Dadamacademy - Open letter to Andrius Kulikauskas

Hi Andrius - I'm gathering together some thoughts and resources ready to start studying under your supervision.

1 - An online learning experiment

2 - Expectations

3 - Various levels of complexity and area(s) of study

4 - Previous work - and some ongoing work


1 - An online learning experiment

We've agreed to doing this online learning experiment together, and we've exchanged a couple of emails about it (in the public domain) and had a couple of Skype calls. We've agreed that I'm your student and you are my supervisor. Exactly what that will look like will emerge over time.

We think it's going to be a kind of alternative part-time PhD.

In any collaborative venture it's easy to agree what we want in general terms, but often there is disagreement over some of the details. We can expect that to happen. It's a natural part of the "forming, storming, norming, performing" cycle. We're at the easy, forming stage at the moment, both keen to do this and feeling positive about the idea and our collaboration.

Given how well we know each other, and the characters we are, I anticipate that we may have some stormy periods along the way, but they will be worth it for the norms that we develop as a result and the level of performance those norms enable us to achieve.

2 - Expectations

If this was a traditional course of study in "established academia" my expectations would be formed when I chose from alternatives laid out by competing universities, but this is an experiment. It's hard to know my expectations, until I come across a situation where I recognise that something has, or has not, matched them.

The mismatches will be potential areas of storming if I fail to recognise and explain them to you. I guess this post is part of my preparation for the learning journey ahead. Maybe if I show you what I've brought along ready for the trip it will help us to recognise some expectations.

3 - Various levels of complexity and area(s) of study

I realise, as I'm writing this, that I'm considering the process of studying with you, rather than the content or product (so much for thinking I'd be telling you about books related to my studies). Perhaps exploring the process may in fact become the content (rather than the topic I suggested to you a couple of weeks ago). The topic may become "the excuse" for undertaking the process. Analysing the process itself may actually become a more important topic for study.

I like that idea.

I'm looking at our roles as we begin working together in "virtual academia". That won't surprise you. I realise that way back when you set up LearningFromEachOther (LFEO) for me in Minciu Sodas it was to explore my interests in teaching and learning in the context of a world with digital technology. "Roles of teachers and learners" was part of that.

Hmm - I note that I'm expressing my interest in a general kind of way again. You however probably remember the specific question you insisted on putting as the focus of the LFEO group.

That is another interesting element of study for me. You are very focussed and organised. I'm much more chaotic. I like the original homework you set me, with the method of getting from a vague unsatisfactory question to a better one. I'm looking forward to tackling that assignment.

I believe that some people think things through before they say anything. I can't do that, (except for facts or opinions or ideas that I've explored previously, but not for interesting stuff).

When I say (as I often do) that  "I don't know what I think until I hear what I say'" I mean that it's only when I hear what I'm saying (or see what I'm writing) that I get to know what is going on in my head expressed in some kind of a structured way instead of all just bubbling away how it usually is. It's only when I speak or write (or draw scrawly diagrams while trying to explain or explore something) that I organsise (or semi-organise) my thoughts into some kind of structured form. So what I blurt out is a kind of prototype arrangement of what is going on my head - and so when I hear what I say I can decide if I agree with it, or if it needs re-ordering.

I annoy some people because I can't explain what I'm doing. When they ask what my objectives are I can't say. Often I can't even explain to myself clearly until afterwards. Maybe it's because I'm playing with ideas and looking for patterns. (I guess asking me while I'm exploring is a bit like asking someone who is in the process of composing a melody to play the melody instead of letting them say they are composing it).

I feel I'd need to have the label of "academic" or "writer" or "philosopher" to have the authority/right/permission to share what I'm thinking, instead of what I'm doing. I guess that is why I want to be able to say I'm a student - because students are allowed to be "in the process" of finding out.

I guess that tension between thinking and doing is why I distance myself in some ways from all my practical work - even though I'm deeply committed to it and I do the work properly to the best of my ability. It's because "what I'm doing" is the practical stuff people see me doing (or can imagine seeing me doing), but it's not the same as "what I do" or "who I am".

"What I really do" is the thinking and learning and insights that come from "what I'm doing" - so "what I'm doing" is more like the field work for my "studies"... it's the raw material for my thinking.

Of course a research student needs to find the right supervisor. You are ideal for all kinds of reasons, and because you want to "know everything"  you won't try to stick me in some "academic discipline" box.

