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

Games and Learning

This week has been exciting on a number of fronts. I have been writing my Expression of Interest for my PhD application and getting paper work in order. I have also been working with a friend of mine on a lecture about games, ICT and learning for a tertiary lecture. I have heard back from an international conference that I will be involved in. And on Friday I finally got to use ‘Elluminate’ and join 11 others for an international meeting in relation to Games and Learning. It has brought to light something I have been mulling over in my mind for a long time: how can you learn to use something if you are never given the opportunity?

“Elluminate” has been around for a while, I have known about it for at least a year but haven’t had the opportunity to use it. Until this week. The Games and Learning meeting was based in the UK, it was scheduled for 10am their time so worked out to 7pm here in Australia. The previous meeting was very late at night, something I couldn’t commit to with my family at this stage. So I was excited to finally be able to join in and hear what is happening in this group. I logged into the meeting 15 minutes early, followed the prompts to set up my microphone and then sat looking at the screen. My WH was explaining the finer points (he has used it for the last few years at work) and then someone else joined the room. Instead of talking she started drawing on the ‘board’…naughts and crosses, so I found a pen tool and started playing. As more people joined we played paddocks too. What a way to start, relaxed and fun.  Once the meeting started we all got a chance to talk and introduce ourselves. It was great to hear from people with similar interests in education and games. The great thing for me was I was able to use “elluminate” confidently by the end of this meeting.  If I hadn’t had this opportunity (and this friendly environment) I would still be waiting for a time to find out about this program. And without this program and technology, I wouldn’t have this network of kindered spirits opening up before me.

I look around at my tertiary students, mostly confident with technology, and then at the children coming through schools. These students will be digital natives, those with no concept of life without technology and the connectedness it offers. Then I am frustrated by hearing management in some schools refusing to support their teachers and their students to use the technology available to allow our students opportunities to grow and shine (eg some schools not allowing junior primary students to access computers other than for literacy use, or funding, tagged for technology, spent on grounds maintenance instead of things like electronic white boards). As a teacher I firmly believe it is our job to provide students with opportunities to experience the world in many ways, but if we are limited in our resources this is a difficult task. I am reminded of the points from my post last week, especially Sugata Mitra’s work: if given the opportunity children (and teachers) are capable of amazing things.

Teacher or parent: How will you encourage your kids to shine?

Until Next Week



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!

Past Posts

May 2021
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