Tag: JISC infoNet (page 1 of 2)

Working for an Academy vs. working for JISC infoNet [visualisation]

Back in 2009 when I was Director of e-Learning of The Northumberland Church of England Academy I started tracking my own activities.

Using a private WordPress-powered blog with the P2 theme, I quickly logged what I was up to, adding tags as I went. Below is the tag cloud after one month of using the system as a Senior Leader in an newly-minted Academy:

Doug's work record - search for 'Google Apps'

As you can see, the following tags were prevalent (I don’t think I included teaching in there for some reason!):

  • Google Apps (I was responsible for deploying it across the 9-site Academy)
  • Elearning (obviously)
  • Meetings (lots and lots of these)
  • Email (a necessary evil)
  • Dan Brooks (an M.Ed. student from an Australian university whom I mentored during extended teaching practice)
  • Training (I led plenty of sessions)

Doug's work blog (2012)

The above screenshot is from yesterday, soon after finishing my two-year stint as Researcher/Analyst at JISC infoNet. Apart from changing my avatar and tweaking the colour scheme, what’s changed?

  • The email tag is much larger in this cloud. I was working in an office rather than a school, after all.
  • JISC, JISC Advance and JISC infoNet unsurprisingly figure a lot.
  • Google Apps remains there as I implemented and supported the system for the 19 JISC Advance services.
  • Mobile Learning infoKit is there as it was a major piece of work for me during my time at JISC infoNet.
  • Digital literacies features due to my work in the area and programme support for the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme.
  • Patrick Bellis was my boss at JISC infoNet and Sarah Knight the JISC programme manager with whom I had the most dealings.
  • Other people’s names feature as well – interestingly Dan Brooks (M.Ed. student at the Academy) is still there three years later. Just goes to show how intense that period was!

Finally, you can see that wiki and Skype are small but significant in the tag cloud. I’ve never worked for an organisation that had better knowledge management and procedures than JISC infoNet. The internal wiki had everything you needed to work effectively and was an active, living repository of information. Skype is used extensively throughout JISC, sometimes for calls, sometimes for ‘backchanneling’.

If you’d done something similar which tags would YOU expect to show up?

Why I’m becoming a MoFo(er).

Mozilla logo

There’s something I’ve been bursting to tell people for the last few weeks. It’s something that will come as no surprise to some and a bit of a shock to others.

I’m joining the Mozilla Foundation.

I can’t tell you how excited I am! As ‘Badges and Skills Lead’ I’ll be both continuing the work started by Michelle Levesque on web literacies and evangelising Open Badges.

The last couple of years with JISC infoNet have been fantastic but I had to take such a wonderful opportunity! I’m fortunate to be both leaving and joining an extremely friendly, effective and forward-thinking team.

If you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them in the comments below!

My Belbin results – Part 1

At the JISC infoNet quarterly planning meeting on Tuesday we got our Belbin feedback. For those who don’t know what that is (which would have included me until recently), go and read the Wikipedia article.

I’m not a huge fan of being pigeon-holed, but I found the results interesting nevertheless. I’ve only got a paper version of the results at the moment and, given it’s copyrighted material, I’m just going to share edited highlights. 🙂

There are nine defined roles with the Belbin process, the characteristics of which an individual is judged to exemplify to a greater or lesser extent. These are:

  1. Plant – Creative, imaginative, unorthodox. Solves difficult problems. Ignores incidentals. Too pre-occupied with own thoughts to communicate effectively.
  2. Resource Investigator – Extrovert, enthusiastic, communicative. Explores opportunities. Develops contacts. Over-optimistic. Can lose interest once initial enthusiasm has passed.
  3. Co-ordinator – Mature, confident. Clarifies goals. Brings other people together to promote team discussions. Can be seen as manipulative. Offloads personal work.
  4. Shaper – Challenging, dynamic, thrives on pressure. Has the drive and courage to overcome obstacles. Prone to provocation. Liable to offend others.
  5. Monitor Evaluator – Serious minded, strategic and discerning. Sees all options. Judges accurately. Can lack drive and ability to inspire others.
  6. Teamworker – Co-operative, mild, perceptive and diplomatic. Listens, builds, averts friction. Indecisive in crunch situations.
  7. Implementer – Disciplined, reliable, conservative in habits. A capacity for taking practical steps and actions. Somewhat inflexible. Slow to respond to new possibilities.
  8. Completer Finisher – Painstaking, conscientious, anxious. Searches out errors and omissions. Delivers on time. Inclined to worry unduly. Reluctant to let others into own job.
  9. Specialist – Single-minded, self-starting, dedicated. Provides knowledge and skills in rare supply. Contributes on only a limited front. Dwells on specialised personal interest.