Regarding being organised or chaotic, and having objectives or letting them emerge, that is part of what I'll be looking at if I do my studies in the direction I was initially discussing with you, (about a transition from the comparatively orderly and stable structures of the largely hierarchical world we have known, into the more chaotic and uncertain one we seem to be moving into, and how we combine the best of both).

I've written about that elsewhere, and the problems of people trying to work together if they have these two very different mind sets - one group who normally think "How can we start until we know what we're doing?" and another group who think "How can we know what we're doing until we've started?" 

So - I'm not sure of my focus yet, but I think in established academia it takes some time for a student to decide exactly what the title of their research will be so I'm not concerned about my shifting focus at this stage. (I am attracted to the idea of studying how we manage the studying, and seeing that we agreed that we'd be looking at patterns, it could make for an interesting addition).

4 - Previous work - and some ongoing work

Much of my previous work has been on education and ICT - you know that I've done stuff on that, and I never really stop thinking about it.

Probably the most relevant part to bear in mind for now is the chapter I wrote about my online learning experiences as a free-range self-directed learner. Amongst other things that chapter referred to:

  • Various comparisons between what happens in "established academia" compared to my learning in "virtual academia".
  • You and Minciu Sodas
  • Fred Garnett and Wikiquals
  • My need for someone who would support my studies and have the breadth of vision to accept the whole thing (which is why I'm so pleased that I now have you as my supervisor)

If we decide to focus my studies with you on the learning experience itself (or at least to include reflection on it) then our work will be a natural progression from the ideas in that chapter.

It would also be a rather pleasing natural progression from our previous LFEO work.

Also relevant to my experiences as a self-directed learner is the work of Fred and others on heutagogy. There's a book on that and a slideshare, and a world heutagogy conference on June 6th.

I'm not sure if you know I registered with Fred ages ago for my wikiqual. It's based on the "Landscape of Change" ideas I was exploring back in 2011 and first shared with Fred at a meeup I organised. The meetup related specifically to the Changing World of Work (in the "Landscape of Change"). I've written a few posts on the topic which may show up via the search box, I've neglected it recently for various reasons, as far as writing anything goes, but (like my interest in teachers, learners and ICT) I'm continually thinking about it and noticing how my practical experiences relate to my thoughts and ideas.

I don't think there should be any problem in studying with you as well as doing the wiki qual. I know someone who was doing three part-time post-graduate courses at the same time. 

Another ongoing theme in my thinking is to do with the relationships between online spaces and physical spaces and the "dynamics" of people (as individuals and as groups) in those spaces. 

Naturally online communities/behaviour/etc are an important part of 21st century reality and the transition we're looking at regarding the past and the future.

Something I'm particularly interested in at present is the idea of "the space between" and the need for people to "hold that space" so that people from different "places" which are linked by "the space between" can meet there.

I've referred elsewhere to some PhD research that was done on the need for "areas of confluence" (ref "top down" and "bottom up" approaches which relate to "the same problem" but "whoosh straight past each other" without connecting).

I've written about related ideas and experiences, most recently in my Dadamac Foundation April Update (Section 6 - Horizontal not hierarchical structures) and also when I contributed to a book related to pattern language and the design of educational courses and resources. 

In my contribution to the book I was exploring the idea of the communication gaps between people of different cultures who are meeting online. I was exploring the need for a "cross cultural mediator" to facilitate communication and help to minimise misunderstandings resulting from mistaken assumptions. I doubt if I'll ever see the book because the publishers didn't send out copies to the authors (you can imagine what I thought about that) and it's an expensive academic book so I have no intention of asking the public library service to get a copy for me. If I'd been given a copy I would have been interested to see how how the pattern side of things worked in practice and how my ideas were tied in with the ideas of other people.

You and I have already discussed the possibility of taking a pattern language approach to my studies. One of the reasons I contributed to the pattern language book was because the editors offered "shepherding" to authors who weren't familiar with using pattern language. I think I had in mind a bit more shepherding than they did, so I wasn't confident that what I finally gave them demonstrated an adequate grasp of what was required, but I did learn from the process. 

I wanted to explain about Dadamacademy to you as well, which is why I put it in the title, but as long as you're aware of its existance the relevance of it can wait. It does get a mention in Flowing together and separately - Dadamac 2014 (section 4 - Dadamacademy)

Bye for now,