I’ve been a bit distracted by my day job for the last month or so, and with the book we are trying to write (see http://xedbook.com) I’ve been neglecting my thinking here. I find that if i don’t have a 1000 words of writing in my head I don’t tend to sit down to write on my blog. I will risk it here tonight in order to get things moving again. I have an event at the end of the month in Sweden where i’ll be talking about rhizomatic learning that I’m very much looking forward to and I’m hoping to have my thoughts organized.
My answer, as any reader of this blog will likely understand, was long and convoluted. I tend to think outloud (voice or text) and my mom tends to be relatively patient with me. I said that most basic skills that any kid ‘should’ learn should come from his immediate environment, from his parents/friends… that basic math should be learned fighting over candies.
The ‘purpose’ of our public schools, however, include a very important social justice function. They are also a place where we have a social safety net to scoop up the parts of people’s learning that, for whatever reason (and there are lots), doesn’t happen in their home environment. And this isn’t just about ‘reading books’ there are lots of people’s home environment that are super book heavy, but not super ‘work’ or ‘play fair with others’ or ‘share’ heavy. Schools hopefully raise our community lowest common denominator on all these fronts – books and sharing.
Remembering is not enough
The next step up the ladder passed textual literacy, basic social skills and counting out jelly beans is the ‘knowing stuff’. I’m all for knowing stuff. Knowing stuff is great. It provides context, it gives me stuff to bore people with, it passes the time. I think, however, our relationship to knowing stuff and more particularly to knowing ‘particular things’ has changed a great deal.
There was a time where keeping track of certain ‘innovations’ see Mouldboard plow was of critical importance to every community. A plow that allows us to eat more is something we all totally want to make sure we remember how to do. I like eating… too much sometimes. But if a community loses track of its critical items of knowing, it’s in alot of trouble. A midwife who knows how to deliver a baby in a variety of scary situations is a wonderful thing. (speaking of knowledge we lost track of)
But that relationship is changing. We have ways now of reaching out to get information when we need it, of storing information for the future.
And here’s where things get complicated.
There are a vast number of things that you can’t write down, record or ‘directly pass on’ about what we know. That midwife could tell you a great many things about delivering babies, every single thing she could remember, and that’s not going to make you a midwife, no matter how well you store that information. In the words of my plumber
Book smart guy just raved on bout how easy plumbing is always does his own Thanks 2 You-Tube 10 min & $75 later ur rented snake is un stuck https://twitter.com/peiplumber/status/254301553756889090
So, my plumber and I agree, that a youtube video and rented tools do not a plumber make. He and I, at least, agree that it is not the recordable content that makes you a plumber. I also don’t buy the 12th century distinction between ‘work of the hands and work on the mind’ i think plumbing is like anything else… there’s the stuff we can write down and talk about and there’s the complex stuff we understand.
The decisions we can make.
So what are we trying to pass on then?
Any education system that judges itself on things people remember and can prove to you they can remember are, basically, training people to do bad plumbing. The days when ‘simply remembering stuff’ was valuable has passed entirely. We no longer need people in a factory line who remember to turn the button with their right hand. Anything that can be automated by memory, will be.
I want us to be passing on the ability to choose. The will to understand. The work ethic required to engage at something for long enough to understand it. The sense of responsibility to believe that you should do that for yourself. I don’t care about the content or the rules associated with it… those we can find.
A crafts-person, whether they are working on a cabinet, or as a manager in a company, as a business owner or whatever, has to be more than someone who can follow a rule. Rules can be automated, as of yet, judgement cannot.
I was asked by the excellent Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach to speak to her PLP class about MOOCs, and, while we had what i thought was an excellent forty minute chat, there were tons of comments that i never had the chance to address. As i look over the questions they asked, I see that in answering their questions i have a chance to lay out many of the thoughts that I have had about MOOCs while they have been all the rage here on the internet in the last few weeks.
I opened the discussion with a quick personal intro to my contribution to the MOOC discussion and then we moved to Q & A. Feel free to skim along and pick up the part of the discussion that interests you.
Edtechtalk and community – 2005
In 2005 Jeff Lebow and I started edtechtalk. We started a live webcast about educational technology and about the possibilities of the new crazy things that were coming out. What to do about youtube? or Moodle? or or…
What i discovered was that, simply by engaging in random discussions with new people we happened upon – I was learning. I was starting to come to grips with new ideas. I seemed to have answers to questions when i was in meetings.
This lead me to new ideas about what it meant to learn and what it meant to know. Rhizomatic learning, in the sense that I mean it, was something i started talking about. I will not bore you with that here, but it very much came to me as a way of understanding what kind of learning was happening in the edtechtalk community. What i would now, six years later, call teaching with and for uncertainty.
