Participatory Culture and Professional Development

This week I read a study from the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, Designing With Teachers: Participatory Approaches to Professional Development in Education (Fall 2012). The study focused on professional development within a culture of participatory learning.

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New Strategies Needed

This study caught my eye because I have been seeking to grow in my capacity, as an OER librarian, to work with other librarians to build knowledge, understanding and best practice around open educational resources (OER), especially in the K12 sector. Although awareness of OER is growing, use of these resources is a challenge for many educators, as well as for librarians.The design of these digital resources is not familiar to many and the licensing that governs their use and reuse is unfamiliar. The integration of OER into local contexts such as classrooms and libraries necessitates a new range of supports and strategies.

And that is why the study out of the Annenberg Innovation Lab caught my attention. I want to support conversation and shared learning that builds these supports and strategies. I, like many librarians, spend considerable time training and sharing about my resources, their access, potential and appropriate use, as well as about our systems and services. My professional practice in this area continues to change as I explore new ways of effectively connecting with others in the field – especially, as previously noted, with other librarians who wish to integrate open education resources into their libraries and services.

Distributed Expertise

I was especially intrigued with the report’s discussion about transitioning from the notion of providing professional development for teachers [librarians] to professional development with teachers [librarians]. Just as participatory service in the hyperlinked library is built upon customer participation in building and maintaining the services they want (Casey & Savastinuk), participatory learning relies on a model of “distributed expertise”, which assumes that knowledge, in all contexts, is distributed across a diffuse network of people and tools (Reilly & Literat, 2012). This mindshift is exciting to me and complements the participatory service model. I will be envisioning how this model can be integrated into my practice as I relate with other librarians interested in open education models.

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Participatory PD Values

Participation, not indoctrination;
Exploration, not prescription;
Contextualization, not abstraction;
Iteration, not repetition.


These values excite me because they are strongly correlated to conceptual frameworks in the field of open education of collaboration and knowledge sharing around educational resources, and users/teachers as expert creators, adapting open educational resources for their instructional goals and their learners’ needs.

New Foundations

I am thrilled to be exposed to the model of participatory professional development. I believe it provides a foundation and theoretical framework for my own emerging practice in this area. It will help me begin to articulate a pathway of participatory professional development and learning together with other professionals who work, or wish to work, in the open education space.



Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Medford, N.J: Information Today.

Reilly, E. & Literat, I. (2012). Designing With Teachers: Participatory Approaches to Professional Development in Education. USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. Accessed at . 2012 Feb 6.

Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, by David Weinberger

I’m always reaching to see the intertwingled (Nelson, Media Lib / Dream Machines), the connected, the cause and effect – to understand the flow of things. Paradoxically, my profession, with its roots deep in classical traditions, takes on the work of seeing differences, of categorization and classification, of understanding ontologies and discipline specific taxonomies. We like to keep things tidy and in boxes, organizing knowledge and putting things into their proper places.


Since I have a strong interest in how knowledge is described and represented, and because I find my world view is often in conflict with classical classification schemas, I was drawn to read and review David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous with its thesis that there is a ‘new order to order’. This order is a place where ‘things’ can be assigned to multiple places simultaneously due in large part to the affordances of new information systems and the digital format of information and, I propose, most importantly, as a more accurate reflection of the natural order of things – as intertwingled.

The Three Orders of Order

Weinberger proposes that there are three orders to order. The first order is the organization of the things themselves – books on shelves, photographs into albums, tools into drawers, buttons by color, glasses in racks. In the second order of things, we separate our information about an object from the object itself with descriptions of things and their locality in card catalogs, ledgers, and finding aides that are structured by classical categorization schemas. The third order is a digital order, not physical, and its affordances remove the limitations of physical categorization and propel us into new ways of thinking about how we order knowledge and things (Weinberger, 19).  In the third order, things are described and attached to multiple and diverse descriptors that our information querying systems can order in an indefinite number of multi-faceted returns, based upon our information needs and preferences.

The Geography of Knowledge

Weinberger describes this third order as miscellaneous and the digital order of things as a mess (233). While I think that messiness may be an accurate characterization of the current nature of the third digital order, I do not see it as miscellaneous, even if it appears to be so. I believe that what Weinberger is saying is that third order knowledge simply does not fit into the nice boundaries and geographies that we have previously defined for it. All political maps – including classical categorization systems – have a shape and impose boundaries. These systems, alone, do not work anymore – in a hyperlinked world, knowledge is continually forming as it is shared, remixed with other resources, and used in new contexts (Lankes, 4). This is afforded in increasing measure by digital technologies, multiple ways of describing things, crowd-sourced resources and tagging, hyperlinked resources, and knowledge-building conversations – it is realized in the hyperlinked library.

