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Next month Roy Williams and I will give the keynote presentation at a conference in Graz, Austria, which will focus on learning in open learning environments; how we recognize, value and ‘capture’ it. This is the second in a series of posts that we will make in preparation for this keynote.

The first post was Evaluation of Open Learning Scenarios

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We have been thinking about what might be the key characteristics of learning in open learning environments since 2008. One of the first visualizations that I became aware of at that time, was the map created by Matthias Melcher during CCK08. CCK08 was the first MOOC on Connectivism and Connective knowledge, convened by Stephen Downes and George Siemens in 2008. For me, this was my introduction to ‘learning in the open’. This is Matthias’ map.

CCK08 network Matthias

 

Matthias wrote in his blog

My way of approaching the confusing landscape of countless tools, sites, and resources, was to try and get a visual overview of the salient ones.

Matthias’ map revealed the diversity, distributed and even ‘chaotic’ nature of learning in the open. Interestingly, Roy and I occupied very different spaces in this open course/MOOC and therefore on the map. Roy, for the most part, participated in the course forums. I participated from my blog, as did Matthias. So at the time I had a weak connection with Roy (I was simply aware of him), but a stronger connection with Matthias, who I was connected to through our blogs. My connection with Roy did not become stronger until after the course was over, when we began to research learners’ experiences in this MOOC. [1] [2]

On reflection, it is interesting that open learning environments can lead to learning in more closed, private, collaborative (as opposed to cooperative), spaces. Since CCK08 this has often been my experience and has led to some of my most significant and fruitful learning experiences. I think this has also influenced how we (Roy and I) have written about the characteristics of open learning environments. We acknowledge the role of seemingly ‘non-open’ factors such as solitude and contemplation and the role of prescribed learning, and are interested in the balance between more prescribed, closed environments and open learning environments. We do not claim that learning in the open is superior to learning in more closed environments or vice versa. We are interested in how and why they are different and in the affordances of both open and more prescribed learning environments. We also recognize that learners will move between open and closed learning environments.

Working across distributed platforms, as depicted by Matthias’ map, is a characteristic of open learning environments that has also been highlighted by Stephen Downes.  In addition Stephen has always said that the key principles of an open networked learning environment (a cMOOC) are autonomy, diversity, openness and interaction/connectivity. These four principles have been influential in our thinking about the characteristics of open learning environments. They, along with our past experience and prior knowledge of various learning theories, were our starting point.

Ultimately after many months (even years) of deliberation, discussion, drawing on prior experience, testing and refinement, we now have a list of 25 characteristics of learning in open learning environments (which we call ‘factors’). We have organized these into 4 clusters. These are 1. Open/Structure 2. Interactive Environment 3. Agency 4. Presence/Writing. [3] [4] For each cluster we have a key question:

  • Open/Structure: What is the balance between Openness and Structure?
  • Interactive environment: How is the learning design implemented?
  • Agency: Do learners develop their own capacity for action, or just compliance with given roles?
  • Presence/writing: What traces do you make and leave behind you?

The Table below lists the factors arranged into clusters. In our publications and on our open wiki, each of these factors comes with a description and question (see references at the end of this post).

Clusters and FactorsOur thinking about open learning environments and the factors that influence learning within these environments is ongoing, so we do not see this list of factors as definitive. We offer them as a palette, rather like an artist’s palette of colours, to be selected from according to the most useful and appropriate in any given context. We also recognize that the palette might be added to or the factors changed. Our experience is, though, that a consideration of the complete list of 25 factors provides the richest picture of learning in an open environment. We visualize this picture as a Footprint of Emergence [4], as depicted below.

cck08 footprint

This ‘Footprint’ is a visualization of experience of learning in the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge MOOC (CCK08).

On the Footprint image, factors can be seen as points (black dots) located on the footprint line within the circle. Each factor relates to the list of factors above, but is represented on the image by an abbreviation. So ‘Lim’ relates to Liminal space and ‘Amb’ to ambiguity and so on.

