There is a lot of research (from John Dewey onwards and probably even before) about the relationship between emotion and learning. The centrality of emotion to the process of learning is recognised. So it’s not surprising that so much emotion is evident in this course. What is surprising for me is the intensity of the emotion, far higher than I have ever experienced online before, and the amount of negative emotion – again much more than I have experienced before. I think there could be an interesting research study on the role of emotion in relation to learning in this course/network and why such intense emotions have been elicited.
Like some others I have been reading and watching activity in the forums. Keith Lyons has a great post on his blog – swimming with dolphins, sharks and dead people is such a good metaphor for what’s going on. The trouble is that when you’re all in the water together, its the sharks that you keep your eye on, because despite Stephen’s reassurance that blogs provide calmer, safer waters for swimming in, the sharks do make occasional forays into the blogs, where they can do a ‘hit and run’ more easily than in the forums.
To be honest, I haven’t been aware of many dolphins. It all feels very intense, both in the forums and in the blogs. Where are the laughs? I did mention in a previous post that I thought a ‘Help’ forum might be useful for the ‘technologically challenged’. Maybe we also need a ‘Cafe’ – a purely social space or something equivalent. But I suspect that a ‘Cafe’ or even a ‘Help’ forum is more of a course component than a network component.
This thinking about emotion and learning was prompted by Ailsa’s post. One of her sentences brought me up sharp - ‘Staying silent with bullies, condones the activity.’ From my teaching days I know how hard it is to deal with bullies – a veritable minefield. For a start it’s difficult to define ‘bullying’ – but given that I have been thinking a lot about issues such as Netiquette in relation to this course, Ailsa’s post made me think again about the responsibilities we have to each other in a learning network. Do we have any? Can this be overlooked in a network? It is certainly not normally overlooked in a course or in a community, where the role of emotion in learning and the relationship between learning and emotion and how they shape each other is acknowledged and resulting issues addressed.
My feeling is that it’s in these sorts of issues that connectivism differs from other theories of learning, but I need to do much more reading and thinking before I can articulate this clearly.
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Stephen and George started talking about this in the Ustream session on Friday. They have the interesting dilemma of trying to match the principles of connectivism with a course about connectivism. As SD said – the course needs some structure for it to exist at all – but as Dave Cormier asked, ‘Doesn’t a centralised course structure demean the idea for constructivism (I mean connectivism – interesting slip of the tongue there!)?
It was suggested (by Dave I think?) that the Internet is a large connectivist learning system. When learning on the Internet, each person picks and chooses the resources they need, the sources they will go to for their information and the communities they will join. SD thinks that the Internet is the best argument for connectivism as a theory of learning. So the course has been loosely structured around these ideas. It has been loosely centralised around a course site with wiki, Moodle forums, The Daily and Aggregations, but there is also a great deal of flexibility and choice about where people can meet and interact, e.g. in SL, Facebook, Twitter and so on ( on a personal note, I don’t think I’m yet aware of all the places where people can and do meet). Stephen sees this clustering of activity and groups as an emergent property of networks. I have already seen this happening on more traditional courses. Students will meet there they want to (not necessarily in the spaces determined by the course) - which is where the real meaning making is likely to be happening (which reminds me of Dead Poets’ Society!)
But conceiving of a course in this distributed way, does raise some questions.
- How do learners make sense of learning when the course is distributed across a network? (I think Dave asked this)
- Does this degree of flexibility enhance or constrain learning?
- What is the role of the teacher in this type of course?
- Where does responsibility for each other begin and end in such a course?
….. and so on. I’m sure the list of questions will grow as we move through the weeks – and some I have already raised in past posts.
From what I can see so far, this course seems to be going well for a lot of people, so the structure is obviously holding up for a significant number. I don’t think I can be alone is being impressed by the enormous generosity of spirit shown by Stephen Downes and George Siemens. This long and huge course is completely free with access to a huge range of resources. I would not have been able to attend if I had had to pay, and I am greatly benefiting from the experience.
The only thing I would change would be to add a ‘Help’ forum – a place where the ‘technologically’ challenged can go and receive help from the network to make the learning process smoother. It is difficult to keep up with the content and fully engage with the ideas, when a lot of your time is being spent getting your head round the technology.
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Will networks ever be stable enough to develop qualities such as wisdom? Could wisdom be a property of a network as a whole? It seems to me that wisdom relies on years of learning. Is there a place in networks for a quality such as wisdom. This came to me as I read an article in this weekend’s paper which interviewed a variety of well-known people who were asked to share their hard-won lessons. Here are some words from three of them.
Jane Goodall: ‘We need to be more respectful’ (talking about our relationship with the rest of the animal kingdom)
Nelson Mandela: ‘A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination’…… ‘I learnt that to humiliate another person is to make him suffer an unnecessarily cruel fate.’
Archbishop Desmond Tutu: ‘A soft answer turns away wrath.’
I’m going to remember this course as much, if not more, for its relevance to me as a human learning process, as for its content.
