Scaffolding Creative Learning

We have all seen scaffolding used in construction or renovation, so the "scaffolding" metaphor makes us think of someone starting with a final structure in mind and providing the workers a reliable, safe arrangement of physical elements they can use to complete the structure. In education scaffolding has been used to refer to an analogous arrangement of elements (more conceptual and procedural than physical) that allow students to come to understand the relevant ideas and end up proficient in the practices. But scaffolding has other connotations that might be fruitful to explore. For example, if we think about the maintenance of our bones, a scaffold could connote a dynamic structure with components that are constantly replenished with new materials, doing so, moreover, in ways that maintain its integrity as a structure while adapting to changes in its contexts (like new stresses strengthening the bones) and, in turn, generating possibilities not seen or experienced before.

Scaffolding in the first, pre-arranged sense comes to mind around the uptake of innovations, where an innovator is challenged to move beyond the enthusiastic early adopters, to "cross the chasm" and address the pragmatic and particular concerns of other potential adopters. Suppose, however, in place of an innovator-adopter divide, we focus on the potential of everyone for creative learning. (Use of this term invites elaboration, but for now let it simply point to generation of alternative ideas, connections, practices, and solutions, in contrast to memorizing knowledge that others transmit to us.) In the context of everyone becoming creative learners we have to notice the variety of projects of inquiry and engagement different adults and children pursue in their work, education, and lives. We also have to acknowledge, as mentioned above, the pragmatic concerns people have in pursuing those various projects. But can we still imagine benefiting from "connecting, probing, and reflecting" that stretches us beyond particular concerns? If so, what can we learn from and contribute to other people inquiring and engaging in a creative spirit:
And so on. In this Collaborative Exploration, each of us has 22 days to shape and pursue directions of inquiry that illuminate how people can "scaffold" the efforts of current and potential collaborators and be scaffolded themselves by others.

Intended outcomes of this inquiry (in which we will be supporting and learning from each others' inquiries) are of two kinds:

CE: expectations and mechanics

Whatever thread of inquiry participants pursue in any specific Collaborative Exploration (CE), your posts and contribution to live sessions should aim to stimulate and guide the learning of other participants, and build towards the final tangible product described in the scenario. The complementary, "experiential" goal is to be impressed at how much can be learned with a small commitment of time using the CE structure to motivate and connect participants.

The CE will take place over 22 days and consists of four sessions spaced one week apart, in which a small group interacts in real time live via google hangout for 60 minutes.* The day and time is arranged to fit the schedules of applicants, but often 9-10am, 4-5, 5-6 or 6-7pm to maximize the coverage of international time zones. Participants spend time between sessions on self-directed inquiry on the case, sharing of inquiries-in-progress, and reflecting on the process (which typically involves shifts in participants' definition of what they want to find out and how). Prospective participants are asked not to sign up if they cannot guarantee live participation in most of the sessions and an equivalent amount of time between sessions spent on the case. (Sessions will be available as a private unlisted youtube for participants who have to miss once.) A public google+ community, open beyond the small group, allows interested people to view and respond to any posts posted by the small group, which may, in turn, draw on them in their private discussions. The structure of each live CE session is predefined, but the CE builds in room for participants to take stock so as to inform future proposals for improvements in these structures.

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