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Orienting myself to the Change 11 MOOC

I have signed up to the Change11 MOOC and feeling a little bit wary as day job is intensely busy and I am not sure I can make the commitment.  Of course, the reason that I have signed up is that I had such an interesting experience at CCK08 (and a few interesting moments at CCK09,CCK11). So let me start by thanking the organisers George Siemen and Stephen Downes for giving that opportunity.  This week is orientation week, facilitated by George Siemens, Stephen Downes and Dave Cormier and I am so keen that I am posting my first blog post before the course has properly started (this keenness could wear off, I have to say).  One of the things that I have really loved about engaging with the CCK MOOCs is that they have really challenged me and made me think, and being the pedant academic that I am, I am keen to engage with that challenge now.

Jenny Mackness posted about the Change11 MOOC, and in the replies Heli Nurmi (a valued member of my network encountered in CCK08) alerted us to an exchange on Jeff Lebow’s blog about some MOOC-related activity to which Stephen Downes.  This really did make me think!

Stephen Downes replied to the post that referred to Collaborative Open Online Learning as follows:

I resisted commenting when I first saw the alternative ‘Collaborative’ name mentioned, but now I regret that.

But I do feel it worth mentioning here that the structure and nature of a MOOC is exactly not ‘collaborative’. Let me explain.

Most definitions of ‘collaborate’ focus on the idea that a group of people are working on something in common – shared aims, shared objectives, shared project, etc. and very often they result in becoming a group, a team or a cohesive community.

MOOCs and the connectivist approach to learning, as I have argued elsewhere, is by contrast ‘cooperative’. There is no presumption of unity, order, shared goals or coherence. There’s no sense of being ‘in the group’ or its opposite. If teams or groups form, they are tangential to the course, and not the core or essence of it.

So, if you are discussing ‘Collaborative Open Online Learning’, you are not discussing MOOCs. Perhaps you are discussing things like WikiEducator or OERu, where everybody is pulling the same way. I don’t know.

For more on this, see my stuff on ‘groups and networks’:

http://www.downes.ca/post/42521

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_downes/252157734/

http://www.slideshare.net/Downes/groups-vs-networks-the-class-struggle-c…

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4126240905912531540

http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2006/10/that-group-feeling.html

My first thought was that Stephen had appointed himself as the MOOC definition policeman. The discourse about who ‘owns’ a term is slightly incestuous and I have already commented on this with respect to MOOCs.

However, Stephen’s next comment really fascinated me:

Either way, whatever Google says, the aim of a MOOC is *not* to “Act jointly; work toward the same end.”

I replied:

That is an interesting approach Stephen. You seem to suggest that there is one aim for a MOOC.  Of course in any human organisation (i.e. involving more than one person) there may be multiple aims, possibly overlapping but distinct.  What would you do if a number of people decided to work jointly towards a common end on your MOOC?  Would you ban them for disobeying your network principles or your MOOC definition?

The picture below is the England Cricket team winning a game in the Ashes tournament in 2009.

England mob Swanny by RNLJC&M

England mob Swanny, a photo by RNLJC&M on Flickr.

This team had a common goal – to win- and worked together to achieve it – they collaborated, even if only temporarily.  By Stephen Downes’ definitions they were a group at that point in time. However,they may have had individual, overlapping goals: to get better job offers, to increase their merchandising and advertising revenue.  Such is the complexity of human activity!

So are George Siemens, Stephen Downes and Dave Cormier a team, a group or a network?  If they are a network, can they have a common aim for Change 11, and where is it?  I couldn’t find it though Stephen contends  that the aim of a MOOC is not to be collaborative, or to act jointly toward the same end.  Well that lets George and Dave off the hook if they disagree with that aim, but then it rather dents the ‘aim of a MOOC’.

So where am I going with all of this?

If a MOOC, particularly a CHANGE MOOC is about being open, promoting knowledge as a network of people and things, how can it proscribe forms of human organisation?

