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.

CCK08 – connecting with 1200 others in an online course

Back from vacation I’ve been catching up on several blogs. Reading Fleep’s Deep Thoughts I was reminded of a very remarkable course given online by George Siemens and Stephen Downes on Connectivism & connective knowledge – CCK08. I’ve been hesitant in signing up for this 12 week course, because my calendar for the fall semester already is quite full. But … Today I signed up and here are the reasons why:

  • I teach learning theory, and Connectivism is in my opinion an increasingly important part of the general learning landscape (both theoretical and methodological) – especially when put in relation with new media/Web 2.0

  • I’ve been a devotee of both Siemens and Downes for quite some time now – and I think participating in a course facilitated by them will prove to be quite the experience :-)


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  • As an online teacher I think it’s important, that I participate “on the other side” as a student once in a while – lots have happened especially on the tech side, since I last studied online in 2003.


  • Joining the course means joining a learning network, connecting with people from all over the world, who share the same interest – and this is actually one of the core principles of Connectivism!


  • I’m excited to see that Fleep and the Chilbo community will host and help facilitate a SL cohort for synchronous meetings – another great opportunity to use SL.


The course is free and it’s still possible to enroll – so connect :-)

/Mariis