Archive for the ‘*Connect’ Category

The street is where innovation happens

Jan Chipchase at TEDTalks

Nokia researcher Jan Chipchase investigates the ways we interact with technology — a quest that has led him from the villages of Uganda to the insides of our pockets. Along the way, he’s made some unexpected discoveries: about the ways illiterate people use their mobile phones, the new roles the mobile can play in global commerce, and the deep emotional bonds we share with our phones.

TEDBlog: Our cell phones, ourselves: Jan Chipchase on

Loved these 15 minutes with Nokia researcher, Jan Chipchase. I’ve got some loose thoughts and reactions to this, loosely joined – recommend you watch it if you haven’t already! If you have, what did you make of it? I’d be interested to hear from those who attended Mlearn2007 in Melbourne or the Handheld Learning conference whether you have some points to add here? Chipchase starts off with an idea about what we carry on our person and why. He uses this process to outline our behaviours.

Chipchase slide depicting ownership, to usage

He discusses this in relation to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which helps illustrate our behaviour as we go about our daily lives, interacting, connecting and generally surviving. Chipchase also notes the three things we carry most on us 9and how maslow’s hierarchy of needs might be applied to these): 1) keys (for shelter), 2) money (to buy food) and 3) mobile phone (excellent recovery device, and I’d add connecting device).

Chipchase then discusses then phenomenon of ‘the street’: a place where innovation occurs in true fashion and out of necessity. Jan asks: as designers, what lessons can we learn from the street?

  • what does the street say about trust and confidence in (financial) interactions (that we could apply to online and other services)?
  • how might we better design such services?
  • should we be thinking about Personal Area Network (PAN) designs, clothing and integrated wearable technologies, seeing as we are emotionally connected to tools like our mobile phones?
  • even our homes are being identified not by house numbers but by our mobile phone numbers (Jan gives an example of a Ugandan front door inscribed with mobile phone numbers as an identifying feature) – what does this say about our identity? (Alex, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!).

Then Chipchase wraps up with some thoughts and ideas related to these lessons (or questions) from ‘the street’:

  • we must consider the speed at which ideas go around
  • if we are to embrace ‘big’ ideas we must embrace everyone (and 300 billion is getting there!)
  • small and speedy (like mobile phones) highlights the immediacy of objects – we can capitalise on this if we think creatively
  • design – no matter what we intend of a design or object, the street will take it and innovate it further beyond our thinking – how do we create room for this in our designs?
  • with another 300 billion people connected in the future we really must learn how to listen, because these people will want to be part of the conversation!

I like ‘the street’ phenomenon: it conjures up metaphors like ‘streetwise’, ‘street ready’, ‘taking it to the street’, and so. I like the thought too (and practice) of a mobile phone being an ATM! I also liked the notion of illiteracy being managed by some via the ‘art of delegation’. An interesting and useful concept worth exploring further in this rapid-changing world that demands more from us in less time than we’d like: think rapid protoyping, accelerated learning approaches, etc, etc!

In all, I reckon it’s the edge at which we live that pushes us to innovate. If we’re too comfortable what’s the urge? How do we then create the discomfort or disruption to continue to feed that urge in positive ways? Move to Nepal perhaps?

Maybe this isn’t such a bad idea: pushing something like FLNW2 in Thailand, for example, is a big move towards this type of disruption, just as working in the Western desert is (having just had my buddies from Jigalong visit Canberra recently), or “the Bronx”, or with prisoners, or in fact with anyone and anything that disrupts our status quo thinking about the world! That’s a big call for most – how about you?


Language, learning and change in adult contexts

What does language have to do with learning and change in adult and work based learning contexts?

This short essay covers some thoughts about the use of language in relation to ‘learning and change’ (also the title of my Masters subject).

Watercommunication Language plays a central role in learning as both seek to develop understanding and make sense of the world. Language enables us to interact with others in a shared process of making meaning. We use language to describe our reality and to communicate our sense of the world to, and with, others. In this same process, we also communicate who we are; that is, we construct not only our reality but also our ‘self’. When we learn we are engaged in a process of developing our understanding, attempting to make sense of something new or unknown to us. As described in the subject learning guide, ‘learning means getting access to new ways to mean’, so we not only learn new things but refine our learning process at the same time, or ‘learn how to learn’. Change then, is impacted by our efforts in learning new ways to mean; that is, to step from the known to the unknown (learning) and then to mark the transformation (change) from something unknown to known.

In an adult or work based learning context, language plays a significant role in one’s learning, as much as it does in early childhood development and learning. A workplace contains a specific profession (such as auto-mechanics), which involves language and discourse highly characteristic of that profession. The role of apprenticeship (a key component in the training and development in para-professions and trades) is in effect an initiation into the culture, context and discourse of a para-profession or trade. An apprentice, or ‘initiate,’ learns far more than the skills spelt out in a training package or work placement; I am certain that if one was to compare the language and demeanour of a third-year apprentice to a first-year, one would note significant difference. A third-year would use language and terminology with more authority and confidence and perhaps even embellish this with a greater experience than what you’d expect from a first-year, who would use the language more tentatively (and perhaps at times inappropriately).