Bring it on #change11 😉

A political joke from Steven Lukes


Five citizens of the Reich were sitting in a railway waiting room.  One of them sighed, another clasped his head in his hands, the third one groaned loudly and the fourth sat with tears streaming down his face.

The fifth one looked at them, and shook his head.

‘Be careful , gentlemen.  It’s not wise to discuss politics in public.’

Lukes, Steven; Galnoor, Itzhak; illustrations by Michael Heath. (1986) pdf_iconNo Laughing Matter: A Collection of Political Jokes. Routledge Kegan & Paul.

In our ALT-C 2011 symposium last week I referred to Lukes’ 1,2 and 3 dimensional views of power and whilst reading more by him, came across his wonderful gift of a book of political jokes (see link in caption above).  This joke (that I told in our session) neatly demonstrates “the third dimension of such power, where the power consists, not in prevailing over the opposition of others, nor in imposing an agenda on them, but in influencing their desires, beliefs and judgments in ways that work against their interests.” (Steven Lukes with Clarissa Hayward) ‘Nobody to shoot? Power, structure, and agency: A dialogue‘ Journal of Power, Vol. 1, No. 1, April 2008, pp. 5–20

My contention in my contribution to our symposium was that it’s really important to keep asking the awkward and uncomfortable questions, resisting the third dimension of power. In my Twitter stream I have come across Jennifer Jones’ fascinating narrative of her engagement with seminars about the Olympics, see her blog post and Twitter stream.  To me, this is a classic case of resistance to the third dimension of power.  This blog post, and more importantly the joke above, are offered in your honour Jennifer.

Let’s all keep asking the questions.

What can’t we say? What don’t we say?

Year Two, Day 52: Some secrets are worth keeping
At our ALT-C 2011 Symposium tomorrow The Paradox of Openness: The High Costs of Giving Josie Fraser, Helen Keegan Richard Hall and I will speak briefly about different aspects of openness and online in relation to education and learning, in order to open up discussion amongst participants.  We are also keen to extend dialogue beyond the conference and over time.

One of my interests in being involved in this symposium is that I suspect that there are questions that are not being asked about openness online.  I am keen to explore what openness means and what we can’t or don’t ask about online sharing and communicating.  18 years ago, when I first started thinking about processes of enquiry in relation to information technology, I came across the idea that surfacing assumptions could be useful.  I was intrigued by the idea that  what we thought and talked about could be constrained by things that we took for granted to the extent that we were neither aware of them or discussed them.

Today, I was at pre-ALTC 2011 Conference workshop that was timed to coincide with the launch of Technology Outlook: UK Tertiary Education 2011-2016the first report in a new series of NMC Horizon Report Regional Analyses.  One thing I will carry from that workshop to our symposium was part of the definition of ‘open content’ as something that embraces not only the sharing of information, but also the sharing of pedagogies and experiences.

Tomorrow, I’ll be using some ideas from Steven Lukes well-established work on 1,2 and 3 dimensional views of power to help think about examples of the exercise of power in online ‘openness’. I’ll report back on the outcome and continue the discussion here.

A comment on George Siemens post plus a few more comments

I just tried to post this comment on George Siemen’s http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2011/09/01/the-narrowness-of-thought-in-higher-education-reform/ blog post but not sure it ‘took’ so I am posting it here.

Thanks for this George (I also made a comment over at your slideshow).  One of the reasons that I came into the field of Learning Technology (if indeed it is a field) was to play a part in letting lessons learned in earlier organisational applications of technology benefit what is happening in education.  This requires us to reference disciplines such as Information Systems (my home discipline), Business and Management, as well as Computer Science and Education.
Last year I was the commissioning editor, facilitating a Special Issue of ALT-J edited by 3 significant figures in education and you can see the articles here  
http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet26/ajet26.html.
You could say that the articles mainly cover additive change but that issue and the whole wealth of research into transforming institutions within a huge business and societal sector like education is a huge challenge.  I agree, we need to broaden our thought (and read around), but also ‘go canny’ as they say in Scotland.  Whatever the future will be, we are unlikely to predict it with accuracy, and will need to nudge our visions along the way.

