My name is Ian Gardner and I am interested in various topics that can be seen as related to learning, technology and information.
To see what I am reading elsewhere, follow me on The Old Reader (I.gardner.gb) and/or Twitter (@iangardnergb).
As a service with genuine communities that predated the buzz over the “metaverse” Altspace will go down in history. Unfortunately though that may just be that it is just the latest of many examples where big tech acquires a service for it to die later.
You often see on LinkedIn, and elsewhere, people crowbarring popular culture into articles tangentially related to management, business and other “LinkedIn type topics”. I tend to avoid these but, after 23 years away from the English Premier League, the team I support (Nottingham Forest) are back in the top league so I am going to try my hand at such a post.
There are, of course, other articles out there on this topic, including this example from The Guardian.
What has been happening at Forest?
Lots of headlines were created around the club last summer as they broke the UK record for signing the most players in a transfer window (22).
This approach goes against the established wisdom that teams need some continuity in playing staff to keep cohesion, such as the players knowing how each other play, as well as keeping momentum from the positivity around the previous seasons. The Forest approach goes against this logic and has led to lots of jokes and mockery online, such as:
Now there are valid reasons to question/criticise the Forest approach. The biggest is that the financial outlay has been big and therefore risks the club’s longer term financial security, the gamble is that the investment keeps the team in the Premier League and therefore able to continue to reap the financial rewards. The reality is that relegation, after this level of expenditure, would surely be extremely damaging even with an owner who has been supporting a loss-making enterprise since he bought the club a few years ago.
Reasons for optimism – two key differences this year
As a fan there are two key differences this year that, I think, have been little talked about in relation to Forest but make the strategy less risky:
Changes to the rules on substitutions … essentially clubs need bigger squads this season and can make more changes during a game which means having more “first team” options, rather than “bench warmers”, that can be useful tactically.
The winter World Cup … having a long mid-season break gives teams the chance to go on training camps and perform other activity to improve team solidity and strategy mid-season.
Why such rapid change?
For context, a football club (at least in the Premier League) can register 25 players plus have a pool of younger plays that do not have to be included in the 25. With this context, 21/22 new signings is clearly a huge number. However, Forest had 5 key players last season that they immediately lost at the end of last season as they were on loan (i.e. temporary contracts) from other clubs.
They also lost two players who had been major figures in the last few years – the goalkeeper Brice Samba (who seemingly was not willing to sign a new contract and wanted to move back to France) and Lewis Grabban (last season’s captain who presumably wanted to remain a starter rather than become a bit part player for Forest in the Premier League).
Therefore, Forest had to sign at least 7 players.
If you think those 7 must have been ahead of another existing contracted 7 then it is probably fair to say that means at least 14 players were needed for the higher level of the Premier League. Depending on who you listen to the “lost” players can be seen as not just the 7 but actually 17:
Therefore we could argue the change is justified as the club simply lacked the resources to compete in the Premier League due to a “ahead of plan” promotion. Whilst Forest have had a couple of good seasons in recent years, promotion was unexpected, the club being bottom of the league early in the season when the manager Steve Cooper was appointed.
Therefore, the Forest project/experiment this summer transfer window has essentially been a “scaling up” exercise. Whilst numbers of staff may have changed relatively little in total headcount (in part due to the 25 player rule), the percentage of total that is new is considerable and we are seeing a major shift in competency (at least perceived competency based on historical performance).
This is not dissimilar to other industries where we are seeing needs for hiring/upskilling/reskilling to fill roles, especially in fast moving areas like cyber security. Therefore, I am going to try and apply some key management theory to the situation…
Some application of change and team theory
Perhaps the most well know team formation model is the “Forming > Storming > Norming > Performing” model of Tuckman. This is essentially the theory applied by critics, i.e. that the changes have not given Forest enough time to “form” into a team. The winter world cup break should help with this and some “storming” seemed to be happening prior to the break.
The Forest manager, Steve Cooper, is clearly a quite modern manager in the way he speaks. He regularly refers to mentality in his interviews and it would seem he refers to the importance of a shared vision for the team. Such a vision is a key part of various business management models – not least Senges’ five disciplines. Similarly learning from mistakes and other aspects of Senges-like models bleed out of Forest’s current practice.
