Tales of openness and serendipity: a full throated cry for help…

Spontaneous Connections, originally uploaded by cogdogblog.

I’m finishing off a short paper, but before I submit it I feel I need to incorporate some additional real-world examples that demonstrate how the power of openness combined with network effects can result in surprising and serendipitous outcomes. Readers of this blog will recognise some of the examples I intend to point to:

I have this uncanny sense that I should be able to rattle off dozens of examples of this sort of thing, but for a multitude of reasons my brain is functioning at a very low level. I intend to revisit Levine and Alexander’s EDUCAUSE Review piece on Web 2.0 storytelling, not to mention examples of the genre posted on Dr. Alexander’s blog.

I’d be grateful for any examples that might come to your mind, especially if you’ve already blogged about it (so I can reference you). And I’m particularly keen to find examples that involve student learning.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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10 Responses to Tales of openness and serendipity: a full throated cry for help…

  1. D'Arcy Norman says:

    How about an undergrad group term paper authored and published in a wiki, picked up by Digg, and getting over 65000 views on the page before the semester was over?

  2. Tom says:

    This is relatively minor but was transformational for our class and school.

    We had 8th graders reading Richard III. They were responding to Richard III as if he were a real person using a WP blog (later reincarnation here)- it was kind of a MySpace theme (we called it Medieval Space). It was going well and then a strange comment came in that wasn’t from one of the kids.

    It was a well written defense of Richard III as a historical person.

    Now, I’d already taken a fair amount of risk by purchasing domain space so I could run blogs outside our district after they’d decided not to allow me to do it internally. I’d also done some convincing that leaving the blog open was a good idea and it was a really the first time this had been done in our county (that I know of). So I’m moderating comments and fairly nervous about all this despite fairly brave words.

    So a stranger leaving a comment was a huge red light. My wife, eager to calm things down, throws out “He’s a pedophile!” So I start tracking this guy down.

    It turns out P.T. Stone is actually Dr. Phil Stone who was (is?) chairman of the Richard III Society. So here we had 8th graders corresponding with a subject matter expert from across the Atlantic. I double checked his email address and his IP address and everything matched up (I was paranoid I admit). This blew the minds of the students and teachers. This really changed how they viewed what they were writing and how they viewed their audience.

    In the scheme of things it’s no big deal but it made a difference and I bring it up all the time when people talk about locking things down. I also talk about how powerful things could be if you actually spent some time to draw in this type of participation. Sadly, they stopped reading Richard III in 8th grade (did seem a little early for all that) so my plans to bring Dr. Stone in via video chat were never realized.

    So, a small piece of what changed things for me and reconfirmed my belief that openess has incredible power.


  3. Brian says:

    D’Arcy – that sounds very cool. I did a quick search on your blog and on the web for a link – you got one?

    Tom – thanks so much for sharing this story. It is a very powerful example, and the fact it involves 8th graders makes it even more interesting and useful.

  4. D'Arcy Norman says:

    Sorry, bro. I’m stuck watching the second kids’ magic show in the mountains, without access to copy/paste. It’s the article on wiki.ucalgary.ca about the Dove Beauty campaign.

  5. Brian says:

    Found the wiki, many thanks!

  6. James Farmer says:

    … how thinking out loud about blogs & CMSs in education for a year or so led directly to http://edublogs.org

    Not only wouldn’t I have had the idea, but it wouldn’t have been an informed one (if that makes any sense) and it wouldn’t have gained any traction.

    Not to mention that if it wasn’t for the openness / forums etc. of WPMU it wouldn’t have been technical possible.

    And now it’s getting more whopping by the day!

  7. Tom says:

    I was one of the people on James Farmer’s site when it was incsub.org/wpmu. I had a site on there called Bionic Teacher for a few years. If it weren’t for that free opportunity I probably wouldn’t have started blogging at all.

  8. How about my wild polar music adventures?

  9. Brian says:

    James, having watched Edublogs emerge and grow over the years, it really is a compelling story.

    Bryan – hmmm, maybe I can work that in, I think I have even written something up on it before….

    Thanks all!

  10. Gardner says:

    I don’t really have an example from Baylor yet–give me time at http://courseblogs.gardnercampbell.net/baylor_nms_s09. Closest thing so far is the very deep and surprising experience of videoconferencing, but that’s not really to the point here.

    Two big Mary Wash examples are the time a student blogged about her difficulties directing a one-act and the playwright himself commented on the blog, and the time a student blogged on Sam Cooke’s role in shaping soul music out of gospel and Sam Cooke’s nephew commented on the blog post.

    Also at Mary Wash, I’ve had students from multiple courses in conversation with each other on one of my blog posts. On occasion that conversation has included current students, former students still in school, and alumni. The network effects of students crossing course and even generational boundaries could only happen a) if the instructor is blogging, as he or she is the constant in this instance, and b) if the blogging is open so it can invite the participation.

    Needless to say, Twitter and Facebook have made the cross-course/cross-generational links even stronger. But the real juice has been in the blog, for me.

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