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the proposal revisited - Some current thoughts.

Sunday, 14 January 2007
Enquire
Let's quickly deal with infrastructure first. I have done little work to develop the 'enquire' element of the proposal as I have found that my idea of network infrastructure (the structure that facilitates better links and communications between parts of the network up to and including people as the 'endpoints' in this context) and infrastructure, the legacy militaristic and narrow definition that appears to be favoured by my 'chain of command'.

infrastructure
1927, from Fr. (1875), from infra- (q.v.) + structure. The installations that form the basis for any operation or system. Originally in a military sense.

Interestingly, Wikipedia claims that the word infrastructure was used to refer primarily to military installation throughout the first half of the 20th century and that:

That public-policy discussion was hampered by lack of a precise definition for infrastructure. A U. S. National Research Council (NRC) committee cited Senator Stafford, who commented at hearings before the Subcommittee on Water Resources, Transportation, and Infrastructure; Committee on Environment and Public Works; that “probably the word infrastructure means different things to different people." The NRC panel then sought to rectify the situation by adopting the term "public works infrastructure," referring to "...both specific functional modes--highways, streets, roads, and bridges; mass transit; airports and airways; water supply and water resources; wastewater management; solid-waste treatment and disposal; electric power generation and transmission; telecommunications; and hazardous waste management--and the combined system these modal elements comprise. A comprehension of infrastructure spans not only these public works facilities, but also the operating procedures, management practices, and development policies that interact together with societal demand and the physical world to facilitate the transport of people and goods, provision of water for drinking and a variety of other uses, safe disposal of society's waste products, provision of energy where it is needed, and transmission of information within and between communities." (Infrastructure for the 21st Century, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1987)

I think that it's fair to say that the meaning of infrastructure is still contested in the context that I have been operating in. Any development of 'service desk' or advice funtions will need to be absorbed within the other elements of the proposal.

Sandbox

I have started to sketch out a few ideas for the content of a webcentric ICT training program and it can be found here. I have not had much time to devote much time to it, (in fact it's barely gone beyond adding in the odd link that might be of relevance to a topic yet) probably the most developed page currently is the one that is about blogs. As I was working on it I realised that it was important to place these 'web 2.0' activities in a more historical context and rather than try and write everything there was to know about blogs, try and just give myself the crib notes to run a blogs101 session and be aware that under the collaborative working section of the wiki that I was likely to explain wikis and suggest as a task for the learners that they went off and created some content, either on this wiki, wikipedia or any other wiki that took their fancy and drew their attention to the differing licences of different wikis.

you are here
I have been doing a lot of thinking about this element. Although I designed each element of the original proposal with a large degree of feasibility and adaptability in terms of context (within a local authority or non-profit company) , audience (primary school teachers, adult trainees, self selected) and contribute rs (adult learners, young people etc) it's the element that I have talked about least. Partly, this is because as it is essentially an art project, I don't want to narrow the possible outcomes. But realistically, it is also a project and a project must also have an end date so I see this as running as a three year project.

The use of existing tools is a key element here. We don't have to reinvent the wheel. This is not a technology project, it is a creative project. Since writing the original outline Elggspaces have launched which might provide a good structure for this element, however I am still at a bit of a loss as to how to handle the Welsh language issue of what I hope to be a Welsh project.

I am Welsh, but monoglot. As far as I know, there is no translation for the Elgg platform underway and even if there was, I'm not sure it would be appropriate to separate out the Welsh contributions from the English ones as that would mean making the access to Welsh language postings that are largely visual less accessible to English speaking readers and vice versa. It would kind of defeat the object of seeing a variety of views of what is in effect people's sense of place. My preference would be to use a hosted Elggspace as that would reduce project costs enormously but I am open to suggestions on this.

The project is about the creation of content, creative content, not technology. Sir Ken Robinson talks about creativity and Education. He tells a story about Gillian Lynne. He asked her how she got into dance. She told him the story of how she was 'hopeless' at school, and just couldn't stop fidgeting. The school wrote to her parents and she was taken to see a specialist. He spoke with her mother for about twenty minutes and then said that he needed to discuss this in private with her mother. He switched on the radio as they left the room, immediately Gillian started moving to the music and they watched her through the open door. The specialist turned to her mother and pronounced her not sick, but a dancer and instructed her to take her to dance lessons. She described the thrill of going to her first dance class where she was just like everyone else, she was among people like her who had to move to think. She became a very successful dancer and choreographer, her work included Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.

He then went on to say that today, it would be quite likely that she would be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and be given drugs and be told to sit still. He states that we have an education system that is 'educating people out of their creative capacities' and contends that 'we do not grow into creativity, we get educated out of it'. He defines creativity as 'the process of having original ideas that have value'. He is absolutely right, how can we expect people to innovate and become a 'learning country' and a 'knowledge economy' when the whole idea of 'being creative' is used as a common but euphemistic insult for non conformity, for people who think differently? We *say* that we value creativity but in reality we often try and tame it and put it back in a box because new ideas, if implemented, lead to change and people often dislike change.

Technology is change. It changes how we are able to accomplish tasks, it changes our material world, it also changes us.

I the 3 years that I have been visiting schools in Carmarthen, it became impossible to ignore just how much a lot of the primary school teachers that I met disliked/feared/mistrusted and resented the computers in their classrooms.

Although my original intended audience for this project is primary school teachers, this is kept deliberately flexible. When I studied humanities at the Polytechnic of Wales in the early 1990s the course has a very high proportion of mature students. It was compulsory to take a course of study in either painting, ceramics or drama. Many of my fellow students were apprehensive about being expected to be creative, many of them said things like, 'oh I tried pottery once and enjoyed it, but I wasn't very good,' or 'my art teacher told me that I was rubbish at art'. I felt the outsider in this, I had always been encouraged in art, I was lucky in that way, but unlucky in that my insecurities were more, academic.

All the younger boys in my family have since been diagnosed as dyslexic and have had their special needs recognised. My sister and I flew under the radar before the boys. Although my sister was bright, she failed her SRN (a higher nursing qualification) 3 times on the language, and I just assumed that I was pretty thick for always having lots of red scars covering my marked essays, an inability to read out loud, no aptitude for other languages and difficulty with remembering numbers and my right from my left. Might I have been dyslexic?

My ideal would be to first start to populate the space with contributions from the creative community. I want painters, potters, poets and musicians to blog (they don't have to blog directly in the Elggspace, RSS feeds can be imported) and contribute media about their artistic process and their interpretation of their sense of place. Many creative artists I know are not comfortable with using technology so there could be an additional benefit here, this project is about finding ways to be creative with technology. I think we also need to bring in Museums and Libraries and have contributions from people who work there about how they interpret their own 'sense of place'.

And then we bring in the contributors. Those already in education may have additional support from their sandbox trained tutors/teachers but I think it is also important to have some informal element of support within the main project space as I think that it is important to make it possible for learners outside an institutional context (maybe parents) to feel able to contribute and to have some help to do so.

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I'm utilly From Wales, United Kingdom 'beyond utility' used to be my maker's mark. The pots that I made back then were pretty anti-utilitarian, so naturally I stamped the bottom of them 'beyond utility'.
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