Tuesday, April 29, 2008

omg tisnf

oh my gosh/God, this is so not fair/not funny
But it is, ROFL
While I pick myself up from rolling on the floor and b4 i wet my pants (ROFLWP)
Have a look at the not so funny need for a mobile plan thats less costly.

I have actually known people who couldn't afford to pay their rent because their cell phone plans, yes plans, were costing too much.
Tgfpp= thank God for prepay.
While I'm on this topic, I also note that ok isn't short enough, k?
I get the need to be economical with a text maybe costing 20cents a message,
160 characters max for a single message, so why use 1 when you could have used 2?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Animoto: digital narrative made easy

A great audiovisual piece of freeware called animoto and I spent most of this wet bleak day fooling around.
Courtesy of Ewan MacIntosh i found animoto, its a bit of an instant digital narrative type of thing.
I found it easiest using photos and pictures uploaded onto flikr first and then onto their upload board.
(Expand the use of pics if needed by doing the Flikr advanced search for creative commons photos, attribution required).
The site then provides an option of music they provide (some free, some on payment) or advice re creative commons music or authors own mp3 file... to accompany.

The 30 sec short clip that can be produced is free, downloadable to youtube and then to one's own blog...
I'm thinking I could use these as a week by week intro to a lecture, or as a reminder of what was covered in the previous lecture...

There are some annoying aspects such as the random actions on slides, but i guess this is made up for with the 'creativity for dummies' ease of use.

Here Ive used graphics from the early part of the course I teach on communication skills (content included getting out of one's comfort zone, developing self awareness, invoking a moral curiosity, the need for communications in a health team to be by design, non-verbal communications, empathy and the work of John Heron, which included a look at unskilled, degenerative and misguided counselling). I suspect this little snippet tries to do too much and i still have to work on the headless one but still...it is my first ever youtube upload :)
The stand alone video wouldnt make sense if you hadn't attended the lecture, but the potential is for grounding aspects of the learning invoked by the visuals ...

Next step, injecting some creativity in the course;
maybe extra course credit for submitting work that exemplifies empathy....

Saturday, April 26, 2008

suckered in a textually mediated reality

I am murderously inclined having been suckered by trolling scum soliciting in outsourced thinking. Buying or selling; I'd rather deal to their body parts.

Thanks to Qmass for the reference: Frank, A. (2004). After methods, the story: From incongruity to truth in qualitative research. Qualitative health research, 14(3), 430-440.

Arthur Frank writes of the need to convince the reader of the body on the floor.
For the reader to recognize the problems faced as their own problems, such recognition makes the story compelling. The reader has to feel that his or her fate is somehow affected by the fate of those reported on. Generating a sense of entwined fates is the prerequisite - not simply a prerequisite- of good storytelling. The audience has to care what happens to the characters.
Offering an articulate imagination: Seeking not to explain but to deepen complexity, giving complexity an articulate form and making ordinary people vivid.

The textually mediated reality Frank describes is one I am familiar with, reality is that which is written of, audited; where artefact is mistaken for substance. Today I was suckered by a blog troll.

