grammar schools tend to get into better universities - or so we have been led to believe. We were surprised to be very impressed by the school, because it is steeped in tradition (about 400 years old), but they seem to be very adaptable. However, because they have entrance requirements, the boys would have to take tests and be interviewed. Moreover, the school can choose who to test. Based on his CAT predictor scores it seems unlikely that our younger son will even be allowed to take the test. Ironically, every alternative approach we have looked at looks like a good fit for the kid who takes a proactive approach to life, and this was no exception. I say "ironically" because it is for the other kid's sake that we keep looking.

So now we have a quandary. Do we stick to our principles or do we play the system to our kids' advantage? Bearing in mind that he is likely to do well wherever he goes, do we move our older son to a school that is seen to be elitist because he can get in there, and he will attract the attention of better universities, even though it seems our younger son won't make the cut? Do we keep our older son in the current system just because his brother can't go anywhere else?

Why does it all have to be so fraught?

Don't take it so personally!

This is an instruction I have received many times during my working life. In my performance appraisals, diplomatically striving not to be critical or prescriptive, my manager says, "You tend to take things very much to heart," which is probably a different way of saying much the same thing.

As I have said in previous posts, I have trouble with boundaries. Increasingly lately, I have found it difficult to identify where my work ends and my studies begin, where this blog ends and my job begins, where my job description ends and my hobbies begin. Perhaps if I were a surgeon, it would be easy to know when I was working and when I was not. The line might be a little clearer (although I'm guessing, obviously). But I am a learning professional, a professional learner, and a wild-eyed learning zealot in my spare time. I invest myself in everything I do, so it is impossible not to "take it personally" - it is personal.

When my client implies that I am being underhanded and trying to subvert his agenda, I take that personally. I see it as an affront to my integrity. When a learner says, "look what I can do since you taught me such-and-such," I walk on a pink cloud for a week. When I learn something new, I bounce into the office and try to televangelise the eye rollers.

Perhaps it's arrogant, but I guess I have a hard time persuading myself that they are right and I am wrong, that there should be clearcut boundaries between who I am and what I do. And until I am persuaded, I guess it is unlikely that I will change - we don't take ownership of learning we don't believe in, after all. So, for the foreseeable future, at least, it seems I will continue to be told, "Don't take it so personally!"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fragmented narrative: practising what we preach

Last night, I attended some of the FOE presentations. Sadly, my hayfever meds knocked me for six, and I missed Sugata Mitra and the first half of Chris Sessums. I was glad to pick up the balance of Chris's session, though. As ever, there was a lot of action going on in the chat room.

I have already posted on my sadly lost state during Dave Cormier's presentation. Hopefully a few of us will arrange a UK based get together to see if we can fill the gaps in our understanding there. You haven't forgotten have you, Martin?

It's the next presentation I want to focus on in this post, and I'm a bit trepidatious about this, because I just know that I am going to offend people here! Dave Snowden talked about a variety of issues, and I would be hard-pressed to give a single title to his presentation. He touched measurement and reward; the concept of tacit v explicit knowledge; innovation v orthodoxy; the disconnect between the real and the virtual; validation; scale; cognitive development. But my (possibly biased) perception was that the greatest emphasis fell on the concept of fragmented narrative - the notion of the learner constructing content from fragmented narrative (such as blogs).

The struggle for me was in the disconnect between the excellent message and the style of presentation. Dave's presentation was delivered in a largely didactic, brooks-no-argument style which seemed to be at odds with the message he was delivering. Of all the Elluminate presentations I have attended, this was the one with the least traffic going on in the chat panel during the presentation, and such questions as were raised there were answered very decisively by Dave himself, rather than generating discussion, observation and debate from the community. Many of the people attending are known to me from previous sessions of both this and the Connectivism conference, and I have never known them to be so inhibited (would cowed be too strong a word?). There didn't seem to me to be many fragments on offer.

I have no pithy observations or clever suggestions to make, but this has been nagging at me, so I felt the need to get it out in the open. To be totally candid, I feel as if I am being, well -too big for my boots to question such a respected figure, but I'm taking a deep breath and stating the case as I see it. I invite observations, refutations and responses from all perspectives... as ever, happy to be dissuaded!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Lost among the pageflakes and snowclones

Dave Cormier's session on the Future of Education Conference tonight was called Snowclones, cliches and memes. I wish there had been more time for this session, so that he could have started a bit further back, and built up to his picture more gradually. It looked really exciting, but I honestly felt just the way I do when my husband's family lapses into Swedish and gets animated. I don't have enough of the language to be able to keep up with the conversation, to appreciate the jokes.

Perhaps if his demo site hadn't observed Murphy's Law and broken just at the wrong time, I might have had an "aha moment", but I'm feeling lost and annoyed with myself for lacking the capacity to grasp what was going on.

Friday, June 01, 2007

This blog, my PLE?

On 25 May, Stephen Downes expressed his view of blogs, Wordpress blogs in particular, as PLEs. Now this is not a Wordpress blog, and I'm not quite so clever with plug-ins, but I get his point. While this blog is by no means my complete PLE, it is an important part of it. As is my aggregator list, my protopage, my cocomment conversations, my Ning networks, the discussion forums on my university WebCT and my email inboxes among other things.

The thing is, though, that I wonder when the term "environment" got hijacked to mean an online environment. Jay Cross picks up on this to a measure in his comment on Stephen's post (BTW - as ever, the conversation going on in the comments is as much worth reading as the post itself). I consider my office, my television set, my university classes, team development days, conversations with my far cleverer colleagues (both on and offline) to be a part of my PLE.

Hey, you know what? If I stop to think about it, I guess my whole life is a PLE. Forget lifelong learning, can I coin the term "lifewide learning"?

What I will say in respect of blogs is that two years of blogging has taught me more, changed me more, stretched me more, and opened more worlds up to me than all the preceding years of professional practice put together. Long may it last!