To interpret and understand the footprint visualization, we need to know that in the dark centre of the circle learning is experienced as prescribed. In the white zone learning is experienced as ‘sweetly’ emergent. Moving outwards from the white zone to the darker blue zone, learning is experienced as more challenging and ‘sharply’ emergent. On the dark outer edge of the circle learning is experienced as chaotic.

CCK08 was designed to be open and challenging, and therefore it is no surprise that most of the characteristics/factors that we have identified were experienced as being between sweetly emergent and chaotic, for the point in time at which this footprint was drawn in the course. Footprints visualize an instant in time. We have provided details of how to draw footprints of emergence on our open wiki [5] and in this video below.

The footprint visualization makes explicit the relationship between open emergent learning and closed, prescribed learning. If, as we believe, open learning environments lead to increasing incidents of emergent learning (I will come back to this in my next blog post), then we, as learners, teachers and designers, need to know more about what this learning might entail, how we will recognize it and how we will value it.

References:

  1. Mackness, J., Mak, Sui, Fai, J. & Williams, R. (2010). The Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC. In Networked Learning Conference, Aarlborg (pp. 266-274). Retrieved from http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fss/organisations/netlc/past/nlc2010/abstracts/Mackness.html
  2. Mak, Sui, Fai, J., Williams, R. & Mackness, J. (2010). Blogs and Forums as Communication and Learning Tools in a MOOC. In Networked Learning Conference, Aarlborg (pp. 275-284). Retrieved from http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fss/organisations/netlc/past/nlc2010/abstracts/Mak.html
  3. Williams, R., Karousou, R. &  Mackness, J. (2011) Emergent Learning and Learning Ecologies in Web 2.0. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/883
  4. Williams, R., Mackness, J. & Gumtau, S. (2012) Footprints of Emergence. Vol. 13, No. 4. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Retrieved from: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1267
  5. Footprints of Emergence open wiki – http://footprints-of-emergence.wikispaces.com/

Next week sees the official end of the summer break for many people, particularly those working in education. The days are getting shorter, the nights are drawing in, but the autumn fruits are still ripening (here in the UK).

In my career in education, these coming months up until the December break have always been very busy. The renewed energy and enthusiasm that emanates from people as they start again after the summer break is almost palpable and, I find, motivating.

There seem, at this time, to be many open courses on offer and conferences of interest. It’s impossible to follow them all, but those that I will be keeping an eye on are:

ALTC website

ALTC 2015: 1st to 3rd September. Riding Giants: How to innovate and educate ahead of the wave #altc

I cannot attend this in person, but there are a number of live streamed presentations which I am hoping to listen to. ALTC is usually a stimulating conference.

Connected Courses. Active Co-Learning in Higher Ed. Sept 2nd to Dec 14th 

This has caught my attention because of the number of well-known names involved in the course design.

Modern and Contemporary American Poetry Coursera MOOC. Sept 6th to Nov 15th.

I completed this course last year, but there is plenty more to learn and it was so good last year that I am looking forward to joining it again. I know very little about poetry, but this does not seem to be a barrier to enjoyment. Last year I didn’t join the discussion forums. They are somewhat overwhelming and move too fast for me. I might give them a try this year, but I think I am once again more likely to watch the videos and do the close readings. Also, having already completed the course once, I will be selective, this year, about the parts of the course that I follow.

Networked Scholars Oct 20th – Nov 16th.

An open, free course being offered by George Veletsianos. I think/hope this course will be relevant to my own research. If it is then I hope to be fully engaged.

8th Eden Research Workshop. Challenges for Research into Open and Distance Learning; Doing Things Better – Doing Better Thing

I would like to go to this conference. I particularly like the look of the programme structure which seems to focus on discussion rather than presentations.

I think this is the limit of what I could possibly hope to keep up with. Usually I only manage to focus on one course at a time.

It’ll be interesting to see whether I manage all this in the coming months, on top of other commitments, and if not, then which topics/courses will claim most of my time!

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In September Roy Williams and I will be giving the keynote for this conference in Graz, Austria, at the invitation of Jutta Pauschenwein and her colleagues. The title of the conference for those who do not speak German is Evaluation of Open Learning Scenarios.

