Emergence, improvisation and course design

The last couple of weeks have been a bit hectic. The next few will likely be the same. But it’s also been a productive type of hectic. Lots of tasks and activities generating ad hoc connections and mixing of concepts and ideas. Mostly (but not entirely) it’s been the NGL course generating the interesting connections. Anne’s highlighting of this quote from Anderson is just one example

Technology is the music setting the tempo, the beat, the timbre and the compelling melodies. The pedagogy defines the choreography, directing the dancers sweeping motions, graceful extension and enduring embraces. Together technology and pedagogy reveal and develop our human creativity and responsiveness and allow us to effectively and enjoyably.

As I engage with the course and its participants a range of new connections between what we’re reading/doing and my own thinking are being created. Reinforcing some perspectives, lessening others. For example, the concept of “big up front design” as an approach to teaching. The NGL course is starting to take a much more interesting turn as the course progresses than I could have pre-planned. There are signs that this is only going to increase as some of the other very knowledgeable (and different) students engage more in the course. I expect to learn a lot.

Yesterday, while sitting beside the pool while Messers 9 and 7 were doing the swimming thing, I was giving some thought to the criteria for the assessment for NGL (yes, thinking hasn’t evolved beyond that idea just yet). The prior version of this course made use of the SOLO taxonomy as one informing lens. Without Internet access while poolside I used Spotlight to search my Mac and turned up Starkey (2011) as a PDF on my hard drive. A quick skim and it seems fairly appropriate (more on that soon).

This afternoon a quick Google scholar search was undertaken to see if any subsequent work has built on this work about evaluating 21st century learning. While I didn’t find that I did find Dillon et al (2013) which is most interesting because of its mention of improvisation (rather than the use of micro-blogs). Improvisation, bricolage etc are all increasingly of interest to me as I’m struggling with the limitations of “big up front design” as experienced as part of being a member of a large organisation. Not to mention the thought that with something like NGL, but also increasingly other courses in this “network age”, that improvisation/bricolage/emergence etc are a much more useful set of practices than traditional approaches. However, because they are so different from previous practices, they are challenging. Especially for those of us who have been successful under the old assumptions.

I wonder how much any difference in the experience of students in NGL is due to their different perceptions and preparedness for bricolage? How could you tell? What are those differences? How can you create an environment that prepares and enables folk to engage in bricolage? Is this “bricolage” all that different from aspects of constructivism, situated learning etc?

I’m particularly interested in exploring the interplay between the structure of the environment and the agency/fluency/literacy influences all of this.


Dillon, P., Wang, R., Vesisenaho, M., Valtonen, T., & Havu-Nuutinen, S. (2013). Using technology to open up learning and teaching through improvisation: Case studies with micro-blogs and short message service communications. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 10, 13–22. doi:10.1016/j.tsc.2013.06.001

Starkey, L. (2011). Evaluating learning in the 21st century: a digital age learning matrix. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, (February 2013), 37–41. doi:10.1080/1475939X.2011.554021

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