Friday, June 24, 2011

The nature of the work

I recently posted more of my thoughts regarding the independent / self-directed learner and their use of fair-dealing when utilizing educational resources, copyrighted or otherwise. In that post I spoke to the six-factors to consider with fair-dealing. One of these factors, "the nature of the work" is where my claim to use all materials with reckless abandon falls down...  
Particularly, when the nature of the work has been created for the independent / self-directed learner?

So what kind of resources do I believe fall into the category of "created for the independent / self-directed learner"?
  • Resources created specifically for professional development. Mostly, these resources are created for the independent / self-directed learner. And the nature of the work is servicing this groups learning needs while making a few dollars (not-for-profit and otherwise).
  • Sample exams and testing resources; (GMAT, LSAT, Certification Exams, Etc). All these exams and testing resources are, in general, created for the individual in preparation for exams / tests.
  • All self-help books (Spiritual, Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, Other). Go get the book from the library, or buy it if you are using most of it. If your going to copy or publish a paragraph or section into your blog or some other social media, be sure to provide attribution. Otherwise, we are back to private study... remember, the dealing needs to be fair.
  • I'm sure their are others... I'll list them here when I think of them or others comment with their suggestions.
So there you have it. My exception to learning with reckless abandon and claiming fair-dealing. If you are using a resources as an independent / self-directed learner and the resource was created for the independent / self-directed learner I'd suggest you consider honoring the copyright. Then of course, if you copy a paragraph or two, or an image from these resources and put them on your blog, provide some review or your thoughts  from a learning perspective were back to private study. Always remember to link back to the resource and give attribution. Obviously, there comes a point where it all becomes a little grey... that is why we need some case law on an independent / self-directed learner claiming fair-dealing when using copyrighted materials.

Monday, June 20, 2011

User Stories and Role Modeling

Accurately and broadly describing the user community and their immediate needs is a great way to get the first iteration of web based project started. I'm back to the early stages of a potentially large project. I say potentially cause its a start-up and you never know where these things go until its gained some traction by capturing some peoples imagination and traffic begins to build. I've been building interactive web applications since the late 90's and this is cumulatively what I believe are the essential ingredients to get started and why.

User Stories
Telling stories assist greatly in sharing knowledge and building understanding. Gathering user stories when working within an agile approach to software development is a great tool for focusing on the next build and the features it includes. Scott Ambler does a great job of describing the user story. What I find most important with the user story is the confirmations that also occur when writing the story.
Why user stories?
Humans brains are mapped to understand stories and having a shared understanding among designers, developers and users is really important in getting it right. A big benefit to having a comprehensive set of user stories (with confirmations) is they drive testing.

User Roles
Understanding the broad range of users at the early stages of designing software is important. Brainstorming the breadth of users is helpful when determining the scope of a project as it often exposes features that are derived or afterthoughts. The idea of the administrative role or the stewardship role are often overlooked when focus is on the first, usually customer focused, release.
Why user roles?
Being able to tell stories from many different perspectives, all within each iteration of new features, creates a focused and working solution within each iteration. Having a broad set of user roles identified keeps the design comprehensive and the features current.

Wireframes takes the design discussion beyond the user stories and roles and puts design to "paper". Wireframes are very basic diagrams detailing the screen elements without the focus being on graphic design and aesthetics of the site. Its focus is on the features, navigation and organization of features.
Why wireframes?
It allows people to discuss the main features and how they will be implemented and clustered without to large an investment toward the actual interface design. The discussion is more focused on how it will all work and how features are grouped.

Lots of discussion
Discussing the user stories, roles and wireframes greatly increases the likelihood of creating a shared understanding of the features and the application as a whole. As far as I know the Vulcan mind meld is only possible when in a star trek episode. So having discussion with users, stakeholders, programmers, designers, architects, etc. is beneficial to the overall success of the project. Determining the right mix of people for these discussions depends on the project and the organization. Always better to have the groups small and focused.

Suggested Reading
User Stories Applied
From all my reading on the user story and user role, this is the book to read if you want more detail than is described in this post.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fair-Dealing Case Law

Many of my recent posts have touched upon copyright as it relates to the self-directed learner and their use of copyrighted materials as educational resources. I believe this is an important issue for the adult learner. Therefore, I continue to look for case law related to this important issue in adult education. To date I have found no case law which includes an independent / self-directed learner using copyright materials for their private study. I believe it is important to define what I mean by independent / self-directed learner. An independent / self-directed learner is a person who is using any and all resources (copyrighted or otherwise) available to them while learning outside of any formal education program or institution. The independent / self-directed learner chooses subjects that interest them. They explore and learn all they can in the subject using all available resources (regardless of source). This independent / self-directed learning is also supported by the pedagogical practices of writing, reflection and discussion; therefore, leading to the use of the internet as a public publishing platform which also deepens the individuals learning. All of what the independent / self-directed learner does should be considered research and private study.

