Edging to Open Learning in Open Spaces

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Ballarat to discuss Edgeless Challenges and Opportunities. I have been thinking a great deal about learning spaces and the function (rather than the form) of the university of late. In part these thoughts have been stimulated by the University of Canberra’s development of teaching and learning commons.

This week I have been overwhelmed by the number of connections I am finding in relation to open learning and sharing. Some of these connections include:

many universities have an educational technology department that is focused on PD. Research institutes devoted to understanding the intersection of education, technology, systemic reform, and pedagogy are less rare. Several years ago, Phil Long (CEIT) and I discussed the need for a collaborative network of research labs/academies/institutes that were focused on researching learning technologies, not solely on driving institutional adoption. Perhaps it’s time to revisit that idea.

  • Discovering A.K.M. Maksud’s 2006 paper The Nomadic Bede Community And Their Mobile School Program after listening to an interview with Irene Khan. Boat schools bring a different perspective on edgeless learning opportunities and mobile learners. (Sharing this paper with a colleague brought me Simon Shum and Alexandra Okada’s paper Knowledge Cartography for Open Sensemaking Communities (2008) from the Journal of Interactive Media in Education and from another colleague Kenn Fisher’s discussion of Mode 3 Learning: The Campus as Thirdspace.)

  • Finding Cisco’s paper (June 2010) on Hyperconnectivity through a Diigo link. Hyperconnectivity is defined as:

active multitasking on one hand, and passive networking on the other. Passive networking consists largely of background streaming and downloading. Ambient video (nannycams, petcams, home security cams, and other persistent video streams) is an element of passive networking that opens up the possibility for the number of video minutes crossing the network to greatly exceed the number of video minutes actually watched by consumers.

  • In the past year, the Cisco paper notes that:

it has become clear that visual networking applications are often used concurrently with other applications and sometimes even other visual networking applications, as the visual network becomes a persistent backdrop that remains “on” while the user multitasks or is engaged elsewhere. This trend accompanies what is sometimes called the widgetization of Internet and TV, as network traffic expands beyond the borders of the browser window and the confines of the PC.

Traditional approaches to community regeneration which define communities in solely geographic terms have severe limitations. They often failed to deliver on key social capital improvements such as improving trust between residents or fostering a greater sense of belonging.

In this report we argue for a new approach to community regeneration, based on an understanding of the importance of social networks, such an approach has the potential to bring about significant improvements in efforts to combat isolation and to support the development of resilient and empowered communities.

  • Noting in Harold Jarche’s post Innovation through network learning that he now takes for granted his “network learning processes, using social bookmarking; blogging and tweeting, and these habits make collaboration much easier”. He observes that:

However, these habits and practices have taken several years to develop and may not come easily to many workers. One difficult aspect of adopting network learning in an organization is that it’s personal. If not, it doesn’t work. Everybody has to develop their own methods, though there are frameworks and ideas that can help.

All this before I started exploring the treasure trove that arrives in my in box each day from Stephen Downes! Early on in the week I noted Stephen’s comment on Education and the Social Web: “A theory of connections can’t be just about forming connections; it has to be about the organization, shape and design of networks of connection, patterns of connectivity. And to me, this means that we need to design learning systems to meet personal, not political, social or commercial, objectives.” Later in the week in a discussion of two MOOC posts, Stephen suggests that: “It’s about attitude and approach. If you’re looking for someone to tell you how it works, you will find a MOOC confusing and frustrating. But if you take responsibility for your own learning, you will find any connection in a MOOC either an opportunity to teach or an opportunity to learn. No instructions necessary.”

This week has underscored for me the rich possibilities that can occur in shared spaces. My thoughts keep returning to Dharavi and the opportunities for personal wayfinding in shared spaces that afford a collective, connected experience too. I am very hopeful that the University of Canberra’s Commons ideas can stimulate innovative use of place, space and time and lead to an exciting edgy practice.

Photo Credits

Kaptai Lake

Hole in Wall

Moodle on the Move

Postscript

A day after posting this I received a link to a delightful flash mob video. I wondered if open learning spaces might stimulate this kind of event.

Other Links

2nd Annual Learning Commons Development and Design Forum, 30-31 March 2011, Brisbane.

