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


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

Immigrants, Natives and Wayfinders

It has been another wonderfully busy week at the University of Canberra. There have been some great discussions about teaching and learning. I have been hoping to write about a number of ideas that arose from those discussions whilst trying to think about some of the digital immigrant and digital native conversations going on at the Growing Up in Australia conference in Melbourne.

A fortuitous checking of my Twitter account led me to Sylvia’s Generation Yes‘s blog post about the Circle of Life: the technology-using educator edition. Her post was the catalyst to write this post about educational technology and digital status. (Her conclusion took my thoughts back to Erica McWilliam and the role of the teacher in another line of thought and then on to a report about creativity.)

Some fragments from the discussions about the use of digital technology this week include:

Michael Bittman (University of New England, Australia) and Leonie Rutherford (Deakin University, Australia) presented a paper on Digital Natives, Issues and Evidence About Children’s Use of New and Old Media. The abstract of their paper can be found here (page 7). (Their abstract took me back to Mark Prensky‘s work and last year’s discussion of these ideas by Sue Bennett and her colleagues. I accessed the Digital Natives blog for the first time via a Wikipedia link.)

Leigh Blackall discussed the role of the Popular Internet in Teaching and Research at a University of Canberra workshop on teaching and learning. His work excites me and it was great to hear him develop his ideas in person.

I liked hearing about James Neil’s use of Wikiversity at the same workshop too. James is a passionate advocate for Open Access.

All  these opportunities to reflect on our digital status led me back to ideas discussed in CCK08 in relation to wayfinding and to a paper delivered by George Siemens earlier this year ‘Learning and technology: success and strategy in a digital world‘. They led me back even further to my fascination with notational analysis and cartography stimulated by Alfred Wainwright (he compiled handwritten and hand-drawn Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells that resonate so perfectly with Edward Tufte‘s work).

… and thence back to Sylvia Martinez‘s post and the building of expertise in the cycle of life:

You attempt something on a wide scale, collaborating with other like-minded educators. You find renewed energy as you work with students or teachers and see things change. You find books, even some written decades or centuries ago that support your beliefs. You become better able to articulate the “why” of all this. You think about going back to school. You find experts outside of your newly constructed network.

I am wondering if rather than being an immigrant or native there are opportunities for wayfinding that are triggered by biography but are nourished by the willingness to travel.

Photo Sources

Picture 1

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CCK08: Wayfinding

It has been fascinating to read the growing number of blogged reflections on CCK08. (We have had an enormous amount of reflection in action on the course to date.)

In the last week of the course I have been thinking about post-CCK08 wayfinding.


I was interested to read of the ABC Radio Nationals’ My Street project. My Street:

is more than 100 stories told from real and imagined streets around Australia and across the globe. They capture the emotions, tensions and joy that people feel about the street they live in. The stories were created by the public using digital technology and are told in; text, video, audio only, photos, slideshows and computer animation.

I wondered whether this format might be of interest to CCK08 participants. There is a map to accompany the stories.

The ABC has another innovation to share too. It has established a Fora page that is:

the result of an editorial partnership between the ABC and US web group www.fora.tv. Combining content sourced by the ABC from talks events all over Australia with the international material provided by fora.tv, ABC Fora will bring you the most engaging and interesting speeches and debates from all over the world.

Another part of my wayfinding has been to follow up on my dormant membership of Edna’s me.edu.au service. This looks a rich context for CCK08 types!

CCK08 has been a vibrant and dynamic catalyst for my own professional development. I think I am more of a seeker than ever!