Emergent Roadmap (Collected "What's Next" steps from Pattern Catalog)
PEERAGOGY. We intend to revise and extend the patterns and methods of peeragogy to make it a workable model for education.
ROADMAP. If we sense that something needs to change about the project, that is a clue that we might need to record a new pattern.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE. We’ve spun off the pattern catalog from the Peeragogy Handbook into this paper, sharing it with a new community and gaining new perspectives. Let’s look for other parts of the handbook we can spin off!
CARRYING CAPACITY. Making it easy and fruitful for others to get involved is one of the best ways to redistribute the load (compare the NEWCOMER pattern).
A SPECIFIC PROJECT. We need to build specific, tangible “what’s next” steps and connect them with concrete action. Use the SCRAPBOOK to organize that process.
WRAPPER. We have prototyped a visual “dashboard” that people can access to immediately get an idea of what work is ongoing in the project with links to ways to get further engaged. Let’s deploy it.
HEARTBEAT. Identifying and fostering new HEARTBEATS and new working groups is a task that can help make the community more robust. This is the temporal dimension of spin off projects described in USE OR MAKE .
NEWCOMER. A more detailed (but non-limiting) “How to Get Involved” walk-through in text or video form would be good to develop. We can start by listing some of the things we’re currently learning about, including: business issues relevant to the Peeragogy project, how to run a MOOC, and hot-syncing our website from Git.
SCRAPBOOK. After significantly pruning back the pattern catalog, we want it to grow again: new patterns are needed. Reviewing the contents of the SCRAPBOOK will be one place to look for inspiration, but there are many others.
Outstanding Issues and Problems
Need to set clear goals
Let's use this Scrapbook to create a list of targets, like we were doing with the Google Doc we successfully used to manage our publication targets.
Questions and Answers
Can we create an updated list of useful resources for the handbook?
We had a talk about resources, can we classify or collect resources for others to do. We have a lot of material can we decide a place to put them. E.g. on the site.
Let's create a typology, and all of us can add resources - not just books but videos, images, projects, technology, etc. We can use this to revise our "Use or Make" pattern. As a good start, Charlotte has been maintaining a spreadsheet under the heading "survey" in the drive.
What happened to the idea of the DIY tool-kit?
Amanda made some drawings - and we didn't include these in the workbook yet, but we will. Note that workbook is not currently a good fit for the Wikimedia Commons. And its evolution is in a somewhat disorganized state, but no more than the Handbook. We seem to have reached critical levels of complexity in our workflow, although we have also managed to get some things done.
Can we create a unified visual identity for the handbook?
Amanda has all the components for a cover together - some work with inDesign between Amanda and Charlotte could go well to assemble them. A more large-scale visual design would be a good goal for Version 4; note that illustrating is different from doing the full design for a book or the website. There are agencies that specialize in "branding" and we could at least get a start here, for example trademarking & license "Peeragogy". As for paying professionals, probably not right now, although we do have some physical thing we can SELL to get cash, but we need to take the book to conferences, be there to sell it & market it.
How to solve the bottle-neck problem for the next edition (should we learn to use LaTeX and Github?)
We can upload the whole handbook to Authorea + Github for editing. This has the advantage that we can work directly in LaTeX and will not need to reformat things for print. We can convert from LaTeX to Markdown and HTML, rather than the other way around, and push that to the web automatically using Github pages, or something similar to Github pages.
People have not been actively updating the Wordpress, so becoming more open/accessible to contributions would be a good step. And, again, when we compile this to print we produce an actual handbook that we can sell. A profoundly awesome website can come a bit later.
- Use "Open Broadcasting Software" or similar to create screen recordings that offer tutorials for contributions
Translations: Paola is willing to pay someone to help me with the Spanish translation of the 3.0 version, once it is finalised. Wouldn't it be good if the project should pay for this?
What Paola wants to have is a real handbook that teachers can use in workshops or on their own, to write in, to think through issues, etc. This is why the DIY kit needs to be incorporated into the handbook. The result would be easy to sell. For example, she is going to Ecuador to give 2 workshops. A workbook or handbook could be sold there -- but it would need to something more usable than what we have now. So she can say, "let's answer this question, you have 5 minutes" We need: something that people can use, handle by themselves, take with them, etc.
