Coming Soon – A Contribution not a Prediction for 2015

2015 has arrived and there’s a plethora of posts offering predictions, Top 10s, Year of _____, biggest trends etc etc etc. I’ve decided to do something different and talk about my contribution to the future rather than spruiking what it could be.

This year brings an opportunity for me to actively drive some innovation within our institution (in my new role as Online Learning Technology Leader), rather than simply react and respond to what’s happening outside. So I thought I’d seize on that and use this year to develop some new skills and explore some new ideas. So here’s a few things I’m hoping to work on.

Distributed systems

The anniversary of the web and the Snowden leaks that revealed the level and scale of surveillance has really put into perspective the need to re-discover distributed systems. The growing centralisation of the web has made surveillance easier but also made us too dependant or what are massive fail points. Concepts like Domain of Ones Own appeals to me in the sense that it empowers users rather than traps them. Data and information remains yours and in your control, not something that’s matter-of-fact-ly subsumed by a corporate interest. The start-up data trail is a particularly interesting thing to note – when a product fails commercially the one asset they can sell is user data. This kind of behaviour is something we should be paying attention to and beginning to actively avoid. The other big interest I have is to more fully explore the potential of the Federated Wiki. Having participated in the Happening I can see the massive potential this system has for authoring and creating (I’m still not sold on it being the best ‘publishing’ interface – but maybe that’s simply something to explore further).

Customising WordPress

I’ve been a user of WordPress for sometime now and as a blogging tool it’s been great. What I’ve really noticed over the last few years though is it’s slow evolution to highly adaptive and customisable CMS. It’s gone so far down that road that I’m personally thinking of swapping my blog over to Jekyll or something more light weight. But that CMS functionality could be deployed and utilised as an effective backend for a variety of systems. So I want to get in there and begin to use its plugin and theme structures as a development tool. To that end I’m keen to really explore custom posts and interfaces and how they can be utilised to create new content systems. One of the great things is that WordPress is one of the easiest technologies to rollout that fits a distributed model. Using a Domain of Ones Own or a Multisite installation you can really go to town on developing smaller distributed systems. I have some concerns of a lack of a proper API but an open and hackable system is an OK option.

Design Patterns

Mike Caulfield’s posts on design patterns got me thinking a lot and I believe there’s something significant in the concept. In my new role I specifically interested in the potential of patterns to be used to scale up and scale out good practice and innovation. One of the hidden themes at Ascilite 2014 was the power of good teaching. In fact I’d go as far as saying that effective innovation requires good teachers that capable of adapting good practice. The area I was thinking about was digitally mediated interaction as it’s something where I sense there’s a significant gap. It’s also an area that’s ill-defined and often ill-conceived so I think there’s something scholarly in there (maybe).

Netpro

At the Ascilite Conference I co-facilitated a workshop with Kim Tairi and Joyce Seitzinger on the Networked Professional. I got a lot out of the day where we were as much participants as facilitators. I’d like to keep up that work over the year. Maybe running the workshop again – or maybe developing up some ongoing ‘events’ – TweetUps, Hangouts… something to keep that momentum and shared practice going.

I’m not sure if that aligns with anyones list or trends for 2015, but they’re areas where I CAN do something and make something happen.

Cheers!

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5 thoughts on “Coming Soon – A Contribution not a Prediction for 2015

  1. I’ve been working on a similar post thinking about what I can do this year, like you I think it a more useful approach. A couple of misc. comments follow.

    There’s been a fair bit of work on design patterns in learning and teaching. This post has some pointers to some of it and reflects on why I’m not convinced it’s an approach that can work. At least in terms of teachers adopting it. In summary, I think it’s too much of a leap for many people to cross. Most of the teachers I’ve met in over the last 20 years don’t do abstraction very well. I hope I’m wrong.

    I think SFW – or at least its principles – has some real potential. The first area I think it might provide something useful is around institutional help resources/intranets. Many of the limitations of my current institution’s help resources I attribute to the nature of the big up-front design approach they take to publishing the resources. SFW could radically change that model and hopefully in some positive ways.

    But I agree with you. The interface and other aspects of SFW make it challenging. Do people all need their own SFW to truly get the benefits of distribution? But given the distributed/federated nature of SFW, I do wonder whether it’s possible (technically I think it’s probably doable) and advisable (this is the bigger question) to provide alternate interfaces to it in certain contexts.

    Will be really interesting to see how you go with all this. Innovation in a university context is no simple matter.

  2. Thanks for comment David – love to see what you’ve got planned.

    I take your point on Design Patterns being problematic. I suppose there’s been an ignition of interest because of a visit from Diana Laurillard as well as Mike’s posts and also from the web development area where I still have a finger on the pulse. I think there are significant challenges with working with anything vaguely “pattern like” – bootstrap, standards, archetypes, templates – and there needs to be a lot of thought put into developing them correctly. Providing cohesion and flexibility in the right places is not a skill a lot of people have. I think this has to be a team approach – abstraction and pattern making done through discussion, discourse and iteration with a variety of perspectives and skills. I think this might be able to tie in to a showcase project I’ve been asked to put together. I need to read more widely (your post will be helpful) and being aware of the problems will help in hopefully pushing things forward. It might be folly – but I’m OK with that!

    SFW has been a real eye opener for me. I actually understood it technically before I got my head around using it and I think I greatly underestimated how much of a change it is to traditional creative pursuits. I was blown away at having an opportunity to ‘hangout’ with Ward and have posts forked and expanded upon by Jon Udell – it’s those opportunities for interaction that have really opened up my eyes to the possibilities. I think there are inherent problems with distributed systems – particularly around redundancy and access – but I kind of think they’re necessary when the effect is empowered rather than passive users.

    Managed to align a lot of my Grad Cert assignments to looking at innovation in a university context – and the challenge that it is. I think part of this year will actually consist of exploring ways of actually doing it!

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