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Managing people – Engaging your workforce

Cognitive Apprenticeship Model

Cognitive Apprenticeship Model

I have started yet another MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)! I haven’t blogged for a while but this course, Managing People – Engaging your Workforce,  by the University of Reading seems to lend itself to, and encourages, reflection.

I hadn’t expected the opening sessions of the course to be dominated with themes on adult learning but on reflection it is obvious. Not only am I an adult learner but a key function of a manger is to be a teacher and a learner. As managers we cannot always reward our staff in the obvious ways which we would like, pay rises, nicer offices and bonuses. However, the importance of learning and training should not be underestimated. Over the years of being a manager and an employee I have loved learning and feel it is a sign of appreciation and confidence in me when time and money is taken to teach me something new. Whether that be through external training or informal in-house learning, teaching staff is a sign that you value them. You are investing in them and ultimately, the organisation.

One of things we have been asked to reflect on is;

Managers often have to teach their staff. With this in mind consider:

  • Can you think of possible challenges that could arise?
  • How can you use the material considered thus far to help you overcome these challenges?

Challenges? There are many! Staff who don’t ‘appear’ to want to learn, lack of time and money, lack of confidence (manager and employee), lack of organisational support and resources.

I was interested in learning about the Cognitive Apprenticeship Model particularly the methods and sociology. The methods especially resonate with me as they are so simple and mirror what most of us do anyway. Many of us are teaching others without even realising it. The methods;

Modeling – this is where you show what needs to be done
Coaching  – the learner does the task themselves with support
Scaffolding – gradually and safely remove the support
Articulation – this is where the learner articulates what they have learnt by putting it into words and then reflecting on the experience.
Exploration – the learner puts their experience into practice and explores what else may need to be done.

The challenges previously mentioned could be overcome using the Cognitive Apprenticeship Model because it can be adapted to be as simple or as grand as you like. It could simply apply to one colleague showing another colleague how to do something. Or it could be used as a model for a more elaborate training or mentoring programme. Where challenges such as shortage of time, money and support are put in our way we can adopt the model for our needs at the time.

The sociology aspect of the model refers to learning and teaching with others, something which I talked about in my blog about how education is changing. I find the sociology of MOOCs especially useful as we are learning on-line without, or limited, contact to the instructor. When collaborating with people on-line you find a wealth of knowledge, experience and a range of opinions and perspectives. People are keen to learn and share their knowledge and this is becoming more prevalent in the ‘real’ world. At the beginning of my career training was always offered by an official trainer or at least by the person considered the most experienced. Now anyone with the right knowledge within an organisation can teach their colleagues and they in turn are, generally, happy to discuss their own experiences.

The important thing is that we keep teaching and learning as most employees value acquiring skills and experience and appreciate the investment from an employer.

We were also asked to think about what we’ve looked at this week, the nature of the course and outline our personal objectives?

My personal objective is to learn more about what makes people tick at work and how to motivate and engage employees even during periods of change and transition (if this is possible!) I am hoping this will lead me to be a better manager and maybe understand more about me as an employee and how I in turn can get the best from an organisation.

Are Printed Newspapers Yesterdays News?

5279671012_2d688ea7f8_bIn week 3 of Surviving Disruptive Technologies we turned to printed newspapers and how the Internet has proved to be a disruptive technology.

This is an interesting area as newspapers have been a part of daily life for many years. They can be brought and read by everyone, whether you finished school, hold an PhD, work, study, are unemployed; it doesn’t matter, they are available to all (assuming that you can afford one and that you can read). In fact Jefferson said;

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”

He felt that order to set up and maintain a democracy people had to be educated and literate and newspapers were essential to this.

Not only are people reading the printed press less, advertising revenue is also on the decline, but more importantly future printed press buyers don’t have them in their mind set. If and when they want news they will Google it or go to one of the many on-line content providers. This article in the Economist sums up the situation for the printed press. The future buyers of newspapers are not being cultivated.

For Assignment 3 we have been asked to put forward suggestions for what we think the newspapers can do to halt this decline. Now obviously I am not an industry expert but the question did get me thinking. Should we even try and save the printed press?

According to the latest figures from Ofcom the use of tablets has tripled among 5-15 year olds since 2012, rising from 14% to 42% over that period. While just over a quarter (28%) of infants aged 3-4 now use a tablet computer at home (presumably belonging to their parents).  They are the future newspaper readers and for them to do anything on a tablet/internet/smartphone, watch films, play games, learn, read etc, is normal. The act of popping to the shop to buy a paper which then needs to be put in the appropriate recycling bin, would probably seem strange to them.

I used to love buying papers, The Times and Guardian, Sunday Time and the local paper and I was adamant that I would never read a paper or book on a tablet. Now I can’t remember when I last brought a paper (except the Isle of Wight County Press, a local paper, but that doesn’t count!) and I don’t miss it at all (although I have found memories of spending the whole of a Sunday morning with half a rain forest spread out on the table).

