There’s a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in (Leonard Cohen).
The picture in Chapter 2 about the Collaboration-cycle is based on The model behind Paths of Change of Will McWhinney .
Behind this model we find a simple 1-dimensional (<->)model called the Great Breath.
It is a rhytmic pattern of Contraction and Expansion you can see in the two pictures above. Both show the Creation Cycle.
The 1-dimensional 2×2 model can be visualized in many dimensions because the model is a fractal.
Expansion and contraction join in a point (Bindu) called a singularity and produce the energy to e-move when the void and the not-void are fused. Just like matter and anti-matter the fusion creates the Light. of Insight.
The concept of Collaborative Learning is used in many contexts.
Collaborative Learning in Education refers to an instruction method in which students at various performance levels work together in small groups toward a common goal.
The students are responsible for one another’s learning as well as their own.
Collaborative learning fosters the development of critical thinking through dialogue, clarification of ideas, and evaluation of others’ ideas.
For collaborative learning to be effective, the instructor must view teaching as a process of developing and enhancing students’ ability to learn.
The instructor’s role is not to transmit information, but to serve as a facilitator.
1.2 Communities of Practice.
Communities of Practice are groups of people who share information, insight, experience, and tools about an area of common interest.
A community’s focus could be on a professional discipline, a skill, a topic, an industry or a segment of a production process.
They focus on practical aspects of a practice, everyday problems, new tools, developments in the field and things that work and don’t work.
1.3 Evolutionary Development
The aim of Evolutionary Development (ED) is to deliver value to all of the participants (the stakeholders) within the available budget and the agreed time frame.
ED is used when the environment is instable and/or there are many different participants (stakeholders) involved that have possible conflicting interests.
The requirements are discovered in an iterative process by evaluating tangible results (prototypes).
Priorities about the functionality of a prototype are decided by the collective (developers and stakeholders).
A prototype is extended in a next iteration or completely rebuild.
ED is a group activity. The project team focuses its energy towards success in the current step.
They succeed or fail together.
ED is about learning from hard experience what really works, and what really delivers value.
1.4 Action Research
Action research comprises a family of research methodologies, which aim to pursue action and research outcomes at the same time.
There are four basic themes: i) collaboration through participation; ii) acquisition of knowledge; iii) social change; and iv) empowerment of participants.
The process that the researcher uses to guide those involved can be seen as a spiral of action research cycles (iterations) consisting of phases of planning, acting, observing and reflecting. The underlying assumption is that effective social change depends on the commitment and understanding of those involved in the change process.
The picture below describes a high level model of collaborative learning.
The model contains many cycles. The main cycles are related to learning and collaboration. The other cycles connect the learning and collaboration-cycle.
Collaboration and learning are active in their own space (the physical context and the social context) and join in mental space (the internal state of a person).
A special part of mental space is the imagination.
It creates the sense of a personal identity in the social context.
The Physical Context.
The physical context consists of public space and private space (in a home). This context contains things (objects, bodies, cars, tools, houses, books).
Causal chains relate the objects.
In the physical context a person is an object (being part of a causal chain) or an observer (looking at the context).
To the observer it looks like the physical context operates on its own. There is a limited amount of personal control possible.
The physical world is the place where people learn because they have to react (to an event).
Virtual Space is a growing part of the physical context.
It is a space created by a simulator (e.g. software). At this moment, the Internet is the main provider of virtual spaces.
Earlier examples of simulators are stories, plays, movies and books. Virtual space simulates the three other spaces.
This simulation is not perfect. Many things are (at this moment) impossible in Virtual Space (e.g. touching). Virtual Space makes it possible to support learning (e.g. Books, E-Learning) and collaboration (e.g. Communication, Groupware).
The Social Context.
People learn in a social context how to build up and sustain long-term relationships. It impossible to create anything without the help of others. Therefore people need to cooperate.
The social context (also called culture) is the world of relationships, collaboration and competition.
People and things in this world are intentional (purposeful). A person can engage (connect)itself in all kinds of stages with others in the social context.
When people connect with other people they create networks (configurations).
Human beings want to control or be controlled by the social context (dominance, submission).
