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Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole

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"#$%!&'(!)!*+(!,(-./'!0+#11('/(! Beginning with an imaginative experiment, we consider how using Openspace Learning with new technologies can transform the educational experience and dramatically extend the capabilities of its participants. We then consider three “design challenges� posed when enhancing openspace learning activities with technology, and introduce the OSL inspired design methodology upon which our technology recommendations are based.


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole

234!567!/$(#%!%+.'/-!#$(!86--.91(!7.%+!%(:+'616/;!#'<!<(-./'! Example 1: Theory Roulette (a learning design prototype based upon an original installation by Catherine Allen and Lauren Cameroni)

Slowly moving from the bright and informal foyer, we pass through two sets of doors, each in turn filtering-out a degree of chattering, confidence and expectation. Into the dark, cavernous and unfamiliar space of the Studio. A little thread of light at the edges guides us into position, strung out along the blackcurtained wall. A few seconds of settled silence, then a crackle of sound coming from somewhere above and near to, we guess, the centre of the room. A second audio source comes to life, just to the side of the first: again just a crackle. Then a screen flickers on, it’s position matching that of the first sound, followed by a second screen with it’s accompanying sound source, followed by a third, a fourth and a fifth, each displaying tuned-out white noise, spiralling around in aerial suspension. “Hi, I’m Garry from Illinois. Do you wanna chat?” Garry’s face stares at us from the first screen, fitted-out with a dumbly quizzical expression. A few vacant seconds later, he’s replaced by Monika from Derby. Garry’s performance continues further around the spiral. Monika moves along. Daniel from Frankfurt is next. Ephemeral and disturbing video sequences captured from the strange distributed online world of Chat Roulette, looping around and drawing the line of spectators along and dispersing: examining, making sense of, whispering to each other observations, instant theorisations and refutations, all dimly lit and lo-fi. A few minutes into the session, and two wall-sized screens fire up at opposite ends of the space, boxing-in the spiral of suspended screens. Each big screen shows a Google Earth sequence plotting the exact locations of the Chat Roulette participants (to street level), along with the available biographical data. The video sequence zooms in and out to examine each participant and their socio-economic and cultural context. The sequence comes to a halt, replaced by an un-recorded, interactive Google Earth interface pin-pointing each chat participant. The experience is transformed away from passive spectacle to active participation and


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole

collaborative exploration, as we use the touch screen to control and explore the information displayed. By now the audience, or more precisely the explorers, have started taking notes: snapshots and voice memos recorded directly into small portable wifi enabled devices. Each note is tagged to identify it’s context (creator, location, event, time, theme, purpose etc). A third wall-sized touch screen has appeared, displaying an interactive timeline, upon which our notes are plotted, as well as a spatial representation of the room and its contents. We can instantly see each-other’s responses, or return to them later when reflecting upon the experience. We can also add our own materials (images, sounds, texts, videos) collected from other places and times and carried into the space digitally. After some time exploring and discovering unguided, a fourth interactive wall appears, completing the box. This time it’s a wall of books: key sociological texts on technology and community. We can open each book, spread out selected pages across the screen, annotate and draw around them. Furthermore, we can add to them from the opposite wall, containing our notes and digital recordings. The challenge is obvious: place our own observations and theories in relation to the academic works, build a theory and test it against the empirical evidence that we have explored. Finally, the session ends with an invitation to summarize and reflect upon our theories and the experience of collaboratively constructing them. We can record these reflections as text, audio or video (or all three), added to our collective timeline or recordings and events (for our later use). But the discussion doesn’t end there, spilling out into blogs, forums and future events, all connected back to the event, and informing future writing and research. Such a learning experience would be quite extraordinary: active, engaging, haptic, kinaesthetic, reflective, personal, challenging, research-led, social and with a concrete result translating into assessable outputs, and possibly even social change. But would it work? That!s a technological question (can we build it?) and a learning design question (is it an effective way to learn?). Answering the technical question is easy: how much money/time/ingenuity have you got? It!s certainly do-able, and at least some elements are in fact quite straight forwards (writing in mid-2010). Perhaps soon most of it will become commonplace. With this book, I am aiming to both inspire and challenge your sense of technological possibility. It!s attitude is: imaginative, audacious, experimental. In this way, I hope to encourage you to use technology in new and exciting ways, to treat technology with John Dewey!s attitude, as “an art of experimental thinking” (Buchanan, 1992: 8). I hope to see a new wave of prototyping and creativity, leading to the production of a body of experience and know-how. And perhaps even to the commercial production of tools specifically designed for these new ways of learning. Serious ambitions.


