Skills, Knowledge and Literacies –> intro to emerging tech 1

Well… the course is well under way and there are already lively discussions starting off in the forums over at the course moodle. The discussion, i’m afraid, is closed, and rightly so i think for an introductory course in emerging tech. I personally like people to get a sense of what they are getting into (although from the posts many of the learners already do) before the decision of whether they want their thoughts and ideas to be in the permanent google record. I realize that this is a controversial position among the open Ed crowd (a crowd, if it were numbered, might include me) but while i ‘believe’ that openness is key for learning, I’m not yet willing to force everyone else into that belief. There is a very specific power in being an instructor, and I think part of the openness and transparency that we hope to acheive in education should include informed choice.

(All the information about what we’re teaching is available at the course wiki)

The first week of the course focuses on the idea of ‘literacies’ and, specifically, those literacies that come into play in the online world. The term ‘literacies’ is a controversial one and the readings from this week were meant to draw out some of those complex and controversial ideas and to get people thinking about what they know and what they think they need to know about ‘things online.’ This of course, prompted one student to immediately object to the idea that we could talk about literacies online as distinct from other kinds of literacies… (we can’t, I agree, but we need to set a context to start the discussion, i chose the word ‘online’ among a host of others because of the nice contrast with ‘offline’ that was fortunately picked up in some other posts… in retrospect ’emerging technologies’ might have been better)

The interesting thing that happened was that in response to several questions about ‘literacies’ people responded with posts about ‘skills’ using the words as synonyms. My own use of the word literacies (heavily influenced by the authors of the major reading for this week) goes past the ‘how to’ that I see as the major question with the word skill towards understanding and the ability to create meaning from a given situation or event. There is a sense in which there is an interplay of the words skill, knowledge, experience, culture, context and a bunch more in the word literacy and it’s not necessarily useful to ‘define’ it as such as it just tends to create ‘sides’ in an argument rather than forwarding a discussion of a word that will, necessarily, having slightly different meanings to all of us.
(for anyone who thinks it’s silly that I can’t define a word that I’m using… see Wittgenstein on Meaning)

Example – person 1 – Where is the police station. person 2 – over there.
I could read this conversation in Korean. I could (or could have), possibly, understood most of it had I heard it spoken…

I happen to be able to read, write and pronounce Korean Characters. My vocabulary, in Korean, however is limited to about 500 words so I miss most of what i’m reading unless I happen to be in a restaurant, at which point, I’m about 90% useful (which explains my post 25 year old horizontal growth). I currently have many of the skills required to interact in Korean but very few of the literacies. I have friends, also, who are native english speakers and are much more diligent than I am who have a vast Korean vocabulary but still miss much of the context of discussions for lack of the proper historical or cultural understanding of the language. An experience, for instance, that i had in reverse with my very advanced students who could not grasp what was going on in the simpsons… they lacked the required literacies to understand things like sarcasm and irony. Yes, in some cases it is simply a ‘knowledge’ gap but in others these are literacies that are tied to socio-economic and cultural contructs.

So… two people meet on the street and one enquires of the other where they might find the nearest police office. (an unlikely conversation in South Korea… but never mind) In the question there will be several indicators of class, status, education etc… Each area of South Korea has a specific dialect, and, purpotedly, a given personality that accompanies that dialect. Each South Korean verb (appearing at the end of the sentence) is finished with one of seven possible endings. (in reality 6, as one is reserved for speaking to the King… which they don’t have, but could, presumably (though I don’t know this for sure) be used as a joke) There is a great deal happening in the exchange of two sentences…

But there is more… one of the reasons that I suggested that the above conversation was unlikely, is that there is a certain resistance in South Korea to speak to other South Korean ‘strangers’ (this is not true of most foreigners). The reason for this, as it has been explained to me, is that without a clear idea of how old the other person is, or what their existing status is, it’s very difficult to find the correct, polite verb ending… and therefor to act ‘appropriately’. This doesn’t even begin to touch the different levels of volume, degree of hand gestures and other body language that make up a culture.

