Tag: collaboration (page 1 of 2)

Wiki backup: collaboration style

Last year, my wiki went down at dougbelshaw.com/wiki. For reasons too boring to go into, I was unable to resurrect it. This made me sad, particularly because there was some stuff on there that didn’t exist anywhere else.

After a brief period of mourning, I got on with my life. Noel De Martin, however, decided to do some digging via the Wayback Machine, and found several pages, which I’m copying-and-pasting to my blog for posterity.

What follows is a snapshot of my ‘Collaboration style’ page from October 2016.


This page is influenced by Peter Drucker’s excellent short book Managing Oneself and the section of Gwern Branwen’s website on his own collaboration style. Although slightly tangential, I’ve also always found Buster Benson’s Codex Vitae a useful thing to return to on occasion.


Right now, I’m 35. I was in formal education for 27 of those years, and had an employer for 11 of them. I’m now a consultant and everything I do is what comes under the broad umbrella of ‘knowledge work’:

Knowledge workers have high degrees of expertise, education, or experience, and the primary purpose of their jobs involves the creation, distribution or application of knowledge. (Thomas Davenport, Thinking For a Living

The problem is that this means that it’s difficult to know how to fit into the big picture. Here’s how Peter Drucker puts it:

[M]ost people, especially highly gifted people, do not really know where they belong until they are well past their mid-twenties. By that time, however, they should know the answers to the three questions: What are my strengths? How do I perform? and, What are my values? And then they can and should decide where they belong.

[…] [K]nowing the answer to these questions enables a person to say to an opportunity, an offer, or an assignment, “Yes, I will do that. But this is the way I should be doing it. This is the way it should be structured. This is the way the relationships should be. These are the kind of results you should expect from me, and in this time frame, because this is who I am.” (Peter Drucker, Managing Oneself)

In other words, you should always be on the front foot. Don’t accept other people’s expectations, but (as Socrates exhorted) we should know ourselves well enough to be able to accept or reject work based on introspection.

The person who has learned that he or she does not perform well in a big organization should have learned to say no to a position in one. The person who has learned that he or she is not a decision maker should have learned to say no to a decision-making assignment. (Peter Drucker, Managing Oneself)

Using these two examples as an initial lens, I do enjoy taking decisions when I feel like there’s been a proper process leading to that point. I certainly do not enjoy working within large organisations. I dislike hierarchy and bureaucracy intensely. I’m also quite different in terms of emotional make-up at different times of the year. As an ambivert, I find that the more extroverted side of my personality comes out between the spring and autumnal equinoxes, and for the other half of the year I’m more on the introverted side. I guess this can be frustrating for people who assume (or expect) consistency.

Elsewhere, Drucker mentions that another important question to ask oneself is, “Do I perform well under stress, or do I need a highly structured and predictable environment? I find this a false binary. While I don’t appreciate arbitrary deadlines (usually a function of an oppressive hierarchy) I structure my own fairly predictable environment. However, I mix this up by frequent flights into serendipity in both my reading and travel, as well as taking fallow days where I’m purposefully ‘unproductive’. These ‘Doug days’ as I’ve come to call them, are the reason I strive to work a four-day week.

Even people who understand the importance of taking responsibility for relationships often do not communicate sufficiently with their associates. They are afraid of being thought presumptuous or inquisitive or stupid. They are wrong. Whenever someone goes to his or her associates and says, “This is what I am good at. This is how I work. These are my values. This is the contribution I plan to concentrate on and the results I should be expected to deliver,” the response is always, “This is most helpful. But why didn’t you tell me earlier?” (Peter Drucker, Managing Oneself)

I’m strong on values and don’t like them compromised. I set great store by my logical approach, although I do try to temper that with empathy. The thing that I cannot stand more than anything in co-workers (and, indeed, my children) is when it’s obvious that the other person isn’t trying their best. There’s always cases where there’s genuine reasons for soft-peddling, but most of the time I expect people to bring their A-game.

My contribution to projects is often to problematise (assumed) simplicity, or to do the reverse – to simplify the complex. In this, I bring to bear my undergraduate philosophical training, as well as my postgraduate studies around ambiguity and metaphor. I find that we as humans think primarily through metaphor, even when we don’t realise, and don’t realise that there are different types of ambiguity.

