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 ;-)

/Mariis

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

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 …

/Mariis

References

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.