I’ve written up a post about this recent ALF Weekend over on the ALF blog, you can see it here.
We’ve been discussing ALF membranes recently. With the ALF website coming online and the network growing, being able to define who is an ALF and what kind of ALF they are is getting to be increasingly important. At it’s base there is a need to validate and recognize that people understand and embody our roots, principles, and practices. There is also a need to create membranes of trust so that as our network grows we can better identify who has what skills and who should be a part of which conversations.
Currently we are using tongue-in-cheek working titles to describe a “baking” process where new ALFs start as Eggs, become Kneaded, get baked, then move on to become muffin holders and muffin tins.
The following chart describes each area and level of ALFing (source):
|I am||I have already||I agree to||The Network agrees to|
|Egg||declared intention||-fill out online form saying “I have an interest in learning to ALF”
-Not a spam bot
-Read about ALC
-Be open to communication with the Network
|-Collect form submissions
-give feedback to that person
-shares the info on that form with others in the Network
|Kneaded||Been invited into an ALC space to participate||-To begin practicing being an ALF
-honor agreements (general & specific to community)
|Provides support for Cake Holders to exisit (Cake holders work with rising ALFs, not necessarly Network, obviously there may be some exceptions here)|
|Baked ALF||Has been declared “Baked” through the process of a peer review||-Creates shareable value (blog, youtube video, speaking at alternative ed events, etc)
-participate in ongoing collaboration
-abide by ALF Network CMB
-model tool use and principales embodiment (to support RAs)
|-Brands you as “baked”
-Adds you to ALF email list & weekly calls
-Invited to contribute in ALF Summer
|I am||Cake Holder||Muffin Tin||Network Holder|
|I have||Started holidng space or coherence for a domain:
|-ability to translate tools & practices in different contexts / ability to facilitate facilitators||-focus on supporting, nurtureing, growing the ALC network|
|I agree to||-Support RAs & BAs
-be responsible for space/domain
|-refrain from dogmatisim
|-support CHs and MTs
-outward faces of Network
|The Network agrees to||-Stay in conversation about needs and available resources
-Affirms your efficacy through peer review process annually
Notice how the chart at first describes a linear process, one moves from Egg to Kneaded, to Baked. Then the diagram shifts to describe how an ALF can choose to move into different areas of focus. This whole process is very unusual. We are trying to create a structure that doesn’t grant people authority over others but opens the possibility for individuals to attain high levels of trust in the community.
In an attempt to make this process more clear I’ve created a flow chart that describes the path an individual takes from being a normal person to becoming an ALF.
I would appreciate feedback!
What an amazing week! I’ve been in Asheville NC visiting the Endor ALC crew. I was housed by two amazing collective homes full of wonderful and amazing people who kept me well fed and in good company. I spent most of my time co-working with @liam and @rochellehudson which fueled one of my most productive weeks I’ve had in a long time. So, what did I do?
I’ve updated the network website to a point where it clearly outlines what ALC is. Gratitudes to my fellow ALFs, especially @tomis, @nancy, @abbyo, @artbrock for their contributions in content and design.
We’ve switched to the network theme which is a lot cleaner and clearer now. The front page covers much more about what ALC is and how to get involved.
I did a bit of work on designing visual elements for the page and getting it to a point of being pretty okay.
I’m very proud of the ALC directory which I created using Google Fusion Tables. This takes a spreadsheet and outputs it as a map. I did some custom design using a Google Map Style Wizard, it’s pretty fun, try it. Then I implemented some custom code to get it to display real nice on the welcome page:
Each of those icons is generated automagically as new schools are added to the directory. Each icon is clickable and displays information from the directory.
I’m super excited to expand on this work. To tighten and expand on the design and layout. I now feel like I can send people to our website without worrying that they might not “get” what’s going on.
Foldy Release Party!
@liam and I printed out about 50 of my School, Yay! foldys for a Wednesday event at Fire Storm Books & Coffee. There was a great turn out and even with no planning we were able to pull of a successful info sharing session about ALC and Endor. I used a Kanban to manage the flow of the event.
The foldy was also a great success!