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole Addressing the second question (is it an effective way to learn?) depends to some extent upon our success in addressing the technological challenge. Technology (low and high) helps us to get the most out of the pedagogy. This book is not explicitly concerned with testing the pedagogy of open-space learning. That endeavour is more directly undertaken elsewhere. I am more immediately concerned with making technology fit with the pedagogy: that!s the design challenge – to use technology to maximise the potential of openspace learning without distracting or detracting from its core pedagogical value. I am undertaking this challenge within the remit of the Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellows funded Open-space Learning (OSL) in Real World Contexts project, based at Warwick University. The project brings together a range of significant talents, all of whom are successful OSL practitioners. I bring to this an understanding of technology – not a comprehensive knowledge of all technologies, but rather a tried and tested understanding of the interface between learners, teachers, knowledge and the technological spaces in which they operate. The OSL technology design challenge is my big challenge! Or perhaps you would like to share it with me? Given that open-space learning is consciously contentious and experimental, and that we are treating technology and technologizing as an experimental method, we are necessarily involved in creating and testing theories about what a deployed technology will do with regards to learners, their bodies and their minds. The design challenge is considerable. In the first year of the project I have observed practice and undertaken my own experiments (with the International Design and Communications Management MA). I have learned a great deal. Working with my OSL project colleagues and students, my own approach to teaching has developed beyond all expectations. Developments that go beyond expectations are by their very nature difficult to foresee, hard to predict, beyond simple specification-solving design. The challenge is therefore an exercise in a kind of deep design. Not superficial artifice, or optimisations leading to small gains in efficiency (and papering over the cracks). Rather, a kind of design that makes time and space for controversies and challenges. A design appropriate to thought, as the Sociologist Bruno Latour has argued: “This is why it is so important to talk of design and not of construction, creation or fabrication. To design something as I indicated earlier, allows us to raise not only the semiotic question of meaning but also the normative question of good and bad design”. (Latour, 2008: 11) We are concerned with what a technology and its deployment does in a specific learning context, and how this may be either a good fit or a bad fit. A pedagogy (like OSL) has certain foundational characteristics running across all events, as well as characteristics that vary over time and location as required. Design chooses and adapts technologies, technological effects, to work with those foundational and varying characteristics.


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Robert O!Toole Map 1 on the following page lists the key types of technological effect. This represents our basic (but abstract) building blocks. When designing technology for learning, I find it useful to focus upon how a specific technological feature supports, or fails to support, these five basic purposes. Technologies that effectively fulfil these roles in the manner required for a specific design are good technologies. You might want to print out this table. Refer to it when considering the design and effects of technologies described in the Handbook and in your own learning designs. Think about how specific technologies create these effects.


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Robert O!Toole

1.! Making effects/objects traceable: accentuating contrasts between objects and backgrounds, creating backgrounds, eliminating or de-emphasising unwanted detail, making variability indexable.

2.! Altering space: perceiving at a distance, performing action at a distance, connecting distant people, places, things together, or simulating proximity, compressing space, or even expanding space.

Map 1 - What does technology do? 5.! Giving objects agency (Latour, 2007: 63): investing decision making powers and influence in artificial or natural objects capable of acting autonomously according to their own rules and nature.

4.! Altering power relations: changing the ability of individuals to influence events, altering access to information, channelling action through groups, delaying action, establishing â&#x20AC;&#x153;stage gatesâ&#x20AC;? to control access to power according to specified conditions.


3.! Altering time: recording events and compressing their timelines, allowing us to rewind and replay (for example to explore causal links), slowing down processes to render them more sensible or controllable, making anachronistic juxtapositions, simulating pasts and futures.

Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole Every deployment of technology causes some or all of these effects. The results can be disruptive or productive, or (significantly for open-space learning) productively disruptive. In my fifteen years of working in learning technology, I!ve noticed a tendency to shy away from such productive disruption, to focus upon the simple, homogeneous and non-controversial elements of learning. At Warwick, we have occasionally been able to deploy technologies that create opportunities for intellectual disruption and challenge. For example, our Warwick Blogs provided technologically structured and intellectually unlimited facilities for all of our students and staff to openly publish opinions and reflections. Features for publishing, controlling permissions, reading, searching and categorising acted to give structure – altering space, time, power relations and giving over a degree of agency to “the system” (for example through aggregation pages and Really Simple Syndication). An explicit lack of editorial control encouraged a sense of freedom and ownership. It works in this way as a vast “open digital space” (with thousands of regular participants). This openness led to the expression and collective consideration of contentious topics (academic and beyond). Perhaps more importantly, it raised the usage and form of the blog space reflectively as a matter of concern in itself – with consequent questioning of academic attitudes, rules, behaviours and purposes. We all, as a result, came to know our intellectual, social and emotional selves differently. The “theory roulette” activity described above is full of disruptive design elements: altered space, altered time, power relations and objects with agency, purposefully arranged so as to make us think and act. The positive role of disruption (within productive continuums) is essential to learning design and, as will be seen, to open-space learning. It is important for us to realise just how far this contravenes the basic design principle behind many technological gadgets and communication media: “don!t make me think” (Krug, 2005). Commercial design aims to give us what we want as quickly and efficiently as possible. And then to give us things that we don!t want, without us even realising. Learning design is quite the opposite – it challenges and raises “matters of concern”. Perhaps this marks a basic misunderstanding between the two worlds? As Latour said: “artefacts are becoming conceivable as complex assemblies of contradictory issues” – please make me think! So, bearing in mind the more complex aims of learning design, how do we judge good learning design? What can design do for us? When designing technology and its deployment into open-space learning, what should be our matters of concern? Table 1 on the following page lists some of the things that good learning design can do. When I design technologies for learning, I always consider how these aims should be prioritised for a given circumstance, and how my design might meet these needs. You should print this off so that you can refer to it as we describe learning designs in the Handbook, and as you create your own learning designs.


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Robert O!Toole Think about how familiar learning designs have these characteristics. Using Map 1, consider the role of technology in helping us to achieve these design aims. Re-read the Theory Roulette example, considering how its design (pedagogical and technological) achieves these characteristics.


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole

Table 1: Some characteristics of good learning design 1. Creating appropriately disruptive experiences, turning “matters of fact” into “matters of concern” (Latour, 2008: 2) and providing time and space for such matters to be considered collectively (immediately or when convenient). 2. Allowing for sufficient opportunity to get to grips with, to get the feel of, individual elements of the subject domain. 3. Supporting a continuous, integrative (Kolb, 1984: 32), progressive, adaptive learning experience open to disruption and challenge. 4. Positioning physical, semantic, cultural and logical enabling constraints (Norman, 1990: 84-87) so as to channel and limit the efforts of the participants (keeping them engaged and focused). 5. Exploiting or challenging existing mental models of objects, actions and how things work." 6. Pitching the complexity and scope of challenges to the capabilities of individuals, so as to enable progression. 7. Providing means for individuals to draw support from collectives (immediately present, distant, delayed, or more abstract – for example, the wider research community)." 8. Ensuring that the attention and engagement of the participants is quickly established and then retained throughout (and where appropriate, beyond) the experience – emotionally durable design (Chapman, 2005). 9. Ensuring that the experience is equitable, ethical and legal for all participants.


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole There are, of course, many examples of the use of technology in teaching and learning that contravene these principles of good pedagogical and technological design. Often, technologies are used with no thought given to good learning design. Fatal technologies: “death by PowerPoint”. When designing technologies for learning, I!m always aware of just how precious time and opportunity is within higher education. Often, our students only get one go at a topic – I can remember as an undergraduate just how quickly three years went. And as a masters student, how a year flashed by in an instant! To avoid inflicting this kind of pain on our students: learning technology needs good design.

!"#$%$&'()*++,$-.$(+/$'$0'(1'2$ $ The aim of this handbook is to promote good learning design using technology – using the effects described in Map 1 to achieve the characteristics of good learning design described in Table 1. You can read it with the aim of becoming an effective designer, technology integrator, technology develop, teacher, practitioner and/or student. The characteristics of good learning design are best supported by the systematic application of an approach to learning and teaching founded upon a consistent set of assumptions about learners and learning: a pedagogy. This book is explicitly aimed at those with an interest in designing facilities and activities to support open-space learning – an exciting and liberating “new” pedagogy. It documents my own attempts to meet this design challenge. I must admit from the outset that, after a year of working with the OSL team, I am convinced that open-space learning and good learning design go hand in hand (OSL being the product of much experience and sound learning theory). OSL is also, at least at this time, an active research and development programme. In designing OSL with technology, we are also designing experiments in learning design and the theory of learning. This book is therefore a handbook and not a manual, although it does contain ready to use tools and techniques (given in part 3). A handbook is full of pointers, starting points, suggested framings, examples, suggested good practice, reminders and warnings. It can be a personal and reliable 10

Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole companion on your own journey. It will be invaluable to my journey! Any recommendations given should be implemented with the attitude of a designer and the methods of a researcher. Expect to have to think. This book aims to make you think. Expect to have to “build to think” (Kelley: 2001): prototype, test, break things and rebuild. Expect failures and successes, as well as (hopefully) successful failures. As a designer, I inevitably bring a “design thinking” (Brown: 2008) approach to bear on developing and implementing a “new” pedagogy. For me, design is a continuous engagement between people and technological spaces, a process of discovery, learning and change. Before proceeding then, I had better give a clearer idea of what I mean by “open-space learning” and what it means to think design (as will be seen, the two are not that far apart).

