Leadership Outside the Hierarchy

This is the fouth year I’ve been invited to participate in the CSU Think Piece project. The idea here is to put forward a brief presentation on the challenges and opportunities of learning and teaching at CSU to help stimulate an ongoing and open dialogue. This years theme is “Leadership for Innovation in Learning and Teaching”.

If you would prefer to watch and listen the presentation is available on Youtube.

Leadership Outside the Hierarchy

My Name is Tim Klapdor – the Online Learning Technology Leader in uImagine. In this think piece I wanted to explore the notion of leadership and hierarchy in the increasingly complex environment that is education.

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One of my long standing beliefs is that the human default for organisation is the hierarchy. It’s simplicity enables us to quickly organise a group of people in order to achieve a set task.

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And while default may just be, as Homer Simpson suggests, the two sweetest words in the English dictionary – I tend to question their value.

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The most obvious reason is that people rarely move beyond the default. For most of us the default isn’t the starting point, but the end. They are used as a shortcut – assuming for a fact that someone with more skills has looked at all the issues and made decisions on our behalf.

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While initially an organisational structure may have been adaptive, over time hierarchy becomes an embedded part of the culture. It becomes the default lens for seeing all problems and the default way in which they are the addressed. When all you have is a hammer, everything becomes a nail.

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When it comes to defaults we need to start questioning the consequence of them:

  • What it is they entrench?
  • What do they avoid?
  • What do they hide?
  • What do they improve?
  • What do they enhance?
  • What to they leave behind?

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And more importantly WHO?

  • Who do they entrench?
  • Who do they avoid?
  • Who do they hide?
  • Who do they improve?
  • Who do they enhance?
  • Who to they leave behind?

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When it comes to current concept of leadership and the language around it, the default is to think about it in terms of hierarchy. In particular – leaders and followers – which immediately embeds a power dynamic based on Us & Them.

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This seems at odds with the kinds of organisations we want and of what we ultimately want to be a part of. But Hierarchy tends to distills roles into these kinds of binaries which may work well in simple organisations but tend to stretch and break the larger an organisation gets.

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The reality is that Hierarchies and the kind of leadership they promote won’t help us move into the future. One result of hierarchical organisations is that they divorce people from power. Rather than empower people, they seek to confine it to just a few and use the hierarchy itself as the mechanism to maintain and support this function. This kind of leadership has limited use and really only work well for small, simple problems – something that education is increasingly not.

So it begs the question:

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If we think about the kind of environment our organisation operates in – most would say that it’s pretty complex. There are a variety of connected, dynamic, interdependent and interactive factors at play – financial, social, personal and political systems that we intersect with at both individual and organisational levels.

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One way to make sense of this complexity is to use something like the Cynefin framework.

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Developed by Dave Snowden the framework is a tool to facilitate Sense-Making. Where we can plug in different situations into the framework to consider the kinds of approaches and characteristics that work in each of the domains.

You can find an excellent explanation of the Cynefin Framework from Dave himself on you tube

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In order to understand hierarchies and leadership in today’s climate I think we need to focus on the Complex domain. That what worked previously doesn’t work any more because the environment that we’re operating has changed significantly.

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Education is no long simple or even complicated because it now operates at a global and local level of interplay with various markets, governments, communities and individuals (both students and teachers). You throw in a couple of decades of computing and rapidly changing communications technology and we have a system that no longer knows what is best practice. It’s difficult to even define what is good practice.

Complexity challenges simple wisdom:

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“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result”

In a complex environment, doing the same thing twice will give a different result.

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“You can’t fix what you can’t measure”

You can intervene in a complex environment, even if you can’t measure it reliably.

Complexity also challenges existing measures and metrics and often finds them inadequate. Problems often have many contributing factors, often far beyond an organisations control, be they social, political or cultural. But rather than admitting defeat, complexity challenges us to find ways to intervene rather than fix or solve a solution entirely. That small changes can have big effects. And we see it when providing support to a student at a particularly difficult time results in them completing their degree goes on to ultimately changing their, and their whole family’s, lives.

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In the Complex domain even beginning to understand the problem requires experimentation. The final solution is only apparent once discovered and in hindsight it might seem obvious, but it was not apparent at the outset. No matter how much time you spend in analysis, it is not possible to identify the risks or accurately predict the solution or effort required to solve the problem. Complexity requires us to focus on emergent solutions.