In the summer of 2008 I invited George Siemens and Stephen Downes to come to edtechtalk and tell us about the new course they were teaching. They had 25 people registered (paid), at the university of Manitoba, but they had opened the class for online registration to whomever wanted to come along. Hundreds (and then a couple thousand) people took them up on it. We started talking about what it meant to have lots and lots of people learning together… somewhere in there, i called them a massive open online course… for which i have been often chastised
PLENK2010 – 2010
In the summer of 2010 we (sandy McAuley, Bonnie Stewart, George and I) did some research on MOOCs for SSHRC. And, that fall, a bunch of us taught a course on PLEs called PLENK2010(we’re good at catchy names). It was during this research in the summer, and the course that fall, that i really started to understand how I felt that people should use MOOCs. How they should shape them to their own needs. We explained it as Orient, Declare, Network, Cluster and Focus. I did this for PLENK2010 and figured out how I feel about PLEs.
xMOOCs – 2011/2012
At the end of 2011… I made a prediction about how MIT would soon be teaching 10 million students first year physics. A couple of days later, MIT announced MITx. Since then over a dozen the worlds top schools have banded together in different ways to offer really, really big MOOCs. They are, however, a little different than what we were doing in the beginning. They are not, as our original MOOCs were, about exploring a topic together, about creating space for connection, but rather about exposing the expert content available at those institutions. Still… lots of interesting developments here.
Q & A.
That, broadly speaking, was the intro that i gave to them (with more babbling). On to the Q & A. I have removed all the excellent commentary made by the members of the chat, and hope they link to their own thoughts in the classrooms. I only really got permission to reproduce their questions, and don’t like to overstep.
Pete: Does the MOOC really have to be “massive”? Is a “small MOOC” more like a PLC?
I think for the particular qualities that i find interesting in MOOCs to happen, it does need to be massive. I think there is great value in open courses, and great value in online courses – just not the same value as when those courses are massive. The huge numbers allow for a different level of uncertainty to present itself. Opinions from other cultures and contexts have a better chance of permeating the discussion. With a larger number of options you get a better chance of finding like minded (or new minded) people to engage with.
I like to think of my meeting Viplav Baxi as a good example of this. Viplav was one of the real gems of the CCK08 course. He wrote interesting posts and drew v. cool diagrams that brought his Indian perspective to the for. We have gone on to do other projects with Viplav… and I’ve had the opportunity of meeting him in Delhi earlier this year. This is simply not happening without the MOOC.
MICHAEL VALENTINE: Do you think you can really get a Harvard/Yale/Oxford quality education by being a part of 100 000 people online following a course?
I definitely think the quality of the education you are going to get is going to be different. You aren’t going to get the personal connection, the mentorship and the advantages of knowing recognized experts in your field as individuals. That’s a huge loss. That being said, the MOOC is not really meant as a replacement for those things… It’s like asking yourself whether having 30 people in a classroom for an hour with one professor is the same as spending all day with them 1 on 1. There’s no comparison. They are different.
Amanda Rablin: Do you feel that they can get out of hand with lots of people? Does the pedagogy change…. or is the sharing enhanced?
There’s no doubt that it gets out of hand. In some ways, that can be exciting, because there are possibilities that you can’t foresee. The sharing can also be enhanced, but it very much depends on how people approach the course. We have seen some MOOCs with lots of sharing and others with less. Why? Not sure yet. With lots of people you have more people who are simply trying to push their own agenda, more people who complain and more people who have vastly differing expectations – these are the things that tend to contribute to excess noise. You also get more and different people sharing… which is really exciting. win some lose some.
Moderator (Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach): I wonder why so many academics get in such an uproar about both connectivism and MOOCs?
I think there are several reasons for this.
There is this perception that people are suggesting that a MOOC should replace the traditional classroom. I don’t know who has ever said this… but the perception is out there.
The MOOC pushes the agenda of online education, which many academics distrust… considering how bad many versions of online education are, i don’t really blame them.
Online education is often used as a way to teach more students for less money. (often, not always) The MOOC could be the ultimate instance of this.
There is a small subset of academics who hearken back to an imaginary past of wonderfully profound discussions in small classrooms of wonderfulness. They imagine this as the experience of every student and see the MOOC as threatening this. It’s nonsense of course, but that doesn’t stop them from posting it in the NYT.
Jane Krauss: Can every kind of learner take advantage of moocs? And if not what are the obstacles and remedies to same?
I think that there are many different obstacles to MOOCs depending on where a given participant is coming from. A participant who is not particularly interested in a topic is going to struggle in a MOOC. Same for someone who ‘just wants to be told what to do’. The MOOC favours independence and goal setting… these are literacies that our schools mostly try to discipline out of us.
Moderator (Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach): I wonder if the fact that people are calling things MOOCs that aren’t MOOCs at all will in anyway damage understanding or the learning.
I think the biggest ‘damage’ is cause by people treating them as if they were normal online courses and not an opportunity for connection and knowledge building. That message would likely make a whole group of dropouts far more likely to engage…
Laurie: Does messy and uncertain need more time than the usual gatherings?
I have found that messy and uncertain take longer to get started, and then become much more powerful later on. If participants get accustomed to messy and uncertain learning experiences they seem more likely to take on projects on their own initiative and more likely to push ideas further. I think this helps people grasp a given context quicker.
Moderator (Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach): I wonder where you see this going as a learning construct in the future?
I think we’ve got another opportunity to convince people that they can think and learn for themselves without the structures that tell them that they are ‘good enough’. Companies, particularly the for profit companies, mostly make their money from telling people that they are good enough – you’ve passed the test. I hope that we are able to sneak some of that message in while this particular wave is cresting. I hope that universities can move towards the part of their identity that is about helping people become more and less about accreditation.
