Learning Creative Learning: kindergarten learning

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The first week of learning creative learning (learn.medialab.mit.edu) is almost over. The course content consisted of just one paper and a google hangout, so not much to take in. I’ve not had time to watch the hangout: the format doesn’t really suit me, so i’ll probably miss it most weeks. I found some visual notes via twitter update from @ikbenjulie – https://twitter.com/ikbenjulie/status/301014444358643712. From this, it looks like the hangout talks through the paper and introduced the course.

Anyway, onto the paper: Mitchel Resnick (2007). All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking) I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten. ACM Creativity & Cognition conference. [PDF]. I liked this paper, nice and simple, and thought provoking. The core idea of the paper is that the learning we encourage in kindergarten promotes exploration and creativity, but subsequent learning environments, at school and beyond are too focused on facts and measurement. Resnick argues that promoting learning approaches which focus on creativity should be extend to all ages, a simple cycle is presented: imagine, create, play, share and reflect, before a new cycle of imagine … begins.

Resnick then presents a couple of technologies which MIT medialab have designed to promote different aspects of the cycle. Crickets (physical programmable devices) and scratch (a programming toolkit) take a modular approach to promoting the type of free play and creation in kindergarten learning.

Some years ago I was involved in a project/ company / consultancy developing a software toolkit for producing educational simulations (some of the simulations are available from www.jelsim.org). The idea behind the toolkit was to separate the model from its visualisation: so a single model calculating the position of the sun in the sky could be used as the basis to create an interface to help architects decide what blinds to specify for windows (based on how much sunlight might shine through them at what time of day) or a simulation to allow young children to explore how day length varies at different times of year (see the java simulations at JeLSIM.org/applets/solar/). The jelsim tools focused on empowering the teacher (to tailor simulations to educational need), but we recognised the ultimate aim of empowering the learner to create their own simulations: supporting true exploratory learning where a learner could build an interface to test a hypothesise. If we had reached that goal, the JeLSIM tools would have been a good example of kindergarten learning.

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One year Post-doc position at the Caledonian Academy

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We are recruiting for a one year post-doc to work on a project exploring ‘Work and Learning at the Boundaries of Knowledge. This project will follow knowledge workers in prestigious software engineering and financial services organisations to better understand their self-regulated learning practices.

Full details and how to apply for the post on the GCU website: http://www.gcu.ac.uk/jobs/vacancies/HR1474-Researcher1A.html [You must have the right to live and work in the United Kingdom to apply for this vacancy]

Find out more about the project through this project outline: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/6017514/wlbk_summary.pdf

Mendeley and Rhizomes

If you look at my participation in Change11 you might notice that it tails off just right around the time that the word rhizome is mentioned for the first time. Is this a coincidence?

I’ve known of the concept of Rhizomatic Learning since Dave Cormier’s Innovate article back in 2008 but it was always on the periphery of our work at the Caledonian Academy. I think we are coming at the same issue (learning when knowledge changes so fast) from different directions: our work  is focused on supporting learners in the workplace (where learning is a  secondary activity to work), while Dave’s focus seemed more on improving the value of  formal education – preparing learners to better cope with the modern knowledge workplace.  [apologies for any over-simplification]. In the back of my mind I knew I had to get to grips with Rhizomatic learning, but it never got to the top of the pile. Dave’s change11 week should have provided a good opportunity, but it seemed to get a little bogged down by discussions on terminology. While I should have engaged with the topic, I found myself a little de-motivated by the discussions which were ongoing. My change11 participation never really recovered.

A few months ago, Martin Weller wrote a post where he questioned the practical value of  the rhizomatic concept in helping us as educators.  Martin helpfully used the words expert and novice in his post  and his clear and useful examples (e.g. blogging) helped me relate the ideas of Rhizomatic learning back clearly to our own work.  In the comments to that post I tried to defend the un-teachibility of rhizomatic learning by  focusing  instead on the way learning specialists can create an environment which supports learners in interacting with knowledge and harnessing the knowledge held in their learning network (and the places where new knowledge (the useful stuff) will be created) . The interest in Rhizomatic learning has – gladly – returned.

Anyway, Dave has now set up a Mendeley group about Rhizomatic Learning and is inviting people to pitch in to gather research articles around rhizomatic learning, with a view to developing a literature review on the topic. He has blogged about the motivations for taking this plunge here.  Undeterred by my previous experiences of the discourse surrounding this topic I decided to join the group and add a couple of papers which I have come across in the last few months.

The first: [Wood, M., and Ferlie, E., (2003) Journeying from Hippocrates with Bergson and Deleuze. Organization Studies 24 (1) 47-68. doi:10.1177/0170840603024001680 ] is concerned with knowledge exchange in healthcare settings and uses  Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the ‘rhizome’ to explore how in contexts such as healthcare, discrete perspectives such as research and practice are necessarily broken down and there is continual exchange and interplay. while not explicitly about learning, the paper helps us think about the nature of knowledge flows in complex networks where different groups interact – clearly relevant to discussions of networked learning.

The second: [Fenwick, T., (2008) Understanding Relations of Individual-Collective Learning in Work: A Review of Research. Management Learning 39 (3) 227-243. doi:10.1177/1350507608090875 ] was actually the place I found the Wood and Ferlie paper. Whilst it says little beyond stating that Wood and Ferlie argue “for a ‘rhizomatic’ understanding of knowledge circulation within activity”, the review may be of real value to the Mendeley group as it shows where ‘Rhizomatic’ concepts might sit within our current understanding(s) of workplace learning.

Hopefully the Mendeley group will provide a place for some clear development of the concepts of Rhizomatic Learning. I’ll try and stay engaged this time.