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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Yesterday I was working on presenting a Word document into Powtoon┬áto demonstrate to academics different media in presenting information. Basically I’m trying to model the type of actions the project I’m working on is trying to bring about.

Anyway, I start by putting the same text of the document into the multimedia. I get to ‘slide’ 4 and am completely struggling. Why am I struggling? What is the mental barrier? Why isn’t this doing what I want it to do?

I go for a walk, get some water. and think.

Then, it happens. That moment where it all comes together. Oh! It’s different! Different media means different delivery. Don’t cut and paste from the document, think about the message in the document and then present it in the multimedia format!

Then it all falls into place. The message is the same – combine your delivery styles, don’t just use the same approach all the time, but it’s told in two very different ways. This of course has flow on effects for my thinking. We are asking academics to adopt new delivery techniques but have we told them that this means thinking about their message in a different way? Do we need to or will they just know? How do we scaffold this so that they can do it? I work with ICT a lot and it took me a while to do the brain shift (and I’ve done it before!!!). How do we best support people for whom this is a whole new experience?

Seriously – the more I think about this, the more I can see opportunities to support staff. But how do I do that with just me? Hmmm….to find out what I can leverage where!

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Thank you Steve for helping me when I was lost:

“The purpose of a university, for me, is to prepare students for what is today and what will be in the tomorrow.”

That means knowledge, skills and their workplace applications are important, but so is the ability to think outside the box. How does that fit into higher education policy today?

I was talking to a really amazing brain today (well all right, it was in the form of a wonderful academic who is seriously overworked but let’s not get into details) and it showed me something I hadn’t seen before. It was about how people think. She spoke about how creativity and ability to think outside the usual context are linked. She also spoke about a whole range of other things I’m not going to pretend to understand. I did say the brain was amazing.

Anyway, what does this have to do with anything? It has to do with why we teach. We teach for all sorts of reasons and purposes. As my father always says, people go to work for all sorts of reasons and it’s very rarely about the work. What this means is I’m asking the wrong question. I need to start asking why academics should want to teach and how can I support that to happen? I shouldn’t be thinking about why they come to work. That shouldn’t shape what I do. I need to think creatively about context and how that varies from academic to academic and how I shape their context to achieve organisational outcomes.

The brain also said you can teach people to think creatively. It’s about pushing the brain into the creative space and out of the comfort zone. It’s about driving home a different way. My job is to work out how to entice the brains I work with into a different zone. Any ideas?

It’s been ten days since my last post and I was hoping to be posting at least every second day. I was thinking today about why it’s been so long. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s about time.

When I get busy I forget to take time to reflect. You come home, you’re knackered and the thought of writing down what happened at work, let alone effectively reflect on what happened before writing seems, well, crazy. (I think that explains a bit about this post truth be told!)

However when I’m busy and caught up is the time to be stepping back and reflecting. Some amazing stuff has happened in the last 10 days including an awesome day learning about what other people are doing in the eLearning space and amazing work being done by academics at the university that continues to inspire and awe me.

For example, one academic has asked if we can start an undergraduate incubator for the students studying the entrepreneurship degree after they have put forward a proposal. This would be entirely online but provide students with a range of tools and mentors who could support them with a start up. How cool is that??? Now, can we actually do it?

But I’ve not been posting because I’ve been busy. I’m forgetting to stop and smell the flowers. I think this makes me less effective in my work and makes the busy, well, just busy. So tonight I’m tired and not able to think much more than I have, but I’m going to post again soon with a bit more analysis. Because I really think something’s coming together in my head about why we teach and why we learn, it just needs to percolate a bit longer. (And I need to be less tired!)

I’ve previously referred to my concern about asking teachers to not be just teachers but also administrators and everything else. This week it has become apparent through discussions that academics are teachers, researchers, administrators, staff managers, policy officers, information technology officers, and, well, human beings.

The interesting thing to me is that this list is a lot to ask. The happiest thing is that I get to support these various roles and work out longer term strategies to maybe reduce these roles per person, or scaffold programs/work flows to reduce the burden. My concern is that I won’t be able to help at all and if I do, in the mean time these people are working hard in isolation on their own solutions and may feel totally neglected.

I got lost in the paperwork this week. Next week I need to get back out there and talk to people. Find their solutions that are working and apply them to other situations and offer alternatives to them that are working elsewhere. My aim is not to come up with anything new. The academics are experts and have been surviving a very long time without me. What they are doing is working – we just need to share what works so we can fix areas that aren’t working well, or at all.

This situation in the university applies in high schools too. Teachers are trained to teach, but then they have to do everything else as well. Where is the training for that? How do we manage expectations? After all, it’s all about expectations.

I’ve been a bit challenged lately. Last week when I sent out my summary email to the team of progress over the week, I stated at the top “my head hurts, I think that’s it”. I’m still in the phase of I know that I don’t know, but I think it’s now in the whole how come I don’t know and when will I know or am I never going to know because those who know, don’t want me to know, or alternatively, don’t know themselves, they just keep moving forward because that’s a good option. But then, if they don’t know, how do they know it’s forwards?

Confused? Me too. I’ve had a very large range of administration experience. I used to be at one end of the spectrum where the rules were followed at all cost. I have seen some operate as if the rules don’t even exist. I think in the middle is the balance. I just don’t know where it is. I’ve spent most of my working life trying to find it.

Now I think I’ve realised it is different every time. For one person in one situation the balance will be in place ‘X’. But for that same person in a different situation it might be ‘Y’, or a different person in the same situation will be ‘Z’. In order to stop my head hurting I think I need to realise that it doesn’t matter where everyone else is, it matters where I am. What can I live with? What can I accept as the balance?

For this project, I am seeing so many sides of the experience it is mind boggling. And yet inspiring. I am seeing everyone searching for their fulcrum and more interestingly, unlike some other places I’ve worked, the search is happening. People do want to find that balance between outcome and administration. Following the rules and bending them to meet the best outcome they can. When I think of people in this way it makes it easier to work to their balance, not mine. Maybe it’s not that I need to focus on what I can live with, but how I can help others live with their choice?

Who knew this would be the best job ever? After all, how many jobs do you have in your life that make you think really hard about yourself and who you want to be?

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