Kim Bullock: If a group splinters off and becomes organized from a mooc why would they return to the large group space/
A participant in one of our early MOOCs once approached me to tell me how bad his experience had been. He explained that he had done five weeks of the course, had met someone he had never encountered before, and had gone off and written a paper with him. Because of this, he had not completed the course and considered it a failure.
I see it as a win. Participants set their own standards of success in a MOOC. Many aren’t accustomed to seeing learning this way.
Ron G: Will the business end of education take away the purpose of MOOC’s
We all need to make a living in some way or other. The ‘purpose’ of MOOCs if there is one, is to create a context where learning and knowledge creation can occur. I think that can coexist with alot of business models. It’s just up to the participants to create it.
Moderator (Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach): I wonder… What your passions are Dave –deeply–around this and more?
For me the MOOC is a venue where i get to explore uncertainty in learning. I care a great deal about the emancipatory power of uncertainty.
Pete: Could a MOOC work for high school students?
Maybe. Certainly things like Youth Voices have been successful over time. I think you’d need to provide more structure for a high school setting. In retrospect, this project could have been a MOOC. http://livingarchives.ca
Shawn Kimball: I wonder if this can work for the average learner. Most people have never done more than a basic webinar and not really liked not having F2F. What would be a good progression for beginners to be more ready for MOOC than having to be fully comfortable with “all” technology communication?
I don’t know about ‘most people’ but there are people who dislike different delivery models for different reasons. I certainly wouldn’t suggest that MOOCs are for everyone. I would say that i don’t think the ultimate deciding factor would be comfort with the technologies… I’ve seen many, many people overcome this challenge when they wanted to. It’s the ‘wanting to’ that’s the real challenge. We are accustomed to being passive learning… encouraging people to put that behind them is the big challenge for MOOCs.
Amanda Rablin: How can you add some structure/guidance to the messiness or do you just accept it as a beautiful living thing
We’ve tried more and less structure for our MOOCs. Check out the way the current http://edfuture.net is being built. Much more structured than I would probably do it… and a nice example of how that structure could be done. Also… the folks at http://thesummeroflearning.com have a nice MOOC structure we can learn from.
Moderator (Pat Smiley #2): I know enough about a MOOC to be dangerous. The earlier “version” of a MOOC seems more focused on truly building community knowledge. Dave, I liked the 5 steps you listed for success in one of your short videos: Orient, Declare, Network, Cluster, Focus. Does this still hold true?
That still holds true for me. You need to find out what’s going on, announce yourself, get to know people, find the ones you want to work with and then get YOUR work done.
Pete: Is/Will there be an accredited MOOC?
People have been accredited to take MOOCs… by various institutions. It works very well as an independent study credit for instance. I do very much believe that there will be a robo-graded MOOC in the next three years or so. 100,000 students. no teachers.
Pete: Is it *possible* to conduct a MOOC that includes rigour or will the participants just drift away when things get challenging?
The rigour is not the responsibility of the MOOC but of the learner. If the learner needs help to apply rigour to their MOOC experience, they might find it by finding a community that could provide it or working with a professional of somekind (professor, consultant, tutor). In my mind the MOOC is not responsible to the learner… the learner is responsible.
Amanda Rablin: How can we deschoolify learners so that they are more open to learning in a moocy kind of way?
I think this is a critical point. I don’t think that deschoolification is going to be easy or quick… but we need to be patient with it. Many, many of the things we learn we already learn in a moocy way. Cooking is a nice example. We have access to lots and lots of information about it, friends and family to learn from and with and we slowly work our way through it if we’re driven. And we find our our tastes and conclusions if we want them…
Jane Krauss: Moocs and grading – incompatible?
I think you could grade effort in a MOOC. I also think that robo-mooc-grading is on the near horizon.
MOOCs are happening. They are both an opportunity for many around the world to get access to things they’ve never been able to access before and a threat to what some of us would call education. It is another place for us to discuss the most important question in our field…
why do we teach?
I try and teach to support people’s ability to deal with uncertainty. MOOCs work for that.
In today’s New York Times post Sherry Turkle talks about the value of conversation AND solitude and the limitations of digital connection. It’s a difficult piece to read, not for its overfocus on context/stories/facts or for its technical language, it lacks both, but for the way it which it will polarize the reader. You probably know already whether you will like it. She critiques the new technologies of connection for both cheapening conversation and eliminating solitude. In this piece I’m going to try and unravel one of these arguments from the whole and address the way that Turkle hearkens back to an imaginary past where people had long, meaningful conversations with each other about what was important to them… she creates a simulacrum.
The unravelling – solitude good, but not relevant
The points that are made in the article about solitude are very compelling. I think she’s entirely right about the slow dying of solitude, and the need for free thinking space. I think that I as a person and as a parent need to model the value of alone time, of thinking time, of device free time. This is not new, the radio and the TV have started this process… and my Galaxy SII has continued it. All true. It is not, however, either the title or the direction of the article. It is an entirely separate stream of very reasonable arguments that seem, at first, to support her main thesis… That conversation is being turned away from, when in fact it has nothing to do with it.
So. Out with the solitude arguments. The author’s long walks on the beach and her advice to take free quiet alone time is well noted and not relevant to the argument.
