CCK08 continues in 2009

From Stephen Downes’ weekly newsletter I learned that he has posted a description of the Connectivism & Connective Knowledge (also known as CCK08) course on the Access to Open Educational Resources (a UNESCO community) – and if you’re interested in course design the description is well worth a read.  The CCK08 ran for 12 weeks during the fall 2008, butI only found time to participate by lurking, nonetheless it was very inspirational, and I still return to many of the course resources on a regular basis:

In his newsletter Downes also reveals that he and George Siemens will run the course again this fall, and from the cross posting of the course description on Downes’ own blog I saw that one of the course participants, Sui Fai John Mak, has created a Ning to continue networked explorations of connectivism, technology, web 2.0, education and research. As far as I can tell, anyone interested in these topics can join the network – participation in the CCK08 is not a requirement. Since I still don’t have sufficient time to devote to those topics, I’m reluctant to join, but I will try to follow their endeavors …

Via another partcipant’s blogpost, Jenny Mackness, I found this video created by three other participants, Viplav Baxi, Carlos Casares and Maru del Campo as part of their final CCK08 project.

I appreciate the humor and the Cat vs. Dog learning style, but what really struck me as intersting was their PLE’s – especially when these were merged, I think they illustrated very well the complexity of learning via connected technology and people – great job :-)


The Body in Online Learning (1)

In my post on lessons learned from the CCK08 course last week I posed the question where the Body is in Connectivism, and one of the CCK08 facilitators, Steven Downes, commented and so did my PhD-supervisor, Janni Nielsen. This has inspired me to do some preliminary reflections on the Body in online learning in general. Since embodiment is a core concept in my PhD, this is something I’ll return to again and again, but I do have to start at some point …

I think Downes, Nielsen and I agree that technology can provide a perception of embodiment, and as I commented to Downes, that’s 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.”

Nielsen confronts my “to feel part of .. even if ..” phrase, which may seem illogical if you really believe that technology can provide a sense of embodiment. I guess this stems from my talks about SL. It’s my impression that 3D technology still is rather exotic to most people (even 2D!), and I think I might lose credibility if I started a talk by stating that this is real! Perhaps I underestimate my audience, but I do feel that if you’re not familiar with online behavior and haven’t been immersed in a 3D setting it may seem surreal … And I know that some people who actually are familiar with e.g. online learning do not feel the way I do.

I am very much inspired by phenomenology, and in preparation for my PhD application last summer, I revisited some of the great thinkers within that field, some of them being Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Hubert L. Dreyfus. According to Ajana (2005) perception in Merleau-Ponty’s terms is:

(…) a ‘system’ of meanings by which the phenomenological process of recognizing and ‘sensing’ objects takes place, and it is through the medium of the body that we get to ‘experience’ and ‘perceive’ the world: ‘Our own body is in the world as the heart is in the organism: it keeps the visible spectacle constantly alive, it breathes life into it and sustains it inwardly, and with it forms a system’ (Merleau-Ponty, 1962: 203).

This may be what Downes refers to, when he states that “we’re pattern recognition devices” though I’m not sure Downes would label himself as a phenomenologist.

Anyway, Dreyfus inspires me, because he is also influenced by Merleau-Ponty, but I have to say that we read and interpret Merleau-Ponty in different ways, and that forces me to reflect on my own position. In 2001 Dreyfus published the book “On the Internet”, and if I had to point to one single reason why I wanted to do a PhD on 3D-mediated teaching and learning potential this is it!

Dreyfus goes against the hype on the potentials of the Internet, and I do think that that can be quite appropriate, but I just do not agree with the majority of Dreyfus’ points and his argumentation. In the introduction Dreyfus writes:

(…) in what follows, I hope to show that, if our body goes, so does relevance, skill, reality and meaning. If that is the trade-off, the prospect of living our lives in and through the Web may not be as attractive after all. (Dreyfus, 2001:7 – my italics)

A short comment to this could be that our bodies do not go (anywhere!) when we engage in internet activities – like the heart in the organism we’re bodily grounded in the world regardless of how it presents itself to us. Furthermore I’m pretty sure that millions of Internet users find meaning and learn skills no matter how they perceive reality. But my intention in this post is not to review and comment on Dreyfus’ entire book, where he of course elaborates this and many other points.

First of all, I’m in the beginning of my research and I still lack insight and sufficient academic competencies to do so in a reputable manner, and I certainly do not want to seem disrespectful. That specific comment just triggered my research and for that I do feel appreciative to Dreyfus.

Second, other researchers have already presented arguments against the Dreyfus claims, and in this post I want to point the reader’s attention to Ray Land.

One of Dreyfus’ claims is that risk-taking is a necessary prerequisite for learning at a higher level and that especially due to the anonymous nature of online learning the learner and the teacher do not really take any risks. Land (2004) addresses this issue;

What is puzzling about Dreyfus’ analysis is how it seems to take no cognizance of the many risks to identity, confidence, emotional security and esteem that are encountered on a daily basis by participants within online learning environments.

I think both my MIL students and some of the participants in the CCK08 will recognize Land’s description, I know I do – even here as I write on my “own” blog. An interesting angle to this could be to explore Dreyfus (and Dreyfus. 1986) renowned taxonomy of learning. I do appreciate the methodic/analytical benefits of looking at the learning process this way, but I’m really not convinced that learning occurs linearly …

These will be my first public thoughts on the body in online learning – I will return…


If this caught your attention I really recommend that you read Dreyfus and the other below mentioned references :-)

Ajana, B. (2005): Disembodiment and Cyberspace: A Phenomenological Approach.

