Posts tagged "emergence"

March 14, 2014

Considering the effects of emerging ecosystems on the “Connected Mind.”

“Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man – the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society…”

Marshall McLuhan
Excerpt from Understanding Media, The Extensions of Man, Part I.

Originally published in 1964


Putting multivalent minds to the task of building the sort of “productive future” alluded to by Howard Gardner should be easy given that we live in an era where our technology radically connects (many of) us to one-another in ways that transcend our traditional constraints of space-time and gives rise to new paradigms of language and discourse that re-define our notions of class, culture and the self, to name but a few.

The inter-web of all things, as Marshall McLuhan presaged in the opening quotation almost half a century ago, has endowed us with one might consider as a shared intelligence that is transforming our paradigms of knowledge and value in ways that may not be entirely obvious to us at this point and, despite our best intentions and designs, these media will shape human discourse according to their own innate potentials and in ways that will bare unintended consequences both good and bad.

The inter-web is a highly complex ecosystem of technologies and protocols that form what we now call the “cloud”—an adjective that adequately expresses the conceptual fog that envelops most of us as we contemplate how we might negotiate its complexity and harness its power in meaningful, ethical and effective ways—ways that eschew sentimentality and longing for more certain and halcyon days in favour of addressing the very real and messy challenges that lie ahead of us.

We are exhorted by Gardener and his adherents to cultivate multi-faceted states of consciousness and to synthesize the data gleaned, gathered, weighed—the insights sparked and given wings and purpose—all against a technological backdrop that is characteristic of an ecosystem in Darwinian overdrive. This backdrop imparts a duality to the economy of transformation that can variously enhance and accelerate it or simply confound it.

The question that is front of mind for me is: “Is it possible to move from merely coping with the challenges that face us to thriving in the turbulence that abounds in their wake? Thriving will depend on whether we can wrestle this seemingly intractable and chimeric landscape and re-shape it on a human scale with human values, language and metaphors at its core. In this way we will be able to comprehend and share in the abundance of opportunities that abound in the hyper-connected globe. Let us then explore some of these challenges by sharing candid reflections on how the connected minds of ourselves and our students are being facilitated or obfuscated in this emerging landscape.

Questions to Consider:

1.         If we assume that, for the foresee-able future, technology will play an increasingly important role in education, what do potential (Good and Bad) do you envision for transforming the current learning ecosystem?


2.         What spaces, organizational structures or opportunities exist for the “connected mind” to synthesize and share insights and information from the other domains of the mind?

How are technologies enhancing or inhibiting this synthesis and sharing?


3.         How important are student faculty narratives to the process of synthesizing and sharing of information and insights gained from the various domains? Are you actively exploring modes of digital storytelling with the student as an active producer of content knowledge? If so, what form does your storytelling take?


4.         Are you exploring Digital Citizenship, Connecting, Collaborating and Building Personal Brand value through active participation in communities of practice? How are you accomplishing this?


5.         Are you directly engaging your students with complex, global social ecosystems as part of their learning experience? If so, what is it comprised of and what protocols/ use case scenarios do you find most effective?


6.         How do you curate the artefacts (numeric, textual, audio, video, image, reflections, impressions) of exploration from the different domains and how do you articulate/visualize the constituent parts and how they inter-relate with one another?


7.         Given students are potentially a Go0gle String from an answer, how do you see and convey the value proposition that you, the educator, represents? How do you position yourself as a conduit of know-how against a multitude of 24/7 ON DEMAND channels of know-how that feature Fast Forward and Rewind?


Recommended Texts:

Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

By Marshall McLuhan


Smart World: Breakthrough Creativity And the New Science of Ideas

By Richard Ogle


The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art

By J. David Lewis-Williams

4:12 PM Permalink
February 10, 2014

Reaching Critical MASS: Promoting and Leveraging a Diverse Learning Ecosystem in Foundation Art and Design


As part of our Foundation Art and Design program review—initiated in the Fall of 2013—we have been considering the status of each of our course offerings and ensuring compliance with provinical ministry program guidelines and addressing gaps identified in the programming through student feedback questionnaires (SFQs). We are also undergoing a process of rationalization to the provincial government in order to help them identify areas of excellence and/or duplication. It is important that our program stand over and above the other foundation programs offered in and around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in order to ensure our place in the mix of offerings.

As part of that process of defining just how our foundation programming is different, I have been striving to create a student experience that sets itself apart from offerings at other schools. The vision looks at promoting and developing a set of essential qualities in the teaching and learning experience and the systems that we engage our faculty and students with.

I can’t understate the importance of drawing on timeless and essential soft skills to ensure a positive student experience. There is no technology solution that can even approximate the worth of an enthusiastic, caring and engaged faculty member. One aspect of what we will be promoting in the teaching and learning experience will be engagement with new digital tools and environments that will prepare both faculty and students for the emerging workplace of the 21st Century. In no way do I wish to suggest that the integration of technologies into the teaching and learning mix will supplant the soft skills that were alluded to earlier, rather, they should augment and enhance that experience in some meaningful and substantial way.

The recommendations that are being proposed here are the product of testing and consultation with third year design students in our Knowledge Design-I elective course. These students engaged with a variety of emerging technologies and were asked to envision and weigh in on their potential for enhancing the teaching and learning experience.

In addition to the specific skills developed within each course and the Essential Employability Skills (EES) stated in the course outlines, we are striving to transform this experience in ways that recognize the shifting and emerging competency requirements for the 21st Century workplace.