Organizing and Orienting ALFs
I spent a lot of time working on some internal pages for alf.agilelearningcenters.org and our supporting systems to better organize our communication and collaboration within the network.
The Newbie page
I created a page for newbie ALFs (and forgetful ALFs like me). A quick aside: newbie is a term for someone who is new and thus inexperienced, it’s a term of endearment, unlike n00b which describes a person who acts dumb. The newbie page covers all of our internal tools and links to our support documents and other such things.
The Baked ALF checklist
Along with the help of @nancy and other “bakers” I started to develop what I hope to be one of many internal checklists for doing network jobs. This one focuses on what to do once a person has had their peer review, submitted their documents, and been “baked” (a title we are using to indicate a particular status of an ALF).
Added Helpful documentation
I spent a lot of time writing up helpful documentation about how to use some of our internal organizing tools. One that I’m really proud of is the ALF Community Mastery Trello Board that we use to create ALF cultural norms. This board covers how we handles meetings, what meetings there are, what software we use, and the protocol we follow for doing everything from sending emails to adding new people to the network. It’s an interactive tool that makes our community agreements and structure not only visible to all members but changeable (through our monthly change-up meetings) for all members! It’s something that deserves it’s own blog post. You can read about a real ALC example on the Everett page.
Created “easy links”
Using a redirection plugin I’ve created a number of links to important documents and services that we use. So rather than sending around long links like:
I can redirect an easy link:
to point to the long link. Which is also very helpful if the link has to change! If we find that the hangout link stops working all i’ve got to do is edit the redirect and no one will have to be told about the change, it will just work!
Playing with Slack
We’ve started using this cool service called Slack, which is a group chat room on steroids. It’s really cool! What’s more cool is that is has a bunch of service integrations that can do all sorts of things like listen to a website’s RSS feed or display changes to a Trello card. I spend some time setting up a number of these tools along with @tomis.
The Great List Migration
Part of the work I did over ALF summer was to migrate from the NYC Google Apps for Education account to the ALC Network Apps for Education account. One of the big items of that migration was to switch over the email list serves that we use to communicate. I wrote up an email about what was going on and what people could expect
Upgraded ALC Everett
I’ve spent a lot of time writing about what happened at ALC Everett but I left the website in a kind of limbo. Anyone who was visiting the site wouldn’t exactly know that the school had become inactive or that I had written a comprehensive debrief on the whole thing, including a bunch of documentation around tools and practices. So I spend some time making the site look nice, adding a bunch of links to the debrief and the tool box as well as explanations of what the current status was and a way to contact folks at ALC incase they were from the area and wanted to learn more.
ALC Domain Mapping
This didn’t exactly happen this week, but I wanted to share. @artbrock and I managed to finally get some backend features working that allow schools (or anyone with an ALC site) to map the site to their personal domain name. This means that our school sites can use their own domain while still being part of the network!
So now sites like alcoahu.agilelearningcenters.org will show up as alcoahu.org! So cool.
This has been such an energizing week or productivity! I really feel like I’ve been in a great flow and hope to continue it into the rest of the month.
This weekend on the ALF Summer planning call we began talking about what the process for turning people into Agile Learning Facilitators (ALF) and how to establish schools as Agile Learning Centers (ALC).
This post will cover my ideas on these two subjects which are, in my mind, related. I’m going to focus on three ideas. Trademark and protecting the ALC “brand”, what an ALF is and what a process of “entitling” new ALFs should be, and the process for adding ALCs to our network.
At the core my feeling is that an ALF is simply an ALF if other ALFs say they are an ALF. Just as an ALC is an ALC because ALFs say it is an ALC.
Let’s unpack these acronyms!
Agile Learning Facilitator: This is a person who is trained in the methodology of Agile Learning. They are a member of the Agile Learning Centers network and part of the community of other ALFs. The title of ALF empowers that person to participate fully in the community: they are both the custodian and CEO of the ALC network. They are empowered to facilitate and Agile Learning Center.
Agile Learning Center: This is a school which is facilitated by an ALF using the ALC principles or accepted variations on those principles. An ALC can be a fully fledged school or a program within the context of a school or home school.
