Emergent Training Communites – Slaying the Gatekeepers.

There have been some really solid objections coming around to my idea of emergent training communities (see attached paper from NMC poster session). Some people have asked me how communities can ever get started. Others have suggested that a deus ex machina is pretty much necessary in order to get any work done. The third objection, and the one that I’m going to treat with in this little blog post is “how do people get started?”

It’s all fine and dandy for people familiar with wandering around the internet as a digital nomad to slide into a virtual space, set up shop with a random group of folks, and become an emergent training community. Happens all the time. Someone sends in a comment to Edtechtalk, I meet someone at a conference or talk to someone at my university and go “right, i need to learn how to do that too, here’re my delicious links.” We work near each other, figure out what needs to be done and go our separate ways.

Imagine, if you will, overhearing a conversation in a bar in some far flung town. You respond to a question sent out to the room, sit down next to them, introduce yourself… The conversation moves on to other topics. You find that you have many things in common… beers are consumed, and by the end of the evening, you have a plan to work on world hunger. You run into people by accident, keep your options open, and then very cool things can happen. It happened to me yesterday on skype, I sent a letter to a person I know (very quickly becoming a friend of mine I believe) on a lark… kind of a ‘this is what I’m working on.’ The idea he came back with just plain blew my mind. More on this soon.

When we break down those and other social situations where everyone is contributing you find that there are a multitude of literacies at play. Some people are good coordinators,  organizers, real world experience… all these things are just as or more important than any facility with technology. What is, I ask, a vblog without the artistry to conceive of good framing? A blog without a sense of literary style? An e-learning course without a grasp of how to empower…?

Point being… most (if not all) people have something valuable to contribute to a community – emergent or otherwise. The problem is the gatekeepers. They’re sneaky little miscreants. In many cases the biggest problem is not even slaying the little buggers it’s correctly identifying them. The biggest one for me is patience. I have a VERY hard time reading through the directions before i try something. It’s the thing that keeps me from installing complicated software like Jabber. I just wanna go out there and do it.

Another problem here is that I’m an early adopter by nature and by breeding. My Father, a refinery worker and fisherman, bought a Vic20 when they first came out, he bought a Video camera (twice at the early phase) the second one was still attached to half the VHS-VCR which you had to carry around with you in a bag. My mother was my baseball and hockey coach long before word of women’s lib (for lack of a better expression) came anywhere near my small town.

Yes, an early adopter. And my goal is attract the ‘second wave’ of folks to the conversation online. To get them feeling empowered enough to contribute to these conversations without being ‘forced’ or ‘prompted’ but of their own volition. As an early adopter, i have no business deciding what the gatekeepers look like for those second wavers. Or, at least, limiting them to what they are for me. It does, according to all the things I keep babbling about, need to be decided by those folks who are actually dealing with it.

So. I’ve hatched a plan. A plan that I’m challenging other people to take a shot at. I’ve asked all the tech support people at my university to find me a group of course designers. They are going to design a gatekeeper slaying course that I want to put on our moodle at the university. (Those of you saying “hey… didn’t you just choose the model and the place for your course?” sit down and be quiet. I have enough of that voice in my own head. 🙂 ) These designers I’m looking for need to be the following:

  1. Extraordinarily competent at the work they do
  2. Have a vested interest, a need to become familiar with technology
  3. a luddite (opposed to technological progress)

My hope is to help them design a course for themselves, a course that we can then send out to the rest of my university that addresses the problems that they had learning to use Moodle, to be put into moodle. The course, as I see it (subject to change of course), would be a short, maybe 3-5 topic course that anyone could take. Simply being willing to register, sign in, and complete the material would be enough to certify your willingness to try. The key criteria is that everyone needs to take the first course by themselves. On their own time.

That’s my proposal, in short. My hope is, once they realize that they CAN go in and do it by themselves, then the rest of the community can benifit from the rest of the stuff that they know how to do. The digital can then feel the impact of the rest of their literacies.

And then, maybe, they’ll start being willing to be part of emergent training communities on their own.
Anyone up for the challenge?

Author: dave

I run this site… among other things.

4 thoughts on “Emergent Training Communites – Slaying the Gatekeepers.”

  1. You write: “The problem is the gatekeepers. They’re sneaky little miscreants. In many cases the biggest problem is not even slaying the little buggers it’s correctly identifying them.”

    This is a useful concept, but the example you use doesn’t clarify it. “The biggest one for me is patience. I have a VERY hard time reading through the directions before i try something.” How is this a gatekeeper?

    Could you expand on the idea of gatekeepers? What tyhey are, how they emerge or develop, how (and when) they should be eradicated?

  2. The trick to this post Stephen… is that you’re not supposed to get to the end! 🙂

    I’ll write another post on this soon… its a point that should have more focus put on it…

    Usually the ‘gatekeeper’ is “involves the actions of persons or organizations, known as Gatekeepers, that manage or constrain the flow of knowledge and information” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatekeeper) I, without bothering to address the change (oops) expanded that concept to include socio-personal issues that constrain the flow of knowledge for the individual. I think that we ourselves are the greatest inhibitors to our learning…

    The reason I glossed over that (thanks for noticing) is that I’m really only an authority over what is stopping my access into things. The whole reason for running a project like this one is to do research into what is stopping these folks. I see too much Cartesian self reference when this comes up. “I remember when i first started to do this” and then extrapolating this to other people.

  3. Gatekeepers:

    1. Ourselves (what we think we can’t do, don’t like, can’t make time for, afraid of, not aware of, etc.)

    2. People who think they know what we need want (I suspect they have problems with #1 as well)

    3. Assumptions that if X is easy for me, it will be easy for you and vica versa. (Applies to “hard” as well.)

    4. Unexplored or unseen underlying views, assumptions, cultural thingies and such – we can often gloss over these, but they can also trip us up and create the illusion of gatekeeping through lack of understanding, perceptions of manipulation.

    5. Manipulation and lack of awareness of and ability to work creatively with power differences.

    6. Assumptions about early and second wave adoption of tools and the design of the tools for the diversity of participation.

    7. Assumptions about what participation means.

    There are a few. 😉

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