Thursday, 6 December 2012

Knowledge & Information

Here is brief conversation I had with someone...

- Tell me something you know
- Only female mosquitoes bite
- How did you come to know this?
- I read it in a book
- So it's not something you have had personal experience of
- No
- How did the person who wrote the book come to that conclusion?
- Through research and analysis

The conversation above illustrates that knowledge lies with the knower and is developed out of research and experience.  In thinking about sources of information consider the distinction between information and knowledge.  Knowledge can be both knowing something (the what) and knowing how to do something (skill).

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Campus Session 3 Module 1 Professional Networks

This took place on 20th November and we started by coming to an agreed understanding of what networks are. Identifying those networks and drawing them out can be useful a map of networks can be useful and out by mapping out our networks both professional and personal.

We discussed the various networks we had mapped out further. Some questions we asked were….

  • Are there any crossovers between groups – are there some networks with the same members in each?
  • Which networks are more important to us in our professional practice and our learning and development?
  • Which networks are peripheral to us … that we are part of but not actively?
  • Do we put in (contribute) as much value as we get out of the network?
  • What happens when we actively contribute to a network?

Theoretical approaches to networks were discussed as set out in the Reader for this part of the module:

  • Co-operation (tit for tat)
  • Affiliation (sense of belonging)
  • Social constuctionism
  • Connectivism
  • Communities of Practice

We then revisited the networks we had mapped out and assessed if any of the above approaches could best be used to help us understand our participation and our activity in the our various networks.

Connectivism led to a discussion on the location of learning and knowledge. A question about where knowledge is located immediately brought the response that it’s in our head. How does it get there? It could be via having some information (from a book or a person) and linking this with experience. Or it could be from experience alone. Therefore, looking at a network through the lens of connectivism we tried to locate the knowledge – it was contained in the nodes on the network. It could be that the larger nodes have greater knowledge because they are linked to a greater number of nodes that others.

While there are no right or wrong answers to the above what is useful about this reader and the tasks is that it forces us to examine our professional networks and evaluate them for improving our professional practice and promoting learning, development and knowledge.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Reflective Practice Feedback

Today, I have had chance to read through some of the blogs and see how everyone is progressing. By now, everyone should have moved on from the first section of the module (Professional Communication Technologies) to the second section (Reflective Practice).  The campus session (2) on Reflective Practice has been reported well on by Sarah Robinson and Melanie Brown, both of whom worked together on an exercise. Having a partner like this to listen to acts like a mirror – which is a familiar tool of reflection we use daily!

Reading the blogs shows that there has been engagement with reflective practice readers from Hannah Stewart who offers a highly insightful view on her wiki and applies theoretical perspectives to professional practice. Sarah Robinson in her post reminds us that reflection turns experience into learning.  Emily Hunt’s post is well worth reading and has already generated a lot of comment from peers on the personal application of Kolb & Gardner.

There was a range of blog posts on Journal Writing including Bethany Wells who demonstrates boundless enthusiasm for the practice and Clare Orlandi who referred us to Dumbledore’s contribution from Harry Potter.

Thanks to all of the above for being inspirational. 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Ethics Campus Session 2: Module 2

The theme of the campus session on 30th October was Ethics.  We started by discussing the Ethics reader and looked to gain a common understanding of what Ethics means, the different approaches to Ethics and how they apply to Professional Practice. Ethics from the word Ethos comes from Greek and means character.  Wrapped up in Ethics is the notion of promoting good and preventing harm. We came up with some words which encapsulates Ethics for us. Suggestions were:

Health and Safety

The Reader explains the approaches to ethics proposed by various thinkers through the centuries. These offer us a way to interpret and can inform how we handle the range of ethics dilemmas we face. JS Mill’s approach has been ascribed as Consequentialist – and this approach argues that the end can justify the means of an action if the action is for the greater good. The Deontological approach by contrast argues against this. A wrong is a wrong and can never be justified. Hence, lying is always wrong. Kant’s view is that if lying is permissible then lying will be become intrinsic and therefore we will never know whether one is lying or not and therefore this would not be helpful for social good.  Then there is virtue ethics first proposed by Aristotle which is about the habitual actions of the character. This is about not being honest just on Fridays, say, rather the character needs to be honest every day.

How grey the area of ethics is became clear when we discussed the case study of photographer taking a picture of a dying child in a war zone rather than helping the child. He was adhering to his professional code of practice and by taking the photograph the plight of children in a war zone could be viewed by a greater audience. A clear example of tensions that occur in professional practice in relation to ethics. 