We at ALT-J are experiencing change, with our name having changed from what sounds a bit like a keyboard shortcut to ‘Research in Learning Technology’, and Research in Learning Technology moving to Open Access publication (without author charges!) from January 2012.  This has been a process of change, with reflection, consideration of options along the way, including publishing back issues in ALT Repository (within copyright agreement) see http://www.alt.ac.uk/publications-and-resources/publications/alt-journal-research-learning-technology

It’s mine – or rather, it’s his: other ways to talk about changing practice

This blog post is a reply that I posted to Stephen Downes’ review of Anya Kamenetz’s booklet on Edupunk, and a celebration of finding David Jenning’s blog.

@Stephen I think you make a valuable distinction in your first paragraph between learning by doing and DIY learning that is useful to anyone learning or trying to help others learn.
I found myself wondering why Anya Kemenetz didn’t refer to the provenance of the term Edupunk or FWIW cited OLDaily as a resource but then I checked out the comments thread here and began to think that maybe Anya would be damned if she did try to acknowledge the ‘origins’ of Edupunk just as she has been damned for not doing so.

It's Mine
This blog post is a reply that I posted to Stephen Downes’ review of Anya Kamenetz’s booklet on Edupunk, and a celebration of finding David Jenning’s blog.

@Stephen I think you make a valuable distinction in your first paragraph between learning by doing and DIY learning that is useful to anyone learning or trying to help others learn.
I found myself wondering why Anya Kemenetz didn’t refer to the provenance of the term Edupunk or FWIW cited OLDaily as a resource but then I checked out the comments thread here  and began to think that maybe Anya would be damned if she did try to acknowledge the ‘origins’ of Edupunk just as she has been damned for not doing so.
I think Ed Webb made a good point on the same comments thread.

Ed Webb says:
February 27, 2011 at 12:54 pm
I can’t be doing with all this movement theology. The spirit of the thing seems to be the most important. If it’s no fun any more, if the thrill is gone, then the breakup makes sense.
Also, this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkdqCTcDkbc

I do wonder about the value of trying to pin down and own the term Edupunk see http://bavatuesdays.com/edupunk-or-on-becoming-a-useful-idiot/

I agree with @David that it is quite a useful booklet.  I would think that if I directed two resources – Anya’s booklet and your Future of Online Learning article- to new students thinking about how be effective learners in a changing sociotech landscape, they would find hers much more useful. Whereas learners researching online learning would find yours useful at a much deeper level.

As an idea Edupunk is clearly inspirational and motivating but it’s not a completely fixed thing where you need to check all the boxes.  If it were, you couldn’t really ‘claim’ your (excellent) MOOCs as part of it.  I remember in CCK08, you and George clearly positioned yourselves on occasions as ‘teachers’ teaching a ‘theory’ despite the rhetoric of teaching by modelling practice
Being a teacher myself I felt a mixture of sympathy and amusement when you were moved to reply to a participant:

“I’m sorry to be snippy – but I’m getting very tired of students in this course saying “I disagree” or “You’re wrong” without giving me even the faintest clue about what it is that seems wrong much less concrete evidence that they’ve read the work they’re disagreeing with).

This isn’t a confessional course. You do not need to profess your faith one way or another. I don’t care whether or not you agreee or disagree with me or anyone else. What I do care about is that you have understood the theory sufficiently as to have some reason for disagreeing.” http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/moodle/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=956#p5802 (scroll down)

What I suspect is at the bottom of this is captured in @David’s last 2 paras how do we critique ideas and practice of learning (like MOOCs , connectivism and Edupunk) in this changing socio-technical landscape. As I commented here , I don’t find the occasionally tetchy tone very helpful.  Also, I think we should guard against the premature stabilisation of ideas .

Stephen’s post has also been valuable to my networked learning as it has helped me to find David Jenning’s blog  – so thanks to both of you for that.

Managing networking in social media – what’s in between the zone of homophily and broadcast?

I was interested to read George Siemens post on his loss of interest in social media, I did not completely agree with him , though my disagreement was not so dramatic as Donald Clark’s. I think George might be confusing a channel/ web service with what people can do with it.

