connectivism

What is Reflection?

Attribution

Taking any single definition of what the term

reflection

is will likely be incomplete and will miss the emergent aspects of the human experience.   However, looking at some definitions helps to get started…

1.the act of reflecting or the state of being reflected.

2.an image; representation; counterpart.

3.a fixing of the thoughts on something; careful consideration.

4.a thought occurring in consideration or meditation.

5.an unfavorable remark or observation.

6.the casting of some imputation or reproach.

7.Physics, Optics. a) the return of light, heat, sound, etc., after striking a surface; b) something so reflected, as heat or especially light (

Dictionary.com

).

Based on this group of definitions, the following offers a slightly more accurate definition of reflection as it relates to teaching and learning.

A carefully considered mental representation of some past, current, or future critical instance that comes from a personal - yet shared - experience.

Let’s unpack:

  • A carefully considered mental representation: From a cognitive standpoint, it all begins with what one recognizes in the mind, and that this mental representation emerges after having a deliberate recollection, regardless whether this representation is clear or vague. From a connectivist lens, this “mental representation” is instead referred to as a recognizable pattern of individual nodes that cognitively form, strengthen, weaken, and lose associations. More accurately, these cognitive connections are black boxed in that the appearance of a single or fixed entity (a single mental representation in this case) instead consists of a more dynamic and fluid (complex) set of associations that remain in continual flux (Latour, 1987). A mental representation might more accurately be referred to as an aggregate set of cognitive and biological nodes that have both diachronic and synchronic attributes. This latter definition is more cogent when considering the social aspects of reflection explained below.

  • ... of some past, current, or future…: Simply one can reflect on past, current, and/or future events.

  • ... critical instance…: A critical instance is some experience that stands out, for better or for worse. It is some experience worth remembering.

  • ... that comes from a personal, yet shared, experience: The shared experience that helps form the mental representation is meant to show perspectival and interpretive variations from individuals sharing a common lived experience. Also, a reflection initially is inherently personal, but should at some point become articulated to others so that the individual can then experience these perspectival and interpretative variations. A feedback loop ensues between the original mental representation and the feedback from others to the degree that either changes to the initial mental representation will result or will reinforce the initial representation, forming stronger associations between nodes.

So, reflection begins as a cognitive process then subsequently leads to a social-cognitive process, connecting the ideational (i.e., ideas, concepts, opinions, beliefs, etc.) with the physical (i.e, materials, objects, technologies, etc.) and the human (i.e., human relationships).  Albeit complex, a connectivist viewpoint would simply state that a connection exists between the cognitive, biological, material, and human aspects of the lived experience when recalling personal reflections based on personal observation and interaction.

References

Latour, B. (1987).

Science in action

. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Personalized Learning vs. A Personal Learning Network Awareness

Attribution
I read What is Personalized Learning, and I agree with several things about the overall post, most importantly the opening sentence...Words matter.  This post came after an earlier post of mine which countered the term "personalized learning".  As a result, I feel I need to address this again since there are a few points in yesterday's post that I take issue with.  My ideas are not totally inconsistent with what Downes mentions in his piece, Personal and Personalized Learning, well worth the read, but will attempt to take a slightly different angle.

Philosophical Analysis

Let's first take a look at the use of the term, personalized, which is defined generally, outside the context of education.
to design or tailor to meet an individual's specifications, needs or preferences: a personalized search engine (dictionary.com).
We often hear of companies personalizing objects, software, materials, computers, etc. for other companies, which is clearly an appropriate use of the term...to a point.

I used to work for a university who contracted a company to design an accounting software system which was said to be "personalized" based on certain criteria dictated by the institution.  When it came to implementation however, there were many cases where the "personalized" accounting software failed to meet the needs or preferences of the user.  Now, in all honesty, personalizing any accounting software to the needs and preferences of every user within an organization is indeed an impossible task.

Let's look at two attempts to transfer the notion of personalized learning to education.
Tailoring learning for each student's strengths, needs and interests - including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn - to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible (iNACOL).
"Tailoring" is not the same as "personalizing".  Tailoring instruction and assessment as been mentioned at length in Wiggins and McTighe's (2005) Understanding by Design, and is quite different than "personalizing" something, which in education, is impossible frankly. More on this later.
Buckley's attempt at personalized learning brings together "personalisation for the learner" and "personalisation by the learner" (Wikipedia). 
Buckley is on to something, but using the word, personalization, gets in the way.  Let's analyze.