In a social context, people can be seen as actors. They play roles (on a stage, observed by the audience). Their roles are described by social rules (script, scenario’s, role-patterns).
Relationships can be rewarding (creating self-esteem) or can deny the existence (the identity) of the actor.
This world is the private inner space of a human being. This space is created by the imagination.
It contains images, inner dialogues, feelings, moods, emotions and expectations. Mental space is related to the physical context by the senses. It is related to the social context by the emotions (empathy).
To adapt to the environment the learner has to see a difference (focus).
This difference has to motivate the learner to perform a short-term (a reflex, a reaction) or a long-term action (a plan).
A short-term action is controlled by the existing action patterns (the behavior).
A long-termaction sometimes needs a change of behavior.
Most learning is based on copying the behavior of others (e.g. the parents in childhood). The copying behavior creates internal scripts (action patterns, experience). The patterns are changed when a person acts and an expectation failure is encountered. To solve the failure a new action pattern has to be created. This pattern can be directly copied from an expert (by observing), can be shared with an expert (by storytelling) or the new pattern can be created by problem solving (exploring).
It is possible to learn in mental space by imagining the physical context, the social context and even mental space. Mental Space is controlled by its owner (the consciousness and unconsciousness, the will). This will is resistant to change.
In mental space the bodily action patterns can become conscious. If this happens, they are translated into internal images (by the intuition). The images become mental models.
The concepts in the images are named (using words) and the relations between the concepts (verbs) become definitions of the concepts (knowledge). In this way, they can be used for reasoning. Must concepts in the real world are fuzzy. They have many interpretations.
In science, concepts have to be well defined to make effective reasoning (creating an “logical” expectation) possible.
Reflection is a process that starts an internal query in mental space. The process is started by asking questions (mostly why, what & how-question). The internal query reorders mental space. It creates connections between concepts, images and feelings that were until that time unrelated.
People develop preferences for different learning styles. There are a four learning styles.
1.Reflective Observation (logs, journals, brainstorming).
The learner is mainly concerned with the why-question. They want to understand the problem and need time to reflect.
2. Abstract Conceptualization (lecture, papers, analogies).
The learner is mainly concerned with the what-question (abstraction). This is a learner who works on his own and uses theory readings
3. Active Experimentation (simulations, case study).
The learner learns by exploring. The teacher should be a model of a professional, leaving the learner to determine her own criteria for relevance of materials.
4.Concrete Experience (laboratories, field work, observations).
The learner is mainly concerned with the how-question. He wants to apply what he learns in practice.
The last two learning styles participate easily in a collaborative learning approach. People with the first two learning styles are mostly working and learning alone.
They can have an important contribution in a collaborative learning environment by generating new ideas or by creating a model that helps to understand the whole.
In most of the learning-processes the physical and the social context is simulated (abstracted) and therefore operates in virtual space.
In virtual space the learner acquires knowledge.
At a certain moment the learner has to move from virtual space to the physical or social context. He has to act.
At that moment, the real learning-process takes place (acquiring experience, internalization).
Knowledge is abstracted experience (rules, concepts).
If knowledge is valuated (in terms of money) it becomes intellectual capital
If knowledge is transformed in virtual space it becomes educational content.
Educational content is standardized by international standards (e.g. SCORM).
The content is created by Learning Content Management Systems and can be used by Learning Management System.
There is huge amount of standardized educational content available on the market.
Most of the content is about abstract (generic) subjects (e.g. accounting, programming).
The current learning-process is a top-down linear process where the teacher programs (using a curriculum) the learner to become an expert. It takes a lot of time and money to create a curriculum and the educational content related to this curriculum. This is only possible if the environment is stable.
The main idea behind the current process is the concept of a linear life cycle where a person is trained at his youth, works when he is an adult and rests when he is old.
The speed of change in the physical and social context is disturbing this concept.
People have to adapt constantly to new external conditions (life long learning) and have to work, rest and learn in shorter cycles.
The educational system is incapable to adapt the curriculum and the teachers to the external changes.
The system is highly resistant to change. It will stay in place for a long time producing experts that are not adequately prepared for their professional life.