The workbook that we created goes in that direction, but Amanda's DIY Toolkit goes further. In addition to including this in the workbook, there are bulleted lists and other things in the handbook that can be made more interactive. That would be a good thing to focus on for version 4 of the book.
One technique is to turn "statements" from the handbook into "questions". For example, Paola and Amanda did this in order to generate ideas for drawings. Others might do it in a different way, but that exercise was really useful. Amanda was asking: "how to express this idea in a question?" That would be useful for the teachers Paola will be working with.
In short: If we really make the handbook useful, then it will be no problem to sell copies. That will give us money to cover future expenses.
Next steps? What's the future of the project?
Possibly doing a regular weekly or monthly hangout for "project management" considerations.
Retired, Partial, and Proto Patterns
Discerning a pattern
Discerning patterns helps us build our vocabulary or repertoire for peer-learning projects. (The classic example of an architectural pattern is “A place to wait” – a type of space found in many architectural and urban design projects.)
We might notice an underlying pattern if something repeats, and if we’re paying attention. However, unless we make a record of the patterns we notice, others cannot and will not learn from our experience, and with time, we’ll forget what we learned.
Writing down patterns achieves at least two things: it helps us pay attention and notice patterns in the first place, and it provides a concrete summary of collective experience that is relatively easy for others to engage with and extend. Once a pattern is detected, give it a title and write down how the pattern works.
People may not be in the habit of writing down patterns that they observe, and they are not likely to do it if the task is not made easy and painless. Some projects that use the design pattern methodology have developed detailed templates to gather information, but this then needs to be processed by experts. We’ve tried to use a simple template that is not much different from what you’d find in any short textual abstract, to help make it easy to contribute new patterns. Understanding how a given pattern relates to other patterns already listed in in the catalog – or to the wider context – is not something that can be easily encapsulated with templates. But it is still well worth trying to express.
What do the patterns we’ve observed say about the self-selection processes of the group? For instance, it’s possible that a widespread interest in organic gardening, say, may indicate the participants are oriented to cooperation, personal health, or environmental activism. What can we learn about the Peeragogy project from our collected patterns?
Polling for ideas
Polling for Ideas can happen at many junctures in a peer learning experience. We could poll for ideas like “what’s missing?”, “who might like to join our group?”, and “what are the right tools and resources for us to use at this point?”
We recognize that we don’t always know the answers in advance – particularly if we’re trying to come up with an answer that satisfies other people.
Others might have an important or useful idea. Even if all you can supply is the question and a context for discussion, they may be willing to contribute these answers.
In the Peeragogy in Action Google+ community, and in our earlier Social Media Classroom forum, both of which have been open to any suggestion at all, we’ve many different ideas appear and then roll by without being catalogued. When you have too much data, it can be necessary to take separate steps to organize it. At the other end of the spectrum, people don’t always respond to surveys, and you can end up with less data than you’d like.
We’ve considered asking new members of the project to do an “entry survey” as part of joining the project, to describe their aims and understanding of what they hope to contribute. This could establish a context of contribution, and help new members to feel like full “peers”.
Moderation seems to have a double meaning: there’s moderation as in moderation in all things and moderation as in keeping a discussion going smoothly. Actually, both of them are about the same thing.
Participation in online forums tends to follow a “power law,” with vastly unequal engagement.
If you want to counteract this tendency, one possibility would simply be for the most active participants to step back, and moderate how much they speak. This is related the the Carrying Capacity pattern and the Misunderstanding Power anti-pattern: check those out before you proceed.
In a distributed project, there are many side-conversations, and it is impossible (and would be undesirable) for any one person to moderate all of them. The difficulty occurs if one of these conversations becomes uncomfortable for one or more participants, for whatever reason. Rather than depending on one central moderator, it’s useful for everyone in the project to be aware of the principles underlying effective moderation, and apply them together even in small side-projects.
We recently ran a Paragogical Action Review to elicit feedback from participants in the Peeragogy project. Some of them brought up dissatisfactions, and some of them brought up confusion. Can we find ways to bring these concerns front-and-center, without embarrassing the people who brought them up?
Educational interactions tend to have a number of different roles associated with them. Everything could bifurcate from the “autodidact”, as in, (1) Autodidact, (2) Tutor-Tutee, (3) Tutor-Tutee-Peer, etc., until we have bursars, librarians, technicians, janitors, editors of peer reviewed research journals, government policy makers, spin-off industrial ventures and partnerships, and so on.