Personal Learning Network

For the purposes of this discussion, I will use the term personal learning network (PLN) to mean any and all associations between 1) ideas, beliefs, thoughts, concepts, etc.; 2) materials, objects, technologies, etc.; and 3) human relationships.  A PLN will also be used instead of the notion of a personal learning environment; the former again will include ideational, material, and human nodes in their aggregate, both as they exist at any given moment and/or how they morph, create, and deplete over time.

Without a doubt, teachers are huge factors in how students use their PLN for the purposes of achieving course and personal objects within a formal education context.  But a PLN never begins from nothing and changes into something.  It always has and always will exist, for better or for worse.  Learning is a particular change in one's PLN for a particular purpose (whether intentional or incidental), usually allowing one to either be able to do something new or to realize a new perspective (i.e., to think differently).

To personalize a learning experience for a learner would mean having some god-like ability to control every possible (ideational, material, and human) node configuration that came directly (one degree of separation) or indirectly (two or more degrees of separation) in contact with the individual.  Impossible.  If we look at Buckley's "personalisation by the learner", this would mean that the learner is beginning (presumably from nothing) to personalize (or control) every aspect of ideational, material, and human nodes that came directly and indirectly with the person.  Again, not possible.

The term personalized learning is not needed in education when referring to teaching and learning because we already have more accurate terms already available in the literature.

Critique

What follows is a counter to What is Personalized Learning?
Tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests–including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn–to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible.
I do not think tailoring is the same as personalizing.  Differentiated instruction is a clearer term that means the same as this definition, except for the focus on students' strengths.  It seems negligent to ignore differentiating content, process, product, and environments based also on students' weaknesses.  
Personalized learning includes the idea of connectivism... In personalized learning environments, educators seek to meet each student within their own zone of proximal development.
This is the first time I have ever witnessed someone attempt to connect #connectivism with a cognitivist idea - the zone of proximal development (ZPD), a concept belonging to the Vygotsky's sociocultural camp.  The ZPD actually is another reason why personalized learning falls short.  The problem with using ZPD is that it is impossible to accurately determine the ZPD of any one individual (either at a given point of time or over time), let alone a group of 20+ students in a particular class.  Likewise, it is impossible to determine what a learner can truly do on her own, and what she can do with the assistance of a more capable other (e.g., teacher or classmate).  The ZPD also fails when explaining how students learn by helping less capable others (e.g., reciprocal teaching).

Differentiated Instruction

Practitioners mentioned different components of personalization (differentiated instruction, student agency, flexible pacing, etc,), but differentiated instruction really covers most of these components.  Differentiating content, process, product, and environment pretty much covers it.  Giving students agency, (democratic education), giving them a voice, etc., allows them to take responsibility of their own learning.  If we just removed personalized learning from the discourse, a more accurate discussion could be made on how to create educative experiences for the active learner.

Buckley was on to something though if he just had worded it a bit differently.  Instead of bringing together "personalisation for the learner" and "personalisation by the learner", the job of the educator is to bring better awareness among their learners of their respective PLNs as they pertain to specific contexts, conditions, and purposes so that learner can transition from being dependent, to independent, to later being interdependent. This has nothing to do with personalization, and has everything to do with having the metacognitive skills and insight to cultivate a (ideational, material, and human) nodal collective that best serves the individual and society at large.  It appears that Buckley was all about awareness building, but I would frame it as a PLN as opposed to personalized learning.

Words do matter.  Conflating words like connectivism and ZPD when trying to justify "personalized learning", seems to cloud the issue.  No need to add yet another buzzword when we have plenty that currently exist in the literature that say the same thing in a much more unified, coherent, and cohesive way: differentiated instruction, understanding by design, paideia seminar, greater awareness of one's personal learning network, problem-based learning, task-based learning, content and academic language learning approach, sheltered-instruction operation protocol, content and language integrated learning, etc.

Personalized learning already exists, and has always existed simply because each individual is unique.  Each person already has a PLN, for better or for worse, whether the individual is aware of its potential or not, even if the educator never differentiates instruction whatsoever.  Each learner will experience the exact same situation and subsequent situations differently, even if told to do the exact same thing.  To personalize anything requires using past experiences and current understandings (which are unique to the individual) to link the known with the unknown.