For those who know me (either wholly through my work online or in person) I’d be interested in you participating in a little experiment:

If YOU had to choose three of these roles to describe me, which would you choose? Why?

(for a ‘Brucey bonus’ list some keywords you’d use to describe me)

I’ll share the keywords and roles my colleagues think fit me best in a forthcoming post. 😀

Launch of the Mobile Learning infoKit

Yesterday I launched JISC infoNet‘s new Mobile Learning infoKit at ALT-C 2011. Here’s an overview:

The infoKit is designed to augment JISC’s new Emerging Practice in a Digital Age guide (also launched yesterday). If you’re interested in mobile learning you may also want to check out the JISC Mobile and Wireless Technologies Review I authored a few months ago. 🙂

What’s the opposite of ‘digital Taylorism’?

An Industry Epoch

Taylorism is also known as the theory of ‘Scientific Management’ established by Frederick Taylor in the 19th century:

Scientific management was a theory of management that analyzed and synthesized workflows. Its main objective was improving economic efficiency, especially labor productivity. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes and to management… Although scientific management as a distinct theory or school of thought was obsolete by the 1930s, most of its themes are still important parts of industrial engineering and management today. These include analysis; synthesis; logic; rationality; empiricism; work ethic; efficiency and elimination of waste; standardization of best practices; disdain for tradition preserved merely for its own sake or merely to protect the social status of particular workers with particular skill sets; the transformation of craft production into mass production; and knowledge transfer between workers and from workers into tools, processes, and documentation. (Wikipedia)

Why Taylorism is A Bad Thing

Although Frederick Taylor did try and remedy his system, the effects on human labour were mostly negative:

[Taylor] failed to leave room in his system for the workers who did have talent or intelligence. Some of them would be duly utilized during the early phases (the studying and designing), but what about smart workers in years afterwards who would start out among the ranks of the drones? What opportunities would they have for career advancement or socioeconomic advancement? He also failed to properly consider the fate of the drone-ish workers themselves. Maybe they did lack the ability for higher-level jobs, but what about keeping them satisfied or placated in their existing roles? Taylorism took some steps toward addressing their needs (for example, Taylor advocated frequent breaks and good pay), but Taylor nevertheless had a condescending view of less intelligent workers, whom he sometimes compared to draft animals. (Wikipedia)

One of the reasons why some people are anti-PRINCE2 as a project management methodology is due to an unthinking application of its management products (as opposed to contextualising the principles of PRINCE2). This is a form of Taylorism. Unfortunately, many promising initiatives and methods are disfigured on the Procrustean bed of top-down management ‘solutions’.

What is digital Taylorism?

If the twentieth century brought what can be described as mechanical Taylorism characterised by the Fordist production line, where the knowledge of craft workers was captured, codified and re-engineered in the shape of the moving assembly line by management, the twenty- first century is the age of digital Taylorism. This involves translating knowledge work into working knowledge through the extraction, codification and digitalisation of knowledge into software prescripts and packages that can be transmitted and manipulated by others regardless of location. (Phil Brown, UKCES – PDF)

Whilst honing workflows to be more productive is definitely a good thing, doing so at the expense of judgement, creativity and autonomy is not:

Digital Taylorism enables innovation to be translated into routines that might require some degree of education but not the kind of creativity and independence of judgement that is often associated with the knowledge economy. In order to reduce costs and assert proprietary rights, companies are experimenting with new ways to move from knowledge work to working knowledge; that is, from the idiosyncratic knowledge that a worker has and applies, to working knowledge, where that knowledge is codified and routinised, thereby making it generally available to the company rather than being the ‘property’ of an individual worker. (Phil Brown, UKCES – PDF)

In other words, anything that can be mechanised, routinised and outsourced, will be. It’s akin to the famous quotation by Arthur C. Clarke: “Teachers that can be replaced by a machine should be.”

What’s the opposite of digital Taylorism?

Most of the important things in life and work can’t be measured and quantified. However, there are measures which pertain to something secondary to the important things. Take online ‘engagement’, for example. Whilst the number of visitors and time spent on each web page aren’t directly linked to engagement, they do serve as a secondary indicators. Getting to the nub of the matter would mean qualitative data (through interviews and the like) rather than hard, impersonal, quantitative web stats.

