Monday, 22 August 2011

Pedagogy and note taking

Over time I've become increasingly conscious of my lack of pedagogical knowledge - but as I'd always worked with teaching professionals to develop materials it didn't cause many problems. However, recently I've been conscious that it creates a barrier between me and teachers which, in my new role, won't benfit anybody. So I have recently been on a course to develop my pedagogical understanding.

It's a very interesting science - and at the same time slightly unsatisfying. You learn a lot of theory but the opportunities for practice are incredibly limited (because if you carry out experiments in education someone will learn more slowly or not at all, and is that really ethical?) and so you have to assume that this is all correct and try and build from there.

Throughout this course I was conscious of our first learning - the things about how to eat with cutlery, how to walk, how to communicate. Each of these are learned, not instinctive, and yet none of them require note taking. Why is this considered so important then? Of course, the answer is simple:

The things you do and continue to do are learned. Otherwise you need reference material.

The implication therefore, which amused me slightly, is that all those teachers who spent your education telling you that something was important and you must write it down, were really telling you that it was something you probably wouldn't do for a while (and by extension, it probably wasn't all that important).

Monday, 8 August 2011

Birds eye view

Working on a project with a group of skilled workers is a bit like being in an ants nest. Everyone has their tasks, there is frequent crossover and interaction (I think this is represented by the paths through the ants nest, but I'll admit I may not have thought this metaphor through in its entirety) and endless, endless work.

My role as a developer means that after receiving a pile of information from someone who knows what they're talking about, I have more or less been left in isolation to get on with it. This suits me quite nicely for a while, but it's generally not long before I look up and it seems that I am the only ant in the nest.

For the last many months I have had this feeling (which is wholly false - I am not by any means the only person on this project and I have had a lot of support from SMEs) about one particular project and I've been working on a myriad of tiny tasks.

Tomorrow is more or less the final meeting, so I clambered out of the little hole I'd worked myself into and, in a completely unexpected turn of events, saw the whole project. A bird's eye view, if you will. It's so close to completion I can practically taste the celebratory real ale.

What has this taught me? Perspective. I don't allow time for perspective when I'm working and I'm now certain that this has a negative impact on my organisational skills. Sadly, with perspective you lose that feeling of wonder that it's all come together, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. Especially since, from now on, other people will suffer if I don't have the proper perspective.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Managing Development

For the last 18 months I have been working in an eLearning Materials Development role. However, I'm delighted that at the start of the new term I will begin working in the role I've been anticipating and wishing for; officially entitled eLearning Coordinator. In this role I'll be encouraging others to use eLearning throughout the college. I am both thrilled and incredibly nervous.

There are a number of stages to this role/ process and the first stage is integrating with the teaching and support staff so I know how they all work and ensure I don't try to implement something that is at the worst impossible and at the best inconsiderate.

Beyond this stage lies a maelstrom of planning, training, designing and implementing. And for this I need a guide. Today, purely by chance, I came across two articles that are highly relelvant to my needs:

Creating a Learning Organisation
Marc My Words: When Training is Not the Answer

As Captain Planet* would say "By these articles combined" I am attempting to form an idea of the principles that are best suited to my situation:
[Note: the third-person plural personal pronoun (subjective case) "they" will be used here to denote any members of the team that may be relevant in that category]

Direction - Everyone involved in developing this project needs to be very clear not only about what we are doing, but why we are doing it. The how in this instance will be varied by department, but the whole team can get behind the goals and the reasons. This should address the performance issues related to commitment and must be established before we start rolling out training.

Once direction is established, there will be (according to various studies) resistance to the project which will cover a few of the performance issues including:
  • They don't know how to perform
    • The degree of engagement with the VLE will be defined at different levels, with an expected adoption rate also clearly defined. Each department's adoption rate will be cleared with the department head so that they can lead and if necessary enforce across their department.
    • Training in different aspects of the VLE will be offered as well as snippet suggestions on things staff could do if they were interested.
  • They don't know how well to perform
    • As above, there will be a clearly defined department goal which will be communicated and reinforced on a regular basis.
  • They think they are already performing
    • This should be picked up in team meetings and can be addressed informally by the MTA team, or more formally by the HOD.
  • They are too busy
    • Many staff members won't want to invest time in learning how to use the technology and then develop lessons or activities in the VLE. However, the future time savings are a part of the reasoning behind adopting the VLE to begin with, so hopefully being behind the direction will help staff resolve this problem themselves. 
  • They don't have the resources
    • This may be students or staff - we can ensure staff have the resources they need and help them develop their eLearning based on the minimum that students will have available to them.
  • They don't have the capacity
    • It is possible that some staff are genuinely incapable of using technology, but in most instances the difficulties in learning are related to a fear of the technology which can hopefully be overcome. This will require time and a lot of close personal guidance.
The approaches described above require
  • Leadership
    • It will be the responsibility of HODs and myself to drive this forward by using the VLE ourselves. Staff can easily be introduced to a training course on the VLE as a part of the project.
  • Culture and Organisation
    • The Project will define the "Company Way" of doing things. This will give us adoption goals and rates which the HODs will need to communicate throughout their departments
  • Accountability
    • This can only be enforced by the HODs - they need to be behind this 100%.
    • This in conjunction with Motivation also covers
      • They are not rewarded for the right performance
      • They are punished for the right performance
      • There are no (or weak) consequences for doing it wrong or not at all.
  • Coordination and Control
    • This cannot be determined until the various teams and their roles have been determined.
External Orientation - In this instance the customer and the team are the same group. Additional customers will include the students and their approval or otherwise will be reported by the student forum and student body president. A provisional idea - which will be affected by the feedback this body gives - is to give the student body an area in the VLE that is only lightly moderated taht they can use to create their own activities and quizzes etc.
Innovation and Learning - as we continue to develop our goals, expectations and acheivements will also develop. This will frequently affect the reasons for poor performance and can only be addressed by continuously high levels of communication and ongoing guidance and training where required.

There are a lot of issues that cannot be forseen. For now, my concern is making this transition as painless as possible by planning around the issues we can and allowing time and potential failures for the issues we can't anticipate.

*If he were a training management professional
Surprise! I am both pedantic and geeky ;-)