Emergent Training Communities – rhizomes part deux.

One of the most interesting images you’ll see today is Josie Fraser’s Leiarth. It’s the art that tells the tale of personalization that i think of as one of the core value of what I’ve been calling ‘Emergent Training Communities’. Her separation of the different ‘kinds’ of personalization and focus on ‘dynamic personalization’ has given me the language that I needed to pound out one section of the philosophy behind the work that is being done at the webcast academy, and the work I’m doing with Virtual Research Environments.

Dynamic personalization differs from ‘adaptive personalization’ and ‘customization’ in that dynamic personalization includes “the ability to create orginal or derivative works, to collaborate, form networks and connections via the users choice of applications, locations and plaforms.” In Josie’s prefered model, the user is limited by their imagination, by their ability to netword and nodesearch. In the other two models, they are limited by the imagination of person who is designing the system, and the willingness of that person to give over power. This analogy works nicely alongside the model of education that I’m proposing for online training.

If a teacher/curriculum person/designer is responsible for the entire design of a course, and, more specfically, for setting the limits on the course, the many, the users, are going to be contained by the imagination, and limitations of that particular person. This model, which is one that has served us very well for thousands of years, depends on various truth values being in place.

  1. Relatively close connections in goals of the members of the training community
  2. Close linguistic and technological context connection trainer/trainee, trainee/trainee
  3. Clear realworld goal mechanism (degree, certification etc…)
  4. Consistent (over time) list of skill objectives generally agreed upon

The current market for online communities does correspond with these premises. If a group of people desire, as in the case of the webcastacademy, to learn the skills necessary for ‘webcasting’ it is almost impossible for us to define a single, all encompassing path for trainees to follow. To codify a single curriculum would be to take a snapshot in new, emerging discipline, and have the students settle for that picture, which, by the time they learn it, will likely be outdates. The solution traditionally taken on this issue is to slide to one of the two ends of the spectrum; to hyper-specialize, or to hyper-generalize. To create a course for grade 4 teachers in Wisconsin who want to webcast at 3 o’clock, or a single rigid step by step training program recorded in screencast for all to see and use.
Emergent Training Communities are a third option. In an ETC the trainees bring their own needs and contexts with them into the ‘design’ of the training community. By making choices, by looking for exactly what the trainee needs to accomplish their goals and posting it within the ETC, “the production, reception and relationships [of the community] are… determined by the user“. It does require a framework that allows for this degree of interactivity, but it means that we as the hosts of the website are able to work with a training community that is affecting what it means “to know how” in our field. During the course of the webcastacademy, we, who in another context would have been considered experts, have learned a great deal about this skill set, and do not (I hope) create boundaries with our own inadequacies.

Now, lets go back to the iniatial discussion on rhizomatic communities. The definition we pulled from wikipedia said rhizomes described “theory and research that allows for multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representation and interpretation.” In a internet context, the varied directions, backgrounds and perspectives that people bring to a community require those non-hierarchical entry and exit points that can be decided upon and acted upon by the user at their own whim. There are people who have ‘taken the course’ on webcastacademy that we have never, and will never meet. There are others who’ve done it for baby shows, some for politics and many for education. They are all welcome and all can participate to the extent and in the way that they need to. The end result is, that there is a growing entity that adapts to the new technology without our control. It follows trends before they can be observed, codified and integrated in to a traditional educational model.

This natural, non-linear development of a curriculum is what an emergent training community is all about. It allows the digital nomads to wander in, set up tent for the time necessary, and move on, include or mashup as necessary.

There is a great deal more to be said about this, concerning how this is a threat to traditional business models, and how our solution of charging for ‘the personal touch’ or for the ‘community assessment’ is still in its development stages. But I do think there something here.

2 thoughts on “Emergent Training Communities – rhizomes part deux.

  1. Rhizomatic, schrmizomatic . . . you had me then you lost me :) It was great churning through some of these ideas on the Worldbridges Webcastathon – yes, on the Worldbridges network … the home of EdTechTalk.com! Anyway … this is a topic that I have been following from a variety of angles lately:

    Designing Coproduction Experiences: In one of my instructional design classes, we are using a book (Do It Yourself Customers – The Coproduction Revolution) written by my professor which centers on the design of what he terms “co-production” experiences. A central focus of the book is that if we want customers (or in the context of our discussion last night – learners) to achieve excellence as they take on roles in a co-production experience (like the Drupal CMS Academy), we must carefully contemplate the “vision (goals / feedback), access, incentive and expertise” within the design. The book provides in-depth analysis and guidance regarding these themes.

    Engagement and Co production: The online book “The Journey to the Interface” addresses similar themes. I found the link to this online book today from a link in Josie Fraser’s post.

    Informal / Emergent / Incidental Learning: Last week, I was introduced to a blog by a graduate student at the University of Georgia. While it appears she graduated from the Jeff L School of Blogging and may not maintain frequent posts, she may be a resource for you. I was told by her colleagues that her research interests are in online informal (emergent and incidental) learning.

    Again, I see all of these ideas as a variation on a theme. Hopefully, more fuel for your rhizomatic fire . . .

  2. Glad to see someone thinking these thoughts! I am currently designing a rhizomatic approach to teaching Freshmen Comp. Shoot me an e-mail if you want to discuss.

    Matt Holtmeier

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