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Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation


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This chapter discusses the question of what needs to be addressed in “the major infrastructural, cultural and organisational issues if integrated formal and informal eLearning environments are going to affect any change in the institutional regime”.
It argues that two conceptual models can help address these issues. Firstly a social media participation model, Aggregate then Curate, that was developed on a JISC-funded project, MOSI-ALONG, which itself was designed using an integrated model of formal and informal learning called the Emergent Learning Model. Secondly a “development framework” for institutional flexibility called an 'organisational Architecture of Participation', which was co-created with 15 UK Further Education colleges to better enable e-learning within educational institutions.
Recommendations are made concerning how to address the various infrastructural, cultural and organisational issues that emerged during MOSI-ALONG, as we worked with local partners to better enable adult eLearning. These also include broader proposals concerning the need for individual adult learning institutions to have ongoing support from collaborative hubs if they are to evolve a community-responsive institutional life-cycle appropriate for adult learning.

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Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation

  1. 1. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 1 Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation Fred Garnett, London Knowledge Lab Nigel Ecclesfield, JISC
  2. 2. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 2 Abstract This chapter discusses the question of what needs to be addressed in “the major infrastructural, cultural and organisational issues if integrated formal and informal eLearning environments are going to affect any change in the institutional regime”. It argues that two conceptual models can help address these issues. Firstly a social media participation model, Aggregate then Curate, that was developed on a JISC- funded project, MOSI-ALONG, which itself was designed using an integrated model of formal and informal learning called the Emergent Learning Model. Secondly a “development framework” for institutional flexibility called an 'organisational Architecture of Participation', which was co-created with 15 UK Further Education colleges to better enable e-learning within educational institutions. Recommendations are made concerning how to address the various infrastructural, cultural and organisational issues that emerged during MOSI-ALONG, as we worked with local partners to better enable adult eLearning. These also include broader proposals concerning the need for individual adult learning institutions to have ongoing support from collaborative hubs if they are to evolve a community-responsive institutional life-cycle appropriate for adult learning. Keywords; informal learning, architecture of participation, Aggregate then Curate, social media, participation, institution life-cycles, JISC,
  3. 3. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 3 Background; The authors, along with other colleagues, starting working on modelling informal eLearning over ten years ago as part of the Metadata for Community Content research project at Becta (Hase 2013). From that work a model of informal eLearning was developed and presented at an invited workshop organised by ALT & Becta in 2003. The core of that model was that effective informal eLearning allowed socially excluded, adult, learners to identify and engage in what interested them, rather than working through a prescribed curriculum. This was both based on research into the practice of “informal Community eLearning” in UK online centres (Cook & Smith 2004), and the learning practice therein, identified by an advisory group of community learning practitioners. As a consequence the role of learning support, undertaken by what was identified in the research as “trusted intermediaries”, that is sympathetic, trusted people from the local community, rather than professional teachers, should be to follow and discuss the learners interests during the learning process, which is a very ‘andragogic’ model of learning (Knowles 1970) and one that is appropriate to adult learning. In this model of it was found that any digital learning resources that supported such interest-driven learning could be built subsequently by “infomediaries”, or learning technologists, as part of a process of supported informal eLearning, by mapping to the sequences of learning as identified by learners in adult learning contexts. This content-creation process for informal eLearning was seen to be a dynamic process that should reflect the learning behaviours of individuals. The UK government community learning resources website (adult community learning network), built as part of the UK National Learning Network initiative (2000-2005) was based, in part, on that model and created digital tools like
  4. 4. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 4 WebQuests, based on the principle that “structured surfing is learning” (Dodge, 1997). These tools were designed to allow for trusted intermediaries to adapt and modify them for their own learning contexts (both for individuals and for centres). This developmental model of informal eLearning came to be called the Community Development Model of Learning as it was driven by both centre and learner behaviours (Garnett 2005). Open Context Model of Learning However this model of informal eLearning, despite allowing context-responsive learning resources to be created, was, to some extent, context specific; learners were users in UK online centres who accessed and used a particular range of learning resources. Whilst this approach was about allowing learners to use the affordances of web-based resources as they so wished, the subsequent emergence of open learning, which we align to the launch of the Open University Open Learn programme in 2007, provided us with a real possibility to evolve, and perhaps generalise, this model. At that time the authors were involved with a group of researchers and practitioners called the learner-generated contexts research group, who had experience from across all educational sectors, as well as adult and community education, and together we developed a more general and open pedagogic model that could be adapted to context, purpose and learners. We felt that for learning to be open it would also need a open pedagogy which would allow the use of any web-based or open learning resource and that could help guide the design of learning programmes in any context, sector or institution. As a consequence the Open Context Model of Learning was designed to integrate features of school-based learning (subject pedagogy, which could provide a focus), of adult learning (negotiation and learning-management, which could provide