The title of our keynote is:

Surfacing, sharing and valuing tacit knowledge

This is the first blog post in a series that we hope to write between now and September 17th. The aim is that these posts will act as advance organizers. We know from experience that some of the ideas that we will discuss in our presentation need more time and reflection to take in than will be possible at the conference itself. We also know that we won’t have time at the conference to cover everything we have thought about in relation to this presentation and all the work we have done on the Footprints.

This is a small annual conference (usually about 100 people). Last year the conference topic was very popular – Learning with Videos and Games; 150 delegates attended.

Jutta has told us that this is the 13th year this conference has been offered. It attracts a loyal group of delegates – university teachers, school teachers and trainers of companies, from Austria, Germany and Switzerland, some of whom attend year after year. Jutta has told us that unlike many of the German speaking conferences, which focus on scientific articles and presentations, this conference takes a more pragmatic approach and attracts an audience who ‘want to know how to do something’. Jutta has therefore invited us to speak about how we use our work on Footprints of Emergence to evaluate learning in open learning environments. She herself has been using our Footprints of Emergence drawing tool extensively since 2012.

Jutta and her colleagues recently used the Footprints for an assignment in their MOOC – Competences for Global Collaboration (cope14) and have often used them in their work in the past. Jutta blogs about them and has, with her colleagues, written articles and presented papers at conferences that make reference to the Footprints.

The conference presenters will also submit papers for review. Here is the programme for the conference – Programme for Graz e-Learning Conference

….. and here is the Abstract of our paper:

Surfacing, sharing and valuing tacit knowledge in open learning

Roy Williams

Jenny Mackness

Abstract:

This paper is situated within the paradigm of open, emergent learning, which exploits the full range of social and interactive media, and enables independent initiative and creativity. Open, emergent environments change the way we experience learning, and this has implications for the way we design and manage learning spaces, and describe and analyse them. This paper explores the ways we have engaged with these issues, as participants, designers, researchers, and as facilitators, and how we have reflected on, visualized, shared, and valued the rich dynamics of collaborative discovery. In particular, we explore how emergent learning can be enabled by using uncertain probes rather than predictable outcomes, by emphasizing tacit rather than explicit reflection, and by seeking ways to give the learners back a real voice in a collaborative conversation about the value of learning and teaching.

Key words: probes, Footprints, emergent learning, tacit knowledge, MOOCs

This paper will ultimately be published along with all the other papers, in an open e-book. For last year’s e-book see the FH/Joanneum Website

I don’t know how often the keynote for this conference has been given in English. Unfortunately neither Roy nor I speak German, but we welcome comments on this blog in either German or English. Most of the papers for the conference will be presented in German, but Jutta and I will run a workshop at the end of the day in both German and English.

It goes without saying that we are very much looking forward to meeting Jutta and all her colleagues and are grateful for this opportunity to present our work in Austria.

Jane Hart has once again asked for people to vote on the top ten tools that they use when working online. She has been doing this annually since 2007. This is a helpful prompt for reflection on whether my use of technology has changed over the past year and if so why, and if not why. I am not very adventurous in adopting new tools. Technology doesn’t interest me enough to want to experiment with tools I am unlikely to find useful in my every day work. I can remember clearly being shown Second Life a few years ago and knowing that I would never want to spend time trying to learn how to use it, and now it isn’t mentioned very often, or not in my circles, so I don’t regret not engaging with it. I am not afraid of technology, even of Second Life, although I was in the very early days, when I remember that I even resisted having a computer at home. All that struggling to use BBC computers in primary school classrooms, way back in the 80s, really put me off to begin with. At that time I would never have thought I would end up working as an education consultant mostly online.

These days, these are the tools I use and what I use them for.

Personal, private communication

Email: I still use this a lot and for many things it is still my preferred mode of communication, although I recognize that this has become easier since I have been independent and no longer receive hundreds of institutional emails, which have been copied to everyone, like I used to in the old days. Email does not work though for discussion about research, because it’s difficult to keep track of the ongoing conversation and edits.

