How to avoid getting sick in India

In today’s live ChangeMooc session with Antonio Vantaggiato  (which I will come to  again in another post), I was sorry to hear that Stephen Downes, George Siemens and Dave Cormier all suffered from ‘Delhi Belly’ as a result of their trip to India. I wish I had shared my strategies for avoiding this earlier.

Here is what an Indian friend advised me to do when visiting India – which I have done ever since and have, as a result, avoided the dreaded ‘Delhi Belly’ on all occasions bar one, when I let my guard down after coming down to Srinagar from the Himalayas. It was ironic that I managed to not be sick in Nepal, despite camping and having no proper sanitation, but then getting sick (one day only) when arriving in Srinagar.

Anyhow – here are my strategies for both avoiding getting sick and for getting well quickly after getting sick.

Avoiding getting sick in India

  • Go vegetarian during your stay, i.e. don’t eat meat or fish
  • Don’t eat salad
  • Don’t have ice in your drinks
  • Only drink water from a bottle with a sealed cap. If you buy one, check that the cap is sealed (i.e. the bottle has not been refilled)
  • Only eat fruit which has been peeled
  • Use disinfectant hand wipes before putting anything near your mouth. Avoid putting your hands to your mouth
  • Only eat in reputable restaurants. Give them a good look over first (even hotel restaurants) and walk out if in doubt. More expensive – but worth it.
  • Never eat street vendors food. Could be fine – but is it worth the risk?

If you get sick

This is what I learned when living in Brazil, which I did for 7 years.

  • Don’t eat anything. People will say, have a bit of soup, a cracker, etc. but don’t. The idea is to starve the ‘bug’. You will feel weak, but do not start eating again until you are absolutely sure that you have got rid of the bug.
  • Drink water, water, water (safe water as above!). The idea is to flush out the bug.
  • Do not take ‘Imodium’ or any other such remedies, as they only trap the ‘bug’ inside and it takes much longer to recover. Of course, sometimes this is impossible, e.g. if you have a plane to catch!

These strategies have worked for me over many visits to India. But I do have to be disciplined and strict with myself and follow my code to the letter, even when someone is trying to persuade me otherwise.

And I should end by saying that I absolutely love India. It is a stunning place to visit, culturally, historically and visually so rich, with wonderfully friendly and helpful people. I can really recommend it.

Identity Online

This week has seen the last Networked Learning Conference Hotseat for this year – Managing your Online Learner Identity

Having followed the Hotseat discussions, the topic seems to have raised more questions than it has answered. It started with a discussion about what we mean by online learner identity, online identity, learner identity, or simply identity and is this different online to offline, and can we ever not be learning?  It seems that most of the Hotseats have started off by trying to pin down meanings for the terms being used by the Hotseat presenters.

Then came questions relating to whether we have one identity or multiple identities and whether working online fragments or disembodies our identities.

There was of course the discussion about how the internet might alter our identities by making them so publicly visible; we leave indelible traces on the internet. Do we have less control over how others perceive us online, or are we able to manipulate what others think of us?

Do we construct our online identities in association with others? What is the role of avatars in this?

Does the fact that we inhabit different online environments for different purposes mean that we have different identities?

Interestingly and coincidentally, questions about identity have also been raised this week by Alan Levine in a keynote video he gave for the Flat Classroom Project   His questions were:

  • Is there a clear demarcation between who you are online and elsewhere?
  • What parts of you are people missing out on if they do not interact with the online you?
  • Why (or why not) should you manage your own personal cyber infrastructure? What does this mean to you?
  • Who are we in this space where the online world is not something distinctly separate?

And then similarly – almost coincidentally I came across Lou McGill’s blog post about identity and through her Bon Stewarts blog post

There were a lot of references to literature posted in the Hotseat, which I have copied here below – but I was surprised that Etienne Wenger’s work on Learning, Meaning and Identity was not mentioned. A comment like ‘Any serious learning will take you through a dark night of your identity’, would seem to relate to this discussion.

I have signed up for the Academic Betreat  this year as an online participant and am hoping there will be more discussion about ‘identity’ during the week.

References and relevant links from the Hotseat

Koole, M. (2010). The web of identity: Selfhood and belonging in online learning networks. The 7th International Conference on Networked Learning (May 3-4). Aalbourg, Denmark.

Koole, M., & Parchoma, G. (2012). A Model of Digital Identity Formation in Online Learning Networks. In S. Warburton & S. Hatzipanagos (Eds.), Digital identity and social media. London, UK: Information Science Reference, an imprint of IGI Global.,+capability+

Davies, B., & Harré, R. (1990). Positioning: The discursive production of selves. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20(1), 43-63.

