Peeragogy Handbook V1.0/Use Case
From peer production to peer learning
Julian, an enthusiastic convert to the power of peer-learning.
Main success scenario
- Reflecting on the success of Strategy as Learning, Julian notes that other housing associations might benefit from this process. He also notes that as most housing association boards are made up of volunteers like himself, there is a very wide variation in background, knowledge and skills, and therefore not only a need for low cost (free) learning opportunities, but a range of skills available to enable them.
- Julian sets up a peer learning resource on the web, drawing on the experiences in implementing Strategy as Learning, and promotes it through industry-specific web forums. He draws attention from an online journalist writing in the housing field who writes a positive article, and as a result a growing number of collaborators come forward.
- Over a period of a year or so, the core team of active users collaborate to create standards and exemplars in relation to different aspects of housing association governance that become a de facto standard in the sector.
- Obviously a very specific use case that could easily be generalised
- Possible patterns to extract? Seeding Peer Communities, Emergent Standards, Emergent Assessment ???
C'est la vie
Pierre and Marie - recently married.
Main Success Scenario
- They furnished off an apartment from a Sears & Roebuck sale. Their coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale. (She couldn't cook.)
- But when Pierre found work, the little money coming in worked out well. They got a hi-fi phono, and boy, did they let it blast -- Seven hundred little EPs, all rock, rhythm and jazz.
- When the sun went down, the rapid tempo of the music sort of fell (for various reasons).
- They bought a souped up Mercedes -- a cherry red '53 -- and drove it down to New Orleans to celebrate their anniversary.
- "C'est la vie," say the old folks, "It goes to show you never can tell!"
(Après Chuck Berry.)
I tried to use the familiar song to suggest that pæragogy works in personal relationships, too. Compare the above story with this quote from Leopold von Sacher-Massoch...:
"That woman, as nature has created her and as man is at present educating her, is his enemy. She can only be his slave or his despot, but never his companion. This she can become only when she has the same rights as he, and is his equal in education and work."
I don't know if Sacher-Massoch is particularly reliable as a feminist. But it is interesting to look at "companionship" (along with membership in the same age cohort) as a criterion for a peer-like and working relationship in the story. It's unclear as to whether Pierre & Marie have "equal" roles (he found work, but it's not in any way implied that she was working... so how did she spend her time? Etc.).
Distributed project management
Kim, a Ph. D. student in Geography.
Main success scenario
- Kim has 5 different people on her supervision team: some in her field, others from geology. They all have somewhat different ideas about what she should be doing with her thesis work. None of them are co-located. This situation can be quite frustrating.
- Kim decides to go spend a few weeks working in close proximity to the one member of the team who she has the most rapport with. This will also give her a chance to be in touch with other students in her field.
- In the mean time, she establishes contact with yet another researcher whose work is quite closely related to hers. Although he does not have any formal responsibilities or ties to her project, they are already colleagues in an academic sense, and they have more congruent views on what her project is about. After she visits her favorite supervisor, she may plan to spend a month or so visiting this other researcher in his home country.
I think this sort of networking to create an informal supervision team happens fairly frequently for postgrad students in the UK system. Certainly there are other examples of distributed project management - e.g. W3C working groups come to mind.
A student, Madeleine, who is trying to learn multivariable calculus.
Main Success Scenario
- Madeleine is enrolled in an advanced calculus course at university. She learns about PlanetMath from her instructor who recommends it as a place for extra practice with homework problems. Madeleine creates an account, fills in basic profile information, and starts solving problems that the system supplies based on the information she supplied in her profile.
- The problems that the system supplies are automatically linked to reference resources in PlanetMath’s encyclopaedia. This expository material gives Madeleine easy access to the relevant mathematical concepts, examples, and hints needed for solving the increasingly difficult practice problems. However, she eventually runs into a problem where neither the automatically supplied information, nor her current knowledge of the subject, is sufficient. She’s completely stuck on a problem having to do with water flow in a pipe! Madeleine attaches a help request to the problem: “I understand that I have to use the two variables x and y to solve for water flow, but I don’t understand what the boundary limits of the equations would be: do I have to convert it to polar coordinates?"
