Another dot in the blogosphere?

If there is anything different about the early 21st century, it is that segments of our population have started to walk differently.

There is the out-of-your-face walk first marked by the Blackberry prayer and then by the smartphone shuffle. This is where walkers pay more attention to the small screen than the big world.


Then there is the in-your-face selfie stick snapping.

For anyone who might fall into the category of “ego-tastic specimens of visual self-obsession”, this tongue-in-cheek PSA is for you.

Video source

Today I help facilitate a free seminar on Creative Commons (CC) in Singapore.

We do not have an ambitious plan and are starting simple to gauge interest and to create ownership of CC efforts.

I anticipate that a few attendees might have questions and experiences that relate to implementation issues. That is, there might be folks who are already sold on the idea and want to take action. So I share some of my limited experiences with rolling out change using my ABC framework (awareness, buy-in, commitment).

To create awareness, you can organize events like tomorrow’s free seminar. I mentioned yesterday how I also led an e-Fiesta and conducted talks with CC as content.

Some passive but complementary ways of creating awareness might include using media like posters and YouTube videos.

Such efforts can lead to stakeholder buy-in if you manage change well with follow ups like focused conversations and informal meetings.

The stakeholders you might target first for buy-in at institutes of higher education (IHLs) are key appointment holders and librarians.

Appointment holders can set policy around the creation and sharing of learning resources and research artefacts.

For example, most institutes lay claim to the copyright or intellectual property of any process or product created by its employees. Appointment holders might make some exceptions, say resources created under institute-sanctioned volunteer work, as belonging to their staff and/or open for sharing by default.

Appointment holders could require their institutes to be signatory to open licensing and publishing. The could mean promoting financial grants that have open requirements and then sharing data corpuses, reports, and other related material after a short embargo period.

If they are daring enough, such change leaders might add open efforts to staff appraisals and promotions either as core components or as distinctive X factors.

Institutional libraries are publication gatekeepers. They shape policies for the mode of sharing an institute’s research, books, white papers, monographs, posters, etc. For example, yesterday I shared how my alma mater shared dissertations under CC.

Libraries might consider at least two metrics when considering open or CC initiatives. First, open publications tend to draw more views because they are more accessible. Second, open resources are free or might cost considerably less than those hidden behind paywalls.

What of open initiatives in mainstream schools?

Media resources teachers and educators in charge of digital citizenship are in the best position to promote the use of open or CC-licensed resources. They can teach students how to use CC-enabled search engines more prudently and how to attribute what they use.

If good policies are put in place, instructors at mainstream schools and IHLs might also require learners to use and cite CC-licensed artefacts as part of curricular demands.

What I have described so far deals with creating awareness (I know) and buy-in (I believe in). What creates commitment (I own it)?

One of the best ways to create commitment to change is for teachers and students to walk the talk. They should give back or “pay it forward” by sharing what they create under open or CC licences. Creators can use this CC licence generator to label and share their work.

I do not recommend extrinsically rewarding such efforts because they should be rewards in themselves. However, there might be room for strategic efforts like contests on CC concepts or learner-led sharing of their CC efforts. These feed the awareness engine for the on-going and iterative efforts to push open learning forward.

Moving from awareness to commitment (ownership) transforms the good-to-know concept of sharing openly to one of better-to-practise. This is the bottom line if you want to share because you care: You cannot think about implementing CC; you must do CC.

I am facilitating a free Creative Commons Seminar this Friday at the Ngee Ann Polytechnic library.

I do this to push the open learning and open educational resources (OER) movement forward even though I am not part of any organization now.

Openness is a core educational value for me, so I invest time and effort into it. But I had to ask myself what I do to be associated with these movements. After all, there are more impactful and bigger players on the open front.

Street Creative Commons by Giuli-O, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Giuli-O 

I ruminate daily in this blog and use ImageCodr to embed CC-licensed images and their attributions to each blog entry.

When preparing resources for workshops, talks, seminars, or other events, I make sure to share them under a CC-licence whenever possible. In fact, my operating principle has been to not ask for permission to do this first, but to ask for forgiveness later. So far I have not had to do the latter!

When I was a faculty member at NIE, I received notification in 2010 from my alma mater for permission to share my dissertation under CC. I said yes.