More Beautiful Ways of Making Sense

In fact, this third order of knowledge is a prerequisite of the hyperlinked library. In the third order, all the ways of organizing knowledge become public (Weinberger, 233). In the third order, participatory networks of content creators and taggers describe and order their resources, and those of others, creating and enhancing the meaning of the whole. There are no hierarchies or overarching categories – no one person’s description is given priority or is more real than another’s. All descriptors are attached, bringing forth the potential for much more representative ways of describing and ordering knowledge. We are no longer bound to classical categories, but are free to see the world through the lens of different cultures, perspectives and ways of meaning making.  “In the third order of things, knowledge doesn’t have a shape. There are just too many useful, powerful, and beautiful ways to make sense of our world.” (Weinberger, 83).

The Third Order and the Hyperlinked Library

The hyperlinked library lives in the world of the third order – the intertwingled world. In fact, the hyperlinked world is central to helping us understand and evolve the potential of the third order. Within the hyperlinked library, people together create meaning and knowledge as they share and define and describe their world and their place in it, rather than leaving it to others to do so.

Hear David Weinberger share more here:


Lankes, R. David, Silverstein, J., Nicholson, S., & Marshall, T. (2007). Participatory Networks: The Library as Conversation. Information Research.

Nelson, Theodore. (1974). Introduction from Computer Lib / Dream Machines. Self-published. Accessed at, Feb 1, 2013.

Weinberger, David. (2007). Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Organic and Enabling Environments

I continue to think of the hyperlinked library in biological terms. I’m seeing it as an ecology that builds a more wholistic and organic system for everyone involved in its life – from the library professionals who ‘manage’ the system to those who use its ‘services’. The primary shift considered this week is around how its ‘management’ and ‘services’ are conceived, grown and sustained.

Before I continue, I want to share that I in other courses I have previously challenged the notion that planning is only a function of management. Rather, I have argued that an organization must present enabling contexts that encourage organization-wide collaborative discussion, collective reflection and engagement when building its services and professional practice – together. But, I was arguing for internal structures that supported full staff engagement in organizational planning and learning. My thinking did not extend to considering the need for enabling structures for a more public, broad and engaging participatory management, not to speak of planning and supporting frameworks for building participatory services.

My ‘aha’ moment arrived this week when reading Matthews’ “Think Like a Start-Up” with its exhortation toward freeing ourselves as librarians to be entrepreneurial visionaries. He noted that “many library strategic plans read more like to-do lists rather than entrepreneurial visions …”. Continuing, he discusses the need for strategic cultures, more than for strategic plans. He points out the need for an attitude shift where we always consider that our work is in ‘beta’, looking for spaces and opportunities for advancing teaching, learning, service and research in new ways. His is a call for not only an entrepreneurial attitude, but for a reflective practice of continual and creative iterative design of services. I extend this to say that this creative iterative design of services is  built from conversations and planning with all library staff and with the community it serves.

If the hyperlinked library is as organic as I’m envisioning, I would expect it to reflect the social, cultural and even spiritual nature of the community to which it is connected. I was thrilled to find that the Escondido Public Library was hyperlinked to in the article! Escondido is my childhood hometown and most of my family still lives there. As a child and teenager, I spent many hours in the library, browsing the shelves, studying and reading. I haven’t visited the library in several decades, but was deeply touched to discover that it is still playing a vital role in the community.  The Escondido Public Library has developed “LibraryYOU” services where individuals in the community can share local knowledge and their personal expertise through videos and podcasts. Through these community created videos and podcasts, local knowledge is preserved and others in the community can learn about gardening in the area, quilt making, beekeeping, local history, and more! If interested, here is more information about the growing LibraryYOU network.
Boekesteijn, E. (2011) DOK Delft takes user generated content to the next level :

Casey, M. (2011). Revisiting Participatory Service in Trying Times:

Danforth, L. (2011) Finding the Future: (Video too)

Harris, C. (2006) School Library 2.0:

Loertscher, D. (2008) Flip This Library: School Libraries Need a Revolution.  School Library Journal Online:

Mathews, B. (2012) Think like a start up (PDF):

Miller, R. (2009) New Library Opens in Darien, CT:

Schmidt, A. (2010) Services before Content:

Stephens, M. (2006). Into a New World of Librarianship:

Stephens, M. (2012). The Age of Participation:

Visser, J. (2011) DOK Delft:

Messy Connections and Mysterious Processes

Michael Stephens prefaces “The Hyperlinked Library” with a header that displays Borges’ claim that “the library is unlimited and cyclical.”  Hold on!  Where is he going with this? This type of descriptive language is reserved for the mysterious processes of life – to describe the deep sustaining life forces of nature (biogeochemical and secret) and the murmurings of the human soul. Can we really make such a claim about the hyperlinked library?

