Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Panacea for Education Ills?

Kia ora tātou – Hello Everyone
The Flask

Stephen Downes rattled my dags with a short post earlier this month – more so because his post was shorter than the comment I left. It was really in answer to the (almost rhetorical) question:

Why Are People So Gullible About Miracle Cures in Education?

This was asked by Diane Ravitch who said:

“the schools just can't seem to shake this belief that all children will learn to the highest standards when:
  1. all teachers are great teachers;
  2. every school has a brilliant leader as principal;
  3. every superintendent has an M.B.A.;
  4. every school is run by entrepreneurs;
  5. every school is organized around a theme;
  6. every school is small;
  7. all schools are charters . . .”
She suggested that her list had only just begun.

Relevant to the first item in Diane’s list, however, I have to admit that I’ve been doing my rounds on posts about teacher bashing recently. But the further I go with this, the more I feel my comment to Stephen summarises the kernel of the problem:

I think people are gullible about miracle cures in education the same way as they were gullible about miracle cures for ill health. It's just that our research in education has lagged research in medicine tragically, and it is well known that education research is still in its infancy. Bill Gates recognises that.

As long as we have quacks who stand on their soap boxes selling their education tonic in a bottle to whoever is gullible enough to buy it, we are going to be seeing much more of this sort of thing.

There are regulations in western countries about how one can claim a cure for ill health in a bottle. There are not yet any useful regulations governing how one can claim a cure in education.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Monday, February 23, 2009

Keeping Up Appearances

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allArt by Hannah DearArt by Hannah Dear
Well it’s finally happened! Blogger in Middle-earth has had to go back to basics.

My home PC died over the weekend and I’m finding out how it is to blog without a PC! Any comments I post on other blogs will have to be real quick jobs at tea-break and lunch on my work laptop. So I’ll be up-skilling on the art of brevity. Perhaps I need to. As for my RSS Reader, I’m going to rely on doing a lot of skim dive skim, so Tony Karrer’s technique is going to come in very useful. You could say that this is the ‘back again’ bit, from my 100th post title, “There And Back Again”.

I still have my blog – thank goodness for cloud computing! My first blog post drafted with pen (I used a quill) on refill, was typed, formatted and posted at lunch. It is a look at some features of blogs that interest me from the point of view of their appearance and function, rather than just their content and literary significance.

Here goes!

I’m no expert at blogging, but I think I’m getting an eye for recognising those who are. Of course, it’s only by getting to know the writers in my RSS Reader, and by visiting their blogs regularly, that I can sense some of the characteristics that show me their writing is likely to be authentic.

It’s not all to be found in the diction, ‘tone of voice’, sub-headings, paragraphing, and text layout either, so I have to go further than what’s displayed in my RSS Reader. What I’ve been looking at recently is really complimentary to all that makes for good reading in a blog post.

There are several telltale features that I’m learning to recognise. Though not all of these are present in every valued blog, noteworthy combinations of these can often point to the quality and genuineness of the writings.

Paint jobs and other renovations:

A significant number of my favourite bloggers have brought a fresh new look to their blogs recently – perhaps a new blog header or colour scheme, or in some cases a complete new template. Invariably they have announced the changes, and asked followers for their opinion. This shows me that the blogger is thinking of how the blog is coming across to the viewer - reflective practice, if you like.

Threads and follow-ups:

It’s always refreshing to read a post about something new and innovative, but it is also invigorating to follow how an idea develops in the mind of the writer.

Carrying a train of thought from an earlier post to the next over a series of posts is not uncommon among bloggers. The progression of thoughts expressed and how the blogger’s beliefs, feelings and point of view develop through discussion, however, is a clear sign of an active mind, willing to learn and be enlightened.

Visitors following such series of posts stand a better chance of being introduced to new ideas, and forming their own opinions by reading the debate of others, than if they are following a progressive series that simply introduces a particular theory or principle.

Updated blog roll in the side bar:

It’s always good to be introduced to the writing of bloggers new to me. One of the ways I expand the scope of my reading in this area is by examining the blog rolls of other bloggers. In doing this I have become aware that good bloggers ring the changes by introducing new sites to their blog rolls. I see the alternative to this as analogous to the notice board that’s seldom updated. People get so tired looking at the same old postings that they miss the new notice when it appears.

