Saturday, 8 December 2007

Collective Knowledge , Learning, Networks and Charting

Following a chat with Allison yesterday, and my reading of Kinchin & Hay's paper on the myth of the research-led teacher, I(Isobel) am wondering whether in our thinking about collective learning, we haven't remained tied to the traditional view of knowledge as residing in the heads of people. And I think this is the origin of some of my unease with Kinching and Hay's arguments - they present concept maps for novices and experts, but there remains a gap between the two which we cannot address: we don't know how/why a novice map transforms itself into an expert map, and thus we cannot chart the path from novice to expert.

I'm wondering whether a helpful way to think about collective knowledge and collective learning (and to distinguish between the two) is to view collective knowledge as a network with people (or machines) at the nodes. Then on a traditional view (as in Kinchin et al) the knowledge all resides within the nodes and the purpose of the links between the nodes is somehow to transfer knowledge from one node to another (learning) and we don't have a good handle on how this happens - ie. we don't really know what links the nodes. The learning remains an individual thing and essentially all that is collective about it is the number of nodes that an individual has access to. We could chart the way to increase the number of nodes, but this doesn't necessarily turn the novice (characterised by a simple concept map) into an expert (characterised by a complex concept map).

I'm wondering whether a more fruitful approach is to consider knowledge as residing in the interactions between people (or actors if one wants to include the machine) - this is a Wenger-like CoP view of collective knowledge. Then on a network view the difference between a novice and an expert would be in the interactions they had access to but more importantly the way they managed those interactions. One role for an expert might be to expose the way they manage interactions to the novice (this is the rationale that several of the blogging lecturers at Kathy's last learning sandpit based their use of blogs on). As a novice becomes more expert (learns) the network around them will change as they contribute knowledge to it and change their management of it.

This latter view of collective knowledge is by no means new, but has the advantage for us that these things are all, in principle, observable so we can research them and, hopefully, begin to chart the route from novice to expert. We might want to use ideas like actor network analysis, transactional distance, discourse practices, etc.

Or am I completely off the wall?

Monday, 3 December 2007

Online Educa Berlin 2007: Day 2, Closing Parallel session

This last session focused on Linking Web 2.0 to Education 2.0.

Julia Jaeger (a learning consultant from a company called Common Sense) spoke about collaboration and learning between international tutors who were using open source tools. This was a blended course for a distributed group of teachers and has been delivered for over three years. They use Skype for communication, wiki for progress check, and other tools such has moodle to consolidate all the tools and resources. She outlined a number of challenges that they experienced in this programme: large number of learners and workload; complexity of course (toolbox and tasks); virtual teamwork (coordination of feedback) and a range of media and tools (global campus 21 and moodle) used. She highlighted a range of demands on tutors, including technical skills and skills of giving feedback and virtual work. Key messages (somewhat simplistic in my view) - importance of matching teams, importance of all information being in one place (moodle), clear course manual and task descriptions.

Natalie van der Wiele from ePrep Community of Practice, supported by EU FP6 funded PALETTE project. This is an association that is contributing to preparatory classes for teacher training - “Pedagogically sustainable adaptive learning through the exploitation of tacit and explicit knowledge” (an Integrated project funded under FP6 – EUR 6Mln – 14 partner CoPs). Participants are teachers in various subjects and representatives of universities. In their approach, CoP members and Palette researchers are designing tools and resources together, using a semantic wiki and a web-editor.

Bart Rienties from Maastricht University delivered a great presentation on social networks and virtual team working in Web 2.0. This talk was based on a longitudinal study of a cohort of international students in a preparatory course that Maastricht provided for students (both Dutch and international) who were going to start a study at Maastricht Uni. In this course, students work on problem-based tasks in virtual teams. Bart's presentation focused on findings from a study exploring dynamics of virtual team work.

This could be a useful approach to enhancing the rates of progression and retention of students.
When I spoke with Bart after his presentation, he was saying that they too had an issue with drop out rates of students at Maastricht. They have evaluated the effectiveness of this onboarding course in terms of impact on progression in retention – results were that only 2% dropped out later. I am looking forward to having the opportunity to invite Bart to give a seminar on his work at GCU.

Anja Johanning (MMB, Institute for Media and Competence Research in Germany) discussed how CoPs can support competence development and management, using an example of a CoP called (30,000+ membership group of mainly secretaries and office managers). She started off by talking about the definitions of CoPs (never an easy task!). My impression was that she used the term communities of practice interchangeably with the term networks. She carried out a survey of web-based CoPs, which had the following characteristics: work communities; cross-organisation boundaries; built up top down; offering professionally edited material (?); asynchronous communication (text based mainly).

Then she discussed definitions of competences (not an easy task either!) focusing on competences as skills of social systems to solve problems on their own, in a self-organised way (Erpenbeck, 2004). She outlined three groups of competences- personal, professional and social-communicative.

Her study investigated the following key questions:
  • What situations in daily life have an effect ion the usage of online CoPs?
  • Does the participation in communities enable the development of online CoPs?
  • What are the success factors of competence development within online CoPs?

She carreid out qualitative interviews with 13 members of the community – 98% females aged between 20-50 yo. No difference in usage of internet (daily), but differ in community participation (2 core members, and quite a lot in the peripheral members group).


  • A large number of users share personal information about private problems outside work and within work (e.g. conflicts with colleagues, or problems with husbands) and ask other community members for advise. I wondered if it was specific to this professional group perhaps to want to share a lot of personal information?
  • Participation in the community had an impact on competence development, in the following ways:
  • Optimisation of all three groups of competences
  • Big impact on personal competence
  • Less impact on socio-communicative competence
  • Management of competences also rather strongly impacted - building up a social network and reviewing own competences and keeping competences up-to-date
  • Strengthening of will to solve problems
  • Solving or reducing uncertainty
  • Professional competences also quite strongly impacted but not as strong as personal competences (time saving, strengthening the ability to judge situations and assess solutions)

She outlined the following success factors:

  • Time-saving
  • Trustworthiness and reliability
  • Heterogeneous competence
  • Core members
  • Guaranty of anonymity
  • Observation of netiquette
  • Maintenance of data archive
  • Overwork and under utilisation at work encourages participation

Online Educa Berlin 2007: Day 1, Plenary Session 2

The second plenary session of the day focused on Social Networking and Web 2.0 in Learning.

