05 January 2011

What am I doing!?

This new year break, I've had time to consider my directions. For one, I'm thinking to drop my efforts to propose open educational policies and practices at the University of Canberra. It just seems to be much harder than it should be at the moment. The reception is not there, and the connections aren't happening. Instead, I think it would be more productive to return my focus on researching and understanding networked learning. This mainly has consequences for that un-PhD I'm doing btw.

A second thing to spark larger doubts has been to look at this blog's stats (since collection began mid 2010).

Normally I don't pay much attention to the stats on my blogs, I don't really see the point. But since I've started including posts on stuff I do outside education and networked learning, its interesting to see the comparison. This is mostly revealed graph 3, where my post Starting a rocket fire thermal mass heater has had 3 times the views as the next most popular post How and why I'll do a PhD

As far as the education related posts go, it is slightly disappointing to see that so many posts I consider to be important, don't even rate on the charts. This sense of disappointment existed long before looking at the stats mind you. The almost complete lack of connection I seem to have to any Australian or New Zealand network of people who share and converse around issues of networked learning and open education has troubled me for a long time. Made worse by watching our North American and UK counterparts cut sick with dialog, development and good times. I don't know why this is...

Based on my very infrequent postings on "outside" interests, I find there is a more receptive audience, and a stronger online learning network around topics of sustainability and alternative energy. I have had excellent feedback on the Compost hot water project - including local news reporters, websites and very helpful comments on Youtube. Likewise, very surprising requests to help build rocket fires too. These responses come well before I can claim any expertise or worthwhile experience in the field, imagine what might be possible with more focused attention. To be sure, I very much enjoy working on such projects, but once again, least liking the frustrations in finding local contacts and suppliers. 

If I had some capital behind me, I'd be investing in the Container house project (featured in the recent Tron movie (0:56) btw!)  and combining in the rocket fire, compost heater, and I haven't mentioned the compost toilet yet...

By comparison, I don't enjoy working in education, demonstrating and proposing new practices to what amounts to being a non responsive, often hostile audience, with near zero connection to any measure of a local learning and research community, and all that after 7 years working at it too! I feel a new year's resolution coming on...


Downes said...

Well if you don't enjoy working in education, you shouldn't do it.

But - why are you doing anything at all? For audience reaction? If the only purpose of what you're doing is to get a reaction, and not to (as they say) scratch some personal itch, then you're doing the wrong thing, whatever it is.

Me, the reason I'm in this business, is that I have questions I want to answer, and over the years I've made some progress answering them. That's it.

Yes, I give talks and stuff, but only to people who want them. I'm not interested in arguing or convincing people that I'm right, because one of the things I've learned is that arguments don't convince people.

You may have noticed my lack of patience with people who want me to prove myself to them. Life is too short, and there are too many people!

Choose whatever it is you want to do, and focus on that. If you feel like documenting it for people (or for yourself!) do so. If it's just work, do something else. Don't waste your time trying to please people. You'll never succeed; people will never be satisfied, and there will always be one more person who thinks you owe them something.

Brian said...

It's a bummer to read this, as you are one of the people I count on to keep me fired up and motivated.

That said, my personal opinion is that your blogging will be best served if you are writing what you actually feel something about... In any event, I'm sure I'll be reading and clicking.

Leigh Blackall said...

Thanks Brian, in many ways I think you've been down this path yourself. You post a lot less to do with education etc, which has left me wanting, but you post more things on your personal interests, which I find just as interesting and inspiring.

A clarification I might need to make. When I say "drop my efforts to propose open educational policies and practices at the University of Canberra" I mean just that. I'll keep writing about open ed as it goes on everywhere else, but spend less time lobbying people at UC.

I want to spend more time blogging on personal interests in the hope it will take me somewhere. I'm going to try and do more in the areas of alternative energy and equity, self sufficiency and conviviality, things like that. It just so happens that these topics carry impressive networks for learning online. So there's a good link back to current topic areas.

