Saturday, April 05, 2014

And now onto #PKMastery

While I don't have the time to commit to the extent I'd like, I've taken the plunge and enrolled in Harold Jarche's Personal Knowledge Mastery course. Looks like a capable, engaged group of participants and, less than a week in, I've already learned about new resources and practices that I've been able to apply to my consultancy. As always, stayed tuned to this space for details

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Is books making us stupid? #rhizo14

In a word; yes.

There are very few absolute, definitive truths. One “fact” I like to cite when challenged on this, is the number of planets in our solar system. Once Pluto was downgraded to an asteroid weren’t all bets off? 

Indeed the relation of earth to other planets, to the sun, and even if it’s indeed round (or at least non-flat) are all topics that have been written about, and considered absolutely true, and subsequently “corrected” over the course of history.

The process of capturing and recording “data” or “facts” or moving from the relative to the objective as Dave describes it in his video, begins the process of obsolescence for that particular volume.
The corporate world understands and accommodates the fact that capturing information dooms it to irrelevance by:
  1.  Incorporating dates into file names as part of prescribed naming conventions
  2. Using “track changes” in word processing software like Microsoft Word
  3.  Taking advantage of the version control capacities and methodologies “baked into” content management systems like Livelink and Sharepoint
  4. Referencing  “living documents” to make it explicit that consumers of said material can expect changes (and will need to know how to distinguish/where to find  current vs. previous versions)

Of course the challenge—no matter one’s area of endeavour or discipline be it corporate, educational, medical, political, social or whatever combinations thereof—in all of this is determining how to mediate the flow of information and arrive at what constitutes “truth” or the right (at least for now) answer? 

How do we accommodate the uncertainty which some believe (and I’ll include myself in this group) essential to truth-finding and sense-making? How do we keep the quest for knowledge relational (along the lines of the oral traditions Dave mentions in his video) and allow for the betterment and development of the existing canon in a given subject area?

One approach may be to embrace the stupid (along the lines of uncertainty for those so inclined) as proposed by Neil Postman and brought to my attention—perhaps not surprisingly—by one of the most inclusive and open instructors, Trevor Owen, I had during my M.Ed studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

willing suspension of certainty #rhizo14

From my vantage, there's value in Coleridge's willing suspension of disbelief when contemplating the notion of embracing uncertainty, or the willing suspension of certainty if I may.

Being open to, or embracing, uncertainty also allows for outcomes beyond initial expectations.

Providing a group of learners with a challenge or goal, and leaving them to their own devices as to how to solve the problem, or reach the desired outcome(s) may result in solutions which ultimately exceed the expectations of all involved.

Of course, this dynamic will only be possible in environments or situations in which uncertainty is fostered and, in turn, provides the for the chaotic, messy, non-linear setting necessary for a given group of learners, or community, to marshall uncertainty and arrive at solutions beyond what is possible in prescribed, scripted environments. This is easier said than done, especially in formal learning environments; however, the benefits of such an approach can be measured in learner engagement and ownership of, and responsibility for, one's learning.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

(re)enforcing independence #rhizo14

How do we become more independent as educators, and engender independence on the part of our learners?

The environment in which we operate will obviously have a significant impact on how motivated we may be to exercise, and reap the benefits of, our independence.
As I was considering the topic of "enforced independence" it became apparent that conditions must be conducive to the independence of actors on a particular stage, or all the enforcement in the world will not do anything to make me independent. Without strategies, or a plan of attack, I'll not be able to be an independent actor in a particular environment. Challenging ourselves and moving outside comfort zones leverages independent learning strategies and helps us empathise with the issues faced by independent learners.

If you can teach yourself to do something by leveraging information and your networks, you'll be more able to expect this from your learners, and, more or, importantly better understand the challenges they'll face in their quest to exercise independence.

In the spirit of "moving outside comfort zones"/"expanding one's horizons" I've decided to take advantage of the 3rd birthday celebrations for #ds106radio to see if I can teach myself to webcast from my phone. Many of you will be familiar with, or indeed a part of, the community that's developed and evolved around #ds106 and #ds106radio is dynamic and vibrant. All are welcome to participate, and those who'd like to take the stream need only tweet with the #ds106radio tag to signify intention and 'cast away.