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Associate Provost for Digital Learning a Middlebury College, Amy Collier uses the phrase Not-Yetness to describe what is happening in Distance and Online Education. To quote her:

In our context, emergence is allowing new ideas, new methodologies, new findings, new ways of learning, new ways of doing, and new synergies to emerge and to have those things continue to feed back into more emergence. Emergence is a good thing. For us, not-yetness is the space that allows for emergence. Not-yetness is not satisfying every condition, not fully understanding something, not check-listing everything, not tidying everything, not trying to solve every problem…but creating space for emergence to take us to new and unpredictable places, to help us better understand the problems we are trying to solve.

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Emergence is not only key to solving problems, but to discovering and defining them too. Emergence is the practice required in the complex domain and it looks and feels a lot like learning and research – two things that universities are more than capable of. It may seem counter intuitive but emergence is about loosening control and providing space for iteration and adaption. Of being willing to take risks and for risk to be part of the equation, rather than something that has to be eliminated. It is the realisation that to affect change it has to be in numerous small and in many different ways.

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A single silver bullet that will fix everything will never happen in a Complex environment.


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The way we currently do things doesn’t really allow for emergence and it certainly doesn’t support iterative development. These two things are key aspects of innovation. The silos and bottlenecks that hierarchy creates impedes innovation at Every. Step. Of. The. Way.

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One way is to rethink the concept of leadership and to uncouple it from the hierarchical structure. Leadership should be something that we can build and develop outside the hierarchy. To model a different kind of leadership, one that doesn’t rely on the concept of leaders and followers.

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Leadership is taking the responsibility to create an environment that facilitates a transition between states.

This is the definition I came up with during the Graduate Certificate in University Leadership and Management. It’s an attempt to define the role of a Connected Leader.

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Instead of authority there’s responsibility. Instead of control there is autonomy through a focus on environment. And instead of change (which is now the rule rather than the exception) I’ve tried to define a process that is more holistic and captures the journey as much as the destination.

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Another way to to change is to shift the focus from the vertical elements in the hierarchy and to develop of horizontal structures – teams that compliment, collaborate & share across divisions, schools and faculties. To augment the hierarchy and reduce the silo issues teams that span the silos that a hierarchy creates work together in a more holistic way. These teams share and create knowledge that span the organisation rather than it being concentrated.

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Another way would be to invest in areas that create diversity within the organisation. This would be a process of investing in innovations outside the normal “business functions” of the organisation and in areas that the organisation relies on for support. Technology is an obvious one, investing in the development new systems that support the delivery of our online courses. There are other areas like professional development that would allow use to develop and test new and innovative practices, course designs and methodologies

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Perhaps the best way to encourage Emergence is to provide greater autonomy. To allow individuals to explore within their unique circumstances. The work we’ve been doing in uImagine embodies some of these ideas. The Online Learning Model provides a language and a way of thinking about teaching and learning that allows individuals to adopt an adapt practices to suit their needs without being prescriptive. It’s elements provide a way of thinking about and conducting teaching and learning in the online space that is based in research and evidence. It is a way of allowing staff across the organisation to participate in the conversation and explain the vision for what our online course can be.

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Another method is to to connect the knowledge that exists across the organisation. Our next project, the Online Learning Exchange, seeks to support the autonomy of the individual by providing access to exemplars of practice. It will hopefully become a tool that provides individuals with the information they need to make changes to their subjects and practices, and in turn share those with the CSU community. The vision for the Learning Exchange is that it will become a resource for sharing – connecting knowledge across the institution by operating outside of faculty and school structures. It will become a place for not only finding exemplars of practice – but contributing to them too.

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Perhaps we don’t need to dispense with the hierarchy totally – it provides a stable scaffold from which the organisation can run. But perhaps we can create spaces in and around it in which we can work. Through which innovation and change can emerge through a culture that accepts the notion of not-yetness.

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Complexity by Mark Skipper


License: CC-BY-NC 4.0 @TimKlapdor


From PC to Mobile

This is the presentation From PC to Mobile: Changing Mindsets for the New Paradigm that I gave at the 2016 Practice Based Education Summit in Sydney on the 13th of April.

The presentation explores how mobile technology has changed the very paradigm of computing, how we are changing the ways we engage and utilise these technologies, and finally how we can employ these changes to improve our practice with a focus on Work Place Learning assessment.



Almost under our noses one of the most dramatic technological changes has occurred. A global phenomenon that has altered the very concept of computing


The Smart Phone

PC-to-Mobile4Prior to the smart phones computer looked like this. They required keyboards, mice and monitors.

PC-to-Mobile5And wires


Lots of wires. And all these wires need to go somewhere, so now you needed a special room to house them in.


Then there were the power points & the furniture.


