Monthly Archives: July 2012

English Bay

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Blogging to write

Just read a blog piece talking about why academics should blog, see http://www.alexburns.net/

What struck me most was the idea that blogging keeps the writing habit going, rather than interrupting other writing – I sort of knew that, and in fact it was part of the reason I decided to blog – but the reminder is still timely. It also promoted the idea of short response pieces. So that’s what this is!

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Thinking organisations

Can a whole organisation be a thinking environment (Klein,2009)? And how might we achieve this?

I’m not going to answer these two questions by the way; at least not today! Instead I’m going to think about the questions a bit more. That might be frustrating, but if the idea is to encourage thinking, then that’s where I’m going to start. (but if anyone out there has already done the thinking and has some answers, please share!)

In a recent conversation with a friend who had also attended the thinking environment workshop with me (see previous posts on thinking environments, 1 and 2), he talked about the need to create thinking time within the whole system or organisation. It seems that higher education, at least in the UK at the moment, is full of small actions and behaviours which are not coming from deep thinking, but which have significant impact. Our thinking is all over the place. How can a system based on the notion of deep thinking and deep learning, (maybe it is a separate discussion to unpack whether ‘higher’ learning is intrinsically deeper learning) be so focused on surface thinking and actions?

In another conversation, with a different friend, who also works in HE, we bewailed the frustrating and unconsidered institutional mind. It’s like a HE institution actually has a mind of its own, it’s not the people in it who are deciding on actions but the being that is the institution. And these institution beings are not using deep thinking – if you set them an exam they would be regurgitating random remembered facts as evidence (‘Karl Marx was born in 1818, he wrote the Communist Manifesto’ – in answer to ‘discuss Marx’s theory of dialectical materialism?’). So what impedes thinking? According to Klein: fear.

So what can we do? Klein suggests that several things reduce fear and enable thinking, including: attention (through attentive listening), appreciation, incisive questions, allowing feelings to be expressed, creating ease, and consequentially time to think. But how do we do this for an institution? Where do we start? Answers on a postcard, or better still in the comments box below …

(This blog is partially in response to Klein, N. 2009: More Time to Think and partially in response to interesting conversations with colleagues and friends)

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Writing with personality and passion

This is the kind of blog entry I wish I could write http://leavingcertenglish.net/2011/05/ict-in-education-conference/ It combines style, creativity, work and the personal. It has feeling as well as evoking feeling in the reader. The writer invites us into her learning world and into a sense of adventure. It also acknowledges weakness but not in a self-indulgent way. It is also interesting! It provokes the reader to go away and think about learning. I found myself thinking about the ways in which we make sense of new learning through the familiar and loved, through our own personal worlds. Mostly we don’t talk about that aspect of learning. This blog piece reminded me that learning is emotional and tangled up with life.

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