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Everything is A Metaphor

Presentation at Imaginarium

Background; I gave a talk about making successful education technology projects in the middle of the second day of the #restartedu project Imaginarium, or Restart Education, in Bucharest Rumania.  I called it Everything is a Metaphor because until you have a new metaphors for new ideas it is difficult to get people to understand them, as we shall see. Everything is a Metaphor is on slideshare I will try to open up some of the ideas on the slides in this post.

Roman Road; The opening image is of a Roman road. This came from a conversation in a restaurant in Bucharest on Saturday where I asked what is historically distinctive  about Romania, and I was told that they stopped the Romans on their conquest of Europe (from AD 101-104). So a metaphor about Roman roads seemed useful. Of course everyone can recognise a Roman road but in fact this was the third use of paving. The first was by the Greeks to build overland canals, the second by Persians to build a national postal service and finally the Romans repurposed paving to create roads; the better to conquer Europe. So which metaphor do you see, travel, services or imperialism?

Three current projects; #restartedu is a process of developing new projects and so, because I am active & knowledgeable Vlad asked me to share my experience of project development. So I picked on three of my current ones

a) WikiQuals; this is a project with the explicit aim of developing appropriately participatory education so we can develop participatory democracy (not unlike Summerhill School)

b) Ambient Learning City; this is a project with the aim of reconfiguring the city so that we can develop new contexts for learning that aren’t based on traditional institutions.

c) Emergent Learning Model; a framework to allow informal learning to drive formal learning AND map to the EU post-Bologna Education Policy as contained in i2015 & i2020 (a “development framework”)

Developing Metaphors; The point of a metaphor is not just to simplify the understanding of something new by coining  a simple and accessible way to understand it, Social Network for Facebook say, but also to help it realise what it is capable of becoming. A metaphor, potentially, is a bridge to a new future. The factors you need to consider then are the future purpose, the meaning  you would like it to assume, the values you want it to represent and the cultural context  into which it fits.

Old New Metaphors; projects I have worked on before often have 2 word neologisms that a strangely familiar, or familiarly strange. Citizen Connects in Lewisham in the 1990s, which was asking whether new technologies could stimulate active citizenship. The Creekside Environmental Education Centre in Deptford supporting an understanding of urban ecology. The Community Grid for Learning TaLENT (Teaching and Learning with Educational Networks) in 1999 which posited resources for learning as being situated outside an educational institution. Each of these metaphors helped bring about the purpose the projects had in mind, and were also short-cut explanations, which helped the projects become successful.

 The Group Genius of Change; All these projects, whilst innovative, were collaborative, and innovating collaboratively is difficult BUT, according to Keith Sawyer, you can achieve it with Group Genius. Individuals can be inventive, coining new metaphors perhaps, but innovation, making ideas real, requires collaboration, captured in 7 key points by Sawyer, here are 3 key ones .

1) successful collaborative teams practice deep listening 

2) team members build on their collaborators ideas

3) only afterwards does the meanings of each idea become clear

meanwhile the full list is here in Everything is a Metaphor

Metaphors and transformative change; “transformative creativity occurs when a group thinks of a new way to frame a problem,” As Keith Sawyer puts it. So, solve the problem that annoys you most, allow participatory design, design for organised complexity, allow for emergence (non-linear dynamic change) and.. But think how your metaphor helps create the transformation you want to see. Is it travel, services, society, war, or something you want to see in your life?

DO, Discuss, Reflect and CHANGE together

And of course don’t forget the song by Sparks, Metaphor

About fred6368

Visiting Researcher at the London Knowledge Lab Member of the Learner-Generated Contexts Group Social Improv & #Heutagogy Contextualist & CyberSalonista Participatory City Beatles & World Music Fan Working on #WikiQuals

3 responses »

  1. Pingback: Becoming Participative | CrosQuals

  2. Do, Discuss, Reflect and Change together! A Knowmad indeed!


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