Finally there’s the peripherals. With all this stuff required it’s no wonder Computing became tethered. Tethered to very specific place and space that could contain all the wires and house all of this stuff that you needed in order to make it all work.


And because computing had to be situated within a specific space, to make any use of it required you to go there. Into a seperate room and away from what you may have been doing. It was inconvenient and the practice of using a computer was often abstracted away from the task at hand.


We also relied on pretty passive forms of interaction and communication too. We replicated physical letters with email. We broadcast our opinions and ideas onto discussion forums, which tend to look more like a room full of people shouting than an actual discussion! Getting these technologies work in order to properly interact and communicate is almost a hack.


The experience of using this kind of technology, these kinds of interactions and communications is isolation. Using this kind of technology was separate from our lives. We had to go somewhere else to engage, a room in our house to be alone, and it leant credence and weight to the idea of “virtual” being seperate from our real lives.


Then in January 2007 Steve Jobs launched the iPhone and changed the paradigm of computing. This wasn’t just an iPod with a Phone attached this was the beginning of something much bigger and in just 9 years the paradigm of computing has changed.


Today we carry around our computers in our pockets. There’s no keyboard or extra peripherals required. In fact there’s more more equipment stashed away inside this thing than your average PC or laptop. There’s two cameras, a microphone, speakers, a battery, accelerometer, gyroscope, bluetooth, WiFi, 4G, NFC, fingerprint scanner, barometer, GPS, 128GB of storage, 2GB of RAM and a screen with more pixels than your High Definition TV.


All of a sudden we have hardware that can match, if not out perform, our PCs. And in a more convenient, portable and capable form that fits into the palm of our hand. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the paradigm of computing has changed. Technology today is driven by a “mobile first” mindset. Companies like that have leveraged that mindset – Instagram, Uber, Snapchat, Twitter and Apple – all depend on mobile, not just for their success but their financial viability.


But culturally the mindset most of has towards online and digital technology is stuck with PCs. We think desktop before mobile, we think mouse before touch, and it’s time to change how we think about how engage with technology.

PC-to-Mobile16I developed this table to suggest the kinds of changes that have been taking place in how we engage and interact with technology. The idea is that we are moving from the PC mindset into the mobile one, and it changes how we relate to each of these key areas. 

(I did riff a little off this slide – let me  know in the comments if you think it might be useful to follow up with more details)

PC-to-Mobile17So how does this effect PBE?

PC-to-Mobile18uImagine and EFPI have been working on a project to investigate Assessment in Work Place Learning, and in particular how mobile technology can be utilised to enhance its purpose and process. The main area of work that I’ve been involved in has been analysing what the current practices are across a number of disciplines are, and from that developing a needs analysis and to begin to map out some of the functional requirements in order to develop a prototype of an enhanced WPL system. Through this processes I’ve identified a number of key areas that form part of the assessment process and how they are currently being managed. 


The key areas are:

  • plan – develop and list the outcomes or objectives
  • track – what students have done
  • record – details about the tasks carried out
  • report – what supervisors observe students doing
  • reflect – on students ability to perform these tasks
  • verify – that students are completing tasks
  • measure – of students ability and progress


In the current practices that were reviewed in this project each instance utilises a “Document Model” to perform these tasks. The Document Model describes how all information is recorded in a single “document”, which is either a paper or digital file. These documents take the form of paper or digital handbooks, manuals, workbooks, forms and spreadsheets. These documents and the data they contain inhabit a singular location, whether that be physical or digital. This means that there is no co-location of data and only a single copy exists which is only accessible via proximity to the document.

PC-to-Mobile21So how can we address this problem thinking “Mobile First”?


So I’ve been working on an alternative model for these practices which I’ve dubbed the Cloud Model which essentially entails moving from the current document model to an online database. This would provide significant benefits to current practices.


It would allow a paper free workflow and eliminate the associated inefficiencies. It would allow multiple users to access the data but also customise the interface to suit the users role – whether they be students, teachers, administrators, supervisors or even accreditation bodies. It could provide rich reporting and visualisation tools that are accessible in Real-Time. It would also utilise the ubiquity of mobile devices as a primary access point and utilise the additional available data they can generate (e.g. geolocation, video, audio, photos). This extra data would also improve the security, verification and authenticity of the data collected. So if we look at those key areas of assessment:


Planning moves from a to-and-fro process to something that can be dialogic and collaborative – regardless of the environment or location.


Students can record in rich detail what tasks they’ve done using photos, audio and video. Rather than just ticking boxes students can gather much richer evidence of their placement and their practice.


