Saturday, October 15, 2011

Can Collective Learning be mobilized to solve Wicked Problems

I’m doing the Change MOOC. In week 4, we covered collective learning. The week was very capably lead by Alison Littlejohn. The main webinar is recording is available here.

Collective learning was defined as such. “We mean how people learn through sourcing, using and making sense of the collective knowledge – the knowledge stored in people, resources, computers, networks etc. In this sense collective learning is different from ‘collaborative learning’ in that people can learn collaboratively in different configurations (such as groups, networks, etc) or can learn through direct interaction with ‘the collective.

There is a very interesting position paper to found here.

What I took away from this week of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) how useful the idea of collective learning is  away of thinking about capacity building work with networks around mental health promotion that I do. Indeed I have been seeing my current Building Resilience Interest Group BRIG project through a collective learning lens all week.

Building communities that raise resilient kids is a task that involves the skills and insights from many and the active contributions of a muitiplicity of partners. They all have many differing values, views and contributions. They are all needed to piece together a solution.

For sometime, I been thinking about my work as involving the solving of wicked problems. For this reason, I introduced the topic of the good fit of collective learning with wicked problems into the #Change11 discussion streams. It proved an topic of interest for several other #Change11 participants.

Wikipedia defined wicked problems as such:

"Wicked problem" is a phrase originally used in social planning to describe a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. Moreover, because of complex interdependencies, the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem may reveal or create other problems.”

I really like this definition because it links wicked problems with systems thinking.

A recent journal article, Conceptualizing the Challenge of Reducing Interpersonal Violence
has added to commentary on the characteristics of wicked problems in way I find very insightful.

Among the characteristics of wicked problems:
  • There is no single, definitive, or simple formulation of the problem;
  • Multiple stakeholders and participants are likely to be involved, and this leads to multiple formulations of what “really” is the problem and therefore what are legitimate or appropriate solutions;
  • The problem is not likely to be the result of an event (e.g., violence in the media) or a small subset of events but rather a set of intersecting trends that co-occur and coinfluence each other;
  • The problem is embedded in other problems, including other wicked problems (e.g., poverty, substance abuse);
  • Values, culture, politics, and economics are likely to be involved in the problem and possible strategies to address the problem;
  • There is no one solution, no single, oneshot effort that will eliminate the problem;
  • The problem is never likely to be solved;
  • Information as a basis for action will be incomplete because of the uniqueness of the problem and the complexities of its interrelations with other problems; and
  • The uniqueness of the problem means it does not lend itself easily to previously tried strategies.

Give these characteristics, wicked problems cannot be solved by a project management approach. You can’t set up a committee of experts and wham define the probems and set in train the solution and expect anything approaching progress. The NT intervention comes to mind this week as a failure as usual response to a wicked problem.

The solutions to wicked involve involve constant learning and leaders facilitate communities in this learning and in collaborative problem solving. It about coming up with a more or less coherent and shared understanding of the problems dynamics and what a solution might look like. It also about motivating, coordinating and sustaining a collective and decentralised response that emerges and evolves over  time. As we engage, with wicked problems our understanding of the problems changes as much as the problems context evolves. It’s learning as we go, growing to fit the problem.

Experts with narrow skills or a with a command control mindset are unlikely to be effective leaders in when addressing wicked problems. Evidence based practice will also be of limited relevance as every wicked problem is unique. Relationship skills are critical.  In a line, wicked problems cannot be solved with toolbox for complex problems, any more than a tyre can be changed with an orange.

When confronting wicked problems, experts need to know the limits of their expert knowledge. For that reason, I love this quote from -Laurence J. Peter:  ““Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.”

To solve wicked problems, it  takes methods and mindsets adapted to the complexity. People who can facilitate team learning in networks (collective learning) are the type of people to look forward to lead solutions to wicked problems.

We need to become people with skills and experience in addressing wicked problems. There seems to be very few experts in wicked problem solving.

