A Turbulent Mind

Lately I’ve had a turbulent mind.

At the LearnX Conference a few weeks ago, it was described as being in ‘hyper-attention’ but I believe that this not the right definition for my state.

Wikipedia describes hyper attention as a “cognitive style due to a generational shift in youngsters, therefore, having a short attention span, needing a high level of stimulation, which will enable the thought process without boredom. Hence, the stimulation comes from a source of networked or programmable media.  According to N. Katherine Hayles, “Hyper attention is characterized by switching focus rapidly among different tasks, preferring multiple information streams, seeking a high level of stimulation, and having a low tolerance for boredom.”

So here’s the thing. I’m not young. I’m certainly not bored. High level of stimulation frustrates me (if you had just observed me at the Florida Disney theme parks a few years back you would have seen my heightened state of stress when”When You Wish Upon a Star” was played on loop 24/7 with some weird characters in costume coming at you from everywhere wishing you to have a nice day.  My over-stimulation at the “Disney Compound” (my name for the Disney Resorts) is a story for another day. No, I have a turbulent mind.  Besides “turbulent” sounds much more evocative – artistic – as in I’m in the throes of some creative genius that will soon explode into this world.

Sometimes I think I think too much (see, I think I think too much) and I wish I could just switch it off. If I can’t switch it off, at least think of utterly stupid things.  I’m not one to divulge our bedtime chatter with my husband but last night, close to midnight, I let out a loud sigh.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Nothing. It’s not important.” I answered.

“No tell, me,” he persisted.

“I was just thinking that I’d love to download or buy Adobe Presenter. If we had this software on the computers at work, all our subject matter experts would create their own material and we could share this across the department.  It would dramatically decrease my workload.  But then I thought, we may hit upon a snag.  What’s not to stop duplication and repetition again across the organisation because every person will be creating video content for each and every little tool – so where we now only have one video for ‘how to use XYZ’ we have several versions of it. It could be chaos. It could be ‘death by podcast’. And then, where do you store all those versions? So maybe we….”

At that point, he groaned, turned off the light and put the bed covers over his head.

You see, I’m constantly thinking. Next time when he asks the same question, I must say something like, “Darling, I was thinking that you really need to play more golf” as I don’t believe he wants to hear anything about software programs.

So why has my mind been turbulent?

Despite what you may think it hasn’t been because of work.  Unfortunately, I’m never in a reflective mood at work.  Work is not a place where I contemplate, reflect, plan and pontificate with colleagues.  It’s not the place where creative ideas transpire through thoughtful discussion and collaboration.  There’s simply no time.  At work, I’m “in reaction” mode most of the day – much of it with no value add where I answer emails, phone calls and requests; or attend meetings.

So instead my thinking time happens to be the moments before work – usually the time between 6am and 8:30am, after work and in particularly, on weekends.  Most of my thinking and planning actually occurs while I’m knitting.

The main one has been around the Coursera Gamification Course that I’m currently doing.

So far, I have been enjoying the course but I took issue with this ‘Peer Review’ concept.  The course involves submitting assignments but also reviewing assignments of your peers. Naturally no lecturer in the world will be crazy enough to try and mark 63 000 assignments by himself (or with a team) so the peer review has some merit.

I had never heard of this type of review and queried it.  My concerns came about from seeing that there are people all around the world doing this course – how can I remain objective and stay true to the review if I worry about the potential score I give to another person. Or, I’m a nice person and I’m likely to give a person a good score because they spent all this time writing the answer. What if I got an assignment that was written in another language?

I had to get an academic’s opinion of this.  So I wrote to Mark Smithers who has a blog on Learning and Technology in Higher Education 

I watched Daphne Koller’s talk on what we’re learning in online education and she explained the peer concept and it made sense for the numbers of people that happen to be doing the course around the world.

When it was time to mark my peers assignments, admittedly I was hesitant.  My first reaction to the first one was, “Oh my, I didn’t mention that in my assignment!” so all of a sudden the panic buttons in my head went off.  The second one I read, I was gulping loudly.  “Did I cite that reference?” “Did I offer examples?” All of a sudden I was questioning my own assignment response.  Maybe this is what those pesky lecturers were trying to get us to do – actually think for ourselves, look at how others answered the response and then ‘self-correct’ for the next round?

The third and fourth assignments had to be read and reread a few times.  Put simply I could not understand what they were trying to say because English wasn’t their first language.  However, I stayed true to the marking scheme because anyone who does a course where English is not their first language deserves to be commended.  I tried to discern where they had provided examples, whether they stayed true to the question and marked accordingly.  I’m proud to say that with the scores I gave everyone, I followed them to the letter – and in response, I do hope that others do the same for me.

At the end of the peer review, we are given an opportunity to submit what we thought of our own submission – where it could be improved – and seeing the other responses actually made me think and reflect of my own answers and how they could be improved.  Maybe peer review isn’t such a bad thing after all?

So far I’ve just completed Unit 6, completed 4 homework quizzes and completed 2 assignments.  From over 63 000 students registering in this course worldwide, 13 000 of them submitted assignment 1.  These figures are understandable – there is a lot of work and if you’re in full-time work or have an active lifestyle, you do need to find time to squeeze it in.  I do wonder however about motivation of someone completing the course especially when it’s free.  However, personally, I’m more motivated to be one of those few students who finish the course – because it’s my first ever MOOC – more than anything else.

Besides, it’s a nice, clean looking course – and you have a wealth of resources on hand and most importantly, easy to navigate.  It’s nothing like the horrid corporate Learning Management Systems that are difficult to navigate, you don’t know how to enrol or find your course; you don’t know where your course results are; or worse, if you accidentally hit the ‘close’ button of your course, all details are lost forever making you start all over again.  My experiences of corporate LMS are staid to say the least (and I’ve had experience of many – even worked for an LMS vendor) so I like the simplicity of this course.

Simple is good.

Above is a screen shot of one of the modules. The lecturer presents his module and then uses a series of slides to explain the concepts and uses a pen to draw out or point out important areas such as the slide below.

I see this stuff and naturally my mind goes crazy at the applications of this technology in the corporate world so no wonder I am kept up at night.

So I have this MOOC on mind but I do have some other things that I will write in other blog posts in particularly around another online workshop I’m currently doing through the Social Learning Centre (Personal Knowledge Management).

Also, I’m actually lurking behind the scenes for #etmooc.

Professor Alec Couros sent out a request for assistance to create a MOOC for Educational Technology.  Once again, the learning for me here is now not the actual MOOC itself – but how a team of people from all around the world work on a shared project.  How do they do it? What tools do they use? How will it be put together? How do they communicate?  What can I learn about this to be put into a corporate context?  What I’m seeing is that individuals are self-motivated to help out on a joint problem to use their subject matter expertise (in whatever format it is) to create something.

Through the posts on the Google Group, they mentioned Digital Storytelling #ds106 and I did a bit of research and got so excited about what I saw.  Needless to say once I finish all these other courses I’m doing, the DS106 is the next thing for me as it will link ‘creativity’ and ‘learning’ for me.  But that’s a story for another day….

For now, I need to stop my turbulent mind from continuing the ebb and flow with ideas that splash on the shores of reality which then dissipate into nothingness.

About Helen Blunden

My unique super power is that I see learning experiences in everything I do. #alwayslearning
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