!"#$%&'($)*$+,-./*,'0-$1-'2.).34$ $ As I said earlier, OSL is a work in progress: a (strong) convergence of like minded practitioners and facilities. My role as learning technology designer puts me in the middle of this convergence, having to interpret the “what is” question so as to make the design challenge more concrete. I!ll answer the question in such a way as to then motivate and make feasible my design responses… The OSL pedagogy starts from a familiar model: the workshop, but takes it on much further (resisting the temptation to call it Workshop 2.0) and applies it to new fields of learning and doing. A workshop approach is commonly associated with practical learning, apprenticeship, experiencing the process of producing some concrete and reproducible output – often seen as being more appropriate to “training” than to “academia”. In his Educating the Reflective Practitioner, Donald Schön examines traditional “academic” learning and “professional” or “practical” learning. The latter is said to take place in locations and situations akin to the “workshop”: a place where, over a length of time, a problem is worked over or some thing is created. Importantly, the end product is not the most important element of the experience (although it is an important source of motivation and enjoyment). It!s the process that matters, and learning from the process: identifying and honing skills, individual and collective capability, encountering the unexpected, inventing and applying knowledge to deal with it. This takes place in what Schön terms the “reflective practicum” – a physical, mental, social and technical place: “They listen and reframe the problem. It is this ensemble of problem framing, on-the-spot experiment, detection of consequences and implications, back talk and response to back talk, that constitutes a reflective conversation with the materials of a situation – the designlike artistry of professional practice.” (Schön, 1987: 158).


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole Teacher-student and student-peer relationships are, in such a reflective practicum, more intimate, more sophisticated and reciprocal: coach, mentor, fellow creator, co-conspirator even – whatever it takes to get the student established on a self-supporting cycle of practice, reflection, improvement. Avoiding at all times a relationship of rigid transmitter (teacher) and receiver of information (pupil). Encouraging the student to master the essential skills of designing and controlling learning experiences to sustain and extend that selfsupporting cycle (with the characteristics of good learning design described in Table 1 above) – for example, finding or creating “disruptive experiences” and maintaining a continuum of development. The open-space learning pedagogy has much in common with the reflective practicum. But it goes further, or perhaps in a different direction. Schön!s important aim was to rescue professional education from a reduction to technical rationality and optimization, a reduction that would eliminate the individual hand and mind of the designer/creator/artist. Open-space learning aims to rescue academia from a similar fate, to discover/design a reflective practicum appropriate to creative, original academic activity (theorizing, experimenting, thinking, writing etc). But that!s quite a challenge. Higher education (in the UK and elsewhere), even after significant investment in new facilities, is largely dominated by rigid forms and determined by legacy architecture, methods and organisation. Students spend much of their time in lecture “theatres” passively receiving transmissions of “knowledge” and then repeating back with varying degrees of inaccuracy. New technologies (such as podcast recording) may improve the reprocessing, but it takes something more to escape the repetition. Why is this the case? Clearly to some degree it!s just so because it seems to have always been just so (although in fact history has many different lessons). But also, we must understand that much academic work depends upon (deals with, is completely dominated by) hard abstract concepts. Creating a reflective practicum in which students can engage effectively and productively with abstract concepts like Kant!s transcendental deduction, is difficult: even for better informed constructivist and experiential models. For example, when in his classic work on Experiential Learning, David Kolb describes a "senseperception + reflection! style learning process: “Learning, the creation of knowledge and meaning, occurs through the active extension and grounding of ideas and experiences in the external world and through internal reflection about attributes of these experiences and ideas.” (Kolb, 1984: 52) …he provides the kind of simple and engaging example familiar throughout empiricist philosophy: “Take, for example, the rose lying on my desk. I transform my apprehension of the rose intentionally by deploying my attention to its different aspects, noting the delicate pink color that is not solid but alternates subtly from white to a deeper rose. I sense its delicate fragrance and experience a blossoming


