CCK08 – Lessons Learned (2)

This post is about the Massively Online Open Course on Connectivism and Connective knowledge (CCK08) facilitated by Stephen Downes and George Siemens. This week I couldn’t attend any of the SL cohort meetings, so I decided to participate in the weekly Ustream ® session for the first time. This meant that I had to face a couple of learning challenges.

1) I’ve never used Ustream, so I had to figure out how to in a technical manner, but fortunately it turned out to be quite intuitive and user-friendly, and the sound quality was pretty good.

2) I also had to get accustomed to this particular synchronous way (speak combined with text chat) of communicating. I’ve been using video conferencing for a couple of years now, but different systems and mainly as facilitator. There were between 47-54 participants while I was logged in. Speakers were Siemens and Downes, and Dave Cormier moderated the discussion – also by asking some of the questions posed by the participants in the chat. Ustream’s video option wasn’t used, which didn’t bother me since I actually find small pictures of people’s heads constantly shifting very distracting. Compared to my text chat experience last week, I found this session easier to follow. I think Cormier did a really good job, it’s not an easy task to moderate :-)

3) It was the first time in the CCK08 I meet participants outside my more familiar SL cohort, and I was a bit concerned that I might feel somewhat disconnected, but I didn’t. This time the context was unfamiliar, but I recognized the voices of both Siemens and Downes, and I’ve had the opportunity to study more of this week’s course materials and I also have some previous experience with this week’s topic (Networks). In the chat I suddenly recognized Jenny :-), who commented on my CCK post last week, but otherwise the usernames represented complete strangers. There was at least one more Dane, Ivrig (Eager), but I have absolutely no idea who that might be? Anyway, I did end up feeling connected, but not in the same sense as last week. I think Jenny’s thoughts on the difference between Network and Community as expressed by Wenger could apply here:

In the words of Etienne Wenger, ‘every community is a network, but not every network is a community’. In a community ‘there is a level of identification that goes beyond degrees of connectedness.’

There’s no doubt that I identify more with the SL cohort than the rest of the CCK participants, but I have a feeling that as the weeks pass by I’ll get more and more acquainted with the non-SL participants and ideally they too can become a valuable community of learning practice. Some of us did ask for Siemens’ and Downes’ take on the distinction between networks and community, but we will focus on that later on in the course, so more on this topic will follow ..

On a completely different topic, there is a question that keeps coming back to me regarding the epistemology of Connectivism. I’m not sure it will make much sense to others, since I find it hard to articulate, but I’ll give a shot – if nothing else documenting is a way of keeping it alive!

I don’t mean to suggest that I have found an epistemological truth in other theories, I don’t even think such a truth exists – the genesis of knowledge is far too complex, but I am however very inspired by my second PhD supervisor, Janni Nielsen’s thoughts on this. According to Nielsen we perceive and generate knowledge via 3 different domains;

  1. Senso-motoric
  2. Emotions
  3. Symbols

No hierarchy intended by the numbers, but 1 and 2 also constitute the domains for tacit knowledge, and when studying Connectivism I find it hard to recognize these domains. I do appreciate Siemens’ distinction between Neural/Biological, Conceptual and External Social and I do think there are some similarities between these types of networks (Siemens)/domains (Downes) and the above mentioned. But … where is the Body in Connectivism, is it just a Cartesian container for the Brain (the Neural) or how is the Biological to be understood –and how do we understand these questions in relation to technology and especially the Web. Would it be plausible in relation to Connectivism to state that technology can provide a perception of embodiment ..

Hmmm !? :-( … learning really can be challenging. Embodiment is a core concept in my PhD project, so I do have to figure out what to think of these questions. Luckily I have 2 ½ years left to do so.

/Mariis

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8 responses to “CCK08 – Lessons Learned (2)”

  1. Stephen Downes says :

    > where is the Body in Connectivism

    My response will be different from George’s.