Above: The turbulence caused by rapid advances and declines in technologies are not only posing significant challenges for large institutions like schools, they are rapidly imposing new relationships on us. Being agile enough to bend and sway with these changes will be a significant predicate for success. On much reflection, I am convinced that the only way to effectively deal with this turbulence is to develop much deeper relationships with innovation drivers like software and hardware development companies. We should seek to  deepen relationships with these companies such that the culture and processes that define these agile development communities are inculcated in an institution’s own culture and workflows. This, of course, will require a radical re-configuration of that institution’s conception of its own organizational structure and culture.
Collaborative organizational, methodological and economic models that define the innovation economy are antithetical to the traditional, linear, hierarchal and authoritative models that define most institutions today. Deeper, strategic alignment with innovation companies will help to strengthen an institution’s understanding of the structural and procedural transformations required to inhabit the innovation space. In this way, institutions can move from being relatively slow and unresponsive “reactors” to change to becoming proactive “drivers” of change. Much like a software or hardware company, an educational institution becomes a “lifeware” or “peopleware” commited to providing meaningful, relevant and powerful “upgrade” paths for their client base.

For more on my background views on innovation in the applied learning space you can access my related posts by CLICKING on the blue links below:
Perpetual Beta: 21st Centrury Course Structure Rationale
RISK eBusiness: Moving to a Just In Time Model of Teaching
Worth vs. Work: Transforming People and Organizations for the Knowledge Economy
On Demand Amnesia at the Self-serve Window of Education
Deck the Halls with Boughs of Knowledge: Exploring the use of Augmented Reality in Education
Goin’ Down the Road: My Teaching Philosophy

I am confident that an emphasis on engaging our students with a blend of solid, traditional pedagogy with a new ecosystem of technologies and their related protocols will help to nurture the following qualities:

Our Learners will be:
Reflexive, collaborative, agile, knowledge producers and knowledge sharers. They will be effective and responsible digital citizens with the skills and knowledge to build and promote a strong personal, digital brand in a global context.

Our faculty will be:
Creative, caring, sharing, professionals who are current, collaborative, reflexive, agile, and committed to life-long learning and  the success of all our students and fellow faculty members.

Our School/Program will:
Offer flexible delivery of information and learning (Blackboard, ON, HARVEST for supporting student online experience)
Offer content that is universally accessible. Provide an opportunity  to experience a variety of digital environments and tools and to develop an agility and facility in their use. Teach the skills necessary for successful student collaboration with their peers.

The “thing” that will set us apart from other similar program hinges on developing AGILITY, ADAPTABILITY, COLLABORATIVE CAPACITY, SHARING, STORYTELLING, PERSONAL DIGITAL BRANDING and DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP in both our students and our faculty.

I am in the process of developing a plan called Critical MASS that is aimed at ensuring that all of our students will have had the benefit of coaching on team-building and collaboration strategies (not only an Essential Employ-ability Skill but also a requirement of being effective in virtual work environments too).
Once students know how to function as a team, this team will serve as an ongoing peer-resource not only explicitly for group projects but as a support and mentoring mechanism aimed at Mutually Assured Student Success (hence, Critical MASS). This will serve to promote a stronger sense of community while ensuring higher levels of engagement and retention. Forming students into effective groups is determined in accordance with a skills and infrastructure readiness survey that I have developed in order to identify  the distribution of competency and access to technology for our students. Data is used to build balanced teams. Other data, from Diana McIntyre at Student Success, shows that the nature of student commuting, hours of work and other life commitments are such that it is exceedingly difficult for student groups to physically meet before or after classes. To that end, with our Dean’s encouragement, We have built prototype infrastructure to support virtual/remote teaching, learning and collaboration capacity here at the school. The infrastructure forms an ecosystem with many overlapping parts some of which have particular strengths and limitations. There are plenty of options available to faculty and students from using a mixed bag of technologies to using a one-top-shopping approach. Each of which offers particular advantages.

Much has been made over the confusion of having so many systems and, on the face of it, I feel that this is a valid consideration; however I also strongly feel that it is necessary to acknowledge the fact that the technology ecosystem outside of our doors is infinitely more complex and confusing. It is ever-changing and expanding at an exponential rate: software titles become more complex and feature rich, more titles are published, we are now into tablet computing and mobile data, the app universe is nearing 1 Million apps and growing, browsers are becoming increasingly modular, programmable and complex, and the list goes on. We are all affected by the consequences of this turbulence and I am sure we have entertained the fantasy of being free of technology altogether but I don’t think that it is going to happen in our lifetime. The point being that we cannot avoid it and we ignore it at our own peril.
It behooves us, then, to help both ourselves AND our students negotiate this chaos in some meaningful and effective manner.

Yes. It is chaotic and complex but I feel that the technology infrastructure that we currently have in place is considerably pared down by comparison. The idea is to get all of the stakeholders to develop a degree of comfort and agility—an understanding  for why and how to inhabit and move through these environments and to do so in a more purposeful fashion. In my estimation, the benefits outweigh the risks, and, if we can make this ecosystem an integral part of of how we do business here at the School of Design, this will provide a value added experience for our graduates that goes beyond the pale of a standard design curriculum. THIS is what will set us apart.

The biggest challenge, of course, will be developing an understanding, fluency and ease of use for faculty. It has been my experience, that my students use these environments very effectively for the most part—so much so that, where faculty have not been using virtual environments, they simply create their own Facebook pages. The issue with this, of course, is that if there is a systemic issue with the students, you remain blissfully unaware until it shows up in your SFQ several weeks after your class is finished! Being able to monitor the pulse of your class at a glance is a very powerful way of ensuring quality and consistency in the student experience and provides invaluable data for informing iterative designs of your course.

