Archive for the ‘*Learn’ Category

Grasping the participatory web (or, throwing a net over jelly)

I think we are missing the real (and potentially revolutionary) story of the participatory web (Web 2.0 if we must call it that) if we focus on seeking and ensuring “expertise” before we proceed.

Rant Warning: My take on the participatory web | Designed to Inspire

Jennifer Maddrell makes a good point here, something that I struggle with when posting to my blog. I have so many posts in draft form, I wonder whether I’m actually keen to post or whether it’s the actual writing process itself that is helpful. This is a valid point, more generally, I think. I for one write to not only express my point of view, but to articulate it in the first instance — from the mind to the world via the fingertips.

In my work, Jennifer’s point rings all the more true when you consider the so-called ‘walled garden‘ approach that is still alive and kicking around most education institutions. Changing mindsets when it comes to the participatory web is not all roses and frilly bits! Is it to do with change, enacting a change process, or, is it more than that? Organisational culture? Individual values, beliefs, preferences?

I, along with others, have been developing the web presence for the Action Learning, Action Research Association and this is certainly one of the key factors that has not only impacted our progress, but has also brought our traditional association structures into question – a good thing, yes, I think so, but at that same time, the transition is untidy, frustrating, and for the most part NONparticipatory! Kind of ironic when you think about what the association stands for. Then again, we’re all subject to the same human flaws I suppose. It’s also a bit of an intergenerational thing. Engaging new members means offering new ways of doing and of being, and there lies a tension between answering to that call and maintaining a place in which more traditional members feel acknowledged for the valuable work they do.


How does participation itself occur? How does one encourage participation? Engage people of their own free will, with little coercion? When is it OK to force the horse’s nose into the trough?

And who can say; perhaps Gill Scott Heron was right, the revolution will not be televised! Still, I’m with Maddrell, just get in there and DO it.

Note: sincere thanks to a work colleague for the subtitle to this post (arising from a discussion about implementing a change process)! :o)

Lifelong learning as calm learning?

I had a fabulous weekend in Bowral back in the last weekend of May, attending a Calmbirth workshop with my husband. Consequently, our first bub is now due in a couple of – ahem – days! 🙂

a labour of love

This is one reason I haven’t posted in a long while – too much going on and my brain has become more cottony than I had first anticipated! 🙂

Anyway, I’m moved to write following this amazing weekend experience as I see some links to lifelong learning, a phrase that seems to have dropped out of circulation of late (for whatever reason). Let’s first revisit the phrase and then I’ll draw some connections from the Calmbirth workshop itself. In essence, this is an ‘appreciative exploration’ of some thoughts really!

Lifelong learning, particularly as espoused by the OECD, champions the idea of learning for holistic personal, professional and workforce development, which occurs in various learning settings, informal and formal. Closer to home, DEST (now DEEWR) exercises a policy they claim is based on the OECD assumptions:

The lifelong learning policy agenda is built on assumptions about the importance of skills in the new economy. Almost all industrial sectors are increasingly ‘knowledge-based’ and economic returns are obtained from a range of ‘intangible’ inputs, one of which is workers’ skills. Participation in education and training is increasing and economic rewards are flowing to people with high skills…

…which in fact draws a parallel between productivity and further education, and extends further to lifelong learning and the ‘whole person’, especially where the VET sector is concerned. However, in today’s economic rationalist world we are not seeing this in its entirety. We are contending with the worker-learner and have yet to move to the whole person, in reality.

So how does this thinking link to what I experienced as ‘calm birth’ then? Well, from my view it means starting with the person, rather than the system in which the person likely operates. in essence it’s redefining what we have assumed to be learner centred approaches to teaching and learning. Still, we seem to take this as meaning providing options TO the learner to support and enhance their learning; rather, we should take the learner-at-the-centre approach and start there with their networks, their predispositions, their experiences, and so on. We require more discussion around the apparent preoccupation on separating ‘the system’ from the users/producers/agents (see for example, Mejias 2005).

person vs system

Thus, the science behind Calmbirth (as laid out in the workshop booklet and the various parents’ stories, where mums especially are co-teachers), contends with the human design, participatory methods, holistic therapies and healing work, beliefs and attitudes (e.g. Errington, 2004), cultural values and awareness, as well as the health sciences of midwifery and obstetrics.

So what is out there in terms of calm learning practices? How can we progress this to lifelong learning status? For example, Calm Kids, Smart Kids uses

…a mixture of:

  • Physical exercises proven to reduce hyperactivity & increase brain functioning and integration
  • Emotional stress release to help reduce anger and frustration, improve communication and increase self esteem
  • Unique Nutrition Plan identifies allergies and deficiencies specifically for your child.

What is of some interest here is the links made to factors that influence children’s ability to learning and grow, as discussed also in the Calmbirth workshop and booklet, particularly a stressful pregnancy, a traumatic birth, and medications and operations, as well as accidents, family trauma, and allergic reactions. As Peter Jackson stated in the Calmbirth workshop, ‘it all begins in the womb’. Check out Lyn Schaverien’s work on developmental learning (biological aspects of learning) too.

We may also draw links to appreciative inquiry (see also Cooperrider, et al, 2008) and inquiry-based learning which champions the inherent (and essentially positive) motivations of the learner from within. For me this also conjures links with schooling approaches such as the Montessori movement. We could effectively read open learning into this too. These approaches tend to focus on the learner’s self-guided interests, reminding me of a quote by Freire that champions the learner as teacher (as ‘learning by teaching’):

The teacher… is taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught, also teach.