The training of professionals is therefore taken over by companies or people take care of their own education.
Companies and self-guided learners do not want to spend too much time transforming abstract knowledge into experience.
The solution is to incorporate learning in the work-processes (the practice) itself.
Collaboration is a process where a group of people (a network) works together to reach a common goal.
There are two types of collaboration: cooperation and alliance.
In an alliance the actors are independent but share a common goal.
In cooperation the goals and the resources of the actors are shared.
Social capital theory looks at the value of collaboration.
Collaboration accumulates Social Capital.
In contrary to competition, in collaboration, the value of the connections among individuals or groups of individuals is considered high.
This quality is measured in terms of:
Reciprocity, defined as the mutual or cooperative interchange of favors or privileges, is key to maintaining productive long-term relationships. When reciprocity is assured (based on observed behavior),
individuals are more willing to help others, as they know they can expect the same in return (“returning the favor”).
When reciprocity is transformed in the exchange of objective value (money), relationships can become short-term relationships (hit and run).
Trust comes in three forms:
Thick trust is embedded in personal relationships that are strong, frequent and nested in wider networks (for example, you may trust your best friend with a loan).
2. Thin trust.
Thin trust rests on a background of social norms (“altruism”) and expectations of reciprocity (for example, you stay late at work to reply to an urgent e-mail from a coworker).
3 Transitive trust,
Transitive trust extends a trust-relationship to a wider radius, by bridging various thick trust relationships (for example, if your best friend vouches for someone, you may lend them some money as well). Transitive trust is how separate networks are interconnected or people are integrated into groups.
Humans learn social scripts (role-patterns) by the sanctioning (approval, disproval) of their parents when they are young. These scripts are internalized and control a major amount of the emotions. When people stay together for a long time, the social scripts that are shared become externalized and are transformed into laws (state and religion) and social norms. Socials norms are highly determinated by the roles people play in a profession (e.g. a doctor).
A network of cooperating (or competing) individuals needs working rules. Formal laws themselves are often major sources of working rules especially when backed with close monitoring and sanctioning by public institutions.
The difference between working rules and formal laws depends on the contexts in which the working rules operate and the extent that formal laws apply to those contexts. When people from different professions, cultures and legal systems work together, the collaborative environment has to provide working rules, laws and institutions of its own to cope with the diversity available.
No formal laws can completely cover the problems arising in daily life. However, when the mandates from relevant laws and official regulations are deemed impractical or improper, individuals have to create their own working rules. It must be possible to revise, monitor en sanction the rules without getting into a fatal conflict. Therefore, the collaborative network needs a legal and authorities identity of its own (a replacement for the mother of father in childhood).
In some cases, (a company, a project or a learning environment) this authority (manager, project-manager, teacher) is already available. When it comes to social actions, the creation of a formal power can become the cause of the end of the collective process.
Interpersonal theory looks at the world from the perspective of relationships.
According to attachment theorists, the infant’s attachment system keeps the child close and connected to the adult, thereby increasing the child’s chances of surviving infancy.
As children come to feel sufficiently secure in their attachment to the caretaker, they separate from the caretaker and explore the environment, a first step toward autonomy. People are able to connect with others if they are working in a secure environment (simulating the parent).
When a person initiates an interaction with another person, the other assumes that the behavior is motivated (purposeful).
When an important goal is satisfied, the person experiences a positive emotion; when it is frustrated, the person experiences a negative emotion like sadness or anger.
Internal motivations can be conflicting. This can result in serious mental disorders.
The interpretation of the motivation of the other is often ambiguous leading to misunderstanding and even conflict. To resolve these potential conflicts an open dialogue is necessary where people make their motives clear to others (and themselves).
Motivational constructs (desire, motive and personal striving) can be conceptualized in two very broad, abstract categories, namely, engagement and control.
An engagement is a motive for a connection with one or more others;
it is a motive to participate in a larger union with other people.
An engagement can range from indifferent (no connection) to love (a complete connection).
Control emphasizes the self as a distinct unit; it focuses on the person’s own individual influence, control, or mastery over the self, other people, and the environment. Control can range from dominating to submitting.
