Squire’s Affinity Spaces: My example

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” (Buddhist Proverb)

This is the quote that was in my head as I woke up this morning. Last night I read more of Kurt Squire’s: Video Games and Learning and pondered the section on ‘Affinity Spaces’ as examples of ‘Participatory Spaces’ for learning. An online affinity space is a place to voluntarily share knowledge and expertise, it is a participatory place as those joining need to contribute to it (Squire 2011). The larger and longer running of these become known as ‘Communities’.

Squire’s (2011) examples reflect upon spaces for students as well as his experiences in creating and enacting them as an adult. In my life as a teacher and teacher educator I have been active in creating and maintaining my classroom (and beyond) as affinity spaces. As I was reading I was quickly realised that I am part of a few participatory affinity spaces. First to mind is Facebook, where I am active in contacting and conversing with friends, and playing games. Second to mind is Twitter, where I am getting more active in participating in PhD and Academic circles. But my best ‘real life’ example of an affinity space is the online tatting group ‘intatters’.

I have been a keen crafter for a long time, and have been tatting (lace making, using a shuttle and knots), or attempting to, for nearly 20 years. Having no one nearby who could help me with the nitty-gritty questions was frustrating and isolating,  causing me more than once to put the threads and shuttle back in the cupboard. Around 10 years ago I figured out the ‘flip’ needed to create the stitches needed and I began tatting again with renewed vigor! By then we also has a great internet connection and I began looking at ebay, blogs and other places I could find patterns, inspiration, and advice. It was only last year I ‘found’ and joined the online tatting guild (there is a guild in Victoria, but they meet around an hour away from me, so I haven’t pursued this community link).

As an affinity space and participatory space the opportunities in this free forum abound. It was the opportunity for me to share my knowledge and ideas, and an even greater opportunity to draw on the ‘collective intelligence’ of tatters from all over the globe. I have been involved in ‘exchanges’ (tatters send each other items, there are about 4 of these a year), forums and chats. I have also been active in classes to learn how to use designing software to diagram and write my own patterns. There is also an online tatting class to learn shuttle tatting. These are run as free classes, and the teachers volunteer their time to put together course work every week. The tatters who organise these classes are creating wonderful learning experiences and are the drivers of these affinity spaces. There is a sense that we are all learning together, and I feel that we are good friends (I have been doing the classes for nearly 10 months now). As a whole this guild and associated classes have been running for a long time, and last year (when I was ready to be involved in them) I jumped right in.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” is as true today as it was years ago, it is just a bit easier to find the teacher using the wonders of the internet. When you are ready to learn anything today, you can easily use the online world to find an active affinity space to participate in. LT starts with you-tubes, I start with blogs, WH starts with ted talks and my BB starts with twitter.  Where ever you start, you will be able to find a place where you can be a learner and a teacher. Squire’s chapter explores the next step too, and says, if the affinity space you are looking for isn’t already there, digital media affords us the power and means to create it.  As a teacher I have seen students in schools active in creating affinity spaces, starting with their own classroom and then extending these spaces to the broader community. Knowing about and participating in these spaces goes hand in hand. Within my role as a teacher educator our team is modelling and exploring  how we can create, maintain and use these spaces for our own learning and that of our students.

I would be interested to find out about your examples of affinity spaces you are part of, or have been involved in creating. Please share stories and/or links in the comments.

Until next week,

Fiona T

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Tatting community as an affinity space: guest post « One Mad Tatter
  2. Patty Dowden
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 07:57:28

    InTatters also has smaller more focused groups for tatters who have a different mother tongue or long lasting interest groups. It is a supple framework and groups can be created for as few as 3 members.

    One of the other aspects of InTatters is a team of moderators who, because they live all over the world, can find and quash spammers almost as quickly as they appear. The moderators also assist new members in getting some of the more arcane features to work correctly.

    Intatters (formerly eTatters) has been in existence for about 17 years, morphing into more sophisticated formats as they became available and affordable.

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    • Fiona T
      Aug 13, 2012 @ 08:45:06

      Thanks Patty, for reading and commenting. Your comment further supports that this is a living, breathing, growing community. What started as a small affinity space and has ‘morphed’ because of generous people like yourself. I am sure what I have outlined here (as a person relatively new to this online community) is the tip of the ice-berg, and I look forward to finding out more and more as my tatting obsession/journey continues.

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  3. Jesse
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 06:44:38

    I love Kurt, he and Constance are awesome people though the use of Gee’s “affinity” always seems like they’re using big words just to sound cool there is a fabulous review of Gee’s “what videogames have to teach us” called “Escape from planet Jargon” — (Sorry I’m a rambler)…that said I agree that the concept is invaluable. Have you considered Seimen’s Connectivism? (I’ve not read the whole blog here to know) but the idea that finding the space/community is essential to it.

    I’m a crocheter and have taught myself tatting mostly through “instructables”

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    • Fiona T
      Sep 06, 2012 @ 07:44:56

      Thanks Jesse. I am also interested in exploring the concept of Flow, it has come up in some recent conversations and reading too. I haven’t seen Connectivism before, but am familiar with ideas around space, communities and umwelten. I will look Seimen up and see how he fits into my methodology! Thanks for the tip, and happy crocheting…I must check out instructables too, a whole ‘community’ I haven’t explored.

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