There are lots of reasons for this. The waste of paper. The cost. I know they aren’t that expensive but, on the whole, I can get my news for free and that includes flitting between different sources. I think we are also beginning to read differently now. The internet has made us look at more but for less time and we move across and between content quickly and frequently. According to research when we access a newspaper on-line we spend less than 15 minutes reading it. The Sunday Times used to take all morning but I just don’t have the time to do this anymore.

Advertising is a major money maker for the printed press but we can still advertise on-line. The internet has changed marketing too. Sure we can still put an advert in the printed paper but we can also do the same on a digital source. In fact we can advertise our business, services etc for free or cheaply. Just create a FB, G+, Twitter page. You have something to sell just put an ad on e-Bay or similar. Looking for a job or house? There are hundreds of sites to search for free.

I did start this with the aim of finding ideas for ways of saving the printed press but the more I thought about it the less inclined I was to save them (the loss of jobs in the industry would be the only downside but maybe it would just change the jobs people are doing and create other kinds of roles).

My Top Three Innovations by Janet Kyle Altman by Janet Kyle Altman

I have started a new MOOC called Surviving Disruptive Technologies. I hadn’t planned to do this one but the subject interests me.  It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I even knew what a Disruptive Technology was or that I used them every day; iDevices, digital camera, the Internet and so on.  According to Clayton Christensen a Disruptive technology is a

process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors

This course doesn’t include weekly quizzes like a lot of MOOCS (also a Disruptive Technology) but instead uses weekly assignments. I will be using this blog to post the assignments. The first one is to;

Conduct research on the Internet on innovations, and post your favorite three innovations in the last 25 years and why they are your favorites.

I have to be honest this was not difficult but before I outline mine I had a quick look to see what others thought. This article on Inc. looks at the 12 top Disruptive Technologies as reported by McKinsey Global Institute, I think what amazed me more than the list, no major surprises there, were the predictions . According to McKinsey the total potential impact of these DTs could be between $14 trillion and $33 trillion a year by 2025 so, as we learn in the Surviving Disruptive Technologies MOOC, DTs should not be ignored, underestimated or dismissed as a fad.

For me the first thing that pops into my head when thinking of innovations from the last 25 years is the Internet/wifi. For anyone reading this there is probably no reason to explain why this is one of the top ones. I do feel I should be talking about the invention of a life saving drug or something else that has saved lives or ended poverty. However, I have opted for things that have changed my life and which I use on a regular basis. The internet is definitely the top one. I use it every day to read, keep up to date, make contact, work, study, watch TV, store photos, music and much more.

MOOCs/On-line learning would be my second. I first heard of these about 2 years ago and haven’t looked back. I have taken courses on Greek Mythology, the Holocaust, Art, Education, Psychology and many more. These courses enable me to study things I have always wanted to do but could never afford to or have the time to. They have also allowed me to make friends and connections with people from all over the world.

Google is my final choice (I say final as if that was it. Clearly, I could go on forever but have been limited to three for the purpose of this assignment). I use Gmail, G+ for social networking and email. At work we are also about to transfer to Google which means we will be using it for diary management (I am a PA so this is a big part of the job), email and for managing our website. I was a little concerned about putting all my eggs in one basket but Google is good at what it does so why not.

Here are some links to other important innovations. Which three would you choose?

Popular Science



50 things to do before I am 38 – Part 2


I recently decided to complete the 50 things to before you are 11 3/4 challenge set by the National Trust . I am well and truly beyond this age so I am doing it before I am 38. This gives me until May 2014 to complete. I made a start as described in my last post and I have recently added a few more;

No. 21 – Pick blackberries growing in the wild.
I have done this a few time recently as well as buying some from a local who grows and pickles various produce. I got a massive bag she had picked for 50p, an improvement on the £2-3 in the supermarkets. They also tasted like blackberries and not that generic watery taste you get from supermarket tomatoes, cucumber, raspberries and blackberries.

No. 24 – go for a walk barefoot
I am a member of the Isle of Wight Long Distance Walkers Association, and we recently went on one of our regular 3 day Beaches, Bars and Blisters walk. I am prone to blisters and have tried many things to no avail. However, half way through day 2 we did a few miles on the beach barefoot. On the third day I did the same from Bembridge to Ryde. The feeling of walking through the surf was amazing and even walking on the stoney beach and later on pavements was liberating. It was a hot sunny day so I didn’t feel silly walking through the town of Seaview but the stones were a little painful. I also found clambering over slippery rocks easier possibly because I could “feel” the surface better. I will definitely do this on future walks as I didn’t have a single blister and I loved feeling all the different textures at the bottom of my feet. When I got home I started reading more about it and came across this interesting article. I am not sure how much of it I believe but I certainly loved the feeling of direct foot on earth contact experienced without shoes.


