March 23, 2011 by Willy Cardoso
In about ten days I’ll be in Istanbul for the ISTEK ELT Conference.
Networks and Self-organization: A Systems Thinking for Effective Practice?
As usual, before talking at a conference, I’ll publish a couple of bloggie-posts to warm up (and for self-promotion of course, who am I kidding?)
Before I start, I’d like to say that the biggest challenge for me was to come up with a workshop-style session. The other presentations I’ve given around the broad category of complexity were, Forget Teaching, Focus on Learning which was a talk; and Complexity and ELT, a poster. So, basically, I didn’t have to engage anyone with “activities”, engagement came (I hope) in the form of ‘me talking’ and visuals. Not that I can’t do workshops, I’ve done many in other subjects, but it’s just this puzzling topic that dadidadida… anyway…
This is going to be a workshop! And it’s gonna be cracking!
After much pondering, dreams, nightmares, reading, experiments, and all that, I know what to do.
Here’s what will be in the program:
This workshop was designed for teachers, trainers and managers to understand what can emerge when they decentralize their work. By means of a group activity and a social network map we will together discuss how a systems analysis of human interactions can inform practice and sustain learning. All in all, a very experimental session!
Let’s start with:
Social Network Map
I’ll keep this very simple.
Below is an exemplification consisting of a teacher and six students.
There are many things we can talk about using this map, notice for example that S2 is very networked in this group, this is so because when the teacher is busy, not present, or it’s not class time, she’s the one to whom other students will ask questions about the subject – and we know that because we talked to all students about who they rely on when the teacher is unavailable or when they have a doubt but don’t want to show the teacher they didn’t understand.
What implications might there be when S2 is absent? Let’s take a look at the map below to see what happens to the network.
Immediately, we can see here that the class becomes a lot more teacher-centered without S2.
In this case, teacher and students themselves don’t want a teacher-centered class, so if everyone is aware of how the network ‘is working’ (intentional use of progressive), there are some things they can do about it. Let’s stop here for now.
In this workshop, participants will have a chance to play with the software and discuss their analyses.
It is worth mentioning that this tool is not at all authoritative or bulletproof, and in many ways, causes and implications can be well identified without a network map. Nonetheless, many times it is a great visual aid that helps us to see things more holistically as well as to encourage others to engage in ‘network thinking’.
I’ll come back soon with other posts about this workshop and more background information.