Grappling with ideas: convergence and divergence

May 17, 2011, [MD]

Thanks to the generous recommendation by Zaid Ali Alsagoff, George Siemens invited me to give a talk to the Connectivism 2011 MOOC. I decided that instead of giving a talk about something I know and have thought a lot about, like open access or OER, I would try to challenge myself by proposing a topic that I was in the middle of grappling with, where I really didn't know where I was going or what my conclusion would be. It's quite scary to be giving a presentation on something that is so "raw" in your mind, but I figured the CCK11 crowd was the perfect crowd for it, and the preparation of the slides helped me really gather my thoughts.

I have thought a lot about how we think and work with ideas, individually, in small groups online, in face-to-face workshops, and in distributed networks. There seemed to me to be something fundamentally similar with approaches to mind-mapping and note taking, collaborative discourse tools like Knowledge Forum and Compendium, innovative workshop methodologies like Unconferences and Open Space methodology, and visualizations and sensemaking of massive amounts of networked data... Yet whenever I read about one of these dimensions, they never seem to mention the others. So I tried to map out some of the overlapping areas, and principles that seem to apply.

This is something that I would love people's feedback on, but despite the fact that we have both an Elluminate recording, an MP3, as well as a Vimeo recording, I knew that many are too busy to sit through a 45+ minute presentation. I wanted to do something similar to what I did with my presentation on OER and multicultural students, where I exported all the slides into PNGs, added them to a blog entry, and then added text - both from the talk, and from other sources - around the pictures. It became a massive blog entry, but I got some very positive feedback on it.

Lately, I have been playing around with a wiki to keep my notes. It's a DokuWiki installation, and I will write more about the specific setup later - I've tweaked it quite a bit, and am becoming quite happy with it, but there are still a few more things to do. Anyway, I decided to try to do it in the wiki instead, both because it's much easier to handle so many pictures (just resize them with Automator, move them to the media directory, and create a file with {{idea001.png}, {{idea002.png}} etc, and then type the relevant text around those image links.

This turned out to work excellently. See my extended notes here. The other advantage is that I can add links to wikipages on people or theories that I discuss. Currently, many of these are placeholders, because I've just gotten started, but eventually I'd like these pages to link to their most important articles, my  notes from those articles, etc. (And already, there are some pages offering a lot more depth, like the one on tagging, which I extracted from an online course I was doing this winter, or the one on monologic and dialogic learning, where you can both see my organized notes, and the raw notes from reading the article.

I later wrote a paper for a course, where I also tried to process some of these ideas. This was my first paper written with Multi-Markdown, using Pandoc to process the Bibtex bibliography (I'll write more about these things later too). The nice thing about this, was that I could then use Pandoc to convert the Markdown document to Mediawiki markup, which is very similar to DokuWiki. Thus I was able to publish the entire paper as a very nicely formatted wiki page. Much nicer than PDF, if you ask me!

Hopefully you'll find the talk interesting, whichever format you consume it in, and I would love to hear ideas on how to take my thinking further, especially if you know about anyone who has been looking at all these different levels before - seems to me that most thinkers concentrate on one, whether it's Tony Buzan and his mind mapping for individuals, or Marlene Scardamalia and her knowledge building, etc.

Stian PS: You'll notice a tiny little icon behind links to the wiki. I'll probably be keeping more of the notes that I would have otherwise published on my blog, on the wiki, in the future, but I'll blog about it so that it arrives in your feed reader.

Stian Håklev May 17, 2011 Toronto, Canada
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