Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I realise I am going further off topic for the conference -  Designing Safe Living - by the way the conference program is now published as a PDF from the spreadsheet.

What strikes me is the way a topic can be selected although the academic approach and concerns seem to remain the same. So I think "assurance" in general is a good word for me. Although this conference is about safety and the previous one was about the knowledge economy, quality management is still in there somewhere. Also the IAS has an apparently genuine concern not to be limited by disciplines. Previously I was finding it difficult to introduce quality into the Management School approach to learning and leadership. So here again is a proposal for a paper from 2005, conference title - Re-Thinking Leadership.

"How learning centres adapt to work with the technologies around e-learning"

"Learning centres" can include any organisation concerned with learning. Leadership is one aspect of this, in the context of organisations and technology change.

The question is how leadership recognises the issues and influences the development of learning resources. These resources could take different forms over time. I would like there to be a workshop on this so these notes could be one contribution. There will be material online as background. e-learning can contribute to leadership training but probably as part of a blend.

My own experience is through working on quality so I tend to look at organisations as systems.

At previous conferences on 'Management Theory in Action' I contributed papers on ISO 9000 and on Deming. The work context has been in the printing industry and in web design, mostly with PDF. There has been rapid technical change in both areas. There will be related changes for libraries and educational organisations.

For most of the first 'Management Theory in Action' conference it was possible to talk about a 'learning organisation'. This is now mentioned less, but is still useful. Ideas such as 'followership' and 'distributed leadership' indicate that the wider context is still relevant.. Burgoyne and Jackson (1997) link 'the learning organisation' with 'total quality management' and 'business process re-engineering' as part of a 'rapid succession of...'fads',,'magic bullets'. The same sort of thing might happen in universities with 'critique' or 'leadership' as topics with their own timeline. The 'learning organisation' has been recently mentioned by Prolearn, an EU project looking at e-learning.

I think Deming emphasised the need for management involvement in a quality project because he did not want projects to be blocked once momentum had started.

The research that is most relevant for me is the area of Networked Management Learning

"Networked Management Learning takes a somewhat more circumspect view of learning than currently popular ideas of communities of practice. It is a view of learning in which dialogical construction of meaning is a basic characteristic within all communication. Collaboration and interaction supported by communications technology is probably the key-defining feature of networked management learning as a management learning and development approach."

Arguably 'dialogical construction of meaning' is only one part of management learning on the web. 'Networked Management Learning' seems to have been defined to limit it to a particular 'subjective' area. Exetreme has developed websites for the Centre for Evidence Based Social Services. Mostly this is fast access to advice documents with summaries of research. The forum aspect is little used, with almost no questioning of the advice offered.

However, it is the ‘collaboration’ features of software that are developing most quickly. Acrobat 7 makes some functions available for certain PDFs within the free Reader. I find ‘critique’ more interesting as a way of thinking about how learning happens when these sort of tools are used.

I bring this up again partly because there is a new organisation on the way in the UK that seems a bit of a mystery so far. The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) is a combination of the Quality Improvement Agency and the Centre for Excellence in Leadership. So how this will work out is unclear but somewhere someone can see a link between quality and leadership.

My impression is that leadership followed learning as a topic for academics and that quality is not seen as an academic topic as most of the theory comes from organisations. So it will be interesting to see what sort of theory and research is associated with the new project, strapline- "dedicated to development". Source for strapline, DIUS.

But there is so far no unique website for LSIS. Both previous organisations still have websites and these make a case for previous activity.

Publications on the CEL website include research papers available as PDF downloads.

Learning in the age of digital networks
Dr Chris Jones, Dr Debra Ferreday and Professor Vivien Hodgson

Why networked management learning is a useful leadership development approach in the learning and skills sector
Dr Chris Jones, Dr Debra Ferreday and Professor Vivien Hodgson

Since 2005 when these were published, digital networks are seen to include social networking sites. My take is that Web learning has a wide scope, possibly wider than some Further Education policy in the UK. So it would be interesting to look again at these papers, including quality within the scope.

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