Learning to master the tools around for dealing withe the complexity of wicked problems, means realising that a lot of the expertise one has is now bunk that is unlikely to work in such contexts. Quite a barrier in solving wicked problems.

I’m not saying one does not need advanced expertise to tackle wicked problems. I think you need a lot more skills and experience and ability to tackle complexity problems than merely complex problems.

The skills needed include communication, emotional intelligence, critical and creative thinking, advanced and diverse literacy, strategic thinking and system thinking. Being very handy with Web 2.0 tools and their associated pedagogies is a recently emerging skill set because they support  low cost collaboration and learning across large and diverse large networks.

I’m in agreement with one my fellow Change11 co-learners Sui Fai John Mak who blogged:
“It is so true that the more one explores about the wicked problems, the more one starts to question the assumptions behind the problems and solution”

For me I’m increasingly questioning what I learnt when I studies Health Promotion over a decade ago. Increasing I’m reading journal articles from key figures in my filed who are also rethinking our practice paradigm as they think about the complexity of many of the wicked problems we address in health promotion.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

BRIG-MOBIMOOC course- Draft Mobile Learning MHealth Project

Please comment on draft #mLearning #mhealth project- Building Resilience Interest Group BRIG using this blog post.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Health Promotion Steps to a Mobile Learning Project

As regular readers of this blog will know, I doing presently a mobile learning course MobiMOOC.

As part of this we are to think of a mobile learning project and the course facilitators have provided us with a template to fill out and a few focus questions.
1. What do you really want to do with mobile learning?
2. What should every good plan contain?
3. What are the needs/opportunities in this area?

This blog post was based on a Mindmap I made using the Spicynodes tool last week. It covers mainly question 2 -What should every good plan contain?

I think there needs to tentative and reiterative series of tasks beginning with community engagement and strategy invention, moving through implementation and ending with a range of evaluation/reflection tasks that then inform future planning. 

You can view and move through the Mindmap by clicking on the direction arrows.

To me the pre-occupations of health promotion are manifest in the steps outlined in the Mindmap by :
  • A focus on capacity building rather than health education about health or illness topics.
  • An extensive engagement and co-invention with people who are members of the intended  'target group'. 
  • An assumption that it all might be a dumb idea unless proven otherwise. This  sceptical outlook comes with my commitment to evidence based practice. Mobile Learning or Mobile Health is too new to be a proven Health Promotion approaches.
  • There is a good deal of focus on marketing. In health promotion, we work with people out in the world and just letting them now about a opportunity can be a major task. 
  • A sense that we are making choices that are based on consultation, data and best practice principles as well on consideration of technology issues.
  • A suspicion that IT can be risky and that these risks needs to be actively managed.
  • Planning and preparation but a willingness to be adaptable to learned needs.
I have not put in the usual health promotion obsessions of formulating SMART Objectives, Key Performance Indicators (KPI) a detailed budget and specific timelines. I have done this because I think starting and sustaining an electronic community of practice  does not meet the criteria of  defined project with definite set of tasks. It is an emergent undertaking that needs to be allowed to take it own form rather than be guided by the pre-ordained strategies of the project manager.

I plan to use low cost no cost tools. Thus the main budget component is staff time and that will unfold as the community of practice emerges.

This project sees the network of people in the education/health/human services as a complex adaptive systems and the problem of improving social and emotional wellbeing and resilience as wicked problems. The tools and methods proposed fit this mental model.

I have been infleunced in my thinking by the following publications on wicked problems:

Wicked Problems, Knowledge Challenges, and Collaborative Capacity Builders in Network Settings
Tackling Wicked Problems A Public Policy Perspective

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    Mobile Tools-Like a child in a candy shop- I want them all

    I enrolled in a course called mobiMOOC and as part of week one activities we were asked to “Pick one of the following mLearning tools: qr-codes, pictures taken via mobile device, movies via mobile device, ... and show us how you would use it for learning ... with a mobile device”

    Like a child in a candy shop- I want them all. I can’t see the point of just picking one of the tools. 

    I was thinking how these could be used in health promotion.

