Blog Secret Santa…unwrapped

This year, I participated in Blog Secret Santa: “Just like regular Secret Santa, but for blogs”. If you’re unfamiliar with the ‘secret santa’ concept, it’s a group activity which involves anonymously giving a gift and receiving one back. And so it was with Blog Secret Santa: after registering and choosing a group to join (I chose the ‘Learning & Development’ group), I received an email in the first week of December with the name of the person I was to write a gift post for. We all had up until midnight Christmas Eve (GMT) to write our post; then on Christmas Day, received an email containing our gift post, from an anonymous blogger, to publish on our own blogs.

Here is the one I received. I haven’t figured out who wrote it yet…and I don’t think I’ll go digging. Not knowing somehow adds to the mystery and magic of Blog Secret Santa (that said – I was a tad too obvious with my post and the person I gave to figured out I wrote it! I’ll have to leave fewer clues next year…)

*****

Now What? I Found A Better Way Out

It’s Friday night. I’ve met my partner at her work. We walk across the road to the car park.
I’m handed the keys. I open the door for her. I get in the driver’s seat. I start the car.
To my left are two exit signs. I choose the one closest to me. I start to drive out the exit.
At the end of an exit is a parking attendant. He summons all his authority in his right hand and deposits it on me with a stop signal. I stop.
He says, “Don’t you know you’re using the wrong exit?” I think to argue, turn the car around and reenter the car park.
I choose the exit sign furthest from me. And leave the car park.
My partner just shakes her head at me and says, “We don’t do things like that around here.”
We laughed but it was serious.

What has this to do with learning and development you ask?

It illustrates a potential problem with learning and development in organisations.
What if you educate yourself and find a better way of getting out of the car park?
While learning and development in organisations still remains under the control of the organisation, course content and context can be tailored to satisfy organisational objectives. An example of this is the induction course which sets out the required expectations of employees. Another example is the information technology courses required to enable the introduction of new software. The philosophy behind these courses is pedagogical, imparting the knowledge, skills and attributes to enable learners to carry out certain functions or roles.

Even the introduction of more innovative training methods can create resistance. An example was that of an organisation who was introducing training using more facilitative methods. The intention of the training was to change attitudes of people who worked very closely with others who were dependent upon them. That training used role plays. Once the participants knew that, they resisted the training. However, as the organisation ultimately controls the training and it would be linked to their roles, the resistance would have been overcome.

But it is the advent of more online courses, that loosens the control the organisation has learning and development. By enabling learners themselves to control their own learning, that is, to be self-directed adult learners can create potential organisational problems.

The first is that they will enrol themselves in courses not related to their roles or outside their prescribed training plan. While an employee may learn a new skill, for example, customer service that he or she can apply in their job, there remains the potential for learning to be directly applied in the workplace. There is of course the potential that the employee may learn a new skill outside of his or her job and utilise that elsewhere, whether still within the organisation or perhaps outside it, in a new role perhaps.

The second is that the collaborative learning may enable self-directed adult learners to solve existing organisational problems. Again if the problem is minor, most organisations will embrace it depended upon its culture. But if collaborative adult learning finds a better way out of the car park and meets the attendant, what then?

Agree//disagree: a poem and its inspirations.

..or hidden musings on conversation, community & making stuff up.

On Saturday morning, I was sitting with my 3 year old at a cafe having breakfast, and a few moments of silence passed between us.  As my mind wandered vaguely to some of the things I’d read the previous night, these lines came into my head:

Agree, disagree
Debate
Abate…

I looked  for a pen. I didn’t have one. So as a small child ate raisin toast, I typed the lines into Evernote on my phone and some more came tumbling out. I paused a little in between, thinking about discrete things I’d mulled over, mostly during the previous evening. This is the poem (which I later put into notegraphy – thanks Mariana), and some of the thoughts and influences behind it.