Pbworks Wiki: I use this a lot for collaborative research. I find it a fantastic tool for this. Not only can we keep all the resources and data in one place, but we can also discuss papers and ideas. I also use it for shared reading, e.g. to discuss a book. I spend a lot of time in my wikis and see that I now have 34 wikis in my list (not all currently active), most of them set up by me.

Skype: This is a great tool for personal communication and team meetings. And it’s free! I use Skype quite a lot. I prefer it for meetings. I have never liked the phone, so I don’t particularly want to Skype for ‘chat’.

iPhone: I am not of fan of phones and only use them when no other form of communication will do the trick. In the past few weeks I have spent what I consider to be an unreasonable number of hours changing my phone provider. I hate how difficult they make this.

Personal Resource Curation

Mendeley: This is where I collect all the research papers that I am interested in, read them and make notes on them. I really like that it is so easy to cite references from Mendeley. There are public groups in Mendeley and although I am a member of some, I do not really engage with them.

Evernote: I use this for making a note of interesting websites and online sources. It is easy to use and organise and complements the PDF/Word documents that I collect in Mendeley.

Feedly: This is where I gather RSS feeds to all the blogs I am interested in, but I am a slow reader (not good at skimming), so I don’t get to read as many as I would like to keep up with. I am more likely to read blog posts if they come into my email.

Flickr: This is semi public/private. I store nearly all my photos on Flickr, but I only allow some contacts to see photos of my family. I don’t like seeing photos of myself online, so I can empathise with others who might feel the same and don’t assume that everyone is happy to have their photo posted online. I tend to take photos as memories of places I have visited and found visually stimulating.

Kindle: I have just bought a Kindle PaperWhite. I love it. I already have a collection of books that I want to read – all in the palm of my hand – and it is sympathetic to my ever failing eyesight!

Public communication

WordPress: My blog is very important to me. It is a place where I publicly reflect on what I am thinking about in relation to my work. It helps me to do this reflection. I don’t very often use my blog for reflecting on more personal issues.

Facebook: I don’t really like Facebook very much, and as such don’t post there very often, but a lot of people that I like use it, so I tend to look at it most days to see what they are up to. I am a member of a few Facebook groups.

Twitter/Tweetdeck: I am also not a huge fan of Twitter, although I can see its advantages for sharing ideas. I find I have to trawl through a lot of ‘dross’ to find the gems. I like Tweetdeck for conferences. I find I can follow a conference very well online, at a distance, by creating a conference column in Tweetdeck.

Google+: I have an account, and I share my blog posts there, but it has never really resonated with me and I don’t really use it for anything else or follow it.

LinkedIn: I also share my blog posts on LinkedIn. My profile is actually a bit of a mess and I should do something about it, but I’m not sure what the benefits of LinkedIn are.

Blackboard Collaborate: This is not free for large numbers but it’s great for webinars, although Adobe Connect is also not bad these days. I have tried Big Blue Button in the past – but not recently. I could definitely find use for a reliable free tool that could host large numbers of participants for a webinar.

Presentations

Powerpoint: I’m not really a fan of this from the receiver point of view, but I haven’t yet really worked out why. I think it’s because presentations are necessarily more didactic than would be my choice. I still use it, but try to have as little text on slides as possible, although I know that this doesn’t help people who are listening to recordings.

Prezi: I have used this twice. For me it needs to be used judiciously for specific purposes.

Word: I use Word every day. I am now questioning whether Word is always used for presentation. I think it is – even if that presentation is only to myself. I am working in Word now, to write this post.

Camtasia: I use this for recording online presentations. I also use it for research purposes and when I am working on projects which require interviewing people.

Research

Survey Monkey: I have used this quite a lot. Going back to check, I see that to date I have created 23 surveys in Survey Monkey. I used to have a paid account (unlimited questions), but now I use the free account (up to 10 questions). I find it a really useful tool to get started on gathering empirical data. Email and Skype can be used for follow up.

Sharing

Dropbox: Apart from the tools I have mentioned above, I use Dropbox – for sharing large files, such as videos.

Excel: This remains a very good tool for gathering large amounts of data for analysis. For example, I used it extensively in a project where I was working with 21 Universities and synthesizing their work on a variety of funded projects.

