Working Together

Last year I wrote a large number of posts about personal learning. Towards the end of the year I started to think about how spaces provide opportunities to connect personal learning. This year I am hoping to develop these ideas about Commons spaces. I hope too to explore how we talk about and write about these spaces.

My first post for 2011 is about collective intelligence. Back in September, 2010, Science published a paper by Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris, Alex Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone titled Evidence for a collective intelligence factor in the performance of human groups. The authors noted that:

In two studies with 699 people, working in groups of two to five, we find converging evidence of a general collective intelligence factor that explains a group’s performance on a wide variety of tasks. This “c factor” is not strongly correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group.

The ACA Wiki observes of this study that:

c was correlated with the average social sensitivity of the group and in the equality of term turn-taking as measured through socio-metric badges in the group. It was also correlated with the proportion of females in the group although OLS regressions implied that this was because females were more likely to take turns an to be more socially sensitive.

I was intrigued by the mention of socio-metric badges in this report and discovered from a paper by Benjamin Waber and Sandy Pentland that these badges are capable of:

  • Recognizing common daily human activities (such as sitting, standing, walking, and running) in real time using a 3-axis accelerometer.
  • Extracting speech features in real time to capture non-linguistic social signals such as interest and excitement, the amount of influence each person has on another in a social interaction, and unconscious back-and-forth interjections, while ignoring the words themselves in order to assuage privacy concerns.
  • Performing indoor user localization by measuring received signal strength and using triangulation algorithms that can achieve position estimation errors as low as 1.5 meters, which also allows for detection of people in close physical proximity.
  • Communicating with Bluetooth enabled cell phones, PDAs, and other devices to study user behavior and detect people in close proximity.
  • Capturing face-to-face interaction time using an IR sensor that can detect when two people wearing badges are facing each other within a 30°-cone and one meter distance.

Larry Irons has an interesting discussion of this work in his post Gossip, Collaboration and Performance in Distributed Teams.

There are some very important privacy issues in using these badges. Benjamin and Sandy discuss them in detail in Reality Mining. I would be very happy to wear such a badge as art of my daily working environment. I am keen to discover how working together in real spaces might add to working together in virtual spaces.

There will be some interesting opportunities for me to explore collective intelligence in 2011. At the University of Canberra I will be able to work in a number of shared spaces and explore the emergence of pedagogy and practice. In cyberspace I hope to participate in a number of massive open online courses (MOOC) including Learning Analytics and Knowledge, and Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2011,

Some colleagues from an earlier MOOC (CCK08) have provided some fascinating insights into MOOC behaviour. Recently Lisa Lane discussed a spectrum of MOOC design. Jenny Mackness has been exploring connectivism and lurking. Carmen Tschofen has been helping me understand situated learning and ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ (and led me to this infed blog post about communities of practice).

My participation in Commons spaces will be guided as it has been for the last three years by Stephen Downes and George Siemens. They act as wonderful compasses for me. Dave Cormier has some advice too in his YouTube MOOC video:

What an exciting year ahead!

Talent and Giftedness

I have written a great deal in this blog about the impact CCK08 had upon my thinking and practice. Recently I had an opportunity to catch up with one of my on-line companions from CCK08, Carmen Tschofen. We came together to discuss talent and giftedness. Our conversation drew upon some exchanges we had during CCK08 and subsequently after I wrote this post about nature and nurture.

I was fascinated to learn from Carmen about the Lighthouse Program in Minnesota (some background information here). A Lighthouse Program student is:

  • In possession of an insatiable curiosity
  • Drawn to complex ideas
  • Comfortable with ambiguity in learning
  • Self–directed in learning
  • Eager to learn the practice of experts from discipline
  • Capable of working effectively with team members
  • Capable of a sustained focus to resolve questions
  • Recognized as highly able in performance, as well as, potential
  • Currently 7-18 years of age
The Lighthouse Program comprises:
  • Accelerated pace of learning
  • Non graded, multi-aged grouping
  • Integrated curriculum
  • Opportunities for On-line Learning
  • Opportunities to experience the practices of experts
  • Depth of study in complex Inquiry
  • Student focused learning
  • Teacher/facilitator focused on students’ learning
  • Connections to rigorous high school options
  • Collaborative and Competitive Opportunities

Meeting Carmen and her colleagues gave me a wonderful opportunity to explore and reflect on generic issues around talent and gift that had prompted me to write about performance and share some early ideas about the identification process.

Our conversation used Elluminate and this is a recording of our hour-long exchange that linked early morning Australia and lunchtime Minnesota.

During that time we discussed:

2:40 Supporting and defining talent on an individual basis

5:15 The role of personal volition/motivation/environment

8:30 The importance of allowing time for self-discovery and play

14:30 On being the same/being different

20:00 The meaning of growth potential and potential triggers for growth

23:10 Resilience, persistence, and the issues with electronic entertainment

27:50 Understanding personal talent development through biography and narrative

30:30 Who guides talent development?

33:40 Values and ethics in coaching and mentoring

36:10 The “Birth Year Effect,” the development of talent over time, and “the system”

40:00 Relationships and life lessons

43:00 The role of deliberate practice, the problem of instant gratification, and computer games

48:35 The difficulties of “elite performer” lifestyles, the problems with shallow praise

51:50 Extrinsic rewards and the issues of ownership and autonomy

54:00 Self-ownership and self-accountability

I really enjoyed the hour I spent with Carmen and her friends. It was quite difficult to go back to bed (4 a.m.) after such a stimulating conversation. I am hopeful that this is the start of a close link with the Lighthouse Program. Sport has a great deal to learn from innovative educators within and beyond its cultural contexts.

I am convinced that any approach to talent and gift must have a profoundly personal focus that celebrates learning biographies. I am keen to explore the interrelationship between context and opportunity that can permeate personal stories.

Photo Credits


Girls skipping at an athletics carnival