By utilising mobile technology students can update their tasks at the point that they do them. This data can then be reported back to their supervisors and lecturers in real time which eliminates the delay inherent with document model.


Reflection is often seen as an add on to the assessment process and it can simply be enhanced through something like video diaries. But there are significant gains to be had is in making reflection part of the verification process. By recording their reflections students can marry the pedagogical benefits of reflection to the administrative requirement to verify their actions and their learning.


Another way mobile can be utilised is in bringing together the process of measurement and the provision of feedback. By allowing students to record their tasks in richer formats we gain a much richer data to measure with – rather than just a score between one and ten. It also opens up the possibility for supervisors and teachers to provide feedback in richer ways. By utilising video, images and annotation tools in the process they can provide more comprehensive feedback. This feedback in turn provides a more effective tool to measure against in terms of a student’s learning, ability and progress.


More broadly – mobile can be key to building bridges between institutions and practice. and between learning and working, between knowing and doing. Mobile technology provides the material for building the bridge to allow the professions to come into the classroom and for the classroom to come in to the professions. By changing our mindsets and rethinking the ways in which we can utilise and engage with technology, we can transform the pedagogies and possibilities for engaging education for and with the professions.



Social Media: A Story of Exploitation, Enclosure and Enslavement

This talk was given at the Wagga Nerd Nite event on Tuesday the 24th of November 2015. To give it some context – it was originally planned to be given on September 24th but unfortunately that was the day of The Fire.

Tonight I wanted to present some of my observations about the emergent behaviours of social media companies and peel back the veneer of PR and advertising and take a look at what’s happening behind the scenes.

A couple of quick questions: Who has a Facebook account?

Who’s tagged someone else in a photo or post?

Who’s changed their relationship status? What I’d like you to do is think about those answers and how they fit in the narrative we’re going to explore.

So I want to start this story 25 years ago when this, the pager, was the height of technology – something really big began to emerge.

This year the web is 25 years old, and while that might seem old, its important to understand how relatively young it is.

This is what the web looked like back in 1990. And we’ve come such a long way since, but it’s important to understand that the web is emergent – in the sense that no one really planned on it developing the way it has, nor was there ever a grand masterplan. This has meant that it’s incredibly adaptable to change and has allowed it to evolve along with the technology that powers it.

I want to preface this talk with a few things. I built my first web site 19 years ago while on work experience in Year 10, so I consider myself an early adopter. And since then I’ve myself a resident of the web, conducting my work, professional and social life through this medium. And as such I’m someone keenly interested in exploring it’s possibilities and pioneering its practices. So I believe in the web – this idea of a connected planet, through which we can all share freely and by doing so prosper. And I believe in this idea of a vast, open and distributed network that allows the world to share its knowledge and wealth of information beyond the concept of borders and nations.

But Social Media is not the web. The reality is that the emergence of commercial enterprises operating online as “social media” has perverted that dream. And a lot it comes down to how these systems are built.

The web was designed as a distributed system. Each node connects to each other which creates a resilient and robust system.

In contrast Social Media operates as seperate centralised systems. Connected but dependant on interfacing via this central component. While they sell themselves as enablers of connection you can see that you what you can connect with only occurs within one network. They’ve set themselves up as the middle-man. You also can’t branch out between Facebook into Twitter. This is not how the Web was designed to work.

So what am I talking about when it comes to Social Media?

The key identifier is this concept of “sharing”. This is technology for a group not the individual. It’s not like the apps on your computer or phone that are about personal productivity. They are about the socialised sharing of data, images and communications

So this broader definition includes – messaging applications (twitter, whats app, snapchat), image apps (flickr, instagram) but social media extends to things like LinkedIn and Foursquare and new players like Uber and Airbnb that depend on social and shared data.

And finally there’s Facebook. Aaron Sorkin identified them as The Social Network, and they are the biggest and perhaps most influential company operating in this space so we’ll take a very specific look at what they’ve been up to.

I want to introduce this term of Enclosure to describe what I believe has been happening on the web since the emergence of social media.

Enclosure is a term from the Agricultural revolution and is the term used to descibe the process that ended the ancient system of farming in open fields. It essentially ended the concept of the Commons – community land which was shared in order for everyone to benefit. Enclosure was when the fences were put up.

Property moved from the commons into private hands – and this process generated massive social and economic change. It started the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution but creating new classes of people, some who would become rich and powerful but most who would become exploited as slaves to the industrial machinations of the west.