Searching for information

Browser: I use Google Chrome. Before moving to Chrome, I used Internet Explorer and Firefox. I have had fewer problems with Chrome. But sometimes Chrome fails me and then I use Safari.

I also search for information through Google Search, Wikipedia, YouTube, Google Scholar and Google Translate.

I know I should use a variety of search engines. Perhaps this is what I need to work on for next year.

TOP TEN TOOLS

So which are my top ten tools? I know I use other tools as well as the ones I have mentioned here, such as Diigo, ScoopIt, JustGiving, Moodle and so on. This makes me wonder why I have focused on the tools above. On her site Jane Hart tells us ‘how’ to vote – but as far as I can see she doesn’t stipulate what ‘Top Ten’ means. Does it mean the number of times, or how often you use a tool? Does it mean how useful you find the tool? Does it mean how easy you find it to use the tool? Does it mean that it is free? And so on.

I’m going to select 10 based on the frequency with which I use them, either every day or at a minimum every week – and as such there are some important ones (to me) missing from this list. Here is my Top Ten, created according to this criterion.

  1. Google Chrome (that’s where I start each day)
  2. Email – Yahoo (that’s my next stop at the beginning of each day. I reply to emails as necessary and save them to my folders)
  3. WordPress (I check comments and stats every day and might write a post, if I have something to say)
  4. Facebook (I check what my friends/connections are doing, but find myself constantly asking why I am doing this. It feels a bit like voyeurism, since I rarely post in Facebook myself)
  5. Tweetdeck (I scan the different columns for new posts which contain information which is relevant to my work. Occasionally I find something. I am very grateful to those who retweet my tweets)
  6. Word (then I get down to it and start writing. Usually the writing gets copied into another site, e.g. PbWorks, or WordPress, or an email etc.)
  7. Flickr (I usually have a backlog of photos that I want to edit and upload. I like to see what other Flickr contacts and users have posted. I am always so impressed by the openness and creativity of others)
  8. Kindle (This is very recent. I read something every day on my Kindle PaperWhite. I can upload PDFs and comment on them and also upload a whole wishlist of books I hope to read. I read every night before sleeping. It used to be tangible hard copy books, but I find the Kindle easier. Will I be missing the hard copy books by this time next year?)
  9. PbWorks (I don’t think a week goes by without adding to or commenting on text which has been uploaded to one of the wikis that I collaborate in. This is where I experience the most in depth discussions in my working life).
  10. Evernote (This helps me to remember and store those weblinks that I often come across serendipitously and which I don’t have time to read in the moment).

I realize that this post is a bit like our work on Footprints of Emergence in which we (Roy Williams and I) create a visualization of an emergent learning experience in an open learning environment (See this open wiki for details).

In drawing these footprints we realize that the reflective process is dynamic and can change from instance to instance, so maybe if I were to list my top ten tools tomorrow they would be different. But this is my list for today and now.

The video/audio recording of the presentation that Frances Bell and I gave at the ALTMOOCSIG conference last month has now been posted. Many thanks to Mira Vogel  for organizing this event.

We were asked very early on (by a Rhizo14 participant) whether our presentation would be recorded – so here is the link. to all the presentations including ours.

https://lecturecast.ucl.ac.uk:8443/ess/portal/section/6f625859-7a2a-4100-a698-7fa18bdf7994

During the presentation we mention that we wrote about our research into rhizomatic learning to date, and preparation for the presentation, in a series of blog posts prior to the conference. Here is the post with information and links about this.  And here is a link to the complete Prezi that we prepared for the presentation.  The video/audio covers the most relevant slides, but we stopped short of showing them all. (I haven’t yet discovered how to embed a Prezi in WordPress!)

It has been interesting to listen to this recording. I opened it with some trepidation, as I wasn’t sure how well our presentation went, but on hearing the recording I was pleasantly surprised that it is more coherent than it felt to be at the time, and that in a very short session I think we managed to cover the main points we wanted to make and allow time for questions. We received four questions. All were interesting, but perhaps the one that was most relevant to research about MOOCs at the moment was raised by Marion Waite who asked whether our research was/is ethical. This is a question that we have been discussing with Mariana Funes and Viv Rolfe in relation to researching learning in MOOCs in general, not just the Rhizo14 MOOC.

