Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Where to publish?

Of course there is no point in writing publications if you don't get them published.
Some good folk on the e-learning and virtual teams blog have done a systematic review
Their listing is as follows
IF graph
After conducting a systematic literature search across disciplines, our researchers have identified roughly 1,600 relevant academic journal articles, conference proceedings, and dissertations on e-learning and virtual teams published in the past decade. Here is a complete list of the most highly-cited and relevant academic journals for e-learning research, including the top Open Access journals ()
  1.      Computers in Human Behavior
  2.      Computers & Education
  3.      Internet and Higher Education
  4.      Information & Management
  5.      Journal of Computer Assisted Learning
  6.      British Journal of Educational Technology
  7. Educational Technology & Society
  8.      Distance Education
  9. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning
  10.      Journal of Educational Computing Research
  11. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology

The Impact Factor of a journal reflects the average number of citations an article in that journal receives. This data was collected using the Journal Citation Reports from Thompson Reuters.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Write on message

I was delighted to find this video on you tube provides some compelling real world backing for the approaches I am advocating in Room to Write 

Room to write

As you can see writing is becoming a bit of a theme for me at the moment. 

We are putting our feet in the water tentatively with a regular writing date which fortnight my will coincide with #SUWT (shut up and write Tuesday, for the initiated). 

Open to all comers the only condition is that you want to write or do some writing related task. 

The idea is that by determining a day long slot writing for discussion and feedback participants can find a time that suits them to join the group.

The processes incorporated in the meetings are being drawn from a repertoire of proven approaches based on existing research and observations  drawn from academic and commercial contexts. 

Some of the approaches may well challenge existing assumptions about how to go about writing.  In many ways that is what makes this initiative interesting. 

Our objectives are as follows
Discover joy and sociability in writing
Increase personal writing  productivity
Overcome block and barriers
Have fun

Friday, 26 February 2016

Writing tools and writing pools

I have been spending a bit of time reading and thinking about writing, as well as actually doing some of the stuff. 
I have been listening to an audiobook of Dorothea Brande, and doing my 750 words each day. 

I have also been reading Julia Cameron, the creative way, and quite a lot of Boice, especially professors as writers, but also some of his papers. 

I have also been doing my fair bit of writing and editing, so much that I had to do some hand saving dictation yesterday evening, 

Next week I will be upping the ante slightly, by starting off my writing Tuesday's. I am booking a room each Tuesday, ordering in tea, coffee fruit and lunch, and then inviting all and sundry to join me for writing tasks through the day. 

On top of that I am going to take a closer look at Bouce's plan for generative writing, and combine it with Brande's idea of a daily timetabled short writing slot, in addition to my lately rather peripatetic, "morning pages' 
So... That is the plan, let's see how it goes. 

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Finding the flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's research into the concept of flow have, to my mind, echoes in many other models of human behaviour. 
I am much interested in hypnosis and the ability to identify, create, access and replicate 'states'. I find transcripts or accounts of hypnotic interventions fascinating and have been particularly inspired by the work of Milton Erikson. 
My recent thoughts and observations are stimulated by learning and teaching about writing, and in practicing and exploring writing myself. 
They are also stimulated by the practice of running to which I have returned with renewed determination. Thus my days have shape imposed by goals and objectives to write, to run and to understand and live well. 
What I observe are many different possible routes to being and understanding, the better known being selected or gaining popularity when their values also chime with the dominant or preferred values of the 'local' cultures. 
Thus writing down the bones- a zen inflected meditation on writing reflects the era when author Natalie Goldberg made choices and became a zen practitioner and student. 
Kerouac's rules for writers, came from his era. Hippy values, New Romantics, beatniks, teddy boys, macrobiotics, Pilates, low carb, kinesthetics, NLP, Dukan, Picketty, anti austerity, neo liberalism, mindfulness, spiritualism, temperance, encounter, psycho-dynamics, Methodism, buddism each belief set, trend or phase has a role as a shorthand of communication. But each shorthand can be either a help or a hindrance to communication. It is a local phenomenon in time, space and place. 
I use local rather particularly, in the sense of proximate/proximal. The system of ideas which is the closest to an individual at any time. 
Erikson was famous for making change happen by going with the flow but also across the flow. His handshake induction brought about trance by interrupting routine interactions. Yet novice hypnotised most often fail when they do not effectively mirror and amplify the patterns of their subjects. 
If mass movements succeed it is perhaps because they do succeed in mirroring and amplifying widely held beliefs, amplified either by media or circumstance. 
Csikszentmihalyi argues that young people can find flow through music and it seems to me that the younger we are the smaller will be the range of possible proximate cultures or practices through which to access flow. The observation is that they find that for themselves. 
In teaching there is an assumption that the teacher will find things for the stident. Furthermore, 'good' teaching will be obvious because all that is needed is found and the students are happy with the outcome. The challenge, for a teacher, I believe, is trying to motivate or communicate possible routes to flow to many individuals, each of a different generation or culture. How can I find points of common understanding which can serve as channels for real communication. How will each one find their state of flow? 
Here I use the term generation only to indicate difference - and I am not totally happy with the word. It implies a false difference mediate by age. Yet our real age is surely a proxy for our experience, and within and across generations such age will vary widely. Recognising individual and common humanity might be better. Humanity is  something we all hold in common. It is the most valuable communication channel. But then I stumble on culture and cultural experience. 

