Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Michael Newman: Dismay, Anger, Hate & Love

Having written books such as Defining The Enemy and Teaching Defiance it's no surprise that Michael Newman advocates a passionate and politically positioned role for adult educators. If we are educating to bring about social change he argues we must deal with strong emotions such as anger, hate and love. He also maintains we must acknowledge tensions in our beliefs; we may recoil from violence but we can't deny that sometimes it works to bring about change for the better. Far from being a firebrand Newman believes these strong emotions are the basis of a moral and principled approach to how we go about our role in activist and union education. He explored these ideas in a talk to union educators at the 2009 Trans Tasman Union Educators Conference in a large echoey room at Union NSW, Sydney.

Download podcast: 64kbps mp3 or 128kbps mp3

Monday, 7 December 2009

Michael Newman Aspects of Learning Podcast

Amongst the highlights of the 2009 Trans-Tasman Union Educators Conference were the two addresses from Michael Newman. Michael's talk were thought-provoking and, sometimes, controversial - in particular his comments about the place of hate in union education. Many of us found his talks inspiring and a catalyst for reflection on our practice as union educators. Many thanks to Michael for agreeing to have his talks recorded and made available on-line.

This is the first of two recordings. This talk on Aspects of Good Learning was delivered on the opening morning of the conference.

Download podcast: 64kbps mp3 or 128kbps mp3

Michael Newman Aspects of Learning

Unions On-Line Wiki

In conjunction with the workshop I co-presented at the Trans-Tasman Union Educators Conference in Sydney in November I have started a wiki as a collaborative space for union educators who are interested in supporting and encouraging on-line union engagement and activity.

The wiki is Unions On-Line. If you join you can edit and add content to the site. The principle behind the wiki is the same as the inspiration and purpose for this blog. However, I hope that the wiki format will encourage participation and collaboration amongst union educators. At the conference we utilised the wiki as a place to create a plan for an education module on introducing union members to twitter. One of the hopes I have for the wiki is that more of this type of sharing will occur. The wiki also allows for the working and philosophy of the development of education for on-line activity to be open and up for discussion. Please visit and consider joining to add your ideas.

This blog will remain as space for my musings on union education and on-line union activity.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Educating for Social Networking for Social Change

At the Australasian Union Educators Conference I'll be running a workshop on the role of union educators in educating and supporting people to utilise social networking and web tools for union activity. There are so many tools that allow people to come together on-line to discuss, debate and plan that it seems union activity and engagement should be an inevitable outcome. However, the on-line presence of many unions is flat and un-engaging, and even attempts to use Web 2.0 and social networking have often not had the pick-up or the impact we may have hoped for.

The problem may be that we just expect members to pick up these tools and use them successfully. Actually, just like any other organising we want our members to participate in, we need to have a clear purpose, develop understanding and support people's developing ability to use them if they are to be successful.

There are some particular issues to contend with - lack of web and tech skills amongst union educators, uncertainty about the involvement of educators in an area that may be seen as the doman of the webmaster, variable web access amongst members and nervousness about the lack of control over the views expressed to name a few. However, even if we can deal with these issues it still remains that we need to have a planned approach to encouraging worker engagement that is grounded in the same principles that shape our approach to union education for face to face organising.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Michael Newman

When I first started working as an educator in the union movement a colleague, Dr Joce Jesson, introduced me to a book by unionist and educator Michael Newman, The Third Contract. Over the last seven years I've returned to this book and others by Newman time and time again. Based on his experiences and observations as a union educator Newman describes the potential of union education to engage and empower in a way that I find deeply insightful and inspirational. Newman examines the relationships of power in union education and challenges educators do the same. He argues that the real power of union education is unleashed when educators adopt a radical stance envisioning the union not as the organisation they work for but as the sum of it's members. The Third Contract is a must-read for anyone working in the field of union or social change education and is available as a free pdf download from Michael Newman's website.

Michael Newman will speak at the Australasian Union Educators Conference 24-26 November 2009.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Using Video and YouTube

I've started a Union Education YouTube channel to collect togther videos that are either about, or could be used in union education. If you have suggestions of videos that could be added to the channel or ideas about how video and youtube can be utilised in union education please leave suggestions and discussions in a comment.


Monday, 20 July 2009

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Union Member Activity on Ning

NZEI is the union for school support staff in New Zealand, people like school office staff, teacher aides, librarians etc. Many of these people are very poorly paid and have limited job security, facing cuts to hours or being laid off if wages are increased. NZEI has mounted a Fair Deal campaign for support staff. A key focus of the campaign is development of member leadership and activism. This represents a considerable shift in the way the union has worked in the past - the focus on member driven activity is exciting, and challenging.