  • Learning Commons strategy and organisational structures
  • Planning and design
  • Case studies and best practices
  • Digital information and technologies
  • Online resources

Association, Aggregation and Acknowledgement

Introduction

In the last year I have been exploring how a connectivist approach to sharing information might support the flourishing of digital communities of practice in sport. In this post I:

  1. Signal the development of an International Content Partnership in high performance sport.
  2. Note discussions about the role an International Association for Sports Information (IASI) can play in a connected world.

I hope that both these items will help me explore association, aggregation and acknowledgement as important attributes of adopting a connectivist approach to learning. (I like Etienne Wenger, Nancy White and John Smith’s (2009) approach to learning in this context: “We see learning as an integral part of life. Sometimes it demands an effort; sometimes it is not even our goal. But it always involves who we are, what we do, who we seek to connect with, and what we aspire to become.

George Siemens (2004) has identified some key principles of connectivism. These principles frame my understanding of how we might build self-organising groups interested in the sharing of information (see, Stephen Downes (2007)). In a connectivist aproach:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality.

In the next part of the post I will share some information about an emerging partnership in high performance sport.

International Content Partnership

Richard Young (Technology, Research and Innovation, SPARC, New Zealand) is developing an international content partnership with its foundation in HP Sport.

New Zealand has developed a knowledge capture and collaboration website that has been operational in its present form for nine months. It was set up for New Zealand coaches and athletes and restricted international access.  However, after a short period of time New Zealand opened access to the website and membership grew to twenty-four countries.  The site developers were surprised by the interest in and by the quality of contributions from people unconnected with New Zealand high performance sport.

As a result of this interest the developers decided to take the next step and connect to other countries that may be facing the same issues and who may see benefit in a common location for non-secret, useful information. An international contribution platform could serve as a high caliber resource making it faster to find information that is publicly available or repeated across a number of countries. This information would include, for example, conference video, keynote speaker interviews, research papers, calendar events and world championship results. This information could be accessed (uploaded or linked) through any partnered site.

Richard has invited those interested in the partnership to join (www.hpsport.com) and have a look at the content and functionality of the site. The intention is that it will operate as an independent site built for the global high performance community.

At present there is no agreed structure to this collaborative initiative. It is a dynamic system that will be developed by partners who see the potential of volitional involvement in the processes of association, aggregation and acknowledgement.

I am involved with the International Association for Sports Information (IASI) too. At present this organisation is exploring its role and relevance in a digital community of shared information. In the next part of the post I want to use three exchanges about the place of IASI to further my consideration of association, aggregation and acknowledgement.

IASI

The first contribution comes from a new member of the IASI Steering Group. This member wrote as follows:

The purpose of my email is to ask questions I have and, in some way, to put one’s foot in one’s mouth. Things are getting confused about the ex-IASI…

Indeed, as I understood, IASI was disbanded in 2009. The reasons why are not quite clear to me. Maybe the reason was the lack of candidate for presidency. In that case, we should wonder why there was no candidate.

A steering group was then created and supposed to discuss the situation one year later and decide whether it was worth continuing or not. One has to admit that nothing really happens during this period, not even on the Ning platform that was dedicated to the discussion.

Well, I wondered why. Perhaps the IASI is not necessary anymore. Maybe the elite sport context is nowadays too competitive and countries are not eager anymore to share information about… information !

So I think the real question is : are we ready to group and share information about the way we work ? maybe bilateral exchanges are easier and more adequate.

Admitting we meet next year, what are we ready to communicate on?

I need to clarify the situation before taking the decision about the possible need of a meeting. I hope you will understand my initiative and accept the debate.

A member of the IASI Steering Group responded a few days later:

The email raised several questions which are really crucial to discuss before putting more effort into a possible future of a body designated to support international cooperation and communication in our field of expertise. The questions put forward have been waiting for reliable and sustaining answers for several years.

When IASI was discontinued in Canberra in 2009 that decision was only the final point of a development which we had experienced for a couple of years.

When the email arrived I thought (again) that would be a good starting point to discuss what the different elite sport research institutions and the information/documentation/communication specialists in our field consider worth working for by means of international cooperation.

My position is clear. As a first step I am really interested in international discussion and communication on what we think could and should be done for our major clients – the coaches and the scientific support staff working together with them. And because we are all living in the same world of international elite sport smart experts “see” the same problems and “see” similar solutions (in agreement with the basic national approach in elite sport). So my intention (still) is to initiate international communication on national solutions, discussion on possible international contributions, readiness to present these approaches to colleagues. Of course, we are also in a competitive position as we are working for our national elite sport, but that should not prevent us from talking about what we consider reasonable and effective to serve our clients. That does not mean that we open up all our national doors to everybody, but we have a lot to learn from each other.  And I am convinced that we are not yet faced with such kind of competitiveness that would prohibit those international contacts.

