Tag: Vicki Davis

Like words in a letter sent, amplified by the distance.

Loupe & lettres

A couple of days ago Vicki Davis wrote a blog post about mobile phones and teenage sleep deprivation. I commented by quoting a Kings of Convenience songs (‘Singing Softly To Me’) that points out how those things or actions not in our immediate vicinity can be romanticized or magnified to seem more important than they actually are:

Things seem so much better when
they’re not part of your close surroundings.
Like words in a letter sent,
amplified by the distance.
Possibilities and sweeter dreams,
sights and sounds calling form far away,
calling from far away.

Productivity is about dealing with the here and now and prioritizing what is important rather than extraneous.

(Image credit: Loupe & lettres by Alain Bechellier @ Flickr)

“You can tell a lot about someone from what they’re like.”

…so said the wise Harry Hill. But it would seem that you can also tell a lot about someone from they way they blog. I came across a website yesterday called Typealyzer, thanks to Vicki Davis. Typealyzer analyses blogs and websites and does some clever semantic processing to decide which of the Myers-Briggs personality types the author fits into. As Vicki quite rightly pointed out in her post, there’s a great variety of personality types in the edublogosphere! What am I? INTJ (standing for Introversion, iNtuition, Thinking, Judgement):

INTJ - The Scientist

I’m not a big fan of pigeon-holing people or stereotyping, so was a bit skeptical. Ironically, after some further research, I found that this is exactly what INTJ personality types are known for. This is from the Myers & Briggs Foundation website (my emphasis):

Have original minds and great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals. Quickly see patterns in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives. When committed, organize a job and carry it through. Skeptical and independent, have high standards of competence and performance – for themselves and others.

What I am, and increasingly a fan of, are heuristics. These are rules-of-thumb and methods of problem solving that ‘just work’. My use of and belief in the power of heuristics fits in well with my Pragmatist outlook. If the sixteen personality types were all much-of-a-muchness and I could see myself in all of them, then I would dismiss the power of such talk. However, looking at the list, I’m certainly not anything like any of the personality types beginning with ‘E’ (for extroverted, presumably). In fact, the only other one remotely like me is INTP (the ‘P’ standing for Perception).

As Vicki Davis remarked in a follow-up tweet, the overviews tend only to talk about the positive traits of the personality types rather than including the negative elements. And then there’s the fact that Typealyzer looks at the web page towards which you direct it. As typing in dougbelshaw.com/blog would only take it to the front page of this site with summaries of blog posts, the results are likely to be distorted.

To gain some clarification and a second opinion, I searched for websites where you could take Myers-Briggs personality tests online. I took three. Here are the websites with the results underneath:

http://www.kisa.ca/personality

Kisa test - INTJ

OK, I thought. Well this is just a test on someone’s homepage. And I may have just been answering the questions in a way that would get me to be INTJ. On with the next test…

HumanMetrics.com

INTJ - HumanMetrics

OK, OK, but these aren’t exactly rigorous tests are they? So I searched for something with a bit more clout – and came across…

BBC – Science & Nature – What am I like?

INTJ - BBC

So there we have it. I’m of the personality type INTJ. Apparently this is one of the rarest personality types! You can read more about INTJs at the BBC website, at PersonalityPages, or at Wikipedia. There’s some fascinating (at least, for me!) stuff in there.

If one of the most powerful things an individual can do in order to be successful and happy in life is to know thyself, then the quick Typealyzer blog test has got to be worth a try as a starting point.

What did YOU come out as?

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Productivity, Organization & #tweetmeet

I’ve spent this afternoon and early evening at a ‘tweetmeet’. These are also known as ‘tweetups’ and are when people who have previously only met, or usually communicate, through the microblogging service Twitter meet up face-to-face. I’d actually met all of the people from the small tweetmeet we had today in Nottingham.* :-p

Such ‘unorganized’ meetings of people – TeachMeet is a similar, slightly more structured example – are the subject of this blog post. What prompted my thinking about organization was part of the discussion we had, foolowed up by listening to a Radio 4 podcast on the way home called Thinking Allowed. I suggest that you listen to it right now!

The whole point of organizations is to achieve something. These may be set in stone and known by all participants in the organizations, or there may be many (and possibly conflicting) objectives framed by participants. All organizations, therefore, have different degrees of productivity, both globally (as an organization) and, depending on their size, on a more micro-scale.

I say this because we discussed at the tweetmeet – which was itself a kind of exemplar – the concept of an ‘unconference’. This is defined by Wikipedia (as I write, anyway…) as ‘a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered around a theme or purpose.’ Our purpose, I suppose, was to discuss things face-to-face that we’d previously discussed online, and to get to know each other a little better. Then, on the way home, listening the Thinking Allowed podcast (above) it got me thinking more generally about organizational structures.

Michael Thompson, author of Organising and Disorganising, talked about going on a expedition to climb the South face of Mount Everest. He explained how there were two separate groups – ‘Team A’ and ‘Team B’ – with the leader and middle managers (as it were) in the former group and the rest in the latter. He explained how this rigid hierarchical structure led to those in Team B, despite being experienced and highly-motivated mountaineers, adopting a chaotic, somewhat anti-organizational structure.

The important thing, however, was that order in fact came out of this structure; order that depended on those involved. This is the thing that is missing in organizational planning these days: the role of individuality. Because, actually, someone who fulfils a role in an organization cannot simply be swapped-out for another person. The whole organizational structure depends on the talents, personality and individual attributes of that person. Change one part of the organization and the whole thing shifts. It may be a small amount in some cases – imperceptible to some – but a rearrangement and alteration does take place.