Firstly, Sian Bayne of Edinburgh University spoke about how they are using Second Life (SL) in an MSc programme in E-Learning - an online programme, with a distributed group of mostly adult learners. She used Freud's notion of unheimlich (the Uncanny) to characterise Second Life. Unheimlich is the effect arising on the boundary of reality and virtuality. They expedrimented with a number of other 3d virtual worlds in the past, however they are now focusing on Second Life. They have an island called Holyrood Park, Virtual University of Edinburgh (VUE) and are experimenting with using SL in Faculties of Education, Architecture, and Management. Sian emphasised that contrary to the rumors that they spent hunderds of thousands on this, most of their development was done by the Doctoral students and some teachers in their spare time. She did a live demonstration of their SL environment, and then outlined a number of key issues that they faced: skills for using a 3D environment; bandwidth; and cultural issues for avatar appearances (e.g. in African cultures animal heads might have negative connotations since they might be associated with witchcraft and black magic). Then, in light with the recent UK trend of presenting data "in students own words" she went on to read out a number of -rather lengthy - quotes from students elaborating on some of this issues.

Next, Graham Atwell delivered an exciting keynote on Web 2.0, social software, and Personal Learning Environments. He characterised himself as "Andrew Keen’s nightmare – I am a socialist, former hippy, and an anti-authoritarian” :-) He argued that emergent tools are being pushed into the old metaphors of industrial age, and that it is not technology that is challenging but the way people use technology. Key soundbites from his talk:
  • "Universities are in bewilderment at best and most often exhibit downright hostility towards the social software and web 2.0"
  • "Universities risk becoming irrelevant to students"
  • "When we want to learn something we don’t go to a VLE, we go to Google – so why are we sending students to the VLE?!"
  • "Schools resemble factories, with classrooms like factory workshops, teachers overseeing the students, and there are even bells to tell students they are free"
  • "Assessment of learning rather than assessment for learning"

He argued that PLEs can help addresses these issues because the allow continuous learning; allow students to use their own tools; recognise informal learning; are controlled by learner.

Finally, Roger Larsen, CEO of Fronter (claims to be Europe’s largest commercial open source learning platform, with 2.2 million users) spoke about Collaborative Working Environments, which was in effect a sales pitch for Fronter. He argued that PLEs are useful, but that VLEs are still relevant, because "teachers need VLEs for managing educational process and assessment process" . On one point he remarked “We are not pedagogues, we are engineers who built systems”. This is precisely the problem with all these systems - that they are driven by technologists rather than educators. Just look at the amount of vendors that were exhibiting at the conference this year , their number has doubled from the last time I was there. And what do they offer? Endless VLEs, e-portfolio systems, assessment systems that are no different from each other. Lots of "containers", with little thought about what they are going to contain and who is going to need it and how they rae going to use it. His main message was: VLEs are relevant since they can serve as a portal to link all these other Web 2.0, PLEs and user owned tools. I was not convinced at all - why would I prefer a VLE that is locked up and costly - when I can bring together all my tools and resources much more effectively and organically within an open shared platform such as Netvibes?

Online Educa Berlin 2007: Day 1, More paralell sessions

Learning Object Repositories
Next was the session on Learning Object Repositories that I was presenting at. Others presenting within this session were: Richard Windle from the UK RLO CETL, Leo Højsholt-Poulsen, UNI-C/EdReNe Network, Denmark; Giovanni Fulantelli of the Italian National Research Council; and Ruth Rominger of Monterey Institute for Technology and Education,

My presentation was the first one in the session. I discussed some cultural, pedagogic and organisational issues involved in the implementation of learning object repositories. My presentation was based on findings from our recently completed Community Dimensions of Learning Object Repositories (CDLOR) project.

Richard Windle spoke about the findings from "Sharing the LOAD- Learning Objectives, Activities and Designs" project. He highlighted the tension between contextualised pedagogy and decontextualised nature of LOs. His talk focused on learning design templates and ways of capturing real-world reusable designs. Richard discussed pedagogic attributes for the designs, and emphasised that the repository and pedagogic needs of practitioners must be analysed and creation of designs in real-world context must be studied.

Leo Højsholt-Poulsen of Danish thematic Educational Repositories Network (EdReNe) spoke about some issues in sharing resources via reposoitories, focusing on management and organisation, quality framework and criteria, functionalities and features, metadata, IPR, and repositories’ role in the new web environment. He focused mostly on the information management issues rather than pedagogic or cultural aspects.

Giovanni Fulantelli, Italian National Research Council, Institute of Learning Technology, gave a very interesting talk on an alternative model to Learning Object Repositories - Open Learning Objects. He described the SLOOP project funded by the EU Leonardo Da Vinci programme. The project was focused on creating a community of teachers who collaboratively developed open educational resources. The platform they used is Freeloms. Others have argued for this kinds of open self-organising virtual communities developing educational resource - for example, David Wiley and Erin Edwards and Jennifer Maddrell - and I tend to think that this approach will work better than learning object repositories have done so far.

Ruth Rominger of MITE (Monterey Institute for Technology and Education) talked about the National Repository of Online Courses, which are developed collaboratively by subject matter experts, instructional designers, and multimedia and software development experts and made available to teachers etc. This seems to be a sort of middle ground between LORs and OERs, but I am not very keen on initiatves that focus on content development, for many reasons, so I was not impressed although I realise this approach might work in some contexts, for some people.

The question and answer session that followed mostly focused on discussions of tensions between use and reuse; and on tensions between OERs vs LORs. Sebastian GK suggested that we stop building these containers of content and concentrate on actually using these resources to support learning - and I can all but agree with him.

Supporting Lifelong Learning
This session focused on supporting lifelong learning, and seemed to include mainly EU-funded projects.

Firstly, David Griffiths of University of Bolton talked about conflicting definitions of the term competence in formal learning and lifelong learning context. Main message – lifelong learning support systems have to be open.

A woman from University of Graz (unfortunately didn't catch her name) presented findings from an EU FP6 funded project APOSDLE . The project aims to develop a framework/approach to integrating work and learning processes with knowledge management. The presenter outlined the following four dimensions of openness of systems for lifelong learning: content, user profiles and portfolios, collaborative maturing of models, and end-user devices (e.g. mobile devices). This project might be relevant to our potential FP7 proposal, so I am going to look up the details.