agree-disagree, a poem

Agree//Disagree
Debate.
Abate.
The norms we
Storm
Thru
Conversation

The seeds of inspiration for these lines – and much of this poem – came from Mariana’s Storify ‘The interpersonal contract in cMoocs’ , which I’d actually come across from Jeff Merrell’s post ‘Teaching Uncertainly #rhizo14’. Here, Jeff talks about an open blogging assignment/experiment he’s running – and how one of his student’s blog posts (Andee Weinfurner @andeew38) was picked up and woven into this storify ^ by Mariana. I was intrigued (and actually a bit surprised) that he and Mariana hadn’t known of each other prior to this, and touched by the depth and thoughtfulness of their exchange in the comments on Jeff’s post. It reminded me, again, what catalysts blog posts can be in developing deeper connections with people – when you take the time to listen, reflect and respond thoughtfully. I love that I found both Jeff and Mariana in precisely this way – and I guess it’s no coincidence that they found each other this way too. Perhaps this is something of the human connection that Jeff’s student blogger Andee asks about in her post.

I was intrigued enough to click on the link to Mariana’s storify and was blown away by all that it said. It’s about the way we’re relating to each other in #rhizo14 (and cMOOCs generally) and the impact that the lack of explicit norms might have in shaping the rhizo14 dialogue and experience. Mariana’s storify was what I was thinking about on that Saturday morning. In particular, this:

As I read this again some days after, I’m struck by how much of this passage I internalised – its influence unmistakably present in those first few lines that came into my head that Saturday morning. So once again, Mariana has challenged me to think and reflect about my own behaviour (‘Is this something I do?’ ‘What impact might it have on the tenor of the dialogue?’). We tend to be brought up to value debate, logic, to take a strong position on something and defend it – argue to the death. Conceding to another is often perceived as a sign of mental weakness. What impact does this have on our ability to see the grey, the nuances in complexity? How does this impact our willingness to listen – really listen – to what someone else is saying? How often are we already thinking about how we’ll respond – and cutting in – before the other person has even had a chance to speak? I guess that is what this is about:

Communication?
Or
Obsfucation
Sublimation

As I wrote this that morning, I was also thinking about Nick Kearney (@nickkearney)’s post ‘Marram Grass’, and Mariana’s comment on that, which I’d also seen the previous evening. Is conversation the community in #rhizo14? (the precise thought I’d had a couple of weeks ago). If so, where are these conversations occurring? And what do we even mean when we talk of ‘conversation’ online? It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot throughout rhizo14, and also as a result of concurrently helping coordinate a new L&D twitter chat (#OzLearn), plus the Sydney Third Place social/networking meetups – how is conversation taking place within these various spaces, what does it look like, what does it ‘feel’ like, similarities? differences? Is there ‘conversation’? Is there (emergent) ‘community’? It’s something I’ll be writing a more focused post on but this was all in my subconscious as I wrote these lines.

When trying to define something unknown online, you inevitably try to relate it to what’s familiar offline, in real life. And so it was on that Saturday morning. Thoughts of community conjured up visuals of church > nationalism > patriotism.

Congregation
Of a nation
Community
And unity – ?

Then, of course, there’s contrast:

Or distribution
And divergence
Individuals
Do
Convergence.
On their blogs

This ^ is actually a reference to divergent vs convergent thinking, raised by Maureen Crawford in a comment on my previous post, as well as in her own post ‘Networks are expanding our ignorance’. I recall distinctly this having a big impact on me as the realisation dawned that both ‘divergent browsing’ (e.g. rampant blog hopping…?!) and ‘convergent thinking’ (e.g. thoughtful reflection) are important and necessary, essential parts of the creative process.

And, as I started thinking about the process of blogging, what it feels like when you write a post (well, to me, anyway):

Moments of clarity

…simultaneously littered with uncertainty and self doubt, comparisons with others…the wondering of whether what you’re writing even makes sense, the feeling that you’re just  making it up as you go – and hoping that nobody notices (or that at least they don’t call you out too badly for it…)

Parity
Sparity
Sparcity
and farcity

(And yes, I made up those words…cos there aren’t that many words that rhyme with ‘clarity’  or ‘parity’, and once I started, it was hard to stop. Too much fun. And it kinda fits with the theme.)

