Reflection #2

I am fascinated about the mystery of participation. What draws people to participate
in events and communities? How do we create a match between offered activities and what
people are interested in, or would like to learn. Can we understand how participation works? Recently we studied ourselves a large amount of participation in conferences over time, and found a “law of participation” [1]. This new participation law essential says that more you participate, more likely you will participate in the future that same conference. See figure below for an illustration of the associate nature of conference participation:


Storytelling via an example to illustrate the associative nature of conference participation

But now what is the role of learning in participation? Examples range from learning for hobbies (think of examples like tennis, squash, yoga, swimming, reading or movies) or for formal education (ranging from certificates provided by businesses to academic degrees and beyond to courses like open networked learning). Surely motivations for people to participate are multitude, where expected results can be meeting new and old people, keeping one fit, getting experiences, learning skills, or essentially getting a job. Further on, these are accompanied with expectations from the  society and parents of a learner, all together forming a rich network weaved with decisions and simple luck to determine how people participate. From my experiences within open networked learning, the start has indeed been crucial in getting to know each other – and most essentially to get the feeling of belonging to our PBL group seven.

When it comes to online participation there are many things missing that we intuitively, and with evidence, know to draw people together. An event with good food and servings is surely able to better draw people to listen to talks compared to a seminar without them. How do we ensure to have good servings online to draw people to participate? Once I spent six months out of my home town and university, and agreed to meet with my colleagues once per week online when they had lunch – and when I had my brown bag – to continue our nice tradition of international Friday lunches. This was surely a way to ensure participation online.

Now reflecting my experiences within open networked learning I realise that the concept of meetings with servings can really be transferred to online settings, but best when
realizing that all online activities anyway happen in some place & time.

Naturally digital literacy plays a crucial role here. When people can easily enough move from physical settings to online settings, by having different backup plans in place (for instance having many different tools available for online communication), communication
online can start being as efficient as communication in our physical world. Now how to support teachers and learners to improve their digital literacy? I argue that this happens via building a community in which it is fully allowed and well supported to explore and test different tools, and where ideas and practices are shared via workshop-style sessions for relevant themes, ranging all the way from augmented reality to online textbooks, and from video production to generic blended learning settings [2].

Last but not least: what if we would take all words of this reflection, and make a simple word cloud visualisation. How would it look like? What words are most prominently there? Well, let us look at the result: clearly words like participation, online, learning and people but also communication, together, experiences, time and many others. In digital world we can help literacy to happen by providing overviews of information, and in different ways filter, organise and compare information to be easier to interpret.


Tomi Kauppinen reflects and analyses open networked learning. You can follow him on Twitter: @LinkedScience or TomiKauppinen.

[1] Jelena Smiljanić, Arnab Chatterjee, Tomi Kauppinen, Marija Mitrović Dankulov (2016). A Theoretical Model for the Associative Nature of Conference Participation. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0148528. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148528.
[2] Tomi Kauppinen and Lauri Malmi. Aalto Online Learning – a pathway to reforming education at the Aalto University. In Proceedings of EUNIS 2017 – Shaping the future of universities, 2017.


Reflection #1

In this reflection #1 I deal with the three concepts: 1) open, 2) networked and 3) learning to think  about the week #1 of our discussions, getting to know each other and co-learning.

1) open

For as long as I remember I have decided to go for open rather than closed in the spectrum of my attitude towards the world. I argue that there is not much choice in between. People can surely choose to go closed and are sometimes even surprisingly successful by hiding their ideas, or details from methods & results they use or achieve, preferring fences and borders over mutual discussions and honest collaboration. By surprisingly successful I mean that still many committees prefer to rate the success of an individual rather than the successes of teams one person has contributed to or led. However, and luckily, openness is a much more fruitful way–it is simply more likely to create better ideas by bringing different viewpoints together. Openness is truly necessary when solving grand challenges our societies are facing (like climate issues). During the week #1 I saw openness happening in many ways, in discussions, in the ways materials where organised and appearing – simply excellent. Openness clearly brings fun & creativity to the table.


2) networked

Now the term networked can mean so many different things. How do we support people to get networked? How about information, how to make information to be networked–linked–in a meaningful way? I see that if both people and information are networked, people to other people, people to information, and information to information, new ideas and insights simply emerge more easily than when people are working alone, or when information are stored in silos. I have been fascinated about how to support creation of communities, or teams, and how time & space play crucial role in doing those tasks. Communities & networks of people are best created via events, where there is a rhythm, a good beat, and thus where coffee breaks, lunches, receptions, gala dinners nicely get blended with discussions by posters and demos, at lightning talks, or as questions in keynotes and via teaching experiments. I always ask how this can be done online: clearly online we also need to meet even if that will mean that we attend the meeting from surprising places like a train. Yes, I joined the group seven meeting from a train :).

3) learning

Yes, learning! How do people learn? Do we learn when everything is clear? How about confusing situations when we start asking a lot of questions? We find answers by asking these questions, and our mind works to make the picture clear, or even: learning happens best in this way from confusion to clear skies. The setting we have in the open networked learning is in a way confusing: we have a mix of platforms in use for communicating in written and visual forms, and in interaction with the other participants. However, choosing for instance which online interaction tool to use, happened in first week via quick agreements among the team, or by informed decisions by the leader for a specific activity. This I see is in the core of learning of this work: that there is a truly amazing tooling available around, and by simply experimenting a good amount of them we learn which tool to use in which context: when, with whom, and where. To learn this, and to learn how to communicate the value of different tooling to others, we all still have some road to ride. I love the road ahead.

Tomi Kauppinen reflects and analyses open networked learning. You can follow him on Twitter: @LinkedScience.