  5. 5. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 5 a process) and of research (heutagogy, which could provide a stimulus for creativity). We called this integrated process the PAH Continuum (table 1) arguing that teachers should always be showing learners how to learn and, more importantly, how to develop and manage the learning that they themselves had determined was important. In a way we were extending Knowles model of adult learning to further empower the self-management of learners, supported by trusted intermediaries, in the emerging, open contexts of Web 2.0 and the developing availability of free, open education resources (OERs). Table 1. A Schematic of the PAH Continuum (Luckin et al 2010) Pedagogy Andragogy Heutagogy Locus of Control Teacher teacher/learner Learner Education Sector Schools Adult education Research Cognition Level Cognitive Meta-cognitive Epistemic cognition Knowledge Production Context Subject understanding Process negotiation Knowledge creation Emergent Learning Model Whilst the open context model of learning came out of many projects and earlier theories (Luckin et al, 2010) we didn’t build any specific projects based on it; it was designed to be a guide to future thinking about learning. Thomas Cochrane in New Zealand, however, did use it in the course design of the BA in Product Design at Unitec, where it helped them decide on the use of mobile technologies for learning across the 4 years that the degree lasted (Cochrane, 2009). To us this suggested that the PAH Continuum could be taken as a heuristic and used in the design of learning
  6. 6. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 6 because the course team at Unitec had carried out this work independently, and to great effect. However the European Union (EU), following the completion of the Bologna process, which integrated the course offerings of all universities across Europe, turned to the problem of integrating what it called informal, non-formal and formal learning as part of their Information Society plans, originally for i2015, but now for i2020. For the EU formal learning is defined as HE, or university-based education, and non-formal as vocational college-based learning. Informal learning was less clearly defined, including a range of learning based on individual interests, such as reading, or social activities such as hobbies, along with more structured adult education as well as the use of libraries. Nonetheless this proposal , whilst about integrating learning, as opposed to education, was still defined by a proposal to integrate across existing educational sectors. This completely missed what we, and others (Haythornthwaite 2010), had been discovering about the learning process in post-web 2.0 contexts, which we had reflected in the PAH Continuum element of the open context model of learning, namely that we can now digitally combine elements of different modes of learning, without being physically constrained by the educational sectors within which they originate (table 1) so we can now create what we call “learner-centric” learning. We felt that, for the purposes of integrating learning we could better model the flow of learning as a sequence by starting with social organisation, before accessing resources and, finally, achieving accreditation. We believed that learning starts with the informality of social interactions but that, whilst we are accredited by formal educational institutions for them to provide evidence that we have learnt,
  7. 7. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 7 metacognitive learning processes are best supported by social interactions between learners, and this is particularly true, of course, in adult education. In line with this thinking, derived from both our practice and out research, we created the Emergent Learning Model (Garnett et al, 2009) to model how self-organised learning processes could be laid across the existing institutions and patterns of education (table 2). We also believed that in a web 2.0-world learning can be as much about new content creation as it is the consumption of existing educational content. The increasing availability of OERs also offers the possibility of learners selecting between existing content from different sources (Kamenetz, 2009) as learners need no longer to be contained within a classroom using a single textbook. More so than the Open Context Model of Learning, which was perhaps more of a heuristic, the Emergent Learning Model made it possible to design new learning experiences. We did this by developing the Ambient Learning Environment model to test this model in a range of contexts, initially but inconclusively with Kew Gardens, and then, quite effectively in Manchester as an Ambient Learning City. Table 2. A Schematic of the Emergent Learning Model (Garnett et al 2009) INFORMAL INFORMAL NON- FORMAL NON- FORMAL FORMAL FORMAL People People Resources Resources Institutions Institutions Individual Social Created Provided Adaptive Accredited Groups Audiences Learning Sequences Learning Resources Home Classes Aggregations Groups Web 2.0 Tools Set texts Library Units
  8. 8. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 8 Individuals Channels Media Templates TV Programmes Community Qualifications «ADMIN ACCESS »» SCAFFOLDING «« ADMIN» LEARNING >> << EDUCATION Learners Learning skills should be; a) organising people b) Accessing resources Teachers Teachers skills should be; a. Structuring resources b. Brokering accreditation Supported by; Trusted Intermediaries Supported by; Tools & Skills People are how we scaffold organization Resources are how we scaffold learners Institutions are how we scaffold accreditation Testing Emergence The MOSI-ALONG project, originally part of the Ambient Learning Manchester project, was designed as a JISC Community Content project. However we were interested in content creation as learning and wanted to work with the Museum of Science and Industry to develop participatory curatorial strategies concerning the historical objects both on display and in their archived collections. Hence the project name MOSI-ALONG, which both stood for Museum of Science and Industry Ambient Learning Open Network Group, and also indicated that we wanted it to be a project that was treated informally. We took our key guidance from Nina Simon in The Participatory Museum, which documents a whole range of museum initiatives to encourage participatory activities by visitors. We also had a number of informal discussions with the cultural broker Trevor Horsewood on how to develop participatory curatorial strategies with museums, as he had prior experience of this both physically and digitally.
  9. 9. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 9 It quickly became apparent that the museum took a very traditional view of the role of curators in a process of community content creation. For them any community group, or individual, could bring objects into the museum for curators to view, but only professional curators would be allowed to determine their provenance and value. This is how the excellent RunCoCo project, and toolkit, works, and works well, but from our perspective this felt perhaps more like an “Antiques Roadshow” model of learning, full of supplication to the decisions of experts, which is appropriate to the curatorial tradition with which they were working, and the museums they worked with, such as the Imperial War Museum. However our work was based on following the interest-driven model of learning which we had been developing, as discussed above, which required designing different relationships between our users, the cultural content to be chosen, which would reflect learners interests, and the expert curators consulted, as we were interested in developing fresh learning outcomes in cultural contexts. On being told by the museum that the relationship with various socially-excluded communities in the Greater Manchester area was that they were all free to visit the museum, whereas we wanted museum activity to be based in the community and to involve capturing peoples own stories, we sat down and redesigned the project by trying to integrate a participatory approach to object curation with an open model of learning. This gave us two key tools to work with; digital ‘cabinets of curiosities’ and a social media participation model called ‘Aggregate then Curate’ New Learning, New Metaphors In the Participatory Museum Nina Simon highlights the importance of “object centred sociality” and she quotes a 2002 report from the Glasgow Open Museum which
