Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Aftermath

The period of time immediately following a time of great industry is always difficult isn't it?

I've finished all my assignments and have all but one of them back and I'm wandering around the house wondering what to do with my time. It's not as if I don't have anything to do.

  • I have a stack of books I've been wanting to read for a long time.
  • I have a garden I've just dug up and started planting.
  • I have a fence that suddenly became a pile of rubble and needs to be replaced.
  • I have knitting half done,
  • a tapestry waiting to be finished,
  • painting that needs to be done and
  • a book to write (and one to edit).

And those are just the things I WANT to do.

But none of it grips me. None of it fires my imagination for longer than an hour or so. Even the garden doesn't hold me for longer than it takes to water it - that takes some planning and time in the middle of a drought, believe me.

It's like I'm stuck in limbo and have to float around in here for a while - until my mind changes gears and settles into the next phase of activity.

I hope it doesn't take too long. I have a very limited time before uni starts back again and I want to get some creative work done. I want to edit 18 chapters and write at least 3 more. (The editing is the hard bit. Anyone can write a book but it takes real skill to edit one so that it draws the reader into the story and keeps them there. That's the challenge - and what I want to master.)

I don't think it's unreasonable to want to do that in three weeks. It's achievable - if I can just focus on it. Perhaps I should just make myself do it and see how I go.

Now ... what was the story about?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Team Terrors Mark IV

She's back.

For one blissful moment, when she replied to an email within 24 hours, I thought things might have improved. I thought maybe, just maybe, doing the pilot study had helped her understand what the research was about and how to analyse interview transcripts.

Then last night she asked me how the participants could have got it so wrong. They've all given different answers to the same question!

She did the research on phenomenography and wrote an essay on the fact that the aim of that method of research is to identify variance and she still didn't understand that we were actually LOOKING for different answers from participants.

Her part of the final report is supposed to be analysing the transcripts and writing the essay to that effect. So far I've analysed the transcripts and sent her my three drafts, each one more detailed and on target than the last. She's supposed to do the same, then we compare them and work out where the 'right' spot is with them. I haven't seen her analysis. I have seen a 1500 word essay based on my first draft which was incomplete and, quite frankly, way off track.

I've had enough. I'm not prepared to wear a bad mark just because she doesn't get it. I'm sure she's trying - she just doesn't know what it's all about. Equally I'm not prepared for her to get a mark she hasn't earned. I'm keeping track of everything I do and everything she does and I'm going to apply for disparate marking based on contribution.

I've been getting cranky with her too and that's not a good thing. She's trying. I could explain it better, more thoroughly, but I'm already giving her more detailed explanations than I give my year 12 business class and they're only 16-17. She's a masters student and should be thinking like one.

I've learned something of myself in all this. I always thought I was accepting of other people - their personalities, efforts and abilities. And I am - as long as it doesn't threaten to drag my results down. I have limits. I guess it's a good thing to know.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Developing knowledge through a creative process

Developing knowledge

I’m not sure how much knowledge about cyberlearning I’ve gained through this process. The reading I’ve done is very similar to reading I’ve done in recent years through my role as a teacher trying to maintain currency in education. The reading has reinforced for me the necessity to incorporate ICTs into my teaching, indeed, adapt my teaching style for the changing technologies and societal expectations.

Working in the team allowed me to experience asynchronous learning with no face to face contact. I think that has been a valuable experience as it has highlighted some of the things I take for granted in my teaching – particularly the opportunities to use body language to assist in communication and negotiation. Even with that, two team members phoned me during the process to discuss in ‘live time’ various difficulties they were having with the project. These ranged from the focus our section (the Big6) was taking, the possibility that it might be difficult to connect it to the ESL section and the lack of communication from a couple of team members. I found that, even though I don’t like phones, these conversations clarified a number of things and made me feel connected to the team members in a way I hadn’t felt prior. It removed the sense of isolation I felt throughout most of the process.

The computer screen acted like a bridge between me and other team members, and, like a bridge was a barrier to the development of any meaningful relationship. I think this inhibited the development of the team and the project. I firmly believe that if we could have all met face to face even twice, the project would have resulted in a stronger, more cohesive product. Whether this would be the case with other teams or was peculiar to the personalities in this one, I don’t know.

The creative process

I really enjoy creating new things – any new things, from stories to picture frames, from knitting baby clothes to creating anything on a computer. This project was no different. I was a little frustrated by the limitations of the vehicle we were using – particularly my inability to create a hyperlink connected to a picture on the website – but the creation of a website and working in a dynamic team minimised my frustration. I needed a few more and firmer early decisions to be made at the beginning and felt rather panicky when nothing had been decided by the middle of the second week. It was one of the reasons I created the initial plan of the website – to try to get other people to make a definite decision so we could begin work.

I also had health problems for a couple of weeks of the project which meant I couldn’t contribute fully. This was also frustrating as I don’t like doing things unless I do them well.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Team dynamics - an experience

The team seemed to be able to operate as a cohesive whole even though it fractured into sub-groups after the first chat. Two members were very focused on creating something with an ESL direction while several others wanted a more general information literacy slant. Two members had very little contact at all. One was dealing with family issues but contacted another team member to let her know what was happening. The other member contacted no one for most of the project and, when she presented her contribution to the website, became offended when it was pointed out to her that it had little relevance to the topic.

These issues highlighted the importance of communication during the project. Because none of us knew each other, regular communication was vital to maintain smooth operation of the team.
It became obvious from very early on that most of the team members were used to being in control of projects yet, as the project progressed, it became equally obvious that none were willing to nominate as team leader. I believe this was because the moderator changed each week and that process disrupted the normal leadership development that occurs in teams.

Everyone in the team (those who were in regular contact) strived to tap into the strengths of each person and also to identify any individual weaknesses so that these could be catered for elsewhere in the team. There was an almost fevered focus on ensuring the team worked as well as it could for the project and, more, for each team member.

Everyone was scrupulously polite to each other. While this is necessary I found that by the end of the first week, this desire to not bruise other peoples’ egos actually inhibited the decision-making process and began to irritate me. There was a hesitance in suggestions for improvement that watered down the requests. I attempted to keep the focus on the project when criticisms and suggestions were made but other team members were still concerned about upsetting individual authors. At this level of study, there should be an ability to separate the personal from the professional. In team work, it is the project that is paramount. If people are precious about their own contributions, they should keep a copy of their original work so they can publish it without change elsewhere later.