Even the autodidact may assume different roles at different points in time - sometimes building a library, sometimes constructing a model, sometimes checking a proof. The decomposition of “learning” into different phases or polarities could be an endless theoretical task. The simpler problem is to be aware of the roles that you and your teammates have in the projects you’re working on.
We’ve described some exercises on “metacognition” that you can apply when thinking about the roles that you’re taking on and those that you’d like to take on in your project.
Roles are often present “by default” at the start of a learning process, and that they may change as the process develops. Both of these features can be challenging, but they also present learning opportunities.
We’ve listed some of the roles for which we’re seeking volunteers in the Peeragogy.org Roadmap: Volunteer Coordinator, Seminar Coordinator, Usability Guru, Activities Master, and Tech lead. As with everything else in the roadmap, this list should be reviewed and revised regularly, as the roles are understood relative to the actual happenings in the Peeragogy project.
Many projects that are ostensibly oriented towards “the commons” nevertheless want to funnel participants into “their way” of thinking about things. Be careful with that, it’s a slippery slope to total isolation.
This problem is actually dual: with a too-narrow focus, collaboration is impossible. However, with an overly-wide focus, things are chaotic in other ways.
Félix Guattari: Imagine a fenced field in which there are horses wearing adjustable blinkers, and let’s say that the “coefficient of transversality” will be precisely the adjustment of the blinkers. If the horses are completely blind, a certain kind of traumatic encounter will be produced. As soon as the blinkers are opened, one can imagine that the horses will move about in a more harmonious way. (Quoted by Andrew Murphy, himself quoting Gary Genosko)
Like the underlying problem, the solution is has two sides to it: you can avoid isolation by becoming highly transversal – or avoid noise and chaos by blinkering yourself and shutting out other things.
The challenge, of course, is that it’s hard not to over-correct. The moderate interpretation of the quote is that it’s good to be open, but not too open. We need to allow for uncertainty, but not be completely vague. Not so easy. (See also: Navel Gazing.)
We recently submitted an abstract called “Escape from Peeragogy Island” to a geography conference talking about the spatiality of peer production. The idea behind this article is that we feel like we’ve come up with something great with the Peeragogy project, but we’re going to be a bit isolated if it’s not transparently useful to others. If we can’t explain why it’s a great idea, then it’s not entirely clear how great of an idea it actually is.
While we could imagine an ideal information processing system that would (magically) come with all solutions pre-built, a more realistic approach recognizes that real problem solving always takes time and energy.
Given a difficult problem, we usually want to take a shortcut.
Magical thinking robs a context of its “process” or “motion”. The more completely we fall back on “traditional” modes of doing things (including magical ones) the less we stand to learn. It’s also true that traditions and habits can serve a useful function: they can massively simplify and streamline, and adopting some healthy habits can free up time and energy, making learning possible. But if we try something new and imagine that things work the way they always have (e.g. sign up for a course and get told what to do, then do it and pass), we can run into trouble when the situation doesn’t match our preconceptions.
Joe Corneli’s 2011 DIY Math course at P2PU went quite badly. Students signed up hoping to learn mathematics, but none of them had very concrete goals about what to learn, or very developed knowledge about how to study this subject. This was what the class was supposed to help teach. However, it seemed as if the students felt that signing up for the course would “magically” give them the structure they needed. Still, it’s not as if the blame can be placed entirely on the students in this case. Building a learning space with no particular structure and saying, “go forth and self-organize!” is not likely to work, either. The one saving grace of DIY Math is that the course post-mortem informed the development of the paragogy principles (see page ): it was not a mistake we would repeat again.
If we already “knew”, 100%, how to do peeragogy, then we would not stand to learn very much by writing this handbook. Difficulties and tensions would be resolved “in advance”. We know this, but readers may still expect “easy answers”.
Fast-forwarding a few years from the DIY Math experiment: as part of the PlanetMath project, we are hoping to build a well-thought-through example of a peer learning space for mathematics. One of the ideas we’re exploring is to use patterns and antipatterns (exactly like the ones in this catalog) as a way not only of designing a learning space, but also of talking about the difficulties that people frequently run into when studying mathematics. Building an initial collection of Calculus Patterns may help give people the guide-posts they need to start effectively self-organizing.