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole of brief reminiscences. Here I cannot resist the temptation to transform the experience extensionally, to pick up the rose and hold it to my nose.” (Kolb, 1984: 52) …suggesting how to construct a delightfully fragrant reflective practicum for trainee florists, but offering barely metaphorical application to more abstract domains. We need to find ways in which we can make hard abstract concepts more tactile. There are so many connections, ways in and out of the concept, so many nuances and implications that build to make sense of the concept. One might envisage a concept as sitting within the cohesive progression of a discipline and its curriculum, such that the acquisition of a new concept results from the accumulation of additional knowledge on top of existing concepts. This progressive model of knowledge is challenged, both by philosophers: “There is no reason why concepts should cohere. As fragmentary totalities, concepts are not even pieces of a puzzle, for their irregular contours do not correspond to each other. They do form a wall, but it is a dry-stone wall, and everything holds together only along diverging lines. Even bridges from one concept to another are still junctions, or detours, which do not define a discursive whole.” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1994: 23) …and by experience – the notion of the “threshold concept” is familiar – the concept that is hard to get, which requires a gestalt-like mental shift, but which then gives the thinker a whole new way of looking at the world. Different students will build their own bridges to a concept in different ways (for example, one might approach Kant!s Transcendental Deduction from the connection to aesthetics and actual example art works). They might even create entirely novel routes to the concept, or even entirely new concepts. Getting to grips with such a difficult concept requires much work in framing and reframing, creating and testing knowledge. The lecture theatre, the seminar room, the essay are all partially capable of helping with such problems. Open-space learning provides other routes into understanding difficult concepts: the workshop, the studio space in which hard abstract concepts may become embodied and engaged, literally becoming graspable and liveable, and in which we can play more freely with them so as to get a better feel for their affordances (what can be done with them) - a reflective practicum appropriate to difficult academic activity. We have, so far, described a convergent learning curve, taking a diversity of students towards the difficult concept. There is also an equally important divergent movement, taking the concept off into different directions and applying it across a range of contexts for a variety of ends: students as producers of knowledge. This is more than just a response to the call (from many quarters) for academic knowledge to find application. As Michael Gibbons has argued, contextualising academic work (he was talking specifically about science, but the argument applies more widely), making it


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole “context-sensitive”, can provide though-provoking reality-tests unforeseen in the laboratory or lecture theatre: “Reverse communication is generating a new kind of science, let us call it context-sensitive science. In epistemological terms, context-sensitive science is new in that sense that it produces socially robust knowledge likely to be reliable not only inside but also outside the laboratory.” (Gibbons, 2000: 161) In both of these ways (convergent and divergent), abstract concepts and theories themselves become objects to be manipulated, played with, in the open-space. So then, what is an “open-space”? It!s open in two connected senses: open to less-restricted movement, and open to being more freely populated by collective actions, objects, concepts and theories, such that they can be more easily manipulated, played with, by the participants. Such spaces may exist within buildings, or as outside classrooms (any space in which learning takes place). Outdoor spaces may be more open in the first sense, in terms of movement, but are usually less open in terms of being capable of being populated with objects. Indoor spaces restrict movement (although we can often more easily explore the vertical dimension, as is done in Theory Roulette), but can be completely emptied of contents. The technology design challenge begins with the need to make both indoor and outdoor spaces more open in these two senses. The Creativity and Performance in Teaching and Learning (CAPITAL) Centre at the University of Warwick offers two indoor spaces specifically for OSL, as well as numerous other spaces that can be used in this way with some imagination. The CAPITAL Studio is a large black-box theatre studio with a semi-sprung harlequin floor. It has re-configurable lighting rigs suspended from a metal grid covering the full width of the ceiling, a sound system, along with a piano. A set of 25 seats are available, usually lined up against the walls, along with 2 tables. There are plenty of power sockets along the walls, as well as network points. The room has reliable wifi. A mobile laptop and projector trolley can project onto white walls hidden behind black full-length curtains. The CAPITAL Rehearsal Room is a double-height space, with all surfaces in bright white, and power sockets and network points along the walls. Wifi is available, as well as portable projectors. The floor is semi-sprung. Chairs and a small number of tables are kept in the room. The CAPITAL Writers! Room is a comfortable and bright space. A quarter of the room contains three sofas. Several shelves are stocked with books and DVDs useful to writers and the creative process. There is a small work area with an iMac. Along one of the long walls, there is a series of tables, network points and a long whiteboard. That leaves plenty of empty floor space. The room is decorated with poems, photos and quotes about writers and writing.


