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Shirley’s view June 8, 2007

Posted by Shirley Williams in cp2portugal07, CPSquare, dialog, Reflections.

I now can post here – so here is a copy of my recollections.


The trip started with leaving my home at noon, and returning 15 minutes later to collect my mobile phone.

John Smith had visited my University before, so we were travelling together. In the taxi we talked about the previous day and reviewed what had happened. We also looked forward to what may happen over the next few days. I must say I was very apprehensive about how the meetings may proceed and what my role and contribution may be.

At Heathrow airport we met Alasdair Honeyman, who I had not met before, and I knew little about. But it was not long before there was a deep conversation taking place, with an underlying humour, which I found reassuring as to me that seemed to give a freedom to say things that were not all based on a deep understanding. Alasdair claims John and I went through Passport control discussing platforms such as Moodle.

At Lisbon airport we met Andy Roberts, who had arrived on a different flight from Gatwick. Beverly Trayner arrived in the hire van with Derek Chirnside, and again there was a lively conversation on the journey down to Setubal. We are staying in as set of cottages around a windmill. This was another cause of concern for me. I am sharing a cottage with Sus Nyrop and Bronwyn Stuckley, actually I am sharing a room and a bed with Bron!

We moved into preparing a meal (well bringing together the components left for us). Food preparation is a good opportunity for talking and this helped.

Dinner was served on the veranda; over the dinner preparation was started for Thursday. I decided to be open about my concerns and so labelled myself a “control freak” who was concerned about the lack structure.

Thursday – Tuesday

Well my intention was to write this record every day, but like many good intentions it didn’t happen. There was very little time for private reflection, and none for writing. So I am now on the bus from London Heathrow airport to Reading, trying to write as we speed down the motorway.

The whole experience has being very intense, at times my brain really felt quite full from all the stimulation. Let me try and pick out the highlights:

Thursday was a day of dialogue, in the morning I joined a group discussing “place” and “space”, essentially we agreed a group needs spaces to meet, rooms, forums, teleconferences etc, but they also need a sense of “place” that is where they feel together. There were many other discussions I joined in…

Friday we went to Porto, for sessions with the Theka people. Essentially the programme was to be: Etienne Wegner talking about CoPs, and then the rest of us working with groups on aspects, with 4 groups. Etienne went ahead by train, the rest of us followed in two cars and the hired van. I was in a group with Sus Nyrop and Joao Dias, so we went in Joao’s car. On the way we planned, we kept in touch with the van my mobile phone, and part way we stopped for coffee and the van people explained what they had planned , and suggested we adjusted our plans to match theirs, since it wasn’t a major shift we agreed. They came up with the term: “van planning” to describe this way of working. When we got to Porto we got hopelessly lost, as did the other two vehicles, it was very stressful and we all arrived very flustered. The session we ran (Web 2.0) went well, and the people present seemed engaged, which was good as they were due to run the same session (with some help from us) the following day. However I do feel that a Web 2.0 session should have the support of the internet, and I wished we had insisted that it was essential as talking about things like Tag Clouds is much easier if you can show a real one! The students were all (would be) school librarians I found the fact that they spoke in Portuguese, which I don’t understand, very disconcerting. It seemed to me that I asked them to say what they had written down, which was a list of 12 words, but this took them 200 words to say, then 70 words for Joao to clarify and another 100 for them to re-explain, before I was given an explanation of about 50 words!

We then spent 1 hour driving round Porto looking for Petrol and 1 hour looking for the hotel!

We (that is the 17 CPSquare people) and the Theka people went to dinner in a near by restaurant.

The next day (Saturday) we left the hotel and arrived at the Theka meeting place with time to spare. We listened to Etienne’s talk, this time to a larger group of educational people.

The aim of the workshops was the people who were in our workshop on Friday were to run a similar workshop with the new attendees. The Web 2.0 people were supposed to be split across two rooms, but we only had one room that was unlocked, so we started together and then split, after a somewhat leisurely Portuguese lunch! Again I found the language barrier a problem in knowing how well the session was going, but there were a lot of thanks at the end. Joao did the presentation from our group at the closing plenary, and I had managed to get some photos from my phone on to the lap top so we used these as a background. The other groups had produced a lot of paper based graphics and these served well as prompts for the plenary.

It was then time to pile into the vehicles and drive back to Setubal. John Smith joined us and sat up front with Joao, while Sus and I sat in the back and had a detailed conversation about Second Life, about what we had discovered, our shared experiences and where we intend to go. Time passed very quickly and the 4 hour journey seemed soon over.

Sunday was a dialog day, I joined a group talking about Evaluation and projects, some interesting points were made I particularly liked the one made by Martin Roulleaux-Dugage who said: “the best thing you can do for a community is to have someone with dedicated time”, without this all agreed there are many potential difficulties. There was also discussion about communities that want to stay “under the radar” versus those that produce “glossy brochures”.

I went to a session on Technology Stewardship, it raised quite a few issues of the relationship of communities and their technologies, but I actually discovered more about the topic by talking to Martin afterwards.

In the afternoon I joined Derek Chirnside, Patricia Arnold and Bill Williams and talked about Higher Education. We spent a lot of time establishing our domain and boundaries, and discussing the knotty issues of how to engage our colleagues and students. We were interrupted by a journalist and photographer that Bev introduced. We summarised what we were talking about, however I found his observation was distracting to discussion and it took some time to recover where we were.

The rest of the day was spent in the closing circle, preparation for the Gulbenkian meeting and at a dinner in town. I made the mistake of volunteering to walk back, the hill is a lot steeper on foot than it seems when driving. It was with support from Ueli Scheuermeier and Alasdair that Sus and I made it home (by this time Há Mar ao Luar felt like home).

Monday was spent at the Gulbenkian, on the way Etienne did some van planning of the interactions he hoped to include in his talk. I think having travelled to Porto by train he wanted to have an opportunity to discover van planning. We were directed to spread ourselves around the audience, I introduced myself to a bloke sat on his own, and we talked about his industry: banking and insurance, he told me about the needs to interact with rival businesses and this seemed very interesting from the Community of Practice point of view. When the session started he tapped me on the shoulder and explained he was in the wrong session! My other interactions were with people in the right session, including a very interesting lady from the prison service, who I encouraged to share her experiences with the whole group.

While Etienne was talking I found a lot of inspiration for a project I have in mind to set up a Community of Practice among people at University of Reading who are interested in learning and virtual worlds, I kept adding notes and key points and phases.

In the afternoon we evaluated Bev’s Polen 2.0, it was a fairly typical EU sort of evaluation.

In the evening we went out to dinner, and then back to the windmill, where we sat and talked until very late.

It is now Wednesday and I am at work – reading this I think there is so much more to say, I haven’t mentioned so many of the conversations or the people. So I probably should summarise:

I found the whole thing intense and inspirational.

It was a pleasure to meet the whole group (in no particular order):

Josien Kapma,: Martin Roulleaux-Dugage; Beverly Trayner; Alasdair Honeyman; Andy Roberts; Bill Williams; Derek Chirnside; John and Nancy Smith; Patricia Arnold; Marc Coenders; Nancy White; Bronwyn Stuckley; Etienne Wegner; João Dias; Sus Nyrop, Maarten de Laat and Ueli Scheuermeier.

Nancy White has posted a load of pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/choconancy/sets/72157600282122982/

they capture a lot of the mood.