Recently, I was re-reading an article written by Michael Geist speaking to the issues around Bill C-32. It gets close to discussing the issue of fair-dealing as it relates to the individuals use of copyright materials. I say close cause it doesn't speak of an individual but of students within educational institutions. This is as close to case law on the independent / self-directed learner within fair-dealing I can find. What stood out for me within the Geist post and embedded ruling were three main themes;

First theme:
The two part test; where first, the dealing needs to fall into one of the following categories to be considered fair;
  • research;
  • private study;
  • criticism;
  • review; or
  • news reporting
I believe an independent / self-directed learner is engaged in research and private study, even review. This then takes us to the second part of the test, where the dealing is considered for its fairness via the following six factors, this is how I see these six apply to the independent / self-directed learner;
  • the purpose of the dealing;
  • its private study; not hard to convince a judge, if what you are doing is genuinely research and private study.
  • the character of the dealing;
  • its personal-improvement, professional development, self-directed learning done under your own initiative; again, not hard to convince a judge, if what you are doing is genuinely research and private study.
  • the amount of the dealing;
  • you will only ever be copying any resource once, maybe twice. Your not copying for your own profit but your personal learning; again, its research and private study.
  • alternatives to the dealing;
  • there will be alternatives, but as an independent learner you want to read, listen to, watch as many resources on the subject to deepen your understanding; again, its research and private study.
  • the nature of the work; and
  • If the resource was specifically created for and to be sold to the independent / self-directed learner, then it may be a good idea to pay for it rather than find another way to access it. So here is an exception... Wow. I didn't expect that. If the resource wasn't specifically created for the independent / self-directed learner then use it.
  • the effect of the dealing on the work.
  • I believe that your use of a resource and your public reference to the resource from within your private study will attract more people to the resource. In most situations this is good for the publisher of the resource.
Second theme:
The use of the table (found on page 10) describing how materials could be copied, and how all parties agreed that as long as the copying was within the first three approaches it should be considered fair-dealing. In my opinion, this is a significant endorsement for the independent / self-directed learner to use educational resources with reckless abandon as it falls within research and private study. I'd strongly suggest you reference the source when using these resources for your learning. Beyond that, go wild, learn with reckless abandon!

Third theme:
The distinction of education vs. private study was further clarified (on page 19). And fell in favor of the independent / self-directed learner;
The adjective "private" is intended to exclude from fair dealing the commercial use of copyright protected material that has no educational value. I fail to see how the word "private" should be equated with "non-commercial". "Private study" presumably means just that: study by oneself. If Parliament had wished to exclude only commercial exploitation it could have used words to the effect of "non-commercial" or "not for profit". A large and liberal interpretation means that the provisions are given a generous scope. It does not mean that the text of a statute should be given a meaning it cannot ordinarily bear. When students study material with their class as a whole, they engage not in "private" study but perhaps just "study".
This document contains much more description of "private study", and in my opinion further supports the independent / self-directed learner. As this federal court of appeal points out, it depends on the facts of each case. Therefore, we need more fair-dealing rulings, particularly with the independent / self-directed learner.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

MUSIC 101: Ableton Live and the Pipe and Tabor

So I've been reflecting upon my learning of the pipe and tabor and how it has stalled in its progress. Not that I have stopped learning how to play the instrument for I believe my approach toward its mastery is also a big part of my learning. I have learned a number of important lessons, its just the lessons do not have me actually playing the instrument, what I have learned about is my approach to learning the instrument.

My lessons learned are as follows;
  1. I need feedback. I need to also train my ear and it is difficult without any actual musical reference.
  2. For me, learning the instrument is also in learning the songs, their melody, and lyrics (if available).
  3. I need a quiet place to practice that won't disturb the family
My deliberate practice;
  1. Get the Ableton based studio working with the new MIDI keyboard so I can listen to the songs on the piano, then play them on the pipe.
  2. Be able to record my practice so I can listen, get feedback and train my ear. 
  3. Use Abletone in Live mode where I could listen and play along, while also recording.
  4. Iterate between playing the music on the piano and then playing it on the pipe.
Next Steps;
  1. Finish configuring Ableton Live 8 to work with the new Oxygen 25 MIDI keyboard
  2. Become proficient with Live 8 to record my sessions and listen live to my iterations between piano and pipe
  3. Memorize the lyrics to "Go enlist for a sailor"
Learning Outcome(s);
  1. I will be able to use a Digital Audio Workstation (Ableton) to record and playback the playing of a pipe and tabor while alternating this play with the MIDI keyboard.
  2. I will be able to sing "Go enlist for a sailor" in its entirety (this does not mean I will be able to sing it well)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

