Thinking the network

I may be on sick leave at the moment but I cannot stay on a duck within this blog for another day. So here goes…

Perhaps I’m too ambitious. I want to get everyone in my school (Cardiff School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies) networked learning. I am often pondering new ways of bringing the unwilling to the table. I’m not talking about the ‘digital natives’ (oh how I dislike the term, but you know what I mean). There are plenty of students for whom meaningful use of ICT in University is very limited and asking them to do more results in the familiar ‘rabbit in the headlights’ look.

So here’s a thing: what does networked learning activity look like?

It’s a bit easier because we’re not talking about what happens inside people’s heads. To be networked learning, it must include something that happens viz someone or something outside of the individual. If you would like to suggest something or comment, I’ve posited this question over on my but I really dont mind where you end up. Thanks for reading – er… yes that ‘counts’… 😉

Emergent enterprise (and disruptive technologies)

[Originally posted on “Lofty thoughts …” 28th May 2009]

I was pointed towards this article from a non-traditional source – retail banking. I think there are some lessons to be learnt from it, foremost amongst those being “have a little courage”.

Quite a while ago I posted my first blogpost on what was being called then “disruptive technologies”. I didn’t like that term then, and I still don’t. I said at the time that there was no way one was going to get Web 2.0 technologies adopted in any organisation – if you called them disruptive. I used the term Information Services 2.0 to describe the type of changes that I felt need to occur within a central IT Services organisation if it was going to be able to “consume” web 2.0 apps into its service offering. Since then we have seen Library 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 emerge as terms describing very similar ideas. I refer you to Brian Kelly’s really excellent blog for further discussion on these and other web-related matters.

However in James Gardiner’s blogpost he makes it clear that giving employees unexpected freedom to express themeselves can have unexpected and to be welcomed consequences. He says …

“Unsurprisingly, a year on, none of the doomsday scenarios
hypothesised when we made it possible for staff to create their own
internal communities have come to pass. Of course, such a fortuitous
outcome would largely be expected by everyone who participates in broad
web based communities externally. It was not, however, to long term
traditionalist used to iron control, but they have largely been
mollified by the lack of significant negative consequences.

But now we are beginning to see a new phenomenon. I call it
the Emergent Enterprise: staff are not only having their say, they are
actually changing the way things work in material ways.

You see, along with social media, we gave our people the
ability to create rudimentary business process and publish those as
well. The idea was that workgroups would be able to automate things
they did on a day to day basis easily, and without any input from the
central IT function.”

Now you can see that this has a distinct hint of “lean thinking” in it, so yet again a concordance between the lean and the emergent enterprise as typified by Cardiff University’s Modern Working Environment programme. James goes on to say …

“My real interest in this “emergence”, however, does have
to do with the strategic questions which face us going forward. As
innovators, we know the biggest long-term threats to institutions
rarely come from large, established competitors. No, it is the start-up
crowd, with their nimbleness in responding to boutique opportunities
and niche segments which are the competitive issue here. The problem is
there are so many of them that a strategic level response is neither
possible nor appropriate.

But an “emergent” response, forming and norming by itself is
just what is needed. Then, when a competitor becomes strategic, our own
response will have grown to the point where it can be strategic as

… and this strikes a real chord with me. The Emergent University in a post credit crunch world will be a nimble university, one that has enabled its staff to effect change and one that is fully equipped (and that means educated and trained staff) to make full use of its strategic technological investment. James’ closing comments are these …

“What I don’t doubt, though, is that emergent behaviours in enterprises
– especially banks – will be one of the most powerful competitive
weapons we’ll have in the future. You see, everyone always says that
“people are the most important resource” and that “the war for talent”
will be one of the great competitive battlegrounds in the coming years.
The thing about the Emergent Enterprise is that it allows all that
great resource to actually make a difference.”

And I say amen to that too!

Information Services 2.0

[Originally posted on “Lofty thoughts …” 8th February, 2009]

Quite a while ago now, Joe Nicholls – a colleague of mine – and I started looking at emerging Web 2.0 Technologies and what there adoption might mean for university Information Services departments – we coined the unremarkable phrase Information Services 2.0 to describe the nature of the department that would need to develop – a topic that was picked-up by Brian Kelly in a presentation he made to the UCISA Management Conference in March 2008. [The use of the term IT Services 2.0 had previously been used by Mark Sampson from Edinburgh University in March 2007 and this was referenced in Brian’s blogpost “IT Services Reinventing Themselves“.] The UCISA talk generated some reflection on the topic and a dialogue with Cardiff-based Professor of Educational Technology at the OU – Martin Weller.