In order to link the known with the unknown (i.e., learning), educators can help learners better cultivate their (already existing) PLN for a particular purpose.  Educators and students alike are making decisions throughout this awareness process, but it is not personalized learning.  Learning happens at both a cognitive and metacognitive level, through constant "tweaking" of monitoring of learning and making inferences based on empirical (observational) data.  It´s messy...it´s simple, yet complex.  Personalized learning is not dichotomous (all or nothing), but rather inherent in the individual learner (for better or for worse) regardless what happens in the outside world.

I can agree with many concepts that others associate with when linking these concepts with personalized learning, without agreeing with the term itself.  I have done the same with the term massive open online course (MOOC) as well. If one feels compelled to use the term personalized learning, envision how it would look in practice and then thoughtfully distinguish this term (empirically) with concepts that already existent in the literature.

What have I missed?  Looking at the pragmatics of teaching and learning, what does personalized learning add to the discourse that hasn't already been said?  

Education should not be a popularity contest

My smallest spinach plantThe thesis of Academic Rock Stars and Curriculum DJs is that ...new rock stars are being created and nurtured by the breakthroughs in massively open online courses (MOOCs) I would like to offer a slightly different perspective.


1. When drawing comparisons between "music rock stars" and well-connected educators, Microsoft Research's Daniel Reed poses a "culturally simple" question:  
As a student, would you rather take a required general education or specialty elective course from one of several internationally rated instructors and/or lauded scholars, or be constrained to the pedagogical skill and intellectual acumen of the professors at a single university?"

Albeit a simple question to ask, answering it is quite complex.  Many assumptions are embedded in the original question that can lead to misconceptions.  (i) Students who choose a professor at the attending university are choosing a professor who is not connected to the outside world, fails to offer classes that connect students to the outside world, and fails to use blended learning or online blended learning as part of their teaching and learning methodology.  (ii) Choosing an "internationally rated instructor" inherently correlates to an academic's "rock start" (i.e., popularity) status.  (iii) An internationally rating system for instructors is valid, reliable, and unbiased.  And (iv) popular academics are inherently better than unpopular academics.  

2. What Salman Khan of Khan Academy did was fundamentally flip not only the classroom, but also the economic model of higher education.

Salman Khan does not flip a classroom by simply delivering small chunks of information online.  Educators flip their classrooms if their synchronous learning experiences become more dynamic and authentic as a result of their respective learners spending more time outside of class learning new information asynchronously.  This alone does not answer additional questions that relate to the complexity of successfully flipping a classroom.  

  • How much information learners access asynchronously is new and how much acts as a review of something they have already seen? 
  •  How do understandings from information accessed asynchronously enable learners to perform in authentic performance tasks in the presence of the educator, classmates, and other involved actors? And how much of this process is dependent on the course, teacher preference, and student profiles?
  •  How do learning outcomes differ between taking the exact same context and comparing a traditional class with a flipped class? As if...
Final point.  To understand the concept of a flipped classroom is to understand the relationship between the asynchronous and the synchronous forms of communication, the way content is being delivered, and the learning theories that apply to any particular educational context.

3. The business possibilities are endless...

Why discuss business opportunities when the point seems to be about how abstract concepts like MOOCs and the flipped classroom are changing how learning will occur in higher education.  Any business solution is as complex as any solution related to learning.  Ok, so there are more choices for informal learning for educators...y que?

4. The immediate future of MOOCs may be uncertain...

This is where trying to define a MOOC becomes problematic.  Just try defining massive, open, and online, and one begins to see whyWhile we're at it, try defining terms like course, class, syllabus, lesson, lesson plan, etc.  Defining abstract concepts can sometimes overshadow the complexity of understanding these terms in any practical sense.  But realizing the infinite number of possible meanings of these terms, my guess is that "open, online courses" will become more ubiquitous as they become less "massive".  That is, the size and popularity of the MOOC alone will say little about how formative assessment promotes learning.

5. ...one thing is clear – the world of higher education is changing in ways that we never could have imagined.

Is this really that clear?  I think what's clear is that institutions in higher education will embrace or be forced to take advantage of the opportunities that informal learning has to offer.


6. By 2020, we could be on the way to embracing continuous, lifetime learning for everyone in society taught by the world's greatest academic rock stars. 

Gee, I certainly hope not - I prefer jazz over rock any day.  Seriously, lifelong learning exists due to the number of choices that are currently available for informal learning.  These choices will continue to grow, but academic "jazz stars" will be defined by the learner and will not simply be based on a popularity contest.  Learners will search for educators that serve them best and may not be based solely on the educator's number of followers. 