Embryonic thoughts put out to sea
Posting letters
up in a tree
planting rhizomes
weeds that spread
messages in bottles
we set them free

The sea references ^ are again Maureen-Crawford-inspired, with a little bit of Ryan Tracey serendipity added into the mix. Here’s the story: a few days ago, Maureen tweeted me this:

@jmca3ualberta_machado

Initially I was just going to respond a simple (normal) reply of thanks…but decided that would be boring and responded by poem instead (harder in 140 chars than you might imagine! But it was Friday, I was feeling playful):

@jmca3ualberta_machado_reply

Just after I sent that I went and had a look at a link which Ryan Tracey (@ryantracey) had posted on my previous post…and was amazed to find it led to this:

Wow. How’s that for serendipty?! (We both agreed it was a little creepy….but as it turned out there were more serendipitous moments to be had….).

The bit about trees and rhizomes was, I’m sure, my mind casting itself back to this bit of Mariana’s Storify:

***

Postscript:

And then, later that night, well after I’d written it, I also took at look at another of Mariana’s storifies ‘Help stamp out nouns’, the ending of which communicates exactly the feeling  I was trying to convey with those made up words in the poem.

None of us really know what we’re on about: we’re just all fumbling around in the dark together. And maybe that’s (at least in part) what ‘community as curriculum’ really means. Making sense of what we’re making up. Together.

Reflections on digital landfills and echoing content

I comment a fair bit on other people’s blogs, discussion forums etc. Somehow I find it much easier to comment on someone else’s blog  – I think it’s about being part of a conversation, the focus on joint contribution, rather than solely just my words. I’ve never particularly enjoyed being the centre of attention.

I’ve contemplated posting comments as blog posts. But I kind of like the idea of keeping my comments, in their place of origin, embedded in its original context. I feel something of their history might be lost by  uprooting them – by dismembering them from the dialogue. So I’ve resisted. Until now.

I’m posting my comment in response to this post ‘Digital landfills and creativity’ by Mariana Funes (aka DS106 shrink) to remember its message. It’s about the possible consequences of our ever-increasing – and often mindless – consumption, sharing and creation of digital content. It really, truly made me question my own assumptions about the value of sharing and content creation, to critically assess the depth of my engagement, and reflect on my experiences of open online learning –  in particular rhizo14, where I’ve often felt distracted by the abundance, almost too distracted to engage. Mariana’s post was inspired by ‘Echoes of content’ by Alastair Creelman – an equally excellent post on this theme of thoughtless sharing and creation. Would definitely encourage the reading – and consideration – of both posts. As I thought about Mariana’s post the following morning,  lines of poem came to me, which I scrawled (in pink texta – 1st thing within reach) on scraps of paper . I typed out the poem with this comment (written after the poem >and I think writing the poem actually enabled me to articulate some semi-coherent thoughts). I’ve repackaged the poem against the backdrop of my scrawled notes – a remix, of sorts.

wow, what an incredibly thought provoking post. I started writing a response last night, but then abandoned it as I wasn’t quite sure what to say or whether it would be coherent.

This is a hard one. Because I recognise the personal value in regular practice of creativity, writing, reflection, narration, blogging – even ‘half baked’ thoughts for others to play with and explore, remix and remake.

However, your post has highlighted the flipside of creating a culture that values creation and sharing above all else, that equates posting evidence of thinking *with* the existence of thought itself. No longer is it enough to reflect privately, we must share and declare our reflections. The culture it creates is one of constant distraction, constant pressure to post and to advertise your postings, to demonstrate your engagement. There is an underlying sense of competition about it, of jostling to get the most comments and most likes. It creates a constant pressure to create, but also to consume and to comment, we’re flying through posts leaving our breadcrumbs of thought. But how deeply are we reflecting and thinking? How meaningful is our engagement?

I’ve been struggling with this a bit in rhizo14 – the abundance, the pressure to create and consume. I’ve got about 20 tabs open, 4 half finished blog posts, and pages and scraps of notes and half finished thoughts. All of which I haven’t shared (yet). Though I feel the pressure to. And I will (eventually).

Yet I don’t know that the answer is to actually or completely stop what we’re doing. I’ve definitely got value out of others’ ‘half baked’ thoughts – and as Alan points out, even when there is no direct comment, or explicit evidence that someone has visited or read or thought about what you’ve posted, chances are someone has – or will.