For feedback on the day by various conference participants, see this blog post – responses to the moocs which way now conference . Many thanks again to Mira Vogel for pulling this together.

Fred Garnett has also spent some time putting together a Slideshare which summarises the presentations made during the day. Here it is.

British MOOCs; a Curated Conversation from London Knowledge Lab, University of London

Thanks to ALTMOOCSIG for a stimulating event which has given us plenty to think about.

Beyond Assessment slideshare

 

This was the third in a series of 3 talks that Stephen Downes gave in London this week.

Jul 11, 2014
Keynote presentation delivered to 12th ePortfolio, Open Badges and Identity Conference , University of Greenwich, Greenwich, UK.

ePortfolios and Open Badges are only the first wave in what will emerge as a wider network-based form of assessment that makes tests and reviews unnecessary. In this talk I discuss work being done in network-based automated competency development and recognition, the challenges it presents to traditional institutions, and the opportunities created for genuinely autonomous open learning.

For recordings of all three talks see OLDaily

Beyond Assessment – Recognizing Achievement in a Networked World
Jul 11, 2014. 12th ePortfolio, Open Badges and Identity Conference , University of Greenwich, Greenwich, UK (Keynote).

Beyond Institutions – Personal Learning in a Networked World
Jul 09, 2014. Network EDFE Seminar Series, London School of Economics (Keynote).

Beyond Free – Open Learning in a Networked World
Jul 08, 2014. 12th Annual Academic Practise & Technology Conference, University of Greenwich, Greenwich, UK (Keynote).

This was perhaps the most forward thinking and challenging of the three talks. I wasn’t at the talk, but listened to the recording. What follows is my interpretation of what Stephen had to say, but it was a long talk and I would expect others to take different things from it and interpret the ideas presented differently.

Educators have been wrestling with the issue of assessment, how to do it well, how to make it authentic, fair and meaningful, how to engage learners in the process and so on for many, many years.

Assessment has become even more of a concern since the advent of MOOCs and MOOC are symptomatic of the changes that are happening in learning. How do you assess thousands of learners in a MOOC?  The answer is that you don’t – or not in the way that we are all accustomed to – which is testing and measurement to award credentials such as degrees and other qualifications. This has resulted in many institutions experimenting with offering a host of alternative credentials in the form of open badges and certificates.

Stephen’s vision is that in the future assessment will be based not on what you ‘know’ but on what you ‘do’ – what you do on the public internet. The technology now exists to map a more precise assessment of people through their online interactions. Whilst this raises concerns around issues of privacy and ethical use of data, it also means that people will be more in control of their own assessment. In the future we will have our own personal servers and will personally manage our multiple identities through public and private social networks. Prospective employers seeking a match for the jobs they want filled can then view the details of these identities. There is some evidence that learners are already managing their own online spaces. See for example Jim Groom’s work on A Domain of One’s Own.

Why might new approaches to assessment such as this be necessary? Here are some of the thoughts that Stephen shared with us.

It is harder and harder these days to get a job, despite the fact that employers have job vacancies.  There is a skills gap.  The unemployed don’t have the skills that employers need. We might think that the solution would be to educate people in the needed skills and then employers could hire them, but employers don’t seem to know what skills are needed and although learning skills inventories help people to recognise what they don’t know, these inventories don’t help them to get to what they do know.

Education is crucial for personal and skills development and more education leads to happier people and a more developed society. The problem is that we confuse the outcomes of education with the process of education. We think that we can determine/control learning outcomes and what people learn. See Slide 14

instructional design

But useful outcomes are undefinable (e.g. understand that …..) and we need an understanding of understanding. Definable outcomes such as ‘recite’ and ‘display’ are simpler but behaviourist (Slide 18).   There is more to knowing than a set of facts that you need to pass the test.  Knowing something is to recognise it, in the sense that you can’t unknow it.  Stephen used ‘Where’s Wally’ as an example of this:

Wallywhere's wally

Knowing, according to Stephen, is a physical state – it is the organisation of connections in our brain. Our brain is a pattern recogniser. Knowing is about ‘doing’ rather that some mental state.