I read what some people find inspirational 
And I observe, that for me, like a clumsy hypnotic script, they do not quite work. 
Earl Nightingale, the simplest secret .. Yes .. But. Tom Peters, yes but, Virginia Wolf, yes but, Karl Marx, yes but always I find , I don't hold the same set of values, or assumptions in common. 

I despair of being an English speaker because too much of what I read or watch or hear is overladen with alien 'US' cultural references and assumptions. And I tire of the adjustments and baulk at the imperialism and understand, perhaps, other antagonisms that exist. But then again, I understand and can translate. After all I am a woman living in a world predicated on men's assumptions- which is probably even more tiresome. 

I am accomplished, I know how to use alien texts, but will my students ..And I am reminded that in the classroom I need to be an Erikson, expertly mirroring and modelling but also interrupting to make change happen.  And most importantly, how will I ever find out. 

Friday, 12 February 2016

What went wrong?

A good few years ago I ran a workshop titled What Went Wrong. The essential premise was that if we are researching interventions that make change happen we need to record and analyse our failures as much as if not more carefully than our success.
However, academia and popular media likes heroic narrative and if failure is recorded it is too often used as a whipping boy. 
The paradox for academia and research is that our business is learning, and any simple observation of human learning will tell us that we appear to be built to learn from failure. 
Perhaps I should turn the title on its head and call it Make More Mistakes. I am sent back to reconsider the quote of William McIlvanney on honour and success. A man who wrote the books he wanted keeping his character true rather than signing a book series. I am also reflecting on Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones with the emphasis she places on practice writing. Most of all I am thinking about our students who make mistakes and sometimes find that hard to accept. Or who are terrified of making mistakes before the event - exam stress, life stress. 
Is academia suffering from a bad case of the Emperors Clothes? We are writing failure out of the story and the cost is progress. Alongside we breed a culture of ungiving arrogance. The implicit knowledge that failure exists and has s purpose makes liars of us all, and out university culture is much the poorer for that lie. 

Friday, 15 January 2016

Elbowing writing problems out of the way

One omission from my recent post on writing and research was any reference to the work of Peter Elbow. He is probably best known for his promotion of free writing but he also has a great deal to say about the role of our understanding and use of spoken language. Spoken language, he argues, can be used as a tool to help us write more clearly particularly when it comes to harnessing it for editing existing texts. I particularly like this quotation from his 2013 paper "Using careless speech for careful, well crafted writing – whatever its style". 

"We can’t count on speech (or freewriting) to yield crisp clear sentences, but when we harness the resources of speech by reading aloud to revise, we can count on the intonational habits of the mouth and ear to produce sentences that are stronger and clearer than are often produced when people try to write with care". 

Ironically I find his writing a little dense in parts and often skip over parts of the text but that is a minor issue, because in my experience what he is saying is eminently 

Elbow, Peter (2013) "Using Careless Speech for Careful, Well-Crafted Writing— Whatever Its Style," The Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning: Vol. 19: Iss. 1, Article 3. 
Available at: http://trace.tennessee.edu/jaepl/vol19/iss1/3

Honour and success

The laidlaw trilogy, and indeed all the books of William McIlvanney offer philosophy as well as detection, they are why done it's rather than we done its. 
Laidlaw is a very moral man, well educated and reflective. I was particularly heartened by Mcillvanney's comment. 