- This request is noticed by Natalie, a mathematics graduate student who regularly looks at the feed showing “recent requests for help with advanced calculus.” She sees that the reference resources linked to Madeleine’s problem are probably not sufficient, and that Madeleine’s idea about using polar coordinates would work. Natalie makes some changes to the encyclopaedia indicating that converting to converting to polar coordinates can be necessary in pipe flow problems, and sketches an example. Natalie then checks that this information links to Madeleine’s problem correctly, and alerts Madeleine to the changes. With this new information, Madeleine is not only able to solve her problem, but can proceed with confidence: she had the right idea after all!
Madeleine, a few years later on, trying to learn real analysis.
Main success scenario
- Madeleine has been using a peer-learning website for mathematics for a while now. When she gets stuck, she asks for help in context, and her request is brought to the attention of the appropriate community member, who improves the pedagogic quality of the material. This help enables her to solve math problems very effectively.
- Now, however, the system's software is being updated. Instead of being solely a "Web 2.0" system for communicating about the subject, the system can keep track of new concepts that Madeleine is using in the problems she solves and the questions she asks. It can suggest heuristics that have been used by other students solving similar problems. (It knows about these things through a combination of textual analysis and "tagging" of text by Madeleine and other users, e.g. Natalie, who sometimes gives comments on problems that Madeleine solves.)
- As the system grows and improves (through efforts of students and mentors), learning mathematics becomes increasingly easy. The material has been gone over by 100s of students and learning pathways are optimized. Madeleine sometimes can get a quick tutoring gig helping out another younger student, and make some money, but mostly she's thinking about what other subjects she will need to add to her portfolio in order to become an architect... by the time she's 23!
Javier, who works for the European Commission.
Main success scenario
- Javier is interested in research topics like "data analytics" and "emerging topics in ICT" -- things that will influence learning technology in the next 5 years. He is also concerned about how best to fund work on new learning and teaching environments.
- He wonders what the barriers and incentives are in this niche. For example, why does research work frequently not have the broad-scale societal impact that the EC hopes it might?
- Javier is invited to a pæragogy event, in which some unexpected experts on "broad scale impact" help him understand that intensive funding for research is often not going to have the desired effect, since, for various reasons, even well-funded research projects are frequently not well connected to actual practice.
- He starts to build pæragogy into funding calls: smaller pots of money going to projects that connect with what people actually do, working with partners like the Wikimedia Foundation and the Free Software Foundation to multiply effort by involving volunteers. It's time for him to take a well-earned vacation.
A journalist enters the whispering gallery
Jorge Luis is a journalist for a London business paper.
Main success scenario
- Jorge Luis writes on a daily and even hourly basis about the eurozone crisis. He uses social dashboards and curating tools and produces lots of curated stories about the causes of the problems, the stupidity of the continental europeans and how it will all end soon in complete and utter disaster. His sources are other journalists, well-known economists and famous bloggers.
- On his way to the newsroom he usually passes St Pauls cathedral, where Occupy London people protest. He thinks they rather look like losers, except for one very interesting young lady. She tells him where he can find the center of the universe: at the Whispering Gallery of the cathedral. He thinks she is nuts, but also very beautiful and interesting, so he walks the 259 steps from ground level to the Gallery. Once he gets there, he realizes that the girl was right. It IS the center of the universe. There are murmurs to be heard there - it seems they come from everywhere. He hears about guilds and the craftsmen who built the cathedral. He learns about how proud they were and how they formed communities of practice, educating the uninitiated, teaching each other to create.