Ethical principles can change with time and geography. Practices which are considered ethical in one part of the world can be considered unethical in others. Ethical principles can sometimes translate into Statutory regulations (rules) eg The Human Rights Act.

There was a discussion on the movie “The Black Swan” where the issue of unhealthy eating can be harmful in the world of dance. The balance is fine between maintaining a slim physique against long term health. Other issues in the movie included manipulation and drug taking. 

Then everyone thought about Ethics applies in their own professional practice and Codes of Practice were produced in class - check these clips out:

Nearly every profession has produced some code of practice and there are many examples of these given in the Reader.  Follow this link to Code produced by the Council for Dance Education and Training. If you are engaged in this type of work evaluate how this matches your own personal ethical stance and that of your workplace. Assess whether there are any conflicts between the personal, professional, organizational and social ethical principles.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Reflective Practitioner

Moving on to the second theme of Module 1 you should draw upon Reader 2 to provide you with context and meaning as you make your way through the various tasks. Reader 2 provides you with a brief overview of the main theorists on reflection and there is both a list of references and a bibliography at the end of the Reader which you should follow up on to enhance your learning and deepen your knowledge. All these materials are available in our library or you can through the SCONUL scheme consult these works at a University Library near you. I also include here a brief guide on the Learning Journal which I produced some years ago which you might useful as you address the tasks ahead.  It refers to Campus Session dates (please ignore these as they are irrelevant). I look forward to seeing your blogs as you proceed through these tasks. 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Monday 15th October

Today is the start of Week 3 and as your module handbook states you should be moving on to tackle the second set of tasks. At this point it is useful to review how the first set of tasks were handled. Not everyone appears to have managed to complete all the tasks but what has been achieved collectively so far is quite impressive. Clearly the two most important tasks were the CV task which gets you to think about your knowledge and learning gained thus far in your professional practice through both your education and your work and Task 1B.

Compiling a CV is an exercise designed for potential employers but in doing this you should be engaging in an element of self analysis and asking internal questions such as what am I good at and where could I could develop or what direction would I like my future career to take.

Sarah Robinson has taken on board some advice about including achievement on a CV and reworked hers while Emily Hunt provides some advice found on the BBC website in her blog. 

Task 1B was handled well by Anastasia Hadjigeorgiou who drew out the notion of Collective Intelligence in Web 2.0 while Melanie Brown applied the Web 2.0 readings to professional practice as well as highlighting some downsides. Hannah Stewart succeeded in including both the readings in her 1B task as well as referring to other student blogs and there was early evidence from Jonny Howard that he had actively looked at other student blogs for pointers in his own learning and development.

In the video task, Chelsie Johnson stated that she was looking forward to learning from others and Emily Hunt was exactly spot on with her timing at exactly 45 seconds while Lee Taylor chose a graphical interface on his video offering.

The Web offers the opportunity to look outside the student blogs and the recommended readings for resources to stimulate us. Katy Thorpe has embedded a thought provoking resource on her recent blog post. It’s a slide show called “Shift Happens” and thank you, Katy for bringing this to my attention. I was struck by some of the stark statistics contained in the presentation and rather than be depressed about it I take courage from the fact that we humans are highly adaptable and that in Higher Education what we are keen to do is to develop in our future graduates the skills of critical thinking and analysis which will see them through a lifetime.  Technologies come and go and mastering these is something we will succeed in doing as we need them for our professional practice or communication. What is of deeper importance is learning more about our discipline and professional practice and to manipulate the relevant technologies to enable this to happen.

Ken Robinson's talk on TED covers some of the same ground in Shift Happens but also recognizes the different styles of learning and the importance of creativity in the curriculum and I commend it to you. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Campus Session 1: Module 1 - 9th October

We had a brilliant session today with eager and willing contributions.  We spent the first 20 mins giving space to read an article referred to in the Professional Communication Technologies Reader and located under the Module Tab (Specific Links) in Libguides then everyone fed back the importance of the article they had read to the group.

The first article discussed was by Lankshear and the themes identified were discourse and how we communicate through it. The concept of literacy also arose. Both “discourse” and “literacy” were discussed further in the group. The discourse discussion was placed in the context that language gives meaning to professional groups. The discussion on literacy moved from ability to read and write to consider the necessity to master information literacy and media and communication literacy.