And, if that weren’t enough, in the 5 years I spent in South Korea i never saw a single street sign or number. They do exist, but they are only really used by the post office and pizza delivery folks… This means that in order to be able to follow the ‘over there’ description, they are going to need to have an idea of the landmarks that will be used and know ‘how landmarks are used’ by people there in order to be able to find the police station.

There is a great deal involved in using a language… some are skills, like knowing the sounds and knowing the characters… some are knowledge pieces… the combination of all these things and the ability to ‘make meaning’ from the encounter or, to be more irritating, the degree to which you were able to make meanign from the encounter… that where the literacies lie.

example 2
The first written piece that we covered this week concerned oral traditions as a form of literacy. It didn’t (as I’d hoped) spur much discussion seemingly because people found the conclusions of the article quite acceptable. What I find interesting about talking about oral traditions is how many people seem to feel like they have oral literacies. There is more, clearly, to the literacies around ‘oral traditions’ than simply being able to speak and to be able to hear someone else speak.

Back to emerging tech
When we look at the skills that are necessary for using emerging technology, search clauses, screen scanning, ‘multi’-tasking (more on the scare quotes here in a future post) many of which (though not all) could be acquired by repetitive effort. (no… i don’t mean this as a definition of skills) There is a great deal of information and knowledge that is needed to be able to be effective. If any of these skills are opened up and we look inside, we can find any number of literacies lurking.

If we unpack (or, if you’re feeling french, use the dreaded word ‘deconstruct’) any of our internet ‘skills’ or ‘literacies’ we will surely find any number of literacies hiding. Things related to socio-economic class (not to start this argument here, but any number of authors have written about access to the ‘dominant language’ changes the way that people see what you are doing) for instance. It might make for an interesting multilayered mind map… or even a massive literacy wiki that would allow for optional interpretations for each given skill/literacy.

We do need some way to talk about the things that are hidden in the things that we accept as ransparent.

Community Responsibility vol 2 – a community responsibility model

Had a great conversation tonight with David Cohn of the project. he has just been funded by the Knight Foundation to run a community driven news site which allows people to suggest, pitch and fund articles of interset to people who use the community. This is a really compelling project and I encourage you to check it out and pass the word about it… it really does push the model in an interesting direction.

Media and responsibility – citizen journalism
One of the interesting ‘half-divisions’ that David draws in this discussion is the distinction between citizen journalism and participatory journalism. The former, highlighted by projects like ireporter and, well, blogs like this one (and others) are people who are not necessarily professional writers or reporters who are giving their ‘take’ on a given topic and have included an indeterminate amount of thought and research to the matter. The other, what David is proposing with, is about the same people care about an issue mobilizing people to pay someone else to do this work for them. Someone, ostensibly, who has more experience or time (or both) to devote to the subject… I think as I think this over there may be some interesting outputs to that particular thought.

One of the main themes that comes out of this discussion is the role of community leadership in guiding the way a community uses its time, its money and how they are going to move people to be responsible. It’s an interesting counterpoint to the comment in the last post from Stephen Downes about being ‘forced’ to be responsible. Forced no… but I think I see some cross over here with what Stephen and George Siemens have been talking about related to connectivism and teaching by example. I think it does behove those people who are particularly passionate about an issue to lead the way in those areas and for others to keep their ‘portfolio’ of contributions pretty organized to avoid the community participation overload that Nancy was referring to in the last discussion.


Community Responsibility vol 1 – OMG is this a community?

This first post in the series of Community Responsibillity vs “The tragedy of the commons” is an attempt to lay the groundwork for the weeks to come and to start to tune the antanae to the idea of community. Where does it start and end? How do I know that I’m in a community? What should I do now that I’ve come to terms that I’m in one? These questions are at the heart of the community explorer’s mind as they wander through the internets…

Critical Point – Community vs. Network
In taking part in the CCK08 project I’ve come to believe that the distinction between these two concepts is critical to undestanding ourselves as net citizens. There is a distinction here that leads directly to whether or not you are ‘responsible’ in an ethical sense or ‘obliged’ in a legal sense. If you are in a community you are, in some way, responsible to that community, in a network you are responsible to yourself and the rules that govern you are those set forth by our society as laws.

