Tag Archives: culture

What do you mean, someone made them up…

Anyone who has attended one of my keynote or conference presentations recently will know I have made use of a series of quotes that I first encountered at an ALT-C Keynote by Martin Bean in 2009.

I have used the quotes to remind the audience that scepticism and concerns about the introduction of new technologies or new ways of thinking are not new and that it is “normal” to be concerned about change.

Now I’ve always had my doubts on the validity or authenticity of the quotes as my brief internet research showed that lots of people used the quotes, but there was very little real “evidence” on their authenticity. However in terms of the message I was getting across the essence of the message was much more important than the content of the message. Audiences related to the essence of the message and the scepticism that they had encountered. In more recent messages I have used actual quotes and newspaper headlines about the “dangers” of technology to reinforce the essence of the message.

Recently I used the quotes in a presentation at an ebooks event at UWE. I posted the slides online and I’ve had a couple of comments plus a really useful link that once and for all casts doubts on the quotes and pretty much says that someone in the 1970s made them up!

This set of statements was printed in the Fall 1978 issue of “The MATYC Journal”, a publication that focused on mathematics education. The quotes were assigned the dates: 1703, 1815, 1907, 1929, 1941, and 1950. But they may actually have been created in 1978. Copies of these quotes have been widely distributed and posted on many websites. They also have been published in multiple books and periodicals.

Ah well…. I knew it was too good to be true.

Though of course if you have listened to my presentations you will realise that the quotes were a theatrical device to make the audience to stop and think about change and people’s reactions to change. This is still valid, the quotes merely add a bit of dramatic licence!

So willI use the quotes again?

Probably not, but then I could do and point out that they were “made up” and use that point to make people think.

Maybe it isn’t the harvest….

Those of you who have heard me present in recent years may have heard me talk about how we have a culture based on “we do what do, because we have always done it that way” and talk about the start of term in September and the long summer break and how this is because in the past we needed to let the children get the harvest in…

So I did enjoy reading Mick Water’s column in the TES in which he talks about the long summer break and that getting in the harvest is a bit of a myth…

There are many myths about the school year’s provenance. The pattern of the harvest is a favourite but not very solid: the people who drove the beginnings of our public-school system did not really need their children home to help with harvest as they had workers for that. The universities, though, needed time to assess the results of their entrance examinations so that they could organise their new autumn intake. The school holidays mirrored the pattern of Parliament, with the long summer break for the wealthy of the time.

Indeed, the long summer holiday was essential for public schools so that children could do proper things with their parents like go on the grand tour of Europe, join a safari, learn to shoot things, and visit museums and theatres. After that, schools would “top up” the pupils’ education by teaching them things beyond their families’ scope.

Well going to have to now go and edit my presentations and remove all those harvest pictures.

Even so the point I was making still stands, we do things, because we have always done them that way. The origin of the long summer break isn’t the important point, the point is that we continue to have long summer breaks, because we have always had long summer breaks. We don’t even really know why we have long summer breaks, but we continue to have them, because we have always had them.

Culture of organisations and the people within those organisations is often based on doing what they have always done. They continue to do what they do, as they have always done. There is no reason or incentive to change. Generally change only comes about when there is a shock to the system and we are forced to change.

As a learning technologist I see myself as an agent of change. However I see my role as changing the organisation, not just individuals. It is more challenging to change the culture of an organisation, but the impact will be greater.

On a final note (and I am sometimes guilty of this as much as the next person).

The summer break remains a chance to learn about the real world. The broader a child’s outside school experience, the easier it is to learn in the artificial world of the classroom.

Just to point out, though we sometimes think this, school, college or university is the real world and we should stop thinking it is something different, it sends the wrong message to learners, the wrong message to parents and the wrong message to politicians. If we think school isn’t in the real world then where is it? Mordor?

Cat Physics – iPhone App of the Week

Cat Physics – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone and iPad Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is Cat Physics – Donut Games.

What are cats up to at dawn, when nobody’s around?

Sneaking around the back alleys? Probably!
Going through garbage cans? Not likely!
Playing Donut Games? Most certainly!

Join the cats in their favorite midnight ball game: CAT PHYSICS!

The objective is simple — Pass the ball from one cat to another!

Sounds too simple?
Oh, wait… did we mention flip boards, glass windows, trap doors and other obstacles?


I don’t normally mention games in this series, though of course games certainly have their place in learning and to give learners new skills.

However the reason I am bringing Cat Physics to your attention is not that it is the holiday season and therefore an ideal time to play games, but for two reasons.

Firstly it was recommended to me by a senior manager in my college. A year or so ago this manager would be quite open about her lack of learning technology knowledge, but was eager to see the potential. I did lend her one of my MoLeNET iPod touch devices and this year she did go out and buy an iPad. Cat Physics was one of the games she bought, enjoyed and brought to my attention. Bizarre I thought that a senior manager who wasn’t really that much into learning technologies, is now advising the learning technologies manager on what applications he should buy for his iPad!

I do find it really interesting how consumer electronics can have such an impact on society and social change and the resulting impact that these devices have on learning and learners. I am sure that devices such as the iPhone, the iPad, Android phones, the Nintendo DS and Wii, the PSP and other consumer devices have probably had more of an impact on changing the culture of education towards learning technologies than anything learning technologists have done in terms of training or staff development. I have seen many staff totally change their attitudes to the use of technology in the hands of learners as soon as they buy (or have been bought) a device such as the iPod touch or the Nintendo DS.

So what of the second reason?