By the way, many of our “mother” institutions are members of the International Association of High Performance Sports Training Centres and have a regular cooperation there (my institute joined that international association only a couple of months ago). So the management of our institutes obviously consider a membership in that association worthwhile (maybe this association might also be or become a framework for international contacts in our field of expertise).

I cannot see any bigger difference between several bilateral contacts (with Tokyo, Magglingen, Canberra or Paris, which I am happy to have very good contacts with) and multilateral/international contacts. Only the latter, for me, is more effective and more interesting.

For me the most critical point in the email was the willingness of institutions and persons to contribute, which obviously is very limited.  I absolutely agree that we need to understand if there is a “content” for international cooperation and if we have or would like to develop “methods” of international communication and cooperation in information/documentation/communication in elite sport and elite sport research. Is the missing discussion on that topic an expression of no need for international communication and cooperation? If the answer is yes, it would be of no use to put more effort into a revitalisation of an international association.

In the months since the Canberra decision to discontinue IASI I step by step have understood that a well established organisation as IASI needs more input to live.

So even though the last year has not just been encouraging, I am not yet willing to accept that the need for resp. interest in international contacts within the formal framework of an international organisation is vanishing. That has also been the major reason to offer international information and communication experts in elite sport and elite sport research a forum to meet and discuss next year in Leipzig, but, honestly speaking, today I do not really expect a huge interest in this “event”.

To sum it up, I am less convinced today that there is a real future for IASI, but I am really convinced that there is a need for international exchange and communication.

In a third email, the coordinator of the IASI Steering Group wrote in response to the first email from a new member:

Thank you for being forthright and honest in your email. I agree with your observations concerning the confused status of the International Association for Sports Information (IASI).

IASI experienced a technical dissolution in 2009 due to a combination of factors. It is my view that these factors include:

  • the global financial crisis and subsequent contraction of national sport (sport library, research and travel) budgets
  • IASI’s failure (as a group) to respond to a global paradigm shift in the way information and knowledge is shared;  and,
  • the membership’s unwillingness to commit to more of the same.

The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) remains committed to international collaboration in all areas of sport and active recreation. I believe there is a need and place for a revitalised IASI today more so than ever before. It is my hope that IASI will reform with a genuinely committed membership – that is a membership willing to make a contribution beyond simply attending annual meetings that conclude with no real outcomes.

In the meantime, I intend to review (and possibly upgrade) our site at:  http://sportinfo.ning.com/ The purpose of establishing this site in May 2009 was to ensure the organisation and its members continued to have some form of international  connectivity and visibility.

It is a ‘lifeboat’ of sorts. At this stage we are considering implementing two levels of membership on the site – an open membership level for all sport information enthusiasts, and a closed and much smaller membership group for key international IASI partners (i.e. those progressive members who are prepared to make a genuine contribution to IASI). I am keen to receive the Steering Group’s guidance here.

Additionally, we continue to maintain the IASI Listserv. However, I plan to decommission this in the near future and will encourage anyone who wants to stay connected to move to the Ning site. The future (or no future) of IASI is really in our hands.

I applaud you for raising these very relevant and timely questions with this group.

Discussion

News of an international content partnership and the attempts to revitalise IASI are both important signposts for me about the need to find connectivist approaches to sharing and supporting in sport.

My position is that a community of practice is sustainable with voluntary effort, drive, energy and passion. I like Etienne Wenger, Nancy White and John Smith’s (2009) vision of and for technology stewarding. ‘Technology stewards’ are individuals who take responsibility for a community’s technology resources for a time. 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. (Etienne Wenger, Nancy White and John Smith’s (2009, page 25).

I do think that people do have a finite amount of energy to give. The appeal of a connectivist approach for me is that “learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources”. My hope is that a community has sufficient awareness of its constituency so that it is possible for stewardship to pass to others, from node to node.

I am hopeful that the International Content Partnership and IASI can find stewards for their work. From my perspective association, aggregation and acknowledgement are keystones of non-zero sum approaches to learning.