I think that we all benefit when honour and acting honourable are privileged over pursuing personal success. 

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Writing as research and other ideas

I have been doing a lot of thinking and writing about writing just recently.

Just about every module that I teach includes some aspect of writing, I supervise phd students who have to write a lot, and I spend a great deal of my own time thinking and writing as well. So anything which can make the process more enjoyable and more productive has to be a good idea, and if I can find ideas and share those ideas so much the better.

I can't quite recall what started me on this latest expedition back into the territory of writing and thinking. I suspect that I came across ideas in a book for research supervisors supporting PhD students (Kamler and Thompson, 2014).

I found the book pretty heavy going overall, that they were gems within the text and the concluding chapter was particularly useful from my point of view. I think it was this edition, downloaded with great pain as an e-book from the University library, that reminded me of the concept of writing as research (more of which in another post) .

I also recall that I read in weekend edition of the newspaper an article about Robert Boice's famous book a How writers journey to comfort and fluency (Boice, 1974). The main issue with this book is that it costs at least £65 and you can be pretty hard to come by.

However being a resourceful academic I made use of that ultimate research tool, the search engine, and found myself a few related articles which I have collected together in my Mendeley group,  a few of which are referenced at the bottom of this piece.

One by Boice which made a lasting impression on me, brought together sources as diverse as hypnosis, spiritualism and surrealism - if you are ever come across information on automatic writing, you are advised to take note of this quote

Having made a foray into the online sources of papers by Boice, I returned to the task of finding a book. I managed to locate a much cheaper but related book, Professors as Writers (Boice, 1990) which was available in electronic format. Reading that alerted me to hold other set of publications. So I made some time and did a load of reading and lo and  behold, I am chugging away with my writing, and champing at the bit to share my newfound prizes with other people.

Moving on from Boice, a number of useful publications are pitched at fiction authors. nonetheless I think much of the advice is equally relevant and useful two academic authors. Julia Cameron devised a method of daily pages for creativity, which has much relevance to writers. The method is explained in The Artists Way, which for my money has a little too many references to God and uncovering genius, however, I came across it via a motivational web site called 750 words, and it does present a well structured approach which can definitely make positive contributions to the writing process.

Interesting, some aspects of cameron's approach can be found in a much earlier publication by Dorothea Brande titled Becoming a Writer (Brande, 1934) which has been widely cited and is much admired by many famous authors.

Interestingly, the advice of Cameron and Brande is actually borne out by the evidence which Boice (originally a psychologist, but much concerned with professional development)  assembled whilst he was working at Stanford

There are of course lots of resources online which relate to academic writing

A goto destination for academic advice is always the tomorrow's professor website, run by Rick Riess, this site is a gem of a source for educational and professional development items which will be relevant and useful for academics and post grad students particularly, But in some cases even for undergraduate students. Listed below I just a short selection of the currently available relevant resources:

Another one is the Academic coaching and writing web site which is particularly useful since it has a writing ebook, and many links to interesting and relevant articles. 


Boice, R. and Jones, F., 1984. Why Academicians Don’t Write. The Journal of Higher Education, 55(5), pp.567–582. Available at: http://doi.org/10.2307/1981822.

Boice, R. and Meyers, P.E., 1986. Two Parallel Traditions Automatic Writing and Free Writing. Written Communication, 3(4), pp.471-490.

Boice, R., 1990. Professors as writers: A self-help guide to productive writing. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.

Boice, R., 1994. How Writers Journey To Comfort and Fluency: A Psychological Adventure. Praeger, Greenwood Publishing Group, 88 Post Road West, Box 5007, Westport, CT 06881.

Boice, R., 1995. Writerly Rules for Teachers. The Journal of Higher Education, 66(1), pp.32–60. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2943950.

Brande, D., 1934. Becoming a writer

Cameron, J., 2002. The artist's way. Penguin.

Kamler, B. and Thomson, P., 2014. Helping doctoral students write: Pedagogies for supervision. Routledge.


Academic coaching and writing:  http://academicwritingandcoaching.org
Tomorrow's Professor: http://tomprof.stanford.edu/