    From my perspective, when we’re talking epistemologically, all knowledge comes from the senses and all awareness consists of sensory awareness.

    Strictly speaking, from my perspective, there isn’t a distinction to be drawn between sensation and knowledge – what we perceive is what we know, and what we know is what we perceive.

    Just to be clear – our sensations are rather more varied than the traditional ‘five sense’ (where did misleading taxonomy come from anyways?) and includes motion and vertigo, emotions, and bodily awareness.

    For each of those sensations, we can and do tell a story about how our awareness is the result of a physical process – how our eyes perceive light, how our ears perceive air vibrations, how our emotions perceive chemical changes in the brain.

    And I think that we will eventually come to see ‘thought’ as just such a sensation, an awareness (using the familiar modalities of sight and sound and other perceptions) of the cascades of signals send in waves through our neural net.

    Continuing the physical story, we are pattern recognition devices, which is why we perceive first edges and then objects in our visual field, perceive first motion and then direction through our sense of balance and inertia, and first shapes and then symbols when we perceive our thought processes.

    The patterns are what we perceive, and we use the patterns to tell the physical story, a story which, as it gets abstracted from our perception of it, becomes liable to be more or less representative of what we perceive.

    What we ‘know’ – as I’ve commented before – is that which we can’t not know. It is that familiar pattern of thought which we perceive, that way of seeing the world that is synonymous with seeing the world. You can’t not see the chair in front of you, you can’t not recognize Waldo in the picture, you can’t not describe yourself as a physical body.

    The separation – of self from body, of knowledge from perception – is an artifact of our representing these (ourselves, our perceptions) more and more abstractly. ‘Truth’, for example, is a function of language alone – our perceptions, of our senses, of our thoughts, are neither ‘true’ nor ‘false’; it is only when they are placed into sentences that they obtain this attribute.

    The representation of a perception as a sentence becomes a belief – literally, a “propositional attitude” – and as such is automatically either ‘true’ or ‘false’. But these designations are – literally – meaningless. They are artifacts of the symbol system, and not of either knowledge or perception.

    That’s what I would say, in a nutshell. There’s elements of Wittgenstein in there, obviously, as well as elements of Gibson.

  2. Mariis Mills says :

    Thanks, Stephen for taking the time to reflect on this. I agree that “what we perceive is what we know, and what we know is what we perceive.” It has been many years since I read Wittgenstein, but I do see parallels to some of the epistemological thoughts expressed by Merleau-Ponty, who is one of my primary sources of inspiration. Ontologically they differ (I think!?), and I have to investigate this further if I chose to include Wittgenstein in my project ..

    I also agree that “our sensations are rather more varied than the traditional ‘five sense’ (…) and includes motion and vertigo, emotions, and bodily awareness.”

    These points combined are why I dare claim that 3D representation e.g. in SL, offers a unique opportunity (especially in distance education) for users to feel part of an authentic or real context even if it is mediated through technology. I often hear SL residents say that SL feels surprisingly real. If we agree on the above, it’s not a surprise – it is real, because that is the way we perceive it.

    It’s heavy stuff though and I do have to consider this more carefully. But again, thanks Stephen for inspiring me to continue these studies :-)

  3. janni says :

    dear mariis

    I want to take up on the question Mariis asked: Would it be plausible in relation to Connectivism to state that technology can provide a perception of embodiment ..” … in relation to SL.

    Language is our tool for talking and thinking about the world. When reading Mariis question a word came to mind: Immersense . Not immersion – as in beeing immersed in water, this is physical. But immer-sense, in relation to the question of technology and embodiment. Mariis you describe it as: to feel part of an authentic or real context even if it is mediated through technology.

    “To feel part .. even if …”, is the words you use to describe the experience. In my understanding technology can provide a perception of embodiment – and I use the concept of immersense to explain this. It is a lovely word – sense of being, because with technology the interaction is mental. I know that it is also physical and probably will be more as techology develops, but it will always be in a world that is to be perceived, sensed – not physically experienced.