The piece is difficult in that it claims a great deal of research (presented in Alone Together) but cherry picks out a few anecdotal examples meant to illustrate her points. This confuses things, as it seems to draw on the history of research… where one would expect someone trying to see the whole story, and yet we only hear of the examples of people connecting superficially.
A boy who wants dating advice from a computer, because it has more data to work with
a nursing home resident who is comforted by a mechanical seal
another 16 year old hoping to learn how to have real conversations some day
a business person sitting down with all their technology and putting on headphones
These are all visceral examples… we see the future of relationships ruined, a poor old lady in a nursing home deceived, and, most importantly, the end of conversation. The idea, one supposes, is that we are replacing the excellence and ‘good for you’ challenge of the messy face2face conversation between humans with other fill ins. I will leave aside those of you who take comfort in music, dogs, cats, chocolate and the thousands of other things we use to comfort ourselves and let you all defend your non-human ways of connecting. I want to look at how she describes what conversation ‘used to be’… or at least, what it can be.
What turkle says about conversation
With each of these quotes, we are left to understand that these are the kinds of conversation that our two young people, our nursing home resident, our business person and ourselves will be having.
FACE-TO-FACE conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience.
Face-2-face conversation mostly doesn’t and never has unfolded slowly. It teaches power. In many conversations people express their own personal power over each other, whether it be in their right to speak, to speak first, to control the direction of conversation and it’s content. Equally true i would say. There are a very few people with whom i EVER have slow patient conversations with. I have met some of them online and never in person. My partner is one of them. They are rare and beautiful… but not common. I leave it to you to tell me if they were EVER common.
Self-reflection in conversation requires trust. It’s hard to do anything with 3,000 Facebook friends except connect.
Self-reflection requires confidence (and maybe trust). It requires the courage to look deeply into yourself and see the good and well as the bad. To think about it and share it is difficult. Connected, probably, to her points about solitude but not about conversation. Blogging has been doing self-reflection very well… for years. I share my self-reflections as many other people do with my blog through twitter or Facebook.
If there were anything challenging about social media its the massive amount of self-reflection that i see… sometimes i have to turn it off being overloaded with it. Finding self-reflection in face2face conversation can be very difficult… I’ve collected some very, very good friends over my life, and that’s one of the things that I look for. It is hard… and again, not that common.
During the years I have spent researching people and their relationships with technology, I have often heard the sentiment “No one is listening to me.” ” Have we so lost confidence that we will be there for one another?”
This is used as an explanation for why people turn to social media… that they need to find someone to connect with. Certainly in our case, baby-loss was one of those things. If it hasn’t happened to you, it is very difficult to listen to someone else talk about it. People find like-experienced people through social media… they connect, and share. It’s good. Finding someone who can talk to you, who can listen to you is very important. And easier if you have a wider network. I have seen sad tweets from friends, and called them to setup some time to talk… or at least called them just to talk. Social media is part of my life… on and offline line.
When was this point in the past when we HAD confidence in each other? I can’t imagine. Was there some magical past when we could look next door, when we needed someone to comfort us, and someone was available to listen to us? Not in my past.
Most of all, we need to remember — in between texts and e-mails and Facebook posts — to listen to one another, even to the boring bits, because it is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate and stutter and go silent, that we reveal ourselves to one another.
Absolutely. But this isn’t because of texts or emails or facebook… it’s because of life. ANd has ALWAYS been because of life.
Sherry Turkle has been at this for a long time. She has a cutting eye for seeing the in-between space of how technology influence our own lives. In this new york times piece she does an excellent job arguing for solitude. I yearn for it… and agree with her. When she turns to conversation, she loses me entirely. She has either had a uniquely perfect life filled with excellent and constantly available friends, or she has not been honest with herself. She is hearkening back to a past that never existed. Creating an image of perfection, of utopia, before the present time. Baudrillard called this a simulacra. One of the famous examples is ‘main-street’ USA at Disney. A perfect past, from the 50′s, where everyone was friendly, where yards were clean, people had job and all was happy. And a past, obviously, where everyone had profound, slow, supportive conversations with each other. But only at Disney.
Sherry. Look at this website. http://www.glowinthewoods.com/ Tell me how this connection is like what you describe. The technology can make this happen, and it can allow us to be fantastically superficial. Just like everything. Turning off the computer does not equal ‘better’ conversation.
We’re reaching the end of the marathon that has been the change11 mooc. When looking back over the close to thirty weeks we’ve been in this so far… no. I’m not going to. We need to finish. And finish strong. Who’s with me? We’ve got some really excellent guest hosts left. We’ve got some really good ideas to talk about.
Burnt out on the change11 mooc? Lets imagine that we’re doing Change12… Like were starting over with a five week MOOC. This week…
George Siemens – Sensemaking, wayfinding, networks, and analytics
I find it hard to say nice thing about George that he will read, but I promise you that whatever he does will make you think. His perspectives on sensemaking and wayfinding were worked out in his recently finished PhD, and he’s been working on networks all over the world. Worth it. check.
George Veletsianos – Scholars’ online participation and practices
What are academics doing in online public spaces? What are their intentions and what are their fears? Are faculty members’ altruistically sharing information on social media for the benefit of the community in which they belong? Or, is information-sharing a self-serving activity?
You need to know the answer to these questions, clearly. worth it. check.
