Category: Imported from Posterous (page 2 of 3)

Best 3 things about my new job?

I used to work in schools as a teacher then a senior leader. I’m now a Researcher/Analyst for JISC infoNet.

People have asked me recently about the differences between the two. Here’s the best 3 things about my new role:

1. Flexi-time: I can work more at times when I’m more productive and take holidays at times that suit me.

2. Social media: We’re positively encouraged to use social media at work – and there’s minimal Internet filtering!

3. Work-life balance: I now actually *have* some of the latter half of this equation…

So yes, I’m enjoying it. Do I miss being in the classroom? Of course! Do I miss all of the stuff that goes with it? No way! πŸ™‚

JISC Conference 2010

As I said to a couple of people, I found the JISC Conference to be a very ‘conferencey’ conference. That’s not as tautological or, indeed, as bad as it sounds.

Yes, some of the presenters need to learn how to use slides.Β Yes, the stairs at the venue got a bit annoying after a while. And yes, Some of the sessions *were* massively over-capacity.

But it worked. People were enthused by the keynote from Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of the Open University. People networked and ‘caught up’. People asked questions.

My recommendations for #jisc11:

  1. Embrace Twitter – display it on the screen at least during Q&A sessions (otherwise it’s dominated by opinionated, influential, middle aged men)Β 
  2. Spend longer on the procedural design stuff. Getting to and from rooms and venues was a bit ‘clunky’.Β 
  3. Advertise the smaller sessions during the breaks more heavily. The ‘pods’ were a great idea. Oh, and provide technical support when things go down for those presenting inside them!Β 

Overall, I enjoyed my first JISC Conference. I’ve learned mire about what the different parts of JISC do, the high esteem in which the service is held, and got a flavour of the projects it’s currently involved in. πŸ™‚

JISC Conference 2010: Introductory Debate


My first experience of the JISC Conference 2010 was the Introductory Debate. It wasn't very debate-like, but we did get to vote on some badly-formed questions. They also didn't have enough chairs for everyone meaning that I, after sitting awkwardly on the floor for a while, went out into the lounge area and followed the rest of it via the web streaming video.

The good thing, though, was to see how complex technology adoption is in Further and Higher education. There's a lot of talk of business models, economies of scale, etc. that you sometimes don't get in schools.


I’ve started a new blog and Twitter account as I’ll be attending many more conferences in my new role at JISC than I did when based in schools.

A friend gently chided me after attending my last conference that I was ‘spamming his timeline’. Doing things this way should allow me to separate things out a bit. πŸ™‚

Why I use Google stuff

1. Almost all their products are free (as in beer).

2. Google supports Open Source.

3. They really care about user interfaces and design.

4. Trustworthy and innovative people like Chris Messina work for Google.

5. They make interoperable services that make my life easier.

Leaving the circus

Information about my move to JISC infoNet to supplement The End of the Beginning:

Why did you leave the Academy?

To cut a long story short, there was a mismatch between my (very specific) job description and my day-to-day duties.


What will you be doing at JISC infoNet?

My position is Researcher/Analyst and I will be putting together infoKits as well as researching into issues that affect the Further Education and Higher Education sector in the UK. Workshops are run by Senior Researchers at JISC, but I’ll be helping out as much as I can!


Is this the end of your teaching career?

I’m 29. I very much doubt that I’ve taught my last lesson in a classroom…


Is your job at JISC a stepping-stone?

Every job is a stepping stone to new opportunities. I’m very excited about my role at JISC and look forward to learning new things.


Can I have your old job at the Academy?

I’d advise against that. And anyway, I’m in no position to influence them!


You’re usually so open about what you do. Why the secrecy?

There was trade union involvement. That’s all I’m saying.

Advertising vs. Sponsorship

The answer to ‘Can I advertise my products services at’ is no, you can’t.

The answer to ‘Can I sponsor your RSS feed for a certain number of days/weeks/months?’ is yes (provided I’m a fan of your product or service).

