Making Connections

OpenIt has been a fascinating twenty-four hours.
Ron Smith is responsible.
He and I spent a couple of hours yesterday afternoon working through his Work-in-Progress Seminar for his PhD candidature at the University of Canberra. I thought what he had prepared was staggering.
imagesI left the meeting thinking about Ron’s learning journey in the PhD as a shining example of a “non-traditional” entry candidate. Ron was born in 1949 and has had a lifelong involvement in football. I think his research into goal-scoring is very powerful and combines an expert coach’s eye with rigorous scholarly insight.
Within his Keynote presentation, Ron makes excellent use of ScreenFlow a screen casting software for Mac.
This morning I was reflecting on his skills and development when a whole series of serendipitous connections started forming. First up was a link to a 2011 post by Mr Kaiser, 5 technology skills every student needs before they leave high school. These skills are: manipulate pictures; write a blog; record audio tracks; create a website; make a video. Mr Kaiser observes:

the earlier students learn these skills, the more they can actually use them. These are the skills that allows students great freedom in expressing themselves in the 21st Century. Not only that, these are the skills that are increasingly valuable in the workforce.

In his About page, Mr Kaiser notes:

I am not an expert on Web 2.0 in the classroom, but I get a kick out of surfing for new technology to use in my classroom. I plan to post ideas as I come across them and hope for feedback on how others might be using the same technology. If you have a great idea or website that you would like posted on this blog, don’t hesitate to leave a comment, or email me

which seems to me to resonate with Ron’s practice. It struck a chord with a paper by Katia Perez and Oscar Torello too. In their paper they discuss digital competence and present this matrix:
During the morning, Stephen Downes’s OLDaily introduced me to a recent post by Catherine Lombardozzi, Time for an evolution. In the post, Catherine discusses her approach to learning environments and their design. She records that:

a learning environment (to my mind) is a collect of resources and activities for learning. The resources may be inanimate or human; the activities may be formal or informal. A well designed learning environment is curated with a specific need in mind. It may be curated by an individual (as in a personal learning environment), by a group (such as a community of practice), or by a designer who is supporting a specific complex need that can’t be met by training or other formal programs alone.

I followed up on one of her recent presentations and thought that these two slides were particularly helpful:
These connections today were also the responsibility of David Pears. A few days ago, David posted a request on the LinkedIn Performance Analysis Group:
I responded and today Craig Walters posted a really helpful response.
Meanwhile two separate groups have been in touch with me today about developing communities of practice. One wants to explore open access opportunities and the other wants to provide fee for service qualifications. A third group wanted to discuss how to use some of the excellent Google applications to support development coaches across Australia.
These were are remarkable serendipities but I think these are the daily issues that will face us as we explore edgeless learning opportunities within and across organisations and institutions.
I wondered during the day how all these opportunities would deliver one Ron Smith. I wondered to about what if we thought it could be a shared opportunity for all of us.
At that moment of reflection I came across an announcement by AnalysisPro:
On two occasions (1992 in Cardiff, 2002 in Canberra) I hoped to offer an agnostic learning environment where everyone could try out and learn about new hardware and software opportunities. I really like the idea of low cost access to resources and think that there will be increasing options available. In part I think the insatiable appetite for low cost apps will fuel this change.
So at the end of an exciting, neuro-physiologically challenging day, Ron, David, Mr Kaiser, Catherine and Craig led me back to thinking about open sharing of experience and its relationship to qualification and accreditation. I returned to a post I opened in a new tab this morning (seven hours ago) from The Conversation: World’s largest audio collection of animal and birdcalls released online.

Cornell University has released online the world’s largest ever digital collection of animal and bird calls, an enormous archive of recordings dating back to 1929.

It has encouraged me to think about the possibility of curating (not just aggregating) performance analysis practice as a repository for a diverse range of courses and qualifications.
Writing this post helped me frame this email to some colleagues today:
Where I am up to in my thinking …
1. There is a vital role for open access opportunities.
2. There is an evident need for a suite of industry awards as fee for service.
3. Universities must become edgeless and navigate through 1 and 2 to offer personalised learning for students who may wish to gain academic qualifications and that are open to the recognition of prior learning and or experience.
I am wondering if we can accomplish all three outcomes. In Australia we are guided by the AQF and I am thinking this gives us the opportunity to map levels and have an integrating model.
I see partnerships between universities and industry as key to the flourishing of vocational awards and embedding them in a very real tertiary education context. I think this can be a global alliance with the development of a performance analysis passport that records students’ progress.
My experience of the OpenLearning platform, the appearance of Sensei and the opportunities afforded by Drupal all point to exciting opportunities for blended learning.
I wonder if you are seeing these connections too.
Quite a day.


Shortly after posting this I received an alert from Mark Upton to a 2012 paper by Randall Bass, Disrupting Ourselves: The Problem of Learning in Higher Education. Within a thought-provoking argument for transformation, Randall observes:

we need to move beyond our old assumptions that it is primarily the students’ responsibility to integrate all the disparate parts of an undergraduate education. We must fully grasp that students will learn to integrate deeply and meaningfully only insofar as we design a curriculum that cultivates that; and designing such a curriculum requires that we similarly plan, strategize and execute integratively across the boundaries within our institutions.

Photo Credit

Picture of Ron Smith (North Pine Sports Club)


  1. I’m pleased you found the learning environment design materials helpful. The quality criteria chart is a resource that I really want to spend some more time on – I’d like to delve into research and see what other advice might be offered to make the components as effective as possible. Stay tuned.

    • Hello, Catherine
      Thank you for finding my post. A number of colleagues have commented on how helpful the charts are.
      I have really enjoyed your writings and reflections and hope it is OK to share your work in this way.
      Best wishes


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here