So in the end, I have rambled and rumbled through this reply…not proposing any real ‘answer’ or solution. But I guess that’s part of the point – it’s a complex question without a definitive answer. Embracing uncertainty.

I’ve found myself spontaneously thinking in poem a lot through this rhizo14 experience. When I’ve written down the poetic threads of thought I’ve realised why: often the poem is a much more succinct expression of my thoughts. Thoughts that are too complex to make into a coherent post or response.

I was thinking about this post you wrote when I got up this morning, and amongst the threads of thought were some lines of poem that came into my head. I sat down and wrote them out. Here is what came out:

Rabbitholes1Rabbitholes2

Excellent conversations have emerged across both blogs – and in the context of this week’s topic about books making us stupid,  I say maybe: because no book enables to anyone to engage directly in conversation with the author immediately after publishing. The only downside? A digital landfill.

Emergent thinking through conversation: week 2 #xplrpln

What has stood out for me so far in #xplrpln has been the power of participation and conversation.

Coming into this event, I’d already discovered the potential of blogs as a means of connecting with people and exploring ideas – in fact I originally came across Jeff Merrell (one of the event coordinators) through commenting on one of his blog posts. That comment led to our discovering we were interested many similar topics, which eventually led to Jeff tweeting me about this event.

As  result, I’ve been quite intentional about commenting on other people’s blogs, and participating in Google+ and twitter conversations, with the mindset of putting forward, and exploring ‘half baked ideas’ (as inspired by Jeff).

Some of the conversations that have led to new and emergent thinking for me in weeks 1-2 included:

The nature of PLN connections – transience and the impact of f2f connections: Matt Guyan’s O week blog post

Matt's O Week post

Matt’s post and comments on it raised questions around the transience of some PLN connections and how existing personal and face to face relationships might impact interactions your PLN. Emerging threads and questions I found interesting included:

  • What are the factors that influence how PLN relationships develop or evolve? (weak > strong ties and vice versa)
  • Are connections that originate through face to face relationships (or that later involve face to face meetings) qualitatively different to those that originate (and only ever exist) online?

Ownership of PLNs: Maureen Crawford

Maureen Crawford - Ownership of PLNs

The question of ownership of PLNs was another major thread that emerged from Matt’s post, leading to Maureen Crawford (@jmc3ualberta) to question the notion of ownership in networks. The subsequent thoughts on Maureen’s blog changed the way I viewed PLNs – and I’m inclined to agree with Maureen that whilst an individual creates, develops and maintains their PLN, the concept of ‘ownership’ is actually (semantically) irrelevant when we’re talking about a series of relationships.

(….although I’d add that this doesn’t necessarily stop organisations perceiving ownership, or individuals feeling a sense of ownership of PLNs they develop and maintain > and this is where the tensions between individuals and the organisation may emerge in the irritatingly illogical Real World in which we live).

The tension between individual and the organisation (+ the impact of personal connection): Helen Blunden G+ conversation

Helen Blunden G+ convo

I had a really interesting and personally engaging conversation with Helen Blunden in the #xplrpln G+ community off the back of her week 1 #xplrpln post. It started with a comment from Helen on the importance of PLNs a seamless part of an employee’s workflow. This is a thread I picked up on as I also recognise it as critical (but also one of the biggest challenges). In the conversation that ensued, we covered broad ranging themes including organisational openess, trust & transparency, organisational restructure, management support and barriers, the impact of organisational culture and systems on org change, and fear. But – perhaps the best part – in the process, Helen also related some of her personal experiences of open sharing, and the tensions it created between herself and her organisation. Parts of her story did have an emotional impact on me, and perhaps this element of personal connection may have spurred the conversation further than it otherwise might have.

So, (again) from this, I’m considering questions like:

  • How does personal connection impact reciprocity in PLNs?
  • Is personal connection a critical factor for strengthening ties within PLNs?

Reciprocity in PLNs & what motivates people to reciprocate: Ess Garland @essigna twitter convo

EssGarland_twitter

This is perhaps my favourite #xplrpln conversation so far – not just because it was one of the most thought provoking conversations I’ve had on twitter, but because it was spontaneous, incidental, serendipitous. It was a Friday evening, and I was going through the #xplrpln twitter chat that had occurred earlier, picking out threads and thoughts that I found interesting, and responding to them. I wasn’t expecting a response – but to my suprise, got one. From @essigna – who hadn’t even been part of the original conversation I’d responded to.