7. New curriculum DJs - who are able to mix-and-match course offerings for specialized degrees - may emerge, selling their digital wares on iTunes.

The future business model of education will be those frameworks that lead to the most engaging, effective, and efficient educative experience for the largest number of learners possible - a claim that warrants a separate post so to cover some of the many variables involved.

The whole point here is not that teaching in many cases is (or could be) free (as in free beer); it is not about the amount learners should or should not pay for an education.  Free education deals more with perception, accreditation, future educational and professional goals of each learner, etc.  Instead, what is more relevant is  how open teaching and learning emerge - understanding the infinite number of ways ideas, materials, and people relate to each other regardless as to when and where these interactions might take place.






 

Becoming a more connected educator

The following question was posed at 49:23 from the recording Steve Hargadon: Live Interview Tuesday, January 17th - Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach on "The Connected Educator".



Question: How do you know if you are a connected educator?


Reply: ...starting to connect with other people, sharing ideas, put the students first, open-minded kind of people who enjoy learning, who get excited about inquiry, want relationships, self-directed, drawn towards collaboration, together we are more than we are as individuals, enjoy the negotiation of meaning and ideas with other people, 



I would response differently to this question.


It's not about knowing if you are connected or not, because we are all connected.  I'll rephrase a bit: You know the benefit of becoming connected if you are looking at relationships with other people; conceptualizations, educational philosophy, ideologies, theories, ideas, and other cognitive aspects; and materials used to interact with others (i.e., technologies, artifacts, etc.) in order to form the meta-cognitive insight into the affect others have on your own behavior and beliefs as well as the affect you have on others.  It's not always putting others first.  It's about realizing that helping others can have a personal benefit, which is a slightly different, yet important distinction.  It's not about wanting relationships just for the sake of it, but rather recognizing the relationships that promote learning.  A "connected" educator is drawn to making connections, not necessarily just collaborating or cooperating with others.  And although together we are more than we are as individuals, that's not the motive for becoming "connected".  It's more local than that.  It's more at the personal level and those boundary nodes that link directly back to the individual.  In a connected world, there is no "negotiation of meaning".  Businesses negotiate with each other because that's how the world works, so to speak.  Learners and teachers negotiate because there is a curriculum.  Basketball teams negotiate in order to win games.  And yes, we can learn through negotiation.  But when it comes to (professional) learning - which in education means educators who interact with whomever they choose, whenever and wherever they choose, there is no (or at least less) negotiation, only the growing and pruning of connections that aid some future benefit (i.e., connecting ideas, people, and artifacts as dynamic assemblages).  Meaning is also a sticky word.  I'd rather say associations or patterns that people recognize that stimulate inferences.  


When it comes to learning, it's not about the practice or program, but rather it's about the person.  As an educator, I put myself first when it comes to my own professional learning.  


So, I'll restate the question: How to you become a more connected educator in ways that benefit your own professional learning?


 



 



 


 

Asking Why Instead of How (#Change11)

How to balance soft and hard technology?


Soft technologies are flexible, supporting creativity and change, because the gaps inside them have to be filled with processes constructed by people. They are needy and incomplete until people fill the holes, while hard technologies contain within them the processes and methods to achieve the ends for which they were designed [emphasis added], bring efficiency, scalability, replicability, freedom from error and speed.  Conclusion: "Most learning technology research concentrates on technology (including methods and pedagogies) not the talent and skill with which it is applied that is frequently more significant" (Dron, 2011).


I would approach the use of technology a bit differently, asking why instead of how.


I find it combersome drawing a distinction between soft and hard technologies.  Defining hard technologies as particular processes and methods that inherently achieve certain ends confines the user to act or think in a certain way.  This leads to linking technologies to individuals based on socio-cultural-historical assumptions.  If one concludes that it's not the technology but how one uses it, does it matter which contained processes and methods lead to arbitrary (decontextualized) ends?


When reflecting on the different (hard) technologies that I use, I have yet to find one that does everything.  I am constantly adding and pruning technologies as my teaching and learning context changes.  The hard technologies that I use (in aggregate) are as fluid, flexible, and incomplete as some soft technologies.  Individual web tools serve as nodes that make up part of my PLN; a change in one can influence a change in others, similar to how people interact.


Jumping on the ANT bandwagon, I find it helpful to view technology as designing an assemblage (i.e., PLN) which views the social as a "very peculiar movement of re-association and reassembling" (Latour, 2005).  I see a PLN as a movement that re-associates and reassembles reifying conceptualizations, people, and material. 