So how does this apply to Social Media? To me it’s a case of history repeating itself. The original concept of the web was that we all would have our own websites. These would be our own place to create, store and publish. We would create a “commons” in which we share knowledge. And it happened because of the way the web was designed – to be distributed. These centralised platforms are the equivalent of throwing up fences.

So what we end up with is not this great network, but silos. Great big silos but none the less silos that are walled off, separated and controlled. The “network” isn’t open in the way it once was. What we’ve ended up with is a model where we put our stuff into other peoples containers.

We put our photos on flickr, our resume on LinkedIn, our personal lives on Facebook, our location on Foursquare. And from that point on the data doesn’t live in the commons. A part from our direct contribution there are other techniques that are used to enclose our data:

Acquisition of data. Venture capital and the buy-out culture of startups has meant that our data often becomes an asset, often the only asset, worth being acquired.

Controlling the flow and shaping experience. A good example of this is how Facebook deals with video where it slows and reduces exposure if video comes from an external source like YouTube when compared to uploading it directly into Facebook.

Binary choice. This is a reference to the binary choice we are given when faced with the 50 or so pages of legalese in the Terms and Conditions. There’s no oportunity to negotiate, no way to limit or argue. You simply accept and can use the system or decline and be locked out.

Licencing and ownership of digital objects. While none of these sites are quite as bold as to claim ownership of your data, what you’ll often find hidden away in those terms and conditions is the fact that you’re granting these companies a perpetual license to use your data however they want.

And so we have to ask ourselves some really important questions. So who owns your data? Who and how do they define your identity? When you’re no longer in control of your data what’s really going on?

Quite frankly it’s Exploitation. What’s happening is that once you’ve put your data in then these companies they use this to test and experiment on you. You become part of their universe and domain, a resource they can utilise in a purely cynical and exploitative manner.

This is the social graph and it’s Facebook’s attempt to map out all the data it has access to. To map out all the relationships between data and indiviuals, what we Like, who we like, who we are connected to. Every comment, picture, post and like is mined for relationships. And unknowingly or not we don’t just contributes the collection of data, we do their job for them by tagging our location which goes in along side the time stamp of when, who we were with and what we were doing. So what’s the value in that?

It means they can create a means of targeting individuals with a laser like focus… especially for advertising which is the main source of income currently. Mainstream media – newspapers, radio, television – these are scatter gun approaches to engage with individuals, finding your target and appealing to them. This means that into the future advertising on social media will become far more valuable to advertisers.

It’s what’s led to the explosive valuations (July 2015) attached to these companies: Facebook valuation $US250 billion, Uber valued at more than $US50 Billion and AirBnB valued at over $25 billion.

And this value is reflected in the notion of Metcalfe’s Law where the value is all proportional to the number of users connected to the system. Basically the bigger you are the more valuable your are, and Facebook is worth the most because it is the biggest.

It begs the question too – are we “sharing” or “giving”? Have they changed the notion of what sharing actually means? Or do we need to question this notion of what “sharing” actually means on

In 2004, before the rise of social media, McKenzie Wark published the Hacker Manifesto and suggested that what was occurring was the rise of a Vectoralist Class – the owners of the vectors – the various pathways and networks over which information flows.

Rather than capitalists versus proletarians, the central antagonism was between hackers and vectoralists.

Instead of owning the means of productions they own and exploit the means of transmission – the vectors through which data travels. They own the wires and the cables, the platforms through which we consume and share.

Vectoralists commidify information. They exploit information as a resource for capital. Our information, our data, becomes the commodity that they trade with. We are being exploited in order for them to make a profit.

Remember those market evaluations? Well that’s despite the following:

“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no contenthttp://exhal.es. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.”
Tom Goodwin.

They own virtually nothing that is physical or a tangible good, simply the vectors through which data travels

This is the Vectoralist model in action. It’s not theory. It is our reality.

Uber owns no infrastructure, no equipment. It simply owns the app the connects the driver to the passenger. This is perhaps the clearest example of owning vector between these two points.

It’s the same with AirBnB – they own the vector that joins the room with traveller.

These are the new vectors through which money and power now travels.

And it brings us to Enslavement. If this can get darker, it does. What powers these sites and provide these companies with their power are the algorithms. They are ways of interrogating data in order to make a prediction. And what’s scary is that these algorithms are hidden from view.

And these algorithms then go onto to make predictions – if X knows Y then they should know Z and so heres a suggested friend. That’s nice huh? Or if X is 24, likes Y has more than 100 friends then target him with this ad. And thats great, another happy customer.

At the moment these algorithms are designed for advertising because it’s paying the bills at Facebook. They’re pretty benign and can be quite useful.