Friday, April 25, 2008

7 memes to writing a thesis proposal

  1. Decide to do it and keep doing it
  2. Develop alliances between self, topic, research, supervisor. Then there's the negotiation with friends/family. And the coherence between self, research question, research methodology. This is the work, pulling this together and keeping these together.
  3. Learn to juggle; some might call this the first exercise in time management.
  4. Establish a means to take control of the reading and the writing. Read about the topic, the research method possibilities, the writings of your supervisor, the writing suggested by your supervisor...as well as how to write, including how to structure a proposal especially for your institution. I have found endnote to be the second most useful piece of software on the planet (after word). My use of it means as i read articles, texts, newspaper items etc... these are entered into my library , and written about in the notes section, and a copy of the article is attached as an image in the image section.
  5. Chicken and egg / Ideas and writing. I suspect its only other people who have ideas then write them up. I write into my ideas.
  6. Establish the trajectory. If you have an inkling that what you want to study is too big, it probably is. What is the question, argument (or thesis), being studied, how are you going to get there, why's it so important, and so what? Convince the reader that your study going to make a difference. My institution required this in 400 words or less. Wisdom from cj was, "so where's the cure for cancer?" Barbara Grant said "learn to kill your darlings". David Seedhouse's advice was "say it once and say it well". Get it peer reviewed- other students, friends, family ... their asking questions means it could be clearer.
  7. Write it and rewrite it and know it will still change. There is no perfect research proposal. Latour says a good thesis is a finished one. This is equally true of a thesis proposal. Invisible work is not wasted, it is the substance on which a finished product lies; a symphony is only good once the learning, the practices and the coming together, have occurred.
    Thesis proposals only look easy afterwards. In academia most of our earlier work was about handing in finished product, now's the time to get used to handing over work in progress. A thesis proposal is still only a work in progress. Feel free to polish it , wordsmith it, but know that it's not the end. It's a map, it's not the world. Even if it feels like the world at the time.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

7 memes for (successful) PhD / thesis writing

Borrowing heavily on the writing of Irene Goodman (author of 7 steps for highly successful authors) as well as ideas from thesis authors I have known and have read...rather than from any personal experience of completion :)
and therefore with very limited credibility but with a lot of interest in completion and therefore reading about such things...

1. Dont give up.
Bruno Latour in Aramis also identifies this critical factor in the making of a project, to hold it together, one must not stop holding it together.
2. Write.
Got nothing to write about?...Put readings (which you write about in the notes section) into the endnote library, blog about writing it, rearrange the data collected- might be construed as data analysis if the words aren't too scary... make writing enjoyable, an hour of journal reading and entering same into endnote while at a cafe is one of my strategies for making writing pleasurable,
I also practice the writing style of authors I enjoy or who have the profound ideas... seems to help new understandings flow. However, this is the opposite to Irene Goodman's advice, hers is to find your authentic voice and stick with it. I'm not there, yet.
3. Schedule the thesis into your life. Mine takes up a lot of my life. Apparently highly effective authors are disciplined writers and will treat the writing as their work. Enjoyable or not, they will write. They will also have a life.
For some it works same time every day.
For others its the reading when the kids are awake (as its easier to pick up and put down) and writing when they are asleep.
I settle for what feels like all the time outside of the day job and sometimes inside of the day job. It actually isnt this. But its an omnipresence that I am happy with. If I didnt like it, this would be a serious problem.
4. Plan.
I have a few.
There is what I tell myself is pure fabrication that I write for the annual review.
Then there's the one that I am comfortable with, based in what Sherry Turkle calls a triumph of tinkering. Citing Claude Levi-Strauss on bricolage, she describes an arranging and rearranging "Bricoleurs approach problem solving by entering into a relationship with their work materials that has far more the flavor of a conversation than a monologue".
Where the writing of a composition comes first and then the plan; a softer style of bottom up rather than top down.
I do plan to finish, i have semi inflexible dates in my head, this years for data collecting, but its also got some writing, and some rewriting. Next year is for writing also, but its an analysis focus, in the absence of funding the year after is the end point as it will be the writing and the rewiriting. Tinkering and polishing. There is still an end insight I have heard stories of those who might polish and edit down to the blank page. I do not intend to be one of the,m. I am aware that I can get lost in wordsmithing and I take heart from Latour, "a good thesis is a finished one".
5. Want it.
Other factors in your life may have to move around this one, which comes first? The thesis or the job? The personal fitness or the thesis? The social life or the thesis? What do you still want at the end of the thesis? My family. I know my bottom line.
6. Stay with, and work, what works for you.
Supervisor, methodology, friends, subject and even the technology. Having the advantage of actor network theory is a convoluted double take, I can look out there with it, and i can also look in here with it; this is a retake on the first suggested strategy; it takes work to make it coalesce.
7. Here to there
Write to your audience. Terry Evans (co-author with Carey Denholm of Doctorates Downunder : keys to successful doctoral study in Australia and New Zealand. Camberwell, Victoria, ACER Press, 2006.) told me its an incredibly selfish undertaking writing for oneself, one's supervisor and one's markers. 3 readers guaranteed. They want to know that you can take it (and them) from here to there. New knowledge. coherently.