It is important to also mention that teachers in the adult learning field are also challenged by language and discourse. Often a teacher in auto-mechanics is firstly an auto-mechanic prior to becoming a teacher. In fact, ‘becoming a teacher’ is as much an initiation for them as becoming an auto-mechanic is for their apprentices! It is this aspect of teaching in adult learning that is of most interest to me, being an educational designer and staff developer in a vocational education and training (VET) institute. In this short essay I wish to reflect on the VET teacher in relation to the overarching question:

What does language have to do with learning and change in adult and work based learning contexts?

Contributions from the research literature
I had not fully or explicitly considered the role of language in learning, prior to reading Painter (1989). Painter’s view of the role of language in learning is that we scaffold learning through the progression of our language development. While Painter refers to language development in children, this no doubt can be continually applied into adulthood. We can then add Halliday’s thinking about learning as a semiotic process, where he posits an approach to learning theory informed by language, where “theory would be based on natural data … in context, not in a vacuum; observed, not elicited” (1993, p.94), because “the process of language development is still a continuous learning process” (ibid, p.93). Again this highlights the inherent relationship between language and learning.

Just as Painter refers to scaffolding, Halliday uses the phrase ‘magic gateway’ (see p. 98) to discuss ways in which we might explicitly use language forms and interactions to develop strategies for learning. It is interesting that in adult learning approaches we engage in experiential learning approaches quite explicitly yet don’t seem to engage strategies informed by language. It is as if we assume adults have fully developed their language and it needs no further attention.

On reading Solomon (2003), this is not the case. Solomon discusses the role of portfolios in textually producing ourselves as worker-learners, as she outlines the use of portfolios in a higher education work based learning program. Solomon (2003, p.76) considers portfolio development as a pedagogical tool for learning in the program, and as a narrative text, and suggests that

portfolios can be understood as a site where learners reflexively create a life story of themselves by drawing on available social and cultural resources.

or the bubbles above my headShe then endeavours to answer a series of questions about how (and what) we can learn about the worker/learner, and indeed, importantly for me, when a learner or a worker becomes a ‘worker/learner’. The VET teacher is an ideal expose of the worker/learner, given they are in the unique position of being dual-professions as I call them. That is, VET teachers are firstly industry professions and secondly teaching professionals and need to constantly reconcile the two roles.

The scaffolding referred to by Painter (1989) is also evident in Solomon’s discussion around the work site as a site for learning; the academy explicitly frames the work site as a learning site, ‘reconstituting it as a learning experience’ (2003, p.79). This notion forces me to reconsider what we mean by informal learning (taken to mean learning that occurs in less formal settings, such as social and public settings, workplaces or otherwise), where we perhaps think too much about the physical setting and not enough about the frameworks that manifest or account for sites for learning. Reflection helps describe the learning encountered through the learner’s (work based) experience. Reflection is textually produced so thus involves written language. Solomon discussed the ways in which this reflective process is scaffolded (pp.79-83).

My reflections
Having worked through the literature in this module, I see some connection with aspects I would associate with in adult learning and work based learning contexts; namely reflection and the writing process involved in journaling, and in the development of portfolios. Reading the literature in this module has opened up some questions to me:

(1) Does a child’s internalisation of interactions (to produce models for speaking and writing, as described in Painter, 1989 and Halliday, 1993) pose a correlation to an adult’s learning in the process we call reflection?
(2) Does the textual production of oneself through the development of a portfolio adequately capture the discursive and dialogic processes adult learners engage in when they are learning in a workplace context (Solomon, 2003 and Kerka, 1996)?
(3) Is it possible to reconfigure adult learning spaces in ways similar to that proposed by Painter, to draw more deliberately on learners’ (and teachers’) interactions in talking and writing, especially in professional contexts (such as business administration, plumbing, hairdressing and other vocations)? Would this reconfiguration enhance what we have come to know as reflection, and also enhance the understandings about portfolio development for learning and assessment in adult learning settings?

Everyone told me what I should be - TurtbluLiteracies (Macken-Horarik 1996) and contemporary learning settings which include information and communication technologies (ICTs) is a highly debated topic. The shift from commonsense to uncommonsense, or systematised, language (see Halliday 1993, pp.93-4) fits with this debate, given the rate of change in technology-enriched learning environments: portfolios are now e-portfolios, work based learning is often supplemented with online components, and one’s reflection can be recorded for ‘playback’ via online forums, emails, electronic documents, and audio and video clips. For example, I have found that new ICTs like blogs and wiki provide me with a greater space in which to write that potentially widens my audience (and thus my critics) to enable me to broaden and deepen my ideas as I ‘script’ them in the writing process. I have always kept a journal from a young age and now find that these web based tools complement my journaling in a positive way, extending my writing and discursive and dialogic processes at the same time. In addition, I have also found that I take copious amounts of notes knowing I can revisit (and thus re-use or re-organise) these (e.g. on a wiki) whenever and wherever I may be. Consequently, I feel as if my vocabulary, as well as my understanding of topics, is being enriched more deeply and more broadly than ever before. It seems that while we privilege experiential learning processes in adult learning settings we don’t necessary make the language development process as explicit.

