Huh? Open Course – Personal Learning Environments, Networks, and Knowledge

For those of you who might have been following along with my twitter feed and blog posts over the last 18 months or so, you will realize that I’m a little suspicious of the ideas around PLEs and PLNs. It may come as some surprise, then, that I’m going to commit a decent chunk of my fall to working with George Siemens and Stephen Downes on the Personal Learning Environments, Networks and Knowledge open course. The course is starting the 13th of September and follow for eight weeks after that with the last week starting the 31st of October.

If you’re interested, you can sign up here

Why I want to do the course
First, and foremost, the chance of working with Stephen and George again is always appealing. I played a bit part in CCK08 and quite enjoyed it… Too often in educationland we either spend our time shouting from across vast distances or agreeing intensely with each other. Working with Stephen and George always promises neither of these. Both are able to take very strong positions and have them challenged. I always end up a better thinking after having participated in discussions with either… working with both is a particular treat.

I’m also interested in working through my own ideas around Personal learning evironments, networks and konwledge. Up until about 18 months ago I spoke with some conviction about having a PLE, I even created a platform or two where I thought students would be able to create their own. Since then I’ve become suspicious about some of the fundamental premises around the concepts and whether there is a cognitive dissonance to the whole projects which leaves it impossible to pursue. My main concern is in the performance of the individual. I enter the course, then, as someone with a fair amount of experience with the topic, but looking to become more sure of my own position.

Finally I’ve always been interested in the voice of The Gadfly in learning. Too often, I think, we feel the need to agree with the concepts that we are in the process of covering in a course. In a transmission model of learning, things tend to get parcelled out into positions that must be categorized before they can be learned. Objects of learning that can then be transmitted. While it is necessary to have some foundation (in the sense of a shared semantic between participants) I like the idea of being a co-facilitator in a course where I have serious questions about the content and goals. That is not to say, of course, that Stephen, George and Rita are somehow blinded, I’m sure they have their own questions and concerns, but I’m looking forward to trying to think deeply on the topic without the pressure of agreeing with it.

The course
Again I’m seeing the value of ‘the course’ as a tool in my own learning. Alan Levine recently wrote an excellent post challenging some of the ideas and language we are using with open courses. As I approach the PLENK course, I’m realizing that it gives me an event to think around, a way to choose amongst the thousand things i could be doing, an invitation to think deeper… One of Alan’s concerns is the timeframe… the constraint on thinking. Why, he wonders, attached the open network to a fixed course. My feelings are, rather, that its an event for the open network to join into. A thinking party. An invitation to think about this one thing instead of many others.

What I’ve seen in the five years we’ve been doing edtechtalk is that people come and go, they focus on it, they fall away from it… it’s useful to them and then it isn’t. We have some community members who’ve done hundreds of shows, some who’ve done a couple. We have guests who come to many, many shows, and some who return years later after coming to one. This, i think, mirrors your description. We have a fairly large mailing list that goes out with an excellent newsletter maintained by a community team.

However. This, I think, only works for those people who are on the heavy end of the involvement pendulum. It is difficult to ‘try out’ edtechtalk. Many people tend to feel like they don’t really belong… because belonging take a long, open amount of commitment.

Enter ‘eventedness’. Dave White and I came up with the word to describe what the quality (and the effect) of ‘having an event’ had on people’s willingness to invest in something that they weren’t near on the interest continuum.

Many, many folks would not join a ‘futures of education’ community, but would like to know something about it, and so join an open course. This is the ONLY reason to have courses… people who are deeply invested in futures don’t really need one.

Author: dave

I run this site… among other things.

10 thoughts on “Huh? Open Course – Personal Learning Environments, Networks, and Knowledge”

  1. That piece about feeling the need to agree with concepts in a course as it’s “covered” really resonated. I’d love my kids to be encouraged, heck even taught to be the Gadfly, to question and push back in productive ways. A rare event in their classrooms.

  2. Hello Dave. I had to look up the term ‘gadfly’ to see if we have a shared understanding of the term. I used wikipedia:

    “Gadfly” is a term for people who upset the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions, or just being an irritant.

    As a teacher/facilitator, how do you tolerate a gadfly who is addressing your teaching?

  3. @Will i think we focus too much on agreement as a substitute for knowing… its far easier to understand the complexity of an issue when you have a chance to challenge it.

    @Ken I’m proposing Gadfly AS facilitator… and the sense of the term that I”m thinking of is the one used traditionally by the socratics… posing upsetting or novel questions – yes… ‘just being an irritant’ not so much. It’s about intent.

    As for people challenging my teaching 🙂 that always happens. You can see in some comments in previous blog posts that being challenged by participants is exactly what i’m looking for in my classes.

    That is… as long as they aren’t just doing it to be annoying.

  4. @Admin

    I suppose ‘irritant’ could be understood in several ways. In the usage in wikipedia, I can see how intentional ‘irritation’ might be a good thing, maybe in the sense of combatting complacency. And it seems Socrates is comfortable being an irritant. But are you saying that this sense of ‘Gadfly-ing’ is something you would not tolerate as teacher?

    How would you determine intent? Was Socrates’ intent to be irritating to Athenian society?
    Is it possible you (as student) might consider your ‘novel questions’ well-intentioned, and valuable, but I (as teacher) might consider your questions irritating? How to deal with this?

    It seems @Will thinks the students should be the Gadfly, @Admin thinks the facilitator should be the Gadfly. I can’t help but wonder if all are Gadflys, then who would play Meno?

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