But what if those same algorithms got into the hands of the secret police or the military in an oppresive government? What if they got hacked?

So back at the beginning who changed their relationship status? Well that’s not all Facebook knows.

Thanks to the Social Graph Facebook can cross reference that data with the huge array of information they’ve gathered on you. And those algorithms can mine that to determine your sexual orientation, political tendencies and probably a variety of indiscretions you don’t want anyone to know about. Because it knows when, where, and who you were with. And we told them.

Does your best fried know that information about you? When Facebook knows more about you than your best friend – you should be scared. The centralised and enclosed nature of these systems actually facilitate this surveillance to occur, by making it easy for this “big data” to accumulate. They have placed themselves in the middle of every single connection on their network – the ultimate and perfect panopticon.

Algorithms are the dark side of social media because we can’t see how they manipulate what we see. It’s a known unknown – we know that the timeline changes and shifts around what we see and what we don’t – but we don’t know how, nor the motivations behind them. Is it because someone paid them to advertise or becasue a government made a request? These algorithms are the power behind Social Media and they are hidden from us. Jesus this is all pretty doom and gloom…

But Wark mentions another class – the Hackers. His definition is a little more expansive than just notion computer hackers – they are sources of innovation, knowledge, and abstraction — the creators and makers. The people that don’t care about the commodity, they care about the act. They do this out of passion, out of a drive to do it differently, to conceive the new, the future. The Hacker Class generates alternatives to the current state.

The Vectoralists are the new fat cats. They may look young and hip and cool, but they are following the same model of exploitation and enslavement of the industrialists. They make money by exploiting our of data and our effort.

So originally I was going to end here with a stirring call to action. Where we need to throw off the shackles of our oppressors and rebel.

With the banners unfurled and united we stand against the onslaught of social media facists who seek to enslave us. That united and together we can be free!) But…. I don’t feel quite so militant anymore. I think we need change, but for quite different reasons. You see the day of the last Nerd Nite, I was heading home early to practice this presentation when I got a phone call from the police.

I turned into my street to see 3 fire trucks and a cacophony of flashing lights. Someone had broken into our place and then set it on fire. They’d taken the stuff that was worth something to sell and then set fire to the rest of it. We lost photos and memorabilia, toys and our clothes. All of it gone.

But what happened next was amazing. Through social media there was an outpouring of support that neither my wife, nor I, could have ever imagined. Those networks connected us to people more than willing to offer help and support. People gave without question, including those well beyond our own personal networks. And at that point I realised that the reason to rebel, the reason to rethink and reenginneer the ways these systems are structured, is because they’re too important.

Too important to have profit come between our connecrtions and relationships. Too important to sacrifice our identity and privacy in order for a company to sell us fucking ads.

So instead tonight I want to end by saying that the aim of social networks should be on the connections and relationships, not profit. That they should empower the individual to connect with people and ideas and share and give to one another, not for profit. That we need to rethink our relationship, not with each other, but with corporate entities that seek to exploit and enslave us.


PS: Would like to get some feedback on whether this format works better for presentations or if videos, like this,  are a better way to go. Feel free to comment below – welcome your feedback.

Empowering the Node & Avoiding Enclosure

This is my presentation from the dLRN15 conference – Empowering the Node & Avoiding Enclosure. Below you can watch a audio of the talk + slides or just the slides below.

In this presentation I’ve really tried to highlight the perceived problem with current online technologies and practices, distilling it down to the concept of Enclosure. I introduce a bit of Marxist theory updated for the 21st century and discuss Wark’s concept of the Vectoralist class.

The second half is a vision – or outline of a vision – of how we can actually overcome these problems. Not by recreating or developing new systems, but by redesigning the underlying models. By moving to a more distributed model, one that harks back to the original conceptualisation of the web.

This is a passion project for me and I’m definitely keen to collaborate and discuss the concepts behind MYOS. If you’re interested feel free to comment or tweet to start a conversation.


You Are Not In Control

Tonight I’m giving a presentation for INF537 Digital Futures Colloquium, a subject part of the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation).

While the title slide is a little ominous it’s aimed at being a provocation to the class to stimulate discussion rather than a lecture. I really want to hear what the students have to say – even if they think I’m way off.