Bonnie Stewart – Digital Identities & Subjectivities
Bonnie’s work on on identity and the web on her blog http://theory.cribchronicles.com/ and on MOOCs in University of Venus continue to push the boundaries of our understanding of ourselves as learning beings online. You need that. worth it. check.
Terry Anderson – Open Scholarship
Canada research chair in distance Ed. Runs IRRODL, and is on the editorial board of a bunch of other open journals. He’s been working and publishing in this space at a huge level for years. check.
What can we do in Five weeks? – Plan your digital future
Forget that #change11 started a year ago. Forget that you may or may not have been engaged in every (or any) weeks so far. We have diverse and excellent speakers all talking about how we live and learn online. Here’s my challenge to you…
Track your own design approach, your sensemaking practices, your approach to scholarship and performing identity. Blog about it. Who are you as a learner, as an teacher, formal or otherwise.
I found this series of questions directed at me from one of the more interesting people I’ve run into during the change11 course. They’re fair… i think… and a helpful way for me to reflect as I’m trying to write a couple of papers right now… so here goes.
I am struggling to see utility and practicality, just like Keith Hamon. I would like to ask:
In what way does your theory of rhizomatic learning change the way you teach?
It’s hard to remember, now, how it ‘changes’ the way i teach, as it IS the way that I teach… but there are some central ideas that I hold onto.
I think of curriculum as an output of a course rather than an input, so i enter a course with an outline of study, or a syllabus and focus on helping students build their own curriculum. This allows them (i hope) to construct themselves as Nomads. If you think of learning as a process of ‘becoming’ then it can’t be something that is enforced. It is a change that is individual and hard to track.
Change11 is about change, and you are part of Change11, so what do you want to change?
I think of the “change11″ to be about looking at change that is happening, rather than changing things. I am hoping to support uncertainty and responsibility in learning (among other things). I am particularly interested (as are many others) in supporting an educational approach that provides critical skills… not replicable ‘knowledge’.
Did the rhizomatic learning theory and reading Deleuze change your way of living?
Absolutely. It has made me accept multiplicity as an integral part of the human experience. I used to see opposing viewpoints as things that needed ‘sorting out’ now i’m willing to accept them both as valid.
In what way does it change your parenting and being a father?
I try to engender the same openness to complexity in my kids. It’s hard though… because the subtlety can be difficult for the kids. Not that they can’t get it… the problem is that the rest of society isn’t prepared for them to speak from that position. It’s hard to be a post-structuralist parent. Saying “that’s wrong” is much easier than saying “think about how that thing is not supportive of the kinds of things that we value”… but i think the latter is more useful to my kids in the long run.
I am an educational journalist and my readers are non-academic teachers who want to improve their teaching. So please do not use academic language, be practical.
What advice do you give to new teachers?
Be courageous. Strive hard to not be the knower. I would tell them that no one really ‘knows’. We are all on the same journey. Bring your students with you.
Could you explain the magic trick to a teacher of bookkeeping, welding, or farming?
I grew up as a lobster fisherman, spent time working in a lead silver refinery, and have been in academia (in one way or another) all my adult life. I have not noticed any difference in the ability to apprehend complex issues between any of these groups. Rhizomatic learning confirms the suspicions of many. There is no ‘right way’ to ride a boat through a storm, to use a crane to carry a 20 ton kettle down a floor or to write a paper. There are lots of wrong ways . These are things that we learn as we absorb ourselves into a thing. As we come to understand its context. As we become part of a context.
I say the same to everyone. There are basics, in every field, that you need to know. Basic language, basic techniques. These are not ‘important’ in a profound sense… but they are required. After that, we make our way. It is not possible to simply GIVE someone the answer to how it is done… everyone must come to it in their own way. This is something many people understand instinctively, be they tinker, tailer, soldier or spy. It is only when we come to formal education that we somehow believe the rules to change.
What do you tell teachers with a history of teaching? Do you want them to change the way they teach? Please do not explain your theory, but tell them ways to improve their teaching and the learning of their students.
I would never tell anyone to ‘change the way that they teach’. We all have different strengths, and it is dangerous to try and remake someone else in your own image. My message to the experienced teachers is the same as to those that are starting out… we do now know things for certain… do not tell the students that we do. Be open.
Your theory of rhizomatic learning is it important for students in vocational colleges?
It can be… insofar as people are actually learning. Many vocational programs are also very much tied to specific kinds of testing… and i wouldn’t want them to be distracted from them. They will have time for rhizomatic learning when they are on the job.
If you could introduce new fresh students at the start of their time in college or univ how would you do that?
I do and have. And i tell them the same thing. There are conventions that you must learn to survive in any field, academia more than many. Remember them. Learning is something else, it is yours to control. Care about it. Be open etc…
What advice would you give your children in learning? I bet you do not tell them “… the intensive becomes hidden under the extensive and the qualitative. …” (DeLanda, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, 119)
My last blog post was very much about this. I struggle with it. It is tempting to default to true/false with children. I try to create open ended exploratory learning… and sometimes fail.
Do you discuss your view on learning with the teachers in the school of your children? What do you talk about with them?
My children are still very young, so the conversations with their teachers have been fairly simple on this topic. I have iterated, many times, that i’m not concerned about them getting the right answers, or performing, but rather am concerned about how they explore, how they feel about being in class… but that’s as far as it has gone. I am very suspicious of the system… but so far my kids are learning a great deal. They are learning in a language that is not the language spoken at home… so there is much for them to learn. I’m not sure what happens after that. I imagine i will have deeper conversations with their teachers at that time.