Hope that clears things up. πŸ™‚

Things I’m interested in talking about at

If you're someone getting in touch to bring something to my attention (to potentially blog about) it would be worth bearing the following in mind:

1. I have a routine

Monday – Productivity and motivation
Tuesday – Technology
Wednesday – Wisdom (quotation)
Thursday – Ed.D. thesis update/extract
Friday – Fun stuff, whatever takes my fancy
Saturday – Design and infographics
Sunday – Things I Learned This Week (a roundup)

2. I blog primarily for me

I'm interested in my audience and readers, of course I am, but my blog is primarily a place I can write. For me.

3. I don't do ads

I have no interest in pimping your products. I may point to something paid-for, but only if I use it and can honestly recommend it. I tend to prefer free stuff. πŸ™‚

Notes from interview about productivity for teachers

Interview with Tim Bradburn (Connected Teaching)

1 March 2010

  • Brief background – what are you doing now and what is your past experience in education?
    • Currently employed as Director of E-Learning at The Northumberland Church of England Academy (10-site all-age Academy 3-19 set up at start of this academic year)
    • Sixth year of teaching
    • Previously E-Learning Staff Tutor as well as Teacher of History and ICT at Ridgewood School (High Achieving Specialist School in Doncaster)
    • Started career as Teacher of History in Worksop
    • Currently writing my Ed.D. thesis on the concept of ‘digital literacy’
    • Have a wife (Primary Teacher) and 3 year-old son (hard work – both grandfathers were PE teachers!)

  • Teaching staff always mention lack of time – 12 hour days as standard. Many of them are desperate to know how to work smarter, reduce workload and improve work-life balance. This seems particularly critical in primary. Why do you think this is?
    • 3 main reasons:
      • Immediate results – spending a little more time planning can have real results the next day
      • Hypocrisy of Ofsted – bar being continually raised because of what teachers can achieve over a short inspection (expected all year round)
      • No CPD on productivity/organization – expected to know how to use email effectively, manage time, prioritise, etc.

  • Could you outline your views on productivity being a virtuous circle?
    • Think about the opposite – how do we get into a vicious circle? When what we do negatively affects us so that we cannot perform well, and that then has an impact on the next thing, and so on.
    • For example, some form of ‘coping strategy’ (such as alcohol) or avoidance strategy (such as avoiding marking) leads to a problem building up
    • The opposite of that is a ‘virtuous circle’ – when what you do makes things easier or more manageable
    • For example, coping with stress with exercise rather than cigarettes and alcohol can help with creating a virtuous circle because it increases your energy levels.
    • You can check whether you’re involved in creating a virtuous circle for yourself by asking whether your actions are helping you increase your capacity. 

  • You talk about productivity being a learned behaviour, composed of serenity, reliability, focus. Could you explain that?
    • No-one is ‘born productive’ (all learned). Met a lot of people who’ve had to sink or swim because of a crisis.
      • Serenity = state free from stress and anxiety. People can perform under pressure (e.g. Olympic athletes) but can’t perform under stress and anxiety.
      • Stress and anxiety one of major causes of long-term illness.
      • Can learn to be serene – not by disengaging and not caring (quite the opposite)
      • 3 ways to become serene:
        • Have a system for everything (email, marking, where you put your keys)
        • Deal with stress positively (exercise, write, talk)
        • Talk positively about yourself (don’t say ‘I’m stressed’, ‘I can’t do this’, etc. – reification)

      • Reliability = being dependable. Seth Godin: this is a feature ‘Linchpins’ (the go-to people). Great for your career.
      • Quickest & easiest way to become reliable & dependable = to show up. In fact, Woody Allen is famously quoted as saying “80% of success is just showing up”.
      • To do this consistently you need a routine. Great believer: innovation = built upon standardization.

      • Focus = knowing what to concentrate your energy on.
      • Teachers faced with raft of initiatives all the time – need to know which ones to spend time on (can’t do it all!)
      • Write down your educational philosophy. Sounds grand, but really just the reason you came into profession.
      • Back in Sunday school – 3 seives: true, helpful, kind?
      • For teachers – 3 seives: does it fit in with my educational philosophy? does it help the kids in my classes? does it help my career?
      • If yes, spend time on it. If no, give it the attention it deserves.

