Sunday, 31 August 2008

Describing Dadamac

I've written a fuller explanation about Dadamac (it's a google doc so there's a bit of signing in involved before reading it).

My current plan is to explore Drupal and then gradually use it to create a tidy web presence, and to give the Dadamac online community a virtual home - meanwhile I will continue to scatter information around using what I already know.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Five months catch up

This is a catch-up of what I've been learning-by-doing over the past five months - since the entry about Pyramid of Peace. It probably won't cover everything - just whatever springs to mind while I'm at the keyboard (There won't be any live links included yet, but perhaps later).

Today the Learning From Each Other (LFEO) group had its regular "First Thursday of the Month" meeting in the worknets chatroom and we used it to discuss the ideas in the Mohammed Yunus book "Creating a World Without Poverty". We now have sixteen copies of the book circulating in East Africa - mostly in Kenya, and we have an informal WWP (World Without Poverty) study group. It was a small meeting today. There were four of us - each in a different location and each interested in the ideas and how to apply them appropriately in practice, in "our own communities".

The WWP group is a new kind of collaborative learning experience for us. The books are circulating. Odd bits of e-mail chat make reference to who has got a copy and what someone is thinking, and now and again some of us have a more formal exchange of ideas through the LFEO list or in the chat room.

In Kenya the WWP group has its roots in the Pyramid of Peace. The post election turmoil died down, and the young unemployed youths were persuaded to stop attacking each other. Now some of the peace activists are trying to help the youths to turn on their real enemies - which are poverty and ignorance. The ideas in WWP are a focus for this - but how do these ideas get turned into practical local action? That is the challenge. That is what we will try to LearnByDoing.

Unusually for me I have been involved in three face-to-face gatherings since March. They were all in the UK: a PRADSA workshop about funding bids, 2gether08, and PCF5. They were all very different, and each time I felt an "outsider" - but each time in a different way. I was suffering quite an identity crisis by the time I had been to all of them.

I was at PCF5 because I had submitted a paper about Teachers Talking. I was happy about the quality of the project and so, originally, I felt confident in my role at PCF5. After all, PCF5 was a joint COL (Commonwealth of Learning) and University of London event, and the version of TT which David Mutua had organised in Kenya had been supported by COL, and TT "is my baby". I thought that I would feel that I did belong.

At PCF5 I was placed in the "Children and Young People" group, because TT is about Teacher Training - but I am nothing to do with any formal Teacher Training Institution. After a day of meeting people who all had strong job titles in big organisations I was feeling very much an odd one out again. Fortunately, on the second day I heard Professor Brenda Gourney talk about the kind of informal communities of learning where I do belong ("places" on the Internet - like the groups I belong to in Minciu Sodas) so I felt more included again.

I like the phrase Community of Learning (CoL). I belong in various online CoLs and I believe they are an important part of the way forward for education in the 21st century. However online CoLs tend to be rather organic, and freely structured, compared to traditional institutions of learning so there is quite a cultural divide between the two. In the last couple of days (through one of my CoLs) I have been pointed towards some useful articles theorising about informal online learning. I have learned a new description "rhizomic learning" which does seem to describe how we learn in CoLs. Rhizomic learning was described in a very academic way. This makes teh article a good "connecting point" between between those of us in the "CoLs" and the established academic institutions. I am hopeful that better communication channels may be opening up.

I have also been involved in developing better communication channels between UK and Nigeria. It is something I have been struggling with since 1999, when I used to help a friend's Nigerian husband to keep in contact with people back home. Now, as part of the Dadamac team I am in regular UK-Nigeria contact, including a weekly online team meeting. The Dadamac team has made interesting progess. We are on our second project and we are getting increasingly confident of our ability to deliver what our clients ask.

We are still trying to classify all the things we do in the Dadamac team and how they relate to each other. This is how things seem to be shaping up at present. There is a network of people which I used to describe as Cawdnet, but has now developed, and changed its focus and becoem something I am calling the Dadamac Community of Learning. That is online, so its boundaries are very porous, and it overlaps other Communities of Learning, especially Minciu Sodas. (To me Minciu Sodas is the best and "richest" Community of Learning that I know. It is the online community where my own learning is nurtured: though the encouragement, example, and enabling of the Director Andrius Kulikauskus; and through the discussions with other group leaders and members.)

Various educational initiatives have already developed though this network, usually linking with Fantsuam Foundation. In connection with Dadamac CoL there will be Dadamac Local Communities of Learning. The first one is developing at the Knowledge Resource Centre (KRC) at Fantsuam. We are experimenting to find out what people want to learn and how their learning can be enabled through the KRC. We are building on education/training work we have done together previously in UK/Nigeria collaborations. Dadamac links in various ways with Fantsuam Foundation, including the Children's Computer Club, but I won't attempt to clarify the details here. We are very happy to see benefits starting to come to Fantsuam as a result of Dadamac initiatives.

Once we know how the Dadmac CoL works at Fantsuam we will invite other people/organsiations that we know to collaborate with us as local Dadamac Communities of Learning as well.

At present the online Dadamac CoL is a collaborative network with no formal structure or registration. It is concerned with the exchange of information and the growth of learning - very "21st century".

However, some things do need to be firmly and formally rooted, and have to function in the money economy. To this end there is also Dadamac Limited (a related registered company) which enables us to share out networks and knowledge in return for fees, just as any other knowledge brokers would do.

I haven't managed a full catch up, but the main points are here. I hope to write more often in future.