Harré, R. (2010). Social sources of mental content and order. In L. Van Langenhove (Ed.), People and societies: Rom Harré and designing the social sciences (pp. 121-149). New York, NY: Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group).

Latour, B. (2007, April 6). Beware, your imagination leaves digital traces. Times Higher Literary Supplement. Retrieved February 27, 2012 Retrieved from

Ricoeur, P. (1992). Oneself as another. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.

Rajagopal, K., Verjans, S., Van Bruggen, J., & Sloep, P. B. (2011). Stimulating reflection through engagement in social relationships. In W. Reinhardt, T. D. Ullmann, P. Scott, V. Pammer, O. Conlan, & A. J. Berlanga (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1st European Workshop on Awareness and Reflection in Learning Networks (ARNets11). In conjunction with the 6th European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning (EC-TEL 2011): Towards Ubiquitous Learning 2011 (pp. 80-89). September, 21, 2011, Palermo, Italy: CEUR Workshop Proceedings. Available at

Madge, C, Meek, J, Wellens, J & Hooley, T 2009, “Facebook, social integration and informal learning at university: ‘It is more for socialising and talking to friends about work than for actually doing work’.” Learning, Media and Technology, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 141–155.

Selwyn, N 2009, “Faceworking: exploring students’ education-related use of Facebook.” Learning, Media and Technology, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 157–174.

Perrotta 2009 The construction of a common identity through online discourse

Van Doorn 2009 The ties that bind: the networked performance of gender, sexuality and friendship on MySpace

Is ChangeMooc some sort of test?

I think I am missing something somewhere – but where? I am missing Weeks 26, 27 and 28 of ChangeMooc.

According to the schedule this is what should have happened.

Week 26- Mar 5-Mar 11 – Grainne Conole  was supposed to speak.

Nothing happened that week. We were told that ‘the gang’ would be travelling to the EdgeX conference in India which was due to begin on March 12th – Week 27.

Now Week 27 according to the schedule was supposed to be Alejandro Piscitelli from the  University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. I wonder what happened to him? I hope somebody told him that he wouldn’t be speaking in Week 27, because we – as MOOC participants – were  not told, although such is the nature of distributed information and conversation that I might have missed it. We were told though that we could listen to Grainne’s presentation to EdgeX, even though it was a week out of synch. I didn’t get to hear Grainne, but I did get to hear Stephen which was a bonus 🙂

Up to this point I felt reasonably OK about it all. Like others I have found a new speaker each week too much, so a break was a relief.

But what about this week – Week 28. The schedule tells us that the invited speaker is Rosa A. Ojeda Ayala from the University of the Sacred Heart, Puerto Rico. And there has been no word of her that I have seen- but again I stand corrected if I have missed it anywhere – but there has been no post on the ChangeMooc site that I have seen, which still shows Week 25, and no mention on Twitter that I have seen. I also wonder if she was told – or was it her decision not to present this week?

Is this the ultimate test of a connectivist course? Were we supposed to take over and organise it for ourselves? Realistically I don’t think that was possible.

Could either Stephen, George or Dave (‘the gang’ as I have called them with much respect), please explain what is going on.

Online Learner Identity – final NLC Hotseat

Managing your online learner identity

Kamakshi Rajagopal, Adriana Berlanga, and Peter Sloep March 19th – 23rd

This promises to be an interesting final Hotseat before the Networked Learning Conference due to take place in Maastricht next month.

Kamakshi Rajagopal has started the discussion off with these questions:

  • Is our online learner identity really important for learning?
  • Can we learn something about ourselves from the digital traces we are leaving on the Web? Can it tell something about how we are learning?
  • Do we put only true information on the Web? Do we have double, triple, etc. identities? Is that ok or not?
  • How does our online learner identity relate to our offline learner identity?
  • What are the options we have to manage our online learner identity?
  • Is the management of a learner identity an issue of technology, an issue of awareness, an issue of learner skills, or all of them?
  • How can we deal with privacy, maximising the benefit to the learner and minimising the risk of information misuse?

I’m looking forward to following the discussion.

Learning Analytics: Dream, Nightmare or Fairydust?

This is the title of the new Networked Learning Hotseat – where Simon Buckingham Shum is in the Hotseat. Simon is also working in the Learning Analytics and Knowledge MOOC – LAK12

This is his introduction in the Hotseat:

Pervasive digital technology is weaving a fabric around our lives which makes it increasingly hard not to leave digital traces. We are experiencing an unprecedented explosion in the quantity and quality of data available not only to us, but about us. While some people find this blanket suffocating and threatening, for others, it marks an exciting new turn in our cultural evolution. The question for us is: what are the implications for learning?

