Archive for the 'learning development' Category

First steps (very) towards social media

I was talking with a friend & colleague yesterday – she had asked about a wiki I’d created for our work Green Group (the NHS has to reduce its carbon footprint by a humungous amount, and we’ve all been asked to develop ideas for achieving this). Her work context involves the creation of substantial guidelines, which when drafted tend to be published as pdf files (which also tend to be emailed to consultation lists – another mutual colleague had likened this to spamming their inboxes…). Hence the partial focus (below) on DIUS’ use of CommentPress as a consultation tool.

But to get her started individually, I suggested various guides, and would welcome corrections/additions:

If you’d be willing to fish out a couple of handy guides from my social bookmark collection, can I recommend starting by clicking on ‘guide‘ in my tag cloud. On the second page of links you’ll come across a link to ‘onepage | Tim’s Blog’ where you should find a handy set of…one page…guides to the better-known tools .

If you fancy looking at a few short (3 mins or so) videos, then the ‘Commoncraft’ series are the industry-standard – friendly & cheerful throughout. Their native server seems to be down at the moment but you can see most of the series on Youtube anyway.

Then if you felt like a wee read, you might like to try ‘How to use Social Media‘ – this is handy for starting to think about where & when to maybe use this stuff, in that it sketches out some context for using each of the main tools.

For more, and some learning-by-doing, do have a try out at the (Ning) group Web 2.0 for Learning Professionals, where Work Literacy  are running an online course/community. You can dive in, don’t have to just observe from the sidelines. It’s all free as far as I can see.

Then there are some examples of tool-use in a public-service/health context,

  • Here is a link to the DIUS Consultation. The tool itself is available for a poke-about with. And if you Google ‘CommentPress’ you’ll find various examples of it in use, as well as discussion. I like this one.
  • The best example of ‘working wikily’ that I can think of is the current development of a ‘non-profits (US-speak for ‘vol orgs’) ‘We Are Media‘ Community of Practice. The important thing about this is not so much the wiki itself, but the project, plan. diaspora, and the presence of a really superb narrator/commentator and facilitator (It’s well worth having a look at the rest of Beth Kanter’s posts too). It’s these elements that make the thing sing, rather than the tech. But you really should have a look at the resources they are collating under ‘wiki resources’, on their left-hand menu. We could surely re-use these.
  • Meantime, you should also have a look at a very ‘healthy’ theme – but one which also crosses over into emergency planning – Fluwiki (global response to avian flu threat). And while I’m thinking of emergencies, do have a look at this summary of social media resources and Hurricane Gustav.

Finally, where do I spot most of these resources? Here’s a link to items I’ve read and ‘starred’ as worth going back to in my RSS reader. I’ve made some of my tagged collections public too, for example anything I’ve labelled ‘health 2.0′.

This is just a start, for one person, in one context – it’s not a web 2.0 toolbox or anything – based on an assumption that an individual might like to read herself in a bit, then see some worked examples that she could map on to her own context. But there will be other ways in, for other individuals and groups too – games and suchlike. The risk in all this is that it’s too easy to focus on tools (you can see those) rather than people and communities )networks are nebulous things…) How to correct the balance…?


a ‘Learning Community’ developers Academy?

So often, lots of work is devoted to creating tools and making them available, only for there to be a Gaping Void when it comes to the hard graft needed with actually getting people sat down and comfy with what’s practically involved in a virtual community. It really is a more complex version of helping people realise that you don’t need to shout into the phone, ’cause the person you’re conversing with is actually a long way away…

In this point, it’s good to note that there’s good work starting up in Argyll & Bute, with a very dispersed (some of them live & work on islands, literally) group of practitioners working with children with disabilities, centred upon asyncronous(?) online discussion of s eries of complex case scenarios. But first, some structured exercises are being worked through, so as to help participants get at ease with this unfamiliar discourse.

Later on when talking to a colleague at the eLib, about the Communities of Practice Toolkit they have drafted (remember the Stirling workshop last autumn?), she smiled wryly and commented that the Argyll & Bute project ‘has permission’ (to get directly involved in CoP development). Whereas (I think) the eLib don’t, and can only go as far as making the tools available in a supportive way (Shared Space + ‘toolkit’ – which isn’t a toolkit so much as a booklet).