My Deliberate Practice

After my reading of "Talent is Overrated" I will be including a deliberate practice approach to my learning of the pipe and tabor. I will bring a more deliberate practice to much more of what I do. For the time being a deliberate practice will have me reflecting upon my learning where I focus upon what is holding me back. Until I have a foundation which to build upon I need to create my broad and stable base for my musical study. Keep in mind I should be considered a beginner musician. Many of my coming posts will be the writings about this deliberate reflection. My reflections will include;
  1. recent lessons learned - a candid review of my most recent learnings
  2. the actual practices - where I believe I need the most practice
  3. next steps, and - what I am going to do to facilitate the practice
  4. learning outcome(s) - the specific outcome(s) of my learning

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Book Review: Talent is Overrated

If you ever find yourself saying you can't do something because you don't have the talent... or you don't believe you could take your ability to the next level... read this book! This book does an excellent job of dispelling the myths around needing talent do become an exemplary performer. The main theme in the book is in exploring deliberate practice, and there have already been a number of good reviews of this 'talent is overrated' book and exploring / applying approaches of deliberate practice. So feel free to explore these for yourself.

Early in the reading of this book I enjoyed exploring the myth of talent and deepening my understanding of deliberate practice. My personal reflection fell into two themes, and what stood our for me was;
  1. As a parent, how I can encourage my children to strengthen their abilities for what they love. And how they can approach practice in an efficient and valuable way to increase their abilities.
  2. As a professional, how it is important to trust the expertise people have developed over the years and allow their multiple intelligences to emerge in the workplace by not getting in their way. I often find senior personnel getting in the way of peoples intelligences. A person who has over 10,000 hours of practice is going to intuitively know things that other are not. We need to trust this for ourselves and for others.
As I moved into the later chapters I began to understand how this book becomes a management consulting book focused on good leadership. The book deep dives into the value of deliberate practice in management training for organizations who want to remain leaders in their field. We have entered into a knowledge based economy where command and control based organizations will not survive; there is too much to know and no one individual can keep up. Staying competitive is a shared responsibility among all the employees and building great leaders and exemplary knowledge workers is key to this. As I read this section of the book it became painfully apparent that working for an organization that does not encourage leadership training and deliberate practice among its employees is a poor career decision for those who stay with such an organization. In the end each individual is responsible for their own skills and knowledge, having a deliberate practice around continued professional development is paramount for ongoing career success, working for organizations that overtly support this is important.

As the booked moved into its closing chapters it looked at how deliberate practice is also great for teams; in particular, how teams of individuals are different than teams of collectives. A group of individual top performers is often outperformed by a collective of people where the deliberate practice includes many team focused activities. As a technologist I was very attracted to the chapter describing deliberate practice and innovation. The book looked deeply into the eureka moment and how it rarely exists, most great innovation comes from years of hard work within a given subject area. Ideas are built upon one another and discoveries are often slowly baked to completion.

I believe this book will affect me for many years to come. It will impact the way I parent and how I encourage my children to pursue the things that interest them. It will change the way I practice and learn about the things I am interested, and having read the book I will never be able say I don't have the talent. When it comes to the workplace, and working in small teams, I will draw on this book as a reference in building a strong and healthy workplace with teams who have broad and focused abilities, and how those attributes can be encouraged. If you want a book to draw upon when taking on tasks that seem out of reach, this would be an excellent book to start.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Personal Learning Ecology