Volker Zimmerman from PROLIX project (also funded under EU FP6) discussed learning service to support formal, informal, and social learning processes. He focused on process oriented life cycle – integration of various tools used by training and HR processes in organisations. He argued that the glue between these different tools is business processes. I didn’t quite understand what he meant by business processes in this context - examples he gave seemed to point to educational processes, or rather perhaps steps individuals take when they have a learning need that they want to address. He suggested that business processes are based on trigger tasks – e.g. someone wants to learn a language - they go to content- sign up for a course-contact others-and so on. This sounded like it could be relevant to our work on charting learning paths, so another project to look up.

Next, Marcus Specht of OUNL spoke about metadata bridges for open lifelong learning, focusing on the Metadata for Architecture Contents in Europe (MACE) project .

Overall, the discussion in this session was very much focused on information management aspects of this systems and approaches (content, CVs, portfolios, competence profiles, etc) and hardly at all on learning from individuals’ point of view or on pedagogic issues.

Online Educa Berlin 2007: Day 1, Parallel sessions

Application of TEL research/Kaleidoscope: My presentation was planned to take place later that afternoon, but before then I went to find out a bit more about the research in technology-enhanced learning carried out within the Kaleidoscope Network. Kaleidoscope is a Network of Excellence (NoE) funded under the EU FP6. It comprises 90 research units across 24 countries in the EU and Canada, with 1100 researchers (2/3 of total members) and PhD students (1/3 of total members), as well as industry partners. The funding will cease at the end of 2007, but Kaleidoscope seems to be moving towards creating an association (perhaps with own regular conferences and seminars?). They maintain an open archive.

This session was presented by Barbara Wasson (University of Bergen), Judith Schoonenboom (University of Amsterdam), and Jacqueline Bourdeau (Canada, unfortunately I cannot remember her affiliation).

Barbara Wasson talked about collaborative knowledge building. Her findings were based on DoCTA (Design of Collaborative Telelearning Activity) project. Project had lots of outputs (publications, Masters Students and PhD students), but this talk was particulalry focused on students collaboratively learning how to do “science talk”. They have used Progressive Enquiry Learning (Muukkonen et al 1999) methodology, which is based on a problem solving framework. Key finding: too few students and teacher use higher order skills; many are trying to get through the problem and focus on solution rather than learning domain concepts. I wondered what the quality of problem solutions was in their study - if students do come up with good quality (whatever that means) solutions, then is there a point in worrying about how well students can articulate concepts (do the 'science talk')? What is more important - that one can solve a problem to a sufficiently good standard, or that one can articulate the solution and the process in nice and proper way?

Judith Schoonenboom's focused on TENCompetence project exploring competence development for lifelong learning (another large EU FP6 funded project). Main messages from Judith's talk:
  • existing pedagogical models are more suitable for formal education, rather than lifelong learning
  • it is difficult for individuals to have an overview of all existing lifelong learning opportunities
  • organisation do not know how to assess employees’ competences
  • centralised models of network do not work with lifelong learning

She compared principles of formal learning and principles of lifelong competence development to demonstrate these points. She then demonstrated a prototype of a system developed within the project - Personal Competence Manager. The system was trailed with 40 teachers from Bulgaria.

I wondered if this formal educational domain was really an appropraite context to trial someting that claims to be a lifelong learning competence manager. This is a rather a standard use as a competence manager software that many organisation (definitely corporations like Shell) have been using for years already to match the current and needed competences of their staff with learning and development opportunities - so what is new about this? I would have liked to see this system trialled in more realistic lifelong learning contexts - for example fisherman or farmers who cannot fish or farm anymore and have to develop a new set of competences.

Online Educa Berlin 2007: Day 1, Plenary Session 1

Day 1 started with a number of great keynotes:

Dominic Fobih, Ghanian Minister of Education, talked about the strategic drive in Ghana to shift from agricultural economy to knowledge economy, to which ICT is a key component. He discussed a range of inititaives in Ghana focusing on implementing ICT in Education. Main issues: affordability of technology, ICT literacy, perceptions among older people that technology is only for young people. He also spoke about cultural issues, e.g that educational resources that are available are not culturally suitable for Ghana/Africa, and they are not adapted for local contexts and needs. Another problem is that most educational resources originate from "the West", which creates dependency of Africa on the West and loss of cultural grounding of education. He also emphasised the need to digitise curriculum resources across Ghana.

Sugata Mitra from Newcastle University and formerly chief scientist with NIIT India spoke about his 'Hall in the Wall' experiments. It was a truly inspirational keynote, delivered with humor and warmth. His message made a lot of sense to me - he demonstrated very strongly and clearly by experiments carried out across the poorest neighbourhoods in India - that children can learn almost anything (how to use computers, browse internet, languages, biology) by themselves, provided the right emotions are triggered. One of the things he said was that technology should not be put into schools, because the effects he observed inhis experiments don’t happen in schools, since children expect examinations, assessments, etc. so he spoke about the importance of learning in a safe play environment.

Next was Patricia Ceysens, Flemish Minister for Economy, Enterprise, Science, Innovation and Foreign Trade. She emphasised many of the usual key strategic areas that EU and its individual countries are increasingly focsuing on these days (if not in action then definitely in speeches!)- innovation, investing in R&D, entrepreneurship, investing in human capital (ie education and training). She spoke about the fact that in Europe the society is aging rapidly therefore the clients of educational systems are changing (hence the EU's emphaisis on lifelong learning to ensure that people stay longer in the workforce). She specifically spoke about the importance of increasing their employment rate and allowing them to contribute more fully, through getting them into education and through provision of flexible working and flexible learning arrangements (e-Mamas). She spoke about mobile learning as being a key to this challenge. She spoke about the iKids of today - culture of images, need for interaction, intercultural and multilingual, social and collaborative, need individualised instruction in schools. She ended with a quote from “Little Prince” - if you want someone to build a ship, one thing you can do is to give them wood, hammers and tell them exactly what to do. But you can also paint a picture of a see with all its beauty, its possibilities and boundaries that they will want to explore, then they will get the tools and build the ship themselves.

Andrew Keen (or should I say The Andrew Keen :-)), author of the Cult of the Amateur who spoke about - well, all the usual stuff about how the internet is killing our culture and values, how the "monkeys [i.e. wikipedians, 14 year olds, everyone who is not a Harvard Professor, or New York Times journalist] have taken control of knowledge" ; about how the authority of experts should be reestablished, about how a 14 year old will never know more than a Harvard Professor, and so on. There has been a lot said about his book and his views . His views are mostly disagreeable to me, so this presentation was not any different. But there is one thing that I agree with him and that is that web 2.0 has re-emphasised the need for media literacy - i.e skills in evaluating information, determinining its quality, being able to differentiate between facts and opinion, being able to evaluate and understand evidence.