Interpersonal behavior can be described with the so-called interpersonal circumplex. This is a widely tested model that predicts the reaction of a person to a motive (a combination of control and engagement) of the other.
The motivational behavior of a person is more or less determined in his youth. People that are extreme in the engagement/control-matrix (e.g. indifferent to the other, too dependent, very dominant or submissive) are unable to work in a collaborative manner.
Figure 1: System principles
Systems theory looks at the world from a control perspective.
Systems theory evolved from the analysis and prediction of the behavior of mechanical systems (machines) and one-mind systems (hierarchies) to multi-mind-systems (networks).
Multi-minded systems are a voluntary association of purposeful members who themselves manifest a choice of both ends and means.
Mechanical or biological models cannot explain behavior of a system whose parts display a choice.
A purposeful system is part of a larger purposeful whole.
At the same time, it has purposeful individuals as its own members.
Aligning the interest of the purposeful parts with each other and that of the whole is the main challenge of the system.
The elements of multi-minded systems are information-bonded.
Riding a horse (in the physical context) is an example.
Horse and driver have complementary skills (moving and guiding) and share experience.
It matters to the horse who the rider is and it matters to the rider what horse he is riding.
A proper ride can be achieved only after a series of information exchanges between the horse and the rider.
Horse and rider form an information-bonded system,in which guidance and control are achieved by an agreement that is renewed every time the goal changes.
The agreement is based on a common perception (sensing at the physical context) and preceded by a psychological contract (control and engagement in the social context).
The members of a network are held together by one or more common goals and collectively acceptable ways of pursuing them (a community of practice).
The members share values that are embedded in their culture. The culture is the cement that integrates the parts into a cohesive whole.
Nevertheless, since the parts have a lot to say about the organization of the whole, consensus is essential to the alignment of a multi-minded system. To enforce consensus an authoritive institution that resolves conflicts is needed.
Important concepts in purposeful systems theory are:
In a mechanical system the parts determinate the behavior of the whole.
In a one-minded system (a corporation), the control-center (the operating system) coordinates determinates the behavior of the parts with mostly hierarchical power.
The relationships between the parts are mainly fixed by organizational structures. In a purposeful system the parts are much smaller.
The parts are individuals or small groups of individuals that can be easily connected and disconnected. The behavior of the whole is now related to a possible interaction-pattern of the parts (a configuration).
Changing the relationships between a few parts (e.g. rearranging certain relationships between people and/or tools, one person leaving a company) can change the behavior of the whole dramatically.
Concepts are in the old systems-paradigm described as a dichotomy. They exclude each other.
In a dichotomy a rational choice is possible (A or B).
In a purposeful environment concepts are often complementary, related and circular (extremes meet in the same point).
A combination of N complementary concepts generates a N-dimensional dependency-matrix in which the relationships are not linear (there are often based on a power- or scale free distribution).
In terms of collaboration not only the win-lose-relation exists (competition) but also lose-lose and win-win are possible outcomes of a process.
In a purposeful environment, actions intended to produce a certain outcome can generate the opposite result.
The main reason is that cause and effect relations are not linear chains.
Events can start multiple chains. Chains can be circular and effects can be delayed.
The best way to describe the behavior of a purposeful system is chaos-theory (fatal attractors).
A quantitative change, beyond a critical point, results in a qualitative change (a new structure).
The system jumps to a new state-space. Just before the change occurs the system shows chaotic behavior and is not controllable.
System can stay in an old state for a long time (meta stable behavior).
Moving forward or moving back during a state-change creates different results. In a state-change it is sometime necessary to start al over again because the rules of the old situation are not applicable anymore.
Purposefull wholes (not parts) resist change
Purposefull wholes (e.g. cultures, technologies) stabilize in time.
At that moment they resist change.
The social norms and the community of practice act as a filter (a boundary) for the parts (new tools, new people) to get in or stay in the system.
People that are fond of structures (crafstman) stay. People that like change (innovators) leave. The whole is determinated to die in due time.
To collaborate people have to communicate.
The most used model in communication is the sender/receiver-model also called the conduit-model.
People send and receive knowlegde put into containers (e.g. content, email, documents).