Reifying conceptualizations is the process of making some abstract idea, notion, or problem more concrete through open and ongoing interaction.  From a socio-technical perspective, people use artifacts to interact with each other around related conceptualizations.  Interactions that connect conceptualizations, people, and material are contextually rich and provide the basis for one's teaching and learning rationale.


Consequently, my approach to technology would be to ask why someone chooses to interact within a PLN in ways that foster open and ongoing professional learning.  Asking why, also requires asking what, how, when, and with whom (plus any other applicable question words), while embracing a perspectival sensitivity between subject (i.e., participants of the study) and object (i.e., researcher). In other words, it's about understanding how the individual's interpretation of becoming emerges from the recollection of the associations, assemblages, and dynamics of a PLN. It just so happens that my interest in such a topic has led me to a doctoral proposal.


 


 

Improve Learning: The Socio-Material Dynamic versus Structure

My response to The Virtuous Middle Way...

The efficiency of the learning process speaks nothing of the effectiveness of it. Might we say, "the machinery of education is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the learning process"? I doubt that many educators would argue against this as an espoused theory, but as a theory in use, perhaps it is a different story (as Jeremy eludes to). Comparing MOOCs to educational institutions (if I must), I find that some MOOCs are actually more structured than some institutional courses I've been involved with - at least in terms of laying out a content timeline and delivery. Regardless, to understand the effectiveness and efficiency of any learning process, one needs to analyze how the socio-material dynamic (i.e., how over time people interact with each other together with the necessary artifacts that allow such interaction to take place) emerges within a given structure.

Offering guidance in any structure could be seen as being helpful or a hindrance. What constitutes guidance? A newsletter? Syllabus? Freedom of choosing an ICT? Personal explanation/feedback? Graded exam? Lecture? These all could be seen in both a positive and negative light depending on the circumstances. But it's precisely the circumstances that we need to understand in order to have a better idea about the effectiveness and efficiency of the learning process at hand.

You say "Ground Rules", I say "Netiquette Rules" (#edumooc)

I appreciate Michelle Pacansky-Brock from Mt. San Jacinto College for sharing her Community Ground Rules - direct link - (under a CC-BY license) for a still photography history class she's involved with.  The document will certainly be of some use as is while others may tweak it to their liking.  But upon reading it, I immediately felt compelled to share my thoughts on how the term network is being used within a formal educational context.  A notion that all stakeholders should consider when participating in a MOOC or any blended course.

At the top, left-hand corner of the document is a picture of Alexander Rodchenko who claimed,
One has to take several different shots of a subject, from different points of view and in different situations, as if one examined it in the round rather than looked through the same key-hole again and again.

The first eight points of the community ground rules document are what I would consider basic netiquette terms or simply ways in which individuals should act when interacting with others.  The list is fairly straightforward and I certainly think is applicable regardless to whether we are discussing groups or networks.

However, there are two other sections of the document that made me question whether the objective was to create a group or network.  For example, it reads "...to ensure we maintain a safe, trustworthy discussion environment", students must be enrolled in the course in order to be an eligible community member.  This sounds more like a group than a network to me.  And I would argue that in some educational contexts, learners would benefit from discourse that is less than safe, or more diverse than what they are accustomed to since this is what they will likely face as members of a global society.

In another instance the term network was used in reference to more group-like behavior:  What happens to this network after our class is over?  The question is in relation to content and how all the content is to be deleted once the course has be completed.  This seems to indicate almost a pruning of one's network back to what it was at the beginning of the course, perhaps shifting back the spaces as they once were.

Growing a network among learners within a class requires taking several different shots of a subject, from different points of view and in different situations, as if one examined it in the round.  Forming a group among learners within a class means looking through the same key-hole again and again.  As educators, I think it is to our advantage to take an honest look at how our students are learning collectively (as in a group) and connectively (as in a network) in order to find the right mix based on particular educational contexts.  We can meet course objectives while still forming long-lasting networks that will continue transforming well after the course has been completed.

You say "Ground Rules", I say "Netiquette Rules" (#edumooc)

I appreciate Michelle Pacansky-Brock from Mt. San Jacinto College for sharing her Community Ground Rules - direct link - (under a CC-BY license) for a still photography history class she's involved with.  The document will certainly be of some use as is while others may tweak it to their liking.  But upon reading it, I immediately felt compelled to share my thoughts on how the term network is being used within a formal educational context.  A notion that all stakeholders should consider when participating in a MOOC or any blended course.