Which, on reflection, I thought leave a gap in the market. Hence the notion of an ‘Academy’ for CoP developers where the collective experience of actually developing a CoP for real could be replayed for the benefit of others…. 

  • Might Health be persuaded that they have a need for this – well one can only ask;
  • Meantime could the GIRFEC folk be warmed up to the idea – well, again, one can only ask – I think they might be receptive…
  • Anyone else? Could the SFC’s current commissioning of KT research lead in this direction? And any prospect from the Improvement Service?

Lessons from decaying production models elsewhere, for research utilisation & knowledge transfer

Some interesting conversations and related reading last week triggered a couple of thoughts, which I hoped might be worth sharing. Anyway here goes:

  • The train of thought started in a conversation which included a touch upon Social Services Research Registers, which seem hard to enthuse people about and keep up to date, and the reflection ‘why couldn’t the process be more social?’
  • Next I was luckily able to obtain a preview of the upcoming ‘My Community Space’ functionality to be launched within the NHS eLibrary this April.  
  • Then on the way home I read an interesting piece about the collapse of the traditional production and distribution models for music and film – but there is hope in a much more community-oriented one.

If you pop over to the ‘Hyperpeople’ blog (strapline: ‘what happens after we’re all connected?’) you’ll find a lengthy post, which is, it transpires, the script of a presentation to Irish filmmakers…Anyway, scroll down to part III ‘And the Penny Drops’, and skim-read from there to the end, particularly the last four paragraphs.

The trick is, while doing so, mentally to transpose the discussion of ‘media’ (film, music) into ‘research’. For example there’s a nice bit in the penultimate paragraph about roles – and the need for a new one (a sort of ‘community developer’). Might researchers “be practically autistic when it comes to working with communities”? (Not literally, one would prefer to think, but perhaps, because of the other pressures they are under, maybe there’s a tint of accuracy?).

The message is a clear one I think:

“…the key is to find the communities which will be most interested in the production; this is not always entirely obvious, but the filmmaker should have some idea of the target audience for their film. While in preproduction, these communities need to be wooed and seduced into believing that this film is meant just for them, that it is salient…

…Starting at the earliest stages of pre-production, someone has to sit down with the creatives and the producer and ask the hard questions: “Who is this film intended for?” “What audiences will want to see this film – or see it more than once?” “How do we reach these audiences?” From these first questions, it should be possible to construct a marketing campaign which leverages microaudiences and social networks into ticket receipts and DVD sales and online purchases….”

…Meanwhile, across at the eLibrary, My Community Space is coming*. This involves the opportunity for any Athens user registered with the eLibrary to create a personal profile, along the lines of the ones we are becoming familiar with in all the main Social Networking Systems like Facebook, Ning, Bebo etc. You can register your interest in topics (interest in, or experience of, or both? – anyway, you can register that you have a stake of some sort). You can also tag resources with your own labels (and pick up those used by others?) – resources that you find both within the eLibrary (and associated repositories) and beyond, anywhere on the web. This act also records your ‘stake’ in topic – the resource gained your attention sufficiently for you to tag it with a label. If you agree, these notes of interest are visible above the level of the existing communities (little silos – but in a good way) that the eLibrary supports.So, a researcher, could, within the new production model hinted at above, search for eLibrary users – right across the user population so long as they had created a visible profile – by labels relevant to her project, to seek and thereafter develop collaborative involvement right from the point of hypothesis formation, through project planning, funding proposals, survey construction, editing the products, and considering the findings.

With some imagination, perhaps the collaborative involvement of others could be framed as a learning activity too (here the Associate Schools Groups (ASGs) model might repay scrutiny) and as such, attract CPD points or whatever.

Could this be made to happen? Not overnight, to be sure, but might it not be worth tinkering with and planning for. What else might need to be developed?

  • The model is sort-of available;
  • The technology infrastructure is available though not seamlessly joined-up (does it need to be? – not sure that it does)
  • Organisational model (have a look at the ASG structure for a start?)
  • Learning infrastructure – CPD points etc.