Also, to get back to artistic expressions. I have a man shed now, and some dormant skills in painting, and some ideas for pictures...

That's the rough plan anyway. Thanks for letting me know you're still around to see it.

Leigh Blackall said...

G'day SD! Your comment was caught in Blogger's spam filter (you might be pleased to know :)

"For audience reaction?"

No, well, yes,.. maybe. I'd say response instead of reaction. My expectation (and experience to date) has been that through response, connections strengthen or reaffirm, motivation is affected, and most importantly new or strengthened directions in learning happen. When there is no response, despite efforts to directly engage, then I take it as feedback that there's a dead end that way, or a very lonely existence. In my local context, this is certainly the case!

"things I've learned is that arguments don't convince people."

I think I am finally starting to learn this myself. I've become interested in the notion of detachment, that is to be a lot less personally attached to lines of argument, or ideas. This stems from a rather intense and unfortunate argument with someone new to me at work, where it was pointed out to me that I was too personally attached to the idea I was arguing. To date I've always understood that attachment as passion, and that it was a positive thing. I failed to see that the arguments I was sometimes finding myself in where very rarely productive.

Thanks Stephen. I appreciate this.

Brian said...

I lose the plot sometimes, but I try to remind myself that openness is not an end in itself (much less THE end), but a means (or a condition) that hopefully makes meaningful action possible.

"alternative energy and equity, self sufficiency and conviviality"

-- if we can't make progress on these issues, what's the point of open education?

Kick it hard.

Leigh Blackall said...

"-- if we can't make progress on these issues, what's the point of open education?"


For too long I have been working inside educational institutions, faculties, discipline areas, courses, units, degrees, certificates... blah blah compelled to justify open education - no! learning, in ways the institution can understand. IP Policies and open courses, institutions using popular media and platforms... all the while a voice on my shoulder, that goes by the name of Blamb I think, saying why? Why do we need open copyrights? Why do we need institution's flooding the wonderful networks we enjoy with their largely useless processes and products, and dark politics? Instead, as Stephen often says, look for the changes outside. The institutions will still have their place, all be it a transitional role.. I hope.

Mark Smithers said...

I can relate to your feelings. I seem to have had a 20 year love/hate relationship with higher education. It is often difficult for innovators and early adopters to work in highly conservative and increasingly uninnovative organisations like universities.
I think your tendency to ask hard questions does not necessarily endear you to the 'ooh look it's shiny' group of elearning and edtech people who often dominate the discussion space. I think it's interesting that you note that there seem to be more vibrant communities of people asking hard questions overseas. Notably Canada, the US and UK. I've noticed that too. I'm not sure why the same level of debate doesn't seem to occur in Australia. It may be that Australian universities are much more corporitised than others overseas. Who knows?

It'll be a shame if you stop asking the hard questions about education in your blog posts but you have to do what makes you happy and if that means writing about sustainability then so be it. I'm sure they will be valuable posts enjoyed by many.

Sarah Stewart said...

I think there are several issues going on for you here, Leigh, and I agree with SD that you've got to decide what you want...for your blog and for your life. I'm in the same boat with my blog...when I write some controversial post about midwifery practice or birth, I get lots of views and comments. But when it comes to my personal views on midwifery education, there's not much of an audience. So I ask myself...who am I blogging for? If I blogged for fame and fortune, I'd blog about birth. But I don't blog for that...I blog for my personal learning and record...so I keep on writing those posts that interest me but won't get my name in lights. I guess you have to make the same decision.

I also agree with SD when he talks about not working to please others. You have to let go of this idea that you are single-handedly going to save the world in 6 days...you are not. BUT...you also have to recognise that you do make a difference...it may not be as big as you'd like...and certainly not as quickly as you'd like...but you are heard...and people are learning from you.

For what it's worth, it's my opinion that if you want to make more of a difference in Australian higher education, you have to get on and get your PhD. Get a body of research behind you...start to answer those questions you are asking with your research. It is my opinion and experience that walking the talk is what really makes the difference. ..but it is a slow process.

cheers Sarah :) :)

Leigh Blackall said...