No. 34 – Track a wild animal
This wasn’t strictly speaking tracking an animal but I watched it slither off for a while so I was technically ‘tracking’ it. On the final day of our 3 day walk I saw my first adder. I have read about them and seen pictures but this was the first time I saw one in real life. Unfortunately it was too quick for the camera so you will have to take my word for it.

I recently went kayaking for the second time so I have done no. 50 Canoe (kayak) down a river (sea) twice.

So that’s 7 out of 50 completed and I am looking forward to completing the rest. Although I am not sure how I go about raising a butterfly. Answers on a postcard please.

50 things to do before I am 38 – Part 1

The National Trust are running a 50 things to do before you are 11 & 3/4 and, not to miss out, I decided to do the same. Granted I am way past the age of 11 & 3/4 but why should kids have all the fun! I will be 38 in May so that should give me enough time and also the possibility of snow so I can complete no. 15 Play in the snow

I am not sure about no. 46 try rock climbing (scared of heights) or no. 30 holding a scary beast (scared of creepy crawlies) but it depends on the definition of a scary beast!

I made a start in May when I went on a Fossil Hunting Walk (no. 26 hunt for fossils and bones) as part of the Isle of Wight Walking Festival. We went to Brook Chine and were given a short talk on fossils and dinosaurs on the Isle of Wight and were then left to explore. The photo below is of a fossilised Iguanadon footprint.


The second thing I ticked off my list was no. 50 canoe down a river. Strictly speaking it was a Kayak and a paddle board and it was in the sea but I figured the sentiment is the same. We did this as social thing at work where we were all let loose in Bembridge harbour with Kayaks, paddle boards and Segways. This also ticked my third activity no. 42, swimming in the sea which we also did. I also spent this morning swimming in the sea and will do so many times over the summer. One of the advantages of living 1 minute away from the beach. I have no pictures of me swimming in the sea because well I was swimming in the sea! However, I do have a photo of me on a paddle board. Well trying to get on one at least!


The last one for the time being is no. 41 Plant it, Grow it, Eat it which I am currently doing with tomatos.

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Still a way to go but if this sun continues it won’t be long.

This is a brilliant idea from the National Trust and I hope it inspires lots of children (and grown ups) to get out there and explore, learn and enjoy. I remember the days when we did this all the time as kids and it is a shame that many don’t do this anymore. Some of the statistics in this article by the National Trust are shocking

The roaming radius for kids has declined by 90 per cent in one generation (thirty years)

I find this really sad but hopefully something that can be reversed. I was pleased to see lots of children out this morning, on their own, with bikes, balls and other beach games. I completely understand that parents want to protect their children but surely wrapping them in cotton wool reduces their “survival” skills and besides accidents can happen anywhere. Let them get dirty and a stung by stinging nettles. It’s healthy!



Me and MOOCs – 1 Year on

As you may have noticed from previous posts I love MOOCs. They have restored my faith in education, something which I lost whilst going through the secondary school process myself. I have discovered just how much I love learning, something that I never experienced as a teenager, certainly not at school anyway.

As soon as I found out about Coursera I was away, averaging about 5 MOOCS a month. I even completed a MOOC about open learning; A MOOC about MOOCs.

Having some experience I now feel qualified (somewhat) to comment on them. Firstly, I still love them and strongly believe that they are the only viable way for me to continue my education as money and time are not in abundance. However, as time is so precious I am beginning to be a bit discerning about where I direct it. At the beginning I continued with a MOOC to the bitter end even if I wasn’t enjoying it or felt it wasn’t up to scratch. More recently I have “dropped” two MOOCs, the last one because I found the way it was organised to be overly complicated and time consuming. All the reading material was generated by the course organisers and was based on their research. I have no problem with this as such but I felt that I was part of an experiment without quite remembering giving consent or what the experiment was about.

I no longer feel bad about dropping MOOCs and I think this is something that providers need to be aware of. At the moment they are still relatively new and exciting and mistakes and quality issues are forgiven, especially as they are still free. However, learners are catching up and are now prepared to vote with their feet in the same way they would with any service they consider to be under par or not fit for purpose. At the same time providers are also realising that they have to up their game as demonstrated by the Quality Matters Programme. It is also discussed in this paper by Li Yuan and Stephen Powell

I still continue to be positive about MOOCs, and have enrolled for lots more, but I also take a more realistic approach to them. I no longer feel “grateful” and feel I should persist if it isn’t working. Perhaps this will be the most important measure of quality: Us. From the beginning I have felt I am part of something new and exciting. Something that means we can learn on an equal basis, globally and at our convenience. If we want it to continue we have to help shape it. This has been the best bit about my MOOC experience, social media and the creation of my PLN (personal learning network). Since my E-learning and digital cultures course social media has become more than a platform for posting photos of cute puppies (although this is still important!), it is a place for sharing, collaboration, learning from peers and discussion. As part of my Open Learning MOOC I even created a MOOC with John Baglow and Sukaina Walji. We may not have published it (yet) but the fact that we did it is testament to the collaboration and “openness” experienced by MOOCers and open learners.