What d’you think?

Terms and Terming

The other day I ran a simple retrieval on the NHS e-library for the term ‘child protection’. It came back with the news that there were 13114  resources. Of course, some of these will appear on more than one list, and it’s likely that a proportion of them will only be of interest to ‘dead men in white coats’ rather than the broader CP community. But it’s still a shed-load of ‘knowledge’ (OK, depending upon how you view knowledge).

This is part of some initial thinking I’m doing on trying to make the general e-library resources more available and nearby, to the Child Protection Shared Space and its various inhabitants. One simple approach would be to provide some topic lists that would drive ‘canned queries’ to retrieve pre-defined lists of material. Here’s an example, from palliative care.

But, what topics to use, and equally important, how to develop them? I remember being fearfully impressed with the card-sorting approach used by Sarah Curier in the early days of Stor Curam (now the Learning Exchange) where she did some pilot f2f work with a small number of Social Work academics, on the social care terms they used, then had one of her colleagues (Ivanna Fernandez) create a nifty Flash widget so that the other 100 or so HEI staff could all have a go on the web. She arranged for some statistical software to be connected behind the scenes, and ran the analysis. It was the democratic aspect that this introduced that seemed new and intriguing, quite apart from the sensible suitability of card-sorting, to this problem. [memo to self, must see if Sarah’s notes/article on the process are available, even as grey lit.]

Then again this morning, discussions included what to do about a set of Child Protection Committee (CPC) terms for topics that the West of Scotland network would like to sort by. Once more, the process of devising and agreeing these seems just as, if not more, important than the list that emerges.

Now, there’s the risk of lurching into the whole tags, tagging, and folksonomies thing – which I hope not to do (as it’s been really, really well rehearsed elsewhere…all over the place…one item among many). But two key questions remain:

  • how to avoid locking down the taxonomy that one agrees originally – so of course one needs to incorporate a ‘tag cloud widget’ or something similar into ones app.;

  • how to promote the sharing of knowledge, insights, impressions, ways of looking at the world, that you can so easily get from supporting a folksonomy by tagging, and perhaps even annotation too.

Maybe a Knowledge4Practice thing?? I feel an event coming on….

Ning and Knowledge4Practice

Well good for Neil, good man – he’s got ahead and set up a Ning SNS group for Knowledge4Practice. Go on over and have a look, do

‘Re-energising’ Diversity & Equality

Went to a Departmental training day on this on Wednesday, and came away not quite sure what I thought of it all. We were – I think – working on working with things like values, spending a good part of the day on the stuff that happens under the surface of the organisation.

There were some striking individual components within the session, for example

  • the Disability Alliance(?) DVD which neatlyturned the tables on an able-bodied young man;

  • the ‘Baron & Baroness’ fairy tale & decision-making game;

  • the Morris Massey values material.

But if you followed the logic of this latter material, well the people who work here are all over 21 (more or less) so their value systems will be more or less fixed, and the only suggested approach to really changing these is to provide the experience of some sort of ‘significant emotional event’. Along with the obvious ones like death & divorce, or the birth of a child (none of which is really in the gift of an organisation like ours) the training material also suggested that an SEE could also be ‘something that really strikes a chord, such as a training course’. Hmmmn…

Indeed the DVD did I think approach this – the quality of the silence that followed it gave an indication of that. But maybe we somehow bottled out after that. Anyway, we ended up with more of the same old same old, really, discussing action plans, impact assessments, & the like.

Of course, rather than re-energising as in moving on to the next level of endeavour, we could have been re-energising ourselves to do what we should have done already – like draft Impact Assessments, Equality Schemes, etc. etc.

 Who knows.