Thanks for the comment Sarah, but I have to ask what makes you and Downes think I am getting worked up about fame? I've been thinking on it for a few days now, and don't reckon that's what I'm talking about. In my response to Downes I tried to explain my anxiousness is about a lack of response, and therefore connection. So when I post and no comments or referrals come, I take that as no response, which leaves me to either pursue the question or line of thinking alone, or drop it altogether = networked learning. 100s of people complain about this problem in the MOOCs for example, and we typically give them pretty half arsed advice: comment more, network more, communicate more. Really? The dialog that takes place on the big wikis, compared to blogs, compared to micro blogs, compared to Youtube, etc.. is all different. Difference can be seen again when comparing topics, such as education vs self sufficiency.

Fame, influence, power is not my concern. In fact, I'd be worried if I had it in this day and age, for with it comes significant responsibility. I admit I'm not completely free of such vanity, but I'm pretty sure its not the emotion I'm trying to describe here.

Leigh Blackall said...

Hey Mark! You know what I'm getting at. Since 2004 (when it all started for me) I've wondered if Australian's are too introverted for blogging, lacking the confidence and self assuredness to blog their work and interests. Faining some sort of wonder as to why others bother. We can easily see the dominance from the North Americans, and still today notice the monocultural networks we engage in as a result. Only recently has a small UK network emerged, after it seemed to fade in 2005/06. Downes would know better than me, he does an amazing job monitoring the edu blogs. Mine is just a sense. Certainly, Twitter and Facebook has had an impact. Disrupting the quality of connectivity in the established network (reducing it to timezones for example), and stunting new growth... imo.
And, why the hell is your blog not in my Reader? I suspect my sense of disconnection has something to do with neglecting my reader.. reaching a point of overload, being reluctant to add new feeds and delete old ones. You're in there now. Hopefully a stronger local connection will build.

Nancy White said...

A man shed! Excellent!

The network already said all the intelligent things. I'm nodding. Listening. And feeling more like listening lately than "talking." How do we account for "interest" and "engagement" when in that mode? I don't know. Hopefully we can talk about it during a bush walk in your neck of the woods in April!!!!!

Sarah Stewart said...

Leigh; I know this is nothing to do with education & probably of no interest, but what I am seeing now in my field is an wonderful rise of Australian midwifery blogs. Up to recently, most midwifery blogs have been American, so I am thrilled to see some great work coming from this end of the world which is a result of the political stuff going on in the world of maternity care in Australia.

Nancy; please tell me you're coming to New Zealand!!

Helen said...

Happy new year Leigh, I for one will be very pleased to read more about sustainability in your blog, Arn't you glad you're not living in Queensland right now!

Lisa M Lane said...

As with MOOCs (well, and teaching in general for that matter) there is a lurker effect. We cannot know whom we might influence with what we do. Response is just a message from the responders, not an indication of influence.

catkins_in_nz said...

Hi again Leigh - I came here prompted by a comment on Lisa Lane's blog and just wanted to concur with her that lurker effect is definitely in force here. I often read your blog and have often been inspired and intrigued by what you write. I don't always agree (certainly not at first!) but you send me off on tangential directions of searching reading and thinking many of which have enriched my own teaching and learning considerably.
As Sarah mentions you may not see the immediate results of the ideas you argue so persuasively but they DO make a difference. I often think and remark on how important your work was for SLENZ - we would never have gone down the CC route without your input and that would have been a very poor decision for the project.
You have certainly influenced me to consider the importance and value of open education in all its forms and while I may not be able to totally give away the traditional model yet, I do believe that education will change immeasurably over the next few years and it is the voices of people like yourself who will have laid the foundations of it.
I also have to thank you for introducing me to the work of George Siemens. I know you will roll your eyes in horror if I try to give you excuses for lurking rather than responding so I won't try! But I did want you to know that I am always interested in what you have to say and do take time to read and personally reflect on it.

Leigh Blackall said...

Thanks alot Claire :)