A question that Gruber posed about the Web 2.0 world is how much information is trustworthy and what is the truth of knowledge. Reich’s view of Web 2.0 was that it lowered the cost of participation and considers who uses it and how it is constantly developing.  Ullrich et al illuminated understanding of constructivism in that knowledge cannot be taught but is rather learned and assessed the contribution that Web 2.0 makes towards this approach to learning. O’Reilly’s distinctive contribution is that Web 2.0 is delivered as a service rather than a product. Themes of information literacy emerged in the Lorenzo article alongside issues of security and the implied risks from the ability to change information on Web 2.0 platforms. Bruns’ ideas on “produsage” emphasizes the collaborative sharing of information in order to support the knowledge management agenda.

This was a very useful exercise in that it got participants actively involved in reading the texts, making notes and reporting back. In the time available no-one actually had time to finish reading their article but yet, at the end of 20 mins, all were surprised by how much they had achieved. It was also useful to hear about the different authors and participants could identify particular articles which they would like to delve further into in order to help them complete Task 1b.

After all that reading we played a game. Everyone was given a card with a word written on it and were asked to provide a definition of the word so that everyone could guess what it was. This exercise was fun and useful in that we could ensure a common understanding of the meaning and use of these words. Try it yourself at home to come up with a definition for…

  • Web 2.0
  • Blog
  • Wiki
  • Plagiarism
  • Learning
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Convergence
  • Knowledge

We went off to consider “Communication” at a deeper level and we formed into three groups and three different kinds of communication were considered. These were:

  • 1 to 1
  • 1 to Many
  • Many to Many

The groups identified examples of each of the above and suggested particular advantages to each. The following was fed back…

1 to 1

Examples are phone calls, letters, e-mails, face to face meeting. Advantages suggested were that it was non-filtered, personal, intimate, more to the point and relevant.

1 to Many

Examples come from the broadcast media and include newspapers, radio, TV. The advantages are that it is a reliable resource, there is control therefore less confusion and that it’s for mass consumption (therefore efficient?)  Downsides were also considered such as influence of ownership of broadcast media and whether it is propaganda or censored.

Many to Many

Examples are social media such as Facebook, Conferences, Blogs and You tube. The advantages are that more questions can be asked, there is more energy and there is the opportunity to create through performance.

What can happen to a piece of communication in each of the above? 

Consider that such a piece is taking a stand from a position of A. In 1 to 1, there is the chance that the position could shift to B or even C. In 1 to Many, the position does not move from A. It has been broadcast and there it remains at position A. Such pieces can raise discussion etc. but the actual piece remains static. In Many to Many, the position can shift the entire alphabet from A to Z and back again over a period of time which links in with the “long tail” referred to by Ullrich

We concluded the session with each group doing a short presentation on


Monday, 1 October 2012

If I could do my degree again what would I do differently?

Professor Tara Brabazon is joining our School in Middlesex in January and she has produced a short podcast which is worth taking 12 mins or so time out to listen to...
A new month … a new start

Today is the first day of teaching in the academic calendar of Middlesex University and this is a welcome from me to all our new students embarking on their BA Professional Practice programme of study. We met a group of new starters at our induction day last week and besides introducing you to the wider university systems and services we spent time looking at Module 1.

We explained the three themes involved in the module and the related readers and tasks attached to each of these themes. All those doing the module need to set up a blog where the tasks will be posted. These will be reviewed by the tutors who will give generic feedback on their own blogs.

In the course of the induction session we asked those present to think of something they were good at. Then we asked them to think about “how” they got good at it. The discussion showed that people got good at something through trial and error, continuous practice, learning from peers / mentors, and from other sources eg. Books, web sources etc. Getting good at something involves a change in the way you do something and in the context of professional practice it involves transforming your professional practice. Central to all this is the practice of REFLECTION something that you will develop as you proceed through the module and the programme.

For the moment, I encourage you to get started by setting up your blog and reading your Handbook for Module 1. Get to grips with what is required – as emerging professionals you will need to learn to manage your time in completing this programme. I hope you will enjoy it as much as our previous students have.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Fare thee well, Trent Park

For the last year the academic and administrative Professional Practice Team have been located in Trent Park. We are now based in at the Hendon Campus in the Grove Building, but all of us, Alan, Adesola, Avni, Paula and myself feel lucky that we got the chance to have worked on this fabulous campus.

Trent Park started out as a hunting ground for Henry IV, seven centuries ago and ended up as a campus for Middlesex University – a home for the performing arts of Theatre, Dance and Music as well as a Teacher Training College after the war. In between times famous visitors included Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin. During WWII it served as a splendid POW camp for German officers. Middlesex University are leaving this unique place at the end of August 2012 and the following clips are of a specially designed performance organized by the Education Deprtment charting its story. This performance happened on one of our last days on this campus. As the script says – the trees have been here long before any of us and Trent Park will live on and re-invent itself again. We can be sure that the next occupants will appreciate its beauty as much as we did. Fare thee well…

and part 2 ....