Messy with Lurkers
Gigi Johnson: (1) Co-learning is Messy. It needs time, patience, confusion, re-forming, re-norming, re-storming, etc. Things go awry and part of norms needs to be how to realign. (2) Co-learning is a VERY different experience from traditional teacher-led learning in terms of time and completion. It is frustrating, so many people will lurk or just step in and out, the latter of which is very different from what is acceptable in traditonal learning. Online learning programs are painted with the brush now of an “unacceptable” 50% average non-completion rate. Stanford’s MOOC AI class, which started out with +100,000 people, had 12% finish. If only 12% or 50% of my traditional class finished, I’d have a hard time getting next quarter’s classes approved!
Tomlinson et al.: More authors means more content, but also more words thrown away. Many of the words written by authors were deleted during the ongoing editing process. The sheer mass of deleted words might raise the question of whether authoring a paper in such a massively distributed fashion is efficient.
People have to join in order to try, and when joining is low-cost, and completion low-benefit, it is not surprising that many people will “dissipate” as the course progresses. The “messiness” of co-learning is interesting because it points to a sort of “internal dissipation”, as contributors bring their multiple different backgrounds, interests, and communication styles to bear.
If we were to describe this situation in the traditional subject/object, sender/receiver terms of information theory, we would say that peer production has a “low signal to noise ratio”, and we would tend to think of it as a highly inefficient process. However, it may be more appropriate (and constructive) to think of meanings as co-constructed as the process runs, and of messiness (or meaninglessness) as symptomatic, not of peer production itself, but of deficiencies or infelicities in shared meaning-making and “integrating” features.
What comes out of thinking about the anti-pattern is that we need to be careful about how we think about “virtues” in a peer production setting. It is not just a question of being a “good contributor” to an existing project, but of continually improving the methods that this project uses to make meaning.
- Tomlinson, B., Ross, J., André, P., Baumer, E.P.S., Patterson, D.J., Corneli, J., Mahaux, M., Nobarany, S., Lazzari, M., Penzenstadler, B., Torrance, A.W., Callele, D.J., Olson, G.M., Silberman, M.S., Ständer, M., Palamedi, F.R., Salah, A., Morrill, E., Franch, X., Mueller, F., Kaye, J., Black, R.W., Cohn, M.L., Shih, P.C., Brewer, J., Goyal, N., Näkki, P., Huang, J., Baghaei, N., and Saper, C., Massively Distributed Authorship of Academic Papers, Proceedings of Alt.Chi, Austin Texas, May 5–10 2012 (10 page extended abstract), ACM, 2012,
- Yochai Benkler, and Helen Nissenbaum (2006). “Commons-based Peer Production and Virtue.” Journal of Political Philosophy 14.4 : 394-419.
- Paul Kockelman (2010). “Enemies, parasites, and noise: How to take up residence in a system without becoming a term in it” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 20.2: 406-421
Wikipedia: Zipf’s law states that given some corpus of natural language utterances, the frequency of any word is inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table. Thus the most frequent word will occur approximately twice as often as the second most frequent word, three times as often as the third most frequent word, etc. 
Related formulations, called power laws, model the size of cities, and describe energy use in animals and social network effects. Creativity and other social network effects – like crime – are more prevalant in large cities. Power laws also describe the forces governing online participation. But it is easy to forget this.
How many times have we been at a conference or workshop and heard someone say (or said ourselves) “wouldn’t it be great if this energy could be sustained all year ’round?” Or in a classroom or peer production setting, wondered why it is that everyone does not participate equally. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could increase participation?” But participation in a given population will fall off according to some power law (see Introduction to Power Laws in The Uncertainty Principle, Volume II, Issue 3). It would be an illusion to assume that everyone is coming from a similar place with regard to the various literacies and motivations that are conducive to participation.
It can be tempting to adopt a “provisionist” attitude, and say: “If we change our system we will equalize participation and access.”
Power laws are an inherent epiphenomenon of network flows. If you can adjust the way the way the network is shaped, for example, through moderatation, then you may be able to change the “exponent” in the power law. But even so, “equality” remains a largely abstract notion. Note, also, that participation in a given activity tends to fall off over time. It’s easy to imagine writing a hit song or a best selling novel, but hard to pull this off, because it takes sustained effort over time. See the anti-pattern Magical Thinking.