If nothing else I am grateful for the PLN that I have gained. MOOCs started this but, again, it was Us that cultivated and shaped it. Even if I never take another MOOC I will still have my network who will continue to share my learning adventure. There are too many to mention but special thanks to Deborah Gabriel for your support and encouragement so far.

The Times are a Changing

I recently read The Role of the Educator by Stephen Downes and it made me realise how much education has and continues to change. The fact that we are even asking what the role of the educator is is an indication of how much it has changed. If you had asked that question 30, 20 or even 10 years ago it would have been considered obvious. The role of the educator was to teach and in a school building it was to teach and keep the kids safe.

According to Downes

Most practitioners in the field are familiar with the admonishment that an educator will no longer be a “sage on the stage”. But that said, many others resist the characterization of an educator as merely a “guide by the side.” We continue to expect educators to play an active role in learning, but it has become more difficult to characterize exactly what that role may be.

Downes goes on to provide a comprehensive list of the roles that an educator plays today, including coach, alchemist and lecturer. It is a comprehensive list but I wanted to pick out the 3 that meant the most to me.

The Learner
Personally I think this is the most important one as I can’t see how you can be an educator if you are not a learner. Times have changed and teachers are no longer the distant figures who stood at the top of a class and instilled fear and/or respect as they once did. I work with teachers and they amaze me. They are at the top of their game in terms of knowledge in their subject but are still curious and, more importantly able to listen to others in order to gain more knowledge. Technology has really opened this up and allowed learners and educators to broaden their field of teaching/learning. It has also given all of us the chance to be learners as well as teachers. We all have something to offer at some point.

20130527-191419.jpg Image by John Le Masney

The Sharer
Teaching has always been about sharing in the sense that a teacher knows something which is then passed on. Technically this is sharing knowledge but not really, not in the true spirit of sharing. I spend a lot of time in on-line communities, G+, Twitter etc learning and sharing information (and yes looking at pictures of cute puppies, it’s not all high brow you know!) and technology has made this process less rigid. On average I am doing 2 MOOCs at any given time and the on-line communities are an essential learning tool. It’s not necessarily about having a right or a wrong answer. Sometimes having the debate is more important than the outcome. I also love discovering things which I can pass on and finding things that others have passed on. I have recently been introduced to something that is a perfect example of this sort of sharing. Teachmeet is basically a mini conference which allows educators to learn from each other. The Isle of Wight is hosting their first one on 6th June and although I am not a teacher I will be going along. It is being coordinated by teachers for teachers. It’s short, collaborative, and innovative. It is also relatively cheap compared to your traditional conference. Basically you need a venue and participants but you can go as cheap or as grand as you like. Their home page shows all the Teachmeet events taking place around the country and it gives you an idea of the enthusiasm for this kind of activity.

The Coordinator
According to Downes

this person organises the people who have been brought together, organizing groups or things together for the common good

I see this at school every day as teachers organise classes of students, and in the evenings whilst I complete MOOCs. I have joined and created groups and communities on-line as well as Twitterchats and this is the beauty of studying in a digital world, we can all have a go. I wouldn’t be allowed, and I would be too scared, to organise a group of students in a class as I am not a teacher or teaching assistant. I can however set up a Twitterchat or Google+ community and this role of coordinator allows me to bring together a group of learners and educators in the style of rhizomatic learning. This is something that David Cormier has written about in his blog and describes as;

A rhizome, sometimes called a creeping rootstalk, is a stem of a plant that sends out roots and shoots as it spreads. It is an image used by Delieze and Guattari to describe the way that ideas are multiple, interconnected and self-relicating. A rhizome has no beginning or end… like the learning process

These are exciting times for teachers and learners and never before have we had so many opportunities for teaching/learning. These are also uncertain times but embracing the technology and resources available to us allows us to be more creative, innovative and, I think, gives us more control over our learning. As educators the breadth of jobs that make up a teachers role must be exhausting but also liberating in other ways. Teachers have access to so many different tools for teaching, learning and connecting with students as well as colleagues.

Learning has changed but the school systems are not changing at the same rate. The teachers and students will be the vehicles of this change which is being driven by technology. This is not a bad thing as they will take the tools and see what they can do with them. We just have to ensure that the powers that be acknowledge this and harness the changes to ensure they are used properly and that this spark of innovation isn’t left to stagnate whilst they try to catch up.

OER Understanding

MOOC Understanding

Open Education Completed

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