Archive for October, 2008

CCK08: Reflection on Week 7: Do you Have Your ID?

October 27, 2008

George Siemens begins his Articulate presentation on Instructional Design and Connectivism by asking the following two questions:

  • How we design for learning in a world that’s rapidly changing?
  • How we design for learning in a world where the individual learner has far greater control over content and interaction than they ever had in the past? (Slide 1)

I would like to take a step back, and first ask the questions, “Who is we?” and “Why is it important that we identify how to design for learners in a rapidly changing world?”

One of Connectivism’s greatest strengths is that it “challenges the perceived linearity often found in learning design theory (Slide 11).”  By extension, the Connectivist framework seeks to “design for adaptability, not mechanistic views” through the use of patterning and wayfinding to refine sensemaking skills (Slide 12). The challenge then remains, how do we “achieve particular outcomes through distributed approaches (Slide 13) ?” Siemens expands on this question with three more:

  • How do we deal with and design for learning that occurs in a complex, chaotic environment?
  • How do we communicate a message that’s much more fragmented than it’s ever been in the past?
  • How do we create learning to ensure that individual participants continue to stay current even when core knowledge within a particular field changes? (Slide 14) (more…)

CCK08: Reflection on Week 6: Part 2

October 27, 2008

1. Notes on “Complexity and Information Overload in Society: why increasing efficiency leads to decreasing control” by Francis Heylighen

The basic premiss of Heylighen’s paper concerns identifying the impact of ephemeralization on global systems.

Ephemeralization, the ongoing increase in efficiency or productivity of all processesinvolving matter, energy and information, is the most basic manifestation oftechnological and organizational advance (17).

Both of Heylighen’s papers are predisposed to an optimistic view of the future. It would appear that the author is a strong proponent of globalization, without, however, rigorously defending its criticisms.

People find it ever moredifficult to cope with all the new information they receive, constant changes in theorganizations and technologies they use, and increasingly complex and unpredictableside-effects of their actions. This leads to growing stress and anxiety, fuels variousgloom and doom scenarios about the future of our planet, and may help explain theincreasingly radical movements against globalization [my italics] (1).

Perhaps in theory, the reduction of international tariffs in the interests of encouraging trade makes sense; however, the legalities of these agreements are often ratified at the expense of the natural world, local sustainable economies, and indigenous cultures, none of which Heylighen has acknowledged.

…Both the area of land and amount of human effort needed to produce agiven amount of food has been reduced to a mere fraction of what it was. As a result, theprice of food in real terms has declined with 75% over the last half century (WorldResources Institute, 1998). In the same period, the fuel consumption of cars hasdecreased just as spectacularly, while their speed, power and comfort have increased (3).

Ironically, Heylighen cites both advances in agriculture (leading to a decrease in food prices) and fuel consumption in the same breath. We know now that fuel consumption has increased in North America with an increase in the purchase of SUVs, and that the implementation of government policies that support increased production of biofuel has led to a decrease in the growth of grain products for food worldwide, especially rice. This had led to an increase in the price of those food staples, which in some countries, such as Haiti, has led to riots among the populace, which was suffering from high rates of poverty even prior to the spike in the price of grain. (more…)

CCK08: Reflection on Week 6

October 20, 2008

Tennis, bisociation, desire lines…and seeding the space

1. Tennis

This morning I played doubles tennis with my wife and kids. I have a tween and a teen, and they are both getting pretty good at the sport. It’s getting harder and harder for my wife and I to “hold our own” against the kids when we play with them. So today I was compelled to really try and place my serves well; to aim for exactly where I wanted the ball to land in the serving box. On my first shot, the ball landed where I had aimed it! “Holy…” I thought to myself, and continued to experiment with the exercise of narrowing my field of vision, my “viewfinder,” if you will, to place my shots with greater precision. It worked quite well, and I was consistently staggered with the results of this simple exercise (even though we lost that particular game).