Of course it is never quite as simple as throwing a switch. Using this ecosystem, combined with the power of the internet, requires new protocols and new forms of pedagogy that allow us to leverage its full potential. For example, having access to thousands of authoritative resources on a subject via an instant internet search shifts the balance of authoritative power away from the traditional professor in the traditional classroom setting—the roles in the classroom change dramatically. At worst, the instructor’s authority is undermined as students seek alternative sources for their information. At best, professors are valued, knowledgeable guides who can help the student leverage the maximum potential of the resources that they have at their fingertips.

Currently, we are in a situation where it is reasonable to expect students to research and present on a topic that, traditionally, might have been covered by their professor—that they should access knowledge outside of class and come to class for an experience other than information dissemination. The natural outcome of the fact that students have 24/7 instantaneous access to knowledge that we have traditionally dispensed has created a gradual drift towards “flipped” models of teaching where the students are actively encouraged to be researchers, presenters and content creators instead of content consumers. In this scenario, they need to develop a crucial set of ancillary skills in research, writing, documentation, presentation, visualization, storytelling, etc.

Digital storytelling of one’s know-how on a global stage forms the new basis on which students and professionals are starting to build their value. For example, trillions of images are searchable and available on the internet for free. Few people are willing to pay for them—even designers! So, the value proposition does not lie in the production of yet another image, rather, the value inheres in building a following in a social media platform by sharing know-how. It is no longer good enough to simply show one’s work, it is critical that they be able to tell cogent stories about how said work came to fruition—sharing insights into creative processes as well as technical how-to-s. THIS is the new currency that will help to build a person’s brand. This brand building and story-telling is an important dimension of how faculty add worth to the teaching and learning experience and build and promote their own personal brand by sharing their own know-how, not only with their immediate students but with the world at large. Both students and teachers are increasingly becoming active participants in this expanding circle. Some examples of how these stories can be curated and shared are shown below (This very BLOG is one such mechanism whereby a student or faculty member can share their insights):


Faculty Reflections
History of Game Design Student Research Project Summary
Faculty Curated Student Work (by Program—Course—Project, respectively)
Foundation Art and Design Homepage (Generic, program landing page)
ART1029: Digital Art and Design Homepage (Course Specific Landing Page)
Digital Art and Design Gallery (Project Specific Landing Page)


Student Profile:
Public Profile Page
Student Reflections:
Student Learning Narrative: BLOG
Student Portfolios:
BEHANCE Portfolio

Of course, none of this would be possible without a very powerful, interoperable infrastructure. Some of this infrastructure is a college resource and others lie outside of the college domain. Some of the elements are large enterprise level systems and others are small, niche apps. My personal preference is to cobble together an aggregation of technologies in a way that allows for greater independence, flexibility and agility. The fact that many commercial level tools offer freebie versions makes it very enticing. Also, the use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. as output conduits allows most, if not all of these resources to be interoperable on some level. This allows for an unprecedented level of freedom of choice in configuring a network of enabling technologies.

Let me introduce you some of the tools and spaces that comprise our ecosystem and explain what their core strengths/use case scenarios are (Keep in mind that there is a significant amount of overlap and that not all of these tools are used all of the time but they have all been introduced at one point or another over the past several years in an attempt to gauge their roles and impact for later integration).



Above: This is the college standard default for online/blended online learning delivery. You can fully expect a greater push to utilize this resource. It is feature dense and the user interface is far from being comprehensible and user-friendly. It is like the COSCO of online. It has everything and you can wear yourself out trying to find it! It is a bit like taking someone up in a Jumbo Jet to teach them how to fly a plane.

Fully supported by Blackboard under contract; We have a small team of experts over in ELTI, Rubrics allow for quick, automated marking; Tests are automated and marked, Grades are calculated automatically; Grades instantly available to students if you want. Mobile compatible.

We have a small team of experts; Tries to do too much. Non-intuitive—Not a very friendly User Interface. Low adoption rate by faculty. Low function use by faculty if they are using it. Difficult to learn for both faculty and students and requires dedication of scarce time and resources to train for use.
I am fully committed to mentoring each and every one of you through this process of getting to know and acclimatizing to these environments and will gladly make time to assist you with the transition. Perceived as “extra work.” Limited mobile functionality. Online collaborative environments (collaborate) are difficult to use and prone to gltiching (Fall of 2013). Very costly.


WIKIS (Click BLUE LINK to view page)

Above: This is a WIKI/BLOG/VIDEO server that we have here at the SOD. This VERY simple and stable platform can be used for making course materials available online. Each course is identified with unique branding and icons that are part of a cohesive branding program. Permission levels can allow for private, semi-private or public levels of access.

You can explore some of this infrastructure by clcking on the BLUE LINKS to view additional content such as the Digital Art and Design course. It also allows students to create profiles and to BLOG on their weekly learning. It is also great for curating work and for telling the stories of what you did with your class in any given semester (this reflexive practice is very prevalent in US schools and US educators are establishing clear leadership roles and setting the agenda for online education. Some examples of how we are using the environment are accessible below:
Student BLOG
Art of Wine and Cheese
Hawaiian Shirt Project
Director’s Design Competition (Daniel’s Spectrum, SPRING 2013)

Extremely simple and easy to learn (takes about 10 minutes and works pretty much like a simplified word processor); Faculty can create/post content there; Secure (Only registered faculty and students can author in it). Students and faculty can create profiles and post blogs about what they are learning; Unlike Blackboard, the material posted there is persistent and is always accessible (don’t have to worry about content importing every semester as in an LMS); Great resource for holding and presenting video; No ads or ownership issues as with Facebook and YouTube.

Limited layout potential (uses basic templates). Does not allow simultaneous co-authoring of pages. People outside of the college system can be allowed to SEE the material but they cannot author with it. Perceived as “extra work.”


Above: This is an Open Source version of Facebook. It has all of the same functionality: Create Special Interest, Group or Course pages and set membership privileges for them. You can create and promote events. You can Poll users, send public or private messages, post video, audio, create threaded discussions, blogs and more.

