“Story of chapters. Once a time chapter is one and the end is coming. Until the cock crows. To be continued ha ha!”

A diagram from a previous Collaborative Exploration (CE) on transformative education. I lack the software on this laptop to edit it right now, but I think it speaks to my sense of scaffolding of creative learning (part of the focus of the October 2013 CE). Read more of this post

Getting swamped online and feeling left behind versus Space to connect, probe, reflect

A story often repeated from a friend’s family:  It’s the 1970s.  The older son, aged about six, is keen on stories about rockets and astronauts.  From the car window he sees a billboard and cries out: “Dad, dad, stop, look:  ‘Space to rent’!”

Well, it’s neither outer space nor the space on billboards that this post is concerned with, and it is not something one can get by laying down money.  It is the space that gets squeezed when we get swamped with online input as we try to avoid feeling left behind.  Spend a little time in a connectivist MOOC or following people on twitter and you’ll probably feel swamped or fragmented or unsure that you can synthesize or keep in mind all the interesting items you are coming across.

The first response is to turn off and tune out.  Another approach is to allow yourself a delimited amount of time per day, say 30 minutes, to explore online offerings or sharings and also carve out equal or more time (preferably when you are fresh at the start of the day) to gather your thoughts based on whatever is currently in view or in mind, which may be quite different from what you have to do for your work or project or studies.  Such “refractive practice,” in which you give yourself space to  “connect, probe, and reflect” (http://wp.me/p1gwfa-sr), makes it less likely that you feel left behind when you don’t follow or respond to every thread that is offered, however worthwhile they seem at first sight.

Eventually or ideally, we would like to go further, for our online interactions to support us in lifelong development that combines—gives integrity to—our personal, professional, and friendship realms.  Instead of having to set limits or worry about being left behind, we feel clear about what we are choosing to get involved in and thrive in the involvement.  Another way to express this is to say that we are well scaffolded and provide sustainable scaffolding for others (http://wp.me/pPWGi-wJ).

Today I happened to revisit the principles of the Burning Man festivals and their worldwide offshoots: http://bit.ly/15y5Nxf.    I haven’t seen a more fully developed view of what I would call scaffolding.  But, when I think about this as a model for scaffolding in work and life, I realize that these festivals duck the problem by building emphemerality into the name and the symbol — the giant Man gets Burned at the end, the site is cleaned up so as to leave no trace, and everyone goes home.  Some relationships formed at the festivals continue and mini-burners are arranged in local communities, but the festival scaffolding doesn’t have to address the challenge of how one helps people (oneself included) open up or see alternative paths in the complex conjunction of people (and their component strands: body, cogitation, unconscious), community, context, tools and processes, and focus on a product (see http://wp.me/p1gwfa-xv).  Are there useful translations to the non-emphemeral that can be made?

Today I started to reread Vivian Paley’s The Girl with the Brown Crayon.  There is sustained and open-ended scaffolding going on in the kindergarten classroom she describes.  Are there useful translations to the case of working with adults that can be made?

Scaffolding, Vertical Unity and Future Ideal Retrospective

A proposed method for you to define “scaffolding”(http://cct.wikspaces.com/CE4) that:
a) has a vertical unity, from which changes horizontally flow;
b) can be revised or repeated readily in different situations;
c) is not so much taken away once the structure is built as internalized and thus gets built on;
d) integrates your personal perspectives with those of others (while not attempting to span the various levels of social action in intersecting social worlds). Read more of this post

Scaffolding versus externally imposed internalised rules

I am beginning the see the idea of “scaffolding” as providing an alternative to the idea of externally imposed rules that are internalised by participants in a workshop or learning experience. Read more of this post

Learning from a 4-day workshop about scaffolding scientific and social change

Although the term “scaffolding” was used often and participants had experiences of being scaffolded, there was little explicit discussion or posting of ideas about scaffolding at a recent 4-day workshop on “Scaffolding Scientific and Social Change.”  In advance of digesting the workshop evaluations, let me post on what my reflections on the workshop in relation to my own developing ideas. Read more of this post

Scaffolding: Multiple angles


Thinking about developing a theory of scaffolding led me first to tease out many angles and, for each angle, a range of components or sub-angles (see table below).  Faced with zillions of permutations, I asked:

a)     Is there something that underlies or runs through such complexity?

b)    How can we avoid the trap of developing a theory of everything, in which scaffolding adds nothing special and we reinvent the wheel?

