Posts Tagged ‘education’

Social Media in Education, Disorganizations and the Lifecycle of Emergence

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

5 years ago a small group including me and Teemu Leinonen formed the Finnish Association of Free, Libre and Open Source Software in Education (FLOSSE). Although we did some great things the effort didn’t last because the people involved were not that interested in running a traditional association. As in Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital, internet enables individualization of leisure time via the Internet and as a result, participation in traditional formal associations is in a decline.

As Clay Shirky outlines in his book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, as the transaction costs (in reference to British guru on economics Ronald Coase) for cooperative work drops as a consequence of internet enabled mass collaboration, things tend to happen in a decentralized way without the need for centralized formal organizations. There are many examples of such forces at play, e.g. Wikitravel or OhMyNews.

In Finland we have witnessed the emergence of a decentralized virtual organization called Sometu (sosiaalinen media oppimisen tukena – social media in support of learning). This (dis)organization consists of over 3000 teachers, researchers and other people interested in social media in education. Sometu was formed in the end of 2007 and has grown rapidly since. Their main tool is Ning, but they use a wide variety of other social media tools to carry out educational experiments.

Now that Ning is going more commercial and social media conversation is becoming more overheated and tiring on the educational sector, people like Teemu Leinonen (at ITK-conference) and Tarmo Toikkanen have started to question the aim of Sometu and its mission. Sometu has started to live a life of its own as an echo chamber for educational social media fanatics with their own little experiments with a questionable degree of impact. With a more clear purpose such a (dis)organization could become much stronger and meaningful force in transforming the educational sector. Will it be capable for this?

With great interest I read Dave Pollard’s post on the Lifecycle of Emergence. He talks how intrigued he is of “flow” models depicting the dynamics and cyclic nature of complex systems. He talks about the details of his discovery of Meg Wheatley and Debbie Frieze’s (Berkana Institute) model of Lifecycles of Emergence and explains the model with the following picture:

lifecycleofemergence1 Social Media in Education, Disorganizations and the Lifecycle of Emergence

The Lifecycle of Emergence. Illustration: Dave Pollard, original by Chris Corrigan

When I saw this picture Sometu network immediately came to my mind. As I see it, it was set up by pioneers who named the network. Then it started rapidly evolving as a network as other enthusiasts joined, eventually emerging as a community of practice for using social media in educational practice. A lot of attention and success stories were built, illuminating the (dis)organization’s activities. As more newcomers joined and as the activity and transparency of the group’s activities grew, it became a major system of influence for educational transformation – until someone said that the emperor wears no clothes.

As with anything, technology is like a chair without two legs if the cultural transformation underlying it is missing or unclear for the user. If things get technologically driven – as Sometu seems to be too much so for some people – the question then becomes what is the cultural innovation behind the scenes. This could be concentrated as a mantra, mission or vision for such an organization, but such statements may become empty in meaning.

Influencing real change in education is exceptionally hard. Networks like Sometu need to carefully examine the real competencies they have and focus on those to avoid decline and jump to a new cycle of opportunities. This will be hard, especially if even the originating founders don’t know themselves what would be the forces that will keep their vague network together in the future – simple interest in tools for education is not enough.

Just as Bruce Sterling said to mobile developers at the Mobile Monday Amsterdam:

“I want you to think real hard about the values you are going to save and stop worrying about the plastic”.

Tools for Learning: Trends and Implications to Language Education

Friday, December 18th, 2009

I’m here at CCN Arctic Think Tank – Talking the Future: Languages in Education, a two day conference in Levi, Lapland. The weather is well below freezing and the landscape from the conference window looks pretty awesome. It was great to think about ideas with a horizon like this.

levi snow Tools for Learning: Trends and Implications to Language Education

Here are some notes I just produced with Emily Rosser from Macmillan Education, UK and Oliver Meyer from Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Germany regarding the future of online tools in language education.

Tools for Learning: Trends and Implications

Everything that can become digital, will rapidly become digital. Everything that could be automated by computers, will be automated. The amount of information in explicit form is increasing exponentially. We are moving towards an age of transparency: people produce user-generated content in the form of status updates in social networks, videos, interactive content, podcasts, blog posts, links and commentary.