Hence the critical need for being able to distinguish between them.

My Guest – Nancy White
Some highlights from the discussion with Nancy are detailed with the time they can be found at below. The conversation went a little longer than i’d intended, but the depth of her experience in the field of communities made it to hard to not keep asking questions. There are some nice thoughts here about how the ‘we’ takes over from the me in the transition to community and how reciprocity is the Number 1 most important thing in a community environment.


1:05 Nancy : Community is a group of people who care about something over a period of time.
1:56 Nancy : A community should be as concerned about we as they are about me.
4:00 Nancy : Communities can emerge at what starts out as an information connection into a personal relationship
4:31 Dave : So what happens to us on that transition, what qualities change or morph or adapt when we make that transition from network to community… as that cluster begins to emerge?
7:00 Nancy : Reciprocity as key to communities. Making reciprocity visible.
9:55 Nancy : fundamentally there’s alot that we know about offline human interaction that we seem to just for let disappear when we go online.
11:00 approaching an established community: the great value of newbies to communties.
14:00 managing multiple-memberships: managing your own expectations
15:58 How many functional relationships can you really have at one time?
16:20 The Well and why it works for Nancy.
19:00 Community scaling up to where there was not enough we.
Community is about that interplay of invitation and response… it’s like improv, make the other person look good and get what you want. That’s my personal values on communities… I’m not saying that other people should ascribe to them but to me that gets to the core.

Recommendation from Nancy : Peter Block – community the structure of belonging.

Another Project along similar lines
A very current project along similar lines of this one is Bud Hunts excellent K12-online presentation entitled “The Lie of Community“. He did several interviews of which i was fortunate enough to be one and they accompanied a really excellent 20 min audio presentation.

A key point that comes out of his presentation is to understand that there is no ‘one’ community out there… no model for which we can apply a single set of rules or guidelines or best practices. He takes a really nice people based approach to the discussion and gives people a really nice sense of what his community means to him. And hopes to continue the conversation… hopefully we’ll get some nice crossovers between what he’s doing and what I’m trying to do here.

Something i ran into while working on this
This is a really neat discussion of Open Source communities and how they are managed… (add on note: by david e. eaves and his main site

Community Management Presentation

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: 2007 fsoss)

download audio with nancy

Community Responsibility vs. ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’

Over the next 8 weeks I hope to run a series of discussions on community responsibility and how it’s critical for how I (and many others) work on the internet. I’m planning to write a series of reflections about the topic but, more importantly, to invite in a bunch of community folks to talk about what community means to them (likely not the same for everyone), to describe valuable examples of community responsibility that they’ve seen and to talk about their ideas for how they would like to see communities operate.

I was talking about this with Lawrie Phipps the other day and he pointed me to “The Tragedy of the Commons” as an interesting foil for discussion. According to wikipedia

The article describes a dilemma in which multiple individuals acting independently in their own self-interest can ultimately destroy a shared resource even where it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long term interest for this to happen.

The article itself is focusing more on the idea of a ‘limited’ resource, and we could argue that the ‘limited resource’ here – people’s attention, community focus on a cross section of the long tail – but I’d rather not get bogged down there, but our time certainly is limited… and the energy that we have to constantly create and recreate our knowledge bases is certainly limited. There are ways that we work together that are more effective and ways in which we can design spaces that are more effective. There are reasons to start work, to leave a trail behind you and reasons to decide that you shouldn’t start ‘Yet Another List’ of whatever it is you are working on.

The work that we do in communities is important to all of us. The work that is done in those communities is valuable and, in many cases, well worth tending as the projects go forward… but how to do it? Are we responsible to the communities that we participate in? If we are how do we, as community members, live up to our responsibilities?

Please… no more rules!
I doubt there is any single way to be a responsible community citizen, nor is this project intended to be an exclusive ‘8 ways to be a community member’… the idea is more about discussing the best practices and trying to avoid being either legalistic (you must do exactly this or…) or jingoistic (“yes we…” uh… probably too fresh there… just not jingoistic).