So, what if someone calls themselves an ALF or an ALC?
A trademark is any word, name, symbol, or design, or any combination thereof, used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from those of another and to indicate the source of the goods.
So there are two basic kinds of trademark. One is the ™ (trademark) symbol and the other is the ® (registered trademark) symbol.
Anyone can slap a trademark on their word, name, symbol, or design and signal to others that “this design object is ours!” So it’s a bit like licking your cookie so no one else eats it. It doesn’t offer many protections (it would seem, I’m no expert).
Trademark does not protect the company from another company that produces a similar product or uses a similar name. If such a thing were to happen, the original company would have to prove that it produced the name or design first, but still may not have a legal defense without a registration.
So we could start writing Agile Learning Centers™ all over the place but it doesn’t stop Agile Learning Core from becoming a thing. It then puts it on us to lawyer up and prove we were ALC first and they are trying to be ALC. It seems like a fine idea, giving us a little bit of protection, but (and I’m not a lawyer) I think that we could litigate in that situation anyways, ™ symbol or no.
The threat from without is much less of a worry than the threat from within.
I’ve seen this first hand as a “member” of Occupy Wall Street. Recently a twitter handle that represents OWS, a out reach resource, was litigated over by people who believed themselves to be the more authentic controller of that brand asset. This is a clear break down of the agreement around who is and is not “Occupy”. This from a movement with “official” documents reading:
“The people who are working together to create this movement are its sole and mutual caretakers. If you have chosen to devote resources to building this movement, especially your time and labor, then it is yours.”
Anyone could be “on the inside” of Occupy because anyone could simply start participating. ALC is in a similar situation. All of our knowledge is increasingly being documented to the point where someone could start an ALC all on their own. As such, our intention to make ALC open source becomes a means to fracture our network. All it would take is one divisive thing to break the whole network into factions. This is where I suspect the issue of trademark will enter: two factions of ALFs fighting over network resources such as the ALC brand, as opposed to someone from outside using the brand in a way that hurts us.
It is the use of these shared resources that make being accepted into the ALC network valuable. However the resources such as branding, which are easy to define and protect, are not the most valuable resource by far. It is the community of which you are a part which gives membership true value.
Therefore, the process of being accepted into the community holds much more importance than how to trademark and protect resources. I do think that developing a frame work for shared access to resources is an important process that needs to happen sooner than later, but it is outside the scope of this post.
Becoming an ALF
In James P. Carse’s book Finite and Infinite Games he describes titles as somethings we win from playing finite games. Much like Steve Lombardozzi might have the title of “Winner of the1987 World Serise” for playing a finite game of baseball, so too does an ALF play some kind of game to become an ALF. It is our job as ALFs to figure out what that game is.
I want to avoid answering that question. I think that it will never be answered. Nor do I really think it should have an answer. The game will change as the players change.
My proposal is to create not a set of requirements, but a protocol or set of conditions to becoming an ALF. It’s actually pretty simple. To become an ALF an existing ALF invites you to be an ALF.
The invite comes in the form of an endorsement. Ryan endorses Abby and the process begins. Abby is now a rising ALF, she becomes an ALF once she receives a threshold of endorsements. More endorsements means a more reputable ALF.
Endorsements could come with caveats, such as keeping trial status of Rising ALF for a period of time. As we define the benefits of full membership the role of trial membership will come into focus.
A key to this process is the ability to update or remove endorsements from an ALF. This is a method of ostracism, which I believe to be a very important tool for any group. The word ostracize comes from the procedure under the Athenian democracy in which any citizen could be expelled from the city-state of Athens for ten years. There was no recourse because it wasn’t a punishment, it was simply a command from the community.
The tool of ostracism could be used to remove, even temporarily, an ALF who was working themselves sick or who needed space from the community. It is the ability to remove that I find most important from all of my experience with collective intentional groups.
This is the basis of my entire proposal. ALFs become ALFs when other ALFs endorse them (through a blog post perhaps). Negative endorsements are weighed against positive ones if there is contention around a rising ALF and those endorsements can then be updated to reflect changes in a situation.