At the top, left-hand corner of the document is a picture of Alexander Rodchenko who claimed,
One has to take several different shots of a subject, from different points of view and in different situations, as if one examined it in the round rather than looked through the same key-hole again and again.

The first eight points of the community ground rules document are what I would consider basic netiquette terms or simply ways in which individuals should act when interacting with others.  The list is fairly straightforward and I certainly think is applicable regardless to whether we are discussing groups or networks.

However, there are two other sections of the document that made me question whether the objective was to create a group or network.  For example, it reads "...to ensure we maintain a safe, trustworthy discussion environment", students must be enrolled in the course in order to be an eligible community member.  This sounds more like a group than a network to me.  And I would argue that in some educational contexts, learners would benefit from discourse that is less than safe, or more diverse than what they are accustomed to since this is what they will likely face as members of a global society.

In another instance the term network was used in reference to more group-like behavior:  What happens to this network after our class is over?  The question is in relation to content and how all the content is to be deleted once the course has be completed.  This seems to indicate almost a pruning of one's network back to what it was at the beginning of the course, perhaps shifting back the spaces as they once were.

Growing a network among learners within a class requires taking several different shots of a subject, from different points of view and in different situations, as if one examined it in the round.  Forming a group among learners within a class means looking through the same key-hole again and again.  As educators, I think it is to our advantage to take an honest look at how our students are learning collectively (as in a group) and connectively (as in a network) in order to find the right mix based on particular educational contexts.  We can meet course objectives while still forming long-lasting networks that will continue transforming well after the course has been completed.

I Don't Want More Professional Development

I Don't Want More Professional Development

After several failed attempts to post a comment to TeachPaperless, I decided to post here instead...

I believe we all should want more professional development (with no quotation marks).

Professional development or growth – learning - is personal (not social) and stems from social interaction for the most part. “Social development” is partly the (synergetic) result of personal development within the network and is partly the influence the network has on the individual. The development of one’s personal learning network can be viewed as professional development, but also can be too vague to have much meaning. Forming relationships, for example, does not automatically equate to professional development unless there is a formal system that links what an educator knows and what an educator can do to an improvement in student achievement.

The formal system that links what an educator knows and can do to higher student achievement is participatory action research (PAR). PAR allows educators the opportunity to goal/problem set, take action, collect data, and reflect on past actions and project on future actions. PAR bridges theory and practice in that it can tie general theory to a local context or vice versa. PAR sharing in particular is helpful to those professionals who work at a school or organization since typically missions and vision statements must be met as well.

“The world is not professional. The world -- at least our communal experience of it and of one another -- is social.”

I would argue that the world is made up of professionals as in those who work for a living, but I would also add that some people have vocations (a calling) as well. Learning is personal (not social) and occurs by connecting with people and constantly reflecting on the way information and experiences flow between these connections in a way that best suits the individual and society as a whole.

CCK11: Connectivism Course

As I gear up for the next course on connectivism and connective knowledge, I like to idea of no Moodle! Using Twitter as an aggregator that later is published to a newsletter is really a connectivist approach to learning online.  It would have been interesting to see how this same course (which started back in 2008 if memory serves) developed if at no time an LMS, facebook, etc. would have been used.  Simply, a newsletter, perhaps a syllabus (wiki), and twitter and social bookmarking sites as the only technologies along with whatever technologies the participants wanted to use (including an LMS, facebook, etc.).  I suspect that there would have been fewer participants participating more.

My plans for this course are to post to my blog and respond to others.  I'll use Twitter, the Daily, Diigo, and whatever technologies I find others using...but will not use facebook or any LMS.

My hopes are to generate some traffic to my site as well as find others to interact with that will extend beyond this 12-week course, beyond the topic of connectivism.

Openness versus being open and closed

This discussion made me reflect on the term openness in terms of degree.

Simply, everyone should have the freedom to use any type of license that is available - I typically refrain from judging which creative license is "better" than another.  Each type of license provides different degrees of openness and I don't see this changing anytime in the future (if ever); that is, an open educational resource under a Creative Commons License typically falls along an open and closed continuum.  There are many types of teaching and learning contexts that exist and it is unfair to generalize the importance of any particular type of license over any other.  When I see groups develop a licensing policy (that usually singles out one or a few acceptable licenses), I am quickly reminded of how my own learning is networked based (i.e., connective) as opposed to group based (i.e., collective).

