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Collaboration and Technology

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Concluding Remarks by Stephen Downes at …

Concluding Remarks by Stephen Downes at
ALT-C Manchester, UK, September 8, 2005

Published in Technology , Education
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  • 1. Collaboration and Technology Concluding Remarks By Stephen Downes ALT-C Manchester September 8
  • 2. The View from G Level
  • 3. The Mandate…
    • What was the point (I was asked) of being here at this conference?
    • What was the point of coming together ?
    • Do we critically reflect on theory, practice, or do we merely reinforce our existing prejudices?
    • What do we take home ?
  • 4. The Process…
    • Opening remarks…
    • Three days of short papers, research papers, posters, informal discussions
    • Summaries collected by the Chairs and passed on to me
    • This summary…
  • 5. The Terrain…
    • Institutional Collaboration
      • E-College Wales, Kingston College, JISC, CAMEL, League of European Research Universities
    • Learner Collaboration
      • Talk2Learn, UKeU+York, CABWeb, BOGLE, CALL
    • Teacher Collaboration
      • COLA repository, LAMS, Critical Writing Skills
  • 6. James Watt
  • 7. The Question…
    • Is there a technology of collaboration?
      • (as in the wider sense of ‘technology’)
    • Factors: trust, abilities, distance and infrastructure, funding…
    • Methodologies: process, analysis, collaboration types
    • Tools: Moodle WebCT, portals, conferencing, wikis…
  • 8. Presumptions (or Observations)
    • Size of group… small groups are better, large groups “too chaotic” (too much conversation)
    • Fixed (and short) duration
    • Structured (sometimes heavily structured)
    • Contrast this with the concept of community …
  • 9. Cases in Point…
    • Designing and Realising Collaborative Student Activities on CABWEB
    • COLEG On Line Assessment Project
    • The Question : can collaboration be reduced to filling out fields in a form?
    • If not…
      • Why not, but more importantly…
      • Why would it be treated as if it could?
  • 10. The Collaborative Gene…
    • Terri Kinnison: “What characteristics does an organization or system possess (and display) at a particular stage of collaborative partnership? Is there a collective ‘style’ that determines what collaboration is possible?”
  • 11. A Question of Methodology?
    • Contrasting approaches to requirements gathering:
      • Barry Jones – build something and see what users do
      • Janet McCracken – close study of users’ current practices, plus interviews to explain
    • “Monolithic projects require monolithic methodology?” … ADDIE “Where was the creativity going to come from?”
  • 12. Canal Street
  • 13. A Question of Ontology?
    • Is there an essence of collaboration that can be understood independently of…
      • The players?
      • The technology?
    • Does what we are looking for reflect our theoretical stance? Do we need a theoretical stance?
      • Logical Positivist? Behaviourist? vs
      • Phenomenology? Critical Theory? Feminism?
  • 14. … Does Not Want to be Joined Up
    • Why we think collaboration is a good idea… various suggestions offered by authors (share resources, learn new perspectives, etc.)
    • Motivation … various motivations described included paying people, funding, grading people, funding, etc
    • Disconnect between these two?
  • 15. This Conference…
    • An observation so common as to be hackneyed… once again, the vast majority of sessions were lectures
    • Why ? (Let’s not simply assume that what we are doing is inherently dysfunctional, but rather, that there is a reason for this)
    • Contrast with the groans in the collaborative session – “We’re locking the doors”
  • 16. Chaos….
  • 17. You Are Free to Leave…
    • In my view, the question of collaboration is a question of governance
    • Parallel between collaboration theory and political theory, with descriptions ranging from authoritarianism to anarchy
    • Anarchy was universally considered ‘bad’
    • Can there be ‘too much’ conversation’?
    • Are you free to leave?
  • 18. The Lecture…
    • May be the form that (counterintuitively) offers maximal freedom to the audience
    • And hence, may be favoured by learning professionals (at least in their own learning) because it preserves this degree of freedom
    • Contrast: learning design, LAMS, linear design….
  • 19. Two Theories of Collaboration
    • The essentialist theory… collaboration is based on some sort of sameness – same value, same outcome, same tool, same funding body … needs external motivation
    • The exchange theory… collaboration is based on interaction between autonomous and diverse entities … based on intrinsic motivation
  • 20. Cold Cures…
    • With this cure, you can cure a cold in only seven days, which left untreated would last as long as a week!
    • The question: would collaboration occur even if we did nothing?
    • And if so… is collaboration actually the objective of collaboration theory…
  • 21. www.downes.ca