Online Educa Berlin 2007: Day 0

I was at Online Educa Berlin (OEB) last week, where I was giving a talk on issues in sharing educational resources via learnig object repositories. This was my second time at OEB, and based on my previous expereince (in 2002), I didn't have high expectations. I was however pleasantly surprised with the overall good quality of this year's keynotes and most parallel sessions I attended (maybe I am getting better at judging the potential quality of a session from a short description in the programme :-)

I was mostly twittering - rather twitter spamming - the sessions, as well as taking notes, however I thought I would consolidate my impressions from each of the three conference days in a bit more reflective way than twitter allows.

Many other people blogged about the various aspects of the conference: Inge de Waard , Steven Verjans , Wilfred Rubens (in Dutch) , Marc Dupuis , Keith Russell , Willem Karssenberg (in Dutch) , Steve Wheeler , and Sebastian Graeb-Konneker among others.

Before the conference, I attended a full-day pre-conference workshop on "Research in e-Learning in Berlin's Universities" organised by Technical University of Berlin. I was unimpressed either by the organisation or by the content of the workshop. Firstly, it was not a workshop as it was advertised but a tightly packed series of presentations with very little time for discussion or any hands on stuff (isn't that what workshops are meant to be?). The research that was reported was rather uninspiring (not to say boring), although reasonably well executed methodologically - evaluation of CD-ROM based course materials, use of VLE in primary schools, and so on.
Berner Lindtsrom from Gotheborg University was on the agenda with the most promising-sounding presentation on application of socio-cultural approaches to technology-enhanced learning - and I was very much looking forward to his talk given my interest in activity theory. Unfortunately he spent most of his presentation talking about his research group and his university (which was interesting but not the reason why people had paid to attend this workshop) .

We had a lovely lunch though (glorious German bread, I couldn't get enough of it!), and I met Prof. Casper Schutte who teaches Chemistry at University of Pretoria, who had a great sense of humor and who knew some of my previous colleagues from University of Twente, so we had a nice conversation at the Conference Party the next day.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Charting: control vs freedom

I (Allison) have been thinking about how our notion of 'charting' fits with the current 'VLE debate' at the Open Universities in the UK and the Netherlands (see Stephen Downes post). This raises questions about control versus freedom.

In his contribution to this debate Martin Weller comments 'we have educational versions of tools, closed systems, selected readings, etc. And then we have web 2.0 which lets anyone do anything and then puts metrics and filters in place to help you find the good stuff.'

Martin concludes 'This tension between control (and thus being able to assure education) and freedom (where bad things may happen) will be one of the key questions higher education faces in the next few years'.

How do we balance structure with learner autonomy?

This question is at the centre of an article Anoush was reading - a critique of minimally guided instruction I think the weakness in this critique it that it presents the scenario of minimally guided instruction as a dichotomy; learners either have a) highly structured guidance or b) are left to find their own path through a primeordial soup of resources. In fact 'a' and 'b' are extremes of a continuum.

Novice learners in formal education (eg pupils learning maths at primary school) may benefit from being nearer point a) while PhD students benefit from being close to point b). If the PhD students were close to point a) they wouldn't learn the skills we expect of PhD students.

These different needs by various types of learners links with some 'old' theories -Phil Candy's work on self directed learning (learner control is viewed as a continuum) and Moores Theory of Transactional distance which focuses on the relationships across degree of structure, doalogue and autonomy (ie high structure, low degree of dialogue, etc). Jon Dron revisits these ideas in his book on 'Control and Constraint in eLearning'.

How does this fit with personalised learning?

In the debates on the future of VLEs the focus tends to be on 'personalised learning'. Yet 'learners' and 'learning contexts' are viewed in a 'vanilla' fashion. Few people are linking ideas on 'personalised learning' with different views of learners (as novice/ expert with preferred approaches) and learning contexts (formal/ informal) in a meaningful way - beyond saying these factors are important.

Can charting help support personalised learning?

If we revisit the idea that 'charting could be conceptualised as a process involving planning three different types of actions (consume, contribute, connect) on resources' (collective knowledge, other people, etc). Then it seems the personalisation aspect of learning is through the charting process. This fits with Isobel's observation that 'the distinction... is between the expert and the novice in an environoment – at both strategic and implementation levels. Isn’t what distinguishes the expert learner that they do this largely unconsciously? (but not without purpose!) Surfacing this unconscious planning for the benefit of a novice learner is part of the task of a mentor or teacher, and the reason for having mentors or teachers.'(see Caledonian Academy Blog)'

'Surfacing the unconscious planning' provides a tool that would support learners in moving along the continuum of learner control. While moving along this continuum it is the learner who decides how to strike the balance of structure, dialogue and autonomy.As Isobel comments 'perhaps the process of becoming competent is to perceive the links between the loosely related tasks'. I think this is an important aspect of 'charting'. But we also have to know what the 'loosely related tasks' are and that can be difficult - not only for the novice learner who does not know what he or she needs to know - but also for the expert working in new territory.

What is puzzling is How can charting support identification of the tasks and links?

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Some thoughts about charting the wisdom of crowds

I (Isobel) have been reflecting on Colin and Anoush's thoughts posted on 20 November (see How can we Chart the Wisdom of Crowds)

Conscious or purposeful?

I’m not very comfortable with the idea that the givers are unconscious of donating to the collective knowledge in type a) wisdom. I think the givers are more sophisticated than this suggests.

But it is the implication here that the “giver” is uninfluenced by the “wisdom” – which I disagree with. The “wisdom” doesn’t change behaviour, only if you accept that people’s behaviour is already very influenced by knowledge of what the collective preferences are.

I think the distinction is between purposeful and non purposeful, rather than conscious and unconscious.

Insertion of “largely,” or some similar word, before “non purposeful” would also alert people to the existence of instances that show people deliberately manipulating type a) wisdom

Consume, Connect, Contribute vs Ask, Learn, Share

I’m not sure about the suggested mapping. Consume, connect cut across ask, learn – ie. both apply to both – at least I think they do. In particular the suggested process for “ask” seems to pack in a complete 3C cycle


I accept the idea of charting, but I query the mapping of strategic level to conscious charting, and implementation level to (often) unconscious charting. The distinction I see is between the expert and the novice in an environoment – at both strategic and implementation levels. Isn’t what distinguishes the expert learner that they do this largely unconsciously? (but not without purpose!) Surfacing this unconscious planning for the benefit of a novice learner is part of the task of a mentor or teacher, and the reason for having mentors or teachers.