I was interested to read George Siemens post on his loss of interest in social media, I did not completely agree with him , though my disagreement was not so dramatic as Donald Clark’s.  I think George might be confusing a channel/ web service with what people can do with it.

However, George’s post did get me to reflect on my own practice with Twitter.  I had a think and came up with this analysis of my own Twitter network.  Everyone’s Twitter network is different e.g. @Downes with 4k+ followers and following 1.
My personal Twitter network

My personal network contains two zones – the blue (those who follow me)and the red (those I follow).  The overlap between those is my zone of homophily. This is a bit of a comfort zone where those with whom I share interests can share resources and conversation (sometimes silly).  However, previous research warns us of the dangers of group think  and the dangers of familiarity can militate against questioning and criticality.

In the blue zone of those who follow me, there will be people I know but don’t follow – I broadcast to them!.  I suspect there are a lot of ‘dead’ Twitter users who followed me then left.  Some who found me via the 112 lists I am in (I own 1 list) may still be following me. I would also guess that there are quite a few bots and spammers that I haven’t managed to spot and block.  This all makes the apparent 1198 to whom I broadcast my tweets (without me seeing theirs) look like  a large  overestimate of ‘followers’. Although my attention is mainly focused towards the red zone, I still value the tweets from some of the 1198 that hop over to grab my attention by using @francesbell.  I will usually click on their name and take a quick look at their recent tweets, maybe following them if they look interesting.

In the zone of those I follow but they don’t follow me, I am on the receiving end of broadcasts from the great and the good of social media /learning technology, a band, a folk festival, news media feeds, a funding body, a cinema,  a couple of celebrities,and  my Vice-Chancellor. I definitely can gain information from these links but there is little or no conversation taking place.  I am in their blue zone and may @message them but only once if I don’t get a reply – I get the message they aren’t seeking conversation;)

So although the focus of my Twitter network may appear to be my zone of homophily, my broadcasters and broadcast audience are also important to me. If your zone of homophily is too big to manage, prune it but don’t blame the channel.  If my valued network decamps to G+, I might need to shift my activity there but currently, I find Twitter a lot more manageable and less intrusive than G+.  I ‘go to Twitter’ via Tweetdeck whereas G+ comes to me every time I log into to my Google account for other reasons.

Edit: a question from @heloukee made me realise I hadn’t said how I worked out the numbers.  I got the number of followers and followed by me from Tweetdeck then got the number I follow who don’t follow me back from http://twopcharts.com/notfollowingback.php?source=gl&user=francesbell. I would have been in trouble if that number was more than 100 (twopchart’s limit) so this method won’t work for everyone.

Premature Stabilisation of MOOCs and other things

opεnıng hıc▲nunc pεrspεctıvε . .

opεnıng hıc▲nunc pεrspεctıvε Jef safi

I have already posted on the recent discussion on MOOCs, and I was quite pleased with the discussion that ensued in the comments. There does seem to be some interest in the nature of the MOOC discussion, at least in the outer fringes anyway.  I had thought of posting a follow up but didn’t do so until I found myself posting an incredibly long comment on Dave Cormier’s recent post about the need for a philosophy of learning. Hmm, I thought – you really do want to write a blog post about this.

I liked the pragmatic tone of Dave’s blog post, particularly his recognition that in teaching and learning that we sometimes deal with ‘points’ of knowledge as ‘facts’ to move us on to the really interesting and challenging learning  that inhabits (or is banished from) the lines and spaces between points (read his post for a better explanation).

Dave’s post led me to reflect on the (in)stability of knowledge in the context of the recent discussion on MOOCs and on Connectivism.  My main experience of both of these phenomena was CCK08 a MOOC on Connectivism and Connective Knowledge in which I participated in 2008.  I have critiqued Connectivism as a theory, questioning its premature stability  “If Connectivism is mutable knowledge as it extends its network, then it will behave like the knowledge and networks it describes in the theory.” link to Networked Learning paper.  I have argued that Connectivism is a useful phenomenon rather than a theory and suggested ways in which it might be developed and used.  In those papers I compared Connectivism with Actor Network Theory that deals with the concept of stabilisation but I was pleased to find a somewhat more accessible treatment of stabilisation knowledge in Engestrom’s writing.