My understanding of what Stephen is saying is that if we believe that knowing is about pattern recognition, then achievement will be recognized in how good learners are at pattern recognition as evidenced by what they ‘do’ in their online interactions. ‘Assessors’ will also need to be good at pattern recognition.

Learners are increasingly more sensitive to the patterns they see in the huge amount of data that they interact with on the internet, and machines are getting closer to being able to grade assignments through pattern recognition.  As they interact online learners leave digital traces. Big data is being used to analyse these internet interactions.  This can be used for assessment purposes. But this has, of course, raised concerns about the ethics of big data analysis and the concern for privacy is spreading – as we have recently seen with respect to Facebook’s use of our data. (Slide 55)

Facebook research

A move to personally managed social networks rather than centrally managed social networks will enable learners to control what they want prospective employers to know about them and human networks will act as quality filters.

Stephen’s final word was that assessment of the future will redefine ‘body of work’.

assessment of the future

All these are very interesting ideas. I do wonder though whether it’s a massive assumption that all learners will be able to manage their own online identities such that they become employable. What are the skills needed for this? How will people get these skills? Will this be a more equitable process than currently exists, or will it lead to another set of hierarchies and marginalisation of a different group.

Lots to think about – but I really like the move to putting assessment more in the control of learners.

This was Stephen Downes’ second talk in a series of 3, which he is giving in London this week. This is how he introduced it on his blog Stephen’s Web 

In this presentation I look at the needs and demands of people seeking learning with the models and designs offered by traditional institutions, and in the spirit of reclaiming learning describe a new network-based system of education with the learner managing his or her education.

Although I have only listened to the recording of this talk, I found it more interesting than the first talk, which I listened to live, having been a delegate at the conference, although there was plenty of interest in that one too. What I like about Stephen’s talks is that he doesn’t pull any punches. He always challenges my thinking.

The thrust of this talk, from my perception, is, as the title suggests, that learning is no longer in the control of institutions, but increasingly personal and in the control of learners as they occupy a networked world. There is a distinction between personal learning and personalized learning. Institutions don’t understand personal learning because personal learning has to be in the control of the learner. It is made to order. Learning is built not from a kit but from scratch. Institutions think they are catering for personal learning, but in fact are offering personalized learning – which is ‘off the shelf’ learning; one package with a bunch of options.

There is evidence that today’s students are demanding change and want more control. Learning is no longer about remembering. The content, nature and means of learning are changing on a daily basis. Learning today is more about play and socializing. Lecturing is also changing. Lecturing today is not so much about content as creating the potential for dialogue.

A particularly challenging point that Stephen made was ‘Do away with models’ – learning models and design models.  The right model is no model. New versions of old models don’t produce results. It is obvious that people learn differently, have different objectives, priorities, goals and times when they want to learn, but if you use a learning model you are attempting to predefine the outcome, whereas learning should be about discovery and exploration. I would also say from the work I have done with Roy Williams, that we need to recognize that  learning will often be unpredictable and emergent. (See Emergent learning and learning ecologies in Web 2.0)

Autonomy rather than control is the essential in education. Autonomy does not mean no structure, it means choice of structure. Personal learning is based on self-organization and self-organizing networks. Learners need to reclaim management and organization of learning. The way forward will be for students/learners to have their own personal web server and run their own web services from their own home networks.  The University will be a box in your living room. Learning should be cooperative and networked. It is not content that is important, but the making of connections. Learners need networking skills.

What do we need from institutions?

We do not need

  • more models, more designs
  • more learning theories
  • more standards, measurement and centralization
  • more control
  • more of making the same mistakes

We do need mechanisms to support people in learning and bettering their lives. Institutions need to think in terms of serving many different people in many different ways and supporting personal learning, rather than attempting to control and personalize learning.

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And here is an interesting blog post about this talk by Sonja Grussendorf – Beyond institutions: Stephen Downes at NetworkEDGE

See also Arun Karnad’s post:

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