Friday, 14 November 2008

Learning, doing, and a couple of meetings

Pattern Language

Yesterday I was learning more about pattern language. Pattern language is one of those things I come across from time to time, and think I would like to know more, but then other things get in the way. However earlier this week I was having a catch-up Skype chat with Helmut Leitner (who I know through Minciu Sodas) and pattern language was mentioned again. I said (or, to be more precise, I typed) that I was interested in learning more. Helmut said it was “not a three minute thing” - hence the arrangement for a half hour introductory session yesterday (another Skype typed chat).

I could not have asked for a better teacher. It turns out that Helmut has written a book that introduces pattern language. However his book is in German, so he is kindly explaining it to me in English in small chunks. Pattern language seems to tie in with systems thinking, and I enjoyed doing systems courses when I did my Open University degree (a long time ago so I don't remember much detail). I appreciated my introductory first lesson on pattern language and we have agreed to do a second one.

I hope that what I learn from Helmut will give me a structure for thinking through some of the things I am exploring regarding teaching and learning opportunities related to the Internet. This is another example of Learning By Doing in that respect. Certainly it is only thanks to the Internet that I e-know Helmut, and that I can have have these half-hour distance lessons with him. I am in the UK. I don't know where he was yesterday when he was teaching me. I think he lives in Austria.

Collaborative Work

Yesterday also gave me cause for reflection on what we have been Learning By Doing regarding collaborative work and the Internet. I've been involved in two Dadamac UK-Nigeria e-conferences meetings this week. One was with the Fantsuam team and the other involved people in Lagos. The contrast demonstrated how much we have learned through our regular online meetings. The Fantsuam meeting went smoothly, both technically and with regard to the various people joining in. We all knew what to do and what to expect, not just technically, but regarding how we would interact and progress through the meeting.

The Lagos meeting was for a new group. It was like time travelling, reminding me of how we used to be in our early Fantsuam meetings before we got in the swing of things. There were six people at four or five locations and there were problems with them all logging on together and finding their way into the right conference. There were phone calls and SMS messages before we could get started properly. There was some switching between Skype and yahoo, some dropped connections, lots of glitches, but also success and gradual progress. Now there is the satisfaction of one e-meeting achieved. Soon there will be a better feeling in the group for "how these meetings work", what it best done by email, and what is best done "in real time" at an e-meeting.

Twitter and Delicious

What else have I learned this week? Well, I am never first in the queue for trying anything techie (especially if I will have to learn by using on-screen instructions instead of learning with friendly humans) but I have finally started using Twitter and Delicious. NB for anyone “behind me in the queue” for trying Twitter and Delicious:
  • Twitter is like mini emails or texts, sent to whoever chooses to follow them.
  • Delicious is a way to share interesting web pages with other people and to find them again more easily yourself.
Now I'm using Twitter and Delicious I'm kicking myself for taking so long to get started, but I was just the same with Yahoo chats and Skype when people told me I should be using them. I'll probably be equally reluctant with the next thing I have to learn. So, if you are a bit of a technophobe like me, be assured that I won't enthuse about anything unless it really does serve a purpose.


On Thursday of last week, 6th November, I was at OpenEverything:
There were some excellent opening presentations to put the later discussions in context. I was particularly struck by Glyn Moody's argument that Open is not a new idea, it is really a very old idea that is coming round again. In the spirit of openness Glyn sent me his presentation afterwards, but as an attachment, not a link, so if you want to see if I'd have to forward it to you.

I met interesting new people and, to my surprise, three familiar faces - Graham Knight ofbio-design, Femi Longe of Africa++ and Mark Charmer of Akvo (It was Mark who persuaded me to start Tweeting on Twitter). We split into small groups in the afternoon, and fortunately all four of us chose the same group topic, so that made for easy introductions.

New Ideas for Africa

Femi also told us about a New Ideas for Africa meeting next Thursday (November 20th) at the Royal Commonwealth Society, 6.30pm, £5.00

Community and Communications

Another meeting I hope to attend is about Community and Communications. It is tomorrow, Saturday November 15th, organised by Professor Tim Unwin's ICT4D group (Information and Communication Technology for Education) at Royal Holloway College. One of the presenters will be Josh Underwood, from the London Knowledge Centre. I first met him in July when David Mutua and I attended a meeting about a schools project in Kenya that Josh has been working on.

Developing Networks

I am gradually discovering where there is overlap between what I am doing and the interests of other people over here. For years all my research in the UK was on the Internet, and I only worked on my projects Face to Face (F2F) when I was in Africa, so I am really appreciating more opportunities to connect with Education and Development researchers and practitioners F2F in the UK.

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