Did your theory change the way you learn and study?
Definitely. I’ve stopped looking for the proper/right way of doing things and am more willing to accept interpretations that are outside of convention. I was non-conventional before… but am now so without the rebellion… with a more open mind.
I stopped writing in my first blog, 7 or 8 years ago, after listening to someone tell me how blogs were going to save democracy. I found the argument so foolish, so self-aggrandizing and so impractical, that it turned me off the whole process. The argument seemed to go like this:
If everyone has the ability to post what they think, and everyone can comment on that, then each individual has a voice that can be heard in our society… making our society democratic.
After spending much of the intervening years working in social spaces i am now willing to confirm that this is utter nonsense. There are a hundred reasons why this doesn’t make sense, but I’ll just drop three on you in a hurry.
Given free time, most people will not blog, it takes alot of time and burns alot of creativity
Given a chance to express themselves, people will normally talk about the things that interest them… this is more likely to be coffee, knitting or sex rather than politics.
People do not generally frequent the ideas of people they don’t agree with, unless they wish to ridicule them
But you said this was about how to use it to help me vote
Yes. blogging, for everyone, is not the answer for improving our democracy. Twitter on the other hand, just might be. And no, i don’t care if its ‘actually’ twitter, but anything that works like twitter. In a twitter like conversation everyone starts on more or less even territory. No one can grab the mic, it’s difficult to interrupt, and there’s no place to hide. If someone isn’t answering your question, you can just ask it again. We’re all in the same basket and if you’re asking a politician a question in the main stream (identified by hashtags) everyone will see and notice the fact that said person will no answer the question. You can passively watch how a canditate (or their rep) interacts, and get a chance to see all the things they think are important, be those links to things like videos or writing they have done themselves, debates they’ve had with other candidates, or what they had for dinner. Each individual in our democracy doesn’t need to write a blog, we just all need access to the same place where we can have a little chat.
I answered our local CBC radio call out for people who would follow our provincial elections only through social media this fall. I’m fairly cynical about the electoral process. I don’t like the fact that debates and townhalls are as controlled as they are, I absolutely HATE hearing people speak from talking points, and the potential conflict of interest between media and politicians (in the sense that both need the other to do their business) combined with the need to condense discussions into sizes that consumers can actually take in, means that i rarely seem to get answers that i want from media interviews. I have, mostly, given up on knowing what is going on… figuring that there is no way to find out.
Enter social media
Politicians, or at least their handlers, have been told that they need some kind of social presence online. With the massive success that Obama had with social media in the 2008 elections combined with the amazing number of dancing cat videos that people watch these days it’s becoming an avenue to connect to voters difficult to ignore. We here in PEI have seen any number of politicians and political activists turn their attention to our twitter streams and start to talk to us. And that’s nice and everything, but so far they are saying the same things they say in the press releases. The trick is… we need to start talking back. We need to get together and start using our social spaces, controlling the discussion in our spaces to make honesty, civility and transparency something of value, rather than talking points, prepped speeches and obfuscation. It might be a little late to get it done for our election here on PEI… but certainly worth a try.
1. Call out everyone who makes claims and does not identify themselves.
This may seem picky… but i’ve seen too much ‘Those guys are liars’ online. If I don’t know who you are… why should i take anything you say seriously? It could be that someone is a voter with an opinion… or even facts about an issue. It could also be a political operative trying to scam you. If people need to maintain anonymity… they can go to the press. Social media is a reputation economy. Tell us who you are.
2. Call out people who are mean, nasty or simply taking potshots at others.
I called out two executive secretaries to party leaders early in the campaign here in PEI for just sniping at each other. I was shocked when they stopped. If we can publicly shame our politicians into being nice to each other that would go a long way towards me taking them more seriously, but i can’t speak for you. I’m not saying they shouldn’t criticize each other, or dig in… just be civil. We can enforce this in our social media spaces. This, of course, needs to apply to other citizens as well… mindless nagging is not going to raise the level of the discourse.
3. Ask politicians questions, and keep asking them until you get an actual answer
This is something i haven’t tried yet. If you look at the twitter stream for our election, anything tagged with one of the three twitter tags tends to be seen by everyone. If you ask a politician a question they are unwilling to answer, ask it again. Ask others in the party to answer. Ask the party’s central account. Ask other parties. In a townhall your question can be skated over or ignored, in social media that’s ALOT harder.
4. Do research and post it.
One of the nice things about having lots and lots of people involved in a discussion is that you can get access to more information. If a question has been asked or a claim has been made… count up the numbers, figure out the figures and post them. The more people do this, the close we get to facts that can help us vote.
5. Reward politicians for being open and honest
If a politician has gone out of their way to answer a question, to make their positions clear or to be available, let people know about it. There needs to be value in being open for our politicians to do it. If they see their cred improved by the fact that they are doing these things, they will do them. We need to set expectations and reward them when they are met.
Politicians, ostensibly, work for us. We need to make it clear what we expect and hold them accountable (and reward them) for the response to our expectations. Discourse in social media can be one of the ways that we can set those expectations. Civility. Honesty. Transparency. Facts. These are not things restricted to one side of the political spectrum… these are the things we need as voters to make decisions about our politicians.