Today I had a chance to review the connection and broadcasting details, linked from a tweet by @cogdog (Alan Levine), for Android. I've done a fair bit of computer-based webcasting over the years, and I'm hoping to get well outside my comfort zone and contribute birthday wishes, and celebrate #ds106radio, from my phone. Wish me luck ;-)  

UPDATE: It worked! Thanks for shoutouts Alan Levine and Leslie Lindballe

Turned out to be a very busy day online. In addition to my first mobile webcast (aka #traincast) on #ds106radio to send along my birthday wishes, this day included:

  1. Online meetings with work colleagues for a project status update and a software installation walk-through
  2. Poked my head into a Designers for Learning session hosted by Jennifer Maddrell
  3. Participated in the Unhangout for #rhizo14 and take part in the breakout session for "Independence in Everyday Life" breakout group with Aaron, Carol, Jim and Vanessa
All of this served to (re)enforce my belief in the fact that independence, and exploring and taking advantages to connect, is key to one's success in online environments

Monday, January 20, 2014

More on cheating as learning #rhizo14

I mentioned the other day that I've been pondering how the notion of "cheating as learning" may apply to business and recreational pursuits. And while I'm still not entirely sure how the notion relates to each environment, I'm hoping you'll bear with me as I attempt to "talk it out" in this space (and please do comment/cajole/deride as you see fit ;-)

Following on Peter's post on "breaking away" from the rules, rather than contravening a particular rule itself, I think there's benefit in an exploring rules, or current standard operating procedures, with an eye to improving performance, increasing safety, or working toward whatever a particular desired outcome may be. Too often we fall into the trap of "we've always done it that way" without critical assessment of how me might do a better job of leveraging available resources to perform a task, or ensure an outcome.

In our breakout discussion during the unhangout, Jim Stauffer mentioned that we'd do well to focus on goals, rather than rules, and that it can't be considered cheating if one is focusing on, and working toward, a particular goal. If rules preclude me from attaining my goals, do I have an option other than "cheating" to attain my goal?

In the business world, instructional designers and training developers develop documents called "cheatsheets" which are used as performance improvement tools and provide "just in time" quick reference for those charged with completing a task, or operating a software application. In this instance, the "cheating" being done amounts to referring to a one-page document, rather than having to locate a reference to the specific procedure or task in an owner's or operator's manual. Keyboard shortcuts and data entry codes are also referred to as "cheats" in some software applications. 

Workarounds (a circumvention of the way you're supposed to do something might also be referred to as a "cheat") are a big part of getting stuff done in business environments--especially those with a variety of software applications, operating systems, and connection speeds. One size most definitely does not fit all, and accommodations have to be made, for differences in technical acumen, connection speeds and operating systems. 

In the recreational world (and particularly ski resorts) "cheating" can take a number of forms. For instance in the past couple of weeks, skiers have "cheated" the boundary of the ski area in search of untracked power snow and have found themselves stranded and in need of rescue by Park Wardens slung under helicopters. I'm not sure what's been learned by those requiring rescue. Maybe they learned that the pursuit of fresh tracks in powder snow isn't worth risking your life (or endangering those charged with effecting your rescue)--one can only hope.

In an attempt to bring this stream of consciousness to a close I'd say that I "cheating" as an accepted practice provided it serves larger or ultimate goals, is in keeping with the spirit of how one sees one's role in an organization, and doesn't impune the interests, or safety, of others. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cheating as Learning #rhizo14

I like what Dave has to say in his Cheating as Learning video, especially regarding the locus of power which accrues to those with "the answers" in a given environment. As he indicates, we've typically been dissuaded from collaborating or sharing answers and solutions to a particular problems or questions, because this has been deemed to be "cheating."

"Do your own work," we've been told since grade school.

For me the crux of the matter comes down to intent:

Why exactly is it that you're cheating?

If cheating is indeed to be used as a weapon, I'd suggest that it be used for goodness as opposed to evil; that said, who becomes the arbiter of what constitutes "good" and "evil" in a given environment or situation?

GOOD: During my time as a student at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology the more proficient of my peers had developed computer science skills through the use of game cheats, and the understanding this provided of the underpinnings of the games they were playing. Developing, discovering, implementing and sharing these "cheats" allowed these individuals to develop a fluency and proficiency in both the code and social milieu in which it was developed and evolved. In this instance, cheating was used as a weapon to make games more accessible and playable for a wider audience. Those developing the cheats gained status and "cred" and many of these individuals have since parlayed this foundation into careers in computer science.