Stabilization knowledge is constructed to freeze and simplify a constantly shifting
or otherwise bewildering reality. It is used to turn the problematic into a closed phenomenon
that can be registered and pushed around rather than transformed. It
commonly takes the shape of fixed and bounded categories, but also narratives may
be used to stabilize. Stabilizing categories often become stigmatic stamps on objects,
both human beings and things. Engestrom 2007.

(Note: I just found Engestrom’s writing on stabilisation and possibility knowledge – other examples of the (in)stability of knowledge very welcome)

So we are sitting in a room at something that we call a table and we acknowledge that this table means something different to all of us but we can somehow suspend these differences and have a worthwhile conversation about the table that increases our personal knowledge of this table thing as long as we acknowledge the differences and are listening to each other.
In the part of the recent MOOC discussion I saw, this was not always happening.  I would characterise some of the contributions as either trying to solidify and stabilise the concept of a MOOC, or perhaps in Wiley’s case reject it.  To me it seemed like a bit of a power struggle between Knowledge as fact to be transferred, preferably via OERs, and Knowledge as implicated in the ‘new’ concept’ of MOOCs.  In both cases, there is the risk of a premature stabilisation of knowledge taking place: in the first case of fixed knowledge artifacts: and in the second case that MOOCs are a label for something that has happened in other ways in the past, and the label and premature stability could impede future development.

So why does this matter?

I would say because premature stabilisation removes the possibility of development and can exclude valid and relevant perspectives, as I argued in my previous post.  I don’t know if Siemens, Downes and Wiley complete the assigned Belenky reading;)

Let’s have some possibility knowledge in the OER and connected learning discussions.

Possibility knowledge, on the other hand, emerges when objects are represented
in fields with the help of which one can depict meanings in movement and transformation.
One traces transitions of positions in a field, which destabilizes knowledge,
puts it in movement and opens up possiblities. In this sense, possibility knowledge is
agentive knowledge, the instrumentality of agency at work.Engestrom 2007

I am a simple soul who needs to ground ideas in my personal experience or other examples, and so my reflections led me straight back to my own personal contrasting experiences of CCK08. (Warning: these are neither points nor facts but my own subjective interpretations of what happened within my own experience).
1.Once the disrupter had left, there was some great discussion on the (disapproved) Moodle forums where I was learning and observing others (appearing to be) learning. There was a great tolerance for different views and pragmatism of approach.
2. External speaker sessions where new ideas could be introduced and these may have sparked discussions amongst participants in the chat window, on blogs or in forums (suggesting learning).
3. Friday sessions which tended to be broadcast-only by George Siemens GS and Stephen Downes SD, with slightly quizzical moderation from Dave Cormier, plus a bit of lively chat window interaction often strangely disconnected from the monologues (at least in the ones I observed before giving up on the Friday sessions).

I think that 1,2,3 are in order of greatest to least learning taking place.

If we look at each in terms of who was (apparently) learning: in 1 participants learned frequently, GS sometimes, SD rarely; in 2 participants sometimes particularly if followed up, GS and SD more likely than in forums, presenter very little if at all; in 3 if learning was taking place here I couldn’t see it except in chat window interaction.
My own very personal views were probably highly influenced by my own reactions to the different environments, and by my own growing certainty that connectivism was something to be tossed around and critiqued not ‘learned’. I argue that MOOCs and connectivism are organic phenomena that are not ready for being tied down and ‘judged’.

Useful questions are:
How are MOOCs and Connectivism like and not like other phenomena X Y Z?

How do people make effective use of them?

What can the protoganists learn?