In many ways Cooper and the management team have had some of the work done for them – the sense of urgency (for example in Kotter’s change model) was well established. They could then focus on empowering the players to achieve through a vision of how the team should be operating. The short term wins of models like Kotter are also well suited to football and the “taking one game at a time” kind of mentality.
I travelled for work earlier this month, I think this was only the second international work trip in something like 8 years (when I was previously travelling internationally quite a lot). This absence of international work travel has been due to different factors, including different scope of roles, the covid pandemic closures, etc. However, being back in environments I have not seen for a while (airport lounges!) got me thinking about my personal profile again.
I have tended, for a decade or so, to think I am a fairly “generalist” L&D person – whilst I came into learning through libraries and eLearning I have moved away from those specialisms into more of a general L&D role. I have noticed of late a few references to “full stack” instructional designers – this seems to be an attempt at saying someone who does a bit of everything, not just a designer but working across ADDIE (the top Google result is to this Medium page from a few years back). Is this IDs looking to be seen as full L&D pros or something else?
The idea of “full stack”, as far as I know, is coming across from IT industry language:
A full stack web developer is a person who can develop both client and server software.
In addition to mastering HTML and CSS, he/she also knows how to:
Program a server (like using PHP, ASP, Python, or Node)
Program a database (like using SQL, SQLite, or MongoDB)
I would personally say this does not really work in an ID context unless we mean “full stack” in terms of being a programmer of the systems and not just a user of GUIs to develop learning solutions.
Nonetheless an interesting development given that IT has taken the use of “information” from other domains/professions and we might now reach the point of maturity where IT terminology starts getting adopted in other areas (“Agile”, or at least “agile”, being an other term where this has been usurped outside pure-IT communities I guess).
Thinking about the “generalist” vs “full stack” vs “something else” language impacted on my decision not to renew my CMALT status as of the Jan 1st renewal date.
I was an early CMALT holder, number 53 I believe, having completed my portfolio and application when the CMALT list was just a doc on the ALT website Now it is a nice searchable interface and has effectively become the standard to achieve for UK learning technologists.
CMALT (and the other activities of the Association of Learning Technology) were important to me when working in Higher Ed. This all remained useful when I moved to working in more general L&D areas. However, I have not really engaged with ALT very much in the last few years (beyond completing some reviews of CMALT applications). Therefore, I opted against renewing as it seemed somewhat false to maintain my status when not really engaged in this community (albeit that this is in part a problem with ALT as the focus seems to have been too much on UK HEIs).
This is interesting as, like when chose to drop my Chartered status of CILIP (MCILIP) at the end of 2016, in can be seen as something of a epoch in my professional focus. However, I ended up working in a library service again after dropping MCILIP so who knows what the future will hold.
After a long time I was back facilitating “in the classroom” at a conference/event this month.
I have to say it was disorientating but enjoyable. A couple of observations to capture for now:
Face-to-face training events are never just about the designed training. The social interactions, networking, side conversations, etc. can be very valuable.
Virtual has a lot of benefits, not least the equalising effects.
On point 1 – is there any other profession/industry which sells itself as one thing only for value to be gained from another? The nearest equivalent I can think of is going to a football match – the social elements (walking with friends/family, pub, etc) often outweigh the enjoyment of the game. Is it time that we are honest about what value “training” events really bring?
On point 2 – Meeting people face-to-face I found myself making many more “first impression” judgments, even having to check myself from doing so in my head. I also met a lot people only previously met on Zoom and it has to be said a physical meeting creates, for me at least, at lot more realisation/judgment of diversity issues from height to weight, sex, disability, fashion sense, etc etc etc that are not (as much of) an issue online for me.
Twitter’s current problems have made me think again about how I have used the site over the years. Therefore, I decided to have a look at all my tweets…or at least what I can see via the UI.
Expectations: I have been very stop-start on Twitter and would expect, before looking at the historic tweets, for this to be obvious. The more active times will include event tweeting which I have tried at times – having appreciated the tweets of others in creating useful back channels around conferences and the like.
Via the main UI, the scroll of past tweets, seems to cap at around 10 years…
Some general sharing on professional topics – including libraries, teacher training and online learning. Particular focus on my LMS of the time (Blackboard) and the Higher Ed market in general.
