A table of cMOOCs – can you improve this?

During the course of a research study that Jenny Mackness and I are doing, we have been thinking about cMOOCs.  What have been the subjects and purposes of the various courses that might style themselves as cMOOCs?  Who does cMOOCs and why?

It’s difficult to say what a MOOC is – apart from it being a Massive Open Online Course..  Not all examples of MOOCs are Massive, they can see Open as being about open to join, open to the web, they are usually Online though participants may have local meetups, and they usually have some affinity with the idea of a Course, in that people may learn over a more less fixed period and a teacher might show up from time to time.  Dominik Lukes has come up with an undefinition of MOOC as family resemblance.

So if that’s what a MOOC isn’t, then what is a cMOOC?  cMOOC is now used to refer to connectivist MOOC family relations of CCK08, the original MOOC Connectivism and Connective Knowledge, run by George Siemens and Stephen Downes.

So if you are or have been a convenor or participant in a cMOOC, can you help by checking, amending, extending or commenting on the information we have gathered so far? This table can’t be completed or fully representative but we would like to get a good enough picture of the short history of cMOOCs – particularly who does cMOOCs and why they do them?

Link to Google Doc http://bit.ly/cmooctable – it’s probably easier to edit the table through this link than the embedded document below.

Jargon at JISC Innovating e-Learning 2011 Online Conference

Some rights reserved by kevinspencer

CCL Kevin Spencer at http://www.flickr.com/photos/vek/4997286231/

The issue of jargon came up at the JISC online conference more than once today.  This was my first involvement at the conference, and I was asked to contribute to 2 sessions on digital literacies. Despite many other commitments and a stinking cold, I enjoyed both sessions that seemed to generate a rich discussion amongst participants (as it was a closed conference, I can’t share the recordings or discussion links with you).

Of course, my view of the sessions was not universal;)  It became clear that some participants  found the terminology being used inexact and alienating (smiling as I realise this term may be deemed to be jargon).  One particular issue was around the terms (digital) competency and digital literacy(ies). In my job as facilitator, I picked up a reference to this from the Elluminate session chat and fed it back as part of a reply.  This thread developed and highlighted that competence and literacy are terms used in very different ways in different communities.  Some participants from FE (for non-UK non-education folk that means Further Education, tertiary education, vision outlined here) found the use the terms ‘literacy’ and ‘competence’ as being completely different to how they are used in FE sector. At the Friday session, I was ticked off in the chat for using the term ‘user’ as it has connotations of drug user.

So why does any of this matter?  If we come together at conferences, in order to share ideas about ( in this case) innovating in e-learning,  then real dialogue has to take place if we are to achieve this.

I am using the term ‘dialogue’ in the sense that David Bohm used it – briefly, to share and create meaning through words rather than to argue and debate our own ‘truths’, short explanation here, entire book here

It is clear that different vocabularies (particularly when terms are used in contradictory ways) can be obstacles to dialogue but I sense that some of the complaints about jargon are pointing to wider frustration about communication processes.  As Paul Becque says ” Bohm may have suggested that we are often talking about the same important things but get psychologically trapped in attacking and defending how we define and articulate these things.”  I wonder if we were all talking about the same things but the process was somehow faulty at times. I am pleased that the exchange caused me to think about my own communication (I was supposed to be a facilitator after all), and I’d like to offer the space of this blog post, if anyone wants to share their thoughts.  Who knows? we may create some shared meanings.

And now I think it’s important that we iterate multidisciplinary paradigms – just kidding;) I got that from plugging ‘digital literacy’ into http://www.sciencegeek.net/lingo.html.  Here are some of my thoughts about communication with respect to ‘digital literacies’ – whatever that means.

Yesterday’s exchange me to think about why I use the term ‘digital literacy’.  I was definitely using it in 2009, and think that I adopted the term to cover work that I was already doing in curriculum development, based on my beliefs in the need for experiential learning of new technologies, and the value of such learning activities in providing opportunities for critical reflection (studded with my then educational jargon).  Adopting the term led me into writings and communities that resonated with me and helped me to develop my thinking and educational practice. I know that I would not have used the term ‘computer literacy’ as for me, that had negative connotations from my own children’s experiences at school and college in the 1990/2000s.

I re-read my recent blog post on digital literacies as constructive dialogue and realised that although I use the term Digital Literacies in the title of the model, I don’t use it within the model, nor is it a term I would use with students. I wonder what jargon I use with them – ‘digital media landscape’ is a contender.

My last thought is about the feasibility of a common agreed vocabulary – I don’t think that is feasible or even (probably) desirable). Different communities do use different vocabularies, and when they get together for a project, they might usefully agree a glossary of terms for the project but vocabulary standardisation would be just too controversial and too much effort, I think.  In 2007, Stephen Downes posted on Why The Semantic Web will fail and I suspect that there more reasons than he identifies.

I would love to hear what you think, particularly anyone who was at #jiscel11.

Digital literacies in HE : constructive dialogue between teachers and students

Digital literacies are relevant to anyone who works, learns and plays in the digital media landscape – most of us want to do all those things as well as we can. It’s quite difficult to some up with a simple definition of digital literacies – in fact Doug Belshaw has come up with a whole thesis that moves from What is Digital Literacy? to What are Digital Literacies? (thanks for pluralising me Doug)  Much of the discussion is framed around the place of digital literacies in formal education, generating questions (for me) such as:

Should digital literacies be embedded in the subject curriculum or be the province of librarians or learning developers?

What are relevant digital literacies for teachers and how do they acquire them?

How can students leverage their existing digital practices to benefit their studies?

Putting my cards on the table, I led the development and delivery of  Year 1 UG module called Emerging Technologies whose curriculum includes the contexts of  study (developing personal learning networks) and work (the impact of social media on organisations) with lots of practice and critique for the students. I have for a long time been interested in the relationship between students’ and teachers’ learning practices, particularly with respect to emerging technologies. Of course, these learning practices could take place in formal education or in any area of everyday life.  More recently, I have been thinking about the ongoing development of digital literacies as a dynamic process since new technologies will emerge, and existing technologies will change (eg Facebook’s privacy).  It may be more useful to use Schon’s work on the reflective practitioner to look at practice across work, study and play contexts – everyday life- and how learning can cross these contexts via reflection.

Considering the practice of ‘teachers’ and ‘students’ I came up with this diagram for a session with colleagues at Salford. I, like Jeff Swain and Abhay Adhikari, am interested in the role of conversation in learning about ‘doing’ emerging technologies.

Digital Literacies v1
First attempt at modelling digital literacies as a conversation

However, I wasn’t completely satisfied with it: I seemed to be getting bound up between the ‘roles’ of teacher and student and the ‘activities’ of teaching and learning so I have had another go and here is version2.

Digital Literacies v2

What I am trying to say  that for all of us in our everyday life in the digital media landscape, we engage (at different times and with varying degrees of effectiveness) in innovating, learning, modelling and reflecting.  Teachers (or librarians or learning developers) who want to have a constructive conversation with students about digital literacies (that I am characterising as effective practice in the digital media landscape) will need to achieve sufficient learning via innovation and reflection to do their key role activity of modelling (and encouraging reflection).    Students (and their listening teachers) can benefit from this constructive conversation by reflecting on their everyday practices, helping them bring what they have learned in an everyday context to their context of study in HE.

Although I did get this positive response to my lecture that covered personal (learning) networks, I tend to think that effective practice in personal learning networks comes via doing it then reflecting on it. Maybe my lectures are about marketing the ideas.

Mint lecture
Tweet from student during lecture

Anyway, I would love your feedback on these ideas so I can reflect on them before my contribution to the JISC online conference next month.

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 😉