Leverages student familiarity with Facebook so no training is required. It is a popular social media platform with most students. Very secure environment hosted behind the college firewall. There is no data collection as there is in Facebook and other Social Media Tools. Can monitor and track user engagement data and feature student leaders within the community in order to promote greater participation and development of knowledge sharing, storytelling skills in the service of building a strong personal brand and good digital citizenship. Has potential for introducing “badging” to recognize student accomplishments.

Lower level of uptake than anticipated. There is a need to promote the benefits of the environment to key faculty and students. Perceived as “extra work.”  The environment is “by invitation only” and requires professors to have students input their email to generate an invite. There are some bugs but they don’t impare usability they are just minor annoyances. We are upgrading this by the end of January, 2014 to address this issue.

Adobe provides a wide range of collaborative tools for virtual collaboration that includes application and screen sharing and video conferencing (Connect) as well as document co-authoring, document signing and security and file sharing (, work spaces) that integrate with their universal PDF workflow. This is an important workflow for the 21st century skillset. The creative cloud brings together creative tools and collaborative spaces that duplicates some of the functionality such as file sharing and collaboration that is found in

Above: The workspaces interface allows for the creation of teams and the sharing of files with its members.  

Above: The Creative Cloud interface allows for file storage and sharing as well as a mobile workflow and social media capacity. This is an important environment for anyone using 21st Century digital authoring tools and, particularly, for creative industry workers and teaching professionals.

BEHANCE: Professional Creative Community and Portfolio Site

Above: This is an online community of professional creatives that allows for portfolio curating, sharing, commenting, collecting, collaborating as well as a job market board. It is useful to follow influential creative types for the industry or field that you may be interested in becoming a part of in the future. 

Industry leading. Global community. Connected to industry professionals and leaders. Costs the college nothing. Powerful curating tools. Can socialize and promote work or follow community professionals. Can create feedback groups. Easy to organize and catalog student work. Helps promote the notion of building a global professional brand and participating in a community of practice. Owned by industry leader Adobe Systems.WEAKNESSES:
Currently follows the two-tiered membership model of most social spaces. Free membership for a limited array of functionality and a pro-level (could revert to entirely subscription based in future). Perceived as “extra work.”

This cloud-based note-taking software allows for the creation of custom notebooks (for each course, project, etc.) and can record text, images, web pages, audio and video. Notebooks or individual notes can be socialized or shared with individuals via email or via a public URL.
Go to EVERNOTE by CLICKING on the BLUE link and download Evernote, Skitch and Web Clipper.  (Feel free to try others) these are great tools for capturing, representing and organizing information.

Above: In order are icons for Evernote (note-taking), Skitch (annotating web pages or screen captures) and Web Clipper (Capturing web pages). If you are a visual thinker CLICKING on the BLUE MohioMap link to download this visual notes organizer for Evernote.

Promotes a group-based, collective strategy to capturing information. Two students per class are assigned to take notes on an iPad or laptop or workstation (one at the first half and another after the break). The link to the notebook is shared in common so all students can draw on it. It eliminates duplication of effort and spreads the workload out across the entire class. It costs the college nothing (no note-takers required). It is available on any browser on any platform including mobile. Accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. Notes can be downloaded and printed if desired.

Not all students are adept at this and the focus, style and veracity may vary considerably. Perceived as “extra work.”


I have my students follow my Twitter handle @prof2go. Not all students use Twitter and even fewer faculty do. This form of instantaneous communication platform is variously used and abused and, for many, it represents the most invasive form of communications tools—commanding a great deal of moment-to-moment attention. It demands brevity and clarity in messaging and allows for deep socialization.

Excellent research tool. Students can “follow” seminal thinkers and industry leaders to gain insight into the things that they are driven by and can, on occasion, establish dialogue and ongoing relationships with those who share their passions. It keeps messages short and to the point. Potentially, you have a global audience. You can create and follow trends using metadata #hashtags. Feeds can be aggregated from multiple sources using tools such as Paper.Li, HootSuite, etc. Fast method for generating alerts or sharing links.
Limited message length. Not good for detail-oriented communications. Aggressive and demanding media that is constantly “on.” Can be distracting and, some claim, addictive. Large volumes of noise (useless, whimsical data). Perceived as “extra work.”

(Tufts VUE, SimpleMind MapWebspiration, Inspiration, ):

These tools are for visualizing complex concepts such as processes, workflows, ideas, etc. and making connections between them. Webspiration and Inspiration are cloud-based and desktop mapping software, respectively and come from the same company. These tools were sponsored by the distributor. They aid in making complexity less intractable by visualizing and simplifying. Elements in these maps can be connected to rich media assets such as video, audio, PDF and text documents as well as URLs and other maps. The tool from TUFTS University is a research-based tool that is capable of powerful data modelling and semantic analysis.

Helps to organize thoughts. Simplifies complex scenarios. Great for visual thinkers and different learning styles. Can link to various media. Webspiration and SimpleMind Map have a cloud function that allows for sharing and collaboration. SimpleMind Map offers limited free version and TUFTS VUE is free. SimpleMind and Webspiration have tablet enabled Apps.
Often proprietary formats with poor translation into HTML5 or PDF structures. Webspiration co-authoring is buggy. Webspiration is subscription based. Perceived as “extra work.”


This is a handy little tool for shortening incredibly long and difficult to recall URLs. There is no downside to this. You can curate collections of your URLs too.


This plug-in gives your browsers the ability to access the Zotero collaborative Research cloud to form research teams, collect, catalogue, cite and share every sort of media source imaginable.

