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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Post-Conference Blog

Hello again.

I’m pleased to be back and blogging. The conference went well, and I met and conversed with many wonderful people from across the world, including the UK, US, Europe, Africa and Australia.

My packing went well too, and I am pleased to report that I traveled to and from the UK with only hand luggage. There will be a future blog post on packing, including the hints and tips I have gathered.

Skype was a god send, as was you-tube, as LT was able to share his special moments with me everyday. Once again ICT makes life easier for my family.  WH lived up to his reputation, keeping the ‘home fires’ burning in addition to re-carpeting and painting our house. A huge, public THANK YOU to my wonderful family and close friends who have supported us through the last few weeks.

During the conference we were encouraged to tweet about the presentations. As I am more familiar with Facebook I took this as a challenge to get my head into the ‘twitter space’ and also use this tool to take my conference notes. With a few other diligent ‘tweeters’ we began to record names, pictures and weblinks that related to the presentations, and the resulting twitter stream is a cloud based running sheet of the conference. It also allows me to see what others saw as important in the presentations, allowing a record of collaborative note taking. I have cut and pasted a copy of the stream into evernote (of course), and will be drawing on many aspects of the information contained as I begin to write up my literature review and future conference papers. It has also allowed me to reflect upon the multiple uses of tools such as ‘twitter’,  and to challenge how I use it everyday. I see twitter as my professional social media platform.  By extending its use to include conversations with colleagues, and note taking for conferences I may not have the opportunity to attend,  it is another invaluable tool for my ongoing professional development.

What tools do you use to make your professional or personal life easier?

Fiona T

Conference travel preparation.

The countdown is on! In less than 2 weeks I will be jetting off to the UK for my first International Conference.

I have been pondering and planning for this trip for a while now, and here is a link to my previous post on this topic.

After reading other blogs on conference travel I am under no illusion of getting a stack of reading done on the plane. In fact I am looking forward to the quiet (well relative quiet LOL) of not having to rush anywhere or do anything for quite a few hours.

I have found my case to be a little big for the carry on allowance the airline allows, so have sourced another case. I still did a trial pack though, into a smaller case, and think it will work out fine. I have 4 outfits that work with one pair of shoes and can cross co-ordinate these easily (yes, I’m only taking one pair of shoes!) :thinking in a minimalist way is getting easier. I am really proud that my toiletries bag is packed with the bare essentials, and have decanted creams and lotions into the teeny-tiny jars my BB found for us. Today I bought a bag that is between a handbag and a tote bag to be practical enough for plane and train travel and take to the conference. Of course there is always the option of shopping for something if I have really forgotten an essential item, but I don’t anticipate this as being necessary 🙂 .

Packing is only part of the logistics. The presentation will be fine and will be backed up on Prezi and Evernote. Insurance is sorted and tickets and accommodation. This week is busy with final bits and pieces as we get ready to jet off to this great opportunity.

The blog will be quiet for a couple of weeks while I am on this adventure, as I will be saving precious global data for skype calls home. I will post as soon as I can after I return.

See you all on the flip side!

Fiona T

Opportunities In Education

My reflections this week have been around providing opportunities to students and children, opportunities to experience things they may not encounter otherwise. The links below all highlight a slightly different angle of this idea.

First a link to a clip from Ted Talks, about the ‘hole in the wall’ study by Sugatra Mitra. His study began with providing a computer in a wall of slums in India. What the children (who would not have had this experience otherwise) learned was amazing, and then they taught others too. How this study has grown is also very interesting and the end use of Skype to form the ‘granny cloud’ is such a great way to give the children new and different learning opportunities.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html

Second is more of a science example, but also highlights how things like You-Tube can be used to really expose children to complex educational experiences. This is really well scripted and enables each option t be explored by kids and repeated as necessary for them to test their developing understanding. When I showed this to my son, LT, he wanted to then go and test other things in our house. So we set up a big pyrex bowl and tested lots of things, he even developed a table and drew pictures to record his hypothesis. Another bonus was that he now can use the word ‘hypothesis’ confidently and correctly, all because he has had this experience that was tied to language.  http://johnp.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/sesame-street-science-sink-or-float-an-interactive-youtube-experience/