What may be different at strategic level is that this level more frequently involves other people and collaborative work, so charting has to be surfaced and articulated to enable the collaboration.

At both levels the learner is likely to end up with a montage of loosely related tasks and goals. This is important. Knowledge as a holistic network with multiple links is one of the things that distinguishes the expert from the novice (who has a much simpler concept map – see, eg. Bradley, J.H., Paul, R. and Seeman, E. (2006) Analyzing the structure of expert knowledge. Information and Management, 43, 77 – 91.). So perhaps the process of becoming competent is to perceive the links between the loosely related tasks.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

How can we chart the wisdom of the crowds?

We (Allison, Colin and Anoush) have been thinking about what we mean by ‘the wisdom of the crowds’. The phrase can be interpreted in two ways:

Type (a) - the wisdom of the crowds as a snapshot of popular preferences, behaviours or actions. For example, recommender systems point to related items purchased by consumers, though these are not necessarily the highest quality articles. The charts offer a view of popular preferences in music, which are unlikely to be the most advanced musical compositions or technically competent performances.

Type (b) - the wisdom of the crowds as collective knowledge from all people. This collective knowledge will range from relatively uninformed thoughts to valuable, world-changing ideas. The ‘uninformed thoughts’ should not be discarded as useless, since they may spark ideas that result in the generation of ‘world-changing ideas’.

A distinguishing feature of these two types of ‘wisdom of the crowds’ is the way each type is captured.

Type (a) wisdom is behaviour that has been ‘captured’ in a way that the ‘givers’ are unaware of. It is therefore an aggregation of unconscious actions or preferences. This type of wisdom does not require behaviour change on the part of individuals.

Type (b) wisdom requires individuals to consciously donate to a collective store of knowledge. The success of type (b) requires behaviour change – individuals have to consciously share their knowledge.

This conscious sharing is a key aspect of the ‘Ask, Learn, Share’ approach to culture change in knowledge sharing adopted by Shell International to help the organisation retain existing knowledge and develop new knowledge more rapidly. This approach was presented by Betty Collis in her keynote at the launch of our Caledonian Academy at Glasgow Caledonian University in October 2007 and is described by Donna Hendrix in KM Review (Vol 10, Issue 3, Aug 2007).

Ask, Learn, Share neatly maps onto the three actions we outlined in an earlier blogpost:

The ‘ask’ component involves encouraging people to search for information to help them identify problems they need to solve and help them frame the sorts of questions they should ask. This component maps to our notion of ‘consuming’ knowledge resources.

Individuals seek to answer these questions, using the information they have sources along with their own knowledge, during the ‘learn’ component. This component often requires connecting with others – experts and peers. It aligns with our notion of ‘connecting’.

At the final stage, staff are encouraged to ‘share’ any new knowledge, which fits with our ‘contribute’ component

If we view the ‘collective’ as a resource (ie collective knowledge) then ask, learn, share or consume, contribute, connect are actions that can be performed on this resource.

What’s different about the model we propose is ‘charting’. Charting is a process that binds together the resource and actions. Wisdom of the crowds type (a) occurs without any conscious action on the part of the contributor. However wisdom of the crowds type (b) requires some sort of (implicit or explicit) charting.

What do we mean by ‘charting’? And how does it fit with ‘consume’, ‘connect’, ‘contribute’ or ‘ask’, ‘learn’, ‘share’. We discussed this with Betty Collis when she visited us in October 2007. We had started describing this notion in an earlier blogpost ; here are a few further thoughts towards a framework.

Charting takes place at different levels. At each level it requires self-assessment of the learner’s current competencies mapped against where he or she would like to be.

At a strategic level the learner has to make a conscious plan– ‘charting’ is like professional development planning (PDP) where learners set targets. In a work related situation a supervisor and.or a mentor or a guidance team could discuss with an employee (the learner) how they might plan addressing a challenging learning task that involves an authentic work-related activity (ie carrying out a real task at work). The learner/employee has to note where they are now and what do they have to do. This could involve a processes whereby the learner and the supervisor firstly diagnose the problem that will form the basis of the task and agree on the outcome. Some questions that could help guide this process are:

- what is the problem?
- how can it be solved?
- what resources are needed?
- who must be involved?
- what the learner knows/can do to solve the problem?
- what the learners must know/be able to do to solve the problem? If there is a gap between the latter two
- what is the cause (knoweldge, skill, motivation, environment)?

At an implementation level the learner could consciously plan but could use ‘unconscious’ wisdom from others- To help them find out how they can move from where they are to where they want to be a learner/employee may have to ask another learner/employee who has carried out this task. In many companies, this decision would be based upon a competency framework (HR). However a peer coach could point them in the direction they need to go. Alternatively we could use systems to capture the routes previous learners/employees have taken – or their patterns of behaviour. Some, if not all, of his behaviour could have been captured automatically by a system (ie it is type (a) wisdom). The learner/employee could use this information to make a plan tailored to his or her individual needs. The likelihood is that he or she ends up with a montage of loosely related tasks and goals that require constant revisiting.

There may be more than two levels - perhaps also a sort of 'micro level' - but the learner will constantly revisit each to readjust their goals in terms of consuming, contributing, and connecting – with lower levels requiring more frequent revisiting.

In summary charting could be conceptualised as a process involving planning three different types of actions (consume, contribute) on a resource (collective knowledge – which resides in libraries, stores, databases, blogs, wikis, people’s heads, etc). Individuals use technology tools to carry out the actions. The tool depends on the nature of the action and the type of resource. To illustrate this point - the choice of tool depends on whether an individual connects with another individual a group or a network (ie the type of ‘people resource’) as well as the type of digital resource (ie whether a document, sound file, photo, etc)

If we use this sort of framework what might charting look like?

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Collective Learning

Over the past few weeks a few of us in the Caledonian Academy (Allison Littlejohn, Anoush Margaryan and Colin Milligan ) have been thinking about future learning models and environments quite a bit. This post summarises some of our ideas as we begin to formulate a vision of Collective Learning. We'll first describe the concept as it relates to corporate learning, but longer term, we are also puting a lot of thought about how it may shape our conception of learning here at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Knowledge, and knowledge management has become increasingly critical to the successful functioning of an organisation. The organisational knowledge needed to solve key challenges no longer resides in the mind of one individual or even one team. Instead, knowledge is complex, and constantly evolving: and the individuals who use that knowledge must constantly strive to keep their knowledge up to date and to develop their own overarching understanding of a topic.