The new dynamics of strategy: Sense-making in a complex and complicated world” by Kurtz and Snowden was important for me, because it demonstrated in turn how introducing the Cynefin “sense making framework” (468) for understanding to a group can potentially alter the mindset of the individuals therein. Radically unfamiliar scenarios were presented to a group of people that was in turn required to try and make sense of the information provided. Because they were operating in a chaotic environment, the group members reacted in ways in which they would otherwise not necessarily react. Consequently, they experimented with new tools, new ways of seeing the world, which they were then able to bring back to their organizations. The extent to which these skills are transferrable may remain questionable, but the exercise in and of itself is intriguing to me, and I can see the benefits of the Cynefin framework in terms of the expansiveness with which the model can be applied. (more…)

CCK08: Reflection for Week 5: Part 4

October 13, 2008

The Virtual Self: Further notes from Franciso Varela’s Ethical Know-How: Action, Wisdom and Cognition

In George Siemens’ Articulate presentation “Groups and Networks,” multiple references to “the self” are made without any formal definition of the term to which Siemens is referring. Below are excerpts from the presentation with transcriptions of some of the commentary accompanying each slide included in italics.

Basis of collective intelligence is “the self” (slide 7)

As we begin to integrate our ideas and concepts with others and we extend themselves into some sort of a group activity, there is an important protection of self that needs to occur where we retain our identity or where we retain our contributions.

The self is not created through socialization. (slide 12)

It is shaped and expressed through socialization (slide 13)

The self is not something that is created through socialization. Instead, it is something that is shaped and expressed through the act of socialization, through the act of negotiation, through dialoguing with, and sharing in conversations with other people.

Connectives: autonomy of self (mosaic) (slide 14)

Individuals then, in some type of a connective relationship to each other retain a high autonomy of self. Rather than blending, they exist in a mosaic. Namely, they retain their identity, even though they contribute to the larger whole.

Collectives: subsumption of self (melting pot) (slide 15)

In contrast, a collective is a subsumption of self. An example that is often used is the notion of a melting pot, where our individuality is absorbed as we contribute or become part of the larger whole.

 The previously listed tenets adhere to a notion of selfhood in which\ the autonomy of the self is highly valued. Selfhood may also be understood, however, in terms of assuming a position of groundlessness, or homelessness, out of which spontaneous action arises in terms of one’s moment to moment co-creation of the world. From within this constantly changing frame of reference, uncertainty guides action and response, and one’s decisions are made in relation to the specific contexts in which one finds oneself. (more…)

CCK08: Reflection for Week 5: Part 3

October 13, 2008

A Year Without Reading?

As passionate as I may be about critical theory and pedagogy, educational theory, e-learning and philosophy in all of its manifestations, sometimes I wonder when it will all end. The reading and the learning never stops. Am I just aspiring to follow in the footsteps of my father, a retired professor? Is this an attempt to distance myself from my spouse and my children, out of an inability to relate to them on a profound level? What of books (and now the Web!), learning and knowledge anyways? So what? Who cares?

In 1972, following the death of Paul Goodman, Susan Sontag wrote about her relationship to Goodman, and in particular her relationship to his work. During that year, Sontag did her best to spend a year without books.

 On Paul Goodman: “Under the Sign of Saturn”

 Although I am trying to live for a year without books, a few manage to creep in somehow.  It seems fitting that even here, in this tiny room where books are forbidden, where I try better to hear my own voice and discover what I really think and really feel, there is till at least one book by Paul Goodman around, for there has not been an apartment in which I have lived for the last twenty-two years that has not contained most of his books (para. 13).