Relevant, appropriate and novel illustrations:

The blogger who selects images, animations and videos that deliver the message of the post, uses a first class elearning design technique. Using pictures and diagrams specifically and only to assist with the content of the post avoids the flippancy of distraction. The word ‘engagement’ springs to mind and this is exactly why the technique is so successful in elearning.

Awakening the dream:

Bloggers who try something different show creativity and a desire to experiment.

Jonathan Mead of Zen Habits explains that trying something, anything, not just doing what works, is the way to go. He explains that doing what works every time ‘is the number one dream killer’.

Don’t kill your dreams. Try something different.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Champion Elearning Myths

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
Maui taming the sun - a Māori legendMaui taming the sun - The Marae, Te Papa Museum of N.Z.

I am a dyed-in-the-wool in-favour-of-elearning teacher. If I had the option, I would choose elearning as the way to teach distance students most of the time. I know that many of my past students found elearning and blended combinations of it useful and effective. I cherish their successful results that prove this. I also believe that an elearning component of blended learning is a way for the future.

But the recent and global opinion that elearning is the way to solve all our economic problems, in training and education, scares me. When I read some of the positive articles and blogs that extol the virtues of elearning, I am also aware that myths abound that are associated with this relatively new mode of learning. I fear for the future of elearning, that it might get put to judgement unfairly, following its misuse in a time of real need.

Here’s my list of champion elearning myths:

1 - Print based resources are easily and cheaply converted into elearning resources

It’s a popular fallacy that successful learning resources, well designed for another mode of delivery (using print media for instance) can be easily converted into elearning resources. The late-20th-century trick of pdfing a print resource in Word and then banging it up on a server as a web-page is as erroneous as expecting a teenager to know everything about safe contraception.
Robert Frost explained, “poetry is what’s lost in translation”. In an analogous way, pedagogy is what’s lost when a well-designed print-based resource is translated directly into an elearning layout.

A good print-based resource is successful partly by virtue of how the design and formatting of the resource lends itself to the media that’s used to hold it. Developing an elearning resource that’s just as good, means matching the design and formatting of the resource to the medium that’s chosen, whether it is text, image, video, animation, interactive or involving all of these.

2 - Elearning removes the need for a teacher/trainer /facilitator

Common misconceptions are that elearning students do not need support when stuck, confused or don’t know what to do next, and that the students will not need follow-ups to check if they're on track. All of these seemingly minor details amount to what is termed ‘support’.

Teacher support is one of the essentials for student engagement.

Do learners need to be engaged? Do they ever! There is nothing more likely to dampen the enthusiasm of a learner than getting stuck on a topic or concept and not being able to get timely help. Timeliness is paramount when learners arrive at this too common stage.

A learner who is struggling with an idea could well be right on track and may not even know it. What finer input is there than a responsive teacher, to give support and encouragement when the learner doesn’t really know what to do next. The lifeline to the teacher should be apparent and available to the elearner at all times.

Though this may not necessarily always be convenient for the teacher, the next best response to a student plea for help is the teacher to get back with the support the student needs immediately it is convenient.

3 - Attractive colourful images capture the learner’s attention and generate interest

Unless the elearning developer is careful to select engaging images, animations and videos that deliver the message of the learning objective, all that the images will succeeded in doing will be to distract from the learning that could otherwise have taken place. Pictures, diagrams and animations should be used specifically and only to assist with a learning objective.

Keep it simple and relevant are the watchwords for effective use of imaging in elearning design. Exactly the same can be said for any audio-based resourcing.

4 - Elearning and associated technology stimulates interest, and motivates learning

My experience with teaching students of all ages is that not all students want to embrace the most up-to-date technology when they are studying. The most likely turn-off for a learner is being forced to learn from devices they may have aversion to – ‘learner choice’ tells us all about that. There will be students in the target group who really don’t like elearning.

