E-learning, Web 2.0 ... and games as mud maps

Here's a lengthy item, first posted at Designing for Civil  Society, about using a game to help teachers think about the use of Web 2.0 tools for e-learning. I think it is interesting for several reasons:

  • It produced a new set of cards around e-learning
  • I used some Approach cards to help people think about their design strategy
  • The idea of three journeys in developing systems gave me a clearer idea of how a game can be used right at the start, and then in the designing process

This is the story of how I began to discover the way Web 2.0 may change learning for college students, the three journeys involved in building online systems, and why a workshop game may be a mud map. Oh, and how the Open Innovation Exchange model may be the way to tie a lot of these things together.

I recently ran a workshop at a college that is planning to develop its online learning system to take in more Web 2.0 tools - blogs, wikis, social networking and the like. Instead of material being developed mainly centrally, the idea is to harness the increasing capacity of students to generate their own content, and learn in part through sharing with others in the college and elsewhere. It's what many already do in MySpace and other sites, learning as I am here.

PleThe key word is personalisation, and that means a big change for teachers, who become guides rather than instructors, as well as having to learn how to use a lot of new tools. It also presents a challenge to college management, who have to work through what it is acceptable for students to access and publish, and how potential employers will view this shift to more self-directed learning.

I was a bit anxious about running the session, because educational technology and e-learning is a huge field. I read the excellent edutech blogs of Ewan McIntosh and others, but there was no way - within time and budget - that I could research and develop a substantial presentation, or even invite in a co-presenter. I found a really useful explanation of the move from virtual learning environments and e-portfolios to personal learning environments by Ron Lubensky with a great little diagram. However I didn't feel confident about trying to translate that into the college situation, or pretending to be expert in something I'm not.

Cardfan-2Clearly the solution was to follow the general principle of open processes, and believe in the knowledge and commitment of the dozen staff coming to the event. In fact, to model what we were talking about, and create a framework within which people could add their own content to some initial material that I brought along.

I did that by modifying an earlier presentation that I had done on Web 2.0 for nonprofits, drawing on material from the socialmedia wiki, and creating a new game based on those Drew Mackie and I have developed over the past 10 years. You can find them here. They are all available for downloading, and further development, as I'm delighted to see the ever-inventive Beth Kanter is doing for documentary filmmakers.

I drew some additional inspiration (not for the first time) from the guys on the other side of the world at Anecdote. Shawn Callahan had written a piece about  Knowledge strategy - three journeys. It made me think that there were three stages for the college which mapped closely to theirs (which I summarise - do read the full post):

Three 20Journeys Small

The first journey is designed to help the organisation's leaders develop a common understanding of what they would like to achieve and defining this end-state in broad terms, while knowing that detailed plans are unlikely to be achieved (the world is too unpredictable for a simple, linear view).

The second journey involves the rest of the organisation (or a representative subset) planning how they will get to the desired state.

The third journey is when the organisation actually embarks on implementing the ideas developed in the first two imaginary journeys.

What we were doing in the workshop was just starting on the first journey. As Shawn says (with the diagram above):

We encourage the leadership group to develop a rough mud map of the journey from the current situation to this desired end state while resisting the urge to fill in the details. The staff fill in the details as part of the second journey.

Got it! Games as mud maps. (I'm supposing that means drawing maps in the mud .... )

We had three hours for the workshop, and it ran like this:

First, a presentation  to explain the session, a bit about Web 2.0, and the way that we were going to run the game. You should be able to see that here, but if not go to slideshare where you can view this pdf full screen and download. It includes the game cards. There's also a Powerpoint version without cards.

Second, a run of the game, which (almost) went like this, as you can see from the presentation (which I have amended slightly for this post):

  • Share our understanding of where the college, its students, staff and management are now, and then break into three groups each taking one of those perspectives.
  • Take the pack of game cards that represent three things: possible approaches, development activities, and system building activities.
  • Choose cards that will address the challenges you shared, within a budget of 15 points (development and building cards have 1,2, 3 points on each representing level of resource). Organise the cards in a way that enables you to describe to others what you are planning.
  • Then in each group develop a storyboard of what happens from your perspective - a student, teacher, manager - over the coming months and years.

Thirdly, share insights from that discussion, and consider what is needed to continue this first journey and to plan how to move to the second.

In practice we didn't have time for the storytelling, and so moved to the "what next", which will involve development of a first report and continuing discussion online with a wider group of staff.

I was running the workshop as part of my work with Steve Moore and Roy Charles of Policy Unplugged. Roy knows the college education scene well, and as well as providing all the introductions made sure in his contribution and guidance that we were rooted in the current policy, finance and political realities.

We suggested that one of the ways that the college might like to continue it's first journey, and move to the second, could be by creating an open co-design process, rather like that we've been running at the Open Innovation Exchange, using a Drupal-based multi-blog system developed by my son Dan.

In this instance the college preferred to use it's own system, but the discussion really highlighted for me the potential of the three-journey model, using games as mud maps and an open process online.

Phew, it took me a few hours to put this post together, and as so often I didn't really know what I wanted to say until I had written it. Now I understand. I guess that's personalised Web 2.0 learning.

Please feel free to use the game with acknowledgement, or let me know what you think of it. I would love to hear from anyone in this field interested in improving it.