- He returns to ground level. The girl is gone, but yet he feels happy. He realizes he can do more then repackage the social media streams, that there is more than Twitter-the-new broadcast medium. He starts a new journey: finding a guild, a community of practice, but restyled in a 21st century fashion. It will be more open, more connected to others then the old guilds. He will still use a social dashboard and curaring tools, but also he uses wikis, and synchronous communication. And most importantly, he starts building, together with others. For instance, together with the people formerly known as his readers. They will co-create the analysis, the search for solutions and sense-making, rather than helplessly listening to "experts", passively consuming the knowledge and information. Instead, they'll start building their own destiny as a community, and the newsroom will be part of the platform.
Living the OER dream
Charlie, who does tutoring and educational consulting, and who has been doing research on paragogy.
Main success scenario
- Charlie usually tutors one-on-one but has been putting work into understanding and exploring peer learning and peer production, putting it into practice on P2PU and in courses and projects with Howard Rheingold.
- X-Y-Z peer learning theory (paragogy?) helps him design learning activities that work well for groups of students
- He deploys the new model on paragogy.net as an educational startup, and realizes the "OER dream"!
Making our own tools
Howard runs Rheingold University and teaches courses at UCB and Stanford.
- Howard created the peeragogy project, as a place to experiment and learn: "I want to experiment as much as possible with peeragogy, with the group of contributors here, with the co-learners in Rheingold U, and with other groups in the future. I want to personally use the tools we're building. I know something about how to do it, and can make substantial contributions. But I also am learning a lot about how to do it from others, and expect that to continue."
- Although "bringing a volunteer project to completion [...] isn't a guaranteed slam-dunk", Howard learns by doing: "If I had it to do over again, I would have thought out the work flow and delineated it before we started talking about how to do the project."
- With both frequent, and other less frequent, but thoughtful, contributors, the project continues to develop, and will indeed complete somehow (even if no one knew quite what to expect in advance). Howard and other contributors have learned a lot in the process - and this will be useful both for the duration of the peeragogy project, and in future projects. As hoped!
Work at the technical edge
Jess, a hacker and engineer who develops new libraries and programs quickly and on the bleeding edge of new technologies.
Main success scenario
- Jess develops something new and totally cool and drops the source code in GitHub. These tools are developed rapidly and are a much lighter "learning lift" than learning say an entirely new programming language.
- She creates documentation for her new library and puts it up on a web site for other developers to read.
- She is trying to find a better way for other developers to learn how to use the new tools and libraries she creates and starts thinking about peer learning.
- How can she use what tools and processes or methods that are already out there to engage other developers to learn from and with each other digitally? (Jess has no background in learning theory and is not in the educational field.) She finds the peeragogy handbook and a lot of this stuff starts to click.
Peeragogy helps connect the dots
Neo, who is a hacker by night, and an office worker by day (and who reads Baudrillard in his spare time).
Main Success Scenario
- Neo lives in New York City, and works as a programmer in an office near Wall Street. His day-job involves finding patterns in market data (see Kevin Slavin's TED talk).
- He has been walking past Zucotti Park on his way home and more or less he finds this protest stuff annoying (he has other stuff on his mind). But one of these evenings, one of the protestors catches his attention (she's dressed rather strikingly...). They talk a bit, and he comes away thinking about what she said: “All our grievances are interconnected.” What if all the solutions are interconnected too?
- Night time: Neo becomes increasingly obsessed with this idea. He's pulling down lots of web pages from OWS activists, from companies, from government websites -- again, looking for patterns. What would it take for OWS folks to solve the problems they worry so much about?
- He eventually stumbles across the idea of pæragogy and it works like the “red pill”: it's possible to solve the problems but only by working together. It would be hard to engineer a social media platform that will actually help with this (OWS folks mostly use Tumblr and aren't necessarily all that technologically minded). But he starts working on a tool that's geared towards learning and sharing skills, while working on real projects. At first, it's just hackers who are using the tool, but over time they adapt it for popular use. Then things start to get interesting...