Provides a structured approach to research. Allows sharing and socializing. Provides collaborative research infrastructure. Works inside the browser. Accessible on both your computer and in the cloud. Well documented.

Could use a live social function. Not entirely self-evident use. Potential for browser upgrade issues. Too much horsepower for what a Foundaton program would need. Focused more on academic research at the university. Perceived as “extra work.”


Above: One of a few publications that Professor Jim Kinney compiles on Augmented Reality.

Socialization capacity. Global reach. Great research tool. Great for personal brand building.

Everyone can do it It will be difficult to stand out as a truly original piece. Little original content connected to the syndication publisher. Perceived as “extra work.”


This lets you manage your social media for information blitzes, campaigns and promotions and tracks the recognition of your personal brand in social media circles. You can monitor trending and use analytics to  understand traffic patterns and trends.

Robust and deep functionality. Allows you to aggressively promote your message and monitor its effectiveness. A pretty good free trial version. Great tool for faculty who are active members making contributions to professional discussions and events.WEAKNESSES:
Limited user base for free. More horsepower than is necessary for student needs unless they are focused on advertizing and social media design. Perceived as “extra work.”


This is a very simple, free polling tool that is useful for determining meeting schedules.

Simplicity. Free. Aids group collaboration efforts.

No additional project management functions. Perceived as “extra work.”


This survey tool has a free version that allows students and faculty to gather data from a broad range of sources on a broad range of topics.

Simplicity, unlimited global reach potential. Great research tool for gathering user experience data. Great for getting timely student feedback on issues.

Need to pay to expand sample size and analytics. User should be knowledgeable in asking the right sorts of questions to avoid inherent biases and leading questions. Perceived as “extra work.”


These environments were explored in the winter term of 2013 for their ability to augment the teaching and learning environment by delivering access to on-demand knowledge in situ. My students and I built a permanent installation in our new game design school on the history of game design. Students can now access short documentaries and interviews by designers that relate to seminal digital video games simply by pointing a smart phone or tablet at trigger images throughout the school. Later experiments were done with select faculty on using AR to deliver tutorials, room greetings and schedule and web site access from one’s smart device. For more on this follow the blue links below:
The Virtual Academy Emerges
Research Synopsis
Faculty Knowledge Transfer


Here we look at how classroom culture and rolls can be transformed in order to promote a more profound use of the ecosystem and how to prepare the learners of tomorrow with 21st century skill sets.

Working collaboratively is an essential skill. Organizing students into groups and arming them with the tools and techniques to work effectively in groups will be the key to ensuring their success not only in project work but throughout their tenure at the school. We will develop a shared sense of responsibility for the success of one another that will build a more cohesive and caring learning community. Peer groups will act like a family support mechanism throughout the year.

We will promote the notion of the student as a capable researcher, scribe, presenter/storyteller, teacher and allow them to directly participate in unearthing and presenting subject knowledge. They will construct and share knowledge with their groups, their class, the school and the broader global community through participation in professional online communities of practice.

We are moving, in some instances, towards a flipped model of learning where students participate in knowledge creation and sharing as above. Faculty, will make content available prior to class and predicate class activity on prior engagement with any posted materials in order to reserve face time for deeper levels of interaction that transcend mere information dispensing.
I recall a time in my undergraduate years at the University of Waterloo where I sat in the Engineering Lecture Hall at 8am alongside 200 other very groggy students only to watch our professor put acetate copies of the textbook on an overhead and read from it verbatim. It was by far the worst experience that I ever had as a student and it stuck with me. In light of unprecedented access to information on the internet, standing in front of a class and dispensing facts is somewhat akin to the professor reading from a textbook. It is incumbent upon us to create more engaging experiences with important content and having the students researching and presenting is one such way that provides the added benefit of learning how to work as a group and present.

I have been introducing Evenote to classes and rotating the responsibility through the student body. This is just another example of working smarter in a collective and collaborative manner. Each day two students take responsibility for recording audio, video and text and for sharing public URLs that connect everyone to the notes. Each student is responsible for taking notes for only one half of a class all semester (provided there is a class of at least 30 students). This also has the potential of saving the college considerable expense for note-taking.

Students are expected to participate directly in the life of their learning community and can do so by reading, liking, commenting, posting in the Open Network community on a regular and ongoing basis. Highly active students who are showing leadership can be promoted and potentially rewarded (praise and recognition from their professors, recommendations for student awards, being featured in the blogs/social platforms, etc.
Faculty, too, will be encouraged to leverage these community forums to ensure direct participation in the development of programming. Like our students, our faculty have diverse interests that make face-to-face contact difficult most of the time and this reduces opportunities for part-time and sessional faculty to add their voices and ideas to the conversation. This underscores the need for leveraging these environments to allow everyone to participate.

Students (and faculty too) are encouraged to reflect on their learning in the Harvest network personal blogs (blogs are also available in the Open Network too) This promotes meta-cognition and promotes awareness of what one is learning by incorporating weekly reviews of learning.

At the midterm break and at the end of the semester indiividuals and the groups to which they belong will be evaluated on the level and quality of their participation. This will be directly reflected by a grade that measures aspects of this participation. They will be evaluated by the professor as well as by their group members.

Faculty and students will work to build their online presence through direct participation in key online communities of practice. Through sharing their work, know-how, creative insights, commentary and critiques both faculty and students will build personal brand recognition in key online communities like BEHANCE.NET Building a strong brand of leadership will be the cornerstone of what sets us and our students apart from our competitors.

Through the Critical MASS initiative and participation in online communities we will continue to promote mentoring between students and faculty alike and will develop opportunities for sharing best practices with one another through online training, discussion forums and face-to-face meetings where possible.