The dynamic web fueled by social media is affecting content in real-time. New approaches to information visualization and categorization (e.g. with bottom-up categorization methods like tagging) are needed. Approaches like commons-based peer production enabled by technical architectures of participation in combination with open content licensing schemes (e.g. Creative Commons) changes the role of consumers into active participants – or prosumers.

The hardware capabilities, internet access, content production, content distribution and underlying educational methodologies are constantly improving and changing. We are in the middle of a paradigm shift regarding online learning. Traditional books are becoming non-linear, embedded in the very fabric of the network architecture. Paid content alone is no longer relevant enough. Publishers need to come up with added value services, extending their offering and role beyond traditional realms.

Technology takes content out of the classroom to the very context where learning happens. Smart internet enabled technologies will be embedded in our environment on e.g. walls and tabletops. Portable devices like e-book readers, tablets and next generation mobile computers make content available and integrated to the environment everywhere and anytime.

Opportunities for Language Education

Digital content and delivery will help enrich the pillars of language learning:

1. Enrich input

Content that should be made available to teachers and learners needs to make full use of the multi-sensory potential that digital formats and digital delivery offer to facilitate language intake. It also allows to deal with different learning styles.

2. Enhance interaction

New forms of communication allow instant cooperation between teams within a class and beyond.

3. Provide opportunities for dynamic output

Microblogging, tweeting, social networking and other Web 2.0 applications provide an authentic setting for output and communicative tasks in real-time.

4. Tailor scaffolding to individual needs

Non-linear learning environments allow for various kinds of scaffolding with respect to different learning styles and individual preferences.

5. Provide continuous and end-of-task assessment to give individualized feedback and offer individual learning pathways

Teacher qualification and new literaricies:

The increasing amount of available information will make it paramount for teachers to know how to select quality materials in the appropriate format. Teachers and/or material writers will need to design scaffolding and communicatively and cognitively challenging tasks around any available content. Teachers have to become literate in digital technologies.

Ideas for facilitating the above:

  • Development of a hub for teachers to link them to quality resources, planning and assessment tools online (e.g. to join an interconnected web of learners online).
  • Development of a hub for students which gives them access to resources and tips on how to make best use of new communication tools (e.g. to build a personal learning environment).
  • Personalized, flexible and delocalized online training services.

Library services for the future

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Today I delivered an opening keynote at Developing Public Library Services for the Future at Ministry of Education, Finland. The audience consisted of library directors and specialists from all around Europe.

Here are the slides, a nice remix of some new, recent and past work:

Some of my advice for libraries:

  • Focus on the end-user and customer experience, not just the information.
  • Look beyond first hand metadata, to second party recommendations and third-party metadata.
  • Utilize open data more, build interfaces for people to do mashups with.
  • Transform the library facility to something that encourages participation or new reasons to go to a library.
  • Build mobile applications to locate books and get instant social navigation to library books on-location and online.
  • Understand the changing framework, not just the the (changing) content.
  • Don’t do the mistake of replicating libraries online as it is. They already did the mistake of replicating the classroom online.
  • The web is not a destination, but a network of decentralized components. Harness the network properties.
  • Look at QR-codes or similar cheap technologies and stamp them into every book for contextual information.
  • Look into mass-customization: how to customize the library experience to each individual regarding recommendations etc.
  • Understand the technological, social and economical drivers for future developments.
  • Rethink the virtual visit to complement physical visits.
  • Look into user-generated taxonomies (folksonomies), information visualization and new ways for “putting the same book in multiple shelves”.
  • Understand contextuality provided by the web and how to tap into it from the library perspective.
  • Stop watching TV and work on (the next) wikipedia.
  • What augmented reality applications could libraries develop/use?
  • Involve the net generation or experts from outside your own field for rethinking the justification for your existence.

Google’s mission is the same as libraries have had for centuries. It’s time to understand digital convergence in new ways.