The more complex societies get and the more complex the networks of interdependence within and beyond community and national borders get, the more people are forced in their own interests to find non-zero-sum solutions. That is, win–win solutions instead of win–lose solutions…. Because we find as our interdependence increases that, on the whole, we do better when other people do better as well — so we have to find ways that we can all win, we have to accommodate each other…. (Bill Clinton)

I do believe that the competitive edge in sport is to share and collaborate. I see this as the way for sport to remain relevant. I think sports information can lead the way in this sharing … if we can connect our energy and passion.

Photo Credit

Scaffolding Sculpture

Scaffolding

Blue Scaffold

Help

Personal Learning

Web Source

I have had a wonderful opportunity to explore personal learning in my new role at the University of Canberra. There are so many colleagues at the University keen to discuss and explore learning and there is a vast array of forums in which to engage. Last week I attended a Gaggle (“an orderly and cheerful group of professional educational advisors”) which led me to think again about personal learning (the topic for the gaggle was wiki development in vocational education). The meeting coincided with my reading of Steve Wheeler’s Dead Personal post.

Steve distinguishes between the personal web (“a collection of technologies that confer the ability to reorganize, configure and manage online content rather than just viewing it”, Horizon 2009) and a personal learning environment that “extends beyond personal web tools to encompass other tools and resources, such as paper based resources and broadcast media such as television and radio, as well as conversations with other people and so on. Having said that, each and every one of the above could be mediated through web tools, but they are not exclusively so”. Whilst reflecting on Steve’s suggestion and re-visiting the Horizon Report I was sidetracked by the delightful way the Horizon report is shared with readers. I managed to spend the next couple of hours looking at CommentPress as a format for my WordPress blog. (But I missed reading the About page!)

3117494285_6f36496d4b_o Source

A week later I was delighted to see that my fascination with a personal web met my personal learning environment when Bob Stein spoke with Ramona Koval on Radio National’s Book Program.  In their discussion there was an exploration of writing as a collaborative process with readers and the Gamer Theory project became a focus for this. Bob raised the question “If a book is a place what is the place of a book” (this post explores these ideas in detail) which lead to an intense discussion of the “broader ecology of reading and writing”. Bob was in Australia to participate in the Melbourne Writer’s Festival (for posts about his participation see here and here.). The promotion literature for his talk on the Future of the Book noted that:

The shift in our world view from individual to network holds the promise of a radical reconfiguraton in culture. Notions of authority are being challenged. The roles of author and reader are morphing and blurring. Publishing, methods of distribution, peer review and copyright – every crucial aspect of the way we move ideas around – is up for grabs. The new digital technologies afford vastly different outcomes ranging from oppressive to liberating. How we make this shift has critical long term implications for human society.

CCK08 opened me up to a wonderful perspective on sharing and collaboration. Many of the participants have added to my personal learning environment in the last year. The growth in Twitter since the start of CCK08 has been remarkable and this is becoming an important filter for me. Although my blog has links to many of the CCK08 participants it was a Twitter exchange between George Siemens and Howard Rheingold that added to my personal learning reflection.

Howard Rheingold has produced some great material this week (social media and mindful infotention) to ignite my revisiting of personal learning.  Seth Simonds in his post encouraged me to think about and clarify why to post (“The internet is not going to die if you feed it less frequently”). When I reached Justin Kistner (via Howard Rheingold) I realised the enormous possibilities for a vibrant personal learning environment (as with Nancy White’s delicious configuration links). This Editis video emphasised for me the possibilities of a ubiquitous personal web meeting the teachable moments created by one’s environment (I noted Tim McCormick‘s point) or as this video demonstrates the lisable qualities of digital technology. Lisa M Lane had two excellent posts this week (here and here) about creating spaces and reflecting on the process of creating these spaces.

Nancy White’s post  about The Social Media Tools I Use brought me back to Steve’ post about the personal web and as ever I was keen to read what Graham Attwell had to say in his posts at Pontydysgu. Fortunately I read Michele Martin’s post about critical thinking so that my decisions about what to consider and share can be enriched by Snopes.

This post is a placeholder for me about incandescent ideas in a week of eclectic reading. It was initiated by a group of colleagues discussing wiki development and concluded at the Melbourne Writers Festival via asynchronous reading and participation. I was trying to write the post whilst listening to the Public Sphere 3 event as a virtual participant. The week reinforces for me the collaborative potential of personal webs and learning environments.

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