As Paul Graham wrote about programming languages – programmers are typically “satisfied with whatever language they happen to use, because it dictates the way they think about programs” – so too are people often “satisfied” with their social environments, because these tend to dictate the way they think and act in life. Nevertheless, if we put our minds to it, we can become more “literate” in the patterns that make up our world and the ways we can effect change.
The difficulty breaks down like this:
- Certainly we cannot get things done just by talking about them.
- And yet, feedback can be useful, i.e., if there are mechanisms for responding to it in a useful fashion.
- The associated anti-pattern is a special case of the prototypical Batesonian double bind, “the father who says to his son: go ahead, criticize me, but strongly hints that all effective criticism will be very unwelcome” , p. 88.
Criticism is not always useful. Sometimes it is just “noise”.
It’s tempting to create “open” systems that inadvertantly replicate the double bind – by being open to criticism, but unable to act on it effectively.
A long list of criticisms that haven’t been dealt with is maybe better than no communication at all, but it’s also a tell-tale sign of deeper dissatisfaction. It’s better to make sure you have enough bandwidth (see Carrying Capacity) for dealing with a given class of problems and issues. Adjust your focus accordingly, but be careful (see “Isolation”).
We have hinted that, in this project, effective criticism is very welcome! But understanding what makes criticism effective is, in general, still a research problem.
- Deleuze, G., and Guattari, F. (2004). Anti-oedipus. Continuum International Publishing Group.
Actually, living beings are never really in stasis. It just sometimes feels that way. Other anti-patterns like Isolation and Navel Gazing have described different aspects of the experience of feeling like one is in stasis. Typically, what is happening in such a case is that one or more dimensions of life are moving very slowly.
When important things are moving slowly or not at all, and when they are mostly or entirely out of your control, this can be frustrating.
It’s tempting in this case just to be upset and to feel disempowered.
We were not able to get programming support to improve the first version of the Social Media Classroom, since all developer energy was allocated to the next version of the system. It becomes frustrating if a specific small feature is desired, but unavailable.
Of course, it’s very unpleasant to be frustrated all the time. The hint to pick up is that there is always some dimension on which you can make progress. It might not be the same one you’ve been working on – you might have “over-harvested” that niche (see Carrying Capacity).
We’re working on a new handbook chapter about the relationship of open source software and peeragogy. This will include some more specific ideas about ways of making change.
Stuck at the level of weak ties
Knowing how to make good use of “weak ties” is often seen as a “personal strength”.
Nancy Darling: When we need a big favor or social or instrumental support, we ask our friends. We call them when we need to move a washing machine. But if we need information that we don’t have, the people to ask are our weak ties. They have more diverse knowledge and more diverse ties than our close friends do. We ask them when we want to know who to hire to install our washing machine. 
The question is less to do with whether we are forming weak ties or strong ties. We can be “peers” in either a weak or a strong sense. The question to ask is whether our needs match our expectations!
In the peeragogy context, this has to do with how we interact.
One of us: I am learning about peeragogy, but I think I’m failing to be a good peeragogue. I remember that Howard once told us that the most important thing is that you should be responsible not only for your own learning but for your peers’ learning. […] So the question is, are we learning from others by ourselves or are we helping others to learn?
If we are “only” co-consumers of information then this seems like a classic example of a weak tie. We are part of the an “audience”.
Perhaps especially in an online, mediated, context, it is possible to stay at the level of “weak ties.” (Cf. Isolation.)
This strategy reveals its problems directly, if you ever need help moving your washing machine.
If we are actively engaging with other people, then this is a foundation for strong ties. In this case of deep learning, our aims are neither instrumental nor informational, but “interactional”. Incidentally, the “One of us” quoted above has been one of the most consistently engaged peeragogues over the years of the project. Showing up is a good step – you can always help someone else move their washing machine!
Nancy Darling (2010). Facebook and the Strength of Weak Ties, Psychology Today.
- ↑ Near the start of the project, Howard suggested that we use the forum categories he set up, but opened the floor to other ideas, in this way: “At the beginning, until we all know the ropes well enough to understand when to create a new discussion forum topic and when to add to an existing one, let’s talk in this topic thread about what else we want to discuss and I will start new topic threads when necessary.”
- ↑ Occupy Wall Street used a technique that they called the “progressive stack.” There are lots of other strategies to try.