But she picked up on a theme that had been buzzing in the #xplrpln community all week, and one which I was also wrestling to come to a position on: whether reciprocity was a necessary and defining feature of PLNs (e.g. could former authors / influencers be considered part of your PLN? > as suggested by this excellently articulated post by Bruno Winck).

And so Ess and I actually had a thought provoking conversation. Spontaneously. Serendipitously. On twitter. This is pretty significant for me, because although I think twitter is an amazing tool for discovering content and people, I’d never really had more than what I’d describe as simple exchanges.  I don’t really count tweet chats, as these feel more like broadcasting thoughts and reactions. A conversation, for me, is a one-one focused interaction.

I also love that this was pure serendipity; we were simply both in the same (virtual) place at the same time, and the same headspace. Seriously, what are the chances? It certainly doesn’t happen often (as far as I can tell).

And, what’s more, she raised some really interesting points and questions, that are still influencing my thinking, and promoting the emergence of related questions:

  • What motivates people to reciprocate in a PLN?
  • What is the impact of online experiences like MOOCs in developing PLN relationships?
  • Do events like MOOCs act as catalysing events for developing stronger, long term PLN ties?

Disclaimer:

There are actually many other conversations and interactions that I’ve participated, and blog posts I’ve read in over the first two weeks which have influenced my thinking and had an impact on me.  But in the interests of brevity, these are probably the four that have had the biggest.

Now week three is just about over…it’s actually been a little quieter compared with the first 2 weeks, but certainly no shortage of interesting thoughts emerging. Might save for the next post though…Really gotta get to bed!

Emergent thinking in #xplrpln

One of the most interesting things about participating in #xplrpln is observing how our current thinking evolves and new thinking emerges as a result of engaging with others’ ideas – either through reading and/or commenting on blogs, participating in a discussion forum, chat session, or reading and responding to tweets.

It’s fascinating, this process of wading through the threads of thought, picking and teasing out the threads that you identify with, playing with them,  to work out how they fit in with your own, and – as has happened more often than not over the past 3 weeks – integrating new thought-threads to evolve and tweak your own thinking.

I’m as interested in the process of how learning occurs through participatory open online education experiences like #xplrpln, as I am in the content being covered. One of the things I’d like to do is to observe and describe the interactions and experiences that have the most impact on my learning and thinking as we progress, to try to better understand the open online learning process (more to come on that….)

***

Post script: Inspiration

This rather short post was inspired by Maureen Crawford’s awesomely poetic suggestion (challenge?) to wite more regularly in order to get out of being too precious about your writing.  Her own thoughts-in-progress style reminded me of the reason I started this blog in the first place: to explore, experiment and reflect on ideas. Narrating thoughts in short regular bursts seem like a perfect way to do this.

So there’s my “try something new” for this week. Thanks Maureen!

Liberating the ideas

I’ve got a bunch of ideas in my head which I don’t *quite* have the time to write out as blog posts. Although most of them are jotted down in Evernote…

Img adapted from Cheerful Monk Creative Commons Licence<–…the detail is still sitting in here.

[Img adapted from cheerfulmonk Creative Commons License]

So, living up to the commitment from my previous post of showing work in progress and letting go of ideas in my head, I’m going to liberate the ideas into this post. This might make it likelier that they’ll actually happen at some point! So, in no particular order:

New goals, new role

I’ve just started a new role in an organisation undergoing massive change. This post will be me looking ahead at the 5 or so big picture goals I’d like to achieve in this role (or at least attempt or experiment with). I’d like to align any subsequent work related posts to one or more of the goals in this ‘baseline’ post, and think it would be really interesting to look back on this in a year’s time to see how I’ve progressed and how my goals may have changed.

What I learned from my 2 year old

This will be a fun, lighthearted post on the things I learnt while hanging out with my 2 year old when on leave the last 2 weeks. Looking at things from a kid’s perspective can be pretty inspiring (and funny!) – a refreshingly different world view. Probably something of a cross between kid’s say the darndest things and life’s little instruction book. Also planning to do some art/drawings to go with it. Got a pretty clear vision of this one…just gotta get it done!