Is it a PLN, PLE, VLE, LMS, CMS, or something else?


Good question.  In fact, this is a question that everyone should ask and be able to answer when choosing the different technologies and social, f2f contacts that ultimately become one's PLN.  In my blog post I say, " If I choose and determine that an LMS is the best way for me to learn, then the LMS is my PLN".  My point was that if a person can justify why an LMS best serves the individual's learning needs, interests, and learning preferences, then who am I to judge.  I also say this because many people are for or against an LMS; I think this is the wrong conversation to be having.  We should be addressing the question you pose that forwards this notion of articulating a learner's rationale in developing a PLN.  A learner's rationale for using any tool will also depend greatly on how the tool is being used.

Clearly for me, an LMS is never my PLN.  For this MOOC (and for the first time), I am completely staying away from Moodle and it's made all the difference!  I weave in-and-out of blogs, tweet, and read The Daily in order to interact with individuals and content for the course.  This part of my PLN works for me and I can explain why it works for me...but I cannot judge others if they can explain an alternative way that works best for them, including using only an LMS.

If someone says the only place they learn anything worthwhile is through some Moodle course, online community, etc., who am I to argue.  Technologies today are so integrated anyway that everything really is just varying degrees of a PLN.  Think of all the different ways online content can be brought into Moodle for example.

Using the Community to Build the Curriculum

It would be interesting to set up a PLENK2010-like course but with no pre-determined content whatsoever.  This course has no center with regard to the spaces used to interact with others (and content), but there is a "center" when it comes to content.  Why not start with essential questions (that come from the participants and/or facilitators) and build a course around that.  Each participant brings in content and experiences to the mix and suddenly learning truly emerges.  Instead of front-loading content (e.g., recommended readings), facilitators could reference these same readings through forum discussions; in others words, as evidence to form an argument or point of view.  Other members would follow suit.

I'm sure Dave see's shortcomings to this approach but the thought just occurred to me once again as I participate in PLENK2010 simply by responding to questions posted by members (and related readings referenced by them), then seeing where the dialog takes me.

#PLENK2010: Five points about PLNs

Dave's five points about PLEs PLNs for PLENK2010

Here is my adaptation...

  • Point #1:  I use the term personal learning network (PLN) to refer to all of the following: professional learning network, personal learning environment, learning management system, course management system, etc.  A node that makes up a PLN can be a person, group, institution, online community, software program, etc.  And it's personal if the learner (and not a teacher, trainer, expert, etc.)  has control over which nodes to connect with and what type of interaction the learner prefers to have with each node.

  • Point #2:  Judging a PLN should come from the learner who cultivates the PLN.  If I choose and determine that an LMS is the best way for me to learn, then the LMS is my PLN.  It is not the responsibility of someone else (nor their place) to judge whether my PLN (e.g., an LMS) is right or not for me.  I decide this for myself.

  • Point #3: "[PLNs] need not be supported by educational institutions", but educational institutions will lose out if they continue to create obstacles for students to access websites.  In fact, it would be to the institution's advantage to support PLNs in any way they can.  As more individuals gain the capacity to develop a PLN, institutions will need to be more competitive, which means to incorporate a more open approach to teaching and learning.

  • Point #4: Ownership(personal) and Time(network) are critical impediments to implementing PLNs in both formal and informal education.  Cultivating a PLN is an ongoing endeavor that requires time for the busy professional as well as for the busy student.  Taking ownership in one's learning can be a novel idea for a professional as well, especially if the individual is used to having been taught in a linear, more traditional fashion (e.g., similar to Freirian's banking concept of education).

  • Point #5: Cultivating a PLN requires ongoing facilitative support from a variety of sources: teachers, trainers, colleagues, students, administrators, basically all stakeholders.  Even in formal education, there is no starting or ending point when it comes to developing a PLN.  There is no minimum or maximum set of nodes and no right or wrong way to interact with those nodes per se.  What is more important is the impact the PLN has on the learner both in how the learning process unfolds and how the learner communicates with others.

The Physical versus the Virtual

"Given that both E-Books and online courses be used for the sole purpose of learning, which one would you say was a more effective option?"

I don't see this as being "either...or" (it's like asking what's better, a book or a course). An ebook is a resource and an online course is a means of delivery that includes a whole host of possible resources, learning theories, and types of communication (i.e., asynchronous and synchronous communication).

We might ask: 1) What do you prefer, ebooks or physical books? 2) What do you prefer, online, blended, or face-to-face courses?

