Camp is Coming

Last year we did something radical with our annual all instructional design meeting — we blew it up. We decided really at the last minute what we really wanted was a by the community, for the community event aimed at the entire learning design community. What we got was an event that I would have to say blew the doors off the place — The Learning Design Summer Camp notion was born. Over 100 people showed up, with probably about half of them working in the wiki in the days and weeks prior to the event helping to shape it. Our goal was to raise the level of the conversation and I think we accomplished that.


This year is only different in that the event looks even more interesting. If you jump over to the ETS Wiki you’ll see what I mean. What is important to remember here is that there isn’t really a formally charged planning committee — it is organic and that what makes it work. Today my friend and colleague, Allan Gyorke sent me a link the LDSC09 store where you can buy all your LDSC stuff … it is all very impressive and very cool. One last think I’ll mention is that the event is free and since we’re moving to a larger venue we are entertaining the idea of opening it up to the World. Before I go through the effort on that one, I’m wondering if people would come from other places to take part in some killer conversations over a two day period? Let me know what you think … I’ll have much more to say about this as the time grows closer.

Participatory Culture

I’m starting to really think it is working. The “it” I am referring to is the adoption of not just web 2.0 tools, but web 2.0 philosophies. I have been professing the notion of the “conversation” since I re-read the Cluetrain Manifesto a handful of years ago. I say re-read, because the first time I tried it just blew past me like the wind. When I read it the second time I was starting to have success re-imagining my life with a blog, using, sharing on Flickr, and started discovering all the other people out there who were doing the same. I quickly started to understood that the web was a platform and we were the nodes — not the machines themselves, but the people … we are the nodes on a knowledge network that the platform empowers to connect. Once I got it, I was hooked on the idea that we can participate in a global conversation — even if the people we are talking to are two doors down.

At the start of it all, I thought it was about the tools but then it started to click that under all the tools were these basic tenets that were driving some really smart people to create them. From what I can tell they are openness, sharing, connections, and empowerment. To me, these are the basic underpinnings that drive the tools. The developers got it before we did and that strikes me as odd only because our traditional view of developers is that they work alone. Clearly, that is folklore and not the way the new economy pushes us to think. These early pioneers knew something was missing with the web and that was the opportunity to engage. Here I sit several years later — perhaps a good 10 years later — and can see we are all getting it.

So much has been going on that proves it is happening to me. My trip to Harvard for Berkman at 10 showed me tangible evidence that people can study this stuff in a practical and pragmatic fashion. My participation in the global Twitter conversation has proven to me that my local community is brilliant and willing to step up to the challenge of showing that off. My continued blogging has opened new doors and created new relationships that are more meaningful than most can comprehend. The Learning Design Summer Camp was the most recent piece of evidence that the notion of participatory culture is alive in a huge way right here on my own campus. These things are all local examples — and by local I mean happening to me. These are things that have opened my eyes to the power of the philosophies of web 2.0 … the tools are great, but seeing the people take over from the tools and rise up in a real sense has been stunning.

If I think back to the way I was thinking around the time I was leading the Online IST project in 1999 or so. I can say I had a totally different perspective. I was closed. I wasn’t interested in sharing experiences and I certainly willing to participate outside of my group. I believed we were the smartest people and there wasn’t anything anyone could tell me to prove me wrong. I was naive and immature to believe there wasn’t so much to learn out there. In the years that followed it took quite a bit to get me to see the power and intelligence in the community — admittedly my eyes started to open only as I began to discover other smart people at other Institutions exploring the social web. I was still turning a blind eye to my local community however. It took time for me to see it emerge here … and I use the word emerge to mean that I began to pay attention to the things around me. Again, admittedly it took technology to get me to pay attention — and maturity.

Now I am more excited when I see my RSS reader light up with posts from PSU people than anywhere else. I love seeing the triple digits of PSU Tweeters following each other, and I can’t say how proud I am of watching our community grow. I now know much of it is my own movement away from being close minded and taking notice … I also know that I am excited by the affordances the adoption of not just the tools but the philosophies will provide us all going forward. If I could go back to the early days of all this I would tell myself to stop trying to hoard the ideas, stop trying to know the most, and most importantly to embrace the power in an open and engage community. I can’t go back, but I am certainly excited about the movement forward. It is nice to be part of it. Thanks.

Home from Camp

Before I start, I need to give a shout-out to my Mother … it is her Birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom!

People Tags. Credits Micala

People Tags. Credits Micala

So, today is my first day back in the office from the Learning Design Summer Camp 2008 that happened here at PSU the last two days. It was an ambitious reach at raising the bar on our own community of learning designers. Modeled after much of what I learned while attending the Berkman at 10 event that rocked my World a while back, the LDSC08 was designed by the community for the community. I had asked months ago if when thinking about planning an event if we could just say that maybe the community is the committee and it in my mind it played out really well for us in this instance. The planning wiki was an unreal story that unfolded before our eyes … just to give an indication of the amount of activity that went on there, when I checked the feed of recent changes before heading to lunch yesterday, there had been 96 updates. 96 edits from the first AM session to lunch. It was a striking departure from most professional development activities I have been a part of on campus.

