From a potpourri of personalities comes a bouquet of fragrant ideas.  Throughout most of my working life I have been exposed to the concepts of understanding personality, learning styles, emotional intelligence and their application to teaching and learning.  I was introduced to learning and thinking styles through team building exercises and workshops in the work place, gained an understanding of emotional intelligence some years ago in education related to teaching… and more recently revisited personality in relation to contemporary leadership as part of a business degree.

Understanding your personality traits, your thinking style and your learning style is a useful way to improve your self-awareness, motivation and behaviour. Effective people know themselves, they work from their strengths and don’t let their weaknesses limit them. 

Having a better understanding of yourself helps you understand others. Understanding that there are many different personality types can help you appreciate the difference in people. It makes you more aware of individual strengths and qualities.

We categorise people as ‘normal’ when we believe them to be like us, and ‘not normal’ when we feel they are very unlike us.  When we believe someone to be ‘not normal’ we can’t relate to them and may have difficulty communicating with them.

Trying to understand others without first understanding yourself is like trying to quantify the sun, by describing how it reflects off water, or how it feels your skin. 

The awareness of how we do what we do is the key to self-management.  It is also important to be able to relate to co-workers and know how to encourage, inspire and motivate each other.  Being self-aware facilitates movement towards holistic interdependent leadership, towards creating a collective view, moving from ‘me-centred’ to ‘we-centred’.

Have you ever heard the saying “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care”?  Good leaders learn about others and how to relate to them, rather than judge they value difference and different perspectives.  They Ignite passion and commitment in others and bring energy and dynamism to the table.

To flesh out the bare bones of your own inner workings heightens the ability to contain, manage and tolerate emotions, to transcend the structures in which you have been socialised and from which you construct meaning.  Understanding ‘me’ allows you to understand ‘we’ and allows you to move into that creative collaborative space.

My most cherished learning experience occurred in my mid-twenties.  I had taken a break from work to raise a family and decided I would return to a formal learning environment and obtain some new technology qualifications before re-entering the work force.

I reflect often on what it was that made this particular period of learning so memorable. My teacher had only been teaching for two years, was in her late forties/early fifties and had no prior work experience.  She had raised her family and had been a stay-at-home mum until her children had grown and left home.  Amazingly, in that whole time she’d not used a computer, not even turned one on. She decided to return to study and learn how to use one; working through the qualification levels until she’d obtained her Diploma in Information Technology.  It was at this stage she was offered a job teaching, and two years later became my teacher.

Her experience as an adult learner made her a great teacher; she motivated and encouraged our whole class.  She had a light hearted approach, was cheerful, warm and put those around her at ease.  Her knowledge was fresh.  Through narrative and storytelling a wonderful community of learning was formed in that classroom. A gifted listener that conveyed genuine empathy, she could relate to our struggles… at times she learnt with us, sitting beside us and discovering how to complete the tasks at hand.  She became my mentor.

So what was it that made that particular period of learning so memorable? It was the way in which our learning was situated in social activity. It was the safety of the environment provided in which to experience growth without fear.  It was the trust and mutual respect extended as we celebrated each small achievement.  It was how beautifully we were shown what it is to learn.

There were eleven of us in that computer class, we all obtained our qualification, four of us went on to occupations that involved teaching or education (odd for an Information Technology class).

For some thirteen years now I have been teaching alongside this person whom I still see as my mentor rather than my colleague. 

I’ve been following a particular business on Facebook and Twitter lately, totally in love with their brand and enthralled with their online persona.  They are sitting in that enviable ‘social savvy’ pocket of social media marketing, a great example of getting it right.  A niche little business that would show up a few of the big players out there. Visiting their online spaces is the same as visiting the business itself, they’ve managed to replicate their commercial vibe and work place culture online. 

So what is the magic formula, what are they doing that make them stand out and makes me want to keep coming back?  Well it isn’t just one ‘thing’ in isolation, but a combination of ‘things’.  To visit their business in person is to observe a genuine love for what they do and a wonderful work place culture that is an absolute pleasure to be in. 

Online, in the social media marketing space they share genuine moments of excitement and happiness.  Their posts are authentic and humanistic… they forget the technology and just talk. The content shared is full of optimism that plays on emotion.  They grab attention by connecting genuinely, sharing comments that are meaningful, and convey happiness.  They engage and enable others, building online relationships by giving their followers something to do, say or use. Their online ‘vibe’ is contagious, they share stories that others can interact with, they share praise for the people they deal with that assist their business in some way…. and they rarely push content.  Replicating their ‘vibe’ through a social media marketing strategy is a hard task, you can’t fake happiness and passion. Basically they share their happy passionate culture as opposed to trying to advertise their business, and it makes me want to keep coming back!