    My thinking as health promotion professional is concerned with increasing social capital, social connectiveness and to draw inactive people into a more active life.

    My target would be people in a socially disadvantaged areas. I'm thinking of trying to lure the physically inactive by easy increments into be physically active.  To reach this group, I will not be using any words that suggest the dreaded E words- exercise or exertion. I will using the F word - FUN.

    I suspected I would make a simple Youtube type video to invite people to form small teams to participate in a localised scavenger hunt. Family teams from work places and teams where people went to get to know people would also be encouraged.

    I would start out use these movies with social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to invite people to a scavenger hunt. I would also advertise the event and the Facebook events page with handbills, posters in local shops and poststops. The event would be locality based.

    In terms of the scavenger hunt, I think you could use QR codes (Quick Recognition Codes) for clues, SMS or SNS posts and mobile pictures as evidence of being at a place at a time, I would also use QR codes for motivation messages about being involved in community organisations and suggesting ways of being more active. Such an event would fit well with the Swap It Don’t Stop It health promotion campaign my government and employer is supporting at the moment.

    Other QR codes could include information on other locality subjects such as  geography, or history or natural features or about sun safety.

    Mobiles phones could also perhaps be used to crowdsource hunt sites or clues. This would be part of the community engagement around the event.

    Some may struggle to see this as learning project. It about learning that getting out and about in the neigborhood is FUN. It about getting to know good places to walk or connect with people in a locality.

    The FUN  key element would be the gamification and prizes from local businesses.

    This intervention  also draws upon the behaviour modification ideas of BJ Fogg  drawing on his purple pathway.

    The course has also asked us think about  this question: What is the main concern for my mLearning project is devising is provoking and sustaining active participation for a core group of sufficient size and variety to support learning in the learning lurkers After all this is the main group, population wise.

    My planning for mobile learning is not so much concerned about the ‘have’s” and the “have nots”. I fee confident from the data I’ve seen and the way our mobile market works, that in Australia that the take up of smart phones will become very widespread in a  few years time. I have been influenced by Craig Lefebvre thinking. Craig Lefebvre thinking that talks a division between the have now and the have not yet. Now is time to reinvent our work models, not the obsess about social exclusion.

    It's the ideas that excite me not the mobile tech

    I’m suspect I’m getting reputation among my health promotion/public health colleagues as being a bit of tech head. I think they like the idea of having someone around who seems to be into the new stuff just in case they ever need to find out about.

    While I have always get on well with computers and ITC, I no guru. I find the thought  of being seen as a one as quite amusing.

    Here is the truth. I am not a tech head-mobile guru.

    In reality, I struggle to access mobile tools. My workplace has not been an early adopter and my personal budget constraints limiting my purchase of mobile devices.

    At this stage, I mostly just dreaming about what is fast becoming possible because of
    really fast Internet, a skilled public and mobile devices that are rapidly becoming cheaper to buy and connect.

    Personally, I expect to purchase a high-end android mobile phone soon. Because it will need to offer great regional coverage. (In Australia this means it works with the phone company with best regional coverage and has a Blue Tick.) This points towards the Motorola Defy as being the optimal device for my needs. Also give my history of killing a succession phones in water, it water proofing feature is highly valued.

    The good regional coverage that comes with phone is a critical selection criteria given where I live and work in regional Australia. It is also an important we plan latter this year to run our lives for four months via phones and other mobile devices as we do a camping tour of rural and remote Australia. On this trip I want to use mobile blogging as way of keeping touch with my seven year old class and their families and wider friends by a travel blog. This will help learn about good places to visit on our trip and help my daughter learn about mobile tools.

    So far because of my access to technology, my mlearning has been limited.

    Surprising on reflection, I find the two mobile learning devices important to me has been a cheap MP3 player and CDRom burner.

    I use the MP3 device listen to podcasts while doing my 40 minutes walk to and form work. The CDRom burner has been important as I can listen to audio of lectures ect while on work related long drives around my region. I prefer this to driving for hours with earplugs in. Listening while driving is one advantage rural and remote workers have in terms of access to learning. In both cases, MP3 files coverts otherwise wasted time has become valuable learning time. Personally I enjoy listening to audio talks and I have very good recall. I suspect it is preferred learning style.