Hopefully the seminar “provides the stimulus to identify and reflect critically on topics that have implications for a student’s own professional development, professional practice and scholarly interest” the subject aims to do.

ascilite 2013 Conference Notes

Be aware that these are notes – not transcripts of talks. I tend to think about quite a lot during a good presentation (I don’t do “passive absorbtion” and I’m always processing and questioning as I go). The notes reflect this space that my mind operates in and should never be seen or treated as a transcript of an event

The Great Debate: The Dream of Technology-Assisted Learning Has Been Realised

I didn’t take too many notes from the debate – but I liked this line:

Technology seduces us like a medusa and pedagogically we turn to stone – Gregor Kennedy

Innovation via a thin LMS: A Middleware Alternative to the Traditional Learning Management System

Marc Wells, David Lefevre, Fotis Begklis

  • like the thin LMS concept
  • developed a hub for each “programme” – csu term = course or degree
  • first iteration was communication based
  • 2nd was integrating 3rd parties
  • 3rd fully replaced the LMS
  • thin LMS a middle ware solution
  • Integrates college systems & best in class technologies
  • student record
  • based on WordPress for the win!!!

Keynote – Learning from the Past

Professor Kay O’Halloran

  • Early definition of a computer was the person who made the calculations. Then It went on to become a tool. – Like the idea of people “being” the computer rather as a tool we use.  Performance of people becomes increasingly more important when calculating effectiveness of the technology!
  • software is a way of being
  • Computing has become about communicating, not calculating.
  • ‘World is awash with data – what’s lacking is an understanding of how we make meaning of it’
  • Technology should allows us to focus on the learning rather than the individual.
  • Side note – is there space for learning outside of research in #highered? Overwhelming focus on data & analysis – not experience
  • Edtech needs groups of experts working together. We can’t do it alone! Or is it multiple cultures rather than expertise? Kind of like cultures – it’s encompassing of a world view not just a job

Keynote – Understaing our Present

Gregor Kennedy

  • Learning is a social process. Interactions between people and artefacts.
  • Learning (regardless of theory) … results in cognitive change.
  • Current use of edtech usage matrix

  • Why teaching matters? Here some research perspectives. Bloom & Hattie

  • While teaching practice has become more student centred, #edtech usage is much more teacher centred.
  • Teachers don’t just put information in someone’s head, but based on that we emphasis Learning rather than teaching – Peter Steele
  • Interesting Model – Sage on the Stage > Guide on the Side > Plebs on the Web
  • Power of learning analytics is in improving teacher/learner and learner/learner interactions.
  • Thinking back the interactions Gregor mentioned – don’t think there was learner/data – should there be?
  • READ – Rod Sims – levels of interactivity 1994 & 1997

Symposium – How Open and Collaborative Can We Be?

–  Implementation challenges for open collaboration challenges
–  The semantic structures within institutions vary so much they are truly a language problem.
–  Do we need an academic equivalent of Esperanto to deal with collaboration?
–  Alignment and compatibility problems include credit levels and teaching periods too.
–  Institutions want to bottle content and own their students. Great point! Pity they haven’t realised theres no value in that! Value is in the ability to produce knowledge
– Openness is seen as a risky shift
– IT security is a huge issue – but perhaps open standards LTI could come to the rescue
– Openness tends to question what is valuable within an institution?
– Need to ensure you’re sharing the rationale – why are we doing this? What is the purpose?
– Another plus 1 for middleware to enable openness
– One core component of openness needs to answer the question – What is the purpose of the course? Extrinsic motivation – ie grades aren’t a good enough motivator for authentic or proactive learning.

Learning: Maˉori Advancement at AUT University

Associate Professor Pare Keiha

  • Getting the balance right in education. Balance in Education
  • The Maori notion of Ako. Ako
  • What if students produce assessments for their own communities, even their university, rather than the ephemera of a grade?
  • Awesome advice for those working in education – “start running now!”

Session – Re-imagining the university: Vibrant matters and radical research paradigms for the 21st century

Reem Al-Mahmood

  • The idea of the university ideological, specially and ethically has shrunk – Barnett
  • The holistic/relational nature is missing
  • Emerging ideas of the university Emerging Ideas
  • Utopian ideas of university Utopian Ideas
  • Ecological universities: one of one of my fav concepts Ecological Ideas
  • Would be interesting to see which of these fall into  administration, faculty and student categories or points of view.
  • equality of funding is the wrong starting point, we need to equalise access first.

Imagining the Future

Mark Pesce

  • It’s difficult to stop sharing and learning once you’ve formed that connection.
  • The new culture of shared knowledge – a good explanation of the present state
  • Sharing includes the good and the bad. That means sharing knowledge and stupidity.
  • The aakash tablet will provide a rich, connected and shared learning experience …. for $29
  • The educator is embedded in the environment. Not off to the side or in a bubble somewhere else.
  • Quality of education institutions will become dependant on the networks they can help their students build
  • Been thinking about this for a while – Student need to become a node supported by the  network they build
  • Networks tend to start from intent. They may grow and change but there is purpose and drive.
  • Connect. Share. Learn. Do.