Starting a company
I think that Peeragogy has flavors -- learning for learning sake for personal ends in a progression toward learning about the world to take action as a group. The latter gets heavily into Action Research (Stringer, 2007), which I love and work heavily in. It is research in cycles, or loops with feedback to try something, measure it, see how it worked with the real world, then plan the next question and set of actions. In each cycle, the group is Learning. I look with that lens at company start-ups as a perpectual action research cycle. I heard Eric Reis at SXSW talk about the Lean Startup in this mode, including this direction in how he even wrote the book. Hypothesis, experiment, feedback, learn, pivot, next hypothesis... Is the group in this peeragogy learning set knowledge or creating new knowledge? Or through new knowledge making a change in the world? A great spectrum of alternatives! Here, my scenario about a company I was on the board on early on:
- Cycle 1: Nick, an MBA student, plus a Computer Science PhD, John, at a major university. John had created a unique technology for identifying video clips and had no idea what to do with it. Nick was an ex-engineer learning about how to launch new businesses.
- Cycle 2: Additional "learners" and co-teachers as board members, each adding new learning elements and expertise.
- Cycle 3+: New learners as investors and clients.
Main success scenario
- Nick and John used a new business plan competition as the catalyst and structure to experiment with what ideas might be possible to grow this idea. They named it Findable (not the real name; the company did launch with some interesting success, but we'll come to that later). They brought three other MBAs into the initial group, and within the confines of a business plan structure, researched the stereotypical elements of a business plan -- addressable market, competition, expense and revenue projections, etc. They knew nothing of the area, and each person did independent research work to provide some primary (interview-based) and secondary (existing text) information about their hypothesis of what the technology could do for what audience in what environment. They worked hard up until the competition deadline, and won the business plan competition, gaining $15,000 in the process plus the attention of some VCs on the judging panel. Each person had learned a lot about the technology, the creative process of writing the business plan, the rituals involved of asking for money, and the flaws in their own plan that they found on its creation. They used fairly traditional technology tools: email, shared Word and Excel files, telephone, search, and a shared file system to store everything that they worked on.
- Nick and Fred wanted to move forward with this project. Their next hypothesis was that they could launch this in a specific market. They first came to the idea, from the learning from the business plan and lots of feedback from the VCs, that they could start with the advertising market, as they could now identify and "tag" any ad that they could find on cable or the internet. They got seed capital from three interested parties, who become part of their Action Research learning team. They realized to launch that they needed more voices on their learning team, so they added their first 3 employees to design and sell the product. They also added an advisory board, including yours truly, assuming they would be working in the advertising market. Technologies? Traditional, though they now included all sorts of tech development resources. New information into the mix? They had not put together great resources to optimize their time learning, and spent a lot of energy keeping up with things, information, and opportunities. Learning? Some initial users loved their product, but the market size was smaller than they thought...plus was very entrenched. The companies did not see a real pain point that was being solved.
- Cycle 3 -- what the heck do Nick and Fred do with this? This became the true learning phase. Different companies and advisors saw different needs for their intriguing product set. They spent 4 years (!!!) getting pulled this way and that, using the VC money and needing more. (This is VERY much the learning path I see in many small tech companies.) Technologies? Same stuff. Learning team? Ebbed and flowed with new opportunities and people's patience. My expertise was in the "old" model, so peaceably left the team (but got options!).
- Cycle 4+ -- a major public company "found" them through their learning cycles, and found that they solved a pain point. They invested a sizeable sum into a chunk of the company, and launched their product into that solution. This opened a whole other set of learning doors.
- Final cycle -- Happily, I cashed out my options. Two major media technology companies ended up buying two areas of key technologies in 2011, much to my own pocketbook's happiness. Nick and Fred had moved on earlier, turning the company learning over to specialized managers. I need to see what Nick is up to next....