    All am is a person who is a whole lot excited and little bit scared about the potential of the changes in the internet with truly fast internet and with mobile access.

    A small part of me fears that these technologies my do to health promotion what the Personal Computer  did to the typing pool. But mostly I feel excited the new ideas more so that the tech. What excites me the poteitnal reach of the new tools and how they can be scaled up.

    What excites me is idea like personal learning networks (PLNs) and connectivism not computer chips and new screen interfaces. Electronic CoPs not new release operating systems.

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    We have always had mobile learning tools-why all the fuss NOW?

    I have been going through some of the Mobimooc Week one wiki materials and am contemplating this Sunday morning, why all the fuss about mobile learning NOW

    Pen on Paper by nate archer
    Pen on Paper, a photo by nate archer on Flickr.

    I've used pen and paper & books all my life as highly effective mobile learning tool all my life. What tools, expectations and capacities are converging now that surround mobile learning with such a buzz.

    We here is a confused list of what comes to my mind in:

    • Smart phones fulfil a vision of every one carrying pads that I recall from the early days of personal computers. They are bit ‘Star Trek’ and are media favourite.
    • We also have better internet, WiFi and mobile phone systems. They are faster and cheaper and have better coverage.
    • The massive growth and familiarity and fun nature of social media like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube and many many more Web 2.0 tools.
    • The innovators of mobile learning are getting somewhere. It takes long time for an idea to come from the margins and it has been a long time. They are overcoming resistance. Kind off-if your still on about that after all these years-then maybe there is something in that.
    • We have many people who are completely comfortable with the internet and Web 2.0. This means mobile learning innovators can shift from talking about “What is going to be  possible with mobile learning” to talking about “What we are going to do.”
    Also for my own part, I encountered Connectivism ideas last year. And that really excited my thinking. I encountered the ideas as a loose golden thread that being curious I just pulled on and pulled on.

    I think are Connectivism ideas really exciting and seem to fit with the ways knowledge moves these days. I could see immediately how they might fit with the capacity building for health promotion work I was seeking to do.

    So last on my list, I would theory development and other mindshifts as making NOW a time when mobile learning takes off. These ideas are as important aspects of technological development as important as the hardware/software.

    I’m aware that this list represents my view from my region in a first world country and from my position as a health promotion officer who is positioned outside of the eduction and school system.

    Why I am joining a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Mobile Learning

    I have joined the MobiMOOC course. This follows up on the Facilitating Online Course I did in 2010.

    MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. Here is short video explanation of a MOOC.

    The MoboMOOC will have many participates from all other the world and from many backgrounds. It is now only day two of the course and already several hundred have signed up. The course is open and online. And it is a course.
    The subject is on mobile learning. I like the idea of learning and I think it sits well with health promotion focus on capacity building. There is also a buzz around mobile health (or #mhealth).
    I suspect that the coming of smart phones will be disruptive technology to health promotion/public health/community health. Elsewhere in this blog, I have called this Public Health 2.0 /Health Promotion 2.0.
    For the past 18 months, I been excited by potential of mobile devices to transform what is possible in health promotion practice. Health promotion has been defined as the "the process of enabling people to increase control over their health and its determinants, and thereby improve their health".
    I have been developing some project ideas and funding submissions and developing my networks. I will write more about these some of these ideas in future blog posts. Some have stalled from lack of funding and some are moving ahead.
    What I find most exciting about mobile health is not so much the gadgets but the theory around how to use them and what it means for collaborate with others to solve important social and health problems.
    What is want to learn is how to use new Web 2.0 tools and mobile devices to build capacity to promote health  in networks of educational, human and health services.
    I will learn that in part from continuous learning, in part hopefully from this course's materials  and from the unfolding connections I hope to make with the learning resources and people I encounter via this course.