I understand that I’m touching on a lot of potentially disparate areas of education here, but I think it’s worth noting that whilst we delve into supposedly ‘new’ thinking around learning and teaching, much has been developed in earlier times that remain credible and applicable today – in fact, possibly more so than they did in the past. The time for elements of schooling and education is ripe for change but not always to new and original ideas, but back to ideas that are now seen as befitting our current contexts.

Where can learning go from here? How do we continue to facilitate learning in ways that are relevant to our times? These are some loose connections which I hope to think more deeply about in coming months. I also see connections to networked learning here too, a draft essay of which I will post shortly (this essay picks up on action learning, ‘hot action’, and other action research frameworks that I’ve related to an investigation into VET pedagogy and practice).


Errington, E. (2004) The impact of teacher beliefs on flexible learning innovation: some practices and possibilities for academic developers, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 41(1), 39-47.

Cooperrider, D, Whitney, D & Stavros, J (2008), Apreciative Inquiry Handbook: For Leaders of Change (2nd Ed), Crown Custom Publishing Inc: Brunswick OH.

Christopher D. Sessums :: Beginner's Mind Blogging

Sessums pulls out this little gem which I can see immediately applying to our teachers too!

Here’s a video that sets the stage nicely–a set of fresh eyes, ears, and minds, sharing their reflections on blogging and their “business:”

Or visit:

Back in 2005, I blogged about the brain of the blogger, posted by the Eide Neurolearning Blog. I’m sure I blogged about my own blog processes too, in fact it was back in 2004 that I did a threepart posting about my blogging process (in my early days of fascination with this medium)! Heh, this is one of the reasons I blog, in fact, to keep track of my own thinking and writing 🙂

I’ve done this recently in preparing for an essay in my Masters course – I found it useful to be able to dedicate some writing and thinking time to drawing out various parts without the sense that I had to work on the ‘whole’. In all I found myself writing freely and with opinion that was not constrained by the structure of an essay, nor by the conventions of a Masters-style essay.

So, blogging for me, is a way in which I can exercise my brain and process my thinking – and I enjoy the writing process too. The content and the process are both emergent.

OK, back to the the brain of the blogger post then. The 5 points the Eides cover include:

  1. Blogs can promote critical and analytical thinking.
  2. Blogging can be a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive, and associational thinking.
  3. Blogs promote analogical thinking.
  4. Blogging is a powerful medium for increasing access and exposure to quality information.
  5. Blogging combines the best of solitary reflection and social interaction.

We’re three years on (and given the half-life of knowledge and information these days that’s about 6 internet years isn’t it?), how do these points hold up? I particularly like the 5th point which suggests the intersection between reflection and social interaction; it is a wonderous tension that can cripple some and spur others on!

So, why do YOU blog? Or, as Christopher himself asks, what makes it your ‘business’ to blog?

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Social media in plain english

Commoncraft come through with the goods again! Ever been stuck for ways to describe the Social Web or Web 2.0? Here’s a way that does it so you don’t have to.

Social media in plain english

On another note, I’ve been working on bringing together action research and networked learning in developing a research proposal. This video also demonstrates the affordances of media rich approaches to research don’t you think? Like this project really…

Digital Ethnography

Who builds the bricks in the first place?

I have been stewing over e-portfolios and PLEs lately, particularly as we head into the new year and avenues by which to further traverse the (e)learning meta-scape!

I came across this recently:

A PLE is composed of a set of customized applications on the client side. Some of them will operate in a standalone way, while others will exchange information with server side applications. Thus, if a PLE becomes essential for the daily work of a user, the data flow between client and server side applications will allow the automatic feed of the social networks to which the users belongs to.

PLE bricks for social network construction « Personal Learning Environments

This short post on the PLE blog got me thinking about Donald Norman’s book Emotional Design (2004), particularly his closing remarks about design. It’s a dilemma many designers – educational, architectural, mechanical, etc contend with – that is, if we design it will they come? The quote above from the post doesn’t say ‘PLE’ to me, more it says ‘here are tools to generate your PLE’. Same goes for discussions around ‘e’portfolios – portfolios are methods, processes, learning approaches, outcomes, etc – adding an ‘e’ only says this is a electronically supported portfolio, another tool or space for me to generate some learning/living/reflection – or whatever frames the portfolio approach in a pedagogical sense (meaning that we are all pedagogues).

Donald Norman (2004),

We are all designers. We manipulate the environment, the better to serve our needs. We select what items to own, which to have around us. We build, buy, arrange, and restructure: all this is a form of design (p.224, my emphasis).

And further on,

We are all designers – and have to be. Professional designers can make things that are attractive and that work well. They can create beautiful products that we fall in love with at first sight. They can create products that fulfill our needs, that are easy to understand, easy to use, and that work just the way we want them to. …. But they cannot make something personal, make something we bond to. Nobody can do that for us: we must do it for ourselves (p.225, my emphasis).

And finally, this,

We are all designers – because we must be. We live our lives, encounter success and failure, joy and sadness. We structure our own worlds to support ourselves throughout life. Some occasions, people, places, and things come to have special meanings, special emotional feelings. These are our bonds, to ourselves, to our past, and to the future. When something gives pleasure, when it becomes a part of our lives, and when the way we interact with it helps define our place in society and in the world, then we have love. Design is part of this equation, but personal interaction is the key (p.227, my emphasis).

It’s not that we should give up and throw away design, or PLEs, or (e)portfolios; more that we can pass on the design decisions to others – which to me is what educational design should be about – learning the ropes, grappling with the concept, checking the landscape, reviewing and entering into the commentary, adding to the ‘research’, sharing the learning, and, ultimately, our lives.

PLEs are just this – US. We learn. We test that learning. We refine. We share with others. They share back, and with more others… it’s not the application, or the content, or the method even – it’s the interactions and the relationships that form and uniform as we learn, unlearn and relearn. Much like life really!

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