  10. 10. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 10 determined that “physical objects played a unique role in validating diverse cultural experiences, acting as catalysts for self-expression, and enhancing learning” (authors emphasis). With this in mind we went back to the first principles of community engagement and created the idea, or rather the new metaphor, of Digital Cabinets of Curiosities. Instead of Mancunians visiting the Museum of Science & Industry to tell their stories about the objects that the museum owned, as we had originally envisioned, we would help people create their own cabinets of curiosities full of objects that they owned and we would support their self-expression, learning (and the learning of others), by encouraging them to tell their own stories about their own objects. One of the things we have found in developing new learning projects with social media and new technology, in the post web 2.0 world, is that that we often need new metaphors. Whilst we have made a general case that learning can take place in ‘open contexts’ if we wish for that open learning to be appropriate for a specific ‘new’ context then we have found that a fresh metaphor is really helpful, indeed necessary, as it reframes thinking about activities and, to some extent, frees people from earlier pre-conceptions. In Manchester we used, very successfully, this idea of curating Cabinets of Curiosities, which themselves have a long history associated with the foundation of collections, and of museums themselves (Mauries, 2011). The Wellcome Collection in London is perhaps the best example of a cabinet of curiosities; it is simply a collection of whatever objects Henry Wellcome brought back from his travels in the 19th century. Cabinets of objects are simple to assemble because they are just a place of storage for collections of things people choose to collect. Describing such objects is easy as well, they are simply the stories that
  11. 11. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 11 collectors tell about the objects that the cabinet contains, and these stories can be about the collector’s personal life, working life, their interest in the objects, their reasons for collecting them, the objects history or perceived aesthetic value. The narrative that is created by the stories that you tell about your cabinet of curiosities is your narrative and so you, and only you, are the ultimate expert on that collection, rather than a museum curator. This completely personal narrative about a cabinet of curiosities immediately makes this metaphor, this activity, very socially inclusive, whilst also opening up the possibilities for discourse and understanding the objects from other perspectives than just your own. Digital cabinets of curiosities, as we developed as a part of our social media project MOSI-ALONG, are simply digital representations of your collected objects, and can be made in a number of ways, as can be seen on the website of Peoples Voice Media, who were the social media partners for the project. We worked with many groups across Manchester, holding workshops in community centres, like Arc Space, in local libraries as well as in the Manchester Mad Lab. Interestingly for a socially inclusive project working across Greater Manchester the project was adopted most enthusiastically by the Salford History group, who were mostly Old Age Pensioners. They were very excited by this model and made several films about their own personal collections of objects from their working lives in Salford and Manchester, one of which won the social media competition the project had organised in partnership with Cornerhouse. Other interesting digital cabinets of curiosities, as interpreted by participants, were a Facebook photo collection of objects collected for a book about the Manchester Ship Canal, a film about Manchester by a newcomer, and a local reggae history. Most significantly, perhaps, during the riots in Manchester someone who had heard of the project created a Google doc called ‘A
  12. 12. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 12 History of Manchester in 100 objects’ asking people who were proud of Manchester to contribute an object virtually that represented Manchester to them and to comment why; over 130 people responded creating a positive feeling about the city during a bad time in its recent history (see MOSI-ALONG blog). David Roberts, who had set up the resource, said that ‘the intention was to help produce a sense of community amongst those taking part at a confusing time’ (Whitworth et al, 2012), and simply selecting an object and telling a personal story about this achieved that intention. Creating a sense of community in economic hard times had been one of the aims of the project. Walter Benjamin has explored this sense of connecting individual narratives to their context and history in his essay on Nicolai Leskov “The Storyteller” (Benjamin 1973). Digital Learning Champions & Social Media Surgeries It was clear that this process of physical aggregation and storytelling, followed by digital curation, which created various digital artifacts, worked because we had various support workers involved. We had the support of local Digital Learning Champions in Libraries and community centres who were regularly providing training and guidance for learners. We provided some training for them, such as social media surgeries organised by our technical partner MIMAS, and documented their activities, along with project management support, also from MIMAS, as well as an almost unique social media partner, Peoples Voice Media who have embraced the notion of citizen journalism and train ‘community reporters’, some of whom worked on the projects. However the critical element in making the project work was the social media participation model we developed called ‘Aggregate then Curate’ following a project
  13. 13. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 13 workshop and discussions with another partner, Stevie Flower of Manchester’s MadLab, who also ran workshops to support the project. Aggregate then Curate was designed to allow for interested-driven activities to be at the core of participants curating cultural content. It is a 7-step model which also structures the engagement of 'trusted intermediaries', in order to assure some quality in project activities. In terms of the MOSI-ALONG project this structuring had 3 related qualities, i) curating artifacts ii) using social media for digital storytelling iii) recognising learning. Whitworth (2012) also argues that the Aggregate then Curate also addresses criticisms from Keen that Web 2.0 enables what he calls the ‘cult of the amateur’. We would argue that we have developed a co-creation process that can scaffold engagement into a range of quality activities (table 3) and has some rigour. For a fuller discussion on the details of the Aggregate then Curate process see Whitworth (2012) This rigour can be seen in three types of social media training we offered over the course of the project to both adult learners and digital earning champions; a) Typical ‘social media surgeries, for beginners or novices, introducing basic social media, particularly Twitter for communication, Facebook for group organisation, blogs for recording, as well as whatever social media that emerged during the workshops (organised by project partner MIMAS) b) Using the Aggregate then Curate model to scaffold more sophisticated social media use for curatorial purposes (table 3). c) Peoples Voice Media provided community reporters to help participants make digital video films of their cabinets.
