November 2010
4 main areas and goals I want to work in and towards

1) Extending Personal Learning Networks and Loosely Coupled Teaching as Practices in BC Post-Secondary
There is growing interest in the PLE approach which arises from the confluence of a number of factors:

* perceived shortcomings in current (LMS-focused) approach to online learning
* opportunities offered by the new breed of socially networked tools, with their added focus on user-centric design and loosely coupled interoperation
* the increasing ubiquity online of free, high-quality educational resources
* an emerging understanding of the different opportunities that networks afford lifelong learning and learners

We are increasingly seeing this approach resonate but it also faces some major hurdles in moving (always moving) from abstract conceptualization and opportunity to specific instantiation.

Specifically, this takes the form of the work I do on
- extending the browser for personalized learning
- creating "dashboards" based on sacred visualizations and other values-based structures
- the loosely coupled gradebook
- affable and convivial tools for learning (wpmu, mediawiki, web 2, sandbox server)
- FIPPA work and other roadblocks to teacher/learner autonomy
- eduglu, or a loosely coupled architecture for teaching and learning

I believe all of these are coherent and consistent with an approach to teaching and learning that is learner centric, deeply resiliant, deeply respectful of freedom and autonomy and most likely to create the deep change in learners and society we so clearly need.

What I need to keep working on this
- opportunities to work on this in a concrete, specific fashion in concert with actual practitioners, learners (both formal and informal) and educators
- more skills to develop pieces of this myself, and/or close access to a small number of talented developers

2) Weaving Openness into the very fabric of Post-secondary & Government in BC
Openness is clearly still a "hot topic" in both education and government. But in the ways it is currently talked about and marketed, it is seen as an "additional" step to regular education, and an extra cost at that, and thus it is highly likely that as funding dries up and superficial publishing efforts do not have their hoped for impacts, such projects and approaches are in grave danger of disappearing.

In order to prevent this, efforts must be made to shift the focus on openness away from institution and project-centric approaches to the grassroots. Focus 1 (above) represents a tool-oriented approach to helping this shift. Focus 3 (below) represents an engagement at the institutional and social level to help with this shift. But there needs to be direct engagement with learners, educators, citizens, politicians and bureaucrats to help them weave openness into the very fabric of their work, not as an "add on," and not for solely selfish economic motives, but as a way of working and relating in general.

Specifically, this may take the forms of
- talk with faculty and students directly to learn more about what the real resistances are to sharing openly
- talk with faculty and students directly to learn more about what the real reistances are to re-using materials
- figure out what interventions might help to start changing that
- develop a coherent statement on what openness means and why it is the way forward for higher ed (note: NOT simple the economic/value of openness)
- workshops, open courses and educamps on networked teaching, open courses...
- rethinking SOLR, OPDF and other OER efforts we are engaged from from the perspective of individual engagement, social networks and embeddedness
- more hopefully; I am not sure how to exactly move this forward

What I need
- help even figuring out better strategies

3) Creating Permeability in our Post-secondary Institutions to help them survive and create a broader Learning Society

I believe our institutions and public systems as they exist now in grave danger on many fronts, from threats to public funding, to foreign competition, to unsustainable business and physical models, to increased irrelevancy in the face of ubiquitous networked learning. And on. I believe their demise has actually been going on for some time now (not measured in FTEs or budgets, but perhaps better measured by looking at their situating and effects in the world, seen in the increasingly radicalized contrast between the extreme renaissance in knowledge and development in one sphere and the extreme anti-intellectualism in others; seen in the increasing, NOT diminishing, gap between extreme rich and extreme poor on TOP of the radical depletion of resources, our natural enviroments and biodiversity.) I believe that without challenging the way teaching and learning is done, as well as the radical compartmentalization of knowledge and knowing that happens in our institutions, not only will we loose many of the positive aspects of public education, we will miss the major opportunity of our lifetime to recognize the crisis in front of us and radically adapt to meet this reality.

Specifically, one way I believe this can take form is in asking, at some local, regional or provincial level, our PPSI to focus, maybe for a set period like a year, their collective energies on solving specific problems to them in a cross disciplinary way, in a way that enlists the collective people power of not just faculty and researchers but students, undergraduate and graduate, and in a way that is not paternalistic to the community outside the institution but recognizes that this is simply the context of what it means to know and live *in these institutions* and so to engage the public in open, participatory ways. So - “Lower Mainland schools – work across disciplines with communities groups, citizens and local goverments to develop and start implementing a plan for local food security by 2015. Do so in a way that provides a REAL educational engagement for your students, enacts the change we need, makes you invaluable to your local economy, changes the dynamic of compartmentalized education in your institutions, and opens up the knowledge, engagement and process to the community at large.” Or, “Vancouver Island scools - work across disciplines with communities groups etc to develop and start implementing an energy strategy for the island that both greatly reduces the reliance on imported energy but does not negatively impact (or better, actually ameliorates) green house gas emissions.” I don’t know “who” asks for this and I think that’s the key – where this comes from. Because I think it would be hard to find people who didn’t think addressing these issues for real was a bad idea, but if it’s done in the form of an artificial contest or something its effects are likely to be superficial.

What I need is

These changes, described as such, are obviously immense, and not even to the obvious immediate short term benefit of these institutions who still seem to deny acknowledgement of the problems or the possibilities. But they need to start somewhere. There are many places they can start; I want to work alongside others embedded in these institutions and communities to find specific ways to create these bridges, increase the cracks that are already there so that knowledge, learning and change can FLOW. I am already starting conversations with those I know who feel similarly inspired and welcome any insights people have on simple ways to start initiating this large, important change. One potential small example was recently seen in the form of the Drumbeat Festival, which, with 15 different strands started to demonstrate the ability to weave together many disciplines, projects and approaches to some general commons ends (without reducing them to this) and had the potential (if not the actual execution) of doing so in a public way that engaged locals. It may be that other similar type "events" represent a way to get some traction, though the danger is these can be easily compartmentalized in a way that does not upset the resistant, non-permeable structures in the institutions which need piercing.

Update (July 16, 2011) - THIS is what I am talking about - Fantastic challenge/opportunity laid down by a student to his institution. Also note to self - Centre for Dialogue/Undergraduate Semester in Dialogue (along with UVic's Centre for Community Based Research) both offer great examples of porosity in institutions.

4) Writing a "Book" on The Design of Convivial Tools

I want to write a “book” on designing convivial tools; not just "what" convivial tools are (especially in the network age) but how to design them; what design means as an act of love and expression that, while it does not totally dismiss instrumentality, utility and purpose, embraces freedom and generativity of the individual instead of conformity, consumption and capitalistic commodity relations. I want to write it in language people can understand, pointing to some examples but also resisting being simply a set of examples or procedures, because that is to fall into the very trap of reproduction of the means of production. I want to show how there is a violence done in designing tools in isolation from the larger contexts in which they exist, and that this violence is perpetuated by a concept of knowledge that constantly divides and brackets in order to conquer.

I have a basic outline and am seeing a strand that has grown and developed during the last 8 years of my blogging that I hope to tease out and use as well.

I say “Book” as I am not certain that is actually the form it would take. I am interested in actually producing the work as itself a convivial tool, so it may take the form of (or have a companion) web component.

What I need is
- time