I’ll be honest, I’ve not seen a political government in canada be able to fulfill the promises they make on specific issues… and no wonder. They are suspeptible to world markets, to internal struggles, to challenges unforseen. I see this as normal. What i want to know about the people who represent me is who they are, what they think about the things that are important to me. These are things that social media is really good at letting us know. We could make that happen. Maybe.
Google has just released a new social networking system that allows you to connect with people in your network… you know… social software. This is the latest in a long string of efforts by the smart people at google to try and break into the social market. A company that has been so fantastic at figuring out how to get people to click on their ads and search for things, has always struggled with the social.
Close to ten years ago, I started using my first discussion forum in a classroom and became the computer guy. I was never a computer guy before, i didn’t make any kind of transformation that i could tell… but i became the person people asked about stuff like this. In the time since, my life has moved me to a point where i’m ‘the computer guy’ for a lot of people. I do a fair amount of talking to people about what they can do with technology to help forward their projects… and i have come to realize that there are three questions you need to ask.
Do you have ten hours in your schedule, right now, where you’re thinking “wow, i really wish I had something to do”
This is always my first question. Will you commit TIME to the project. It separates the dreamers from the people who are actually willing to commit to a new project. Most projects, tech or otherwise, are mired in details that need to be sorted out in order for them to get off the ground and stay there. The technology is, for the most part, just a question of trial and error. You need to dig into it for a while, then it clears up. But you need to commit the time to it. And most people don’t have piles of time lying around that they are looking to give away. Which leads me to my second question
Are you willing to figure this out for yourself?
Faithful readers of this blog (are there faithful readers of this blog?) will know that I think of good learning as a messy process. You need to wander around an idea and get a sense of it. Figure out what it looks like. See where it stretches and where it falls down. You need to figure it out for yourself. This is true of tech as well. Following a list of instructions or watching a video is NOT going to help you when things fall apart. *TRAINING* can be nice and everything, but it’s not going to allow you to succeed with your own ideas. It can be a stepping stone, but, at some point, you need to dig in on your own.
Are you willing to train everyone else?
There are very few systems that explain themselves. Twitter is one. It’s a brilliant system that allows you to go to a single place, do one job, and walk away from it. This is what i’ve always thought allowed google to win the search engine wars. You didn’t need to understand google to use it. Most people don’t want to understand most things in order to use them. Many people are willing to understand some things… but probably not many. It’s like thinking about the mechanics of a car while you’re driving it, it’s distracting and might get you killed. Just drive the car. If you’re running a project, you have to be able to set things up so that most people can use your project without thinking about it.
What’s all this have to do with Google +?
I remember when google wave came out. It was awesome. Nothing short of a revolution in the way that you could communicate. I was playing with many of best technical people i know… and we struggled to get it. I think we came close a few times… but we struggled. We couldn’t fit it in our existing project timelines, it didn’t do work more efficiently than google docs. But you needed to put that ten hours in to get a feel for it. You had to be willing to ‘understand’ it. And, worse, i would need to teach people how to use it in order to be able to do a project with them. And, finally, as Harold Jarche just said on twitter… show me the value. It was exactly the kind of awesome thing that people aren’t very much interested in.
In its long journey towards social media supremacy (which i figure they’ll get someday) google seems to have misunderstood the very thing that made them successful. If I were to guess, I would say that they believe that their algorithms were a huge part of their success in the search engine battles. I would posit that it was the simplicity. You don’t need to understand google to use it. You don’t need any time investment… ask any librarian how they feel about most people’s ‘search skills’. And you can just send it along to your best friend, and they can use it to. (my mom, on a weekly basis, says “why don’t you just check that up on the googles Dave, they’ll know the answer”)
With google+ we have something far simpler than wave. It allows me to pull together my networks, allows a nifty video conferencing feature and to sort people according to who they are in my life. But who’s going to use them. I might. Some of my friends might.
Will they carve the time out of their schedule to understand it?
Will they be willing to learn it themselves?
Will they be willing to teach others how to use it?
The first time i try to get my boss, or friend, or mom to use it… will it be good enough that i’ll want to try and convince them to figure it out? I doubt it.
Facebook was, when it came out, software that I hated. It was ugly and confusing… but it had one thing going for it – human nature. Grandparents wanted to see grandkids, people wanted to know if their old flame from high school was fat, and the loneliness that is so much a part of the human condition needed an outlet. What human condition is PLUS going to capitalize on? I already have a place for kid pictures, i’ve seen the pics of my high school flame, and I have all you folks to connect to (as well as some other nice ones here in charlottetown).
Google+ is cool. But i don’t think its cool enough to get people to put the time into figuring it out. It doesn’t have the leverage. As @mjmontagne just said on twitter, it might threaten salesforce… but not facebook. As part of the google suite? maybe. But i don’t think that’s what it was built for.
It’s not about how cool the technology is… it’s about humans. And I don’t understand why lots of humans would choose to use it.