  14. 14. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 14 What we found from the project partners and the participants who made their own cabinets was that the metaphor of cabinets of curiosities was very engaging, and helped participants engage in the project without thinking of it as learning; they were gaining social media to skills to help tell their stories and develop their own narratives. We had found this aspect of engaging in learning informally to be a critical part of the MCC research. Perhaps more importantly for us was that the Aggregate then Curate model gave us a non-institutional, but structured, way of modelling learning in our chosen cultural context. This also allowed us to support the activities of interested participants and to structure the training of the support workers (Whitworth et al 2012). Table 3. An outline of the Aggregate then Curate Sequence (Whitworth et al 2012) Stage Involved parties 1 Identification Participant 2 Initial aggregation Participant, community learning champion 3 Digital creation Participant, Digital Learning Champion 4 Digital aggregation Participant, Digital Learning Champion 5 Sequencing and curation Participant, Digital Learning Champion 6 Social media aggregation Social media partner, Digital Learning Champion 7 Accreditation Many possible organisations
  15. 15. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 15 Towards an architecture of participation for Adult Learning. The Metadata for Community Content project research had earlier discovered and identified a model of behaviours that the researchers (Cook & Smith 2004) labelled a ‘Life Cycle model’. In this model the effective adult community learning centre evolves as it responds to the twin drivers of individual user needs and the broader social needs of the community in which they are located. However this research was carried out in the early days of UK online centres, in 2002, and whilst it identified a three part Life Cycle which was “a cycle that relates to users, workers and the centre itself” the subsequent research, and our own work, thereafter focused on the “literacy lifecycle’; developing a pedagogy for producing learning content with the aim of addressing the digital divide (Garnett 2005). It did not further address any issues relating to the centre, or institutional Life Cycle, nor did any subsequent UK online centre programme work or funding, and this useful insight was left hanging. A key development in UK online centres was the Peoples Network, which were UK online centres in Libraries. Although UK online centres continue to this day, their library presence became the main legacy of the programme. The evaluation survey and review carried out in 2003 by Wyatt et all (2003) produced a report that measured the effectiveness of UK online centres but this was measured solely in line with the policy targets set by the government, institutional behaviours were not evaluated. Similarly NIACE subsequently developed ‘e-guides’ training which, to some extent, was to codify the work of ‘trusted intermediaries’ as a set of skills, but the development and evolution of the centres themselves were left to the vagaries of local heroics and the usual pressures of funding guided by the interests and targets provided by policy or funders.
  16. 16. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 16 However, in a separate research programme, the E-Maturity Framework for Further Education (EMFFE), the authors did work on a model of institutional responsiveness in terms of e-maturity (MIT, 1994), but with a focus on FE colleges. After one years work with 15 colleges and a number of partners and advisors we produced a model of institutional responsiveness that would both enable web 2.0 learning, and also to respond to it; what we called an organisational architecture of participation (AoP). We defined an AoP as ‘agile institutions working across collaborative networks’ (Ecclesfield & Garnett 2008). We can now see that this has similarities to the elements of an institutional life-cycle as outlined in the MCC research. We now believe that we can extend the AoP model to better describe the evolving characteristics of adult learning institutions, through the inclusion of elements from both the ‘Life Cycle' findings and the Aggregate then Curate social media participation model. What is an organisational Architecture of Participation? A) Background; We have been concerned to further develop our notion of an “organisational architecture of participation” (Garnett and Ecclesfield, 2008) since we started our blog with this title (Garnett and Ecclesfield, 2009). We see this ‘architecture’, as does O’Reilly in What is Web 2.0 (O’Reilly, 2005) in the sense of its use as an organising principle, or platform, incorporating community, dialogic and engagement spaces that may or may not be physical or virtual, but are definitely inclusive and open to use by a range of publics, defined in the widest sense. Our conception further incorporates
  17. 17. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 17 the ideas drawn from the work of Haythornthwaite (2010), who is particularly concerned with networked learning, and who sees learning as occurring; • Learning spaces, both physical and virtual • Relations connecting people • Learning as an outcome of relations • Learning in production as well as consumption (as noted in Luckin et al (2010), the Russian word “obuchenie” captures this sense well) To this we would add that, in any of these contexts, engagement is a critical feature and that this engagement needs to be supported by ‘architectures’ that promote, support and sustain participation. Alexander’s conception of pattern languages, particularly as developed recently by Schuler and his collaborators in recent years (see Schuler 2009) describes how the conscious use and structuring of language can be helpful in framing collaborative contexts for learning and addressing political and life issues. We have been exploring how, coming from an educational perspective, we might identify and explore the creation of participative learning to address these issues and what this also means in relation to “public” education. With our focus on learning in post-compulsory education we have viewed learning from the context of individuals’ learning whilst reflecting on the nature of those organisations charged with providing education whilst using public funds, as well as the contexts they operate within. Governed by local, national and international policies and comparisons of outcome and performance e.g. OECD and EU comparisons, organisations themselves are rarely engaged in policy formation nor engaged in assessing the value and impact of the policies that they are subject to. Key
  18. 18. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 18 documents in English further education have been formulated and authored by distinguished figures in the financial community e.g. Foster 2005 and Leitch 2006. It is arguable that there is no nationally recognised manager or practitioner in further education with a policy voice in England, because Government and funding agencies see this sector as there to implement policy rather than helping to formulate and assess the practical impact of policy. Consequently it is unsurprising if the institutional context for learning does not exhibit learning life-cycles, nor architectures of participation that enable informal, or web 2.0 based learning. In contrast to this UK status quo we have proposed models of organisation that promote the idea that provider organisations should be embedded in their localities and engaged in networks of collaboration that help to ensure that they are able to inform and influence policy and the evaluation of their activities. We argued that “as part of e-mature collaborative networks, educational institutions will be able both to influence the policy landscape in which they operate and find a way of resolving the tensions between competition and collaboration generated by national policies and practices, within their sector, to the benefit of their learners and communities.” Ecclesfield and Garnett AoP October 2009 B) E-maturity We had been exploring the e-maturity of providers in further education with fifteen providers as part of the development of a self-assessment tool for organisations that would help them prepare for, and manage, their responses to inspection by the national inspectorates, and the associated demands made by funding agencies in their audit processes. One college was using a participative tool called “webactions”, which