Heidi says, "...I know my team would not be receptive to e-books as a form of learning".

When I think of ebooks, I think of books found in Google Books, ebrary, etc. where parts or entire books can be accessible via the web. If someone rejects the use of ebooks, I'd be interested in knowing how much of it is a personal preference and how much of it is due to accessibility and know-how of the Internet and technology as a whole. It would be interesting to know Heidi's corporate learning environment, but I would say that if I have limited access to the Internet and/or I do not know much about technology, that's one thing. If I have access to the web, I'm technologically savvy, and I prefer not to use ebooks, that's a different notion.

Would like to hear additional thoughts on the matter.

Is Teaching a “Class” a Big Mistake?

Learning is social.

I think most would agree that learning occurs through social interaction, but I see this as being different than learning being social.  One can intuitively see how this is the case when considering how one learns how to play a musical instrument.  If I study from the same music teacher, the same number of hours, the exact same instrument, under all the same conditions as my friend, the two of us would still not play music in the same way, with the same musical style, etc.  Learning is personal.

A problem with class sizes of 25 – 30 is the peer group is often too small to be functional. Not everyone is ready to give feedback when a learner needs it. Larger group sizes are needed for peer review to work. From our experience groups of around 50 – 60 students should be considered as a minimum, groups of 90 – 120 or more is even better.

This really depends on how one defines a group.  Since "virtual learning enviroments" is being considered, I would argue that we are really looking at a network as opposed to a group whereby peers become not only the classmates within the same school, but peers that extend beyond the classroom.  Regardless, it's the type of interaction between the students that counts, and not the number of students that make up the learner's network

Teachers (and schools) have the obligation to find innovative ways to connect students and experts in ways that bring about multiple perspectives.  Teaching a class is not a mistake, teaching a finite group is.

The Social versus the Personal

The Yin and Yang of Ideas and Creativity


My response...

Is social creativity more productive than individual productivity?

It depends on how one views “social creativity”. This made me think of Siemens’s collective/connective or Downes’s group/network distinction. Social creativity (in terms of degree) is the result of the individuals’ creativity. If some individuals are marginalized in any way, the misconception is that social creativity is representative of each person. As Downes has referred to a connective community as being open, diverse, autonomous, and interactive; as I see it, these same attributes are required when promoting creativity in general.

Personally, I tend to avoid terms like “social learning” and “social creativity” – both happen at an individual level through social interaction.

Connectivism and Relational Trust

leadership is about relationship, and nurturing of relationship with others in the networks (Suifaijohnmak's webblog)

I agree to a degree.  It's about making the connection then developing the connection in a way that builds trust.  This is intuitive and would make sense when working with the same individuals over time.

But I also learn by occasional connections I form online.  For example, I might get some information from one source with no strong relational affiliation, then take that information to a more relational-trust network or community and build on the idea.  In fact, there are many possible learning scenarios that do not include connections that are built solely on relational trust.

I still see the relational trust as a community-based perspective whereas the individual and the role the individual plays within a variety of communities as a connectivist perspective.  Again, communities based on social capital and relational trust (Serviovanni, 2005) certainly have merit, but I do not think it's a complete look at how we can learn best - growing connections that are transactional, collaborative, and/or relational, all of which are dependent on the individual and the context.

A video on the importance of relational trust:






Curriculum, assessment, and instruction and today's youth

Why is it so vital that curriculum development and instruction are tailored to the youth of today's unique learning styles? (Kelly Clark)
It's vital that the written, taught, and tested curriculum; assessment; and instruction be tailored to today's learner (avoiding a discussion of learning styles at this point) because today's learners learn differently than those in the past. Technology affords learners to network with others which opens up educational opportunities like no other time in history. Learners now have the world as their audience as opposed to only the teacher.
In terms of learning objectives, expressive over behavioral outcomes provide the potential for diversifying assessment and instruction in terms of content, process, and products. Giving learners a choice in their own learning shifts to a more learner-centered paradigm that considers teachers more as curators, way-finders, and facilitators. Finally, today's learner needs to know the what, how, when, where, why, and with whom of education in a way that focuses more on ontology (i.e., Who am I? What is my role in life? How do I impact my own personal learning network?) and not only epistemology. And yes, I think these same questions can honestly and productively be applied to youth of all ages in ways that promote creativity, criticality, and caring.  This is one perspective on why it’s vital that the written, taught, and tested curriculum; assessment; and instruction be tailored to today's learner.  Thanks for asking. :)