- Many great patterns were tucked into many cycles of this use case, often unspoken assumptions in a new business start-up, including environment scanning, codifying specialist knowledge, themes, modeling, etc. Consensus building -- an interesting element.
- For me, the additional elements are (a) the scaffolding of the "norms" of cycles (e.g., business plan creation, a competition, a launch of a product) help provide "norming" frameworks that can help groups achieve as well as limit their looking at the structural norms as anything but "required" and (b) the lens of Action Research Cycles from my own POV. Are we setting a hard limit of providing a hypothesis in our co-creation, so we know when we are "done" and what we have to study? Then once that chunk is done (and CELEBRATED) that another hypothesis can be investigated, explored, proven, and co-created? I believe that having pre-structured points of learning achievement, reflection, and celebration can really help in moving forward.
- My own brain is rethinking these issues around content creation after hearing Eric Reis speak on how he tested his content creation for his New York Times best-selling book.
- How are we testing this Handbook, other than living through it? :)
Steal this book
"Obviously such a project as Steal This Book could not have been carried out alone. Izak Haber shared the vision from the beginning. He did months of valuable research and contributed many of the survival techniques. Carole Ramer and Gus Reichbach of the New York Law Commune guided the book through its many stages. Anna Kaufman Moon did almost all the photographs. The cartoonists who have made contributions include Ski Williamson and Gilbert Sheldon. Tom Forcade, of the UPS, patiently did the editing. Bert Cohen of Concert Hall did the book's graphic design. Amber and John Wilcox set the type. Anita Hoffman and Lynn Borman helped me rewrite a number of sections. There are others who participated in the testing of many of the techniques demonstrated in the following pages and for obvious reasons have to remain anonymous. There were perhaps over 50 brothers and sisters who played particularly vital roles in the grand conspiracy. Some of the many others are listed on the following page. We hope to keep the information up to date. If you have comments, law suits, suggestions or death threats, please send them to: Dear Abbie P.0. Box 213, Cooper Station, New York, NY 10003. Many of the tips might not work in your area, some might be obsolete by the time you get to try them out, and many addresses and phone numbers might be changed. If the reader becomes a participating researcher then we will have achieved our purpose." -- Abbie Hoffman (emphasis added)
Strategy as learning
The non-executive (Jim, Pamela, Julian) and executive (Clare, Malcolm, Colin & Jenny) directors of a housing association (a not-for-profit organisation building and letting "social" housing for families in housing need) Main success scenario
- The board of the housing association need to set a strategy that takes account of significant changes in legislation, the UK [welfare] benefits system and the availability of long term construction loans.
- Julian, eager to make use of his new-found peeragogical insights suggests an approach where individuals research specific factors and the team work together to draw out themes and strategic options. As a start he proposes that each board member researches an area of specific knowledge or interest.
- Jim, the Chairman, identifies questions he wants to ask the Chairs of other Housing Associations. Pamela (a lawyer) agrees to do an analysis of the relevant legislation. Clare, the CEO, plans out a series of meetings with the local councils in the boroughs of interest to understand their reactions to the changes from central government. Jenny, the operations director, starts modelling the impact on occupancy from new benefits rules. Colin, the development director, re-purposes existing work on options for development sites to reflect different housing mixes on each site. Malcolm, the finance director, prepares a briefing on the new treasury landscape and the changing positions of major lenders.
- Each member of the board documents their research in a private wiki. Julian facilitates some synchronous and asynchronous discussion to draw out themes in each area and map across the areas of interest. Malcolm, the FD, adapts his financial models to take differet options as parameters.
- Clare refines the themes into a set of strategic options for the association, with associated financial modelling provided by Malcolm.
- Individual board members explore the options asynchronously before convening for an all-day meeting to confirm the strategy.
- This may be a little close to the "peer production" end of peeragogy, but on the other hand, where (if anywhere) do we draw the line?