  19. 19. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 19 allowed all members of the college community to provide their feedback on all aspects of the life of the institution, as they were recorded in various management 'action plans', and to make the commentary and feedback rapidly available to all parts of the college community through agreed procedures using the college network. “Webactions” encouraged immediate responses and dialogue between those commenting and those carrying out key activities such as teaching, learner support and management. The commentary and responses fed into wider discussions and could be accessed at any time to provide a detailed account of college life and progress towards external as well as internally generated objectives. In relation to inspection, this college had moved from being considered to be 'poor' in a previous cycle to 'outstanding' whilst using webactions and, prior to their engagement with the e-maturity project, showing how providers could use their internal development dialogues to both improve and also to cope with external requirements for information and inspection itself. Our learning from this project has been incorporated in Garnett and Ecclesfield (2008), and subsequent work on the AoP blog, where we have argued that the internal processes developed using webactions need to be reproduced in the interaction between providers at community, regional and national levels, through active networks that enable providers to address both internal and external developments. They should be able to move from their current reactive stances to policy and economic pressures exerted by their being individual institutions working in a competitive climate that stifles co-operative and mutually supportive actions. Rather than promoting such activity as means of improving the quality of learning and teaching as well as other aspects of the operations of such organisations, current
  20. 20. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 20 funding and policy focuses on individual providers and consequently creates system issues that fail to “join up” provision and engage learners as other than consumers. C) Co-creating organisational development Such an organisational “architecture of participation” would engage learners and providers in the co-creation of organisational development and policy as the focus would shift from the learner as 'consumer', in current “learner voice” initiatives (see “New Challenges; New Chances 2011) to the engagement of learners as participants in “more iterative dialogic structures" (Laurillard, 2012). Key to this movement will be the reconceptualization of “public value”, which we discuss below. As Castells has argued in his Communication Power, communications technology offers the opportunity to re-programme existing networks of communication and thus, our ways of managing our organisations (Castells 2010). In his latest work this is characterised as being “to find ways for humans to manage collectively their lives according to principles that are largely shared in their minds and usually disregarded in their everyday experience” (Castells 2012 p246). By joining up the circuits of learning, dialogue and policy formation through the experience of learners practitioners and their communities, the architecture of participation provides the means to link the disparate elements of our current education system, where learners and stakeholders are valued for their financial “power” rather than their skills, knowledge and experience. The life-cycle model of institutional behaviour identified earlier, reflects many of these dialogical elements, particularly the notion of co-creating organisational development as institutional life-cycles evolve in response to demands from host communities on what centre curricula should be. This allows us to conceptualise how
  21. 21. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 21 an adult learning institutional Architecture of Participation might include elements of organisational e-maturity. Organisational Architecture of Participation Issues and Public Value It can be argued that the concern with audit processes in post-compulsory education has led to a situation where lip service is paid to widely-referenced notions such as learner voice and community engagement, but both are seen in practice as educational consumer issues i.e. formal consultation and satisfaction surveys, rather than providing the means through which learners and other stakeholders can express their views about issues of concern to them, such as the impact of government policy or feed their contributions into policy formation and review. In short, what Moore describes as “public value” in his writings is nothing of the sort. His conception is built on a view that sites the definition of the value of public services, including education, as being specifically within the remit of senior managers in public services and not embedded in a process that engages learners, practitioners and communities in defining what is needed and in forming policy. We have argued that the value of educational providers should be assessed and validated through public deliberation and engagement and participative processes that can be enabled and enhanced by the affordances of the new technologies. Castells, in all of his recent writings, has explored the theory and practice of participation in the context of current developments in technology and the use that can be made of the affordances offered by the Internet and mobile technologies. See his discussion of “power in the network society” (Castells 2009 pp 10 – 50).
  22. 22. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 22 Education providers in post-compulsory education in the UK are products of hierarchical models of organisation and structure, reflecting the contexts in which their curriculum offer and funding are determined and the models of inspection and management that are promoted through national advisory agencies, inspection and development training, where leadership is seen as a key factor in organisational development. As we write this piece, a report on the failure of care in a large hospital trust has pointed to failures in care caused by a management culture fixated on “corporate self-interest, cost cutting and meeting unrealistic targets that were set without regard to patient care.” (Francis 2013). What is interesting about the report is that it identifies systemic failures resulting from 1. A culture focused on doing the system’s business – not that of patients 2. An institutional culture which ascribed more weight to positive information about the service than to information capable of implying a cause for concern 3. Standards and methods of measuring compliance which did not focus on the effect of a service on patients The report will be noted as one of the most telling and significant repudiations of managerialism and the use of inappropriate performance indicators in public services, which we will explore, in detail in our blog. The effect, in this case, was the unnecessary death of 400-1200 people and the consequences of a similar failure in education would not have these consequences, but education does affect people’s futures and yet we are still a long way from engaging
  23. 23. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 23 publics in determining their own futures and helping to determine how providers should respond to their needs and prepare for the future. In the context of education, which is a public service with diminishing public engagement in its operations in the UK, it is the autonomy of “managers” that is entrenched, while public, learner and practitioner engagement in the service is seen in terms of meeting consumer needs and customer service, hence the emerging developments in learner data analytics using administrative data gathered for audit purposes as a substitute for engagement and participation by learners in determining their own futures. As Radin (Radin 2006) has noted, the processes for collecting data and the nature of the data being collected in performance management systems can inhibit performance and become barriers to participative enterprises to improve and develop public services. Tess Lea takes this argument further by arguing that interventions governed by bureaucratic and accountancy requirements are self-justifying as they are not collaborative or participative in their intention or evaluation and professionals involved in implementing policy are themselves bound up in policy in ways that preclude the raising of fundamental questions about the nature and purpose of the policies and the ethics of implementation. Francis argues for organisations to “Ensure openness, transparency and candour throughout the system about matters of concern” and the rest of this section will seek to explore how this requirement could be applied in education. For example, Sugata Mitra found, in his work around the world, within groups and communities that the capacity to adopt, adapt and use information technology to
