Bridge building - academics and practitioners

Dear Ismael

Thank you for your rapid response to my initial comment on your blog.  I am glad that you know first hand the differences in the two cultures (ie of academics and of practitioners). I agree completely that “bridging these two realities (which they are) is usually not an easy thing to do”. If there are to be any bridges it seems we have to be active bridge builders.

I feel that, like you, I am sometimes in one culture and sometimes in the other, and at present my journeys between the two realities have to be made without a bridge. My connection is more like a ferry-boat between the two worlds. Maybe together we can find ways to make a bridge that is so visible and robust and well signposted that others (who cannot be tempted into the ferry-boats) will cross back and forth easily and often.

For now it seems it is a matter of travelling from one culture to the other and trying to raise mutual awareness through “making friends”. I feel that for now I am simply trying to bring gifts, and the gifts that I bring to academia are gifts of information. Sometimes I feel like a new ambassador who is bringing precious gifts to a superpower and is trying to find the right gift (and the right way to present it).

I am looking for gifts that will best serve to interest/attract/intrigue/impress the superpower so that we will build a useful relationship between the cultures. But most of the time it seems that I am an ambassador from some tiny “off the map” little country that the super-power is not interested in connecting with. It is hard to make the right meaningful connections.

Perhaps the ambassador role model is inappropriate, perhaps I should try to be a trader. Maybe I need to look more precisely at what “my culture” has that the academic culture would value, and what the academics have that people in “my culture” value, and then see what win-win deals we can strike. Once we are “trading” (collaborating in win-win ways) maybe then there will be a growth of understanding, opportunities for informal discussions, a chance to exchange ideas, compare cultures and actually look together at things like systemic change in educational systems.

As you say, at present,”discourses and incentives are mostly incompatible”. It took me quite as while to understand this. For a long time I had the naive idea that research and practice went together in a natural symbiotic way, especially in ICT4Ed and ICT4D. I thought researchers studied practice and then published in order to inform practitioners (I did not realise that they published in order to inform each other). I could not understand why the research that I read was irrelevant to me as a practitioner, even when the titles of papers seemed to suggest that the researchers were addressing issues dear to my heart.

I am grateful to individual people in PRADSA and at London University (at Royal Holloway College, at the London Knowledge Lab, and at the Centre for Distance Education) for repeatedly welcoming me to their workshops and discussions. Through them I have come to better understand these issues of cultural difference and the challenges we need to overcome in order to collaborate. There are other online and F2F discussions and events where I have been able to stumble around, inadvertently kicking sacred cows and using words that I thought I knew the meaning of – but later discovered that I didn’t. I appreciate everyone who has supported, or tolerated, me in my cross-cultural learning journey.

I am encouraged by the “flavour” of ICTD2010 and have uncharacteristically put in submissions for running workshops there. It seems to be an environment where academics and practitioners are to be equally welcome. I hope it will help me to establish better connections with academia (and other practitioners) by increasing the visibility of Dadamac through demonstrating what we offer, and the kind of practical collaborations we can enable.

Are you planning to attend?

By the way I will also publish this comment, on my own blog  (or posterous ) and link to your blog (and my comments) on The micro and macro approaches of ICTs in Education” This is so our discussion is more easily shared with the Dadamac community.


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