Learning: how do you embrace confusion?

I was delighted to find this 6 minute talk by Ramsey Musallam on his three rules to spark learning. He presents a strong case for his rules in the context of teaching science.

As a facilitator, I am interested in the balance between creating a safe space to learn with the adventure of curiosity. Sometimes, when a learner arrives at this place, it can feel disorientating or seem confusing.

The question I would like to ask is, is this “confusion” a sign of openness to the unknown or a reluctance to learn something new?

What do you think?

#edcmooc: Today’s metaphors for future reference

This is the second assignment in my #edcmooc. This time I have been invited to comment on some possible perspectives of Utopia and Dystopia in the future presented in a series of short videos and films.  I plan to experiment with some metaphors and explore the following questions. Who is set to benefit from the personal, constant attentions of information technology, and who might lose out?

Now, I leap into this inquiry with a Utopian view.  I have trained both digital natives and digital immigrants and, while they ask me for a completely different approach to the way I support them, they have a common intention. They are looking for THEIR new innovative solution. This could be to find a way to build a roller-coaster in Minecraft in 30 seconds or it could be to figure out how to send a simple message on a smart phone. In their quests I think they are equal and, in a learning context, they bring the importance of diversity in how we learn.

In the following two videos, Microsoft and Corning are selling the Utopian view of life being much easier (and rather clean!). Everybody is at ease with the technology. Both digital natives and immigrants could be present.   Here the information is accessed with a simple swipe of the hand within the zone of a sensor. It follows that all those with good spacial awareness and can ask for the right data will be winners. (Note to self: I really should take a course in sign language. Addendum: will I have to live through an age of sitting completely still? Addendum II: remind me to take out shares in massage chairs).  Are there any losers in the frame? Well, there those who will not have the physical dexterity to take exams in fly-swatting or commanding visually dominant data, there are those who will not have the financial collateral and there are those who will choose to opt out of the omnipresence of data control. The digital anti-heroes who want to win a different battle for human-ness.

Where was I? Oh yes, metaphors. In both videos you are invited to imagine the accessibility of information in learning and working. A sort of white hole that is continually providing data. In the Corning video “A Day Made of Glass 2”, The glass is a window into anything you would wish to know or need – in an instant. As observers we see people being at ease, perhaps not even noticing the technology. It is transparent with intelligent augmented reality to enhance our environment.

In the second video, “Productivity Future Vision (2011)”, Microsoft is keen to how much easier life can be where people integrate their life into the digi-sphere. Fascinatingly it shows us that the keyboard and the Size 0 phone is a resilient tool for facilitating this. is this the story of the perfect future?

Furthermore is this future Utopian or Dystopian? I find the idea of all my dull tasks being managed by intelligent online systems VERY seductive. And, conveniently clean. I enjoy the positive messages in the two promotional videos. If the participants of this world trust their world, why not see this image as Utopian.

BUT is it all rather too clean? Why do I decide to conjure up a dramatic picture with passionate people rejecting this perfect life style and living in derelict factories wearing dirty, badly knitted  jumpers? Because popular media finds the Dystopian view irresistible. Our myths, stories, films and newspapers are filled with examples. Heroes (with imaginative disadvantages) are relentlessly fighting the corrupt, all-powerful authorities. Yes, the evidence is overwhelming. The dull fact is that the Dystopian plot buys more interest than the relaxing clean Utopia.

It follows that with the current huge wall of distrust in the managers of these magical digital interfaces together with the blooming ‘live’ examples of cyber-crime, I am inclined to shed my neatly fitting Utopian suit and vote with my badly knitted woolly jumper.

Other blogs I have enjoyed include:

Ary Aranguiz

David Hopkins


Internet of things

The Internet is no longer just a very very big website and data exchange portal. It is now the “Internet of things”. Well, of course, we all knew this really. It’s just, well, now it’s official.

For those of you who have been controlling your house appliances from  the other side of the World, this post will seem rather out of date.

But wait, there is more. This is really exciting. It means that different devices can now talk to each other. That the sensing data one system collects about one part of the real world will have meaning and context in another which, in turn, can be controlled by my smartphone. The innovation potential in this is very exciting. How would you apply this opportunity to your life?

The issue is how much do I want to control my environment and, at the same time, minimize the amount of data updates I receive from my remote house heating system, my bank account, my cinema club, my health fitness monitor, my supermarket automated shopping widget, my social network sites, client requests, dog vaccination updates and my next virtual meeting?

Will you trust the “Internet of things” to run the logistics of your life?

Here is a video link with interviews with some CEO’s of organisations of things.


What will be the trends in social media in 2013?