On a), I can envision varieties or degrees of entanglement positioned in relation to time duration on one axis and numbers of people involved on the other.  I could also envision theorizing of scaffolding being merely a variant of the longstanding tension between political-economics determined by structural dynamics (e.g., contradictions inherent in capitalism) and struggles for a better world.

On b), I can imagine people using the table to repeatedly take stock, individually and collectively, by asking themselves two linked questions: Would you like to move from your position on any of the angles to another position (e.g., from cultivating collaborators to relationship of indefinite duration) and, if so, what can you do to help build the conditions to make that move possible (i.e., to scaffold the shift and be scaffolded)?

Angle on scaffolding Spectrum or components within that angle
Structure vs.


Intentional or voluntarist

Facilitated by infrastructure

Determined by structural dynamics

Invisible hand

Costs vs. benefits Infrastructure (who pays?; who is positioned to benefit?)

“Externalities” (=costs displaced to others—in place & in time)

Intended duration Indefinite (=it’s our livelihood & way of life)

Until the resource runs out and the extractor moves on (a not so desirable angle)

For a campaign, which might grow into a movement

Support in an institution (e.g., family, workplace)

Facilitated community planning leading to multiple projects under an umbrella

Policy experiments with adaptive assessment

Support in an agreed-on “container” (e.g., support group, dialogue process group, supportive listening dyad)

Cultivating collaborators (e.g., in CPR workshops)

Transmission of information (lecture, publication)



Local (but always subject to knowledge & resources offered or withheld by translocal agents)

Translocal offer-ers or withhold-ers of knowledge & resources to the local (but always operating in some local setting of their own)

Transversal engagement (in ways to be developed)


Vector Contingent (heterogeneous construction from diverse, practical considerations)

Rules/themes/principles of participation

Guiding ethic (e.g., support others to do the best work they can in the circumstances)

Telos (either drawing us towards it or something to assess our path in relation to)

Unevenness Jostling among the six points of the 3D mandala

Solidarities among a local group susceptible to some of the group being coopted by translocal

Motivation/curiosity re: heterogeneous complexities “love and rage!  neediness for connection; a sense of humor; a lust to somehow stay with the trouble without despair; joy; just plain curiosity”
Sense of agency Operate from one’s personality type (e.g., Fromm, Grid-group, Myers-Briggs) or location on personality axes

Operate with awareness of one’s personality as not universal

Operate with awareness of personality of others

Facilitation allows individuals of “all personality types [to move] toward a participatory democracy behavior”

Mature personality (no longer bound by personality type)

Levels 1. Someone starts with a final structure in mind and provides the workers (or students) a safe scaffolding they use to complete the structure (or for students to come to understand the ideas and be proficient in the practices)

2. Someone starts with a structure already in place and provides a secure scaffolding (base) for the workers (students, mentee, “coach-ee”) to renovate (innovate, re-narrate) so as to modify that structure (in education: “private universes,” Taking Yourself Seriously).

3. Someone (or someones) has (have) a synergistic cooperative or collaborative situation in mind—drawn from past experience and current understanding—and provides scaffolding to more than one group of workers (potential cooperators) to lead them towards a place where, if and when the groups meet, their interaction creates more than the sum of the parts. That is, like two sides of a bridge joining in a stable arch, the resulting situation is something no group could provide for itself (e.g., “strategic participatory planning”)

4. Like in tissue engineering, someone provides a matrix or scaffold and seeds it with “cells” that then grow in interaction with the matrix— perhaps dissolving the matrix—and eventually in interaction with other groups of cells to form a situation—the “tissue”=a dynamic structure that can insert itself (or be inserted) into in a larger context or dynamic structure—the “body”—to generate possibilities not present in the matrix/cells/groups of cells/ larger context that the new structure is inserted into.

5. Like the maintenance of our bones, a dynamic structure has components that are constantly replenished with new components—maintaining its integrity as a structure, but adapting to changes in its contexts (like new stresses strengthening bones) and in turn, generating possibilities (innovations/renovations), not seen or experienced before.


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