Traditionally, technologies have primarily supported knowledge consumption, but emergent Web 2.0 tools and virtual worlds also allow rapid and easy creation and organisation of knowledge, both for individuals and groups. How does this affect the lifecycle of knowledge within an organisation? In particular, how can these knowledge processes and technologies help us address some of the key challenges faced by large organisations such as:

  • Development of staff competencies and skills necessary to deal with the increased complexity of the knowledge within a given domain;
  • Knowledge retention and redistribution within the organisation;
  • Increased ‘time to competence’ for new staff;
  • Increased diversity of the workforce and the need to accommodate individual needs and preferences.

Organsations can solve these challenges by adopting a radical, new approach to learning that empowers and equips individuals to draw upon and feed into the ‘collective conscious’ distributed across the organisation and beyond.

Collective learning is based upon a metaphor of the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ (Surowiecki, 2004), the idea that large groups of connected people are better able than an elite few to produce knowledge to solve problems and foster innovation. Within this metaphor the consumption and creation of collective knowledge is the responsibility of all individuals, rather than the organisation. Although this metaphor has been contested (e.g. Keen, 2007), it offers great potential for knowledge generation and for learning, especially when the crowd brings greater diversity of viewpoint to bear on a given problem.

The term "collective" in realtion to learning was first mentioned by Jon Dron in 2003 in a
paper presented at the e-Learn conference. In this paper, Dron was drawing on ideas of the ‘collective’ conscious developed by a group of students using a piece of software to generate a shared picture of group understanding. Then in a 2006 ICALT conference paper, Dron considers social software within a framework of transactional control and distance theories. This paper didn't mention the notion of ‘collective’ learning directly, but considered how social software enables an extra dimension to (online) learning, in addition to traditional interactions between learner, teacher and content.

Collective learning is a phase in the evolution of understanding of the mechanisms underlying learning. The first three stages were outlined by
Terry Anderson in his recent EDMEDIA 2007 conference keynote . These were explored by Dron and Anderson in further detail here , here and here.

Traditionally INDIVIDUAL LEARNING focussed on the learner as a consumer of courses and codified knowledge resources.

The advent of Learning Management Systems supported GROUP LEARNING where the learner exists as a member of a defined group (the archetypal group is a class) with a clear focus (passing the same exam) and sharing a limited set of tools which allow them to communicate and share their knowledge (for example through bulletin boards).

New tools such as weblogs and wikis have heralded the arrival of NETWORKED LEARNING. Here, the technologies enable the learner to take control of their learning, providing tools which allow them to structure and demonstrate their understanding, and to generate (either individually, through weblogs) or collaboratively, through wikis) direct evidence of their ability.

Extending beyond networked learning, COLLECTIVE LEARNING recognises the value of the wider community in contributing to the learning process – and recognises that knowledge based systems develop a richness and deeper value as they are used and continue to develop.

The individual is recognised as a key contributor to the wealth of collective knoweldge – not just in terms of discrete resources, but also through reflection, gaining experience, emerging reputation, forming trust based relationships, and benefitting from emergent patterns and information in the system such as ratings and usage data, to provide additional cues as to quality and utility of resources. The process of collective learning is continuous: others will learn from your reflective practice; others will benefit from seeing how you solved problems, the resources you used and the routes you took to learn.

Collective learning closely integrates formal and informal learning. It is recognised that different individuals may learn the same skills in different ways. Moreover, a learner is likely to learn through a variety of sources in parallel. Therefore the rich tapestry of learning opportunities within the organisation (both formal courses and informal opportunities provided by the collective knowledge of the company) is all available to enhance the learning process.

Collective learning encompasses the following key components, which represent a set of intertwined activities rather than discrete steps:

  • Consuming knowledge - individuals need to be able to effectively identify and source knowledge residing within the collective - the whole body of data, information, competences and skills that organisation uses to solve problems. This means that the organisational knowledge base must be transparent and accessible in order to allow individuals to find relevant knowledge. Consumption of knowledge can be facilitated by emergent technologies, for example RSS feeds, that support resource identification, selection and sourcing.

  • Connecting knowledge - the success of collective learning depends on whether different knowledge resources and components (both those residing in systems and individuals) can be combined efficiently. Essential to connecting knowledge are tools that support retrievable, reflective and embedded communication around knowledge creation and consumption.

  • Contributing knoweldge - creating and sharing knowledge are a vital condition for collective learning. The goal is generating new skills, solutions, processes and feeding these back into the collective. This transition of knowledge from individual or group to oirganisation can be facilitated by emergent technologies, for example, the collective can produce knowledge resources like Wikipedia or share resources within The cyclical process of consumption and contribution, producing and using knowledge (some have called this process "produsage") is essential for retention of knowledge and its effective utilisation for learning within organisation.

  • Charting knowledge - empowering learners to chart their own learning paths for consumption, connection and contribution of knowledge, benefitting from others who have gone before them. Collective learning engenders a lifelong approach to learning, focused on authenticity, employability, inquiry, reflection, and self-improvement.

Charting in particular is a key aspect in collective learning. It is a process whereby an individual determines and executes their individual learning paths. In doing this, individuals assess their current competence and set precise learning and developmental goals. This process can be supported by a guidance team, comprised of the learner's workplace supervsior, the coach, an experienced colleague, and a training specialist. In charting a learning path ideally suited to their needs, learners take advantage of the knowledge within the organisation, through a process which empowers them. In doing this they should be able to use their own tools, networks and resources alongside those of the collective. The approach requires learners to both create and share knowledge, to allow others to build on and improve the collective knowledge for the benefit of the organisation. The relationship of these four components is shown in the figure below:

Here are two examples to illustrate how charting might work in practice.

Collective learning in Higher Education: Some issues

  • Many HEIs, unlike corporations and large companies, lack collective knoweldge repositories and processes for capturing and sharing pracatice within such repositories
  • Many HEIs lack appropriate ICT infrastrauture to enable collective learnin
  • Issues with critical mass of knowledge
  • Fit with existing teaching appraoches and types of learner behaviour that these approaches encourage

We are still working on these ideas, and our thinking develops, we will be posting more over the next weeks. Meanwhile, we would appreciate your thoughts, suggestions and questions.