What I’ve found incredibly interesting in this module is my journey of understanding as it has been reframed through a consideration of the role of language in learning. Speaking and writing in adult learning settings are manifested in textual practices such as portfolios, essay writing and structured discussion. I would contend that while language and learning share much, so too do text and identity in parallel, as posited by Solomon (2003, p.87) in her closing remarks:

Our focus here has been on the textual practices [used in a higher education Work-based Learning program], suggesting that these practices are an interesting pedagogical site to explore the way learners produce themselves as worker-learners.

Forming our identity is a key part of making meaning. Our ongoing development of language is also a key component to expressing our identity as well as new understandings and knowledges, and we can discuss our experiences and how we grow and change as a result.

Halliday, M.A.K. 1993. Towards a language based theory of learning. Linguistics and Education 5, 93-116.

Kerka, S. 1996. Journal writing and adult learning. ERIC Digest No.174. Retrieved 08/09/2007 from (ID: ED399413).

Macken-Horarik. M. 1996. Literacy and learning across the curriculum. In R. Hasan and G.Williams (Eds), Literacy in Society. London: Longman.

Painter, C. 1989. The role of interaction in learning to speak and learning to write. In J.R. Martin and C. Painter (Eds), Writing to mean: Teaching genres across the curriculum. Applied Linguistics Association of Australia, Occasional Papers 9. Sydney: University of Sydney, pp.62-97.

Solomon, N. 2003. Writing portfolios in work-based learning programs: Textually producing one-self. In C. Chappell, C. Rhodes, N. Solomon, M. Tennant and L. Yates (Eds), Reconstructing the Lifelong Learner: Pedagogy and Identity in Individual, Organisational and Social Change. London: Routledge.

Openness, building capacity and affect in learning

PODCAST #1: An Interview with Chris Corrigan


Dave Pollard has posted this wonderful conversation between himself and Chris Corrigan. I was drawn to this firstly by Dave’s ‘table of capacities’ and the actions or acts associated with them – great overview Dave! An audio version is here.

In this time of change, where we are – especially in Australia – being held accountable for learners’ capability development (it’s at least a sound bite that is increasingly being repeated by various sectors of government, education and business) for building our workforce. Often, cynically, I feel it’s just another way of talking about ‘skill sets’. Chris, along with Dave, recounts his theory of openness, sharing his own experiences (openly) to state clearly the role of relationships in our learning. In this he refreshes this tiring perspective I have of capability development and takes it back to where it should be for me!

I’ve also been reading up on the role of expereince in learning for my Masters subject and this conversation is a timely focal point for thinking more broadly about experiential learning. In relation to personalised learning too, it’s about time we put learning back into the hands of learners – that’s the ‘wisest course of action’ (to re-use a phrase by Chris). How often do we need to say this though? Why don’t we ‘get it’ yet?

Anyway, overall, Chris describes three overarching capacities:

  1. Taking action (just do it)
  2. Taking wise action (don’t do it alone, communicate!)
  3. Taking wise action that lasts (sustainabiltiy through relationships)

Chris also uses the terms community and relationships rather than networks, where he sees networks being somewhat superficial, lacking “commitment, accountability and responsibility” and obviously a level of trust is required too.

Hmmm, I’m mulling over this some more..but if you haven’t yet, take a listen or a read. Good stuff! To end, this from Chris’ bio:

I am a facilitator of conversation in the service of emergence.

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Friday thinking: get the message out there!

ABC Tamworth : Going Web 2.0

Butchers paper

Good on you Alex 🙂 (and thanks to Michael for pointing to this).

Happy Friday!

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eTools n Tips: Wikis and Blogs, tools for learning

I facilitated a session today, the last in a series of eTools n Tips from the Framework.

It was about wikis and blogs and their application to learning


You can view the slideshow here and the recorded Elluminate session here. I developed a wikipage for the session too.

As I put the presentation together, I realised that I had more working examples of wikis than of blogs — interesting. I raised this during the session as to why this might be:

  • blogging requires a longer term ‘investment’ by learners and teachers. This is currently difficult given our semester-by-semester model which often precludes any overarching use of tools like blogs that potentially stretch across semesters and indeed across subjects.
  • blogging is a process, and can effectively record an identity-forming process. This is totally dependent on the individual and moves at their pace of growth and development, not the pace at which the subject/course/semester runs – it’s bigger than that!
  • wikis perhaps are more easily understood in terms of their application; this may be due to our ongoing preoccupation with content and the development of content (as opposed to the development of interaction per se)

I was also keen to push the message that we must embed the technology within our teaching approaches (and see how this can alter our approaches too) and as integral to learner’s learning experiences, rather than tinkering at the edges trying to figure the technology out for itself. We need to move away from the urge to develop learning resources with ‘bells and whistles’ and see that it is in fact our learners who are the bells and whistles in our courses – it’s their learning after all!

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