As an indication of Cardiff and INSRV’s early consideration of these
issues I’ve resurrected the original internal blogpost on the subject
for the record (below). We had written a paper on “Disruptive technology and its implications for University Information Services” and I presented it at a UKOLN Workshop on “Exploiting the potential of blogs and social networks” in November 2007.

The presentation explored the phenomenon of ‘disruptive technology’ and the implications it had for University Information Services. The nature of technology initiated disruption was explored, identifying some of its causes and effects and implications for service provision. It was suggested that a modified approach to service provision and management must be adopted in order to alleviate disruptive
consequences of technology and capitalise upon its benefits. Fundamental to achieving this would be adopting a philosophy of enablement through partnership at all levels
of the organisation to harness better ways of staying abreast of and responsive to the potential value of emerging technologies. Central to achieving this would be adopting news ways of communicating and working with staff, students and the wider organisation, with the aim being that the University should be confident about the degree of control, ownership and responsibility that was in place.

We asked the questions:


  • What threats and opportunities does ‘disruptive technology’ hold for Higher Education and Information Services?
  • What can/should Information Services do to better manage the disruption caused and take advantage of the opportunities new technology presents?

Onwards and upwards – we then turned our attention to “core” and “chore”, of which more later.

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Context and language is everything

[Originally posted on “MWE Social Media” on 8th February, 2009]

Some colleagues of mine who keep an eye on what I’m up to on twitter, observed that through ‘Lofty Thoughts‘ I had announced the appearance of CardiffBlogs. They made some observations on the use of a corporate blogging platform, some of which I responded to. Nicky Morland from Anglia Ruskin University made the astute comment that the variety of socialmedia (or social networking) tools could be confusing to users – something I’d already hinted at in an earlier posting on this blog. I offered to write another post detailing my ideas on the subject. This is it.

It is a subject I’ve blogged on several times on my personal blog ‘Just thoughts …‘, and I believe it’s one of the most important areas that potential bloggers should be conscious of. In several posts I developed my thoughts, and if you’ll excuse me, I’ll re-iterate them here.

The first and probably most important consideration is whether socialmedia is for you. In the case of blogging, you have to consider what you want a blog for, and having decided that it’s something you want to do, for whatever reason, you then need to choose the most appropriate hosting for the blog – corporate or commercial platform, and whether you want to keep it private or make it public. In the post ‘Do I blog … or do I not?‘, I try and address that issue and suggest that this decision is of considerable importance because the context then directs the style of writing, the language that you use and the type of message that you communicate. For instance, on my private personal blog, which is restricted to my family alone, I’ve just recorded the number and types of birds in the garden and the state of our goldfish in the pond! This is of no interest to the world at large I suspect, but as a record, or journal entry, for me (and to assist my abysmal memory) and for the family as almost a shared letter – it may have some value. On my personal blog, I’ve just posted some observations on leadership that I recorded from a UCISA Directors’ Forum I had attended. I’ve already referred to my personal professional blog, and over time I’ll use this to record events, observations about Information Services (INSRV), the university and my inter-actions with other colleagues in other universities that might be of interest to colleagues both inside and outside INSRV and Cardiff University. It’ll essentially be a record of my work for INSRV.

For institutions, they need to make a call as to whether they decide to host the corporate blog themselves, or not. In ‘where do you blog‘, I discussed some of the issues that need to be considered by an organisation before they decide to host their own blogging platform. Brian Kelly makes some interesting comments on the subject as well.

The third issue is the connection between the author and their credibility; the authority of their pronouncements. The Web 2.0 world has created an environment where everyone is potentially an author and publisher. What I write on my personal blog is just that – personal; it doesn’t pretend to be the view of an Assistant Director of Information Services, and my references to INSRV or Cardiff are tangential and very occasional. So therefore the issue of Identity and Credibility is of interest because essentially in social networking you gain credibility from the people that look at, or comment upon, your blog posts, follow you on twitter, or whatever.By your followers – you are known.

Finally, in another post I comment upon the ephemeral nature of socialmedia environments. If you’ve got something important to say – be very aware that socialmedia is not the place to write it for posterity. Also the choice of socialmedia is important and is intrinsically linked to the type of message that you want to promulgate. Surrounded by choice, the toolset you use for the message you want to convey, must be chosen with considerable care.