They will find any opportunity they can to switch off and to ignore the wonderful elearning experience that you’ve developed for them. Providing print based alternatives for those students can give them welcome relief and provide some of the necessary variety that has brought blended learning to the fore in recent years.

5 - As long as the learning aim is bulleted and made clear at the beginning of the module, the learner will identify the learning objective and know what's to be learnt

This myth is exceedingly close to being a genuine fairy tale. Contrary to what many 20th century pedagogues will maintain, most learners find the learning aim – the summary of the learning objective – to be as relevant as a runcible lemon.

How can a learner possibly see any relevance in the summary of what’s to be learnt when they know nothing about it?

Only geniuses and second-time-rounders get anything from being told the objective of the next lesson. FACT. For many students, this can be a real start-of-lesson turnoff.

6 - Learners will navigate their way through modules in an elearning course with little need for guidance

By definition, a learner needs to learn. Assuming that the learner knows the route and is motivated to follow it, is like leading three-year-olds to the middle of a labyrinth and expecting them to walk straight out again. The navigation for any elearning course has to be everywhere apparent.

7 - Learners will easily find needed learning resources and their components as long as links to them are visible and well labelled

If any part of a learning resource is important to the learning, that part should be introduced to the learner wherever and whenever it is appropriate. Timeliness is all-important, and the time and place to introduce the learner to an important part of a resource is at the immediate point in time when they might need the knowledge or skill.

It should not be left up to the learner to decide if it is important. Learners, by virtue of their ignorance, cannot be expected to know the relevance of anything new that has to be learnt. In particular, it is part of good scaffolding that students are prepared for the next step in the learning, and this should not be an optional learner pathway.

8 - Learners read all posted announcements and this is the best way to pass important information on to them

Very few learners are vigilant enough to read all notices, especially if they believe that they’ve read them all before. Isn’t this always the case with a noticeboard? If it’s all that important, it has to be communicated to the learner by at least two means of communication.

I have been guilty of emailing and sending printed letters to my cohort of students about something extremely important that I’ve also splashed across the web-noticeboard.

9 - Once an elearning resource for a topic is developed and made available to learners, development in that area of learning doesn’t need to be revisited

Isn’t it wonderful that we are all different? Learners are just as diverse in this respect. The adage, “different strokes for different folks” is never truer than with learners. If you think you have nailed it with an elearning resource that you've developed then think again. There will always be a learner somewhere in your learning cohort who will not be able to make head nor tail of your pedagogical thinking.

This applies as much to a classroom as it does to an elearning environment. Provide as many pathways to learning a skill, knowledge or concept as are practically possible.

10 - Learning is linear, and so elearning courses should be constructed so that the learner progresses from A to Z with the least opportunity to digress

Learners who are familiar with parts of a module will be turned off by a pedantic one-way approach to forced examples and compulsory activities. Opportunity must always be available for learners to skip a part if need be, and to retrace a skipped part of a module if they find that they really didn’t have a grasp of a teaching point after all.

Further to this, learners do not all progress through knowledge, concepts and relevant topics the same way. Providing a variety of learning pathways that embraces learner choice at appropriate points in a course empowers the learner.

11 - Elearning is a cheap way to make learning happen

This is the acme of all elearning myths.

In much the same way as the idea abounds that teaching is an easy job, the belief that elearning is cheaper than other methods of teaching and learning is so far from reality it is tragic. Unfortunately, this elearning myth tends to be propagated by some teachers too.

Well-designed resources for elearning are not cheap. Neither is their proper implementation. But what is even more costly is elearning that is supposed to give access to essential learning but that is shoddily developed and doesn’t actually assist with learning at all.

That’s expensive!

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Simplest Symbolic Language

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allFinger Painting - by Hannah Dear age 5Finger Painting by Hannah Dear - age 5
Mathew Needleman's Writing Tips #3: Pictures Aren't Just For Babies, brings forward a splendid way to 'unlock details from the brain' by drawing pictures. He made me think:

Drawing pictures comes naturally to us. We’ve being doing it for thousands of years before Darwin. We have the historical evidence to prove it.

What finer metaphor than a drawing for the thing that springs to mind? The word is a metaphor, but is at least twice removed from the image in the memory that it’s used to describe.