2012 started with my attendance of the Blackboard User Group conference in Durham (that I attended a number of times back then) and was followed with a clear attempt to be sharing interesting news. I was not adding a lot of my own thoughts to posts, more just picking out tweets of particular interest.
The rest of the year is a mix of learning tech news, as well as some excitement from me on the potential of Open Badges. Some companies mentioned, such as Grovo, having gone on to be bought by other players. There are also an annoying amount of broken links to sites like Chief Learning Officer that don’t really have an excuse for breaking archive links.
A July 2013 tweet advertising that I had used the LPI Capability Map must have been when that went live? I also tweeted to comment on when I setup a FutureLearn account.
Late in the year a couple of tweets from a Learning Pool Live event still hit home – one suggesting we might have to be more honest about the type of staff we have (hostages, disconnected, mercenaries, apostles +the fence sitters) and another talking about Andrew Jacobs work with L&D at Lambeth council moved away from courses (apart from for health and safety).
2013 ends with me saying I was considering leaving Yahoo Mail. Somewhat amazingly I am still actively using it.
In hindsight the news I was sharing is interesting to look back on in this format but as an archive would I ever really use it? I guess there has been the odd time when I have tried to remember something and then remembered I tweeted it.
More BETT thoughts as well as general workplace learning and technology interest. That includes a few tweets about MOOCs and market plays, most of which have not probably been worth the investment for players involved!
Useful picking up of a few old sources I have forgotten about. As well as a welcome reminder of this from ON24:
Begins with some learning tech show tweets but also an interesting one where I wonder what the penetrating of name recognition would be for “webinar”, guess that has changed in the last seven years!
I retweeted one tweet about the 2015 election and I have used Twitter a lot in more recent times to lurk in the political space to try and comprehend Brexit, Trump, Johnson, Truss and other political topics. There is also the first sign of some football related tweeting, another topic/community where Twitter has brought me value.
Overall, a huge amount of dead links – even on big stories like Adobe launching an LMS.
A work focus, with a greater interest in apprenticeships shown in some tweets on that topic. Meanwhile Office 365, Zoom and other current tools all start to appear more obviously.
Overall 2016 is not a hugely engaged year for me (likely a reflection that I was busy enjoying a new job).
More on apprenticeships and learning technology.
AI in learning gets a mention (I think for the first time).
March 2017 is noteworthy for me saying I had just used Microsoft Teams for the first time (and it must have been pretty quick that I adopted it for my team). Microsoft Stream launch gets a mention later in the year.
Also a tweet for an event I went to at the Design Museum – slightly surprised there are not more of these types of post but probably due to me tending to keep my Twitter mostly work related.
BETT makes an appearance again (I really should have invested in phones with better cameras for pics) as well as some sector (health) specific stuff for the time.
Again, mostly events (I did quite a good job at tweeting from UNLEASH18) and the like with the 2012/13-style news sharing mostly having dried up.
The earlier interest in Open Badges had led to some work where I was presenting on a webinar about my use before some tweets on me moving on from that role.
Later in the year some general workplace performance stuff and a little on apprentices.
I also tried to make LandDoh “a thing” to have some fun with the world of learning. Needless to say that has not really happened.
Quite a general mix of tweets on things of interest from football, learning theory, social stuff and more. Not quite as random as it might look at first glance as some related to the work I was supporting at the time.
The bit that might be important for the future are some recommendations for podcasts, covering Project Cortex and what the future of a Microsoft-powered learning ecosystem might look like.
The November 2019 election event of the UK Conservative party rebranding itself on Twitter as “factcheckuk” is a low point even within the terrible environment of much social media.
Still not sure how it isn’t 2020 today but it would seem that year mostly saw me use Twitter for the “normal” mix of learning tech, some podcast/webinar comments and some waffle. A reasonable amount amongst it all on remote work related productivity topics given the year. Of the pandemic related stuff a tweet on the 1957 flu was one of the more interesting things.
However, a mention for this retweet which remains the most standout amazing thing I have probably seen on Twitter:
2021 & 2022
Alas I did tweet on January 6th 2021 whilst in shock at the events in America.
Elsewhere tweets directly related to my employer here, including about our use of Helpscout. Otherwise digital skills, digital workplaces, etc. I also got into perhaps my nearest thing to a Twitter argument in disagreeing with DTWillingham on the limits of games for learning.