Learning from Twitter – musings from a (former) skeptic

About how up til recently I’ve been somewhat of a twitter skeptic, and all the things I’ve learned since making a commitment to using it regularly as a learning tool. The things I think it’s awesome for, some of the challenges, and how I get around them. Perhaps also comparing the relative merits of twitter to linkedin as a professional learning tool (some twitter users seem pretty derisive of linkedin but I think there’s a place for both – each have their merits and unique characteristics). The twitter vs linkedin bit might actually develop into a separate post…

Series on my experiences /experiments with various social media tools

Kind of following on from the twitter post, I’m thinking it would be good to do a series on different social media tools and how I’m using them. Evernote, Pinterest (which I haven’t actually started to use yet but have plans to). Possibly also Pearltrees and Scoop.it (got accounts for but not really using).

On serendipitous learning – my 4 degrees of separation to Stephen Anderson

About how I serendipitously found an awesome preso ‘What I’m curious about’ from Stephen Anderson on Julie Dirksen’s blog, and the pathway of how I got there via explorations on the social web (how a post on cammy bean’s blog led me to following julie dirksen on twitter, and following a link from Cathy Moore’s blog led me to Julie Dirksen’s blog and eventually to Stephen Anderson’s preso!) I’d like to map out this out visually to show the connections, pathways and journey via the social web.

What I’m curious about

I love Stephen Anderson’s preso so much that I’m thinking I could do a post on it. It’s all about curiosity, play & integrating this into experience design. Now that I think about it, it’s interesting that I discovered his preso through exploration motivated by curiosity.

Pilot testing eLearning – by actually observing learners

Although it’s quite a standard practice in web design, prototyping and pilot testing practices in eLearning rarely involve actually observing learners as they navigate the module (while thinking aloud), and then talking to them about their experience – something which you can learn A LOT from doing. This post is about my experiences implementing a user observation based eLearning prototype / pilot testing process.

Well – these are the posts that are semi scripted in varying levels of detail in my head. These are ideas that I’d like to explore more:

  • post on compliance training design, probably related to a specific work project
  • something on tin can api and its potential impact on corporate learning
  • post on Moocs
  • weekly series narrating my work on DS106 daily creates for the week
  • guitar challenge – thinking of learning how to play my toddler’s current fave song ‘The Letter’ (‘my baby she wrote me a letter’) on guitar and doing progressive recordings of my efforts!? Could be interesting. Could also be painful!

Preface: the seeds that planted the blog

Hello & welcome.

I’d been thinking about starting a blog for a few months, primarily to reflect on my ideas, conversations, work, and experiences; to narrate and record my learning and work. I’d been reading Julian Stodd’s blog  for a while, and found his notion of using a blog to develop and track the evolution of his thinking really appealing. These posts (here and here), where he talks about writing – and finding the time to write – as being core to reflecting, developing ideas, and learning, particularly made me think: “Gee, I Really need to start doing this!” Reflecting, sharing – doing something – with your knowledge is also key to Harold Jarche’s ideas on personal knowledge management, something which had also resonated with me as a Very Important Thing to be doing.

There is of course, however, an inescapable chasm between Knowing and Thinking that you should do something, and actually getting off your butt and Doing It. And the inspiration for me to actually, Finally Do It, came from my ex-Savv-e colleague and all round good guy Matt Guyan, who recently started a blog himself. Seeing Matt do it gave me the inspiration to google WordPress, and just set up a blog, dammit. Which, I discovered, was actually a very easy thing to do. Getting round to actually writing some content was another matter entirely….

It wasn’t so much a case of writer’s block as being overwhelmed by ideas (having spent the last few weeks with a bunch of half-scripted posts floating around my head…) and not quite knowing how or where to start. So, I finally sat down and just forced myself to start writing The First Post.

And, now…I reckon I’m just about done.

(Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?!).

Postscript: Oh yeah – one other thing that nudged me towards the brave new blogosphere was DS106, which I’m keen to start becoming part of as an open participant. Blogging is one way to do it, so was yet another Exceptionally Good Reason to start. More on DS106 to come…