This helps to explain why organizations seemingly consisting of brilliant minds that should be amazingly productive and innovative fail to be so. An effective organizational structure is one that removes barriers and enables individuals within an organization to reach his or her potential. This, of course, cannot be at the expense of another, otherwise it is a futile exercise. One such way of going about organization, therefore, is to unorganize things, to mix things up a little.

So I’d encourage you, as Tom did me today, to once you’ve attended an unconference, to think about organizing (or un-organizing…) one of your own. You can’t really state in advance the specific things you’re likely to learn, but that’s part of the fun! I’ll leave you with a couple of things. The first is a Twitter message from @hrheingold which sums up in a far more eloquent way than I could ever manage the benefits of letting a little (controlled) chaos into organization:

The second is a link I came across, shared by Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher), whilst writing this post. It’s called 8 Tips on How to Run Your Own UnConference. I hope that and this post change your thinking a bit and encourage you to think a little differently about organization, or the lack of it, and how it could impact the productivity of any organization of which you are part! 😀

* I knew Lisa Stevens originally from last year’s TeachMeet at BETT, Jose Picardo from an Open Source Schools event, and Tom Barrett from some work we did for a Becta-funded project into Web 2.0 in the classroom at Nottingham University a few months back. The reason it says #tweetmeet in the title is because on Twitter you can add tags by prefacing words with hash symbols. These then can be tracked by websites such as Twemes.com. You can see this in action on the front page of the tweetmeet.eu website!

Image credits: iPhone Matrix App -MoPhaic & Podcamp West, both from Flickr

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“Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore!” (or, How to get started in the Edublogosphere…)

Wizard of Oz

I’ve been contacted by four different postgraduate researchers in the last two weeks. It’s getting to the stage where I’m considering setting up a new website/discussion space! A couple of them just wanted permission to use some of my stuff in their theses, one is already a member of the Edublogosphere, but one asked a very pertinent question:

My stumbling across some of your postings last night was my first trip in the edublogosphere. What else is going on out there?

As you can imagine, I hardly knew where to start! As I like to reply to emails ASAP, I replied thus:

  • Find some blogs to read. My Google Reader shared items might be a good place to start. Also try the big names in the edublogosphere – search for Stephen Downes, Will Richardson, Vicki Davis, Ewan McIntosh, and Dave Warlick. 🙂
  • Get yourself a Google account and use Google Reader to subscribe to the RSS feeds of blogs (don’t know how? click here)
  • Start using Twitter. At first you’ll think “What on earth…?”. After a while you’ll find it indispensible.
  • Start blogging yourself. Doesn’t matter what, but start making links with people. It’s the conversation that counts! Try edublogs to get you started. 😀

There’s a Hebrew proverb that I’m sure almost every educator will have heard before: “Do not confine your children to your learning, for they were born in a different time.” The same could be said of the Edublogosphere. I can hardly recommend that people start by using the same tools I did when things have moved on so much in the last 3-4 years! What would YOU recommend?

This Sunday, EdTechRoundup will be discussing just this issue – how to get started in the Edublogosphere – from 7.45pm onwards. Please do join us and give your input. The session will be recorded and go out as a podcast.

If you can’t make it, or just want to get the conversation going before then, please add your comment below! :-p

The Map Is Not The Territory: the changing face of the edublogosphere

World mapI started reading educational blogs in late 2004/early 2005. Back then, there were only a few educators blogging – the likes of Will Richardson, Vicki Davis, Wesley Fryer. Oh, and the inimitable Stephen Downes. There was (and still is) a dearth of UK-based educational bloggers.

One thing they had in common, however, was a revolutionary message: that education must adapt to the 21st century or suffer the consequences. There were fantastic conversations to follow across these blogs. This is one of the reasons I started teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk in late 2005 – to become part of this ‘conversation’. 🙂

Now, in early 2008, things have changed. Whilst it’s great that there’s more educators than ever blogging, tweeting, etc. the focus has shifted. Those that were formerly in the classroom and relating the changing world and tools available to everyday educational experience are no longer in those positions; educators who have no desire to transform education are blogging. The edublogosphere has changed from being about ‘the conversation’ to being part of ‘the network’. It all smacks a little too much of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and, to be honest, viral marketing of Web 2.0 apps.

Newcastle

At the end of the day, the map is not the territory. My wife, for example, memorized the map of Newcastle-upon-Tyne when we got married and she moved up there. In many respects she could navigate herself around the city better than I could – someone who had lived close-by for 15 years or more. She could name the most popular places for pizza, show visitors the major attractions. But she didn’t know the city in the way a local would. She knew the what, but not the why.

The same goes, to a great extent, with the edublogosphere. Three years ago educators were looking to using new technologies to move towards a new model of education. Nowadays it seems to be all about bragging how you’ve used (web) application X before anyone else has. The edublogosphere seems to be overrun by educators who know the what but not the why. They’re impressed by those who can ‘leverage the power of the network’. This means, in practice, seeing how many people following you on Twitter respond to a shout out for information/hello’s whilst you move out of the classroom and into a consultancy role.

I guess from the above you can tell I’m not in favour of the new direction the edublogosphere’s headed. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still people keeping it real and not jumping on the latest bandwagon. But they’re becoming increasingly hard to find. Technology and the teaching methods that gave a vibrancy to the early edublogosphere have been distorted in order to be shoehorned into a corporate vision of schools I, for one, find repugnant.

So how should we fix it? Well I’m not saying that I’m not also to blame. I know that I am. These days I use technology to make my life easier rather than to push boundaries. Perhaps we need a commitment to collaboratively develop new pedagogies rather than remark on how ‘cool’ it would be to use any given tool? I can’t believe that it’s 2008 and we’re still using a method of education more than a little reminiscent of the Industrial Revolution… 🙁

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