Thursday, February 08, 2007

Formats and Comfort Zones

In a recent discussion (with Jay) the issue arose as to the format that we need to use to create good learning and neworking spaces. Jay's suggestion was to combine discussion forums, online conferencing, and KM tools (like freemind). This was my response, which raises two related issues:

1) what range of formats do we have available, and
2) how can we align these options to the comfort zones of our users?

Here's my response......

Much of the discussion on what "web2" is about, and should be about focuses on what the 'point of engagement' or format, or 'portal' should be.

[Its actually moved a lot further than 'portal' as its far more participatory - see e.g. the Guardian's Columnist pages, which, in the online Guardian (Unlimited) are presented as blog-type pages, and elicity huge amounts of comment within hours of publication (often by the same 'usual suspects, but still)].

The options for format are something like:

1. VLE - really a content management and student record management site, with a few discussions and chat bolted on.

2. Websites - the current one for this course (Flxs 1) is morphing from 'just' a website into more of a social software, web2 kind of site.

3. Full-on social software, like mysite, etc, which are essentially what in my neck of the woods are called Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) sites, which would link back to particular learning space. In other words, the personal space contains links within it to learning spaces, and not vice versa.

4. The merging (mashing?) of PKM and a range of CoPractice and CoInquiry (these can be different or much the same thing.

and ...

As a designer, you also need to take into account things like ...

1. Simplicity and elegance (See John's posting elsewhere)

2. The comfort zone of the user - which differs across very different comfort zones - you have to take into account that different groups of learners have different learning curves to master, and if the learning curve of the format itself is too steep, its not an affordance, its a pain in the neck:

2.1 Email is OK, but the touch typing is still a distant ideal
2.2 Discussion boards and chat are OK, but a large amount of serial-book-like presentation, formatting and sequencing is needed (Content management in VLE 'courses')
2.3 Website formats are comfortable, and even preferred (learning spaces and workshops).
2.4 Social software PKM or just "Personal Space Management" (PSM??) (Web2).
2.5 "Web3". which is Web2 + CoP + CoI.

[This has to go much further than the the 'digital virgin/native/etc' discussion].

My own preference is to move rather surreptitiously from 2.3 to 2.4 and 2.5, and to avoid 2.2 like the plague.

What categories, flow charts, progressions, are you using to 'frame' where you think we (as designers and providers) and the learners (includes us) should be?


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