During my time in schools I saw digital Taylorism and over-quantification entering what used to be called ‘the teaching profession’. Students are reduced to numbers on a spreadsheet and expected to show ‘progress’ (whatever that means) in a linear fashion. Teachers end up conspiring by fudging the numbers so as not to look bad. A similar situation pervades the roles of people I deal with in my current position: they’re constrained by top-down micro-management and a false sense of ‘accountability’.

I’m fortunate that my role at JISC infoNet is the opposite of digital Taylorism. I’m encouraged to network, follow serendipitous connections and think about the ways in which what I’m doing (or could be doing) relates to the core mission of my organisation, the wider role of JISC, and helps the sector more widely. As with the ‘engagement’ example, organisational culture is difficult to measure directly but the large beanbags, sofas, flexible working practices and Investors in People Award serve as secondary indicators!

Image CC BY-NC-SA Tobias Higbie

JISC Mobile and Wireless Technologies Review

If you’re reading this via email, RSS or a non Flash-enabled device the embedded media probably won’t work. My presentation is on Slideshare and the mobile review is accessible at http://mobilereview.jiscpress.org. Alternatively click here to view this post on the blog. 🙂

Since starting at JISC infoNet in April 2010 I’ve worked on a OER infoKit and a learning and teaching upgrade to the Digital Repositories infoKit, both with the talented Lou McGill. Back in July I wrote a successful proposal to embark on a mobile and wireless technologies review for the JISC e-Learning programme. It grew to be a much larger piece of work than I envisaged, probably because I enjoyed researching and writing it so much! I’ve interviewed, met and read about wonderful people doing fantastic things in mobile learning.

I’ve now finished that review and it stands at about the same length as my MA dissertation. Wow. You can access various versions of the mobile and wireless technologies review via http://mobilereview.jiscpress.org or directly below (click to enlarge):

In addition, here’s a presentation I’m making to a JISC Review Board meeting today about my findings (you might want to view it on Slideshare with the notes on!)

I’d love to hear your feedback on the review, either here or at the JISCPress site. 😀

‘So… what do you do?’ (v2)

Pigeon-holes. Not those, of course, of the physical variety in which you might keep racing birds, but those of the mind. That, and people’s seemingly-innate desire to find areas of common ground in any given situation. Combined, they’re a potent, but potentially destructive force in society.

“So… what do you do?” is a question I try not to ask. It’s only one step removed from, “What do you do for a living?”, asked explicitly to answer the implicit question “Are you of any value or interest to me?”. I have a three step strategy to answer such questions:

Questioner: So… what do you do?

Me: I work at Northumbria University

That satisfies 80% of queries. Sometimes that’s followed up by:

Questioner: Oh really, what do you do there?

Me: I work for an organization called JISC that’s based at Northumbria and deals with educational technology.

This deals with a further 15%. Only about one out of every twenty people ask for the full details:

Questioner: What type of things do you do?

Me: I work for a part of JISC called JISC infoNet. We’re funded indirectly by the taxpayer and provide guidance on digital technologies mainly to senior managers. We produce ‘infoKits’ which are detailed online briefings to get the further and higher education sectors up-to-speed on relevant topics. I’m currently working on  some giving guidance about Open Educational Resources and mobile technologies. JISC saves the taxpayer more than thirty times what they cost to fund.

If all three questions have been asked, this usually leads to a longer conversation where we both get to talk about what we enjoy and find interesting in life. I am, of course, slightly more loquacious than the above, but you get the idea. :-p

Apart from my absolutely most-hated phrase which I will no doubt write about soon – a phrase banned in our house since the birth of our son – apart from that particular phrase, the one I revile most is the one which asks what you do for a living?. Every action and utterance has a symbolic element. In this case, the questioner not only assumes, but serves to endorse and reinforce, societal notions that what a person does to earn money is necessarily the defining feature of their life.

I’m currently reading a book about Greg Mortenson called Three Cups of Tea. Whilst I’ve only devoured the first six chapters, Mortenson has already attempted to scale K2, been kept alive by the hospitality of a tiny, remote, and very poor village, worked as a emergency-room nurse, slept in a car to make ends meet, and returned to Pakistan to build a school after raising money through the writing of 580 letters. How would he have answered, “So… what do you do?” at this point of his life, I wonder? I’m guessing he would barely mention what happens to pay the bills.

I do enjoy working at JISC infoNet – how could I fail to? It’s a flexible occupation where I’m surrounded by great people doing work that the sector respects and deems worthwhile. I didn’t enjoy my previous job, however. I was constrained and cajoled into doing things against my better judgement. Refusing to sell out, I changed jobs (and educational sectors) and took a pay cut, despite having moved my family to a different part of the country specifically for the previous position. I write this not to self-aggrandise, but to make a point:

Your mission in life is bigger than your job.