There is a considerable amount  of information put forward here and it may be difficult to understand all or parts of it and how it impacts both the faculty and your students. I have created discussion groups within the Open Network, Foundation Faculty Page where faculty can contribute ideas, voice opinions, etc. Discussion boards are created for each course and are used to share best practices and ideas for course changes with the faculty members who share courses. There are also pages dedicated to the technologies introduced above that allow technology-specific Q and As.
Participants accept their invitations to join the Open Network and create a profile (including head shot) . All future communication regarding our programming will happen inside of that community resource. Ultimately, the success of this venture will hinge on faculty participation and, already, I am starting to see a real community of learning and practice emerge and stakeholders, that were initially overwhelmed, navigate the ecosystem like ducks in water.

9:22 PM Permalink
March 7, 2011

Perpetual Beta: Knowledge Design and Curation Course Rationale

Seeding the Knowledge Garden Beta Lab: Developing a Cross-disciplinary course in Knowledge Design & Curation for George Brown College.
By Jim Kinney, Professor, School of Art & Design, George Brown College.

The number of web pages in existence today is estimated at anywhere from 25 billion to 1 Trillion and is moving towards an infinite value. Having the equivalent of all human knowledge a mere Google search away confers knowledge power on the average internet user that eclipses the wildest imaginations of our predecessors yet, in order to fully utilize this incredible resource, requires that we are able to harness this chaotic agglomeration by subjecting it to a process of refinement.
The rigour of computer science and library science has helped to make this infinite datascape easier to navigate, search and visualize. As more of our economic activity migrates to this space, productivity gains as well as new ways of interacting stimulate the emergence of novel economic patterns with new value propositions. These emerging values do not conform to the old paradigms of vertical, hierarchal organisation and functional specialization with their synchronized production of concrete artefacts.
Artefact production is an anachronism of an industrial age that we have been increasingly outsourcing and leaving behind. We have migrated to a new space where value lies not in things but in relationships and this new landscape has opened the door to a creative impulse that has not been experienced since the dawning of the renaissance.
The adept is one who can work outside the traditional constraints of space, time and function and who can assume a multiplicity of roles and adapt on the fly to rapidly changing environments. These participants in the new economy will, by necessity, be effective in team-based approaches and organizations will need to move to a rapid response or Just-In-Time operational model that can accommodate changes in the wind and allow for innovation.
In order to allow for the incubation, acceleration and commercialization of ideas organizations will need processes and infrastructure that allow for a design-centred approach that can quickly prototype, test and refine ideas for market. Part of an effective infrastructure will be a cultural apparatus that promotes multi-disciplinary collaborations that allow for the confluence of design thinking, new methods, materials and technologies to solve problems in a myriad of domains such as healthcare, service sectors, security, finance, etc.
Crucial to the success of this design-centred approach will be building the capacity to capture and curate process knowledge on the fly in order to build a powerful, searchable knowledge repository that can be drawn upon to inform other teams working on other projects. The ability to organize effective teams and capture their experiences, as it happens, and to use this intelligence in debriefs to inform standards of best practice will be an integral tool in the emerging economy. The ability to modularize the functionality of knowledge assets in order to enhance their accessibility and usefulness as well as an ability to re-configure and repurpose these assets for a variety of applications constitute an emerging skillset. See Appendix 1 (Knowledge Worker)
Participants in the emerging economy will require broad base of skills that can be adapted to a multitude of scenarios in order to collaboratively, co-create, curate, distribute and monetize digital assets and experiences. Whether you are a Chef working with a programmer to produce an interactive mobile menu application that will allow for people around the globe to participate in a cooking class from home or whether you are a Palliative Care practitioner who is documenting patient care and interactions on a tablet in consultation with a medical doctor, you will need to know how to work in a team in order to design workflows and applications that help you to optimize your outcomes. Given that these complex systems are rendered more usable through rich visual interfaces, at least a rudimentary knowledge of these processes would be critical to establishing a common framework of practice around how information in the moment is best captured and made usable. This forms the basis for a new class of participant in the emergent economy that we can call the knowledge holder/creator. The knowledge holder must be adept at working with programmers, engineers and designers to render their knowledge into assets and experiential opportunities that are more accessible and usable by a broader spectrum of clients. The knowledge holder will need to learn the skills of capturing and curating their know-how in ways that optimize this accessibility and usability.

The Knowledge Garden Project
This project used a team-based, distributed model of peer-to-peer learning that was designed as an adaptive response to pervasive, persistent and aggressive change in technology.
By reframing traditional classroom roles and empowering students as co-creators/designers of knowledge, over 150 individuals were soon doing the work that was done by only one. The ability to rapidly research, demonstrate, document, podcast, archive and curate a myriad of learning experiences across a broad spectrum delivered the power to generate know-how that was vastly superior in both quality and quantity to what could have been done by a professor alone.
The fact that subsequent teams of students would assume stewardship of this resource meant that an entirely new generation of stakeholders could work on updating and improving the resource by adding searchability, improved assets, better organization, etc. Even if a new release meant that over 30 hours of podcast instruction and hundreds of PDF manual pages were rendered obsolete, the new owners could cope with this. While this would represent an unmitigated disaster for a group of professors this was a relatively simple fact of life that could easily be remedied with another burst of creativity from its stakeholders. Individually, the task was leviathan, collectively—it was relatively easy.
In this model the professor took on the role of mentor providing research direction that best tied to the problems being tackled. Finally, the professor acted as a knowledge harvester—taking the best materials and promoting their use within a content system by the broader student population.
This new methodology combined with some software and hardware infrastructure paved the way for creating a Just In Time or RISK-based approach to learning (Rapid Integration of Skills and Knowledge).