I was prompted by a very interesting tweet the other day. Nancy White asked the question "What was the difference between a Personal Leaning Network (PLN) and a Personal Learning Ecology (PLE)". This question got me thinking and I have reflected upon it often in the last few days. One thing that jumped out from this reflection is to add the Personal Learning Environment to this question.
This is how I define these three related ideas;
  • Personal Learning Network is global and includes wherever your network reach extends, all resources are available (these resources can be; filtered or unfiltered, human, digital, printed, or otherwise). It is important to consider everything in your network that can contain or process knowledge and provide skills acquisition or understanding as a part of this network. Your PLN is very broad.
  • Personal Learning Ecology is more geographically related... the learning objects are what is available in the "local area" or within easy reach (digitally or otherwise). Items in the learning ecology are what come available as the learner goes through their day and are the items in which the learner has built their knowledge. These objects have the ability to be viewed through multiple intelligences and consumed using multiple tools. They are the things that are on the current learning path and not too far out in the persons network. What is in the ecology is a subset of your PLN and these items are very easily accessible through multiple modalities at the right time. Often it is the objects that are right in front of you during your learning that are most important, its the "when the student is ready the teacher will come" idea. And with PLEcologies the teacher can come in many forms. Depth and breadth is also important, therefore when the learning opportunity presents itself it needs to be explored in its entirety.
  • Personal Learning Environment is the full extent of the tools used to gather knowledge and deepen understanding. This PLE is more technology based and includes all your devices, approaches and collaborative technologies.
An example:
I have taken it upon myself to develop an expert understanding of the Morris dancing and related folk music tradition with focus on learning to play the pipe and tabor. I've committed myself to this journey and for me its about getting to mastery, not the rate in which I get to mastery. I purposefully put myself in positions to learn more. I have been documenting my process in learning the pipe and tabor and regularly seek out opportunities to deepen my understanding of Morris dancing and playing these traditional musical instruments. I have felt this is slowing due to not getting the correct mentorship and feedback as I try to learn, and not knowing what is my next step toward deliberate practice is difficult. I continue to read books on the subject and attend festivals and face-to-face workshops to learn more. Recently two things have occurred that I consider show the difference between a learning ecology and a learning network.
  1. A while back I was searching for books in these subject areas. My emerging learning network on this subject pointed me toward a couple of books which I have begun to read. One of the books describes when learning the pipe and tabor it is good to do this by ear, and it is a good idea to practice while sitting at a piano so you can listen correctly to the notes as playing on the piano then play them on the pipe. This back and forth between piano and pipe will greatly assist in learning the tones that occur when over-blowing the pipe. Training the ear is important to learning the pipe. Even though the book(s) came via my network, it is the presence of these books close at hand that put them into my ecology.
  2. I have also been focused on learning a jig called "I'll go and enlist for a sailor". Some of the steps were eluding me. Over this last weekend I attended the Marlboro Morris Ale and was fortunate enough to meet John Dexter, who could teach me the jig. I was shown the steps in detail by a master of the dance, much of the mystery of the steps were demonstrated, they are no longer a mystery. All my reading of the dance, watching videos had prepared me well for this master / apprentice type session. I was ready to learn and the correct situation presented itself as I was on my learning journey. The Morris Ale became a part of my learning ecology.
These are both examples of how what was right in front of me from within my PLEcology is what I needed best. How this is different from the PLN is that I focused my learning on what was directly in front of me as resources instead of searching my broader network. Most often it is important to hold the faith that the right learning is available at the right time.

    Wednesday, June 01, 2011

    Lyrics for I'll go and enlist for a sailor

    Oh list, oh list to me sorrowful lay,
    And attention give to me song, I pray,
    When you've heard it all you'll say
    That I'm an unfortunate tailor.

    For once I was happy as a bird in a tree,
    My Sarah was all in the world to me,
    Now I'm cut out by a son of the sea,
    And she's left me here to bewail her.

    Why did Sarah serve me so?
    No more will I stitch and no more will I sew;
    Me thimble and me needle to the winds I'll throw
    And I'll go and 'list for a sailor.

    Now me days were honey and me nights were the same,
    Till a man called Cobb from the ocean came
    With his long black beard and his muscular frame,
    A captain on board of a whaler.

    Well he spent his money both frank and free,
    With his tales of the land and his songs of the sea,
    And he stole me Sarah's heart from me,
    And blighted the hopes of a tailor.

    Well, once I was with her, when in came Cobb
    “Avast!” he cried, “you blubbery swab.
    If you don't knock off I'll scuttle your knob!”
    And Sarah smiled at the sailor.

    So now I'll cross the raging sea,
    For Sarah's proved untrue to me.
    Me heart's locked up and she's the key;
    What a very unfeeling gaoler.

    And so now, kind friends, I'll bid you adieu,
    No more me woes shall trouble you;
    I'll travel the country through and through,
    And go and 'list for a sailor.

    Transcribed by Reinhard Zierke and Garry Gillard

    I'll go and enlist for a sailor

    One of the items that stood out for me while participating at the Marlboro Morris Ale was having John Dexter teach Joe and I the "I'll go and enlist for a sailor" jig. I have been wanting to learn this jig for six months now and have been watching video and preparing myself to play the tune on a pipe and tabor. I struggled with some of the basic steps of the jig and felt I needed some direct instruction; fortunately, John is an excellent teacher.

    I also found a number of good references to play this tune and found the sheet music.

    For instructional purposes I also found this video. Stay tuned as I take the dance apart, and video myself learning each piece... one day soon you may see me dance the whole jig.