Vicarious Learning and the Practitioner Educator

Over the last couple of months, I’ve had several folk enquiring whether I could develop some interactive visualisations for them. Whilst I’m usually happy to have a go at hacking something quick and dirty together, I don’t consider myself enough of a developer to be able to put together a production system. (I don’t really myself to be a developer at all…) Instead, I see myself performing more of a scout, or observatory, role, maintaining a reasonable current awareness of what tools are out there and how they might be combined in novel ways in order to support the development of rapid prototypes that can provide a basic functional and operational specification of a system that someone could then implement properly if it ever took off…

I do think I need to start bring some money into the OU, though, so here’s an idle lunchtime thought out loud: maybe I should take on some of this consultancy work, and wherever possibly get agreement that I can blog about whatever I do as part of an uncourse. This would allow me to learn more about the topic, do a better job, and teach on that experience as I do so. An “open working, personal learning journey”. This fits in with my view of teachers-as-co-learners, and is maybe a radical version of student-as-producer, with the “teacher” taking on the role of student, albeit as an auto-didactic student with (hopefully) pretty well-developed learning skills and a side-role in maintaining a learning journal that can be used vicariously as open educational resources by others.

Payment for the work would help cover some of the costs of producing the open materials, and a discounted charge for services would recognise the open working/transparent nature of the project. The project would be documented as much in terms of “how we learned how to create/develop this application” as “how it works”.

Related: @jimgroom’s #ds106 seems very much in this vein… Why shouldn’t the instructor have to be learning in public and teaching that learning process on by living it, rather than spouting stuff they learned and internalised years ago?

3 comments

  1. Scott Leslie

    I’d hire you ;-) When I was a consultant, don’t know that I knew how to do any of the things I was hired to do before I did them. Seems like it’s always a question of building on what you know and learning more. And if the OU won’t support it, nothing stopping you from doing it anyways…

    • Tony Hirst

      :-) The OU has been, and still is, good to me, and I like to think we share some of the same values. I also think that there is an informal educational role for universities outside their walls – for several years, this took the form (for me) of the OU Robotics Outreach group, going in to schools and supporting OU outreach events with hands-on robotics activity.

      Despite being free with ideas, I’m also deeply conservative and risk averse when it comes to finance – and I’m not sure how well I’d sleep at night if I had to spend a day a week seeking my next month’s income…

      What I’d like to do is find a model that gets the OU some return on my time from external funding whilst still giving me the freedom to chase ideas on a daily basis. Traditional project funding doesn’t really do that for me – a large amount of time is sunk into speculative bids, which if successful then require project management, and “meetings”;-)

      Or maybe I need to grow up! :-(

  2. Scott Leslie

    No, I hear you for sure. I too have been fortunate with my employers to do the occasional outside consulting that both brings back some income for them, keeps me interested, allows us both to learn and lets me share the product of that too. And in terms of consulting, I don’t think I would ever just do it ‘on my own’ as I too have some risk aversion, though in conjunction with a few folks with different skill sets it might be different.

    Anyways, I hope you get some interest on this idea, cheers, Scott