was liberating for two teachers to go undercover at a conference for uber_librarians,
(e)_historians, anarcho_archivists, web designers and museum_istas. We spent two glorious and anonymous days learning about knowledge,
ownership, access and authority, NZ cultural copyright, what this means when
things are digitised, quantitative and qualitative measurement of audience
engagement, what website analytics really show, the fabulous Digital NZ site with its Digital NZ Memory Maker remix editor and editable Coming Home
search widget and and and ...
The tensions in the discussions in the Owen Glenn Building so often came back to how we understand knowledge – and the artificial polarising of the alternatives. Those traditionalists worried about digitisation betraying institutional authority and expertise – and what happens to knowing when we blur the privileging of particular experiences or interpretations. The modernists argued for the experiential basis of knowledge – that knowledge is both a social and historical product stuff, and that digitising can leverage knowledge by opening access and interpretation to all.
Moore and Young were helpful in not dismissing those with reservations, or rejecting those without.
The neo conservative position may be flawed, but it is not false. It reminds us that (a) education needs to be seen as an end in itself and not just a means to an end (the instrumentalists position), and that (b) tradition, though capable of preserving vested interests, is also crucial in ensuring the maintenance and development of standards of learning in schools, as well as being a condition for innovation and creating new knowledge. More generally, neo conservatives remind us that the curriculum must, in Matthew Arnold’s words, strive to,
Make the best that has been thought and known in the world current everywhere! (Arnold, 1960, p70)
From "Knowledge and the Curriculum in the Sociology of Education: towards a reconceptualisation by Moore and Young. British Journal of Sociology in Education Vol 22 No 4 2001 p449 and 450" Thanks to cj for suggesting this as mind food.
The irony being that different interpretations of "knowledge" means that Arnold's quote could have been a catch cry for either group.
Much like conversations and claims over how knowledge should be produced or acquired at an educational conference, the conversation over digitising knowledge in the two day NDF conference could have also been framed by how the various speakers and organisations understood knowledge.
However, there were some significant difference between the educational conferences I get to attend and the NDF08. The first thing I realised was that librarians, historians and archivists flock differently from teachers. They dress differently, they queue differently, and they question differently. For example The NDFers had to be encouraged to take freebies like fractured fragments of greenstone from the registration desk and ice cream from the Trade Exhibit Area. And unlike my experience in educational conferences the end of each keynote and forum session was marked by thoughtful challenge and critique offered. The NDFers asked difficult questions, provided intriguing analogies, offered significant alternatives, and contested espoused institutional values.
The NDF2008 keynotes were notable for their focus on real achievement. The NDF keynoters had all done the stuff they were talking about. We heard about what had worked and what had failed; we heard about real outcomes and actual achievement. There was an absence of all that futuristic visionary rhetoric we have become so accustomed to in educational conferences in New Zealand; an absence of those paradigm shift_ers, digital native_rs, generation Y_ers, knowledge is a verb_ers, perfect education storm_ers, and guide on the side_rs. Conference circuit junkies, (e) learning futurists and prophets didn’t get a look in at the NDF08 conference.
In the opening keynote on Thursday, George Oates Senior Program Manager, Flickr talked about “Human Traffic, General Public.”
Flickr has grown to an archive of
over 3 billion photos in just under 5 years. What?!?!? Once upon a time it was just
a start-up with a handful of members. How did it become the world-famous photo
sharing site it is today? By building a passionate community - or, more
accurately, lots of co-existing communities, all bustling around the same
place. What better place for public institutions to share their collections? It
turns out the enormous Flickr community is very interested in The Commons
project on Flickr. The key goals of The Commons (http://www.flickr.com/commons)
are to “firstly show you hidden treasures in the world’s public photography
archives, and secondly to show how your input and knowledge can help make these
collections even richer.”
A founding member of the team that built Flickr, George Oates was the Lead Designer of flickr.com for four years, and recently moved into the role of Senior Program Manager, leading The Commons on Flickr. Her keynote presentation at NDF is called “Human Traffic,” about how designing for community might actually be able to help public institutions can create digital value through platforms like Flickr, by creating an engaged, conversational and generous community.
George identified two key ideas learned from Flickr;
People don’t like being told what to do.
People do like to feel that they belong.
You could tell in the post keynote conversation as we queued for coffee at morning tea that in talking about The Flickr Commons, George respectfully disrupted the ways some in the audience made meaning of their day jobs. The coffee line conversation was all about the perceived loss of institutional authority, loss of archival context, the authentication of comments made, and control over the digital copies shared. Although, The National Library of New Zealand had obviously thought through all of this and officially joined The Commons Project www.flickr.com/commons on Thursday afternoon.
I took something different from the archivists and their concern over access, ownership and control.
Learning how Flickr had designed and then built a community provided an insight for thinking about new ways of designing learning communities in schools and between cluster schools.
It the success of Flickr (3 billion photos archived in just under 5 years) tells us anything about human interaction and I think the sheer scale of Flickr means it does, our challenge is to build flexible places/spaces online and face to face where we change our current focus on compliance reporting. If we are genuine in building a learning community then we need to reduce all the telling people what to do stuff and rark up all the opportunities for belonging – the contributing and participating stuff.
I much enjoyed the opening keynote, I liked the way “historical authenticity” is understood on Flickr, how it is not the end of the world if something happens that is not controlled, how the best protection may well come from proliferation, how Flickr increases public access to public things, but best of all I liked George Oates reference to hand crafted objects and Malcolm McCullough
The handcrafted object reflects not only an informal economy of energy (as opposed to one of process efficiency), but also pleasure. Its production involves some play, some waste and above all some kind of communion. P10 Abstracting Craft: The Practiced Digital Hand
The quote has such resonance in understanding the work we do in schools with knowledge building.
so what happens when we look at student learning outcomes against the criteria for identifying a hand crafted object and when we can do this using digital platforms?
Can we create learning experiences where we scaffold for both an economy of energy and the opportunity for pleasure? Where in planning for a student learning outcome we ask ourselves;
Where is the opportunity for play?
Where is the possibility for waste?
Where is the prospect for communion?