Knowledge workers in particular have to learn to ask a question that has not been asked before: What should my contribution be? To answer it, they must address three distinct elements: What does the situation require? Given my strengths, my way of performing, and my values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done? And finally, What results have to be achieved to make a difference? (Peter Drucker, Managing Oneself)

The difficulty in working in a field like edtech is that (as I argued in a recent post) it’s not really a coherent field or discipline. As such, it’s difficult to see where the boundaries are, and therefore what needs to be done. I suppose I bumble along as best I can using my knowledge and skills, but I certainly think there’s many of us who would benefit from adding scaffold around us.

Towards a learning standard for Web Literacy: (1) Introduction.

Update: For the latest information on the Web Literacy standard work, head to http://mzl.la/weblitstd


TL;DR version: Mozilla wants to work with the community to create a new learning standard around Web Literacy. There’s an online gathering to kick-off work in this area at 11am EST on Thursday 7th February 2013 to which everyone’s invited.


Posts in this series:

  1. Introduction
  2. What? Why?
  3. Who?
  4. How?

I’m delighted to announce that Mozilla intends to work with the community on defining a learning standard for web literacy.* This builds on the work that Michelle Levesque started, and I have continued, since joining the Mozilla Foundation in July 2012. It’s part of our wider mission to create a generation of Webmakers.

Anyone interested in helping define and maintain the standard is invited to a kick-off online gathering on Thursday 7th February 2013 at 11am EST (what time is that for me?). There’s no need to book, but signing up via either Eventbrite (below) means you’ll get reminders and be able to add it to your calendar. It’s also listed on Lanyrd.


Sign up here


From the overview wiki page:

The Mozilla Foundation has a vision of a web literate planet. We’ve built some tools to help with this and now we’re asking the question: What are the skills, competencies and literacies necessary to read, write and participate in the Web – now and in the future? We’ve already started the thinking but we want to go further and develop a web literacy standard that we can all align with and teach to. And we need your help.

We want to reach people at web scale, and that means lots of different individuals and organizations teaching various skills and competencies – many of you are doing this already – but we need a way for it to roll up to something bigger.

We need a way to ensure we’re teaching the right things, to connect various options and help learners discover pathways, and of course, to find ways for us all to track our impact. That’s where the standard comes in – we can build consensus around the overall learning map and then each chart our course against it. So, let’s develop the standard and do this together.

We’re convening an online gathering to kick-start work towards a learning standard for web literacy and build upon the work we’ve done so far in this area (and with badges). Be sure to to discuss where we want to go and find out ways for you or your organization to get involved. Make a point to get involved; we’re counting on you!

There’s a new Google Group for discussion/debate which you should introduce yourself to ASAP and the hashtag to use on social networks is #weblitstd. Note that http://mzl.la/weblitstd takes you to an overview page on the Mozilla wiki which should always have the latest information from Mozilla and the community in this new area.

Please do join us for the kick-off meeting, we’re excited! :-)


*You’ll notice that I’m using ‘literacy’ in the singular form here. This is for mainly for communication purposes as we’ve found that talking about ‘literacies’ straight off the bat tends to confuse people. The substance of what I’ve been working on remains the same!

Image CC BY-NC-SA Daniel*1977

Collaboration, perception, and context.

a Zed and two Noughts

One thing you can never really know is how people perceive you. This is especially true at a distance with people you’ve never met face-to-face. Whether face-to-face or at a distance, however, each situation depends heavily upon the ‘history’ you share with others. There are only a few people, for example, that I’ve known online since 2004 (when I started teaching) that I haven’t met face-to-face. Context changes things.

As I explained in On the glorious weirdness of connecting with people online (2009) I’m careful about the impression I give to people when meeting them for the first time. This first impression is often the one that lasts, or at least colours all future interactions. It’s been interesting, for example, to see how people I’ve known for years have reacted to my co-kickstarting the Purpos/ed debate (overwhelmingly positive) compared to the reactions of a small minority who have assumed that it’s some sort of Ponzi scheme.

The differing reactions, of course, demonstrate that at least some people think I’ve got form in collaborative and co-operative ventures:

2004 – Set up a Grouper-powered network to help members of the Schoolhistory.co.uk forum share educational resources.