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Robert O!Toole The CAPITAL Studio

The CAPITAL Rehearsal Room


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Robert O!Toole The CAPITAL Writers! Room

Milburn House Foyer, often used for exhibitions


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole Teachers and students, working with CAPITAL, have also explored the many good outdoor spaces at Warwick. Tocil Woods have proved to be particularly useful. Many trees have been climbed in pursuit of inspiration! Open-space learning technologies assist participants in populating these spaces with artefacts that help them to concretize and work with more abstract entities (ideas, theories etc), or entities to which they would not easily have access. At CAPITAL, we are only just beginning to explore the potential. In many ways we are waiting for technology to catch up with us (and watching as new inventions appear). We are thinking and experimenting with how technologies can be used to manipulate time and space, establish or alter power-relations, to trace effects and to “give objects agency” (see Map 1 above) in these spaces, so as to make the intangible embodied and graspable. For example, OSL activities often result in a space being filled with an arrangement of objects, such that they tell a story about collective thinking, or provide a guiding framework of barriers and connections to guide the collective behaviour of participants (producing a kind of “epistemography” or “knowledge written in space”). The technologies might be paper based, or electronic (for example video), as appropriate. Most importantly, they must be amenable to exploration and manipulation by participants. To make them more amenable, usable, ready to hand, is part of the design challenge. There should also be some capability for recording and reconstituting an arrangement of artefacts and people in an OSL space, enabling longer-term reflection and experimentation (this currently poses the biggest technical challenge, as will be seen in Part 2). A space capable of being freely populated with artefacts is not in itself enough for open-space learning. Participants need to move around the space more freely, seeking different perspectives, physically engaging with entities and each other so as to experience spatial and temporal relations. Movement has many benefits, some connected to the subject matter itself, others connected to physical and emotional states that may impact upon learning-thinking-doing in other ways. How can we combine the filling of space with objects and freeing up movement within the space? Finally, we must remember that each participant is an emotional and thinking individual, with physical and psychological preferences, constraints and boundaries. Although in some cases we need to push against barriers imposed by culture and past experience, we need to do so with care and awareness of ethical, political and legal issues. Open-space learning aims to democratize and liberate the learning process, we must design with that in mind. Technology can be used to drastically reconfigure power-relations, with both good and bad results. Try to build these principles into your process at every stage. A guide to these issues, along with helpful checklists, is given in chapter ?????.


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole

!"#$%&'()'(*$+,-'*(.$+/'(*$+,-'*( We are then embarking upon a double design challenge, as described above: to bring together technology and open-space learning pedagogy so as to create better learning experiences, technological spaces that are more open (in the two senses of that word); and to support students in becoming active designers of their own learning (in the sense described by Kolb and Schön). But as is often the case, it!s not that simple. We!re not creating a product to a clearly specified and settled list of requirements. By bringing technologies into open-space learning we are contributing to its development, an exploration of its scope, meaning, methods, and all of the many yet unknown nuances. Technology (both “low” and “high”) is in many ways the key to openness, and our exploration of the open. New openings will be discovered. There!s a nonlinear relationship between what we design and what we think we need to design. It!s a learning process for everyone at all times. To make matters even more complicated, the learning never stops – the next generation of students and teachers will be different. They must learn and design afresh. As such, simplistic linear design methodologies (for example, the water-fall approach), are of no use. But that!s OK. Designers encounter similar conditions in other difficult and contentious domains. For example, when designing integrated health care solutions, shared values and objectives, as well as “matters of concern” may need to be established during the design process, as an outcome of the process (Brown, 2008). There is a long and well-established body of theory and practice suggesting ways in which we should approach such challenges. In 1966 Hors Rittel coined the term “wicked problem” to identify such “deep” design challenges (Buchanan, 1992: 12). Donald Schön described the process of design itself as being such a problem: “Designing is a holistic skill. In an important sense, one must grasp it as a whole in order to grasp it at all. Therefore, one cannot learn it in a molecular way, by learning first to carry out smaller units of activity and then to string those units together in a whole design process; for the pieces tend to interact with one another and to derive their meanings and characters from the whole process in which they are embedded.” (Schön, 1987: 158) A diverse variety of techniques are then described. What they have in common, according to Schön, is that each action provides material for reflection, for analysis and integrative synthesis, such that the learner can redesign their ideas and actions, learning and creating their own new opportunities to learn. This is an essential part of designing responses to wicked problems: try a variety of different actions so as to learn; don!t fixate upon one aspect of the problem at the exclusion of others; look for multifaceted solutions that give you further handles upon the design challenge. And most importantly, do this collectively, to ensure that all relevant perspectives are exploited.