We could then set conditions to access certain resources. For instance, to be listed as an ALF on the website you might need 5 positive endorsements and no more than 2 negative ones.
Through this process we can introduce Agile Learning Centers.
What Makes an ALC?
I think that it is the ALFs that make the ALC, because the ALC is a school facilitated by an ALF(s) using our principles and tools. So any school that an ALF is running can be assumed to be an ALC, because we wouldn’t endorse an ALF whom we wouldn’t trust to run an ALC.
It would be possible, and probably desirable, for ALFs to endorse ALCs like they endorse other ALFs.
Then similar conditions could be set for listing on the website along with other resources.
To tie this all together I’ve drawn a diagram of how I see the ALC network right now:
The inner ring with red dots are the ALFs. There might be more rings within this circle that signify other roles and responsibilities, all which could be granted using endorsements. If everyone endorsed me to be the Agile King, then it would be.
The outer ring of the middle circle is for rising ALFs and interns. These could possibly be sub divided into people who want to be ALFs and people who simply want to work in ALCs.
The outer circles represent the ALCs each full of students and facilitators, some of which have outer rights (or bumps) with potential (or rising) students.
The ALCs with dashed lines are rising ALCs. I’ve automatically assumed that any school without an “official” ALF is simply a rising, or potential, ALC. This is predicated on my assumption that ALFs make ALCs.
As my diagram illustrates, the ALCs are anchored to the network by the ALFs. Each ALF who is accepted becomes one more anchor point where an ALC can bind to the network.
- Membership to the network comes from being entitled as an Agile Learning Facilitator.
- There are no “higher” levels of membership beyond ALF.
- Persons are accepted as ALFs through peer endorsements.
- Endorsements can be either positive or negative, no endorsements are seen as neutral.
- Further roles and responsibilities are granted though conditions based on the content and number of endorsements.
- ALCs are endorsed by ALFs.
- Access to resources is granted to ALCs based on conditions relative to ALF endorsements.
Strengths of this process
- Allows for independent evaluation of ALFs without requiring attendance to programs such as ALF summer. Any ALF can endorse another person at any time. Other ALFs can conduct interviews on their own time to formulate their own endorsements for the rising ALF.
- The more a rising ALF participates with the community the better their chances of gaining endorsements.
- Low level of process around inviting and empowering people to be ALFs.
- Programs like ALF Summer give rising ALFs an opportunity to meet and interact with other ALFs. This strengthens community ties and provides space for current ALFs to have time with rising ALFs to create better endorsements.
- Minimum bureaucracy.
- Endorsements can change and give ALFs the ability to both add and remove ALFs from the network.
- Endorsements can carry caveats such as trial periods or any other features. For instance Ryan might state that he endorses Abby but wants her to come to ALF summer before he is ready to accept her as a full fledged ALF.
- Provides a measurable figure (positive/negative endorsements) to set certain condition thresholds.
Here are some example conditions that can be set for access to community resources.
- To be a full ALF one must have at least 4 positive and 0 negative endorsements.
- To participate in weekly ALF calls a person must have at least one positive endorsement.
- To be listed in the ALC directory a school must have at least 1 ALF and no negative endorsements.
The obvious issue here for me is negative endorsements. Publicly stating that you don’t feel that someone belongs in a group is hard and feels bad. This, I feel, can be remedied with good communication. Rather that write a negative endorsement I might go to the person in question and let them know what my issues are with them and how they can work to turn my negative feelings into positive ones.
Also creating ways of publicly and privately endorsing people might be a way to help this process.
This also doesn’t completely alleviate the issues outlined above about schisms within our group. If we get to the point of such in-fighting it might be a sign of much larger issues. Being that we are building an open source educational methodology, we might want to take notes from the free software movement and promote forking.
If we design our resources in such a way that people can “fork” (or duplicate) our systems so as to take them in another direction, this would be ideal. We can then solve intractable disagreements by facilitating the duplication of systems for a “break away” group. This idea of forking is something I would like to explore in future posts.
I would appreciate feedback to evolve this idea. Are there any weaknesses you see in this plan? What are ways you would improve it? Please leave a comment or write another post linking back to this one with a response.