Some questions for discussion

  1. What are likely to be the issues facing Collective Learning?
  2. What are the implications for learning within higher education?
  3. At what levels would ‘charting’ have to take place and what would it look like?
  4. What would a platform to support charting/Collective Learning look like?
  5. Is Collective Learning possible when knowledge is nowhere near being joined up?
  6. Is Collective Learning possible before an appropriate ICT and knoweldge management infrastructure is in place?
  7. What skills are required for Collective Learning and how can students and teachers acquire these skills?

This work draws extensively on the following sources:

  • Terry Anderson: Social Learning 2.0, EdMedia 2007
  • Dron, J. (2003). The Blog and the Borg: a Collective Approach to E-Learning. In G. Richards (Ed.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2003 (pp. 440-443). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
  • Dron, J. (2006). Social Software and the Emergence of Control. Proceedings of the Sixth IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (ICALT) 2006 (pp. 904-908). IEEE Computer Society. Washington, DC, USA.
  • Dron J., and Anderson, T., (2007) Collectives, Networks and groups in Social software for e-Learning. eLearn 2007
  • Keen, A. (2007). The cult of the amateur: How today’s internet is killing our culture. Doubleday/Currency: New York.
  • McAfee, A. (2006) Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration:
  • Surowiecki, J. (2004). The Wisdom of Crowds. Random House Inc.

as well as the work of Tony Karrer , Dion Hinchcliffe, Jeremy Hiebert, Teemu Arina and George Siemens and the CETIS PLE project and EU TenCompetence project: .

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Notes on a framework for exploring aggregation and interlinking of social networking applications

To follow up on the previous post, here are some notes (from Allison L.) regarding a framework for thinking about how these applications can work together to enable knowledge construction of the sort that we were referring to:

"In my search through ecology texts I have gleaned the following gems. Please read with the understanding that a little knowledge can be a bad/misleading thing :-)

1) Ecology has been desribed as the 'science of case studies' and, as such, could be useful in consideration of a set of scenarios.

2) In the application of ecology to preserve conservation, knowledge of taxa is more important that theory. Bottom up consideration of taxa likely to be more fruitful that the traditional top down. (BTW this is akin to the sort of methodology one would use in scenario planning - so I presume all the pulling together of ecology theory and problem solving theories has already been done....)

3) A central theme of ecology is diversity-stability relationship. Ecologists do not agree about this relationship. The classic theories are based around the notion of diversity for stability (this is an interesting concept in relation to TEL. Should we all use the same applications, or a range of applications. This question is ultimately influenced by interoperabilty and accessibility issues).

4) The classic theory does not hold up in 'rockpool systems' where change in one species can change the whole bio-schema. This is probably the same in learning technology. However, it does surprise me that ecologists could EVER have suggested that such as simple causal relationship would not have exceptions in highly complex systems - now I'm beginning to doubt my source :-)

5) The starting point in examining any system is clarification of concepts including 'community', 'stability' and 'diversity'. However there is an underlying weakness in ecological theories in that the principals and assumptions relating these are not well understood (I find this quite mindblowing. Ecology started a long time ago, with Darwin!).

6) The basic unit of study is a system that reaches 'dynamic stability' . STudying a massive, complex system is difficult, so one solution is to dive the big system into smaller, more managable sub systems(this is 'island biogeography - developed by McArthur and Wilson in the 60s). For us, that probably means we study small, discreet networks of people as a first step, rather than trying to understand the collective. Hmmmm - I do have some doubts about this, though it may be a way forward if - and only if- one understands the relationship between the subsystems. But that adds another layer of complexity.

7) These systems and their interrelationships can be studies through taxa and change in taxanomic composition over time, colonisation and extinction rates. This is an interesting point when one considers that learning technologists tend to look for stable taxa in a rapidly changing field. I'm begiining to think that repository systems could, in theory, be viewed as 'islands' for study. However, the problem is that only some of them grow 'organically'. Most grow due to forced use (ie an LMS system students have to access whether they like it or not; JISC funding influencing use of reps etc). So I'm not sure any study would stand up under these conditions

Ecology can help look at applications and groiups of applications, but the use of these systems by people is another level of our study. We shoud draw on other heuristic methologies, from anthropology. Theories fro anthroploloy must be closely related to general theories of ecology."

Monday, 23 July 2007

On personal information vs knowledge environments and aggregation

Allison L and I are talking about personal knowledge management environments, and I mentioned Netvibes as one example. Allison disagreed:

"Netvibes seems similar to Google Homepage... It allows you to personalise a 'homepage' with news etc. Perhaps this system is more flexible, but these mashups seem pretty mainstream nowadays.

I would describe these as personal infomation environments rather than knowledge environments because I think these ideas of mashups are extremely limited. In my imagination a 'true' mashup is one where data from one source is fed into software at another source, ot, better still, two datastreams from different, unrelated sources are fed ino a single application to create something new, unique, useful and fitting a novel purpose.

From everything I've read so far there seems to be too much thinking about individual applications in isolation - ie perhaps twitter has a use, but so what? What if I could feed it into flugelbinder and the system could somehow automatically help to point me to links in ideas that would help me come up with new ideas rather than collections of small groups of thoughts. I think we should think about how these applications can work together."

I agree that aggregation and interlinking of these tools is the key. In realtion to the "wisdom of the crowds" metaphor which we have been exploring in the context of some research proposals that we have been working on recently, "aggregation" is also one of the four conditions that James Surowiecki says characterise wise crowds.

Ideas for RealWoRLD and Shell projects from CETIS meeting

Allison wrote:

"Was checking out the last CETIS meeting - prompted by this email from Charles. I think lots of the ideas discussed at the meeting are aligned with the Shell proposal, though they are, indeed, useful for Realworld.

Sheila McNeil's blog gives a summary of all the presentations. David Davies has been exploring 'mashups'. I think these have great potential, though they could unfortunately go in the direction most digital content has gone in so far - ie teacher control. David has some interesting ideas:

"David Davies (IVIMEDS, University of Warwick) gave an overview of the way he is starting to mash up content from various sources (including their formal repository) to create new and dynamic resources for students. A process which he described as being potentially both transformative and disruptive - for everyone involved. David gave a really practical insight into the way he has been combining RSS feeds with yahoo pipes to create resources which are directly embedded into the institutions’ learning environment. Using this type of technology staff area able to share content in mulitple ways with students, without the student having to access the learning object repository. David also strongly advocated the use of offline aggregators, describing these as personal repositories. As well as using RSS feeds from their repository and various relevant journals, Warwick are increasingly creating and using podcasts. David described how a podcast is basically and RSS feed with binary enclosures which means that they can do much more than just contain audio. At Warwick they are creating podcasts which include flash animations. So in this way they are again providing another way for students to access content.' ! (from

The ideas presented by Michael Gardner could be a useful structure around a 'collective'..."