The sender/receiver-model supposes that the brain converts ideas directly into words and that another person can easily draw out the meaning of the ideas from the words.
It assumes little effort to understand or interpret what is being conveyed.
The sender/receiver-model only works if there is common space (similar motives, ideas, knowledge and perception) that is shared by the people involved in the collaboration process.
In reality, this is mostly not the case especially when experts are communicating with laymen.
The dialogue between an expert and a layman is often a monologue. The expert has to inform the layman about what is happening, he has to explain his ideas.
The layman has to find the right questions to get a proper understanding. If people are similar it is possible to have a dialogue.
If people are too different, they have to invest time to understand (ask unsophisticated questions) and explain their ideas (inventions) in many ways.
It also takes time to generate trust.
Ideas of others have to be tried out (in the imagination or in the real world) to understand them. People have to have the opportunity to fail and learn from their own mistakes.
Sometimes they generate personal inventions that can be given back to the others to create reciprocity.
Eventually ideas create new personal patterns that can be shown and praised by others.
In the previous chapters collaborative learning is looked at from very different angels.
The model in Chapter 2.2 is hopefully explained and validated.
In this chapter a few conclusions are formulated that can be used as a guideline to create a collaborative learning environment.
The physical and the social context are changing fast.
To accomodate the vast amount of changes a highly adaptable (goal seeking) structure is needed.
One of the basic concepts behind collaborative learning is short term cycles (or iterations).
In the model in chapter 2.2. not all the possible cycles are shown.
The current model identifies 24 steps (4X3X2) that can be connected. They make many paths (possible rotations with and/or against the clock with or without crosses and jumps in dimension, knots) of change possible.
Every time when a step is realized the environment has to be sensed and a proper diagnosis determinates the next step.
To do this an advanced system of monitoring is needed.
Moving from one step to another step generates a possible conflict.
These conflicts can be resolved by making use of people that are more or less born to solve the conflict.
The main resistance to change comes out of the community of practice.
Steps like abstraction (changing a the process-model of the working processes) or allocating resources (changing priorities in the working process) are not liked.
It is possible to cycle in the model for a long time without getting in to action.
This possibility has to be prevented by moving fast into the social or physical context.
Gaining experience by failing has to get a top priority.
Every step or combination of steps can be supported by tools in virtual space. It is often the case that physical context (abstraction, Head up in the air) dominates the social context (Feet on the ground).
Therefore the involvement of the users of the tools is necessary to make sure that the tools are usable and are an improvement to the working processes.
In Chapter 2.1. the most interesting example of collaborative learning is the community of practice.
Behind the idea of the community of practice is the concept of apprenticeship.
The practice has to be acquired (a learning environment for students) and changed (evolutionary design).
My advice is to focus the development effort on supporting communities of practice.
The next step is to start a collaborative learning process to develop a collaborative learning environment.
The next chapter chapter contains a suggestion how to start this process.
The development process of the collaborative learning environment is a collaborative learning-process of its own. In this chapter, the major steps in the process are described.
The model in chapter 2.2 is used. To create a collaborative process more than one person has to be involved.
The first step is to define the social and physical context (the marketplace) you want to look at. The learning process could be defined as a (Future) company with a commercial goal. In this case the hours people invest could be multiplied with a realistic price per hour and the initial costs could be shared.
Please make sure that the “company” will earn enough money on the short term to break even.
Wyen this point is reached th ecollective could decide to scale up.
Please forget not to stop when beak even does not takes place.
In this step,you have to look at the context and find out what is happening in the domain of (collaborative) learning.
This step is a collective step. The major stakeholders have to be involved. A workshop or a brainstorm-session is the best approach. The outcome of this step has to be a clear understanding of the issue and a shared motive (values and direction) to get into action.
To give input to a workshop a list of possible expectation-failures and a simple analysis (the main causes behind it all) is provided in this chapter.
The Company is a collaborative operation situated possibly in many countries (and cultures) and is providing a solution to support collaboration (of software-components and people).
The main problems, related to learning and collaboration, that The Company is experiencing are:
- Insufficient internal and external knowledge transfer
- Complex coordination between different internal (e.g. India, The Netherlands) and external producers.