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This was a statement by GS in Friday’s Ustream session. I’m not sure about this. I’ll have to think about it. Can being connected really be equated to intelligence in this way. I can see that ‘if i’m well connected I have access to more information’ follows, but does this necessarily lead to more intelligence. I think this statement needs lots of qualifying.
The discussion went on to consider how in today’s world there will be no more ‘Isaac Newtons’. The thinking shared on the Ustream session was that there is too much information and everything is changing too fast for there to be individual genius. Knowledge is now produced by collaborative and cooperative effort.
Are we saying that there are no modern day geniuses? Only the test of time will tell.
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I’m still trying to get my head around what it is about connectivism as a learning theory that is different. Can’t put my finger on it, but something seems to be missing. I think its something to do with the status of people as individuals in the learning process and to do with learning as a social process that happens between people as individuals – and probably also something to do with identity (identity of the individual and of the network).
Stephen really likes the forest metaphor. He likes to see the network as a whole and doesn’t think that any individual tree within the forest has individual significance. Learning is a property of networks rather than something you get from networks. Stephen is interested in how networks as a whole learn.
George on the other hand sees learning as coming through a network and sees the individual trees. He sees the connections between individuals as being more significant than the whole.
I may have completely misunderstood this (despite listening to the Ustream session twice ) – in which case apologies to GS and SD. But whether or not we view learning from the perspective of the forest as a whole or from the perspective of individual trees within the forest seems to me immaterial if we haven’t identified a purpose for the learning. So asking the question what is the purpose of the forest – we could get the answers – to provide oxgen, or a wood supply, or a picnic area, or to prevent soil erosion etc? Determing the purpose will determine the learning itself, whether it be at neuronal, conceptual or social levels – and whether it be for the forest as a whole or for individual trees.
There has to be some ‘meaning’ in all this. I don’t think I’ll get my head round this until I have more idea about how a learning theory of connectivism might be applied in practice. At the moment it’s all too abstract.
This is a thinking aloud post!
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Here is another slide from Valdis Krebs presentation that caught my attention.
There’s hope for lurkers, the inhibited, the shy, the intimidated and the lacking in confidence people here! This slide shows people with strong and frequent interactions /connections linked with the dark lines. But as the slide shows very clearly, without the weak ties to hold them all together, the network would collapse! So we shouldn’t underestimate the importance or significant of the weak ties!
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This was another interesting slide from Valdis Krebs
Here we have a view of what is going on behind the organisational hierarchy, i.e. the connections in the white space (grey lines) that are being made to get the job done.
So in this course, or in any course,
- How much ‘back-channelling’ is going on?
- How many people are making a significant contribution without anyone being aware of it or even being aware of it themselves?
- How many people have deliberately chosen to inhabit the white space even if that is an unfamiliar term?
I find this intriguing as there has been such a lot of talk in the foums and blogs about dominant characters and their effect on the course, whereas in fact there could be an awful lot going on in the white space that we are mostly unaware of, but is still having an effect on the course. Fascinating and well worth thinking about from a teaching perspective.
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This was a great presentation – very engaging, although my head was physically hurting by the end – and well summarised here by Stephen Downes – http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/connectivism/?p=136
I think what I liked so much about it was that it was as if we were listening to a series of stories. I could relate to almost all the networks described by Valdis Krebs and illustrated by his slides.
Two particular slides were of particular interest to me:
1. Communities of Practice
Here we have 3 communities, the green, the grey and the blue all internally networked. It is the external consultants (the pink) who connect these separate communities. They are on the peripheries of the communities and yet are likely to have power and influence – or is this an assumption? If it is not simply an assumption, then what is the relationship between power, influence and expertise and the number of connections?
2. Online Networks
I think everyone was interested in this one as it seems to depict exactly what is going on in this course. But supposing the number of people and the people themselves were exactly those currently represented at the centre – would we still then see this network pattern – is it simply a function of its size or is it reflective of the nature of online relationships and working?
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Posted in CCK08, tagged blogs, CCK08, connections, forums on September 24, 2008 |
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There has been some discussion about whether blogs or forums are better for connecting. I expect there is no right or wrong answer here – it will be a matter of personal choice. Personally I see the function of each as different.
As I see it, the forums are for asynchronous discussion between large or small groups of people. There is a sense of ‘people in a room’ in a forum, coming in and going out, but gathering in one place.
For me a blog is for personal reflection, although I know that blogs, like Stephen Downes’ for example, can be used to collate information and comment for others. Some people, like Stephen, write their blogs with their audience in mind and certainly making a blog public (which it doesn’t need to be) has an affect on the way in which it is authored. We can receive comments on our blogs and we can post on others’ blogs, but the opportunities for following through on conversation are limited.
I find blogs helpful as a place where I can articulate for myself my own thoughts by writing them down – what John Mason in his book ‘The Discipline of Noticing’ called ‘marking’. He claims that only by marking our reflections will we be able to act on them in the future. For me a blog is a reflective learning tool to enable me to do just this. If people comment on my blog I welcome their comments, am interested and grateful, but I do not expect it nor do I seek it. I think there are other more effective ways to communicate and connect with people, such as through the forums or other group settings.
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