As Head of the Centre for e-Learning, I led a series of e-Fiesta events. In 2013, one e-Fiesta focused on open learning and CC.

When NIE first launched its e-portfolio initiative, I convinced higher-ups to use the free and open platform, Google Sites, for hosting information, portfolios, and templates. As part of this initiative, I gave introductory lectures on CC to cohorts of preservice teachers in 2012 and 2013 before handing the reigns to someone else.

The great thing about being part of the open learning and OER movements is that we can contribute in ways big or small, international or local. The scale does not matter. The learners who benefit do.

Last week I read this MindShift article, How Schools Can Help Nurture Students’ Mental Health.

Depressed Boy by Tjook, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Tjook 

There was a list of good ideas.

  1. Having school-based mental care
  2. Offering mental health screening
  3. Bringing back physical exercise during the school day
  4. Starting the school day later so kids get enough sleep
  5. Providing mindfulness training
  6. Encouraging fun and limiting technology
  7. Taking happiness seriously

They are mostly good ideas.

It can be hard to do #6 because limiting technology is not encouraging fun. It is also limiting learning options. Most schools already limit meaningful technology use, so I would advocate more instead of less.

Focusing on happiness is also unrealistic since all of us have to do things that make us unhappy every now and then.

Happiness might be said to comprise of fleeting moments. This might be why international polls on the happiest students, happiest people, or happiest nations do not provide consistent or reliable results.

Well-being, on the other hand, is a longer term pursuit. The book I tweeted about, The Purpose Economy, mentioned how parenting was a tough job that was fraught with pain and unhappiness at times. But any good parent with well-adjusted kids does not regret it. The well-being of their children and of themselves is what matters ultimately.

In a more stressful world I am all for looking out for kids’ health. But that does not mean that we should take measures blindly.

A few months ago, I read this TechCrunch article and realized how quite a few people do not distinguish between attention span and focus.

It is common to hear adults say that kids have short attention spans these days. They are wrong.

Attention span has been, and always is, fleeting. It is the way we are biologically wired to survive. A neurophysician or a cognitive scientist might call this our short term memory. We need this to quickly process the assault of stimuli on our senses.

Focus by ihtatho, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  ihtatho 

Focus is what happens after we scan and prioritize what to concentrate on. Learners have not lost the capacity to concentrate and dedicate time and effort to a task if they are emotionally invested in it.

This is why the same child who can seem to stare unblinkingly at a computer game screen for 30 minutes suddenly cannot seem to sit still for 30 seconds when presented with worksheets.

Both the worksheets and computer game get the child’s attention for a split second. But only one, the game, earns the child’s focus because it is associated with pleasure, fun, or meaningful challenge.

The point here is not to blame attention span but to concentrate on what provides focus. A teacher cannot compete with games, but she can make the school work more meaningful to the child.

…a stack of pancakes, but not as nice to experience.

Any good stuff, like syrup, that you pour from the top down, might be absorbed at the top and perhaps dribble down to some of the periphery.

It is very unlikely to penetrate the core and all the way down with the same intensity and flavour. This is how messaging gets lost.

Good things that start at the bottom are even more unlikely to make it to the top. Things are stacked against the ones at the bottom and gravity takes its toll.

Grassroots efforts are even more unlikely to rise to the top. But they might soak right to the centre of that layer.

Moral of this story: If you want your pancakes and eat them too (with the best of top-down and bottom-up), make low, flat stacks.

Or try something different: Middle up and down. This is something I used to teach in a change management course. I still offer it as a series of workshops (pancakes not included).

This is my long-running series on products and processes. WordPress tells me that this is at least the eighth in the series.

First I feature a product like this LEGO-inspired music video.

Video source

Then I marvel at the process that its maker reveals in a behind-the-scenes video.

Video source

The four-minute music video required over unique 5000 frames.

The product is for consumption and might create admiration and a following for both the band and the stop-motion animator. The process creates insight, inspiration, and opportunities for learning.

But if view counts are any indication, people prefer the finished product over the messy processes. This has been true of all the videos I have featured so far.

Schools also tend to value products and do not focus enough on processes of learning. But it is the latter where the most meaningful and powerful learning happens.

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