Well when the iPad first came out, anything designed for the iPhone to be honest looked awful on the iPad, the x2 button though worked, didn’t result in a clear look to the application. The results were often fuzzy or pixellated. However Cat Physics was the first time I didn’t notice any issues. My first thought was that it was in fact an universal app for both iPhone and iPad. However upon close inspection it was certainly an iPhone sized game with the x2 button. The reason it looked so sharp and clear was that the game had been designed for the new “retina” display for the iPhone 4 and as a result the game which was designed for the 960×640 resolution of the iPhone 4 looks fine and dandy on the 1024×768 resolution of the larger iPad. So even if you don’t have an iPhone 4, the new versions of iPhone only applications, designed to work with the “retina” display of the iPhone 4 now look really quite good on the iPad.

So what of Cat Physics itself?

Well I actually really enjoyed the game. It works well as an iPad or iPhone game in that each level can be completed in the few minutes that you find you have for these kinds of casual games. The five minutes before your TV programme starts. Whilst the adverts are on before the film at the cinema. The few minutes waiting for that train or tube. Part of the success of the iPhone has to be down to the casual gaming potential of the device, Angry Birds is a prime example of how people are using their phones.

There are (at the time of writing) eighty levels of varying complexity in Cat Physics, each requires a modicum of skill in working out both the puzzle behind each level, but also the physics of how the ball will travel on the screen.

It’s an enjoyable game and at 59p is certainly worth buying, check it out.

Enhancing Learning – RSC Eastern eFair

My keynote presentation from last week’s RSC eFair.

The world is changing.

Technologies are changing.

Learning is changing.

Our learners are changing. How they learn, where they learn and with whom they learn, all are changing.

Web 2.0 technologies allow learners to remove the social, geographical and physical barriers to communicate and learn with others.

Mobile technologies allow learners to be more mobile and be able to access learning and learning communities in ways which have never been possible before.

Both allow for an enhanced and enriched learning experience.

James Clay has extensive experience of mobile learning and has a vision that goes beyond mobile technologies and focuses on the mobility of the learner, blurring the demarcation between formal and informal learning. His current vision for education encompasses the use of Web 2.0 technologies embedded into an institutional VLE which can be accessed through mobile technologies. Allowing learners a focal point for their studying, whilst allowing the depth and breadth of Web 2.0 to bring a personalised learning experience to students at a time and space to suit them.

For the future, James hopes that institutions and others will allow for a flexible, personalised, accessible learning experience for all.

View the section of Martin Bean’s ALT-C 2009 keynote that deals with resistance to innovation.

“million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten”

One of my favourite quotes from Terry Pratchett is that “million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten”. When something awful happens, or freakish, we hear news reporters say “it was a million-to-one chance that this would happen”.

In February 2009 we had the worst snow for twenty years. Across the UK many schools, colleges and universities closed for a few days as travel made it impossible (and unsafe) for learners to get to their lessons and classes.

As it was the worst snow for twenty years, any idea of planning to use the VLE or similar to support learning from home was thrown out of the window, as it was obvious that such bad snow probably wouldn’t happen again for another twenty years…

Of course less than twelve months later, we had even worse snow. We saw even more closures and for even longer!

What were the chances of that happening?

What are the chances of it happening again?

Probably less than a million-to-one!

Even if it doesn’t snow really badly next year, other things may happen that result in the physical closure of the educational institution. It could be floods, high winds (remember 1987), flu or similar viral infections, transport strikes, fuel crisis, anything…

So how should educational institutions be responding? How should they prepare?

Personally I think that it is not about preparation, but having the staff and learners in the right frame of mind about using online and digital tools before any such million-to-one chance happens.

We are going to discuss these issues and more on day two of the Plymouth e-Learning Conference, April 9th, between 11.15 and 12.45.

Culturally, most institutions do not incorporate online or virtual learning into everyday working cultures, at any level: management, staff or students. Those who do not routinely use digital options can’t see that closing the physical institution need not have a significant impact on the business of the institution, if that business can be carried out at home or online. The issue is not to focus upon contingency planning, but to focus on changing the way people work when there isn’t snow and changing the way people think when there is. Although this debate will centre largely upon Web 2.0 methods, it will take an outcomes-focused approach, rather than a tools focused approach, in line with William Morris’s quote “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. We consider what is necessary, not just in times of crisis, but in implementing everyday e- practice to meet learning and teaching needs.

With a focus upon communities rather than machines, and a recognition that no tool offers “one size fits all”, each panellist will focus upon a specific relationship, specifically ‘Institutional Representation’, ‘Collaboration’ and ‘Teaching Purposes’. What institutional cultural factors will need to be addressed? What do electronic communications approaches offer that previous methods haven’t? What drawbacks are acknowledged in the use of each with regards to the outcomes required? Which tool is most appropriate for the outcome required, and what are its pedagogical purposes?

It also links in nicely with Dave White’s keynote that happens immediately before our panel discussion.

The education sector is constantly chasing the tail of the latest technology. Innovation ‘out there’ on the web generates paranoia that we might be missing the latest opportunity and the suspicion that our students are experts in everything. We create profiles on every new platform just in case they become ‘the next big thing’, collecting solutions-looking-for- problems and losing our focus on what students and staff might actually need.

How can we change the culture of our organisations when we sometimes focus too much on the new tools that appear in our Twitter stream?

Changing the culture is going to take time, having access to the right tools can help, but attitude towards those tools is just as important. Culturally we have some way to go I think before snow or any other “disaster” only closes the physical location and doesn’t close the institution.

Is your institution prepared?

Further reading:

#036 e-Learning Stuff Podcast: Cultural Change

With James Clay, Mick Mullane and David Sugden.

It’s not just about the technology, it’s also about the culture of the organisation when it comes to embedding learning technologies and e-learning. Cultural change often needs to happen if there is to be transformation within an educational institutiuon.

This is the thirty sixth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Cultural Change

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Cultural Change

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes