Frances Bell

home at last – for all the mes


  1. jennymackness February 8, 2014 - 2:20 pm Reply

    Hi Frances – if this had been posted in the ModPo network, it would be followed by a ‘close reading’ 🙂

  2. Frances Bell February 8, 2014 - 2:35 pm Reply

    I don’t think the philosophy of language suggested here is one I would spread across my whole life but Elena Zaitseva and I did find the concept of cool webs useful in understanding cases of multi-cultural student online discussions
    Although Graves may have had a reductionist view, I think #rhizo14 gets the chance to explore ideas through cool webs (like blogs and comments) as well as the hotter spots like the Facebook group. Cool webs have a lot to recommend them in my opinion.
    It’s a bit naughty of me to take up cool web as a metaphor, as Graves is characterised as anti-metaphorical.

  3. jennymackness February 8, 2014 - 3:06 pm Reply

    Ah interesting – this is what I so liked about ModPo – how the best of poetry is open to a whole range of interpretations and there is no one right answer. I really can recommend ModPo for this.

    Anyhow I read this poem differently – I interpreted the web as a trap – a bit like how McGilchrist warns us against the trap of left brain dominance (which was the main point I was trying to make in my post about books, but somehow got lost!). Children don’t fall into this trap because their language is not sufficiently developed. Their learning is more embodied. But as we develop speech and language we can retreat from embodied learning. I think Graves is saying that this can be good and bad. We can chill the angry day, but we can also coldly die.

    But I like your idea of cool webs and hot webs – that hadn’t occurred to me. In this sense I prefer cool webs, but I’m also hoping this won’t detach me from my right brain 🙂

  4. Frances Bell February 8, 2014 - 5:18 pm Reply

    I am thinking of the cool web as a safer space where people with different assumptions/ languages/ cultures can try to engage in dialogue without too much pain. We might cool down the conversation with explicit norms, clarifying our objectives and assumptions,offer facilitation and other support in an attempt to achieve real dialogue. Over time the constraints could be loosened.

  5. mdvfunes September 24, 2014 - 2:54 pm Reply

    There are many dangers in ‘letting our tongues loose’ in such diverse environment as the open web.

    I am interested you have used the concept of a cool web as a way to create explicit norms of interaction in multi-cultural dialogue. When I teach cross-cultural psychology in a business context we often focus on the need to attend to what is taken as self-evident and to presuppose that, even that which seems ‘outrageous’ to somebody in a culture they do not understand, has a basis that makes sense for the group of people adopting the given action. I like the idea of using a poem to engage students in a dialogue about interpersonal norms to be established for purpose.

    Sadly, I see little attempt to engage in group process dialogue in the cMOOCs I participate in. At best (#ccourses is a great example) guidelines are posted at the start.

    Yet, in my own courses, I spend a great deal of time in this kind of conversation and work with the students to be explicit about ‘So, what is going to happen when we do not keep to these norms we are agreeing?’ If there are no consequences to breaking a rule, we will break the rules. And whilst this may be desirable in a creative context, it may not be so when you are holding tough interpersonal dialogue across cultures. And I wonder if each conversation we hold online is potentially a tough cross cultural conversation. As you know when I tried to engage #rhizo14 on this topic ( my words found little echo in the larger majority. I moved on to continue my cool web conversations on my blog 🙂 ( and left that ‘majority’.

    There are important issues here that, for me, speak to what you and Helen Keegan have referred to as the ‘paradox of openness’. The law of two feet applies and we consider it aspirational to create ‘guilt-free zones’ ( in our cMOOCs in particular. This can both give great freedom in learning and cause dire personal consequences to some. Do we ever really find out the true cost of openness? Those huge non-completion rates we theorise about are human beings that started something and moved on for many different reasons. I just have questions and not many answers. I certainly do not believe in limiting the freedom. it is what has kept me involved in open education and what I treasure. Yet, it saddens me that with my own behaviour and enthusiasm (not following cool web protocols enough) I may inadvertently silence others.

    Should have just written a post…sorry to crowd your blog 🙂

  6. Frances Bell September 28, 2014 - 6:34 am Reply

    @Mariana We used the concept of a cool web to think about characteristics of spaces and behaviours in multi-cultural dialogues, rather than using the poem directly with learners (though that’s an excellent idea). We had quite a lot of data on disparity of expectations between student groups that sometimes led to problems and we were keen to understand how this might be managed. My recent experience has caused me to reflect on my own experience (nearly 20 years now) of participation online. I have been thinking that unsurfaced assumptions can become quite an elephant in the room.
    It was good to read your storify again. I recall my technical struggles to participate in unfamiliar G+ but also my sense that rhizo14 would not be generally amenable to written ‘rules’. Unwritten rules are a different thing now;)
    You know I share your concerns about personal consequences.