If you are/were writing a thesis what would be your 7 memes?

memes (a virus for the www?)
Memes; the word rhymes with dreams and is short for mimemes, from the word mimetic. Infectious ideas; a micropersuasion, spread from person to person.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

9 big class learnings (2008)

To give some context: I teach students communication skills, this runs for 12 weeks and involves 772 students in a Health faculty. This group is split into 4 lecture groups, each receiving one 2 hour lecture per week, and a one hour tutorial (in group sixe of approx 30)

1. Some things take no longer in a big class than a small one;
the lesson learned is be selective.
Favourite task for checking everyone's 'on the same page' regarding concepts crucial to the course and taught within the first couple of weeks. This one came from a MOE literacy cluster. On a word doc make 3 columns, in the first column put the title 'words' , in the second column put a title 'definitions', in the 3rd column again title it 'words'. Then put about 5 words crucial to your topic in the first column, leaving a few lines between. In class give out one of these between 2, have the pairs select to be a or b. Then instruct the a's to define these words, writing their understandings in the 2nd column. Then fold the paper vertically so the partner b cannot see the first column. Their task is to discern what concept was being defined. Provides an opportunity for peer teaching, 2 way, understanding as well as clarity of meanings...

2. Solicited written feedback is richer; I used Stephen Brookfields 5 questions critical incident questionaire. My experience is students like shaping courses.

3. Do the big delivery stuff, but also do the talk with the people next to you.
Tasks in pairs help engage people with the content. My experience is that trust is made on the smaller scale. Speaking out seems easier when the classes engender speaking...

4. Use the big impact of the big venue. I recommend in your face imagery, loud noise dramatics, use of voice; not as gimmicks but integral to content. Helps to use photos over clip art.
My favourites this year include:
The use of strong graphics, red white black...stats that were damning, use of visual images supporting these. (Lessons learned online from death by ppt by Alexei Kapterev, presentation zen, Seth Godin, youtube- how not to make a ppt presentation by Don McMillan...) I have had to rethink my ppts but they are so much better. The medium carries the message, the power of strong visuals wins over lines of writing on a screen.
Use of graphs; my favourite was on how empathy commonly decreases with each year of education that appeared to be drawn insitu. (Inspired from TEDtalks Hans Rosling)
The use of loud noise during a creative visualisation demonstrated the application of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) as a prompt to consider what goes on in thinking, emotions, behaviours and physiology. And therefore led into a discussion of what might be changed.
The mexican wave affirmed that big classes are better at some things :)
a demonstration piece of verbal and non verbal communications ( I really do need visual imagery of classes, some creative editing and a promotion panel... )

5. Make learning an easy choice. A lesson learned in health promotion. I am not suggesting all learning should be easy or fun, but it helps. The ppts are online, as is a podcast. Talk the content. I think students come because its about engagement.
(the online ppts have fewer graphics to keep the file size down)

6. I tell stories. Transforming knowledge by demonstrating application, and modeling the critique of these, engaging students with questions of the good the bad and the ugly.

7. Plan but also stay flexible. What you want and what you get resource wise will always be less than promised and less than ideal.

8. Stay idealistic. I invest in seeing what's possible and adapt to what's possible.
Stephen Downes site Oldaily is great for updates.

9. Post the great ideas, either blog them under big class teaching or post to del.icio.us that way others share too :)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Here be dragons

Such dragons are begat by Wilma White in Kaiaua New Zealand. I have several of this dragons siblings...

In trying to map the invisible, one risks destroying the positive aspects of invisibility – should the map simply be marked, “here be dragons?” Star and Strauss (1999)

In my research interviews I have data that has left me in a conundrum.
What gets told, what gets told in a de-identified way, what will be less important with the passing of time, what might be portrayed to different audiences...
I am reminded by cj that research is an inherently political act.
The article by Susan Leigh Star and Anselm Strauss (1999)titled Layers of Silence, Arenas of Voice: The Ecology of Visible and Invisible Work, provides an excellent synopsis of such dilemma: There is both good and bad invisible work. Positive invisibility requires discretion. Within the the visible-invisible matrix it is impossible to define anything as inherently visible or invisible; similarly, it is impossible a priori to say that either are absolutely good or bad, desirable or undesirable.
These authors are not recommending “more visibility” in any simplistic form, but cite Grudin’s (1988) and Robinson’s (1993b) criteria of equity as an evaluation precept. This discusion of “good invisibility” and “bad invisibility,” is traced to questions of discretion, autonomy, and power over one’s resources. They identify the relation between invisible and visible work as a complex matrix, relational, with an ecology of its own. For every gain in granularity of description, there may be increased risk of surveillance. In the name of legitimacy and achieving public openness, an increased burden of accounting and tracking may be incurred. The phenomenon is one of tradeoffs and balances, not absolutes and clear boundaries.
Some suggestions they make include:
In managing the balance of visible and invisible work, it may be important for
processes to become visible for a time, or remain invisible for a time. It may be of value to consider time release (it may be possible with the passing of time that the issues are deemed less important or a forgivable 'passing phase') 'Stuff' may fade decay over time.
A metaphorical curtain might be drawn. Deidentification of data being one part of this.
Having the analysis consider tradeoffs and balances because increasing the visibility of work processes has pluses and minuses.

I can move forward now.
The dragons can rest easy for the time being.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

They meant no harm

They meant no harm
by ah (2007)

There's nothing left
no loopholes,
no gaps.
Sewn up so tight.
Dot the i's, cross the t's.
are you sure there's a comma after an 'and'?
A part of me died;
sacrificed to the ethical lie:
'First do no harm', they said.
'First do no good',
I sigh

In Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell describes her desire to write looking back, distanced by both time and place. I too would like this perspective but am caught in the moment. She writes, looking back "they meant no harm."

Being 'in the moment' I can only hope to enjoy the selective amnesia where one day I may be able to say; 'it was all for the best', or 'i learnt so much from it'...
Being 'in the moment', I want so much more more than this, I want it written "there is goodness here".

I am blessed with two ethical panels having the focus of my doctoral research application.
I do not feel twice blessed.
I feel twice vulnerable.
Powell and Smith (2006) reviewed the literature on ethical guidelines for research with children: a review of current research ethics documentation in New Zealand. Their discussion confirms my misgivings.
In all the rhetoric of concern for the voice of young people, the capacity for consent is denied, though a capacity for assent is identified as desirable.
In being risk aversive, the risk is also that young people are denied the right to shape services that suit them.

They cite "Like many other minority groups, children lack power and have often
been silenced, unheard, unprotected, and viewed as “unpeople” (John, 2003).

The summary of their findings indicate an increase in the consideration of ethical issues, but that existing documentation is inconsistent and inadequate in attending to specific child-related issues. Suggestions are made to enhance children’s participation in research and demonstrate a respect for their participation rights.

Sounds good. However, practice is that ethics tends to be considered as a one off event rather than a sustained process. Frightening is that the use of ethics committees for the big tick (or not) further feeds into this one off event where thoughtfulness can then be abdicated. Furthermore, the interest shown by ethics committee deliberations may be less about risk to participants, less again about risks to participants before or after the study, and more about the risk aversion or minimisation, to the institution through which the study is conducted.

Judith Bessant (2007) published in the Australian Journal of Political Science, 39(2), 387-404 takes off the kid gloves on this; there are mixed messages about youth participation and democratic practices. Lots of rhetoric about rights and consultation, but little about shifting the power base.
My glass only feels half full today.