Creating our own spaces


It has been a fascinating week for reading and reflecting on shared links.

It started with Kurt Lindley’s exploration of social capital. In his post he discusses the sharing of stories and the emergence of trust. I think it is a great contribution to how we might connect and co-operate in learning environments. Kurt encouraged me to reflect on how prosocial learning environments can be enabled so that “social capital inheres in the structure of relations between actors and among actors” (James Coleman, 1988, p.98).

The following day an alert from Stephen Downes introduced me to Heather Ross and her discussion of open educational practices. Her literature review (2015) discusses:

  • What open education means in current contexts.
  • What problems the integration of open educational materials may help negate
  • What barriers may be impeding the adoption of such materials
  • Who the stakeholders are and what their roles are in the integration of open materials and practices.

Heather’s paper proposed a embedded case study of open educational resources (OER) in a Canadian University in order to “better understand why some instructors are adopting open educational practices while others are not at the university as the institution is facing pressure from student leaders and the provincial government to move forward on an OER initiative” (2015, 22).

A day after meeting Heather, another link from Stephen took me off to an Alan Levine post. Alan was discussing connected courses.

Alan suggests:

the ideal kind of connected course should work- just like the way the internet works, a distributed network of connections, a place that no entity owns outright, and where individuals create and own their small nodes within.

These courses can be enriched by students being physically together with teachers: “There is interaction, body language, conversations that I suggest have value. And they get the added benefit of the input of those open participants”.

Elsewhere on Clyde Street, I have referred to Alan’s use of ‘structured exposure‘. In this exposure teachers and students work together in a classroom that morphs into a studio in which students work creatively supported by teachers in shared and personal endeavour. In the process everyone is engaged in a craft environment.

Kurt, Heather and Alan had positioned me in a very good place to enjoy Maciej Cegłowski’s discussion of deep-fried data. In his wistful conclusion, Maciej shares his dream for the web “to feel like a big city”:

A place where you rub elbows with people who are not like you. Somewhere a little bit scary, a little chaotic, full of everything you can imagine and a lot of things that you can’t. A place where there’s room for chain stores, room for entertainment conglomerates, but also room for people to be themselves, to create their own spaces, and to learn from one another.

I think his article is a remarkable tour de force but the ending connected me with a week of reading and a decade of thinking about how we might work together openly to support each others as learners … entangled.

Photo Credit

Connections (Ricardo Torres Kompen, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Presence, Structured Exposure and Desire



Two years ago, Clay Shirky wrote about asking students in his class to put their laptops away. A recent Medium alert brought my attention to the post.

I had not seen it before the alert.

I have had the post open in a browser tab for two days … disappointed to have missed the original post and provoked by the content.

I am fortunate that I have had lots of driving to do at the moment to give me time to think about Clay’s points.


Clay notes:

  • The practical effects of my decision to allow technology use in class grew worse over time.
  • The level of distraction in my classes seemed to grow, even though it was the same professor and largely the same set of topics, taught to a group of students selected using roughly the same criteria every year.
  • The change seemed to correlate more with the rising ubiquity and utility of the devices themselves, rather than any change in me, the students, or the rest of the classroom encounter.

This led to Clay moving from recommending students set aside laptops and phones to requiring it.

His blog post shares evidence about attention and focus. He writes:

I’ve stopped thinking of students as people who simply make choices about whether to pay attention, and started thinking of them as people trying to pay attention but having to compete with various influences, the largest of which is their own propensity towards involuntary and emotional reaction.

He makes a powerful point with this observation:

screens generate distraction in a manner akin to second-hand smoke.

In his classrooms:

It’s me and them (the students) working to create a classroom where the students who want to focus have the best shot at it, in a world increasingly hostile to that goal.


Structured Exposure

Clay’s post disturbed me in the best possible way. It encouraged me to reflect on the importance I attach to bring your own device classrooms.

I have flipped most of my content for many years and have used classroom environments to explore how students can become produsers of this content.

My experience has been that my classes are negotiable inductions to digital scholarship and learning to deal with the perturbations that information and communications technology bring.

I took a lead from Alan Levine to change my pedagogy to address structured exposure. He defined this as “meeting in a physical space in synchronous time”.

I thought this exposure gave opportunities to deal with the presence and distraction of the devices. It seemed to me to resonate with ways we all have continuous partial attention.