And third is one I read this morning, from i-mum, talking about how our children take up technology around them: http://www.theimum.com/2011/09/article-raising-the-igeneration/#comment-106. I am a great believer in allowing our children a range of opportunities and encouraging them to do what they enjoy. Technology part of a broad life landscape that we can’t ignore. There is a lot of rubbish out there too, but finding the best and most valuable games, apps and clips can actually be used to our (and our children’s) advantage.

Whether it is having access to some sort of technology they wouldn’t have had, access to ideas they may not have experienced, or having a guided experience with an adult to learn how to use something new, there are many educational opportunities we, as parents and teachers, can provide for our children.  What are some of your favourite educational clips, apps or games?

Until next week

Happy Learning!

Fiona

Our shrinking world…

We live in exciting times. The world is shrinking! This isn’t due to some complicated physics phenomena, it is due to the internet.

The last 7 days have seen me (and my little blog) make contact with the ‘outside’ world. Thanks to my excitement and the resulting posts about Skype and Evernote, a couple of people out there in the ethers of the internet have found my blog and commented and then promoted my blog on their site, or tweeted about it.  Both Digitwirl and Dr. Vijay Vaishnav have commented on my ramblings and are excited about the possibilities that the internet offers to make our lives easier.

Regular readers may be familiar with Digitwirl from my Evernote review posts.

East is East and West is West outlines how Dr. Vijay is using Skype while he is in America to treat his patients at home in India. Very interesting, and has exciting applications for people in remote sites too.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog:

This week I again Skyped with my BB about some work we are doing. It occurred to me that our research work and writing is such a solitary endeavour, and how technology is helping to reduce the isolation we can feel by providing a range  of things, including video conferencing and 24 hour access to the online world for our research.

Having done very little academic research or writing since completing my masters some years ago, I have been re-reading papers from my masters days (yes, physical papers, with hand written notes and highlighting).  I now need to move on from the old papers and start to find more recent studies in my methodological area. Inspired from my Skype with BB on Friday evening I began that very night (after getting LT off to sleep that is) to look for some up to date articles to see how the methodology I am using has developed in the last 8-10 years. All it took was a search on the author and title of my ‘foundation’ article and the word “cited” at the start and google did the rest.  In forty five minutes I had found approximately five recent citations of each of 3 foundation articles. Some are in journals that I need password access for (so at present these are a dead end for me) while a number of others are direct down loadable PDF documents, and others link to current (yes, 2011) blogs from these leaders in my field of research. So now I have a few articles to read and see how they progress my methodology (or not).

I can’t help but think back to the ‘old days’ when research required hours in a library (see my post ‘what does it mean to be paperless‘) and so much leg work, that I now see it as wasted research time. I can’t help but be excited and eager to begin to research and be able to find the majority of things I need quickly and easily. And the best bit is that by saving all this legwork time I hope to always have time to write a post a week on this blog 🙂

So, now the blog is done for this week and I am off to read an article or two now…How does the internet/technology save you time? What do you use that new ‘spare time’ for?

Video Conferencing: miles don’t matter

This week you are lucky enough to get a second post, albeit a short one.

Skype is amazing! My BB (Beautiful/ brilliant Boss) is traveling to conferences in the UK and Europe at the moment. This, years ago, would have meant that she would be out of touch with me except via email. Today it means she has been able to use email, twitter and facebook to send links to the interesting things she is involved in right now. Yes, keeping me working and thinking.

The other brilliant thing is that last night (8.30pm Melb time, and approx mid morning UK time) we did our first video conference across the seas (we have used before for evening meetings from our respective Melbourne homes) using Skype. We talked for almost an hour and a half. And yes, we did remember to talk about the writing I had posted on googledocs! So, this aspect of ‘remote supervision’ is promising. Now, off to do some of the work we discussed last night!

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