As part of the campaign a Fair Deal Ning has been set up. There is some staff input - this was particularly important at the beginning to get the ball rolling but now the bulk of the Ning members are union members. The site had a real boost when support staff participated in a day of action meaning there were plenty of photos and video to add. The focus of current comments is around support for the negotiation team bargaining the support staff collective agreement. Letting members have their head and speak out without carefully shaping the message is something very new for NZEI and is a welcome development.

I see the staff role as bring the Ning to the attention of members and showing them how to use it. It will interesting to see if the momentum can be maintained. I would be interested in hearing of other examples of unions using Nings or other similar sites and particularly the role of union staff with these.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Written Information in Union Education

This isn't so much about union education pedagogy, and may seem a little trivial, but what font do you use for written information and handouts in union education? Obviously we want things to be clear and easily read, but have you considered the impression you give, or want to give with your choice of font? I personally favour the sans serif fonts - lately I've been using Calibri, and Arial is a common fallback, but what would work best to convey the political message of union education? Not, I'd wager, Comic Sans.

Comic Sans from Sam and Anita on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Ning Ning

I was recently introduced to Ning through a community project I'm involved with. Ning is a free on-line platform for blogging and social networking. It has all the blog posting features that you'll be familiar with but combines these with a membership facility. Members can communicate directly with each other through comments, or groups can be formed where discussions can be held. The basic platform is very flexible and you can easily introduce a number of widgets and features. There is also the option to pay for additional features such as hosting on your own domain name, removing the google ads etc.

What I like about Ning is that the discussion and interaction elements are to the fore-front - much more so than on a blog. I've been looking around for an on-line platform that is about more than just reporting and would lend itself to collective engagement and I'm quite impressed with Ning so far.

I decided to take a look and see whether unions had been picking up on Ning (there's a Ning search facility). Through that I came across UnionSocialMedia.org, a network for people who want their "union to make better use of new media and communications tools". I've joined up and you'll find a badge on the sidebar if you're interested. Thee is currently a really interesting discussion about the potential of twitter for union organising and activity.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Fabulous Tools for Fabulous Folks

The opportunity that new technology opens is endless. Communications that cannot happen face to face can now be continued online, overtime, and with new and better tools for creation than the old union hall could ever muster.

The keepers of the means of production attempt to assert control over the lives of their workers by being the gateway through which all thought and expression. We must support the freedom of access to information and education in all workplaces. Starting with our own…

union blogs rocs - considering the uses of tech in union education

We could use this in a workshop setting to develop delegates/activists/organisers communication & campaign skills.

Re: Using technology in education

Yay Chris!
How enlightening! We have learnt that the union education blog spot shows us that blogs can be a tool for learning rep trainees in the following ways:
- to link to our learning reps website
- to hold uploaded videos from our courses, this will help people to remember key points from our workshops when they are doing their workbooks.
- allows us to set up a chat group so people can keep in touch after the course
- hold pictures and images from the training course,
- able to hold voice recordings of people endorsing our programme and other training eg other learning reps, employers, union leaders etc
This will allow for the learning to continue after the workshop has finished!
from the 3 women at the middle table

What About Social Networking?

There are lots of really popular social networking sites that lend themselves to collective participation and networking but many union attempts have fallen flat. Here is an introduction to social networking.

There is now also a specific union social networking site - Unionbook

Using Art in Union Education

Many educators and organisers are scared of asing members to be creative in union education. But if we can overcome our trepidation of using these techniques the outcomes can be fantastic.

Maori Experiences of Organising

more about "Maori Experiences of Organising ", posted with vodpod

Monday, 16 February 2009

Promoting Best Practice in Union Education

Over the last two years New Zealand union educators have developed a paper on best practice in union education. This addresses a number of practical issues such as preparation time, optimum numbers of participants, educator workload etc. The paper draws on the experience of educators across a number of New Zeland unions.

Now the issue is how to get unions to discuss and consider the issues raised in the paper.

Saturday, 14 February 2009


Utterli lets you share text, pics, video and audio even from your mobile phone. There's a land line calling number in Auckland. You can put a player in the sidebar of a blog like I have here, or you can subscribe to an Utterli account and have the posts turn up in your reader.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Members Can Email Directly To The Blog

In February NZ union educators come together again to discuss their work and learn from one another. Again we will look at the use of technology in union education. The theme of this session will be how we can encourage collective participation and activism through technology and the role of union educators in facilitating this. A simple way of doing this is to let selected members or activist post message directly to your blog for campaign updates, notices and sharing info. Once your blog is set up go to Settings - Email and you can set up an email posting address. Either set up individual addresses for people you want give permission to post or set up a generic address and give it to those you want to participate.
Union Education: Unearthing Seeds of Fire

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Celebrate Union Action and Success

Union members successfully make their point about at the annual Media Awards.

It's really easy to embed Youtube and other video clips into your posts. Even better record videos, upload them to youtube and embed those. Action clips from the picket, role plays in union education, vox pops or whatever else you think of.