Beta Lab (Knowledge Curation and Design Course)
While the provenance of this idea was borne in the context of teaching software to Graphic Design students it quickly became apparent that the real potential for innovation lay in bringing design practice, RISK methodology and Knowledge capture/curation infrastructure and know-how to non-traditional disciplines in order to widen the net of inclusion and to “push the envelope” as it were in disciplines that, traditionally, had not enjoyed the sort of knowledge/tech transfer that designers have enjoyed since the mid 1980’s. It occurred to me that a multi-disciplinary approach had the potential to float many more boats and provide a context for rich interdisciplinary collaborations that would address some of the key skills and competencies required by the communities that we serve—namely, the ability to collaborate and communicate effectively.
A workforce that has the knowledge skill and infrastructure to capture and reframe the intelligence of their respective fields delivers the capacity to transform those fields by making their know-how accessible, searchable, transferrable, comprehensible and highly mobile. These new modalities have the added capacity to generate revenue and promote great efficiencies while binding participants in the process to powerful new modes of interaction and providing them with direct participation at the epicentre of the new and emerging economy.

The Ground Covered
I have worked since 2003 on refining methods of peer-based collaboration within the context of design. My students have self-organized, self-taught, demonstrated and published a wealth of materials in the three primary areas of Photocomposition, Illustration and Page Layout/ Printing using Adobe’s industry standard toolsets. The learning was contextualized in solving three main problems: The production of highly realistic illustrations using the two-dimensional medium of Adobe Illustrator and the compilation of a manual that detailed the tools, tips and techniques necessary for accomplishing the task. Further explorations of Photoshop were required in order to produce a compelling piece of cover art for the manual and InDesign was used to publish the materials as a PDF book. Rather than learning being a series of seemingly disconnected factoids, each element eventually took its rightful place in a sequence whose sum resulted in expert and compelling works. All of the research presentation and publishing were co-ordinated and executed in a collective fashion while the Illustrations, naturally, provided an outlet for individual expression and grading. It was a blended form of learning that, while it allowed for a summative expression of individual abilities, could not have been made possible without a concerted commitment to a group-based approach to learning.
Initially, Students not only showcased their individual talents (some of whom won international design awards from Adobe) but they each shared the fruits of their collective efforts in the form of a beautifully designed and extremely informative manual covering key functions of three very key Adobe toolsets.
In 2009 I participated in a joint research project with Apple Computer and three other Canadian universities that allowed me to explore the potential for the creation and distribution of mobile learning assets for and by students. This opportunity resulted in the generation of a rich, searchable resource that could be configured and used both on an individual and a collective level. In addition to the usual production of illustrations, cover art and how-to manuals, over 200 podcasts were generated many employing closed captioning and several executed in other languages such as Spanish and Mandarin—effectively transforming what would normally be considered as a roadblock to learning into a terrific learning advantage. The racial and linguistic diversity of our large urban mosaic was changed from challenge to opportunity by leveraging this inherent capacity to speak to the world. On conclusion of the research, infrastructure was repatriated and, only recently, has it been re-established with the acquisition of a new podcast and wiki server. Ideally, it would have been helpful to acquire a third authentication and sign-on server but we are working on managing these resources in a very independent manner that allows us to minimize reliance on IT resources and maximize experimentation and innovation by way of this relative autonomy.

The Course
It occurred to me that the course should build incrementally in order to develop best practices, test infrastructure robustness and requirements and that early iterations should be limited to design students with proven capacity to work with these technologies and document their processes in a clear and usable manner. Later iterations should ideally reach out to include other departments within our school in order to allow them to explore untapped niches of opportunity in their own domains. Eventually, in the third phase the course would encourage community members NGOs/agencies and private companies to partner with the program in order to leverage our capacity for providing solutions to these problems. I envision a cross-disciplinary team that would involve second or senior year students from various departments in order to provide a broad base of skill sets, a variety of faculty consultants, an IT liaison, a community partner with a problem to solve and a technology provider who sees in the community partner an opportunity to explore untapped applications for their product. This ecosystem of stakeholders would then collectively define and deliver innovation in the sectors represented by our community partners. The college itself could be designated as its own community partner and derive benefit from the creation of a cutting-edge knowledge ecosystem that buoys up underserviced areas. For instance, the simple inclusion of closed captioning as part of any workflow by student researchers creates a direct benefit of inclusion for a broader swath of the community!

Just In Time
The benefits of access to pre-release (beta-level) engagement with toolsets are significant. Instead of reacting to change, participants would have a role in shaping the changes affecting them by occupying a seat at the table where decisions are being made. This ground-sourced form of participation is a trend that will continue to grow and be incorporated in the development and marketing strategies of most leading companies. Any institution that can incorporate this form of dialogue into its program cannot help but assume a leadership role in shaping future trends and, as a corollary of this approach, its students are given significant lead times that allow them to anticipate and prepare for the changes that will effect their respective industries in ways that are profitable to them and the organizations that they work for.
Already the wheels have been set in motion with Apple Computer and Adobe Systems with respect to high value strategic relationships that involve this sort of cutting edge research and curriculum. Eventually, I envision an evolution of the lab where a multi-disciplinary team of students works with faculty, IT, a community partner using pre-release technologies that are being tested on real world problems—moving from scenarios of theoretical use to actual case use. Students and faculty would not only gain experience in emerging technologies ahead of the curve, they would get to apply it in particular instances relative to a problem identified in the community. They would also capture and curate this know-how and report to the various stakeholders on progress. The beta providers would gain access to a team of researchers who would provide critical bench testing of their wares and access data relevant to contextual use scenarios as well as proof of use for new markets/customers. They also would share in the warehoused knowledge and make this public on the release date. The fact that the beta providers could then offer the know-how material that was produced to their traditional user base as well as to anticipated new markets is a powerful incentive to participate.
The college would have the advantage of having know-how embedded in its participants but also in the form of searchable podcasts that could then be distributed to the broader community on the release date. The students, too, would have established a leadership position vis-à-vis this know-how and would have developed valuable research and collaboration skills in the process.
An opportunity also exists to license and distribute this content to create an income stream through Knowledge channels such as, iTunes, etc.
Strategically, Knowledge Capture and its curation are highly significant in adapting to the skills and knowledge vacuum created by the wave of succession caused by the Boomer generation’s exit from the workforce. Implicit knowledge held by Boomers, is in danger of being lost if it is not expressed, captured and repurposed for a smaller, younger generation taking the reins. Much work needs to be done in helping organizations acquire and utilize the capacity to capture and re-purpose the strategically important knowledge that constitutes their intellectual capital and competitive advantage. It is entirely reasonable to promote this form of Knowledge design and curation as a standard business practice.

