Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing


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


Minds on the Margins

The blog posts I am writing at present are being informed by the opportunities I have for listening to ABC Radio and for reflection on daily car journeys to Canberra. Last Saturday was a fireworks in the head kind of day for me.

As I was leaving Braidwood I tuned into Radio National’s All in the Mind program hosted by Natasha Mitchell. I had finished writing about personal learning a few hours earlier but was still thinking about biography and opportunity.

The program was trailed in this way:

A life on the streets or behind bars isn’t what we hope for our children. What leads them there? Mental illness? Family breakdown? Economic hardship? Two groundbreaking studies are fundamentally challenging the assumptions we make about our most marginalised, and the state of their mind.

The more I listened to the program the more I thought it helped me clarify my thinking about talented athletes. It reminded me too of the aphorism that falling is like flying … only the other way round.

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One of the contributors to the program, Eileen Baldry described her life-course work in detail. She observed that:

  • People with Mental Health Disorders and Cognitive Disabilities are over-represented in the Criminal Justice System
  • Post-release these people have high rates of homelessness, unemployment, low levels of family support and therefore more likely to return to prison quickly.
  • Interventions are hampered by lack of overall and longitudinal system impacts.

Her study was designed to integrate criminal justice and human services trajectories to explore these life-course experiences. Bill Martin (2007) has noted that “changes in how people combine education with life-course transitions will influence when and how people make their skills available to the labour market throughout their lives”.

Guy Johnson (2008) and his colleagues have explored a ‘pathways’ approach to describe the progress through homelessness. A review of Guy’s work notes that:

the pathways idea has gained increasing research interest as a way to capture the dynamic and differentiated nature of homelessness and other social phenomenon… the pathway approach distinguishes between the paths different groups of people travel into homelessness and examines what bearing different pathways into homelessness have on people’s experiences of homelessness and their routes out of homelessness.

Guy’s research identified five typical pathways into homelessness: domestic violence; housing crisis; mental health; substance use; and people who have their first experience of homelessness before turning 18 years old. (See here for more information about Guy’s work on pathways and biographies.)

Picture Source

These life-courses and pathways are illustrated in a number of research reports. Jake Najman and his colleagues, for example, have conducted a range of longitudinal studies in adolescent behaviour that report birth cohort data. Some of the issues addressed include predictors of drug use, obesity, development delay and socio-economic disadvantage, early pubertal maturation and behavioural change, pre-natal exposure to alcohol and smoking, and body mass index predictors. Chris Chamberlain‘s work explores youth homelessness.

Guy Johnson and Chris Chamberlain (2009) have discussed perceptions of the homeless and mental illness. They observe that:

In Australia, it is widely believed that most homeless people have mental health issues, and that mental illness is a primary cause of homelessness. This paper uses information from a study of 4,291 homeless people in Melbourne to investigate these propositions. The research found that neither proposition was plausible. Fifteen per cent of the sample had mental health issues prior to becoming homeless, and 16 per cent developed mental health issues after becoming homeless. For those that had mental health issues prior to becoming homeless, it was the break down of family support that usually precipitated homelessness. For those who developed mental health issues after becoming homeless, it was often their experiences in the homeless population that precipitated mental illness. Regardless of whether mental illness preceded or followed homelessness, most people with mental health issues experienced long-term homelessness.

The All in the Mind podcast explores these issues in conversation with Eileen, Guy and Chris. Each of them has a clear sense of the policy initiatives and investment required to address these issues.

Just like falling is flying I think losing is like winning … only the other way round. In a society that has profound issues around homelessness and disadvantage another sector identifies and develops those with a perceived and valued different set of attributes. There are, for example, talented athlete pathways and talented pupil schemes in the United Kingdom. In Australia there is an on-line (eTID) program to “find out today if you, or someone you know, could be Australia’s next sporting champion by taking an online test”.

Reflecting on the issues addressed in the All in the Mind program and my own involvement in elite sport, I am struck by the fine line that separates and links Minds on the Margins. One of the aims of this post is to bring together two groups of ideas that are not often linked but that have enormous synergies. I realise too that I have an opportunity to bring these two groups together physically around the practicalities of social inclusion.

I believe sport is a life-changing experience that can be used to engage with different life-courses and pathways. These life-courses are connected in a caring society. Flying, falling … winning, losing reaffirm that no one is an island.

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Personal Learning

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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!)

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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.