Forums and Agency

A photograph taken of a sign advertising Australia's largest living hedge maze in Bright, Victoria.

I have had a number of conversations in the last month about how online communities share ideas and practices.

My thoughts about sharing responsibility in online communities were forged in my experiences of the open, online course CCK08 and extended by the publication of Digital Habitats (2009).

In Digital Habitats, Etienne Wenger, Nancy White and John Smith discuss technology stewardship and propose this definition:

Technology stewards are people with enough experience of the workings of a community to understand its technology needs and enough experience with or interest in technology to take leadership in addressing those needs. Stewarding typically includes selecting and configuring technology as well as supporting its use in the practice of the community. (2009:25)

The keyword for me in this definition is ‘leadership’. I have tried to provide this leadership in a number of open, online courses I have facilitated. My aim has been to create an invitational environment that inducts participants into open sharing. I understand that this open sharing is not for everyone but the role of stewarding and driving a community is too important to be left to chance.

My current interests in online communities is being extended by a University’s use of Basecamp and a group of sport coaches using Edufii. Both communities appear to be flourishing with a wide range of contributors and sensitive responses to others. Both groups have peripheral participants who benefit from these exchanges.

One of the topics for conversation about forums in the last month has involved two separate organisations who point to the limited number of volunteers available to act as stewards and drivers in their online communities.

These conversations were brought into focus today in a Stephen Downes alert to a revision to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on shared agency.

The entry starts with these lines:

Sometimes individuals act together, and sometimes they act independently of one another. It’s a distinction that matters. You are likely to make more headway in a difficult task working with others; and even if little progress is made, there’s at least the comfort and solidarity that comes with a collective undertaking.

I think this relates to ideas and practices as well as tasks.

The Stanford entry encouraged me to think about shared responsibilities in forums and how an energised community might develop a ‘plural self-awareness’ that “is and is not analogous to the self-awareness each of us as individuals exhibit”.

CCK08 helped me to understand that an unequivocal commitment to a community’s flourishing is a cooperative enterprise. This commitment can be intense and needs to be shared.

I do try to contribute to community forums and believe that each of us can model a practice of engagement that peripheral participants might find appealing. I sense that stewardship is a profoundly nurturing activity that can encourage others to accept leadership as well as followership.

Each of us who has made that first step in an online community understands just how big a step it is. I am keen to promote those first steps to a ‘plural self-awareness’.

Photo Credit

The Maze (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)


Heather Hankinson has alerted me to the SWARM Conference at the University of Sydney on 30 and 31 August 2017. Link. (“Australia’s only online community management conference connects established experts with new talent for a jam packed gathering of ideas, inspiration, insights, best practices, networking and collaboration.”)


Peter Copeman is facilitating a Teaching and Learning workshop (eBreakthrough – Expanding Your eLearning Horizons) on Thursday, 28 May at the University of Canberra.

The workshop description is intended for members of staff who want to discover more ways to help students learn more effectively through the use of e-learning tools and platforms.

The workshop will provide exposure to a range of ideas and tools intended to extend pedagogical and technological horizons.

It will include sharing examples of practice from University staff involved in eLearning. Peter has asked if I would contribute to the workshop. I am delighted to do so and am really pleased to be invited.

I have prepared a Google Slides presentation for the workshop. It is available here. There are some speaker notes with the slides. I am hopeful that the images I am using from the Nationaal Archief will stimulate discussion.

These include:

How I felt after participating in CCK08

What it feels like to plan and lead an open online course


And the joy of working together to transform obstacles into opportunities.


The introductory picture to this post is meant to convey the delight at the end of an open course.

My approach to ePedagogy has been defined by my participation in CCK08 and subsequent opportunities to learn from many of those involved in that course.

It has been transformed too by my interest in correspondence as an essential component of shared learning environments. I was particularly interested in the way Stanford’s Republic of Letters project affirmed that:

The fundamentals of innovative thought haven’t changed since the 18th Century – it’s always been aggregate, filter and connect.

The great thinkers of earlier times corresponded extensively because it helped them aggregate information from a wide variety of disciplines and sources.

Once they did this, they had to be skilled at filtering the data to figure out what was useful, and then they had to connect up the filtered data to create innovative ideas.

And, of course, once they had the great ideas, they had to execute them, and then get them to spread. Even though the media that transmits the data to us are different now, aside from that, not much has changed.

I am hopeful that the point about the execution of ideas will link with Peter’s plans for the workshop. He has suggested to participants:

Exactly what else is explored will be driven as far as possible by the participants (surveyed on registration), but could include: effective online discussions; diagnostic, formative and summative assessment; alternative writing and media formats; group and peer-to peer collaborative opportunities; simulations; and peer feedback.

I will conclude my presentation with my thoughts on the concierge role we can play in supporting personal learning journeys … inspired by developments at the Tsutaya Bookstore in Tokyo.


I am looking forward to the conversations we might have about these images as triggers for eMerging pedagogy reflections and prospects.

Photo Credits

The first tour of France (Nationaal Archief, no known copyright restriction)

No help for Giusto Cerutti (Nationaal Archief, no known copyright restriction)

Buysse passing a cow (Nationaal Archief, no known copyright restriction)

Cyclists climbing over closed railway crossing (Nationaal Archief, no known copyright restriction)

The Tsutaya Experience (Indesignlive Singapore)

Blogging with WordPress


I received this alert today.


I had used other blogging platforms before WordPress but opened my account in June 2008 to blog about CCK08.


I chose the name Clyde Street as it was my home address in Mongarlowe, NSW. I thought it might connect me with all the remarkable participants in the open online course that has had such an impact on open learning..

The name has stayed with me. Six years later my WordPress tally is:


I lost my record of visitors to Clyde Street when I changed to the domain Since the change I have had visitors from:


I love writing and I love sharing.

From the first post on 3 June 2008 to this post, I have written as a personal activity. I am always surprised to find that people have visited Clyde Street and engaged with the content.

One of my hopes is that my eclectic interests in learning, teaching and performing create a treasure basket of topics and ideas.

I am keen to try out new ideas on Clyde Street. With the help of my son, Sam, I have added this week two new open source features:

I have used Vanilla for the forum as a generic resource.

I am very excited about installing Alan Levine’s ds106 Assessment Bank. I am not sure where this will take me but it has marvelous synergy with the origins of this blog and Alan’s involvement in CCK08.

I have been inspired by Stephen Downes to pursue open sharing opportunities. Many of my posts are seeded by ideas Stephen includes in OLDaily. I hope the next stage of my journey is to work even harder to create open educational resources that might be of interest or help.

I look forward to more anniversary celebrations with WordPress. This is where it all started … deciding to blog after a day in the garden.