Our existing guidelines on things like citation and IPR are more about what you are ‘allowed’ to do, these things focus on the individual and what that individual can do to get the most of out of the commons of knowledge. What I’m more interested in is rather how we can be more ‘responsible to’ the communities that we work in and around. This goes all the way from realizing we HAVE participated in a community to acknowledging the work that you are building on in a way that furthers the community you have learned from, giving to that community in a way that makes it stronger and crafting communities so that these things are possible.

It’s a big mandate for one little eight part project, but I’ve been thinking and talking about this alot recently, and I’d like to crystalize some of the ideas that I have now if for no other reason than to use them as a frame of reference for later. I’m inviting in a bunch of smart people to hopefully learn from them and also better learn what I myself think about these things.

What you can do
One, I’d love some more suggestions about who to invite… I’ve gotten a few ‘yes’es so far and am hoping to get a few more people brought into the mix… no need to stop at eight folks for eight episodes… this is the internets, it’s not like I’m paying by the word 🙂

I’d also love if you folks, my own community, would interact with these ideas as they come along. I make no specific claim to ‘knowing’ how this should be done… really I don’t even think that’s possible. It’s only through the interaction that we get a sense for what is the ‘knowledge’ of this…

oh right… and like i said before… i got this idea after reading Steve Dembo’s 30 days to becoming a better blogger. Thanks steve.

We are media and some thoughts about community

I took a listen to the late night conversation I had with Bud Hunt a little while ago about my thoughts on community and was struck by a few things (other than the fact that I probably talk too much.)

  1. No matter how good a community, its ideas, its positioning, there are almost always a couple of people working their tails off to keep it what it is.
  2. Community participation is almost entirely about the responsibility of the participant.

We are media project
I’ve talked quite a bit about this project this year. Beth Kanter was kind enough (after i volunteered) to ask me to be a critical friend on the project… (and I should be receiving a t-shirt soon!) I really can’t say enough about how much I like what she’s done with this project and the quality of the content. It also serves as an nice case for just how much work is required to get this sort of thing running. Go to any page and click the history button and what you’ll see is an excellent community organizer, helping things along, tweaking the wiki, encouraging contributors, finding new ways to keep participation interesting.

If you are looking for a great resource for social media, check this project out. If you are thinking of starting your own, look very closely at this project. Trying googling the project url, look through the wiki, and you’ll see how a pro does the job.

Go forward for we are media
Right now… the content in the project is very good. According to the work plan, the development part of the project is ending and the ‘instructional’ period is ramping up for december. I wonder what’s going to happen with the content. But how does one keep content this changeable uptodate?

I’m going to be working with george siemens on a course starting (omg… next week) and will definitely be using the wearemedia project as a resource… we should, as good members of a community, update the part of the content that need updating as a manner of ‘responsibility’ or payment if you like, for using the material. I worry, however, about potentially adding confusing information while beth et al. are designing their delivery methods… something to think about.

This kind of relationship, though, seems like a good one. A couple of courses decide to use the same repository/ies for their work and that keeps the work uptodate as well as avoiding the duplication of effort. I wonder if something like this with wearemedia and alec’s 831 course would make a nice balance between two excellent resources. mmm… community.

So how do we ensure that we are being responsible and respectful to the work that has been done in the communities that we travel in and with the resources that we appropriate. I relied on Alec’s course wiki for my own course this summer… but never contributed to it (though i certainly made it clear that I used it) I use to cheat my way through knowing what’s going on… and try to offer something back to stephen when the opportunity arises. There are many people out there following along with Steve Dembo’s ‘30 days to being a better blogger‘ and day three’s instructions are to thank someone who’s helped you.

Once a week ’till New Years – Being a more responsible community member
I think i’ll write a series of posts on this idea. Look for number one next Wednesday. I’ll wrap together all eight in a package at the end and post it somewhere as a package. waddaya think?

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