People quite like scenarios

Using Scenarios in learning and development 

Picture the scene: it’s a day-long practitioner workshop, and the main themes of the day have been introduced by a couple of senior managers with a series of PowerPoint slides. They sketch out the background and the policy context, and perhaps list the main challenges that are there to be faced. Then it’s time for a change of rhythm, and the next presenter sets up the move to small group discussions, with a brief outline of a couple of case studies, or scenarios. The workshop disaggregates into a series of small groups, where the participants pick over the scenarios and use them as a launch pad for getting into the meat and the detail of what the managers were proposing, and the analysis underpinning it. Participants retail relevant experiences, and bounce between these and the scenarios. Then the workshop reconvenes in plenary session, and short feedback from each of the small group discussions is given. A commitment is offered to ‘write all this up’, and the workshop proceeds to its next agenda item…

People tend to like scenarios and case studies in this sort of context. Also, their contribution to learning and training generally is well-known. Case studies and scenarios help people ‘get into’ or ‘unpack’ – and as a result relate-to better and understand – issues, questions, and concepts that might otherwise appear too abstract. A scenario helps make a construct ‘concrete’ and ‘real’. You can bring your own experience to bear. Perhaps the scenario helps you make – or re-make – sense of your own experience, while the traffic is two-way too, as your own experience can enrich the scenario by further developing or validating it.

Though scenarios may be used to support individual reflection, they are also often used as the springboard for small group discussions: let’s stick with this one for now. Thinking about the little vignette above, can this be critiqued at all?

What if you

§         Wanted all aspects of the scenario considered carefully, rather than just those that workshop participants found congenial to discuss?

§         Wanted to keep track of how individuals reacted rather than just those who spoke up?

§         Wanted to re-run the process with other groups at different times, as part of some overall process where the deliberations of one group built upon another?

§         Were concerned that the attenders might not be wholly representative of the broader population you were trying to communicate with?

On reflection, it’s possible for scenario-based discussions to be enjoyable and fruitful in terms of a general feeling of engagement, without really leading anywhere. Like with a (proverbial) Chinese takeaway, you can enjoy the experience of eating yet be hungry again in half-an-hour.

Can and should one do more? 

In light of the example critique above, can one do more than use a series of various scripts for open and one-off discussions, and if so, how might this development help?

What might we want to do with scenario material by way of developing a useful resource?

Might it be good to be able to

§         Take a scenario, change it, and upload the new material as an additional resource?

§         Access a scenario from wherever you may be?

§         Inter-act with the scenario in some way? – and perhaps record the products of that inter-action?

§         Use the scenario in combination with other information resources?

Let’s look at a few examples of scenario resources, to begin to dig into the topic a bit. (NB. there may well be questions to consider around barriers to access to some of the technologies used in these examples, within corporate intranets)

Some examples:

§         Why do we need confidentiality?

This is a Re-usable Learning Object (RLO) created at UCeL. It includes some case background, sets up a context (the case conference), offers some dilemmas for the learner to consider, etc. It is a quite complex object: involving a number of sub-topics; animation on the screen; interaction with the material; a voice over, amongst other elements. It looks as though it would be quite difficult to amend, re-use or develop the material. The learning or insight that is envisaged seems quite tightly focused.

§         ‘Mairi’s Life’

This learning object was created via work on the Integrated Assessment Framework, and the approach to the data is derived from activity within the IAF project, that took scenario data from a number of public sources, and stitched these together in a variety of permutations to create a number of children’s timelines. One of these (‘Amrit’) was used as the basis for a workshop small group exercise on assessment, care planning, and information-sharing. The presentation of Mairi’s timeline is enabled by some open source code created within the SIMILE project at MIT.

The content of the timeline is significant. It is simply data – a flat XML file (see the available example for the Kennedy assassination timeline). One can ‘move about’ within the timeline, and by clicking on any of the events/episodes in it get a little more information. Wherever further information is available, one can access it via a hyperlink. No particular form of interaction is predicated, except for one event (‘Worrying about Weight and Self-image’) as the material is intended to be open and the focus is diffuse as a result.

§         Mary’s difficult decision

This is one of a series of Generative Learning Objects’ (GLOs) created by the UCeL team again. A GLO is defined as ‘any learning object that can be customised, adapted, edited or recombined for specific teaching and learning purposes’. This one, on ‘Ethical Decision-making’ involves a brief scenario, various ‘actors’ who are sources of insight into the decision at issue. Interactivity includes navigation amongst the group of actors, a number of opportunities to record a yes/no decision, the ability to make notes on your rationale at that point, etc. The emphasis is on the decision-making process and the learning that can be gained from that, so accordingly the background, context etc. is somewhat spartan.