Drawing is a primal action - an ability that comes naturally to most. Consequently we see that three-year-olds need no drawing or painting tuition. They don’t have to learn the alphabet of pictures to show us what’s in their minds.

Drawing is a direct mapping, albeit interpretation, of the image that’s in the mind. Once drawn, the picture immediately calls to mind what was seen and done.

The simplest symbolic language; it needs no translating.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Friday, February 13, 2009

Silent Visitors

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
Lurkers, legitimate peripheral participants, silent participants, the silent majority and a host of other related descriptions can be used for about 99% of visitors to this blog.

They refer to people who come to Middle-earth, have a look round, never comment and may never come back. Examination of data in Google Analytics shows that these visitors live all over the world, in their thousands.

My intimate involvement, in many different ways, with teaching and elearning has developed within me a fascination for these visitors.
In elearning communities, the return visitors represent a vast, possibly unknown, untapped resource. And they appear to remain inaccessible.

Engaging visitors:

Last year, in my more ignorant days as a beginner blogger, I spent a month in activities with the Comment Challenge trying to find out how to get these people to ‘engage’. It was the reason I took part in the Challenge, one that caused me disappointment that I didn't really learn much about lurkers; some learning in that area was to come later.

I often think of the supreme wealth of skill, knowledge and community that these visitors could bring, if only they participated.

Some researchers contend that these visitors do actually participate. Etienne Wenger considers them ‘legitimate peripheral participants’; Nonnecke and Preece refer to the ‘silent participants’. I have a different idea of the term participant, for it implies one who interacts, and interaction suggests contribution. But the visitors I refer to here, contribute only numbers to the data collected on my Google Analytics.

Major treasures:

I don’t like the term ‘lurker’, and my principles don’t permit me to coin a new term here, even if I had one, as I believe there are enough terms already being used to describe these anonymous observers. So I stick with ‘lurker’.

The lurkers are major treasures when considering the potential contribution that they can make to elearning communities. But they can also be looked on as freeloaders who may benefit from the activities of the community, but who do not contribute to these.

Blogger study:

Many bloggers study ways and means to improve engagement of visitors to their blogs. Their tactics involve attracting visitors through comments and links on other blogs, using catchy post titles, headings and labels and other data that are picked up on searches.

Once found by a visitor, the blog has attributes that have a quality that determines if its post content is read and if the visitor will come back later to read more. Bloggers work at improving this quality and many are accomplished in crafting this to a very high degree.

There have been hundreds of articles and posts published about what features make a great blog, and how to write a great post. Some bloggers devote a large portion of their writing time to this analysis.

Applicable in elearning:

As a teacher, passionate about the art of eteaching and elearning, I look on the opinion and effort of bloggers in their analysis as a superb abundance of information. If ever there were time and place for studying how to engage visitors in communities, it is now - in the blogosphere.

There is no finer environment for an eteacher to pick up ideas, tips, techniques and enthusiasm for encouraging learner engagement.

Relevant, interesting and engaging:

Whatever the message of the activity, it has to be interesting and relevant so that it permits the visitor to engage in discourse. With those elements there is greater likelihood that the visitor will return.

And it’s not necessary that teachers who are studying this specially need to study blogs expressly written about elearning. The same or similar practices that are successful in engaging
visitors to a blog can be applied to engaging learners in elearning.

As Skellie says, “. . . immerse yourself in the work of world-class bloggers. Never stop watching and learning.”

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blog Indices

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allA huge library wall of books
It appears from recent conversations about blog indices and related discussions [ 1 ], [ 2 ], [ 3 ], [ 4 ], [ 5 ] that the most use an index on a blog can provide is to assist the bloggers to find stuff on their own blogs. How extraordinary!

As a blogger who has a very new blog-index, I must admit that I’ve found it extremely useful for finding stuff I've posted on my own blog. Before I built it, I would waste time looking for a post I’d written but couldn’t find – and my blog is nowhere near a year old even yet. Other bloggers have admitted that trying to find stuff on their own blogs can be frustrating.