Perhaps. As understanding of the potential resident in the hyperlinked library model grows for me, I find that I’m starting to frame it using biological terms like an ecology, a universe, a system, a web …. or webs. And, I’m no longer seeing a hyperlink as simply a universal resource locator (URL) embedded in html that directs the web browser to another location on the Internet. In fact, I’m seeing it much more organically.

Within the larger universe of the Internet, Weinberger describes hyperlinks as messy and non-symmetrical, connections made by real individuals based on what they care about and what they know, and where their feet are walking (my paraphrase). He, like Stephens, sees hyperlinks as creative points of connection, conversation, discovery and knowledge building. (I’m 13 years behind in my reading, but still found the ideas in Weinberger’s The Hyperlinked Organization timely and powerful.)

Hyperlinks serve the community (or tribe) they connect, as revealed in the ITHAKA 2009 Survey, that showed that faculty universally use citations (in the form of hyperlinks) from other journal articles to begin their research. Likewise, back-channel, as well as fore-channel, linkages build networks of communication that immediately alter organizational hierarchy or even the course of events (Rousch). In our age where technologies are created to make communication more ‘efficient’, hyperlinks are creating connected points of reflection within communities on topics of the moment and broadening individual and corporate expressive response.

ITHAKA (2011) Evolving Role of the Library: (Chapter 1 – p. 4-14)

Roush, W. (2005). “Social Machines” from Technology Review at

Stephens, M. (2011) The Hyperlinked Library:

Weinberger, D. (1999) Cluetrain Manifesto Chapter 5: The Hyperlinked Organization

What New Knowledge Will We Build Through Conversation?

The foundational readings grapple with new library service models ranging from envisioning managing electronic documents in the 1990s (Buckland, Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto), to the affordances of Web 2.0 technologies in the early 21st century (Casey and Savastinuk, Library 2.0), to the idea of the central role libraries can take as knowledge creating environments through conversation (Lankes et al, Participatory Networks: The Library as Conversation). All three papers present a non-apocalyptic future for technology-changed libraries and, rather, present an engaging and progressive vision of a more service-oriented, relevant and, ultimately, human experience for library users.

Buckland addresses the management of electronic documents in the 1990s and, although a brilliant futurist, not even he could envision the shift and potential on the horizon that Casey and Savastinuk explore in Library 2.0. Discussing the participatory nature of 2.0 in the library, they break apart the top down, ‘unidirectional’ model of libraries and discuss building mechanisms in which users and staff can participate in the service creation process, through collaborative planning, evaluation and practice. Lankes et al extend upon the Library 2.0 potential and argue that libraries are knowledge generators, providing the ‘optimal information environment’ for participatory networks of conversation.

It is this last conversation that I find particularly interesting. I am entirely convinced that knowledge is created through imaginative conversation together. Right now I’m wondering what these participatory networks of conversation can look like in my library environment? [It is not as if these conversations are not already happening, but they are happening on the periphery of my work.] What will the conversations be ‘about’? And who will engage? And, importantly, what new knowledge will these networks build through conversation?

Buckland, Michael. (1992). Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto.

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Medford, N.J: Information Today.

Lankes, R. D., Silverstein, J., & Nicholson, S. (January 01, 2007). Participatory Networks: The Library As Conversation. Information Technology and Libraries, 26,4, 17.

Reflective Practice and Discovery Underway

I’m currently OER Librarian for ISKME and my primary projects are OER Commons, OER Commons Green and the newly launched OER Commons Arabic. We are doing great things at ISKME and I love my work. Because I’m involved in such rich work, I’m particularly excited about discovering ways of building community and relatedness through new types of conversations, transparency and participatory service to extend its touch.

In this blog, I’ll be engaging my imagination to consider how I can be fully human, present and engaged in new ways to extend the reach of my work. Quite honestly, I have no idea what this fully means or what this will look like, but I’m excited to spend time here and discover new ways of practice and being. As I explore these themes, your thoughts are also welcome. If you share the same interest, please engage here with me!

Openness as an Aesthetic

Openness is an aesthetic and an approach to seeing
and interacting with the world and others.

I think a lot about openness …

… as an aesthetic

            … that provides a rich and fertile environment

… for meaningful teaching and learning.

The type of openness that I’m thinking about implies a significant departure from generally accepted educational practice and quality judgments.

It requires new habits of mind and practice that expand the walls of our cultural and societal concepts about the very nature of learning and knowledge.

An open aesthetic allows one to look anew at the world and at one’s place in it, with an eye to discover creative approaches and relationships from which to build sustainable solutions of mutual benefit.

Open educational practice embraces a fundamental philosophy that elevates teacher and learner as partners and co-creators. Open educators invite essential questions, critical thinking and student engagement in deeper learning. Open learners can consider diverse perspectives, understand the role of multiple disciplines in solving complex problems, and engage in civic dialogue.

Openness allows for new perspectives and solutions to emerge.