EVIL: During this same period of time, the same group of individuals commandeered a series of servers within the institution to mount a Quake deathmatch which involved hundreds of students across the campus and essentially amounted to a denial-of-service attack for "legitimate" users within the college. Those responsible were reprimanded, and levels of security were added to guard against a repeat of the situation. No one was was expelled or punished academically for their actions. While the institution may have considered their actions "evil" most of those involved did not, and my impression was they saw this experimentation as a natural extension of the "cheats" they'd initially developed for client machines.The whole notion of cheating as learning has my head spinning (like that's news if you've made it this far into this post) and has me thinking of the concept of "stupidity as a teaching tool" and a post I made to this blog in 2002

What if there are no right answers?

Is there any use in cheating to get the wrong answer?

I mentioned earlier today that I was contemplating the notion of "cheating as learning" as it might relate to corporate (i.e., #cubefarm) and recreational (i.e., ski resort) environments and I'm still struggling with how the implications and repercussions of cheating in both might manifest itself. I seem to keep coming back to intent--why are you cheating, and what to do you intend to accomplish? I need to consider these topics in more detail and will be back with more musings as time permits.

Thanks for reading, and to Dave for a provocative start to #rhizo14

Monday, January 13, 2014

About me #rhizo14

My name is doug symington and I've been interacting, learning and playing in online spaces since before the turn of the century.

From 2001 to 2005 I was an online MEd student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (OISE/IT). My OISE/UT studies focused on Curriculum, Teaching and Learning with a specialization in Computer Applications.

This space resulted from my desire to attempt to capture some the coursework and concepts associated with my graduate studies at OISE/UT as well as space for reflection, and a diary of my learning both in and out of school.

During this same time frame I was employed as a Training Developer with SMART Technologies Inc., makers of interactive whiteboards and complementary/supporting software applications.

Throughout my time at OISE/UT and SMART I developed an awareness of the many issues related to "access" and online learning environments. I also became acutely aware that social relationships play a significant role in determining how motivated an individual learner will be to work through and overcome issues associated with access--be they technical, social or a combination thereof.

After leaving SMART I worked in the not-for-profits sector and worked with organizations on Vancouver Island leveraging "free" web tools for development and outreach across and within individual organizations. It was also during this time frame that I had the good fortune to meet @davecormier and @jefflebow and become a contributing member of the community they fostered with @edtechtalk. The many webcasting lessons I learned as a host of EdTechBrainstorm stand me in good stead to this day.

More recently I have returned to the corporate sector as a consultant; however, I continue to be involved in pro bono work for not-for-profits and remain *very* interested in exploring and leveraging "freely" accessible tools for the benefit of individuals and organizations--be they corporate, educational, or not-for-profits.

I've decided to participate in #rhizo14 to get back in with a community of practice of people who "get it" or are at least prepared to give online learning spaces a chance. I'd also like to make an effort to reflect more on my practice by blogging more regularly, and I expect #rhizo14 participation to prompt me in that regard.

I look forward to learning from and with each of you and am very thankful for the opportunity.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

obsolete and dead online spaces

If you've played in online spaces for any length of time, much of your content has probably been lost to the vagaries of dead, decommissioned, and obsolete spaces. Be it online course content, or one of the many "free" services that have been shut down over the years, you've probably lost at least a portion of your "artifacts" over the years.

This may, or may not, have prompted you to self-host your content in the hopes of have more control over the fate of your content, but even this approach is not a 100% guarantee of the persistence of your online "stuff."

Then again, you may have bet on the right horse (Blogger for example) and still have access to the stuff you posted a decade, or more, ago.

You can mediate the risk, and help to ensure persistence, by cross-posting your content across multiple spaces; however, if it's truly imperative that your loot persist--you'll want to have local (i.e., offline) and hard-copy versions of that which can not be lost.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Learning Diary Redux

This is a post from an #android tablet, and a "free" wifi connection. It also represents a resurrection of sorts of this space along the lines of its original purpose:a diary of my learning. My Learning Diary began some 12 years ago (almost to the day) as a repository for learning artifacts associated with my online M.Ed. studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (OISE/UT).

At lot of things have changed in online spaces in the interim, and a great many are still the same. One development I'm particularly interested in, are the advances in, and evolution of, self-organized social systems and how they've become part of the vernacular in the form of MOOCs and the like.

I've signed up for a course being run by Dave Cormier based on this model (that he and colleagues developed, notwithstanding what USA schools/corporations would have you believe).

What's the same now as it was then, are the human and social characteristics learners bring to any space, be it online or off, and intend to use this space to make (what I hope aren't TOO sporadic) entries related to my learning and observations of the process, and my reactions to the experience.