2006 – Demise of Grouper led to establishment of HistoryShareForum.com.

2007 – Inspired by EdTechTalk, started EdTechRoundUp to enable UK-focused weekly discussion and debate of issues relating to educational technology.

2008 – Created elearnr.org to host guides relating to social media and educational technology.

2009 – Started a Twitter hashtag called #movemeon to provide advice for newly-qualified teachers (now collated into a book!). Shared strategy and plans relating to Director of E-Learning position, spurring others to do likewise.

2011 – Co-kickstarted Purpos/ed with Andy Stewart to provide a non-partisan, location-independent platform for discussion and debate about the purpose(s) of education.

I’m not being disingenuous when I say that over-and-above an income that provides for my family I’m not particularly interested in money. It’s a means to an end. What I am interested in is connecting and collaborating with people, attempting to inspire them, and working to make the world a little better than I found it.

Purpos/edThere’s a lot of cynicism, jockeying and false promising in western societies. My aim for Purpos/ed (and any future projects I help establish) is to provide something of an antidote to this world-weariness I see around me. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally realised: you don’t have to ask permission to be the change you want to see in the world.

If you feel likewise, and have an interest in education, why not come along to the Purpos/ed Summit for Instigators on 30th April in Sheffield? We’re trying to make the world a better place by debate and discussion leading to action. Why not join us?

Image CC BY-NC-SA Naccarato

Feed me! Feed me NOW!

I used to get overwhelmed by RSS feed-reading and declared bankruptcy almost every New Year. The trouble is, I’d just go and do the same again, building up my number of subscribed-to feeds to overwhelming levels: I just love being exposed to new ideas and perspectives!

Since I’ve been using Feedly, however, it provides a magazine-like front-end to Google Reader. This means I can merrily subscribe to as many feeds as I wish. It’s so much easier to manage. In fact…

I want more.

It’s a little-known fact that you can share lists of RSS feeds easily in a format called OPML. I want you to send me yours! I’ll collate them and share back the über-OPML file. I can’t wait to read what you’re reading!

Win/win.

Here’s how to do it (assuming that everyone’s using Google Reader…):

  1. Sign in to Google Reader
  2. Click on Manage Subscriptions at the bottom-left of your screen
  3. Click on Import/Export
  4. Click the link Export your subscriptions as an OPML file and save the file somewhere you’ll remember
  5. Go to http://dropitto.me/dajbelshaw (password = opml) and upload your OPML file

Questions/comments? Add them below!

Literaci.es: Reflecting on New Literacies

Literaci.es

There’s not a lot to see there yet, and I’ve a whole thesis on the matter to complete, but I’ve started a new place to collate thinking and resources about New Literacies.

You can find it at http://literaci.es

I’d love for it to become a collaborative resource along the lines of Smart Mobs, so if you’ve got something to share, a post you’d like to write, or a desire to become a regular contributor, please do get in touch!

Google Apps Marketplace: apps worth installing

I’m currently sorting out Google Apps Education Edition for internal communication and collaboration at work. Things have changed a bit since I set it up at the Academy last year: there’s a new admin interface and (most importantly) Google Apps Marketplace, amongst other things.

Google Apps Marketplace allows third-parties to integrate their products and services – usually by single sign-on – with Google Apps. Some are paid-for, some free and all have separate terms and conditions to the core Google Apps offering.

I’ve been through all of the third-party products and services currently available (August 2010) and created a Google Doc of those that meet the following criteria:

1. Free (not just free trial)
2. Education or productivity-focused

The document (embedded below) is editable by anyone with the link. Please do have a look and make any additions/alterations if you can! 🙂

Google Apps (Education Edition) vs. Microsoft [email protected]

Today I’m presenting on the benefits of Google Apps as a collaborative platform for people who work together often, but aren’t physically co-located. It’s not easy to separate fact from myth when comparing Microsoft’s hosted services (e.g. [email protected], Office Live) with Google Apps.

Microsoft have, very helpfully, concocted a Fact Based Comparison of Hosted Services (16 May 2010). Unfortunately, it’s rather selective with those facts. Most of them revolve around ‘can you do the same stuff with Google Apps as you can with Microsoft Outlook?’ That’s a flawed question for two reasons:

  1. You don’t necessarily want to do the same things with Google Apps.
  2. You can use Outlook to connect to Google Apps anyway.