So what’s my mission? I’ll find the specifics later but I’ve got the broad brushstrokes: improving user outcomes. Let’s just check that back against what I wrote 14 months ago, shall we? Does what I said then still hold water?

So what do I do?

  • I blend digital and physical worlds.
  • I tell stories about how learning can be.
  • I show people stuff.
  • I research.
  • I find the best of the best.

My job’s what I make it. I can live with that.

Is that still true? Absolutely. 😀

Weeknote #25

This week I have been mostly…

Reading mobile-related stuff

I’ve been reading some fantastic stuff this week, the highlights being the Proceedings of mLearn 2010 and Education in the Wild: contextual and location-based mobile learning in action. I shall be synthesizing them at On The Horizon next week and writing the draft of my JISC Mobile & Wireless Technologies Review the week after.

Playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2

I very rarely buy full-price video games but I was so impressed by the online, multiplayer Battlefield:1943 that when my brother-in-law and family came to visit this week I bought Battlefield: Bad Company 2 whilst it was on offer in the local supermarket. I’ve played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (albeit briefly) but prefer Bad Company 2 for some reason.

Demoing Google Apps for Education

JISC infoNet, for whom I work (via Northumbria University) is part of an umbrella organization called JISC Advance. The latter includes JISC’s Regional Support Centres, of which there are 13. One of these, RSC South West asked me to demo Google Apps for Education to IT managers as I’ve experience with it both in my previous position as Director of E-Learning at an Academy and in my current role within JISC Advance.

I decided to create a video for people to go back to. Here it is, for what it’s worth (bearing in mind someone else had already gone through the email and technical side of things…)

Thinking about emigrating

Previously, when it hasn’t been half-term, this week before the clocks go back to GMT has been the worst for me. It’s just so dark and depressing. I can guarantee that this time next year, in 2011, we’ll either be on holiday somewhere sunny or have moved abroad! :-p

Weeknote #24

This week I have been mostly..

In Malta
I spent Tuesday until midnight last night travelling to and from, and attending, mLearn 2010. One of the largest mobile-related conferences in the world, mLearn was not only held in a great location, but attracted some top names.

Of course, there was the usual conference idiosyncrasies, but overall both the quality of research and social aspect were solid. People really do need to learn how to present more engagingly, though and not rely on tiny sample sizes. I met some really interesting people and it was nice and Malta was sunny most of the time.

I’ll be writing about my experiences of mLearn over at my conference blog sometime this weekend. 😀

Putting the new version of my thesis structure online
I met with my thesis supervisor via Skype on Monday to discuss my progress over the last few months. I’m happy with how things are going and, perhaps more importantly, so is he! My thesis is much better structured now. Whilst I’ll not be submitting on 1st January 2011 (my earliest submission date) next Easter is looking good. More here.

Considering my future
Next year is crunch year. If I want to return to working in schools at senior management level it would have to be for 2011/12. Whilst that could be sensible given my 2-year contract with JISC infoNet, I’m not entirely sure whether that’s in my own or my family’s best interests. And, besides, I’m enjoying myself with in FE/HE. 🙂

Weeknote #22

This week I have been mostly…

Talking to people

I’ve interviewed more people for the JISC mobile and wireless technologies review I’m undertaking and had my first appraisal on Thursday. The latter was more of a chat – a positive one showing I’m valued. I’m now 25% through my 2-year contract at JISC infoNet in an uncertain economic climate.

What next? Who knows! I’m happy in my current role and not concerned in the slightest about my future prospects. I’ve long since stopped even pretending that I know where my career’s heading – apart from going with what interests me and keeping my family financially secure, of course.

Disillusioned with corporate e-learning

The Oxford E-Learning ‘Debate’ was largely a waste of time. I’ve explained why on my conference blog here.

Realising the importance of community

I voted Liberal in the General Election, mainly in protest against the quite frankly dangerous Michael Gove. That didn’t work. Still, at least the Conservatives’ Big Society gambit seems to offer more than just swingeing cuts. Community is important. That’s why Hannah’s volunteering at the local fair on tomorrow and I’m joining the PTA at my son’s school next week.

Frustrated with my MacBook Pro

The thing I’ve loved about using a Mac every day since 2006 is that it’s usually a frustration-free experience. No crashing. No viruses. No constant maintenance. For some reason, almost every application seems to now crash on my MacBook Pro and it looks like I’m going to have to do a Windows-like reinstall. Let’s just hope it’s not going to turn into a bi-monthly thing (as it was when I used PCs…)

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