I am still plowing through our program evaluation results, but I thought I could share a handful of comments with you from the two day event (Allan has a nice recap of day one). Not that there aren’t some critical issues for us to work through, but I feel it is safe to say that the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. People seemed to really feel energized by the grassroots feel the event had. There was participation in so many forms so it is hard to say how many people actually had a hand in it, but when it is all said and done, I imagine that at least 20 different people shared the podium and dozens more contributed questions and comments from the audience. It was stunning … at any rate a couple of comments from one of the questions where we asked attendees what was the most important thing they took away from the experience:

  • “Feeling as though I am part of a community that is supported, valued and willing to make changes.”
  • “That an organic, community planned event is more valuable to me than a national conference far away from State College.”
  • “Connections with people and resources at PSU.”
  • “Made a lot of connections that are going to help in furthering my experience.”
  • “Knowing that if I want to try something on a higher level, or something different, that I have the support of a lot of my peers on campus.”
  • “All the engagement and participation. Was hard to take all in, but wonderful experience at the same time!”
  • “New technologies to explore, widening my educational/colleague community through more connections, refining my educational philosophy and understandings, and inspiration to continue.”
  • “Twitter! No, really, I think the wiki was great – having the materials there before, during, and after. And the live question tool.”
  • “The use of the live question tool was really amazing. It’s like a back channel tool, but with very obvious educational applications. I submitted a question and felt proud that it was voted up and then addressed by the speakers.”
  • “The community. Just knowing that such a talented pool of folks works with me at PSU is a wonderful thing for me to take away.”
  • “A renewed desire and motivation to use multimedia in learning design and to open my course documents and content to my worldwide profession.”
  • “The people are engaged & ready to roll!”

Notice a trend there? The notions of community and engagement were so pervasive throughout the two days that you could almost reach out and touch it. I am hopeful that what people go forward with is the complete confidence in knowing we are all a part of a much larger whole — that what we represent is the potential to produce the leading edge of learning design in higher education. That together we can actually stop the complaining and change the conversation. That when we actually share and challenge ourselves we can make a huge difference — even at a place as big and difficult as PSU. That at the end of the day we have the power and authority to make real dents in real problems.

I think the challenge going forward is truly grabbing that power and making changes with high enrollment designs, begin to work with faculty to really engage in moving forward, and make policy changes that will push the agendas items we discussed forward — open learning, open courseware, new assessment models for distributed learning environments, digital expression, portfolios, and so much more. I am more excited about being a part of this community than I ever thought possible.

A huge thank you to everyone who helped make this event the first of many annual events that can shape the future of our institution. Now it is time to head back to work!

Off to Camp

When I was as kid I went off to camp every summer … I attended sports camps every summer, working to hone my tennis, basketball, and soccer skills. I never did the full on all summer camp thing that lots of kids did. I did a lot of time at Bloomsburg University camps primarily because my parents worked at the University and it was our home town. But I also went to Russ Houk‘s camps every single summer from the time I was 9 until I was a senior in High School. Russ’ camps were in the mountains and amazingly separated from reality. I went for soccer, but always learned so much more.

Each summer I’d head off and have to play in the blazing summer heat, to work harder than I ever had with coaches from all over the World, and deal with an environment that was very primitive. It was awesome! It was at these camps that I stretched myself to play with quite literally some of the best players in the state and sometimes the World … I learned how strong I could be and most importantly I learned how much work it took to be really good at something. Russ’ camp were about stretching yourself physically, emotionally, and at times, psychologically. It was a blast and a disaster at the same time.

Heading into tomorrow’s Learning Design Summer Camp here at PSU I am reminded of my time heading off to camp at this time of year. I am nervous about how it all plays out, but I am anxious to put our collective intellegence to the test. Our goal was to raise the level of the conversation related to learning design and we will see how it all plays out. I know this from Russ’ camps — it is up to everyone to bring their A-Games. Can we do it?

I plan to engage … I set my “vacation” message for autorespond on email to read:

I am taking part in the ETS Learning Design Summer Camp at Penn State University and will not be able to be focusing on email for the next two days. Please know that I am keeping track of notes and will get back to you by Thursday at the latest. Thank you for understanding!

I can’t wait to see how we all perform.

On Changing Roles

As the First Annual Learning Design Summer Camp approaches I am struck by how different the list of participants looks than a more “traditional” ID meeting has in the past. I am amazed by how many people there are attending that a more conservative view of ID would deem too far outside the path … that there are people attending that are librarians, marketing people, programers, developers, faculty, students and others who impact learning design in a team environment, but who have traditionally been left on the outside looking in when it comes to these kinds of events. Let me say one thing about it all — I love it.

I have always looked at the design process as one that is so much more powerful when we are inclusive of people with many perspectives. I think we are all being asked to rethink our roles as we find new ground to populate in the academy. We are no longer being asked questions about what tool to use, how to write an objective, test items, or add resources to a CMS powered course space. I see something else happening — we are being asked to help extend the reach of classrooms to connect communities. Even if the ask isn’t overt, the notion of openness and connectedness is living just under the surface of nearly all the questions I am asked. I like this on a lot of levels, but I especially like that it is forcing us all to rethink where we add value to the bigger picture.

I really like the idea that everyone coming to the LD Summer Camp can have an impact on the design of learning — they can impact small pieces or entire learning opportunities. This is not meant to be a call to arms for more traditional instructional designers (I may actually be one), but it is a call for the entire Learning Design community to see this change coming and to embrace it — to level the playing field and to participate openly with colleagues as we explore this new territory. It is a truly exciting time to be in the Learning Design field — unprecedented access to content, knowledge, peers, teachers, learners, and all the others in our space has made our jobs that much more interesting and critical. We need to understand that our value will be finding new ways to connect learners to teachers, classrooms to larger communities, and education to 21st century skills that can take students into the next three decades in a holistic fashion. I am working on changing my thinking and I am inviting those around me to do the same.

Did I mention I am excited? Thoughts?