§         ‘Sharon Donelly’

(NB. this is a password-protected resource)

This resource has been collated by the Learning Exchange (LX) workstream within the Scottish Institute for Excellence in Social Work Education (SIESWE). It consists of five short video clips representing various points in the progress of a child protection case (allegation, planning for permanent care, etc.) filmed from the point of view of different participants. The material is ‘rich case’ (video, sound) and relatively open in focus, not involving any particular structured interaction or assumptions about the specific learning that might be involved.

What might be done? 

§         Create a ‘scenario bank’?

When I released the publication version of ‘Mairi’s Life’, the positive response to this included the request for more examples like this – children lead all sorts of different sorts of life, and you can’t realistically subsume this variety within one scenario (in this case a timeline). So some sort of catalogue, where people could add their own scenarios, or perhaps take one from the catalogue, develop it or change it, and then upload the new version as an addition to the stock, would be useful.

§         Develop the use of GLOs?

The (GLOs) that are being developed by UCeL are an example of this sort of catalogue facility. If you try out the use of one of the scenarios supported by the GLO containing an exercise in ‘Ethical Decision-making’ – perhaps ‘Mary’s difficult decision’, you may be able to get the idea? The scenario, where 19-year old Mary is pregnant and wondering whether she should get an abortion, and it is possible to query the views of important people in her life, and practitioners involved in her care, can be used by any number of learners, either individually or in discussion. The Ethical decision-making framework available here is just that – a framework. You can see that a variety of decisions have already been constructed and uploaded. The facility is there for the use of the framework as a container for a great variety of other scenarios so long as they conform to the basic structure involved in decision-making this way. UCeL are actively interested in developing further frameworks that could be populated with a wide variety of materials.

§         Develop linkages?

Things begin to get intriguing when you consider the potential for linking these sorts of resources. For example in Mairi’s Life, one can peek at an episode called ‘Worrying about Weight and Self-image’ (Mairi is 16) and click a link in the summary description that is available, which takes you through to the details of that episode and its assessment. You can step around those details in your own preferred order and use these as a springboard for considering a wide variety of issues. Equally, a hyperlink from any of the summaries could connect with a scenario involving decision-making, using the GLO framework. Alternatively, it could connect with a more generic discussion space or notes that could be built up incrementally. Another timeline using the same (open source) technology – Kennedy’s assassination – offers this (click on any of the events, and follow the [‘Discuss’] link in the relevant summary, to see this opportunity). Yet again, one could envisage a link to the multi-media material on the Sharon Donelly case as an example of a scenario offering a bridge into a quite ‘immersive’ learning experience.

These sorts of possible initiatives need to take place within some form of overall framework, so that we can maximise the opportunity to re-use and link material. A framework should enable us to tease apart the components of any given development. Here is an initial stab[1] at such a framework:


Presentation Inter-action Potential context for use



Point & click



Decision tree

Input text



Film clips

Move along predetermined path








Things to make a start with? 

Here are some initial suggestions to get things moving:



Parse, review & otherwise process the ad hoc volumes of scenarios & case studies collated for the Transformational Technologies team;

§         Candidate scenarios weeded through, organised etc.

§         Further insights & progress on design aspects.

Investigate the available opportunities to create a web-enabled library of timelines. This to include:

§         dialogue with the LX team about their experiences in creating Mairi’s Life

§         considering the potential opportunities offered by Exhibit and Babel frameworks and tools available within the SIMILE project


Worked up experience prepared for potential re-use

Potential for DiY considered, maybe early progress in view, for sharing with broader community of interest

Have a go at populating the Ethical decision-making GLO with some further scenarios. This to include tackling this task in collaboration with interested parties as well as in test-bed isolation.

Assessment of feasibility & benefit of this approach. Examples available for broader community of interest

Open a dialogue with the UCeL project team on the question of some joint effort on the development of further GLO frameworks

Work plan for following through with this activity

Etc. – we can surely think of more….


[1] There will surely be bound to be better versions of this sort of thing that have been developed within the e-learning development community

July 2018
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