The Pattern Language Network

Taming web2.0 in Higher Education

Archive for the ‘notes from the field’ Category

The Story of the Planet Platform

Posted by yishaym on March 31, 2009

True to the dogfood principle, we now have a case study on the development of the Planet platform. An amazing tale on international mystery and intrigue. Well, maybe not – but if you’re working in a UK HE institure and thinking of launching an ambitious web2.0 project, you might find our experience informative.

Or, if you have been involved in a similar project, we would be curious to know: does this resonate with your experiece?

Its all there (in brief): the original plan, what went smoothly, what went wrong, and where we are at the end of the day. Enjoy!

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guest post from Martin Jones: sketches of a workshop

Posted by yishaym on January 13, 2009

Martin Jones and Maisie Platts joined us at the digital identities workshop last week. Martin and Maisie are illustrators, and they came to help us add a visual dimension to our stories – those we collect, as well as our observations from the workshop process. Martin has sent me some notes, and I’ve asked his permission to publish them here as a guest post:

Coffee was drunk standing up in groups in the foyer space, and online activities, texting etc took place sitting in the seminar room, where it was darker, and the rows of chairs made for a kind of anonimity

"Coffee was drunk standing up in groups in the foyer space, and online activities, texting etc took place sitting in the seminar room, where it was darker, and the rows of chairs made for a kind of anonimity"

My first observation, was that participants spontaneously occupied the two spaces available to them differently. Coffee was drunk standing up in groups in the foyer space, and online activities, texting etc took place sitting in the seminar room, where it was darker, and the rows of chairs made for a kind of anonymity. I think this observation was a result of a preconception of mine (screens as walls between real spaces) I didn’t manage to shake this preconception off all day, and it is reflected in a lot of the drawings.

As an artist, having groups of people who are cool with the idea of being drawn while they engage in a group activity was a great privilege. It picked up on a thread of work which I haven’t followed for quite some time – drawing crowds. I really enjoyed the challenge of working fast, and setting new challenges for myself along the way. i.e. sometimes drawing a scene that actually happened, sometimes drawing a scene that was being described, sometimes drawing a cartoon representation of the ideas being discussed.

sketches from the workshop.

sketches from the workshop.

The participants were very open to being drawn, and open to the idea that the process might be useful, even though I couldn’t come up with a short rational explanation of why it might be useful.

The fact that I joined in with the ‘draw three versions of yourself’ exercise meant that I thought of myself as part of the group I worked with first, although this was hard to sustain as my attention was divided with the drawing and moving to other groups.

3 faces game of identity game

"3 faces game of identity" game

I thought of myself as a ‘provoking’ presence, and also seized upon the work ‘lurker’ when it came up in one of the groups. I also drew Yishay and Steven as lurkers.

I think I came up with the idea of me being a provoking presence because I felt a slight frustration with the group for (as I saw it) resisting the idea of turning their contributions into anything that I would recognise as a story. They seemed much more interested in discussing the issues raised by the contributions in an open ended way. This I interpreted as evading the call to form a story because doing so would exclude all other ‘interesting’ avenues of discussion. I felt the call to form a story was the point of the workshop, not debating solutions. I didn’t express this directly, but attempted to ‘retell’ one of the contributions as a story such as one might see in a movie. This caused a slight pause among the participants, and they then returned to the discursive. No one picked this up by attempting to retell the story from their own imagination and experience, and I didn’t attempt this again (though I harboured the feeling that it would have been useful I had).

you cant be silent, theres no point in being there / why were they following me when I wasnt there

you can't be silent, there's no point in being there / why were they following me when I wasn't there? - Digital Identity Panic

I quite quickly started to imagine the workshop as an online community – potentially anyone could have walked in and joined in. People formed and reformed into little discussion groups. Everyone was very open with their opinions. I guess they were professional opinion-formers.

I was very taken with the idea of people only being partially or incompletely represented to each other online (it seemed as if there was a lot of desire to take control of this process, and a feeling of conflict that there was something wrong with the idea of controlling it – ie compromising what was good about the internet).

My drawings started to reflect this. I abandoned the idea that the drawing might represent the whole person, and concentrated only on single gestures, postures and groupings – along with representations of what was being said. I was conscious that sometimes my representations of what was being said was not necessarily true to the spirit of the speaker, but the slant of my listening. This added to my feeling of being a lurker.

The one exception to this was when one of the participants asked me to draw two situations their group had come up with to sum up the dilemma they were discussing (a pub and a sealed room). I felt very grateful to be asked to do something useful and achievable at this time of the day!

Lurking is important when engaging with new social platforms/services, especially when deciding what is a legitimate projection/use of identity. Space For Lurking

Martin Jones 12th Jan 09

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Organising Principle for Patterns.

Posted by johnrg on December 12, 2008

Jakki, Andrea and I made an attempt recently to map some of the patterns held on the Planet Wiki against the time and decision based organisational structure put forward by Sally Fincher. We had some success and we also encountered several issues. Particular areas of difficulty arose from:

  • working with a dynamic timeline
  • identifying disciplinary based decisions

We also made a number of observations including:

  • the same patterns could be applicable at different points along the time line
  • the same patterns could be applicable to differing group sizes
  • there are evident groupings of patterns e.g. communication and team working

What did we learn?

There was considerable discussion between the three of us about where to place some of the patterns on the diagram. Similarly our understanding of the timeline varied because of its circularity e.g. at what point are you making decisions based on student module evaluations is it at the end of the time line or the beginning.

As a result of this exercise a variant on the decision based organising principle was proposed based on the idea that designing learning experiences can be modelled as a life cycle and that this can be represented as phases that may be sequential and iterative.  Another factor in seeking to represent things in this way was the view presented by  Sally Fincher that however we seek to offer patterns to staff it must be as close as possible to what staff actually do otherwise they are unlikely to make use any outcomes from the project.

In looking at this mapping activity it rapidly became clear that the number of factors influencing decisions arose from pedagogic, operational and administrative considerations and that while there may be useful patterns to be mined from each of these areas we need to limit ourselves to pedagogic patterns for the purpose of this project.

Another observation made relates to ‘groupings’ of related patterns. Looking at Sally’s structure there are also ‘groupings’ evident in this e.g. classroom activities, evaluation, reflective, project work and so forth. It seems to us that one approach here would be seek to collate patterns into groups and to identify appropriate points in the ‘life-cycle’ of a learning experience where such groups may prove helpful to academic staff. Clearly we need to understand what groupings might prove useful and we would need to evaluate potential workflows of such staff to see how they actually go about designing, delivering and evaluating learning experiences.



We identify a few active and amenable members of staff to talk to about how they create student learning experiences. We should seek potentially useful points at which collections of patterns could be made available, what form this might take and also what patterns might prove useful.

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