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole I am describing what is essentially a kind of prototype-driven discovery process. OSL guru Jonathan Heron is fond of quoting the playwright Samuel Beckett!s line (from Worstward Ho): “Try again, fail again, fail better.” (Beckett, 1983) …precisely the attitude required for success in learning design and in learning! Tom Kelley of the IDEO design company has coined the useful phrases “build to learn” and “build to think” (Kelley, 2001). In an influential Harvard Business Review article (Brown, 2008), Tim Brown describes how design teams at IDEO (consisting of an eclectic range of people including anthropologists, consumers and engineers) work in three distinct “spaces”: inspiration space, ideation space, implementation space. The three spaces are differentiated through having different purposes, different rules, different physical and technical arrangements. But most importantly, they are differentiated by requiring a different attitude from the participants. These attitudes vary along several vectors, including: riskiness/safety, familiar/unfamiliar, considered/impulsive, playfulness/seriousness, divergent/convergent. Different attitudes are appropriate at different times and in different spaces. Spaces can be set aside and configured for activities that embody different attitudes. Technologies can be designed to work with these variations. We might use a different actual space for each, or we can in some way reconfigure a single space for different purposes. The important thing is to know when we are using a space for one of the three – for this to be clear to all participants. Again there are clear parallels with open-space learning pedagogy. Let!s consider the purpose of each of the three spaces, so that their categorisation and characterisation will be a means through which we can design a comprehensive and useful range of technologies for open-space learning. Throughout the Handbook, I will use a “rocket science” metaphor: • • •

Through ideation activities, we help students to build their own rocketships – perhaps even interplanetary craft. With inspiration we provide sufficient fuel for their journeys. In implementation, we keep them connected to the Earth Station, and help to maintain the life-support systems necessary for continual success.

Implementation, is where more conclusive shippable end-products are constructed: essays, exams etc. It seems that many students, and probably many teachers, are most comfortable with the kind of certainty and boundedness offered by implementation spaces and activities. However, paradoxically, they are both high risk and low risk: high in that mistakes have consequences, low in that students and teachers tend to avoid actions that might lead to errors. Open-space learning might seem to have less of an emphasis on implementation spaces and activities. We certainly want students to be able to take more risks, to be more creative, to be less dominated by the spectre of implementation (essays, exams etc). But we 19

Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole should not lose sight of the fact that creativity leads to tangible end products. We must always keep in mind end products to which we aim. Students are notoriously difficult to keep focussed if we lose sight of the end product that they envisage (a project, an essay, an e-portfolio, a curriculum vitae, a job etc). It!s also important to recognise that improved risk management and creativity is a tangible, assessable end product in itself. Design challenge 1: Technology can help to connect creative work with implementation and assessment. That is a key part of the OSL design challenge. The third chapter in Part 3 examines how we can use technology to extend open-space learning!s positive impacts beyond inspiration and ideation, beyond the open-space, and into the exam hall, the essay, the career and beyond. I call that chapter Providing Life-Support Systems for Students in Orbit, following the “rocket science” metaphor. The web and mobile technologies have an essential and revolutionary role to play in this. With these technologies we connect together times, people and places to exploit far more opportunities and connections than would otherwise be possible (by making objects and effects traceable, altering time and space, hierarchies and power relations, and by giving objects agency). Implementation is of course important. But of equal importance are the ideation spaces that inform implementation with discoveries and novel ideas – places for prototyping, often fast and lo-fi prototyping (prototypes that aren!t perfect but which are good enough to allow us to learn from them). Ideation has a playful mood to encourage risk taking and diversity leading to creativity and learning. I!ve seen a lot of that in open-space learning. I!ve seen how low and high technologies are used to alter time and space, alter power-relations, give objects agency, so as to make ideas tangible and testable (remember Map 1 above). As a way of categorising elements of a learning technology design, I!ll stick with the term “ideation”, so as to express a kind of thinking through doing, a kind of thinking+ that embodies thinking to share, experiencing, testing and recording. We will then be able to point to designs that support ideation in some specific way. In the context of Higher Education, how realistic is this emphasis on prototyping and risk taking? It sounds simple and obvious, but it may be a methodology at odds with the prevailing assumptions of the education system: we build things to be assessed, to be conclusive, not to help us with our thinking. Too often the focus on results, too early in the process, suppresses our ability to find good starting points. Too often we are in a rush to complete. I!ve certainly seen that with my students (in HE and in schools). The looming necessity for the production of an assessable product has a magnetic mindbending power that we struggle to resist. Time and space for ideation (as designers say), for playful experimentation, must be made and defended! Open-space learning is itself a way of creating and defending this space. Technology can be used to make ideation more


Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole playful, more enjoyable, to widen our ability to do meaningful experimentation, while ensuring that it makes sense and seems relevant. Part 2 presents a series of design experiments. We will use it as an ideation space full of prototypes to feed your inspiration and implementations. This handbook puts technology spaces for ideation at the heart of open-space learning – both as tools for thinking within the open-space and as tools for helping us to design effective open-spaces. The first chapter of Part 3 is dedicated to how we can make such activities work for our students: how we can “build to think”, and how technology can be used to help students “fail better” through OSL. Following through with the “rocket science” metaphor, I call this chapter How to Build Your Own Saturn V. It suggests designs and technologies: some that are imaginative if not a little far-fetched (at the current time), and others that are imaginative, realistic and achievable, within the constraints of limited time and money. Technologies to consider include: mind/concept mapping tools of various kinds, modelling (physical and virtual), game creation, video and audio production facilities that help us to create and review prototype narratives, blogging and microblogging tools. Often these approaches have to try to keep the ideation process going despite all kinds of adverse conditions and interruptions. As you will see, the time/spaceextending capability of web based tools are particularly useful in helping us to cope with these adversities. Design challenge 2: Creating technology designs that support productive ideation is the second element of the design challenge. Ideation is (like a Saturn V rocket engine) a hungry beast. To keep the experimental, prototyping, thinking process going, we need to keep it fuelled with a constant stream of inspirations: ideas, models, examples, tricks etc borrowed from elsewhere in acts of cross-pollination, from which we can dream-up our novel experiments. Such observations also act to keep us positive and open minded. Inspirations are the material with which we play in ideation. The playfulness of inspirational experiences is key – they offer multiple possibilities for manipulation (mental, physical) – rich and nondeterministic “affordances” (as designers say): inspirations engage the investigative mind and body, they stimulate the intellect through a playfulness. Open-space learning is dependent upon good inspirations. Without exciting, engaging, fascinating inspirations, teaching fails to launch our students into orbit. We feed inspirations into the learning process, take inspiration from the learning process, but also aim to co-evolve (with our students) an ability to find or create inspirations. In time and resource pressured environments (higher education), we need to keep on the look out for inspirations – collect them, refine them, share them, reflect on them, use them. The second chapter in Part 3 looks at how we can use technology to enhance the stream of inspirations that are fed into ideation, both for our own learning and designing activities, and those of our students. I call this chapter Firing Up the Rocket Engines. Technologies that are considered include: games, virtual worlds, mobile video and audio playback, interactive displays, digital photography, sound and video recording. 21

Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology – Robert O!Toole Design challenge 3: Use technology to create inspiring objects and events, to feed the learning process in the open-space.

!"#$%&'()'*&+,-./0$$ Now that we have a working definition of “open-space learning” and a design methodology to guide us, it!s time to start getting inspired, creating and testing prototypes, and moving towards implementing designs as serviceable spaces and tools. Part 2 of the Handbook is an ideation space full of experiments in technology and open-space learning. You!ll find aspects of inspiration, ideation and implementation in each of these experiments, but with some of the experiments being more biased towards one of the three types of activity. Part 3 then goes on to examine the techniques and technologies used in Part 2, so as to give you a firm basis on which to create your own designs and experiments. Your next steps should be: 1. Start experimenting with techniques for experimentation. Consider how the experiments described in Part 2 support ideation. Read Chapter 1 of Part 3 on How to Build Your Own Saturn V to learn more about “building to think” and ideation technologies that work with OSL, find out how you can support participants in OSL activities to use these approaches and technologies. Use the findings from your experiments to inspire others through the Observatory blog on the OSL web site. 2. Get inspired, think about how your going to get the inspiration process going, and how you are going to create inspirations for OSL participants. Consider how the experiments in Part 2 support inspiration. Read Chapter 2 of Part 3 on Firing Up the Rocket Engines to find out about technologies and techniques that you can use. Share your inspirations with the OSL community using the Observatory blog on the OSL web site. 3. Guide your experiments and your search for inspiration with the medium to long-term goal of creating new ways of using OSL and technology to support assessment, writing and student development. Consider how implementation is supported in the experiments described in Part 2. Read Chapter 3 of Part 3 on Providing Life-Support Systems for Students in Orbit to learn about technologies that help with implementation beyond the workshop. And don!t forget to tell us about your achievements!


A Handbook of Open-space Learning Technology part 1  

Created as part of the Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellows funded project Open-space Learning in Real World Contexts. This is...

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