- This probably needs to be made a little more abstract to be a useful use case, and in doing so I suspect will start to overlap with Pæragogy helps solve complex problems
- It looks to me as if there may be some candidate patterns buried in this use case, e.g. Environment Scanning, Codifying Specialist Knowledge, Extracting Themes, Modelling Outcomes, Consensus Building
We are the 1%
Trinity, the daughter of a Texas oil magnate.
You Make Me Like Charity by The Knife
Main success scenario
- Trinity has spent the last year traveling around the world to join in various #Occupy protests. Her aim is to get people in the movement thinking about how they can empower themselves.
- It's tricky though, because as much as she knows she has an impact on individuals, she still sees a lot of problems in the world, which, given her manic-depressive tendencies, she tends to find very disturbing.
- She reaches out to other folks who are privileged in one way or another -- and a bunch of "normal folks" -- trying not only to bring about political change, but trying to establish a degree of personal friendship and camaraderie, and a feeling of "belonging in the world". For her, this is a constant struggle. She finds that working with other people on concrete tasks keeps her from spiraling into a state of gloom. In the mean time, she's also building a tremendous amount of knowledge about the way social movements and political processes work.
"The Knife is now recording a new album to be released in 2012. Lately we have read a lot about the ongoing discrimination of Romani people in Europe which is totally unacceptable. The forced evictions must stop and adequate alternative housing must be arranged. Now!" -- The Knife
Young aspiring blogger struggles to avoid starvation
Main actor: Simone
Simone is a young media department graduate, who followed the adventures of the journalist Jorge Luis. Jorge Luis was transforming the newspaper operation into a kind of collective learning project, turning the newsroom into a platform for discussion and learning, and inciting the developers to provide an API for external coders. Simone wrote a paper about all this in her last year at the media department.'She also runs a blog about tools which empower people to participate in politics (local, nation-wide and international).
Main success scenario
- Simone loves her blog. She believes verticals and specialization are the future in blogging. However, she needs money to live, and to pay back the debts she made to finance her studies. Her media department was moderately interesting, but nobody ever thought of organizing a course "entrepreneurial blogging/journalism".
- Posting every day about collaborative online tools such as wikis, forums, blogs, mindmaps, synchronous sessions, social bookmarks, visualization tools, Simone decides to reach out and look online for others who are experiencing the same challenges.
- As she encounters various other people, they start curating stuff about blogging business models and best practices. They find lots of useful stuff for free at Robin Good's website, and they manage to get access to online resources at a strange group which seems to specialize in "mind amplifying tools" and "literacies of cooperation". They also discover that "entrepreneurial journalism" is taught at various colleges, and invariably the professors and most of the students there indulge in blogging and publishing about their insights and experiments. All that material is being discussed on the collaborative platform Simone built.
- Simone uses the discussions to blog about her experience. After all, issues about financing media who empower people in order to broaden and deepen the democracy is something which is rather on topic for her own blogging practice. Also, because of her reaching out, her contacts increased considerably. She works together with someone to share a virtual co-working space, and people start noticing her. Some ask her for customized expert advice about collaborative tools and collaboration methodologies. The city council expresses some vague interest and considers hiring her as a consultant.
- Even though she gets several gigs, Simone realizes it's not easy to earn a living as a blogger. But it seems to open other doors... however, she continues her investigation about business models for collaborative media. As yet we don't know whether Simone's blog will be profitable in itself, but we do see a network around her projects, exchanging insights but also valuable business information and opening more doors.
I had the opportunity to give some seminars at media departments here in Belgium. In my experience, the students were not familiar with curation practices or infotention strategies. They also lack courses in entrepreneurial journalism. In other words, they're still educated for the big media companies, but they're not prepared to start the next TechCrunch or Huffington Post. Often the students asked me, after the seminar, "how can we learn all this? they won't teach us these things here". I think there is a need for P2P learning about not only curation, infotention, social dashboards, communities and governance of common pool recourses, but also about publishing strategies, social media workflows and business models.