Time spent searching:

I’ve been giving thought to this lately (I tend to think now and again). How often have I spent time searching in vain through another’s blog or on my RSS Reader, looking for a post I knew they’d written and I couldn’t find? I’ve even tried a Google search or a specific blog search, on these occasions, hoping to hit on the post that I knew existed.

Sometimes I’ve been lucky and I found the elusive post, but it takes a lot of time to do this when there is no index.

People don't use posts that way:

Sue Waters said that people don’t read blog posts that way - that an index wouldn’t be useful to them - that the blogger is only as good as the last post they wrote. While I can see some sense in the last bit, I surely can’t be the only blog visitor who’d find an index useful. I can’t be the only reader who goes off searching for things on other blogs that I’ve read before and know is there and didn’t bookmark specifically for reference later on.

I commented on Tony Karrer’s post that I wouldn’t defend the index I’d built on my own blog as it was experimental and I really didn’t know what the best form was for a blog index anyway. I stick with this, for I have my own reservations about its usefulness.

But I can’t believe that other readers have never experienced the frustration that I have when looking for a post I know a blogger wrote and that I can’t find easily on their blog. What is sometimes even more frustrating is when I’ve to search for the post on several blogs belonging to the same author. Come to think of it, it must make finding their own stuff on their multiple blogs just as difficult. How do they do it?

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Creativity, Space and Time

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allDucks swimming on Lake Wakatipu
Okay, okay, okay, okay!

We have a lot of things happening in our lives today. We are expected to multi-task to cope with all that comes at us from every direction at work: emails that we’ve to respond to dropping in at a pace per minute, phone calls interrupting our daily routine, txt messages arriving on our mobiles with an incessant beep, new-post announcements hitting the RSS Reader at a digital rap, never mind the twitter and tweets.

And then there’s life itself.

When ever do we have time to think?

I was wondering about all his while listening to John Cleese on creativity. He spoke of boundaries of space and time.

He said it like this:

"Boundaries of space."

"Boundaries of time."

And I thought, “Yeah, right!”

The biggest barrier is getting the space to build the boundaries and the time to plan the building. And it goes on and on and on. And we’re told that knowledge will be doubling every three days by 2020. How to keep pace with it all and still have time to think - that’s the question.

Cleese mentioned that a lot happens when we’re asleep. Well thank goodness, I say. There’s not much time to catch up with it all while we’re awake.

Or is there?

Late last week I was asked to give a talk at work on cybersafety. I’d no time to sort out what I’d to do over the weekend. Monday was a shambles. I’d barely enough time to look out the PowerPoint on the topic that I’d put together, in a rush, at the end of last year.

And there I was, Tuesday morning, sitting on the 7-o-clock bus heading into work wondering what the heck I was going to say at the 9-o-clock session, and what did I have to check before I started, and did I get the version right when I copied the .pp file to my memory stick the previous evening, and what would I do if there’s no sound system for the vids, and could I remember what the vids were about anyway?

Thing is, there’s little to do on a 30 minute bus ride at that time of the morning. The bus was less than half empty. Traffic was light. There was the space. And there was enough time to reflect on my talk and mind-scan over notes I’d downloaded from the server the night before.

It was a very satisfying morning session to facilitate. Well attended, with just the right number of active participants to keep the discussion firing on relevant issues. All in all, a session that I should not really have worried about - at all.

So how did that all come together when it all seemed to be coming at me with so much of a rush?

Boundaries of space.

Boundaries of time.

Those precious minutes on the bus. With no other thing to do but think.

It is a facility that I often put to use - the bus. I travel to and from work with an average time to spend of about 50 minutes every day doing absolutely nothing – about a twentieth of my waking hours. I seldom read on the bus for I get travelsick. So I use it to think.

Space and time to keep me in the pink. No phone ringing. No mobile beeping - I can switch it off when I need the space. No emails to read and reply to – I don’t carry a lap-top. So no RSS Reader to chase. Nothing.

Boundaries of space.

Boundaries of time.

