Footprints of Emergence in CPsquare

We had a great discussion about our recent paper Footprints of Emergence  in CPsquare’s Research and Dissertations Series of presentations last night. By we I mean, Roy Williams, Simone Gumtau and myself and by CPsquare I mean the community of practice on communities of practice.

We had some technical difficulties in getting connected and we were small in number, but if ever there was proof that ‘small is beautiful’ in terms of quality of discussion, it was in last night’s discussion.

Some interesting points came out of the discussion.

Our footprints (see diagram below) could be interpreted at first glance as ‘flat’ and static – a bit like a map. Our paper explains that the opposite is in fact the case, but a dynamic, evolving, adaptive 3D footprint is very difficult to depict without the correct software. This is something we are looking into, but personally don’t have the skills to develop – maybe I am just speaking for myself 🙂

Example of a Footprint

Each footprint is a ‘snapshot’ in time. This was so well observed and noted by John Smith (Community Steward of CPsquare). ‘Snapshot’ describes it so well.  They are also snapshots from an individual, or specific group perspective. John said ‘emergence is in the eye of the beholder’. So true.

The footprints can be drawn prospectively and/or retrospectively, dependent on the context and purpose and we discussed a variety of ways in which the footprints have already been used and the case studies we have published in the paper.

The footprints are about the balance to be achieved between prescriptive and emergent learning. We are definitely not saying that in any given learning environment ‘emergent’ is right and ‘prescriptive’ is wrong, or vice versa.

It is difficult to determine exactly where on the footprints the points should lie at any point in time. In determining this we are very aware that the very next day, next hour, we might place them differently. The value is in the discussion or thinking about where to place them.

John contributed an interesting perspective from his reading of Barry Boyce and James Gimian, The Rules of Victory: How to Transform Chaos and Conflict–Strategies from The Art of War (Boston & London: Shambhala, 2009).  and thought that ‘the strange produces the conventional and vice versa’ and that many of the metaphors and issues from the book can be brought over to the same issues that we are discussing in relation to emergent learning. We definitely need to explore this further.

And right at the end of the discussion, the issue of ‘awareness’ was raised. As Roy put it … a possible ‘scenario is that as more people draw more footprints, and they become more ‘aware’ of the dynamics, they are less able to interact with (or in) full ‘awareness’.  This takes us into a whole new realm of discussion for me, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.

But in the meantime – Roy has set up a wiki for further discussion. If you are interested in our footprints framework and would like to contribute a footprint to the wiki, Roy, Simone and I would love to hear from you.

And Roy, Simone and I have decided that our tag for discussions related to this on Twitter, blogs or elsewhere will be #emergentlearning

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