  7. Frances Bell September 28, 2014 - 6:53 am Reply

    @Paul Thanks for the link to the article on Salaita. I think that science and humanities have to work together to shape and understand complex sociotechnical phenomena such as we are now engaging with – the participatory web.
    OPEN TAG COOL WEB When I read your comment on that post, it reminded me that I wanted to comment on what happened with your coursera course at the time it was reported. Like you, I have concerns about the tech companies circling around education. I think that they need the sort of examination that Audrey Watters conducts. But what I read about your experiment did make me wonder about the ethics of it. However, I was aware of what you neatly call “the bubble of people who have looked at the debacle around my course.” and so I refrained from commenting. But in this cool web and with hindsight, I hope that I can ask you if you think it would have been a good idea to work with a researcher with different experience. I am imagining a balance between the ethics of challenging questionable commercial practice and the ethics of misleading learners. It’s a tricky one and brings me back to the second sentence of this comment CLOSE TAG COOL WEB
    edit – I tried to add cool web as open and close tags but WordPress stripped them out

    • mdvfunes September 28, 2014 - 1:33 pm Reply

      So much to unpack and as you said elsewhere it is a real challenge for us as educators to navigate this ethically. Let’s keep talking. I find it interesting you suggestion of a collaborative relationship between an educator and a researcher role as way to navigate the MOOC landscape. This would enable clear boundaries in role and also make us as educators accountable as well as us requiring accountability from our institutions. Is this what you mean? I may be mis-understanding. When I work in organisational change interventions – we often have ‘hands-on’ roles and ‘supervisory’ roles to navigate ethical boundaries.

      • francesbell September 28, 2014 - 1:50 pm Reply

        I was actually relating to the concept of, say, STEM and Humanities working together and a Humanities researcher having experience of ethics of social research. But now you mention supervisory role, benefits could accrue from multiple disciplines, roles, skills working together on intervention AND research.

    • pdehaye September 28, 2014 - 11:38 pm Reply

      Frances, thanks for trying to provide a “safe space” for me to interact online.

      I am not good at reading poems (again, the science and humanities divide), so I cheated and Googled (sort of temporary law of 2 feet?) an explanation for this poem:

      There is a quote there that says:
      “you’ve had an experience so awesome or so horrible that you had a hard time explaining or describing it to others”

      That’s pretty much how I feel, except my experience was maybe awesome AND horrible. And I still have a hard time explaining or describing it to others, although it is now getting easier day by day.

      “But what I read about your experiment did make me wonder about the ethics of it.”
      First off, be very critical of what you read (reasons: from what I understand, little of it was actually written by people in the course). Ethical questions need transparency to be resolved, and I still don’t fully have it, because I am now wary: call me over cautious, but certainly the cool web can overheat quickly too. We can chat in DMs, or by email.

      “But in this cool web and with hindsight, I hope that I can ask you if you think it would have been a good idea to work with a researcher with different experience.”
      It’s an excellent question, and the way you phrase it it is unescapable that I will have to answer it. The article linked above refers to an inescapable difficulty at writing about your experience. It’s completely patent here. I still need to do a bit more writing at my pace before I get to answer your questions.

      I have already written here:
      a bit about #massiveteaching itself, without making reference to it.

      It’s full of imagery and metaphors, but that’s my poor attempt at bridging the divide.

      • Frances Bell September 29, 2014 - 1:45 pm Reply

        Thanks for your reply Paul. I respect what you say about being critical of what I read and that’s why I didn’t comment at the time. I also understand why you may not be ready to discuss ethical and other issues in public. If and when you do feel able to answer my question I’d be delighted to engage but at present I don’t feel able to engage privately with you about what seems to have been a complex and painful set of circumstances. I need my energy for something similar in my personal life. I liked your blog post BTW

        • pdehaye September 29, 2014 - 2:02 pm Reply

          I understand, these are indeed difficult circumstances for me. Even pointing me to the Cool Web concept was helpful. There will indeed be more posts coming out on my blog.

  8. pdehaye September 29, 2014 - 10:09 pm Reply

    I really like the concept of the Cool Web. It really helps me, thanks for having shared that.
    To get closer to answering your question (and because of the helpful structure of #ccourses), I just wrote a post about the conscious process behind the creation of the videos in #massiveteaching. The post is here:
    Bear in mind that this describes a process that is part of the preparation of the course, way before the course started.
    I am guessing what is missing to most is the link I make between the Facebook experiment and Coursera. Once that link is made, it becomes much harder to justify the ethics of teaching on Coursera. But that link was made *during* the course, since that experiment’s results was released at the end of the first week.

  9. sensor63 March 6, 2015 - 2:39 pm Reply

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