To me, after reading several articles (available at my Delicious account) the choice seems to be between:

  • Cloud storage (Microsoft [email protected]/Office Live)
  • Cloud collaboration (Google Apps)

Whilst Microsoft’s offerings allow near real-time collaboration with Excel and OneNote, pages are locked for editing if someone else is using a Word document or PowerPoint presentation. By way of comparison, you can collaborate and edit all of Google Docs’ offerings in real-time.

Lifehacker, a website I’ve used for the last few years, published How Does Office Web Apps Compare to Google Docs? on 16 June 2010. I quote Kevin Purdy, the author of the article:

In terms of real-time collaboration, Google wins hands-down, because Office offers none.

And again:

Google’s Docs offerings have been on the market a good four years now, so they’ve had more time to learn what users want and need in an online suite. It shows in the design and function of Docs for day-to-day users.

I toyed with the idea of producing a point-by-point checklist here to compare Microsoft and Google’s offerings, but I don’t really think there’s any need. It’s a question of attitude and focus. For example, Microsoft drags its heels insisting on Silverlight installation whilst Google looks to the future with HTML5, an emerging web standard.

So, if you always use the same device, deal in only Microsoft-produced documents and are convinced Outlook is God’s gift to email users, then you’ll love [email protected] and Office Live.

But if, on the other hand, you like to be able to get various kinds of documents in and out of your systems easily, if you need to collaborate (in real-time) with colleagues not physically co-located, and if you want to be able to access everything on whatever device and browser you prefer using, then you’ll love Google Apps.

You can probably tell by the tone of this article which one I prefer. And I make no apology for that. Rome was not built on ‘functional specifications’ but on passion, enthusiasm and dedication. :-p

#GTAUK: Google Earth wiki & ebook

I’m delighted to have been chosen as a ‘Lead Learner’ for the first-ever UK Google Teacher Academy on 29-30 July 2010. I’ve been asked to run the sessions on Google Earth and am very aware that whilst I’m certainly an enthusiast with some advanced knowledge, I’m certainly not an ‘expert’.
Read more →

Google Wave: now with added usefulness.

Background

Remember the hype just before and during the launch of Google Wave on 30 September 2009? It was going to be revolutionary, change the way we work forever, and oh! to have an invite…

And then reality hit home. What can you actually do with it?

It was all a bit… meh. 🙁

Growing maturity

Google certainly does love the ‘release early, release often’ mantra. That means, of course, that its offerings tend to get better as time goes on. And this is certainly true of Google Wave.

As you can see from the screenshot above, when you go to create a new wave you are given 6 templates from which to choose. Below is the ‘Task tracking’ option:

When you throw the extensions into the mix, you’ve got a very powerful collaborative tool. The iFrame gadget, in particular, is an extremely valuable option. I can imagine, for example, distributed teams using Google Wave for meetings. They’d use the meeting or brainstorm template, add the ‘Yes/No/Maybe’ gadget and the ‘Map’ gadget to organise a face-to-face meetup. There’s also several gadgets to turn Google Wave into the liveblogging app to end all liveblogging apps:

I’m going to be recommending Google Wave for meetings, project management and more over the next few weeks/months – both at work and for ‘extra-curricular’ activities. I’ll also be purchasing The Complete Guide to Google Wave by Gina Trapani’s, of Lifehacker fame. The book’s also freely available to read online – probably for a limited period only. 😀

Are YOU using Google Wave? What for?

#eduhivefive (a suggestion).

This follows on a previous post r.e. the problem with (non-OSS) free stuff.

Image: ‘Bees

I’ll keep this short.

Lifehacker has a great regular thing called Hive Five for software/productivity recommendations. It goes like this:

  1. Question asked: ‘What’s the best x for y?’
  2. People respond.
  3. Five most mentioned in a positive way become ‘recommended’.

We should totally do this for education. I’ve created a wiki at http://eduhivefive.wikispaces.com in anticipation. :-p

Perhaps, given the demise of Etherpad, we could kick off with: “What’s the best online tool for collaborative writing?” and use #eduhivefive and #writing as hashtags?

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