CCK08: Iterative, Appreciative Change

Recursive flower
Recursive flower

These are my liveblogged notes from this morning’s live session for CCK08. Although I usually aim for a fairly complete transcript of live sessions, I spent more time paying attention to and participating in the backchannel chat today. Therefore, some of the questions and discussion near the end aren’t included in my notes. My comments are in italics. There are a few comments copied directly from the chat. The recording will be available at some point under Week 9.

Nancy White of Full Circle Associates was the guest speaker, with Stephen Downes moderating.

Key Points

Much of this discussion was about how to get change to happen, with (I think) a very practical and realistic acknowledgment of the barriers to change. The idea of iterative change came up several times. Where traditional project and change management follows a linear process, what may be more effective for emerging technology is to do lots of little projects, see how they go, and adjust as needed.

Nancy mentioned another idea that I thought was great: an appreciative approach to change. Basically, you look at what strengths you have and start there, building on what already exists. Extending this idea, I think when we build on those strengths and stretch people to grow more, we can iteratively build on the new strengths.

If you’re looking for the nuts and bolts of the ideas, skip down to the “Change Ideas” list near the bottom of this post. This was the collected brainstorming of the group on how to make change happen.


Love the intro here—a circle of clip art chairs, asking people to put their names under a chair. Not a perfect solution for huge groups, but nice for imagining community with smaller groups.

Tech + Social
“Technology has fundamentally changed how we can be together”

Learning Communities

Understand the relationships between the me, the we, and the many. The boundaries aren’t always clear.
Me: The individual. Personal identity.
We: Communities. Group identity, bounded membership, shared interest.
Many: Networks. Boundaryless, fuzzy. “intersecting interests”

Networks are about value of weak ties; Obama’s win reflects that value

Not so interested in learning theories; more interested in emerging roles and practices
Enabling people to be stewards of online communities

Stephen: Teachers just trying to change current practice. “How can I apply this in my current practice”
Nancy: You can’t usefully apply the technology unless you understand the teaching. Understand the teaching, then look at why it’s important. BUT sometimes looking at the technology first can spark an idea.

Is it just change, or is it the scale of change?

Stephen: Can we do the change just partway?
Nancy: Value of networks is that we don’t all have to do everything. One teacher doesn’t have to do everything by him/herself. We need safe places for people to explore, and sometimes privacy to try things out.
bradley.shoebottom: “Change is acceptable for only the amount people are willing to allow change. Therefore change needs to be iterative”
Nancy: Different roles for different people within the network

Use an “appreciative approach”—build on the strengths that already exist rather than trying to jump the chasm

Stephen: So many technologies are blocked
Nancy: sometimes people need to be taken outside the firewall to see what’s possible, but sometimes we need to look at workarounds and not our first choice tools. Demonstrating with limited tools can help changes occur.

Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers: @Lisa and others– yes — then it is important to stimulate the right questions from the teacher/learners. What do they want to happen?

How do you get change to happen?
Demonstration, validation
Money can be a pressure point.
Concrete purposes rather than wide solutions can get to a lot of people. What’s the tangible benefit?
Do lots of little experiments on multiple fronts to figure out what works

How do you find the time to make the connections?
Nancy: we connect to people all the time. It’s as natural as breathing. Create the conditions for change to move the direction we want, rather than pushing hard for our own position. Make building community and ties into your meetings and time together with groups, without labeling it as “community building.”

Traditional project management is very linear, but we need something more iterative. Iterative change is a recurring theme here

Change that happens at the edges instead of in the middle

Change Ideas:

  • Skunkworks—under the radar
  • Small, iterative projects
  • Distributed learning
  • Start with your personal practices because you have control there, then apply that to your work
  • Get outside validation
  • Find related projects outside and work together
  • Nike Strategy: Just do it
  • Put in the infrastructure people need to change your practice. Instead of trying to directly change what people do, make it easier for them to do it—sort of letting them choose the tools
  • Give what they WANT in a nonthreatening way
  • Listen carefully for needs, not just openings for your own agenda
  • Do easy things in an easy way
  • Openness: share what you do openly (network value)

It’s not just about technology; it’s about how you see the world and connections and how we interact with each other. It’s about asking the questions to get people to see the world differently.

How do you measure success? Benchmarks? Would another course modeled like CCK08 be a success?
Nancy: it depends on the goals and learning. Not sure how to answer the question. How do you measure success with iterative learning?

Image credit:

Recursive Flower, Second Time 100 visits!!!

8 thoughts on “CCK08: Iterative, Appreciative Change

  1. Hi Christy!

    Thanks for your notes!
    It was really a shame to have an emergency and leave the second session went into a different direction, very rich too btw.

    I enjoyed hearing different voices, people jumping in to comment.

    Now that I’ve found your blog I guess I’ll be coming more often.

    See you around. Maru :X

  2. Thanks! I’m glad I was able to make it today. This was actually the first live session I’ve attended for the course. This was a really timely discussion for me as we’re in the process of moving to a new LMS and finding a lot of resistance to the changes. People are just freaked out that it’s new and different, mostly, and we’re trying to keep them calm.

    One of the things I realized today with this change is that we need to do the training we’re planning now, but we also need to plan for more iterations later to reinforce and deal with questions. Our training is already a multistep process with some time between to play & reflect, so I think we were on the right track already. This clarified for me the need to approach this iteratively rather than as a single linear process though.

    It was a really helpful discussion. Thank you so much!

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