 Did Sontag end up better hearing her own voice, to discover what she really thinks and feels? Perhaps ironically, more research on my part would be required to find out. Or I could attempt to do the same, to see how I might be affected. (more…)

CCK08: Reflection for Week 5: Part 2

October 13, 2008

Notes on Taking down the walls: communities and educational research in Canada’s 21st Century by Celia Haig-Brown, Ph.D

Yesterday I stumbled upon a working paper called “Taking down the walls: Communities and educational research in Canada’s 21st Century” by Celia Haig-Brown (2000). In it, Haig-Brown cites the work of Eleanor Godway and Geraldine Finn in which the authors

…claim that community is catechresis, calling on Gayatri Spivak’s definition whereby “catechresis means that there is no literal referent for a particular word; that its definition comes apart, as it were, as soon as we begin to articulate it” (2).

Wittgenstein revisited, perhaps. Haig-Brown continues:

…In looking historically at the effects of community building, Godway and Finn question the possibility of event trying to construct such a place:

It is up to us to make community: to find it, build it, or encourage it to grow in our fragmented world. But can we? Or should we even try, when in spite of good intentions, the effects of community are often more divisive, more exclusive, and more oppressive, than the absence of community it originally intended to remedy or remove? (1994:1) (more…)

CCK08: Reflection for Week 5: Part 1

October 13, 2008

Nonline Learning

 I am experiencing some kind of inner revolt this week. The Internet feels like a dead metaphor for connectedness, and the use of the word in an online context is cold, tired and empty. Nonetheless  the reality of connectedness via the Net is also a literal truism that cannot be denied. That doesn’t change my feeling today I want to look into another person’s eyes and experience that I am being acknowledged on a visceral level.

 Stephen Downes’ Seven Habits for Highly Connected People promotes the maximization of efficiency in the online arena. It’s hard to argue that one would benefit from doing otherwise. By contrast, Downes himself suggests, “It’s good to take a break and go out camping, or to the club, or whatever. But the idea of replacing your online connecting with busy-work is mistaken (#3, para 2).” (more…)

CCK08: Concept Map

October 6, 2008


A first and incomplete attempt. This was an intriguing and frustrating exercise.

A first and incomplete attempt. This was an intriguing and frustrating exercise.

CCK08: First Assignment

October 6, 2008

Connecting the Dots

Strongly suggested through the readings is the view that information growth, technology, developments in social learning theory, and advancements in our understanding of minds and cognition require a reconsideration of learning theory (Downes and Siemens, 2008).

I do not disagree with this assertion. However, I am less convinced than ever before that this reconsideration requires the replacing or reformulating of existing learning theories with a new one.

Terry Anderson’s presentation for the Online Connectivism Conference includes the following realization:

…Put your thinking caps on for a moment and talk about what educational research has really made a difference for you as an educator or as a learner. I got asked this question in Hong Kong one time when I was on a panel at the International Council of Distance Ed. about what’s the one thing that really education research has contributed. I was blindsided. I thought, here am I, big researcher, and I can hardly even think of one thing that has really made a difference (Anderson, 2007, para. 7).

In my own experience there are many educators who express disdain towards theory in general for its lack of practical, pragmatic applications in the classroom. Formal theory can inform practice, but especially with informal learning, it does not always. (more…)

CCK08: Reflection for Week 3

October 1, 2008

Further Connections

In the second Ustream discussion, Dave Cormier asked for practical examples of Connectivist learning in action. George Siemens suggested classroom correspondance between students who are remotely distanced from one another; Stephen Downes suggested that students who are actively involved in communitiy initiatives, for instance, learning about building a house on-site, is a more apt example.

Though Connectivism does not claim to be replacing its theoretical predecessors, it is worth pointing out that both of these examples were around long before Connectivism, and not necessarily in the form of an activity designed to support a theoretical framework. That having been said, Glasser has already suggested that students should be involved in house-building as part of the Quality Schools initiative. Similarly, Celestin Freinet, an educator from France who was largely unknown in the English-speaking world up until recently, initiated classroom correspondances between village schools in France prior to World War II. Freinet’s students also learned how to run a printing press, in order to run off copies of a newsletter that was distributed in the the local village. (more…)