FreakoutITGeek's Blog

Random IT postings from Freakz

Category Archives: Open University

Think Different

Many people know the phrase ‘think different’ from Apple’s successful advertising campaign. It’s still something that I associate Apple with today, from their continuous strive to push technology and design forward to things as simple as their Apple Stores.

Apple does what *it* thinks are the best things to do, not what the industry, press or public think and that makes it what it is today.

Now I’ve already gone off on a tangent.

This post is really about something that I’ve felt for a long time. It probably started at the latter stages of primary school, into high school and is a part of my life every day, however I never realised it’s impact until I did my Open University degree.

To me, thinking different is something everyone does whether they realise it or not. Whilst, as a teenager, I decided not to be a sheep and follow what everyone else did and instead decided to do the things I was interested in ( sometimes for the better, or worse) it wasn’t until two of the courses on systems thinking touched on the concept of ‘world view’ that I started seeing the power of not just empathy but in trying to see things from other people’s vantage point.

Now this may sound a bit basic, but consider how a child sees the world, with their basic understanding of their environment learnt from exploration, trial and error, with their environment as their teacher ( and yes that environment includes other people such as friends, family, neighbours, teachers etc.. all with differing views, values, skills, knowledge & dare I say it their hangups, issues and problems). To a child everything is new, an exciting, never ending, constantly changing world of learning. Their view is unlimited but it has some constraints in the form of what they can see (their access to or view of [due to height, locks or physical barriers]), hear and gain access to (sometimes for their own protection).

Now consider an adult in the same situation, they have gone through the education system and been taught the rules of life, what to do, what to say, how to act, warned of the dangers and learnt to be cautious. Their view is restricted by that teaching, their values, their Environment (work, money, education, religion, laws, rules, beliefs)

OK I think I’ve gone too far too fast. Lets bring this back. let’s consider a simple example.

Identical twins are looking at a scenic garden from a terrace. The garden is divided into sections by hedging. If one of those twins is standing on a box or something which makes the whole garden viewable, their view will be more enjoyable (assuming you like gardens) than their twin who can only see a small section, with their view restricted by the hedge(s).

So what I’m saying is that people are affected by their life experiences or ‘world view’ (There is a German word for this but I could never remember it from the courses ).

So everyone lives different lives, have different experiences, see things from different angles and no one can truly share or know what you know, you are unique. And so is everyone else.

I realised this in high school but life got in the way and I think I lost that insight until I studied those OU courses.

So once you know this info, what’s the use?

Well if you realise that your view on something is not the same as someone else, I hope that you would realise that in order to help people you have to realise that you need to try and understand their viewpoint first.

This involves finding out more about them, why they feel the way that they do, what lead them to this feeling and what they need from you in order to satisfy whatever need it is that have come to you to have satisfied.

This may sound a bit weird, but if you think about it everyone needs something from someone else. Whether it be help from a doctor, friend or work colleague. Goods from a shop. A service from a company. Or the other way round a customer, friend, colleague, family member that is looking for something from you: help, a person to talk to, an item, time or something else.

So what I’m saying here is please don’t judge others, learn from them, engage with them, find out their ‘world view’ and your world may just turn out a tiny bit better.

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My time studying with the OU in Scotland

On Saturday the 20th April 2013, I took part in the final stage of my six year journey with the Open University in Scotland when I attended my Graduation at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh with 100s of other students lucky enough to have managed to successfully complete their studies.

The experience was surreal, with a big wait between getting my gown & the start of the ceremony (that I probably could have avoided, to be honest), an amazing ceremony with loads of other students’ friends and family, before a mad rush for the photos at the end, culminating in a delicious meal with my family before heading home.

My time with the OU has been a roller coaster ride, starting at the bottom with my first level 1 course, up until I struggled (due to family issues) to complete my final course/module, submit the required final coursework whilst trying to revise for my final exam.

From time to time (although rare) I have had conflicts with lecturers, but on the whole I always attempted to attend any locally (Glasgow or Edinburgh) organised lectures to meet with the lecturer and other students. These lecturers were always beneficial to discuss differing views on the course/module, get some help from the lecturer, obtain a better understanding of what was needed or the more complex concepts and just to generally meet my fellow students and lecturer.

The conflicts I mention appear to be more with issues which were caused by courses being discontinued or amended as three separate faculties of Maths, Technologies and Computing merged and to become a more standardised unit, able to cope with the upcoming challenges that all universities face nowadays. The lecturers themselves were approachable, helpful and knowledgeable and I am glad for all their assistance, dedication and time throughout my Degree.

My studies were self funded and I held down a full time IT support role whilst juggling my studies, sometimes studying over Xmas and holidays ( Summer Holiday Alton Towers visit with my Nice & Nephew just before an Tutor Marked Assessment – I was behind my personal schedule) when required. Juggling courses, Assessments (sometimes, alternating between two courses, every fortnight) and revising for exams became common practice after a while and my wife became what is jokingly called an ‘OU widow’ as I swapped from work life to study life with only a little of any other life to spare for her, friends and other family.

Life has since returned to ‘normal’ but I can understand how studying via the OU can become addictive for some and a strain on relationships for others.

Since completing my degree I have been contacted, via LinkedIn, by various organisations who have offered me roles and I am constantly looking to the future with a greater sense of optimism than I previously had. After many years of working in IT support roles, helpdesk and retail shop roles (even, to my shame, a few sales roles), I now find that the offers I receive are more in line with my personal goals and I feel more confident rejection offers that I don’t feel are a good fit with my career goals. I have even gone as far as turning down roles, I may have previously taken, because the organisation conflicts with my personal beliefs or my feelings about the organisation ( ie grey & dull banking roles, Sky [I don’t support the Murdoch empire ], Any organisation related to military, animal cruelty, etc)

I’m glad that I took the time (and money) to take the leap into returning to studying and I am grateful of the support of friends, family, all the OU (and OU Student’s Association) staff and my wife, without whom I don’t think I would have done as well as I have.

I would recommend studying with the OU to anyone considering it as it’s life changing.