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Caledonian Academy is in the press

In the past few days, Sunday Herald, BBC News Scotland, and Radio Scotland hosted features on the Caledonian Academy and our "Learning from digital natives: Integrating formal and informal learning" project . We are gaining lots of publicity!

Sunday Herald
Blog entry on this article
The Herald
BBC news
Newsdrive BBC Scotland

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Academy Horizons Reading Group: Meeting 1

The Caledonian Academy Reading Group met for the first time on March the 29th. The aim of this group is to encourage blue skies thinking that will support research and scholarship in learning and teaching. We plan to hold monthly reading events discussing key articles on contemporary issues in learning and teaching.

The topic of our first meeting was Workplace Learning and Implications for Universities. We discussed a paper by Prof. Michael Eraut titled “Early career learning at work and its implications for universities”. The paper outlines and discusses findings of a study of the mid-career learning of professionals, technicians and managers in the health, engineering and business sectors funded by ESRC’s TLRP research programme on The Learning Society . This is followed by a discussion of the findings of a recently completed longitudinal study of the Early Career Learning at Work of newly qualified nurses, graduate engineers and trainee chartered accountants. The following questions are addressed: 1) What is being learned? 2) How it is being learned? 3) What factors affect the level and direction of learning efforts? Finally the paper discusses the implications of these findings and other related research for learning in higher education.

More than 20 colleagues from across the GCU and Strathclyde University joined the discussion. Here is a brief summary of what we talked about:

  • Is higher education (HE) able to replicate the workplace? How do HE and workplace fit together? Not all students end up in the specified occupational discipline. Should we develop generic skills that can be applied in professional settings?
  • What is the role of HE then? What are our students’ expectations? What are staff perceptions of their role? A pilot study is being carried out at GCU to look at solutions for our and other institutions.
  • Personal Development Plan (PDP) – will students reflect on why they are in a university rather than just focusing on the subject they are studying? Work-based learning can make this link perhaps, but time for reflection is limited, especially with regards to what they can take to the workplace. Quality of feedback is essential, e.g. exam scripts not given back or given back too late. PDP could be a bridge, but must be taken seriously – and this is not happening at the moment. Can inculcate criticality – go beyond understanding i.e. move to double loop learning and see relevance of applying theory to benefit workplace performance. How can we make analysis and reflection skills seen to be relevant by students?
  • Student involvement – consult them on the content and the relevance of this to other subjects they are taking.
  • MyCaledonian should becomes MySpace/UTube? Build in opportunities to include these in our modules and link to the content.
  • What is being taught at University – traditionally, focus is on content. Yet significant amount of content is no longer applicable or out of date by the time students leave (someone suggested the concept of “knowledge half life”). Universities should encourage learning to learn – and these are the skills that employers too want. Academic snobbery re content – need to stand back and offer opportunities for student to reflect on transferable skills. Teaching engineering at GCU is moving away from being content driven. It is challenging and requires major change. Professional bodies influence on retaining focus on content – or are they the excuse?
  • HE is now differentiated and student body more diverse yet Teaching and Learning approaches have not yet changed overly.
  • Student profiles are a factor that needs to be considered – for example, in case of first generation students, there might be low level of preparation i.e. no family networks, advice, etc to rely upon. How can our student build social capital? A GCU project is investigating this currently.
  • Employers are raising concerns over decreased quality of graduate intake especially in technical disciplines (the quality is dropping in their perception). They are using the concept of ‘time to competence’ for graduates entering employment – which in some companies is now estimated to be at 5 to 6 years! This is more than the time it takes to educate at a university. Is this due to lack of industry engagement with HEIs? Some initiatives, i.e. Leitch report in the UK propose to give industry a bigger say in education/training.
  • But does industry know what it needs? Do HEIs inform what is on offer e.g. through work placements?
  • National economy and industry sector profile don’t always require higher order learning skills, e.g. call centres.
  • Eraut’s paper is weak in relation to analysis of HE teacher and manager perspectives and related organisational dimensions.

Overall, an interesting and stimulating discussion - and we hope to see you at our future meetings!

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

iSkills again

More resources on information and learning literacies (contributed by Allison Littlejohn and Axel Bruns in response to my earlier post) :

1) John Crawford and Christine Irving, National Information Literacy Framework.

2) Axel Bruns, Rachel Cobcroft, Jude Smith, and Stephen Towers
Mobile Learning Technologies and the Move towards ‘User-Led

3) Axel Bruns, Beyond Difference: Reconfiguring Education for the User-Led Age

4) More here.

Uses of Second Life in Education

Jane Guiller sent this paper called '101 Uses for Second Life in the College Classroom' by Conklin (2007). I have not read it yet, but it looks interesting: there are lots of ideas some of which were tested in Conklin's course "Imagining Technology" at Elon University .

Saturday, 17 March 2007


In "Uses of Blogs" edited by by Axel Bruns and Joanne Jacobs , Jean Burgess is writing about use of blogs in higher education (Chapter 10, Blogging to Learn, Learning to Blog). Among other things, she is discussing information literacies, or as she says "...literacies that are appropriate to networked, technological environments...essential kinds of information lietracy, extending well beyond 'computer literacy' ". They are:

1) Critical technological literacy - "focuses on a deep, socially contextualised, and informed understanding of technology"
2) Creative literacy - "the ability to experiment with technology in order to create and manipulate content that serves social goals rather than merely retrieving and absorbing infomration"
3) Network literacy - "include the ability and the impulse to effectively and ethically manipulate a range of technologies to communicate and collaboratively construct and share knowledge".

This could be a useful framework for the GCU's iSkills initiative. Burgess mentions some other work in tihs area that could be useful too. For example, she mentions a project at Queensland University of Technology in Australia, that developed a framework addressing a set of critical, creative and collaborative ICT literacies (including recommendations for learning strategies for supporting the development of these literacies). Another related study is Being Fluent with Information Technology, funded by the National Research Council in the US.

While this work sounds worth taking a closer look, I am wondering - how does one define these literacies collectively? Are they ICT skills? No, because they are clearly about much more than the ability to use specific hardware or software. Burgess says they are "essential kinds of information literacy". But they are much more than that too - collaborative construction of knoweldge, networking effectively, communication, reflection, effective articulation, etc. iSkills is a misleading term - but what is an accurate one?