My rationale for devices in my classroom has been informed by the objectives for Alan and his colleagues’ ds106 course:

    • Develop skills in using technology as a tool for networking, sharing, narrating, and creative self-expression.
    • Frame a digital identity wherein you become both a practitioner in and interrogator of various new modes of networking.
    • Critically examine the digital landscape of communication technologies as emergent narrative forms and genres.



I am hopeful that my approach to digital scholarship enables students to make choices about attention and the management of distraction.

I am always relieved when students arrive at my classes. My invitational approach offers them a choice about remote connection and structured exposure.

Kate Bowles helped me think about the space for desire to learn in my classrooms. A few months before Clay’s post, she wrote that the essence of a successful desire path

is that it represents shared decision-making between separate users who don’t formally cooperate. So a desire path is both a coherent expression of collective effort, and completely unplanned — in fact, it’s the opposite of planning. Simply, each one puts her or his foot where it feels most sensible, and the result is a useful informal path that’s sensitive to gradient, destination, weather, terrain, and built through unspoken collaboration among strangers.


It has taken me almost 500 miles of driving to compile my thoughts about Clay’s post.

It has made me acutely aware of the role I play as a meddler in students’ learning experiences.

Ultimately, I hope to be a good enough teacher to engage students in qualitative experiences that encourage them, perhaps even compel them, to engage with the ideas and resources shared openly in digital habitats.

The process has brought me closer to reflecting on a recent observation from Michael Wesch:

You can’t just think your way into a new way of living; you have to live your way into a new way of thinking.

Thank you for reading this post amidst all the distractions you face.

Photo Credits

The parsnip field home (Steve, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Times They Are A’Changing (Brett Jordan, CC BY 2.0)

It is always a miracle (Ib Aarmo, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

#coachlearninginsport: technology, data and pedagogy



Two blog posts last week set me off thinking about technology, data and coach learning.

Both posts came to me through my Medium alerts.

Mark and Audrey

Mark Upton shared his thoughts on “the use of technology and data to help people be their best in sport”. Audrey Watters discussed digital identities and the ways in which “all of us increasingly perform our identities, do our work, play our play mediated through new technologies”.

Mark made a number of excellent points. These included:

  • Any technology that enables people to connect and share on their terms, when they otherwise wouldn’t have, has great potential to facilitate learning.
  • Let the player/coach/employee/team decide what data and analysis is relevant to help them develop and get better.
  • Take care if you are using data to judge/assess/(de)select/reward/punish/compare people .

Mark’s third point raises a fundamental issue about how to support process and growth in learning environments. I share Mark’s concern with atomising performance by coding isolated behaviours in training or competition and sharing them without any reference to context and a commitment to an interdisciplinary approach to performance.

Mark’s discussion of the “psychology of data” and the attempt to control through data are well made. They support, I believe, an encouragement to develop big pictures of performance that value flow and longer-term flourishing.

I believe these are very important issues for coach educators as learning experience designers.

The connection between Mark and Audrey’s posts is the potential of technology to connect and share.

Audrey discusses “existing digitally”. She asks:

If technologies are shifting our industries – and certainly we’re told they are – then how should we, how must we respond – and respond not in the service of “industry needs” but in the service of our own needs?

She aims “to help people think through their use of digital technologies and ascertain how better they can take control of it for themselves”.

I have been thinking about coaches’ personal learning records. Audrey has extended my thinking about how these records might be shared by coaches taking responsibility for their own digital domains. In her words, “Your domain. Your space on the Web. A space you can control.”

Her point is that everything we do in a digital world creates data.


Explicit Discussion

Mark and Audrey address issues that will face coaches throughout their careers.

The availability of data means that we must be very clear about how we address this in our pedagogy … in theory and in practice.

We are part of an accelerating digital world and I am keen to explore how coach educators will support coaches’ engagement with this world.

I think this engagement is central to, rather than peripheral to, coaches’ learning journeys. It would be great to share better practice as to how this engagement is occurring or might occur.

I wonder if this might lead us to conversations about coach educators as pedagogical technologists. If so, this video (33 minutes) of a discussion between Howard Rheingold and Alan Levine might be of interest.

So too might the literature on technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) .

I am delighted that Mark and Audrey set me off on this train of thought.

Photo Credits

Speed and light (Chris JL, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Crossing the ministreet (Janne Hellsten, CC BY 2.0)