  24. 24. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 24 support learning is far greater than the expectations of those outside the communities provided with the technology (Mitra 2010). When a focus on learning is centre-stage attention moves away from those who provide resources on to what can be generated by communities themselves, and the implications of that learning, rather than on audit trails and activities that are governed by managerial and hierarchical relationships, reliant on managers to conceive and deliver services and control organisations. Mitra’s recent work shows how little the capacity of learners, combined with the ability of supportive others, to initiate and sustain learning, has been considered in educational theory and in the framing of provider organisations. The key to creating participative organisations then will be in opening up the organisations to public engagement whilst using technology to draw in the public to discuss fundamental questions by publicising and making accessible the content and the dynamic of those debates, as with webactions. As we note above, the use of “webactions” provided a continuous means for developing and initiating discussion on any matter affecting the providers using the tool and the means of drawing together disparate views in a dialogic environment where participants had somewhat more than a formal and intermittent value in the quality assurance systems, where their contributions are turned on and off to meet external audit requirements rather than the changing needs of persons and locales. The key here seems to be moving away from the idea of stakeholders as customers to one which values them as participants in the organisation and development of a provider and this would include other providers who could be drawn into collaborative activity to extend the range and scope of provision and draw in other participants for their knowledge and expertise as
  25. 25. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 25 well as to meet their needs – needs articulated through participation not interpreted from market research. Bound by formal processes and procedures about who leads and manages them, formal structures and forums lead to organisational stasis and falling participation exemplified in the disconnect, in most providers between formal “governance”, learners, staff and other stakeholders resulting in disengagement as governing bodies in English further education colleges remain bureaucratic in both operation and purpose. Forums where learners and communities lead providers are rarely initiated, with the exception of the Workers Education Association in England although evidence would suggest that such approaches, where they are tried, lead to greater breadth of provision and more dynamic organisations. We believe that this organisational stasis produced by the managerialism model promoted by central government in recent years is both inimical to enabling the participatory affordances of social media and inappropriate to the institutional health of adult learning centres. Key Issues for Adult Learning Institutions We think that two key issues differentiate adult learning institutions from other educational organisations; the temporary nature of the centres themselves and the ever-changing networks in which they are situated. Firstly the institutions themselves often have erratic histories because where they rely on funding regimes rather than building on their own histories, with few staff (UK online centres for example) often employing just one full-time professional, supported by several volunteers. Secondly the networks within which they operate are themselves full of discontinuities,
  26. 26. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 26 depending on an ever-changing, and unreliable, mix of funding regimes, whilst the individuals involved, as well as the user and community interests to be pursued, vary over time. Consequently the tacit knowledge gained in running centres in adult education are not embedded in managerial hierarchies, but typically reside in key individuals or, in Information Ecology terms, the ‘keystone species’ (Nardi, 1994), who themselves are often frantically involved operationally, working to complete projects or just to keep centres open. Whist operating in this ‘deficit mode’, if they have goals relating to social inclusion then they are often also covering for black holes in institutional educational provision for the socially excluded. Whilst centres themselves can evolve purposefully over the period of their own ‘Life Cycles’ the knowledge about that evolution, which would help both to make sense of the changes they are going through, and also help in their further development, often gets lost in the relentless daily demands of managing a centre. (I’ve experienced this myself over a period of eight years as a trustee of the Creekside Education Trust). For adult learning centres then temporary “collaborations across boundaries”, rather than our original formulation of a purposeful ‘agility’ demonstrated in ongoing collaborative networks, might be a better way of describing their networked relationships, or partnerships. Consequently the issue of partnership becomes one of not only identifying more purposeful collaborations but also of obtaining a clearer recognition of adult learning itself from existing stakeholders, funders and potential partner institutions. We think that this might be characterised as rhizomatic behaviour where the Adult learning institution maintains its character as it evolves through its, hopefully, self-determined Life Cycle, but builds temporary, discontinuous alliances, with other organisations. Unfortunately centres tend not to be purposefully
  27. 27. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 27 rhizomatic, that is building their own temporary alliances to evolve their own activities purposefully, but are more usually opportunistically seeking funding, which is often about meeting the purposes of others. If that funding comes with government policy attached then the relationship can prove terminal. “Embedding the culture of participation” We think there are two key issues to build on in order to build a culture of participation in Adult Learning Centres; hubs and training. 1 A distributed model of institutional Hubs connected to Adult Learning Centres which recognises the Life Cycle independence of the centre and its constituents. Following the requirement placed on OFCOM to ‘promote media literacy’ in 2003 a participatory media literacy working group was established on which Fred Garnett was the co-chair. This investigated how a national programme to promote participative media literacy might be developed in line with the UK online community centres model. It was proposed that as individual centres lacked continuity key community media hubs would be needed as repositories of knowledge and skills concerning digital media training. Hubs would follow the ‘Information Centres’ model developed by IBM in the 1970s concerned with how business organisations coped with new technology. In this model hubs would have new media specialists, a full range of new technology and would organising skills training and provide centre support. They would train workers from individual centres and advise on the combination of tools and activities that each centre might need. Centres would then be free to focus on their primary activities and be supported in their use of new media technologies as and when it was required to meet their core business activities.