    Yet my body can feel that I fall down the cliff – in the technological world that I am engaged in – my body reacts physically to the fall, but it is all base on visual perception of an “as if” world.

    Am I too creating a division between body and mind? I do not think so, the above is a beautifull example of the way body and mind is intertwined. I make a distinction between the physical world and the technological world. In both these worlds I am, with body and mind, but the experiences that body and mind can have in these two worlds are different, though they may feel the same. Hence I would not use the ” even if …”.

    Stephens answer opened a new window to me, I so not move in the world of connectivism. I agree a long way – however, I am not sure about the statement that we are pattern recognition devices. He writes ” we perceive first edges and then objects in our visual field, perceive first motion and then direction through our sense of balance and inertia, and first shapes and then symbols when we perceive our thought processes”.

    I am thinking about the labour of love, the reatlonships to loved ones. I dont perceive them as patterns, as edges then objects in my visual field. My perception of them is based in emotions. Emotions are cognitive, just as e.g. visual perceptions. Emotions are contextual – just as e.g. visual perceptions. Now bear in mind that I know very little of connectivism and I may be completely wrong, but to me describing human beings as “we are pattern recognition devices” is to reduce human to non-human. The words we choose to describe the world are not neutral – they too communicate.

    Does it make any sense? .. kindest Janni

  4. Mariis Mills says :

    Yes, Janni .. it makes sense to me .. very inspirational .. I think we have found the concept we could work on when I come to stay with you at CBS .. thanks :-)

  5. Jorgen C says :

    Hi Mariis,
    I’m the unknown “ivrig” you saw in a UStream-session .
    I’m a newbie in relation to academic work on e-learning. I joined CCK08 to get into understanding theories about online networked learning.
    It has been very interesting, and very difficult for me. My starting-point, my academic basis, my web2.0 experiences were too weak to keep pace with the work through the 12 weeks.
    Something went wrong from the beginning of the course. I did not feel being part of something. Where were my fellow students, the teacher? I was uncomfortable with ‘creating’ my identity as academic student online. It was all words. I missed my ‘body’, somebody to relate to, a way to turn connections into valuable relations.
    I can relate to your question in a practical sense. Wittgenstein has to wait.
    “Body in Connectivism, is it just a Cartesian container for the Brain (the Neural) or how is the Biological to be understood –and how do we understand these questions in relation to technology and especially the Web. Would it be plausible in relation to Connectivism to state that technology can provide a perception of embodiment “. (Mariis Mills)
    I don’t have much experience with SL, not even in CCK08, but it might be one answer to: How to become a ‘Learning Sustainability Designer’
    I’m working on a miniprojekt on ‘Læring og IT’ on ITU. I will make a simple teaching set-up with wiki, blogs and chat, to improve off-line learning, discuss the pedagogical theory behind the set-up.
    Jorgen C alias ivrig ;-)
    I do some blogging in danish on http://ilearner.dk

  6. Mariis Mills says :

    Hi Jørgen!

    Your sentiments about feeling somewhat alone and perhaps even disconnected is actually coining one of the major challenges in e-learning. With regards to the CCK08 I was lucky and already had a community I could connect with, but from reading course related blogs I think other participants in the CCK08 found it very difficult to connect – at least in the beginning. Also I think the amount of time that you needed to spend just to feel a bit up-to-date came as a surpirse to many .. I quickly realized that I did not have the time .. but I do think the initiative was/is really interesting and I still use the different materials and ressources ad hoc ..

    Your course at ITU sounds really intersting .. a bit like my own course on ICT and Educational Design .. I have commented on your blog and will visit some more in the future to see how your course evolves :-)

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. The Body in Online Learning (1) « Mariis Mills - October 3, 2008
  2. iLearner | Mariis Mills-kommentar - November 20, 2008

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