The above image was done by @giuliaforsythe during my ‘eportfolio’ presentation at the university of guelph. It was done on an ipad, a la @ninmah (). The talk (slides below) was an attempt to set a context for the idea of creating a portfolio. It starts talking about the idea of cave paintings as community knowledge, and then the iliad (represented by the colosseum from troy) and how we used to keep knowledge in the community memory. The change in the technology, first the book, and then the technology… and what that means. What opportunities does the ‘e’ provide?
The answer presented is two fold… One is the new tension (and maybe not so new) between analytics and read/write. Many people were very swayed by folks who suggested that we should be aiming for an authentic experience… a collaborative one. How, then, do we apply any analytics to that? How do we assess it? It’s an important tension, and a constant battle i think.
The other is the addition of that idea of ‘connection‘ to the portfolio. DaVinci’s portfolio is awesome, but it is not connected. The technology wasn’t there.
The idea of curation. Curation has certainly always been a part of collecting things, but with things ‘e’ it is tempting to not organize them as well as you are forced to with paper. Paper enforces a certain organization… a certain curation. The computer does not. It needs much more focus.
Most importantly, we need to focus on it being important. If work isn’t important, it is nothing. Learning to do things in a disconnected, unthoughtful way is not learning. It’s brainwashing.
Hopefully i’ll get a chance to do an audio track for the slideshare… we’ll see.
Many thanks to @kylemackie, @richardgorrie and company for being such great hosts.
I jumped (uninvited) into the “what is the purpose of education?” discussion by creating a Saturday slot for myself. I care a great deal about this topic, but I sometimes feel like the tone deaf cellist in a high school band… wandering off into my own key. In this case… a minor key.
The bookends questions from the first and last blog posts leading into mine are:
I have two children, and those are two questions that start and end most of my days. Where will society be when that little face leaves my house to make a life of her own? What kind of an adult do I want her to be? What can i do to help her contribute to a world that I’d like to see her live in?
Those questions are paramount in the minds of most parents I know. As long as the education we are talking about is restricted to the kids that are my responsibility and under my control, the choice of shaping belongs to me and to @bonstewart. (their mother)
The shaping we are talking about, however, is far more wide ranging. We are discussing the control we want to exert over an entire population of a grade, a school, a city, a province a country or a world.
Education, in the public sense, has mostly been about control. It was developed to allow people the skills they needed to live in the factories, to show up on time, to do disconnected tasks associated with the industrial revolution. The power to offer this was certainly there at the time, and the need to shape manifest. We have, in many cases, washed away some of the legacy of this kind of shaping, but the ‘purpose’ of education has remained.
Education, it seems, is the method by which we attempt to make the world come out the way we want it to. It is about using our power to shape and control the world to come so that it comes into line with our own hopes and dreams. In any way we move it, even towards chaos and anarchy, we are still using our power to shape and control the future.
If there ever was a ‘we’ to agree on education it doesn’t exist anymore. If we are ever to move forward with the debate, we will need to find first principles that we can all agree on wishing to shape into our futures.
There is nothing, i think, that leaves me feeling more frustrated than ‘tools’ that are supposed to be easy to use. I think in the rush to explain to people that a tool is useful, the teller often forgets that they struggled with inferior tools before they found this New Awesome Tool. They forget that they already understood exactly what it was they were looking for and then found this New Awesome Tool and figured out what it was for. I am not this person. I have come to learning analytics with a simple desire to be able to track what happens in an open course without having to shove people in a black box. I want to track people in the wilds of the internet. I’m not exactly sure how i want that done yet… and so we look at the tools.
Slacker’s run through content
Two tools this week… Gapminder. If there was any tool that you should spend five minutes downloading to your computer… this is it. This is the plug and play impress your coworkers with your amazing mooc learning kapow tool. It’s an adobe air application on your desktop… really, no excuse here. A slacker’s delight. How useful is it? well… if you study population dynamics… or social studies or something maybe. But who cares… i looks AWESOME!
and needlebase. This is a bit more of a serious tool. I’ve included the introductory video from the website here as its better than any tour i would do. You’ll be wanting to set aside 4 or 5 hours to take a serious run at this baby. It really will scrape content from a bunch of website and pull it into a database… i just didn’t find it ‘quite’ as slick as this video suggests. I didn’t get into trying to mix and match data… which is the real power in this application https://pub.needlebase.com/actions/visualizer/V2Visualizer.do?switch=true&domain=twitter-again&startPage=1&showCheckboxes=false&rerun=false but i did build this little database by scraping a pile of content off the http://search.tourismpei.com site. A person with more energy could do something very cool with this system. It also gives you great sympathy for people who complain about data that isn’t clean… grr…
Facilitated session – Why exactly would we want to do analytics in learning? The recording of this week’s friday discussion will be hearty food for skeptics. We took a run at talking about what can be measured, why we would want to measure it and brainstormed some ideas about how one might use these new tools to change the way that we look at structuring education. I really enjoyed this chat…
There are some incredibly powerful data tools out there right now, and as long as you can scrape the data in an organized way, there are few limitations to what you could produce. The big question remains: what do i ask? I think moving forward in this field is going to require people to start asking new kinds of questions from the data. This was certainly one of the central themes from the Friday discussion and is likely going to be the challenge confronting many the first time they look at the tools. Yeah… it’s cool… but what do i do with it? Many of the people currently touting the tools are coming from years of struggle working with inferior technology… for most of us, its a bit more of a challenge. Good luck, and please post any results somewhere i can find them