  28. 28. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 28 In this model centres could evolve naturally in line with the Life Cycles model, whilst hubs kept abreast of new technology developments and advised. 2. Supporting and training support workers, staff or trusted intermediaries who will be identified and nurtured to keep their knowledge and skills within that life cycle. That training should be based on a social media participation model such as Aggregate then Curate. In the MOSI-ALONG project the development of social media skills in users was the responsibility of Digital Learning Champions which had been co-ordinated across Manchester, in line with their community learning strategy, by Walt Crowson of LSEN. The existence of these ‘trusted intermediaries’, usually volunteers from the communities in which they lived, provided a real focus for the project as they not only understood the need for training in social media, but also knew how to talk to and train people in their neighbourhoods. In effect the MOSI- ALONG project acted as a temporary social media hub for the duration of the project (2011) but those support mechanisms disappeared once project funding ended. Perhaps the best example of an adult learning group which represents the Life Cycle model of development and has embedded a culture of participation is the Everything Unplugged group which holds ‘learning conversations’ once a week. It is self- organised, began as a Meetup group but now organises through Facebook. It has been in existence for three years and has evolved variously (Everything Unplugged 2012), but its’ purpose is self-determined and it has evolved in ways suggested by the Life Cycle. It is a weak example on how to build an organisational AoP for a centre because it has no funding and no location but this has allowed it to remain true to itself and it is driven by social media practices. Conclusion;
  29. 29. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 29 In The Future of Learning Institutions in the Digital Age (Davidson & Goldberg, 2009) Cathy Davidson asks whether ‘anyone (has) yet put into institutional practice at the level of higher education what John Seely Brown is calling a “social life for learning for the Net age”, which applies for all institutions and sectors of learning. Davidson further comments that ‘no institute of higher education has tested in a comprehensive way new methods of learning based on peer-to-peer distributed systems of collaborative work’ which she describes as ‘characteristic of the new Internet age’. She asks whether ‘the social networking possibilities (will) prompt greater reflexivity, a more sustained sociality in which the positions and concerns of the otherwise remote are more readily taken into consideration in decision-making. We agree with Seely Brown that learning now has a ‘social life in the net age’ and believe that both the Emergent Learning Model and the ambient learning city project MOSI-ALONG where designed to identify and promote a social life of learning. And we think that the answer to Davidson’s question ‘can we really say, in 2009, that the institutions of learning – from pre-school to the Ph.D – are suited to the new forms of learning made available by digital technologies’ are no, but that we are beginning to address this question with the organisational architecture of participation proposed here. We think the key test she identifies is whether learning in the ‘Net age’ is based on ‘peer-to-peer distributed systems of collaborative work’, which our emergent learning model designs for. Addressing major infrastructural, cultural and organisational issues We would conclude, from both our theoretical and practical work discussed, that we can offer three big ideas, one each on infrastructural, cultural and organisational
  30. 30. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 30 issues, if we are to develop an appropriate institutional model for Adult Informal eLearning. a) Infrastructural; Whilst both Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Personal Learning Environments and Networks (PLE and PLN) have roles to play in Adult Learning the increasing technological development of smart phones and apps along with access to cloud-based applications, along with the increasing user take-up of social media such as Facebook, and their integration into new consumer products, have meant that the web is increasingly being used as a publishing medium aligned with these ever-changing consumer-driven client/server technological relationships. Whilst much of this infrastructural change is about applications that simplify everyday usage (e.g. Instagram posting digital images directly to the web) the concomitant rise of social media aggregators such as Pinterest mean that basic publishing and curating has become simplified. Beyond these cloud-based consumer applications, which can be used in interest-driven learning contexts some tools, such as, have been explicitly developed to support curation as learning. defines itself as ‘social scrapbooking. So our view is that the barriers to entry to social media publishing have never been lower and adult informal eLearning can now start from the personal use of social media, which aligns with our view of informal learning works best when it is interest-driven. This eLearning process is significantly helped by having trusted intermediaries, such as Digital Learning Champions, who have had additional guidance and training and so have the confidence in some of the tools and parts of the learning model, and can scaffold interest-driven activities into learning.
  31. 31. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 31 b) Cultural; We think that these new affordances of social media mean that adult learners now have greater practical choice of which tools and processes they can use for their learning. In line with the emergent learning model we also think that learning can be about content creation and content curation. However, as we found with MOSI-ALONG, whilst new tools can enable new learning what is really needed are new metaphors to help make sense and increase the potential of the new affordances available to learners through social media. In MOSI-ALONG we used digital cabinets of curiosities as we were working with a cultural institution, it is crucial that new metaphors should have a contextual relevance. Any new metaphors developed should be rooted in personal narratives, or contexts that make sense to those adult learners involved. c) Organisational. We think that existing adult learning institutions are at their best when they responded to community learning needs and exhibit a Life Cycles process of development. This is helped both by having a clear, and shared, sense of mission, and also by developing agile partnerships with other providers, learners or emerging social groups, which is often shaped by funding imperatives. This can be achieved, in part, by using social media such as Facebook groups, or tools like NING or (amongst others). However in writing this chapter and broadening the references to architectures of participation it is clear that individual centres need supportive hubs, whether local, national or regional, to enable their naturally emerging life-cycle to develop and become community responsive.
  32. 32. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 32 There is also, as we have seen in the discussed throughout, a public policy dimension. Indeed we think that, as a principle, it should be applied to all national funded programmes concerning new technology and social media (lastfridaymob). Namely that any initiative needs to have key people, typically those trusted intermediaries who become the keystone species within any initiative, who should be brought together to advise on programme design, provide support during its duration and provide summative 360 degree evaluations at the end. In line with the principles of AoP they should be drawn as much from professionals and volunteers working in adult learning centres, as from funders and policy wonks working at the governmental level. There is a long tradition of calling fit for purpose, however we think that solutions in net age need to be ‘fit for context’ We think our proposed solution is a model that can become ‘fit for context’. In our experience there have been a number of national and local bodies who have acted as hubs, or keystone species, in adult learning initiatives, and most have since been disbanded. The work mentioned above on the Digital Divide Content Strategy was developed in a collaboration from two of these, Becta's UK Community Programmes team, which was closed in 2005, and the CTCnet group in the USA, both of whom were providing support nationally for community technology programmes. CTCnet were supported by BEV, in West Virginia, and the City Government Community Technology Team who, uniquely, developed Healthy Life Indicators to measure the well-being of their citizens as they took up the use of digital technologies, a truly dialogical initiative. This critical, and usually missing, element of adult learning hubs needs to re-instigated if we are to develop responsive, engaging and, embedded adult learning centres that offer appropriate informal learning opportunities in the digital age, using social media and supportive collaborations in
  33. 33. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 33 ways that we are beginning to understand pedagogically, and which meet the needs of the communities they serve in a mutually developmental relationship. Processes and tools Adult Educationalists can use in practice What we have tried to do in this paper is to address equally research issues, theoretical concepts and practical issues, and in keeping with that approach we would like to provide a summative list of recommendations for anyone involved in the design of adult learning for the net age, in line with our three main conclusions. a) Infrastructural; 1. Arrange social media surgeries to de-mystify social media tools 2. Use the Aggregate then Curate model to design or review informal learning 3. Identify new social media that support learning outcomes, Pinterest,, Instagram etc b) Cultural; 4. Think of new metaphors appropriate to the learning context (such as museums), personal histories of people involved, or allow them to emerge from open debate in workshops. 5. Use a curation model of content creation to simplify the learning process 6. Encourage collaboration and peer-mentoring to emerge in the learning process, but don’t force this on participants c) Organisational.