Well here we are in 2012, and I find myself wondering if the chance to use Second Life has now well and truly passed.  Can virtual worlds help to engage students? Can they add another dimension to online learning or do they distract students??? Major issues involve adequate bandwidth and the rather steep learning curve for many students.  In 2011 I had a bit of a play around with Second Life again… wondering if the NBN would be the catalyst for great things to come for the regional learning experience.  The students that participated loved it, but we had to do it of an evening in our own time as the Polytechnic network was just way to slow and NBN didn't come as promised!
If only we had support for it earlier! In 2008, I first became acquainted with Second Life, looking at ways I could integrate it into my teaching practice. I also began teaching Project Management , which I’m still thoroughly enjoying. I’m hoping to use Second Life as a meeting space for some of our class discussions. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have stumbled upon a group in SL that have offered us a RL project to complete as a group in SL – this will be a bit of an experiment to start with, but I’m keen to give it a shot. Our team experimented with OpenSim in 2009… which was pretty exciting stuff. I would love to have seen this integrated into our current LMS… and looking closer at the educational value that virtual worlds can bring to online learning environments. Is it a waste of time?
My Avatar in Second Life: Nohj Sideways
In 2010, Smithton, in the Circular Head Region of Tasmania, was chosen as one of the first places in Australia to be connected to the National Broadband Network [NBN]. Unfortunately, it's taken the Polytechnic, or rather the Department of Education, almost two years to get the regional Polytechnic Campus situated here connected.  The Polytechnic is so underutilised here it terms of the potentiality to grow digital citizenship in this community through education.   We are in a unique position to serve as model for other regional areas nationwide, as we have teachers in this area servicing not just the local community, but the rest of the state in online VET delivery.   NBN removes geographical disadvantage, yet in terms of support for this area we are still constantly dismissed due to our geographical location.  How can we expect our own community to get behind us and support us if our own organisation and political parties don’t recognise our value?  Through education we can mentor and encourage the community to integrate ICT and weave technology into the fabric of daily living.  We can grow community capacity, and develop the knowledge and skill base required to take full advantage of available technologies, such as the NBN, to drive change and renewal.  By increasing awareness and promoting ICT we can unlock possibilities to stimulate development of community enterprises and niche projects, empower people through access to online services, and increase potential for new ways of ‘doing’ in employment. We’re passionate and driven… we just need some wings!
As a teacher I derive a lot of joy out of immersing myself in learning.  Creating new content for courses is as much a learning journey as it is preparation for teaching.  It also gets me back into the shoes of a learner, having a crack at new things, failing miserably, having a cuppa, and then taking another stab at it.  To love what I do creates genuine enthusiasm for what I teach, allowing me to convey genuinely and honestly a love of growth through learning. For me satisfaction comes when I see a shift in a person’s willingness to explore and discover, when I see people realise that failure and mistakes are natural parts of learning… to fail is to grow, because you realise you have something to learn, and you also learn what doesn't work!  Just as important as learning what does work, if not more so.  I don’t want to teach people how to pass an assessment. I want to teach them how to bounce when they fail!

And I particularly like quotes about learning.
Some of my favourites:
  • “Making mistakes is the most efficient form of learning”. ~Laure Kendrick
  • “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing”. ~ John Powell
  • “I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn”. ~Albert Einstein
  • “The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live”. ~Mortimer Adler
  • “”When you learn, teach, when you get, give.” ~Maya Angelou
  • “We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself”.  ~Lloyd Alexander
  • “You have learned something.  That always feels at first as if you had lost something”.  ~H.G. Wells
  • “segregation shaped me; education liberated me”. ~Maya Angelou
  • “Learning should be more than being given answers to memorize. A school should teach you the current state of affairs, and then give you a list of questions that no one can answer. That, more than anything, will inspire you to think for yourself”. ~Susan Pierce

The Hegarty Reflective Framework – Bronwyn Hegarty provides a nice framework to improve reflection

  1. Take notice and describe the experience – pay attention and record what happened;
         what did you do, know, feel, think, need? 
         what decissions were made?
  2. Analyse the experience -
         what were the actions and decissions, and why these actions and decissions? 
         what was your reaction?
  3. Reflect, take action -
         what did you learn?  
         how will you use this learning? 
         plan how you will apply this learning