Thursday, 3 May 2012

What the Media Sector want of Graduates

I attended BBC Academy Open Day for Universities yesterday. Top executives shared with a group of academics from UK universities their ideas on graduates' skills and knowledge. Below is a summary of their main points:

Lucy Adams – Director of Business Operations, BBC and Pat Younge – Chief Creative Officer, BBC opened the session and in summary explained what they would like from graduates:

Able to defend opinion
Comfortable with ambiguity & change
Fusion of skills … towards a polymath
Mental Agility
Need to know how to think
Perseverance of opinions

Pat Younge told us about a kid called Jamal with a dream of working in television. So what did he do? He started SBTV. “What started out four years ago as a teenager, his handycam and a YouTube account, has now evolved into a ten-strong production team who have come together to create something fresh, new and exciting. Founder of SB.TV, Jamal Edwards, set out with no expectations when he first began running around his local west London estate filming with the latest hot grime MCs from around his area. Today that’s all changed and SB.TV the brand, with their 50+ million YouTube views and tens of thousands of subscribers, Facebook fans & twitter followers, have some serious plans for global domination”. SBTV Website
The implied suggestion here is that Jamal could not have succeeded without the qualities listed above.

David Doherty, made a keynote presentation and a summary of his points is below:
Revolution in communications, digital and IT is just beginning – speed and storage issues will disappear
Traditional methods of leadership will work no longer – Leadership in hierarchical structure is cracking up
Universities need to help graduates learn how to learn … teach people how to think
Aptitudes which will win out he suggested:
Self awareness
Multi-cultural collaboration
Capacity to develop new skills and behaviors
Excellent communication skills

A skill is a repeatable process in a predictable environment – it can be learnt through continuous practice. Expertise on the other hand is the application of theory to practice.
Myles Runham – Producer of the One Show claimed the following were qualities he looked for:
Analytical skills
Ability to differentiate between fact and PR
Specialist knowledge
Camilla Lewis, Independent Producer values these qualities
Having something to say
Huw Edwards, Newsreader mentioned
A hinterland of interest
Curiousity about how the world works

Friday, 23 March 2012

Campus Session 3, Module 2, 23rd March

Yesterday’s campus session for Module 2 students opened up a discussion on the various research tools which could be employed in the inquiry. The discussion focused initially on the differences between qualitative and quantitative data and various qualities attached to these two types. The implications of the data type focused on what we do with the data during the inquiry and we agreed that we have to “make sense” of the data – try to draw conclusions and inferences from it in relation to our inquiry topic.


Produce essentially quantitative data i.e. is that which we can count – from this we elicit factual assumptions. And while the method can be useful for collecting a great deal of data very quickly, it comes with the risk of being superficial and does not go deeper in uncovering reasons behind preferences for instances. However, there are a range of different question types which can be used in designing a questionnaire ….which can lead to richer data. There is an opportunity in surveys for asking open-ended questions which can produce some qualitative data for interpretation. This slide show below indicates the different question types which can be used:


These provide qualitative data which is textual. The challenge here is the analysis whereby themes have to be sought and perhaps then quantified. We could all imagine having a mass of textual data and using highlighter pens to identify certain themes or opinions throughout the data. Practical issues about organizing interviews were discussed and suggestions made on location and that telephone / skype interviews are a possibility. Recording the interviews was also discussed and the practice of note taking. Good practice would be to provide a list of the themes to be covered in the interview to interviewees in advance and to ensure that questions asked could not lead to a yes / no answer. Interviews are there to uncover feelings, attitudes, reasons etc and interviewers should have probing questions to deal with this …. Could you explain that? Why do you think that happened? How did that come about? etc.


Can produce very useful data about the topic. For instance, survey respondents / interviewees could respond with what they think the “right” answer is and / or to offer you what they think you want to hear. An observation could reveal that the practice is different. A risk with observations is that the observer can influence behaviors and therefore a true picture is not being captured. Generally, the longer the observer can spend gathering data can minimize this risk. Observations can produce both quantitative or qualitative data. Quantitative data such as how many times, how long etc. Qualitative data takes the form of field notes describing situations, locations, people’s actions, body language dress etc.