  34. 34. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 34 7. Crowd-source your learning curriculum and develop a ‘community-responsive curriculum’, ‘or community as curriculum’ (Cormier, 2010) 8. Think of web-based publishing as your new accreditation model, but follow Clay Shirky’s advice ‘publish then filter’ 9. Allow your institution to evolve its mission iteratively based on the learning lifecycles experienced by learners, support staff and the institution itself (with the help of supportive hubs)
  35. 35. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 35 Resources Architecture of Participation blog; Benjamin W 1973 “Illuminations” Pimlico, London pp 83 – 110 BIS 2011, “New Challenges, New Chances: Next Steps in Implementing the Further Education Reform Programme” Castells M 2009 “Communication Power” Oxford University Press, Oxford Castells M 2012 “Networks of Outrage and Hope: social movements in the Internet age”, Polity Press, Cambridge Cook J and Smith M 2004 “Beyond Formal Learning: Informal Community eLearning” Computers and Education, CAL03 Special Issue, 43(1-2), 35-47. Cormier D 2010 “Community as Curriculum“, in: D. Araya & M.A. Peters, “Education in the Creative Economy: Knowledge and Learning in the Age of Innovation”, Peter Lang, New York Davidson C and Goldberg J 2009 “The Future of Learning Institutions in the Digital Age” MIT Press, Cambridge Dodge B 1997 Some thoughts about WebQuests; Ecclesfield N and Garnett F 2008 “Towards an Organisational Architecture of Participation” BJET vol39 (3) Everything Unplugged 2012 unplugged-learning-conversations Francis R 2013 “The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry Final Report” Garnett F 2005 “Community Development Model of Learning”, Garnett F and Ecclesfield, N 2009 “Proposed model of the relationships between Informal, non-formal and formal learning” Paper presented at IADIS-CELDA, Rome, Available at relationships-between-informal-non-formal-and-formal-learning Garnett F and O’Beirne R 2013 “Context is Queen” in S. Hase (ed.) “Self-determined Learning” Bloomsbury Academic, London (forthcoming) Hase S and Kenyon C 2013 Self-determined Learning, Bloomsbury Academic, London (forthcoming)
  36. 36. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 36 Kamenetz A 2010 “DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education” Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont Knowles M 1970 “The modern practice of adult education: andragogy versus pedagogy” Associated Press, New York Laurillard D 2012 “Teaching as a Design Science; Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology” Routledge, London Luckin R 2010 “Redesigning Learning Contexts: Technology-Rich, Learner-Centred Ecologies” Routledge, London. Luckin R.’ Clark W., Garnett F., Whitworth A., Akass J., Cook, J., Robertson, J. 2010 “Learner-generated contexts: A framework to support the effective use of technology to support learning” In M.W. Lee & C. McLoughlin (Eds.). “Web 2.0-Based E- Learning: Applying Social Informatics for Tertiary Teaching” IGI Global, Hershey PA Mauries P 2011 “Cabinets of Curiosities” Thames and Hudson, London Mitra S 2012 “Beyond the Hole in the Wall: Discover the Power of Self-Organized Learning” TED Books, New York Moore M 1995 “Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government” Harvard University Press, Cambridge MOSI-ALONG project blog, available at Nardi B and O’Day V 1999 “Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart” MIT Press, Cambridge OFCOM, What is Media Literacy? research/media-literacy/ Open Learn; free-learning-the-open-university Peoples Voice Media, Digital Cabinets of Curiosities, RunCoCo project; Shirky C 2008 “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations” Penguin Press, London Simon, N. (2010) The Participatory Museum, available at The Wellcome Collection,
  37. 37. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 37 Wenger E., White N., and Smith J. 2009 “Digital Habitats: Stewarding technology for communities” CPSquare, Portland OR. Whitworth, D., Garnett, F., Pearson, D., (2012) “Aggregate-then-Curate: how digital learning champions help communities nurture online content” in Research in Learning Technology 2012, 20: 18677, WEA Webinar CPD Evidence; proven practice with impact Funding to develop & share that practice further Share practice as it emerges Communities of practice 4 Aims; 1. Support governing bodies Leadership teams and managers 2. 3. 4. Collaborative partnerships (line of site to work) Governance - see page 7 of the guidance ONE a) Boards role in agreeing a tech strategy b) key questions for governors to ask to ensure ROI c) Develop an implementation model d) Develop a capability framework Leadership Teams see page 8 of the guidance TWO How to develop a culture of change Develop Business skills Address strategic challenges of the sector Develop and address the leadership development needs that will ensure strategic development of learning tech AND LINE of Sight to Work Education and Employer engagement TWO 1 Model innovative collaborative 2 blended learning in the work place 3 mobile in the workplace 4 simulate 5 assessment aligned to innovative practice 6 tech to expand apprentice capacity Target audiences; ACL Employers FE WBL Prison HEI Schools Interview plan Feb 9/10 in London So a key dimension of these projects is to model best practice so it can be shared Build partnerships to share that best practice Project Plan; TIME Inception Meeting 27th Feb to September 30th 2015 – 8 months max Finance Plan PROJECT ASSESSMENT will be;
  38. 38. Towards an Adult Learning Architecture of Participation 38 Existing partnership can bid – funding to lead organisation ANNEX 1 is key (assessment weighting of bids) • Partnership as key for SHARING Best Practice • Must be scaleable ideas & processes (accessibility) (low cost) • Evidence existing best practice • Transferable SHOW 1. Project alignment with funding aims of programme 2. Project outcomes 3. Transferability & scalability as a dissemination strategy 4. Project management (tight time scales) 5. Value for money GREAT applications Write crisply READ Section 5 p7-9 is key • Identify areas to develop • Develop PLan • Impact measures • Data collection • Analyse Data • Modify initial theory & repeat Support for successful projects Each project will have an LF Project Champion for support How will you transform the capacity & capability if the workforce to use learning technologies to improve outcomes for learners and employers