Dreyfus, H.L. (2001): On the Internet.

Land, R. (2004): Issues of Embodiment and Risk in Online Learning.

Related references:
Virtual Identity and the Cyberspace

Why blog? e-flections …

Both at The MIL Programme and in the CCK08 blogging is a theme. Paul Lowe, author of the “E-flections” blog, whom I just discovered has created a slideshow presenting arguments for blogging based on Donald A. Schön and Harry Potter among others – it’s really worth checking out!

In general Lowe’s blog seems to be very interesting and relevant covering many topics within the field of e-learning – also Lowe is an award-winning freelance photographer, so the blog is filled with visual goodies :-)  I’m really looking forward to exploring this some more ..

It’s also available on Slideshare

Thanks to Joan Vinall-Cox for pointing me in that direction … BTW, I’m amazed by Joan’s ability to keep up with the lastest trends and tools .. suspect it has something to do with her PLE/network ;-)


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.


CCK08 – Lessons learned (1)

This post is about the Massively Online Open Course on Connectivism and Connective knowledge (CCK08) facilitated by Stephen Downes and George Siemens. SL resident Fleep Tuque has organized an in-world cohort that holds weekly meetings. On Tuesday September 16th I attended for the first time, and it turned out to be quite a learning experience.

When I first arrived at The Shrubbery Amphitheatre , I was friendly greeted by some of the other participants text chatting about the course and some of the readings. Quickly the theatre was filled with more members of the cohort and the discussions started to flourish on topics/questions like;

What is Connectivism, is Connectivism a theory, is the question “what is ..” the right one to ask about Connectivism, the concept theory itself is ambiguous, is Connectivism a sort of pragmatism, technology and context as keys for learning, is it plausible to compare the learning process with neural networks, technology helps dealing with information overload as well as it creates overload, internal memory vs. external memory, are we becoming more reliant on external memory as information overload increases.

And then the discussion ended by a debate on the participants’ familiarity with C-map, Mindmeister and Diigo.

After this half hour of discussion we teleported to The Connectivism Village to have a look at the different facilities Fleep and Graham Mills have designed for the course in-world.

By the end of the session my computer chrashed, but fortunately Fleep stores the text trancripts in the cohort’s wikispace – TY Fleep, that’s really helpful in many ways :-)

So what did I learn from this experience?

1) The language barrier may be a larger problem than first anticipated. Being a non-native English speaker I found it difficult to follow the intense text chatting, and it was impossible for me to contribute to the discussion in-situ. I did understand everything, but it takes time for me to reflect and formulate answers/comments, and since the discussion evolved round many different topics, my contributions probably would seem “out of place” (at least in a timely aspect), so I settled for active listening. I do believe there’s a learning potential in active listening, but it was quite unusual to be in the lurking position ;-)

2) I’m not a fan of text chatting, and I don’t think I ever will be – at least not when discussing complex matters. I’ve been confirmed in my presumption that text chat is best suited for decision making and quick clarification, not as a tool for serious, lengthy debates. However, I don’t want to dismiss text chat as a tool for serious debating just yet. I think it may work if the topic was well defined and narrow.

You may think that I’m more of an asynchronous learner, but I don’t think that’s the case. RL I just love intense discussions, and I can easily handle complex diversity and people interrupting each other. Online it s a different story though. When engaged in synchronous online discussions with many participants I do prefer a more structured organization than usual. RL we’re used to looking at non-verbal signs to decode wither someone is finished, about to say something etc. When non-verbal signs are not possible, I think we may have to compensate in other ways e.g. by structuring the turn-taking.

3) One of the current problems of the cohort is that not all of us (me included!) have read the suggested literature, so we do not yet have “common ground”, which I think can be quite essential for fruitful discussions. As I see it, many of us are still trying to ground ourselves in the many, many different course materials both in- and out-world.

4) As other participants I suspect that Siemens and Downes deliberately have designed the course so that it will illustrate the complexity of connected learning. Siemens (2004/2005) states:

Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing.

Learning how to manage this complexity becomes pertinent, and since there are clear references to chaos theory, it’s only natural (?) that this learning process is quite confusing and at least initially somewhat unpleasant.

5) One of the reasons why I signed up for this course was that I wanted to return to the role of the learner. I actually don’t think I really ever leave this role, but this is a more formal role. Other people (Siemens, Downes, cohort participants) have great influence on my current learning, and being an online facilitator myself, I think it’s important to return to this role occasionally.

As it turns out I, together with my colleague Jørgen Lerche Nielsen, am facilitating an online course with 23 new MIL students parallel with the CCK08. I follow the students discussions and watch them trying to find common ground and become familiar with a way of learning and debating which to most of them is completely new. Participating in the CKK08 reminds me how difficult, confusing, frustrating, exiting, and fun it can be to enter a new community of practice. Lave & Wenger’s (1991) and Wenger ‘s (1999) theories on situated learning and communities of practice in fact are some of the theories that my students have chosen to discuss, and I don’t think it’s all coincidental. The concept of being a legitimate peripheral participant seems very appropriate for all of us.

One of the key points is that you need to become an active participant in the practice of the community, but initially you have to join the community and learn at the periphery. As you become more competent you’ll move more to the centre of the particular community.

A concluding comment would therefore be that even though I may not have achieved the expected goals of the course so far?, I’ve learned other important things, and I don’t have a feeling of disconnection, rather of being in the periphery … slowly moving towards the centre …



Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (1991) Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.

Etienne Wenger (1999) Communities of Practice. Learning, meaning and identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

George Siemens (2004/2005) Connectivism. A Learning Theory for the Digital Age.