Conference Snapshots

Some interesting ideas that came out during the conference.

Universities need to provide opportunities for academics to have informal and formal conversations about technology – @LucyArthurMQ

Can we stop lying – there is no “digital native”. There’s a skills deficiency, which can be remedied with gasp education. @timklapdor

Wonder if we can relabel this Conference Program > Conference Attendance INformation vs Knowledge

Mobile has become an appendage rather than a technology. @timklapdor

Love the idea of a senior manager being a groupie for their staff! 🙂 @debbiweaver
*about Pare Keiha’s approach to management

This was my favourite twitter exchange from the conference!


Finally links to some of my work related to the conference.

Presentation on our work on The Adaptive Digital Publishing Engine.

The related examples: COM123 web version, Proof of Concept web version  and the downloadable PDF and ePub files.

Presentation on the lessons learned from University wide iPad Trials

You can download the papers from the conference– including those related to the presentations above!

Find out more about the mLearn project and all the related documentation here: bit.ly/mlearnV2 or check out some of the [documentation on slideshare](http://www.slideshare.net/mlearn

Other Accounts of Ascilite

Sheila MacNeill has a couple of posts here and here

Andrew Spencer shared his ascilite experience here.

The Changing Context of Learning

In 2013 Charles Sturt University, my workplace, decided to develop a new project aimed at creating a space and forum to think through some of the issues, challenges, problems and opportunities we face as an institution. The Think Pieces Project was born and I was asked to contribute, which is a real honour. Initially I just needed a title so seeing as I was working on mobile learning I figured that “The Changing Context of Learning” sounded like a good fit.

When I actually came to sit, think and write-up the presentation it became a little harder than I thought. For starters there was a time constraint which I was determined to stay within. I needed to ensure I was concise and I was starting to realise I already had way too many ideas to stuff inside the presentation – the result being that everything was touched on but nothing was explored to any depth. I needed to think harder!

After a number of drafts, slide revisions and a lot of practice I really felt like I was getting to the heart of the problem – a single, simple idea that I think goes to explain some of the issues we face in Higher Education. My talk evolved into discussing the need to shift the perspective through which we view the context of learning – away from the campus and onto one more centred around the student. This reframing and changing of perspective allows us to rethink the role of the university and as well how we think about pedagogy, practice, content and technology. 

I would love to get some broader feedback – as hopefully it does provoke and prompt some thinking to occur! If it does, even if there is disagreement, debate and conjecture, I think I fulfilled the task at hand.

The Think Piece is available as a Slideshare with audio or as a video if you prefer. Feel free to share and comment here or on twitter @timklapdor

Presentations from CSUED 2012

I was lucky to present no less than 4 times in various forms at our internal Teaching and Learning conference – CSUED 2012. With so many great sessions I don’t think I over presented – just added a dash of mobile and a bit of “how to” to the mix.

I’ve posted most of presentations up online now so I thought I’d collate them here.

How To Use Mobile Technology for Engaging & Successful Learning & Teaching

Taking a look at mobile technology affordances and how they can be integrated into teaching and learning practice with the aim of promoting a conversation rather than being prescriptive.

mLearn: Lessons Through Exploration

An overview of the progress of the mLearn project, what we have learnt and what we plan to do next.

Understanding Mobile Technology

A video from the Digital Theatre on a few of the affordances of mobile technology.

Plenary: Higher Education for a digital age: Using social media to enhance learning and teaching

The last presentation was as part of plenary on Social Media. I had a couple of slides but more as cues. The points I bought up were:

  • Social media provides the ability to extend the learning space outside the classroom, but it can also to create a classroom for distance and online learners. It has the ability to create new spaces for actions and outcomes – sharing, discussion, collaboration, reflection.
  • Using social media via mobile technology allows for contribution in context.
  • Social media provides a platform to create a Personal Learning Network.
  • Social media allows us to actually construct a social network. Usually social networks in real life are based around location and temporal proximity – and not interest, passion, like-mindedness. Social media allows us to construct our own networks, to choose who we let in, follow and interact with.
  • My biggest issue was who owns what? As social networks become publicly listed who owns what, and at what cost becomes increasingly important.

So that’s it! For now…. I have 2 more presentations to work on – one for the HTML5 Symposium and the other for Ascilite 2012!