Focus Groups

Can be useful in gathering a lot of qualitative data very quickly. For instance, if you intend to interview 6 dance students for instance – instead of individual interviews a focus group to with the 6 could produce the data you want. However, focus groups can be difficult to organize as you need a location, an agreed time and there are challenges in gathering the data as the inquirer will not only have to facilitate the discussion but will need to record the data. There is also the practical issue of managing individuals in the focus group to enable all participants to have a say and not allow one highly opinionated person to dominate the group. It can be challenging also to ensure that the discussion stays relevant to your inquiry and the group discussion does not go off on a tangent. Attention was drawn to Google Plus which offers a hangout facility (like a super skype) where you can have up to 8 people participating in a conversation where all can be seen and heard on the computer. Google plus requires you to have a gmail address …

Using more than one tool …

This can be useful in triangulating data – in order to double check results and data. It can also be used in a linear inquiry whereby data is gathered e.g. from survey and analysed and then the knowledge from this process is used to go deeper into the inquiry using another inquiry tool.

Literature Review

Towards the end of the session, we looked at this issue and how to go about it. The advice given was that you should aim to interrogate the literature. What contribution does it make to your inquiry? What questions does it NOT answer? Where does the piece sit in relation to other views (from literature). I told the group what a former colleague of mine used to advise students. If you want to get a D then describe … but if you want to get an A, then analyse! I came across this slide show which is highlights some of the issues in conducting a literature review.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Campus Session 1: Module 2

Everyone attending had a starting point for the future inquiry. Inquiry topics can be driven by various forces including:

Place of work
Career Aspirations
Interest / Passion / Curiousity about topic

Some might find drawing out a mind map of all that is known / unknown about topic useful. With a map, connections and links can be made. What is could be tried out is to consider what would the impact be if one node on the map was removed – what impact would this have on the topic and the angle of it.

One topic that was suggested was about the preparation that vocational schools give to students for finding employment in the performing arts industry – e.g. preparing for auditions. This topic raises a whole lot of other questions such as…

Do vocational courses include preparation for work?
How do producers / directors select performers?
Is there a reputation attached to various schools? (For instance, the graduates of certain colleges tend to find work more than others?)
What if anything is included in these curricula?
Are there any broad similarities between those who find work easily after graduation and those who do not?
Who would know the answer to these?
Do vocational schools gather data / information on the destinations of graduates?
If so, does this data reveal anything?

Asking a range of questions and drilling further down into a topic can be revealing and suggest the focus of the inquiry. Another topic of interest yesterday was on Community Dance organizations. Again this raises a whole raft of deeper questions and should be reflected on to give shape to an inquiry.

Who are the range groups /individuals in a Community Dance organization?
Does one have priority?
Are all groups being catered for equitably / appropriately?
How is this known?
Is there a best model of practice / provision for a Community Dance organization?

These questions can be explored with peers and professional contacts (SIG) in order to help shape the inquiry. This then leads onto the inquiry tools which can be used and how ethical principles will be implemented.

Key points made were:

This module is a huge step up from Module 1
There are 3 readers to support each strand of the module
Networks, both peer and professional are essential to progress on this module
Subject interest groups will help with shaping the inquiry and can be useful in piloting inquiry tools
Reading about topics which may be pursued in an inquiry is essential

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Review of Assessment Activity

I am coming towards the end of the marking process and assessing final projects from Module 3 on the BAPP (Arts) programme. My colleagues and I have been fascinated by the findings and the range of professional artefacts that were produced. The artefacts are varied and include a poster, blurb book publications, lesson plans, a business plan, slideshare presentations and a website. The better artefacts were those which emerged as a result of doing the inquiry rather than merely replicating the inquiry process and directed at particular audiences. Already some artefacts, we discovered, have been adopted / accepted in professional contexts. Informing and transforming professional practice is something that is an actual benefit from the programme

The presentations I viewed were as varied as the inquiries and certainly helped to illuminate the work that was done. One presenter made the point that she had gone through the modules, doing the tasks without really knowing why. “I just blogged because I had to”, she said. But, she declared that at the end of the process, she now understood that it was more than just a process - it was about learning. She added that the distinction between single loop and double loop learning was understood.

“What did you learn about learning?” is a question we asked a few of the presenters. What we were looking for here was not so much the answers to inquiries but, a recognition that the questions themselves are more important. If all our finalists have learned is that questions do not always have black or white answers and that more questions have to be asked, then we have done a good job. Critical questioning is what is expected in the final year of a BA (Hons) and evaluating and assessing the contribution of what is found out, to the topic of inquiries.

Going through the modules and completing the tasks and assignments may probably get you through the programme successfully. But how well you want to do in the programme will relate to your ability to critically engage in issues. This is the difference between surface and deep learning. We can teach someone how to use a computer programme or a camera but what we teach them will soon be out of date as technology develops. What will never date, and should take you through your professional life is the skill of critical inquiry.