How do you find the space and time to do your thinking in a day?
Rangimarie - Peace and Harmony

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Collective Behaviour

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allThe Necker Cube - artist ken allan
A fireball five miles high and four miles across rose above Eniwetok within seconds, billowing into a mushroom cloud that hit the stratospheric ceiling thirty miles above the Earth and spread outwards for over a thousand miles in every direction, disgorging a darkening snowfall of dusty ash as it went, before slowly dissipating. It was the biggest thing of any type ever created by humans. Nine months later the Soviets surprised the western powers by exploding a thermonuclear device of their own. The race to obliterate life was on – and how. Now we truly were become Death, the shatterer of worlds.- Bill Bryson

The above quote, from The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid, is one of the most lighthearted descriptions of the deeply depressing events that occurred in the early 50s, brought about by group action. Bill Bryson’s lines highlight global examples of how

“A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy”.

I'm grateful to Michael Hanley, who pointed me to Clay Shirky who used these words in the title of his talk in 2003. Though it was specifically on the behaviour of groups using social software, Shirky paralleled that to supposition from reports (“Experiences in Groups”) on group dynamics studied by psychologist W R Bion some decades before.

Shirky talks in detail about the ‘social stickiness’ of groups, as discussed by Bion. He also speaks of the 'the paradox of groups' - the unpredictable, but ever-present attribute of a group that clearly sets the function of it aside from that of a mechanical system.

The broadest example of ‘social stickiness’ is the way groups react to change required of them. Groups resist change, even if the individuals that make up the group may believe firmly that change should occur, and that some may even want it to. We’ve all seen this in the work place, in some form or other. Groups can unwittingly foster this resistance, even if their purpose and given assignments are to assist change to happen.

They may do this without malice or intent to forestall the change they are charged with bringing about. In so doing, they find innovative ways to perform their core duties without actually actioning change. They may even provide rational, complicitous reasoning to justify their strategies.


Some groups tend to be inherently adaptive and emergent. They adapt to accommodate change, rather than to bring it about. Their emergent disposition permits them to come up with new ways of adjusting to this. It may also permit them to invent ways of maintaining the status quo.

In this respect, such a group appears to behave like many other dynamic systems. The 19th century engineer, Henry Le Châtelier, observed that with these systems, "any change in status quo prompts an opposing reaction in the responding system."

The role of the individual:

It’s not as if the individual is incapable of actioning change. There are plenty of examples of how individuals embrace change, usually initiated from within, but not always. It’s that they behave differently when acting within and on behalf of the group they are a part of.

Bion clearly defines the minimum number of members for group behaviour to be three. “Two members have personal relationships; with three or more there is a change of quality”. With three or more, the dynamics of the group also appears to dictate the behaviour of the individuals making up the group.

Jekyll and Hyde:

The dual nature of people in groups, that of individuals and of social beings, no doubt contributes to the emergent quality of groups. Shirky emphasises this in metaphorical reference to the Necker Cube, also alluded to by Bion, in that it can be looked upon as being in two distinct juxtapose positions.

For some individuals this quality may manifest itself in an almost Jekyll and Hyde fashion, which could have the potential to provide a powerful point of emergence within a group.

But the factors that govern the behaviour of a group seem to be more than just what can be predicted by simply viewing it as a dynamic system. A more fitting description for some groups is that they resemble complexity systems. The elements of adaptive as well as emergent behaviour provide some explanation for the seemingly capricious way a group can modify its conduct and intent while continuing to exist.

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Haere rā – Farewell

On Blogging – Report on Index Page

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allIndex Stats Graph
Some weeks ago I was moved by a series of posts by Tony Karrer, pertinent to keeping track of posts, indexes and other ancient, twentieth century artifacts. I’d admired his Blogging Guide for First Time Visitors, which included an index. I had been thinking about starting a blog index of my own when I read about his decision to revise his current guide page.

A blog with an index:

I’d never seen a blog with an index before I saw Karrer’s, so I thought I’d perpetuate the idea. After all, nothing ventured, nothing annihilated, as Bill Bryson puts it.
My blog had got to that critical size when, if I had not started an index, the initial task of setting it up would soon have been in the too hard pile. I’m glad I built it when I did.