  • What is the difference between generic productivity systems that lack context versus a personal system with feedback loops?
    • Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher: we become brave by pretending and practising being brave.
    • Likewise, learn to be productive by asking yourself what a productive person would do.
    • Problem with applying other people’s systems is that everyone has a different context.
    • Things like GTD assume that you work in an office and are just doing ‘stuff’. Teachers are doing more important things than that.
    • Feedback loops important as context can change – e.g. different class, new Ofsted system, move house, start a family.
    • Your system needs to be emergent and adaptable.
    • Never say that you do something because it’s always been done (or you’ve always done it) that way. 
    • Question everything.

  • What is the value of “Calling yourself into the office” and sharing commitments?
    • This is a great idea from Dan Pink’s book called ‘Drive’
    • Saw him at The Sage in Gateshead and he was inspiring
    • Idea is that performance reviews don’t happen very often – yearly or 6-monthly usually
    • Need more feedback (imagine if Serena Williams only given feedback that often?!)
    • Do it yourself
    • Set targets/commitments at start of a month or half-term
    • ‘Call yourself into the office’ at end of month/half-term
    • Review.
    • Set more targets/commitments.

  • Can you elaborate on the theory that unproductiveness can be down to:
    • A belief that the longer you spend on something the better it will be.
      • I’m a perfectionist
      • Sounds like a good thing, but it’s not.
      • Many teachers share similar qualities.
      • An asymptote is a line (usually a curve) that approaches, but never actually reaches another line
      • Imagine line = ‘perfection’ – never going to reach it (more effort you put in, the less you’re getting out)
      • Teachers tend to put effort into wrong things – the worksheet, the PowerPoint (instead of transitions and metaphors, for example)
    • An unbalanced lifestyle (for example, not exercising often).
      • We live in a binge culture – especially in the UK
      • I think it’s the Viking influence – fight then drink!
      • Unsustainable – Vikiings didn’t do that all the time…
      • Achieving ‘serenity, reliability and focus’ = sustainable productivity
      • An unbalanced lifestyle makes sustaining a virtuous circle very difficult
      • Not boring because more fulfilling overall – more in control
    • Some form of addiction.
      • Addicts aren’t in full control of their lives.
      • Easy to pick on drug-taking, alcohol, food and smoking, but some are more subtle
      • Perfectionism is a form of addiction – tweaking worksheets and PowerPoints.
      • Can also be addicted to checking email, Twitter and Facebook (BlackBerry/CrackBerry)
      • Ways of thinking can be addictive as well:
        • Negative thinking (e.g. body, health, career)
        • Avoidance (e.g. squeezing planning into tiny window)
        • Whinging (e.g. change, how someone’s treated you)
      • Addiction – in whatever form – means you lose focus.

  • A number of primary teachers have told us that primary has a greater workload than secondary – with substantially more paperwork.  Would you agree?  Is primary more challenging? What advice would you give to primary teachers?
    • My wife’s a Primary teacher.
    • Majority of Primary teachers are female (sure that’s a factor in some way – more conscientious?)
    • Advantage Secondary teachers have over Primary = teaching essentially same lesson more than once in a week.
    • Disadvantage for Secondary teachers = relationship with students.
    • If Primary teachers = productive themselves, can get their class into a productive, virtuous circle.
    • I sometimes wish I taught Primary.
    • R.e. paperwork, Secondary teachers work in depts. so can distribute and share paperwork.
    • Also, focus on that which is important – does this fit with my educational philosophy? will it benefit children? will it benefit my career?
    • Remember perfectionist argument above – be your own person. Focus, be reliable, be serene.
    • Talk to yourself. Big yourself up. Be your own biggest fan.
    • Not arrogance – productivity.

Why did I make #getthajob free?

Two reasons:

1. Guilt. (I feel education should have a different model to business)

Q. Does this mean that you're making #uppingyourgame: an educator's guide to productivity free as well?

A. No. I'm iterating a new publishing model with #uppingyourgame. It's different and more widely-applicable. πŸ™‚Β