Today Nic Newman, a digital strategist and former BBC Future Media executive, introduced some the trends that we will see leading the exponential growth of social media in our lives.

  1. The mobile wallet
  2. Mobile ads will be increasingly invasive
  3. Celebrity spam
  4. Trial by Twitter and online gossip megaphones
  5. Viral news and news microthreads
  6. Digital addiction clinics
  7. Mobile controlled accessories such as augmented glasses and intelligent fabrics

What attracted my attention was the idea that there will be an increase in digital addiction clinics.  Personally, I think we are now so deeply enmeshed in Web 3.0 where data analysis is king, we can not afford to limit our digital interaction and particularly in the matter of learning.

In Bolton, UK, the Essa Academy has issued iPads to all their students. There is no book in sight. Students are immersed in technology as the principle channel for learning and their engagement with the academic staff. Is this embracing the new or creating candidates for the addiction clinic?

It could mean that we have arrived at that important point in time between pull and push technologies? What do I mean by this? Well, with the exception of some “intelligent” search engines and websites, we have control over the data being presented to us. We type in a question into a search engine, click on a link and pull out our choice of answers. Even now, I love following chaotic threads and links through a feast of information and images when I researching new information. Moving on, Google’s search engine provides me predictive answers guided by my previous searches with relevant advertisements. Amazon will ‘invite’ me to view their suggestions based on my purchase history. Augmented reality tools are another push technology. This all seems to be a natural progression where ‘push’ technologies will anticipate our questions and needs.

So, should I book my place now? What will the digital online clinics do for me? Will they be retreats into unsupported acts of self actualisation?  melting pots of conspiracy theorists? behavioural experts in social integration or even enthusiastic personal trainers knowledgeable in my unnatural act of sitting down?   

Who knows. What I do hope is that they will be gentle reminders of the wonders of being human.

The full list compiled by Nic Newman can be found at the following link:


Event – 14 September 2012

There is no spoon: technology, presence and ethics in online coaching

Held at i-coach academy, Central London

In this presentation I was interested in the role of neuroscience when it meets virtual reality and how we define our identity in a fast changing ethical code.

It started off with the impact I could see films were having on our understanding of technology. Then I noticed how much we were missing out in the way we use technology in the workplace. And, now, this work forms part of my inquiry into how technology impacts our digital relationships and my continuing exploration of being human in digital spaces.

In this talk I reviewed the strengths of the traditional face to face training, facilitation or coaching with the opportunities of working in a completely new way. This might include on-line collaborative communities, webinars, m-learning, e-learning, movement tracking, sound/bio-feedback response systems and virtual worlds.

Also, I presented some results from my findings where I asked other coaches about their solutions to this new world of opportunity. You are welcome to add your thoughts and ideas to this blog post


Ethics of online coaching

Recently, I gave a presentation on the ethics of online coaching at Oxford Brookes University The question I wanted to ask was, what happens to ethics when we go into a digital environment?

Arguably, ethically, online coaching has the same issues as  face to face coaching. In that a coach will seek to create an environment where their client can trust them to help them to think well for themselves in order that they can move forward from their present situation.

However, the nature of contracting for any service online requires us to be much clearer about what is going on at any point in the contract. A friendly lawyer, who works for one of the many organisations who audits websites for a “trusted” status, handed to me a booklet filled with legal, regulatory, technical based criteria I needed to provide beyond the essential information that described my service. I can not deny that I was a little alarmed by the volume and variety of obligations I had to declare.

In summary, from my current understanding, an ethical policy for any online service will need to include:

  • A clear description of what the service is with the key aims, objectives and outcomes
  • An easily understood description of the choice(s) of communications via the Internet
  • Tutorials on how the communications technology works
  • A guarantee that all information, shared online, will be kept secure and remain confidential
  • A demonstration of compliance to legal, regulatory and insurance issues such as consumer protection
  • A demonstration of skill, competence, qualifications and accreditation of a recognised coaching model
  • A discussion to agree the contract. Times, process, potential conflict of interests etc.
  • A procedure for the payment process with an “acknowledgement of order” and  “right to cancel policy”
  • A code of ethics accessible for review online

This seems like a lot to do to be an online coach. So I decided to ask a few people to see what they do. How do you manage your ethical obligations in the digital ether?

To help me to gather some data I created two surveys using Survey Monkey. The questions were based on a number of sources as well as what I have learned from running my coaching sessions online.

The first survey asked a series of questions about what you do to create an ethical coaching practice as a coach.

The second survey set out to find out what the client thinks! What would they want to see their coach doing on the ethical front?

If you would like learn more about how to complete your own ethical audit on your coaching practice and/or you would like to see the results, send in your contact details with a request via the Strong Enterprises contact page.