There was some minor initial discussion about the index post when it was first launched, and that was okay. I’d already decided to keep track of how things went.
As expected there was some initial interest when I announced the index. The major bump shown on the graph above is almost entirely due to the announcement post.

Here’s my stats so far according to Google Analytics - from Jan 12th 2009 when it was launched, to the present (Fri 6th Feb).

Index Page Stats Table
I had backdated the index page to 1 May 2008, a date before I’d even started blogging. The reason I did this was because I wanted to be able to find the post easily in Dashboard, as I would be updating it regularly. The other was that I didn’t want it picked up by the RSS Feed, and it wasn’t. Instead, my announcement page was RSSed and this meant I could track the real stats on visits to the index page from Blogger in Middle-earth.


Activity on the Index Page was interesting to analyse in Google Analytics. It showed me that people actually used it, for a significant number of views of the page looped to the page itself. This would correspond to visitors using the links on the Index Page, to the two main index lists before making a selection. A Time on Page of nearly 3 minutes is a telling indication of the usefulness of the index post.

Further to this, I was also able to see what people were looking for. There was some noticeable interest in listing posts according to label, and this has continued – Change, Complexity and Peace were popular list selections.

Used Regularly:

I was also heartened that people used the index on a regular basis. Apart from the initial expected flurry of activity, the page settled down to what amounted to a day-to-day visitor service, which was what was intended.

I keep the index up to date – not a difficult task to do. Eventually, I will cull some of the less popular listings, using PostRank (PR) ratings to help me select those. They won't be lost, for they will be picked up in the label listings.

Hopefully it will be easy for me to keep this index in trim, while at the same time providing some assistance to those visitors who want to peruse it.

PostRank rating favourable:

The PR rating of the Index page is currently coming in at an honourable high number, which is surprising. This shows that it's being linked to, rather than just visited, which is favourable. It’s actually showing a PR rating of 10 on my page widget (see screen-shot below).

I’m aware that there is a difference between the displayed rating numbers on the right side-bar widget and what I can view at the base of my screen from the PostRank Firefox Extension as shown here. If anyone can throw some light on why there should be a difference in these numerical reports from PR, I’d be keen to learn.

Link to Index Page, Showing PostRank rating in Footer
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Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Collective Effect

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allA Huge Crowd
Why should our principles, beliefs, creeds, raison d'être as trainers and educators, be dislocated because of a global financial crisis? It seems illogical that just because things have got tough financially, even on a global scale, our fundamental ideologies as educators should have to be reviewed and turned around.

Is it logic?

We do not rush to review our theories of Mathematics, or of Science, or of Computer Logic Theory, just because we can’t afford to buy the software. So why should pedagogy and training theory be any different? Yet this is the sort of so-called logic that I’m reading about and listening to, that’s being touted on the Net - right now.

It seems that, because of our global financial situation, we should rethink all that we've done in the past about teaching, training and learning. It beggars logic.

A possible genetic throwback:

I begin to think that, perhaps, this is a genetic throwback. Maybe, way back in time, when crisis struck our primitive ancestors, some of them began to behave erratically, even stupidly. For some chance reason, the genetic strain that was shared by those demented individuals survived, and was passed on to some of us who are here today. Could this be what happened?

I muse over so-called mass-hysteria – a strange and insanely illogical behaviour of people in large groups, who experience unusual, synchronous, emotional events. I wonder how much of what we are witnessing is as a result of the so-called bandwagon effect.

If we can have collective intelligence,
why can’t we have collective stupidity?

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pie In The Sky?

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allPie
I read blog posts and articles that tell where education and learning are supposed to be heading with the economic downturn. I wonder how much this evident crisis is being used by many would-be educators to assist them to push their own barrows.

It might be my age, but I feel that the rush-rush-rush of postmodernity is no excuse for continuing campaigns for further change just for the sake of it. Especially in training and education.

We have watched a foray of theorising - on digital natives/digital immigrants - on the spurious benefits of multi-tasking and how this is supposedly the way to work and learn - on how hype-new communication technologies have just got to be the way to go - on how we should chuck the book and the text-book with no real thought given as to how these will be effectively replaced.