- Complex coordination between internal and external projects
- Involving the customer in the development process
- Explaining the product and the service
- Defining a long term strategy
- Positioning the product
- Creating a network (of practice)
- Unable to define the right components
- Responsibilities marketing and R&D
For a long time people believed that, the world had entered a period of sustained growth (the long boom) that could eventually double the world’s economy every dozen years. New waves of technology would lead to big productivity increases that would cause high economic growth.
The long boom assumed an evolutionary process where governments, companies and consumers could easily absorb new waves of technologies.
In practice, new technologies act as a shockwave. Every time when companies become aware of the shockwave (a hype), they react quickly.
The wave acts as a threat (the competition will beat us if we don’t act) and at the same time as an attractor (it will generate high benefits for us if we win). Therefore, everybody starts to experiment, sometimes on a very large scale.
After a long time best practices emerge and the new technology is absorbed. At that moment it becomes often clear that the technology has a completely different effect than everybody thought it would have. Most of the time there are many losers and a few winners.
Not many technologies keep their promise (e.g. Client/Server, E-Commerce). The frequency of shockwaves is much higher than the absorption time of the new technology.
The effect is that companies are in many stages of adoption at the same time. More and more managers are very skeptic and hesitant to start a new absorption wave. They are left with many layers of software. Some of the software-layers are so old that almost nobody knows what is does or how to get rid of it.
Most of the companies first want to clean the mess of all the waves that hit their company before they start with something new.
The big problem is that the software-industry never stops to launch new shockwaves and nobody knows for sure if the new wave (perhaps for the first time) will keep its promise or his threat.
Behind the scene, something else is happening. Western culture is encountering a paradigm shift. Slowly the era of rationalism is ending.
The rationalists were obsessed by objectivity and perfection. In their view, objectivity and perfection can only be accomplished by controlling the subjective parts, the emotions (detracting the brain) and the imagination (creating illusions) by the logical reasoning of the intelligent calculating machine, the brain.
The rationalists created the big corporations (with the brain at the top), the general-purpose computer (with the brain in the operating system) and the standardized mass production systems that eliminated the craftsman and replaced him with the perfect objective human, the robot.
The brain is not capable to understand the effects of his interventions in nature and society anymore. His aim to control has the opposite effect. Nature and society are complex systems with many unknown short-term and long-term feedback loops.
The new paradigm takes its metaphors out of biology. The world consists of numerous networks of cooperating and competing human agents. A network is uniquely determined by its human- and technology-patterns. These patterns act as an imaginary boundary.
They shield the network from changes in the environment. New participants have to learn to use the technology and the internal procedures to survive in the network. The behavior of the human participants in a network changes slowly. When they do not like the network, they move to another. Human members come and go but the technology-patterns of the network stay alive.
On a high level, we can see that the opening of a new space of possibilities causes the movement of all the networks. When one of the networks moves into the new space, others have to follow in due time. The movement of a network can be slowed down by physical boundaries (islands, mountains), physical space itself (traveling) and cultural boundaries (languages).
The invention of symbols opened up mental space. It caused a major change in human society by enabling the creation of writing, mathematics and the development of the automatic calculator, the Computer. The Internet is opening a vast new space (Cyberspace) of new opportunities on two levels. It makes new technology-patterns possible and it facilitates the bridging of human networks (communication). The last factor will speed up of the movement of networks heavily. New networks and new patterns of behavior (products, services, cultures) will arise (and fade away) that nobody has ever imagined.
The Internet is enabling a level of collaborative creativity that was not possible before. The corporations try to manage the collaborative creativity by giving the customer a choice (mass customization), speeding up the product development processes by introducing advanced systems of product life cycle management and involve the customer in de product-design (customer-innovation). Outside the corporations, consumers and small flexible specialized companies merge spontaneously into networks that produce unique products that carry the signature of the craftsman again. In the future big corporations, consumers and small-scale businesses will merge and create a completely new business-ecology.
The Internet and its new general purpose technology-patterns will make it possible to move down to the human scale of cooperation, the network. By connecting the networks, the world will move up to a level of collaboration that was never possible before in history.