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Saturday, June 07, 2008

We-Think Geography is going places...
Just read this book, and it is going to feature prominently in a lot of forthcoming projects that I will be involved with, and has already put a range of ideas in my head. Head over to AMAZON now and buy your own copy. Highly recommended.

The book has an interesting history. A draft of the book was placed online for people to edit and comment on. This took place back in 2006, and it has then been another 18 months until the book has emerged. It explores the growth of social innovation, and the power of mass collaboration to trigger innovation.

So far, so not-that-geography-related.

The trick is to relate this to the creation and sustaining of geography teacher networks, and the growth of geography projects which involve large numbers of teachers collaborating: something that I will be involved with full time from September.
There is a 5 stage process which is mentioned in the book (although the progression from one to the other isn't necessarily linear...) I think it relates quite nicely to the growth of sites such as the Staffordshire Learning Net forum for example, which is now one of the most important places for Geographers to visit.

The 5 principles can basically be summarised as:

CORE
CONTRIBUTIONS
CONNECTIONS
COLLABORATION
CREATIVITY

Although I've changed them a little. Creativity is the key idea really. I discussed some ideas relating to this on Saturday with some GA colleagues in some very early stages of preparing for 2009's GA Conference, and it was clear that we viewed creativity as an important SKILL for young people, and yet some approaches such as AfL perhaps constrain pupils too tightly, and LA filtering doesn't allow the use of websites which would allow some of these ideas to develop.

There is also a large reading list of sources at the end of the book which provides a whole range of interesting angles to head off in as well. These have already triggered an interest in following up on the following ideas:
  • Microsoft PhotoSynth, and ideas of looking at places from different viewpoints or angles - Flickr's look around idea...
  • Why do people contribute to networks and forums ?
  • The analogy of LEGO: although all the bricks are different shapes and colours, there is a modularity that allows them to fit together - what sort of modularity can we use to allow for teacher contributions to be assembled and collated in a way that allows them to grow into something even more useful...
  • The idea of having a Google Earth KML file with some coding already provided. Users would download this file, and edit it to reflect their own particular contribution, and then return it so that it could be added to an ever growing file of placemarks with images and information - or perhaps a 'chain' KML ?
  • The link with jobs such as teaching
Some interesting quotes:

"Careers have become more fragmented. A job is now a set of tasks rather than a craft demanding devotion. Leadership has become little more than bonus-driven performance management..."

"Any successful organisation must do 3 things well: it must motivate people to make the most effective contribution to the collective endeavour; must co-ordinate the contributions of many people to make sure the work gets done in the right order; and must innovate by encouraging people to learn and adapt."

"Good institutions...do not just serve people, but create capabilities in people, support initiative rather than supplant it." (Ivan Illich, 1972)

  • How do we make sure that the innovations we come up with are what the consumer wants ? - what about the concept of having "Use by" or "Best before" dates on case studies ? or textbooks ?
  • The question that should be asked at CPD at the start of the day: "What do YOU want ?"
  • The DORITOS Ad that was used in Superbowl 2007: User generated content - how could this be used in the geography classroom and beyond ? Students creating a record of fieldwork, or recording student presentations ?
  • Need to read up on the work of Edmund Phelps, and his views on consumption and innovation
  • pp.147-150 examines schools - this needs some thought...
  • Also mentions Ivan Illich, who I remember reading when doing my PGCE 20 odd years ago...
  • Work of sociologist Duncan Watts on social networking...



A YouTube video made available by Charles covers the basic points in the book succinctly, and in an engaging way...



Also Charles Leadbeater at TED talks...




Illustrations by Debbie Powell

Look forward to exploring some of these avenues further after the summer...
If you found what I said of interest and have something to add, please get in touch via comment below...

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