Saturday, November 05, 2005

About that swinging in the branches of Knowledge

Following on from the announcement a couple of days ago, my thoughts about the online live discussion on Thursday:
Thanks Stephan for recording the Elluminate session launching the Knowledge Tree's 7th run.

on a mac! 60 inches! Personally I was a little disappointed with the session on Thursday afternoon. It was obvious that the speakers hadn't read each other's writings and so were unable to talk into each other very much at all. As a result the session didn't pull focus or settle into a 'flow' with the time that was available.

Its interesting really, a talk about barriers and issues with social software, in a setting like a journal and structured conversation. The rigid and silent process, and final communication of a journal paper seems to me to be fundamentally challenged by 'social software'. Why (as far as I know) was I the only contributor to write in a wiki? Why do the finished writings have to go out as PDFs? What's wrong with hypertext for referencing, why can't a blog be 'robust'?...

As George talked a bit about a week ago with his post on the joys of shallow thinking, he attempts to depict and somewhat justify why noone reads in depth anymore (why no one at the session had read each other's work) - and why we don't have to.

Shallow thinking, in this sense, isn'’t as negative as its connotations. Shallow thinking (perhaps I need a better phrase) involves exploring many different sources of information without focusing too heavily on one source. Aggregating at this level helps us to stay informed across broad disciplines. So much of education intends to provide "deep learning"”. Often, however, “shallow learning is desired” (i.e. we want to know of a concept, but we don'’t have time or interest to explore it deeply). All we need at this stage is simply the understanding (awareness?) that it exists. Often, learning is simply about opening a door...

I skimmed the other papers in the Tree, but to be honest - while I respect the thought and effort invested in them - at that moment, and the weeks leading up to it, they were not registering in my daily info scans (I would suggest that they would have more if they had of been progressively written publicly, in a wiki say, with a feed). Come the launch, I couldn't find the time, motivation or mental energy to really try and comprehend what was there, it was all so sudden, so many words, surpising.... a launch.

I suspect everyone in there was guilty of the same shallowness (accept for Jo Murray, who actually helped out in my wiki). But why be guilty, its not as if any of us are actually shallow thinkers!... its just that our information processing has changed, while our collective understanding is still married to more traditional forms or communication, and so the traditions are still adjusting to the swift and radical change...

So anyway, after reviewing the audio and cringing at the obvious disconnections, I picked up on a comment by Dorothy Waterhouse that sadly went by without further discussion. Dot's comment appears at time code 1:03:53 of the above mp3. She mentioned that she had been noticing a popularity amongst teachers towards 'social software' were as the system and organisation wide 'solutions' like a Learning Management System had been resisted from the start. In other words, compare the million$ and professional development hours invested in LMS etc, with hardly a cent by comparison with blogging, wikis and other more socially relevant softwares, and notice the energy, passion and drive...

Good point Dorothy. Sorry I didn't back it up on the night.

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Ulises said...

I see where you are coming from, Leigh.

I think a more gradual and public writing process would have helped, as you suggest. And yes, final papers in the form of a wiki or at least html text would be great, as opposed to Word or PDF files.

I agree that there could have been more of a dialogue during the event, but I am also wondering how realistic it is to expect that a one hour panel will neatly provide closure to conversations. I guess what I am trying to say is that I see the event this week as a middle step in a larger process, not as its conclusion. And it is precisely social software that allows for this to happen. For instance, ever since I knew we were going to be on the panel together, I have been following your blog. I also did look at your wiki just before the event (which is why I was able to suggest that you talk about the 'content is king' phenomenon at some point). True, perhaps we did not get much of an opportunity to talk during the panel (given the number of panelists and the time alloted), but I feel like I have already been in some sort of conversation with you (by reading your blog), and I expect that we will continue to do so. Sure, our papers are 'finished,' but nothing prevents us from providing feedback or continuing a conversation at this point.

I agree that there were things that could have gone better. But let's now focus on the process (the ongoing conversations, the new social connections), not the event. I'm looking forward to it!

Anne said...

Hi Leigh -
I'm with you...most of the way...actually I had read a number of the papers - including Ulises and yours before the talk a regular user of synchronous technologies to deliver content (note - deliver content)... the challenge of allowing a discussion to occur in a short time frame with multiple locations is just about near on impossible...
AND then you add some technology challenges - or should I say disasters....We were incredibly lucky that Stephan had managed to connect and could dash over to the Sydney Institute!
So - add 3 flustererd speakers to your panel - reduced time - and we are now seriously challenged to attempt the sort of environment I think we were expecting.
I felt pretty frustrated (and terrbily embarassed as the host of a venue that couldn't connect) - and actually don't think I said anything...bummer - don't even want to listen to the mp3....
Interesting though - part of the pedagogical strategy I've been working on recognises that if the technology is dominating the experience - then no learning can occur, until the technology is no longer the focus of the experience...
ABB :-(

Leigh Blackall said...

Hi Anne, hi Ulises. I'm so pleased you have commented in here, and balanced my thoughts somewhat. I agree Ulises, that this could be a step in a longer process, indeed a launch as it was in fact called. You're right to advise me not to look at it as a conclusion - thanks.

I'm the same Anne. I had some terrible issues trying to get on to Elluminate. I'm not sure that we even need to use Elluminate in these sessions. There are enough free and sometime web based live conferencing services. But I'd say that the firewalls would still present issues for us. I think it really is something in saying that you could be more productive in your role in UTS if you worked from a cafe down the road, and not within their system. And the important irony that the limitations of UTS IT support for the communication, forced you to go face to face with participants. An excellent outcome I recon, seeing as you are so close, yet so far from the TAFE. Hopefully its signifies more spontanious workings between SI and UTS ;)

Thanks for commenting guys, and continueing the conversations... said...

Hmmm...what to say?
There are lots of good observations here for future improvement and it's good to be pushed to consider them.
I'm one for providing options for a broad range of people, because they have asked for them.

I think the Knowledge Tree e-journal makes a decent attempt to connect those who live and work in the blogosphere and those who don't, those who are online and those who aren't, those who prefer to read a paper version in the structured referenced article format, those who prefer to listen and view and those who prefer to read blogs/wikis etc, those who work in various educational contexts.

We are open to new ideas and share them. The panel and multi venue presentation approach was one way to bring people together..there are bound to be others...let's explore them.

This article will be considered by our reference committee in terms of future editions...

I'd like to offer choice..if people want to be blind reviewed that's OK, if they want open reviewing, that's ok too.

And writing in the wiki is a good way to develop something, but if you want to allow people outside of the blogosphere access to your ideas, then providing lots of other options is crucial.

Thanks for pushing the boundaries Leigh

Leigh Blackall said...

Hi Jo,

That's a good read that Peer Review in the Internet Age: Five (5) Easy Pieces. I really like its quoted points as to why trad peer review is deficient. Quite thought provoking for many I'm sure.

I think it'd be very cool if KT ran an issue reflecting on this process, perhaps even finding a model of review based on some of the models noted in that article.

Actually, you are already proposing a model aren't you. One that bridges the gaps between those of us comfy on teh open network and those who remain in the closed net.