I think that Dave’s pragmatic approach might help – that OK we know knowledge isn’t really ‘transferred’ but sometimes that simplification of what is really happening can move things forward a bit. Attempting for precision of definition of things that are still a bit fuzzy for everyone doesn’t always help matters.  It’s still time for possibility knowledge in the areas of informal learning in a digital environment and modes of organisation (such as MOOCs, networks and virtual communities).
I found it interesting that Dave referred to parent/child interactions where provisional/revisional approaches to ‘knowledge’ are most helpful for learning – parents are there for the long haul, they don’t need to the last detail on the first attempt.
I would question every letter of the MOOC acronym with the possible exception of online but that’s not to say I think they are a bad thing – I am just not yet sure what they are going to be.
I think they can really maximise learning when participants can tolerate different philosophies of learning (including “I don’t have a philosophy of learning”), be good-humoured and willing to learn.

doi: 10.1177/1350507607079026 Engestrom,Y.  Management Learning July 2007 vol. 38 no. 3 271-275

Be careful what you wish for

Peer Review Monster

Peer Review Monster Gideon Burton

 

 

 

Some say peer review of research articles is broken and needs to be changed, others that peer review needs a killer app that allows readers within a social network to vote a paper up or down. Cameron Neylon says Don’t (peer review) – the risks outweigh the benefits of publication. He says “publishing anything does no harm’ whereas peer review is costly in expert time.

jch Mary Mc Kinnon

 

 

 

Before we throw the baby out with the bath water, let’s think about what’s good about peer review and what could be improved.

Peer review can be good when:

  • it offers blind review when reviewers do not know gender/age/race/status of authors (unless this is revealed by text and context)
  • reviewers offer constructive advice for authors to improve their article/ creative work
  • it winnows submissions to journal (or other publication outlet) to improve quality of what is presented and filters content for readers

Peer review can be bad when;

  • it introduces delay in publication of work (tardy editors/ reviewers, backlog of accepted articles)
  • opinionated reviewers destroy confidence of authors

Alternatives to ‘traditional’ blind (author does not see identity of reviewer) or double-blind (neither author or reviewer see each others’ identity) reviewing include open peer review and the various recommender systems such as reviews on Amazon.com, Facebook ‘likes’, etc.

What are the risks of abandoning peer review ?

Well of course, the short answer to that is “I don’t know” but a search of scholar.google.co.uk reveals that it is a topic worthy of discussion.

“The refereed journal literature needs to be freed from both paper and its costs, but not from peer review, whose ‘invisible hand’ is what maintains its quality,” Steven J.Harnad from Peer Review : A critical inquiry by David Shatz.

What concerns me is that abandoning peer review will leave us more exposed to the gender, race and other identity biases that remain with us, and flourish in online communication where identity is key.

What do you think?

Do the benefits of abandoning peer review outweigh the disadvantages, and why?

ECE 2011

I will write a more substantial reflection on ECE2011 but I just wanted to capture something of this wonderful event in a few words and pictures before my day out at Chatsworth with @courosa and @heloukee.

I was far too busy to take more than few photos with my iphone but these two images capture for me two of the important aspects of ECE 2011 –

first the team work Chris Procter and Debra Leighton (others were in the audience clapping),

and second the support for authors’ development of their work  in our publication workshopPublication Workshop.

What these pictures don’t capture was the richness of the experience for delegates but the following responses to a Tweet asking for one word to sum up ECE2011 do that pretty well:

Jane_Mooney                 Engaging

DavidCRoberts:             whenisthenextconference

cristinacost            superb!

IleneDawn            convivial

lightb4sound            Inspiring

rbw66            engrossing

ConnectIrmeli            awareness

catherinecronin            connect

francesbell            Exhilirating

bunhill            diverseloquent

CosmoCat            Inspiring

ChrisNewm            energizing

DavidCRoberts             http://twitpic.com/5mzt5m

SueFolley            thought-provoking

chrissinerantzi            fruitful

lindacq            Reflection

AleksejHeinze            WOW!!!

_Tasha__            reflections

courosa            Ricardo

gemturfer            amazing

fredgarnett            networked

mariakutar            exhilarating

courosa             Brilliant

torresk            Inspiring

BenGuilbaud             Inspirational