New age

The present digitalogical age is nearly new. Some of us are still playing with the packaging from much of its technology. And we learn that we must get rid of everything else we’ve been using up till now to make way for what’s yet to be unpacked. It’s strange how, in times of financial crisis, we seem to perpetuate this practice, with no time given to total what assets we have and what may be of use.

While some are still extolling the virtues of pedagogy, others want to get rid of it, often with no real evidential basis for the extinction. And so, training is getting the heave - yet again. If we’re looking for something new to heave, forget training. It’s been heaved so many times before. Nothing new in that. Most often when it happens though, it’s heaved without regard to what’s thrown.

Training Cookery

In times of financial crisis, getting rid of training is familiar recipe to me. In 1992 I was made redundant from a corporation through the use of this same formula, only to be offered my job back. I was a computer trainer. Needless to say, I refused the offer. I felt indignation at the trauma I’d been put through.

Fortunately, another company offered me a job. Since then I’ve continued to witness the ebb and flow of training with the financial tide. There were phases when training was in abundant supply - price no object. But when finances were tight, training became a touchy topic.

I wondered about this seesaw change in attitude. I began to take note of how training was viewed by and within organisations in these varying economic climes.

Two metaphorical, attitudinal states for training came clear. In one, I was at home as a teacher/trainer in the workplace. In the other, I felt quite insecure and vulnerable.

Pie topping

I clearly felt insecure when training was treated as topping on the pie. These were times when training was offered as a confection - an incentive, rather than a nutritious necessity.

Often the training and accompanying resources were expensive. On these occasions, contractors might be brought in, at great expense, to provide training that, ultimately, was seldom put to good use. It was like flocculent cream topping, full of air, no real substance, and no nutritive value. But ooh! soo expensive! And we had to be grateful for what we received. When funds were tight, topping was off the menu.

The environment that this sort of training cultivated was one quick to change. It fostered resentment in its recipients, indigestion in the organisation, making further courses of similar fare almost unpalatable and certainly of little provisional use.

Pie base

The most secure state was not necessarily when money for training was at its most plentiful. In that state, it was the attitude of the organisation, within the hierarchy of management, right to the CEO, that provided a vigorous climate for both teaching and learning.

If funds were tight, innovative and smart approaches were sought and used if found. If funding was plentiful, it was for needed resources and strategies to best implement their use.

In terms of the ‘training pie’, this is the pastry-base state. It provides a firm foundation on which to build a healthy recipe for learning. The funding of this base was flexible, within limits, permitting a variety of quality ingredients to be at the disposal of the training. If times were tight, the ingredients for the base could easily be plain-pack without substantial loss of quality overall.

These two states are all about attitude to training – whatever form the training may take – held by the management hierarchy within an organisation.

In lean times, what recipe would you rather have - a pie with no topping, or a pie with no base?

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Long, Long Time Ago

Kia ora tātou – Hello Everyone
American Thumb - artist Ken AllanOn this day, fifty years ago, the life of a young singer-songwriter ended tragically. The end for this brief and brilliant artistic career was a supernova in the pop music galaxy that continues to reverberate with the shock.

Early in the morning (3 February 1959) a light plane crashed shortly after take-off, near Mason City Municipal Airport, Iowa. All passengers died: pilot Roger Peterson, Ritchie Valens, J P “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Charles Hardin Holley, otherwise know as Buddy Holly.

Holly’s life was short - too short for him to commit mistakes enough to influence, in the slightest, his inevitable place in the history of music.

Don McLean’s famous line on the event, “the day the music died”, is a conundrum. What Holly gave, in the few years before then, had a colossal influential effect on the music of many singers and musicians. Millions of people throughout the world have been touched by Holly’s artistry, and through their appreciation of the momentum of the music that's still evolving from it.

I was too young to fully appreciate Buddy Holly’s music before he died. But in the years since, I have come to understand how his light is such an amazing guiding beacon to so many in the music world:

Linda Ronstadt:

The Beatles:

The Rolling Stones:

Cliff Richard:

John Denver and David Essex:

Don McLean:

Rangimarie - Peace and Harmony