What We Need
The project has only tacit approval at this stage. The course outline has been submitted to both the Director, Luigi Ferrara and his Co-ordinator, Judith Gregory for approval. We will need:
Lab space: Room to accommodate 15-20 people with tables in the centre to facilitate face to face interactions. White boards around perimeter to allow dtailing of discussions and prototyping.
Podcast Server/WIKI server (already acquired)
Service contracts to guarantee QS. On system configuration and maintenance
10 new computers (preferably Mac)
High bandwidth Wireless connection to the internet
VPN clients for senior administrators
Pre-release Software/Hardware and reporting software
Cross-disciplinary liaison to assist with outreach and building connections to other departments.
Creation of cross-curricular (Gen Ed) Requirement or accreditation possibly incentivized by two credits.
Ability to extend tenure of particpants to more than one term.
Terms of Engagement Agreements/ NDA’s, etc.
Recruitment process.
Interview process.
Legal advise on streamlining a process for binding a diverse group of stakeholders to the obligations of a Non-disclosure agreement while upholding the rights of individuals or organizations bound by them.
The will and the vision to support the project.
Potential Downside
The success of this enterprise is contingent on a number of factors. First, if the institution and its leaders fails to understand what is at stake and what the benefits are, it will be difficult to promote the risk-taking necessary to facilitate the acquisition of adequate resources and to experiment with new approaches in delivery. Cross-disciplinary approaches are difficult to co-ordinate with willing partners. A climate of risk mitigation will minimize participation in unproven territory and will default to a wait-and-see approach that is anathema to innovation—cultural acceptance of risk taking is necessary. Binding agreements between stakeholders need to be negotiated in order to ensure longer term viability. This will require signatories at the management level to give the project the endorsement it requires and to negotiate relationships that work to serve the interest of all parties involved. Other faculty and managers need to be educated on the significance of the approach and how it is validated through research and is consistent with emerging trends in experiential learning and is ideally suited as an adaptation and innovation methodology.
All stakeholders must perceive advantage in engaging with this approach and must be given a role in determining the contours of the engagement. Exclusion of any one party could result in a disconnection and a failure to “own” and promote the process towards excellence.
Given its marginal, off-grid approach adequate IT support for this project has been ad hoc in nature. Proper resourcing of IT support will be crucial to the success of any joint venture and care has to be taken to ensure clear and open channels of communication between our internal support and those of our technology providers. Failure to ensure that our technology partners and our internal IT partners are aligned in their respective tasks will result in technical impasses that will delay the move forward with project-based research.
NDAs are extremely important to partners providing pre-release opportunities and cultivating a climate of discretion and secrecy will be of the utmost importance. An interviewing process and the signing of binders by participants can help to lend weight to this necessity and the violation of these agreements would, understandably, do irreparable damage to the partner, the beta project and the reputation of the institution. The lab and the participants will be under wraps until the release date at which point we will be at liberty to share our successes and leverage any content/processes.
Non participation would effectively render the ambitions of this project to being moot and, so, proper promotion of its merits to the college community, managers, faculty, students and the broader community will be key to its long term success. Failure to promote the enterprise will result in its marginalization and eventual decline.
Keeping the initial offering limited to a small, select number of students will constitute budgetary pressure on the local level but will be necessary in order to ensure manageable success. The research-based focus may well present opportunities to attract research grants from government agencies, internal funding as well as our partners who will already be supplying in-kind investments of technology for our use but may well provide additional funding. Our community partners may best be able to provide an infusion of financial support given that we are helping them to solve a problem. The lab should be kept to a small group of 10-15 students and the professors involvement would require a release of two teaching blocks to accommodate proper oversight. As the lab culture matures we may be able to move to a staffing model where a student from a previous year is given the paying position of research lead and reducing the amount of direct involvement by the professor.
Debriefing sessions will be crucial to monitoring the health of a project and for instituting best-practices that will guide and inform future project participants. This will provide an opportunity to garner feedback/ratings from the various participants. A reporting structure will be necessary in order to share findings with the management layer and provide transparency and accountability on performance. Where NDAs allow, opportunities should be sought for presenting findings in the public domain through conferences, workshops etc. and victories and accomplishments should be celebrated in vehicles that are accessible to all of the parties (Trade Magazines, Symposia, Conferences, etc.).
This project represents over seven years of methodically acquiring resources, experimenting with methods and promoting its potential. I have every confidence that, with the proper support and dedication to its vision, it will help to place our college in a leadership position not only in innovation in teaching and learning but in providing new capacity to non “design-oriented” domains that will allow them to leverage the power of the knowledge that they hold and to migrate that knowledge into more contemporary domains that provide efficiencies as well as revenue-generating potiential.
I am excited to begin forging bold new partnerships and building something new and powerful that will serve our communities for years to come.


Jim Kinney

Appendix 1_K-Worker_Competencies & Relations

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