Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Leaders and followers......

.....there has been a lot of speculation about whether Obama will live up to the hype - to people's expectations - and generally commentators guess he won't.

Well, of course, how could he?

In a sense we get the leaders we deserve - because we get the leaders we create. A leader is in many ways just the sum total of all of our hopes, fears, expectations and - yes - projections.

So its encouraging that at this moment the US - and the rest of the world - has got in Obama a leader who promises hope: who (in the words of Nina Simone's song) is "young, gifted and black". (Coincidentally the title of an album by Aretha Franklin, who sang at his inauguration today).

This must say something encouraging and hopeful about the state of the world, of democracy, and of human development?

But leaders are ever at the mercy of these communal projections - whether US presidents, parents or teachers.

I know that as a "teacher" (or facilitator), I am never quite as all-powerful, as all-knowing, as wonderful (or as awful) as my students imagine.

The learning journey is usually one in which the student moves from dependency to self responsibility. It's one reason why I am so excited about the development of the Personal Learning Environment, of initiatives in collaborative learning and the use of self and peer assessment.

In the same way, mature teams are those which assume responsibility for delivering outcomes and don't fall apart if the boss proves to be a fragile human being - just like the rest of us....

Indeed, teams can be self managing: there needn't be a leader at all - and each individual accepts that they have a key part to play in the success or failure of a project.

I am currently involved in a "leaderless project" as part of the Digifolios Ning Community on personal learning spaces and accepting individual responsibility for supporting the completion of the task, collaborating in learning and sharing resources is the unspoken principle behind all we are doing there.

So the real question is, are WE going to live up to the promise that Obama's election brings? Will we disappoint ourselves as a global community? Will we accept responsibility for the successes and failures ahead - and are WE prepared to do something to make a difference?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Digital Identity: the edited me

Being part of the Digifolios experience has given me pause for thought on the nature of digital identity - not least because I didn't know what one was until last week.

I guess my first foray into this world was when my good friend and unofficial mentor, @stujohnson (his twitter id), invited me to be part of Facebook. He's a good deal younger than me and I thought FB was for, well, people a good deal younger than me. For 6 months I had two friends on FB: him and a mutual work colleague.

Then about 18 months ago, my official mentor and now friend, @hallymk1 (his twitter id) invited a bunch of newly embarked PGCE students (of which I was one) to contribute to a blog: and so my blogging self was born.

Only last February I discovered delicious, netvibes and RSS (again, my friend @stujohnson) and in June, my boss introduced me to Twitter. Since last summer I have been blogging here and Tweeting as Virtual Leader.

I still find the notion of a digital id rather scary. ID theft is a worry of course, as is spamming, but its more about how I will be perceived in this virtual world. Eventually all things connect up and I risk having aspects of my life and work inadvertently revealed in places I'd rather they weren't.

Its not that I have dark and shameful secrets to hide (well none I am going to tell you about here!) just that I am essentially, and paradoxically, rather partial to maintaining my privacy: I keep a private blog about my learning on my PGCE programme, for example, and I maintain a wholly separate online identity as an aficionada of salsa - different FB profile, website, blog.....

I have read elsewhere that on line relationships permit a freedom and intimacy that f2f doesn't always allow: it is possible to hide behind a created identity to be bolder and more open than we would be in "real" life, without the risks of rejection, perhaps?

In the same way that my profile pic is carefully chosen, cropped and "fixed" to present an acceptable face to the world, asynchronous blogging, discussion boards and emails - even video blogs that I can review before publishing - present the edited me.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

First of the New Year.. a personal learning story

I am not going to write my new year's resolutions here, because I don't have any......

Instead I want to write about a new learning experience I am involved in: http://digifolios.ning.com/

It's concerned with developing Personal Learning Portfolios/Environments - something I am keen to introduce to my students, particularly on the Virtual Teams Module. In fact I'd go so far as to say its essential in e-learning that students craft and develop such an environment for themselves in order to keep track of their learning resources.

I have blogged before about Netvibes and how it has made such a difference to my overall efficiency in keeping track of my surfing adventures....so it isn't the use of an aggregator that is new for me.....

No, what I am loving is the being part of a community and collaborating in learning tasks. There are some scheduled synchronous events (talks on WizIQ and Elluminate), there are blogs, shared presentations, discussion boards.... and yesterday we had an "ice breaker" in the form of a challenge to discover the Birth Order of each community member.

The fascinating thing about this was the ingenuity of individual members in their use of technology to discover the answers: polls on Survey Monkey and Doodle, use of Google Docs, Twitter and Gabmail etc - without any specific instructions from the coordinating team, people just got on with it. What is more, the results were fascinating - why are so many in this community eldest children - and is that significant? And the emerging stories even more so.

This is in sharp contrast with an e-learning conference I attended a few days ago where I felt I was talked at all day and only got to network in the coffee breaks - like that was somehow incidental?!

Whenever I ask students to tell me the best things about distance learning programmes I run, they say - the networking, hearing how other people manage these issues. When I think back to courses I have attended, I remember the people I met, the stories I heard, what I learned about myself in sharing stories of my own and having feedback and support from others.

And finally, this whole experience convinces me that it is possible to kick off a virtual learning experience from a cold start, to form relationships on line without benefit of face to face introductions and to collaborate effectively with others across distance using technology.

O brave new world, that hath such people in it!