One answer is it’s time to upgrade our computing kit. The learning platform and business intelligence vendors are rolling out analytics dashboards aggregating data into summary views, and will be a source of innovation as they seek to respond to customer needs — but what will institutions be asking for? It is conceivable that government education departments might see potential for league tables based on them.

Another answer is that, at last, we will have an evidence base previous generations of educators and academics could only dream of: real-time data streaming in from our students, even more from data shared by countless others who are happy to reveal their social networks, geo-location, and recommended books. Previously siloed scholarly datasets are now released into the wild, where they can be harvested and mined in a vibrant ecosystem of connected ideas, learners and educators.

Then there are those of a more cautious nature. So what if we have shedloads of data? Now we can drown faster. Learning, enquiry, argumentation, sensemaking, scholarship, insight — these skills are of an entirely different order, the highest forms of meaning-making, uniquely human. And what have analytics to say about the less tangible 21stCentury skills that we need to nurture if the next generation is to manage the unprecedented complexity and uncertainty that they will inherit from us? Surely data analytics have nothing to say about intrinsic disposition to learn, emotional resilience in the face of adversity, the ability to moderate a discussion, resolve conflict, or ask critical questions? Finally, who is in control of analytics: are they tools to study learners, or tools to place in their hands, to create reflective, more agile individuals and collectives?

Analytics may in time come to be used to judge you — as a learner, an educator, or your institution. The challenge for us is to debate what it means for this new breed of performance indicators to have pedagogical and ethical integrity. What can and should we do, and what are the limits? Do they advance what we consider to be important in learning, teaching, and what it means to be a higher education institution in the 21stCentury?

Are you thinking Dream, Nightmare, or Fairydust?

The philosophy of MOOCs

There are currently lots of blog posts around, asking yet again ‘What is a MOOC?’ and about the different types of MOOCs  –  see for example

Osvaldo Rodriguez blog

George Siemens’ Elearnspace blog

Stephen Downes’ Half and Hour site

John Mak’s Blog

MOOCs are even being discussed on a German blog which I could only access through a translation. Unfortunately since I do not speak German,  I was not able to participate in the discussion in the comments.

All these discussions are very relevant to my current situation in which I am working with George Roberts and Marion Waite of Oxford Brookes University to plan a new MOOC for May/June – First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.

The first question in my recent post about planning MOOCs – was ‘What is a MOOC’? and there was another question for planning a MOOC (Slide 7) about deciding on ‘What kind of MOOC”? They sound such simple questions, but the discussions on the web have shown that they are not easy to answer.

I am clear in my own mind what a MOOC is for me – but I also know that others interpret it differently. I tend to agree with Matthias Melcher that the original idea of MOOC is becoming watered down and now MOOCs seem to be all things to all people. Even those who have never participated in a MOOC feel qualified to comment (just as those who have never qualified as teachers feel qualified to comment on how to teach). Stephen Downes has ‘shrugged’ his shoulders and said this is inevitable.

For me a MOOC is what CCK08 offered and succeeding MOOCs designed on similar principles offer.  Yes it was a massive, open, online course – but it was also more than that. It offered a new and explicit perspective on learning in the 21st century.  The other day I found myself saying a MOOC is one thing but the Stanford AI course  is just a massive open online course. Wow – how bizarre does that sound, but maybe people who recognize the CCK08 philosophy understand what I mean.

For me a MOOC is not simply a massive, open, online, course – it is based on the explicit principles of connectivism – the principles of autonomy, diversity, openness and interactivity – which we have shown through research  are not easy principles to aspire to or achieve. It is also based on the activities of aggregation, remixing, repurposing and feeding forward the resources  and learning that are part of the MOOC experience.  A MOOC design, in the terms that I am describing it, also takes a specific stance on the relationship between teacher and learner – a stance in which the word ‘teacher’ might be considered redundant.

In a way it’s a shame that the term ‘MOOC’ was coined.  On the one hand it is good that it is a term that has attracted a lot of attention (both negative and positive), which at least means that educators are beginning to think about the extent to which traditional approaches to teaching and learning might need to change.   On the other hand, all the MOOC variations that are being spawned may have resulted in a blurring of the original intention and meaning. That’s not to say that other open online courses, even other massive open online courses don’t have value. If the success (in terms of numbers attending and completing the course) of the Stanford AI course is anything to go by then they obviously do. But the original MOOC had a clear well defined philosophy, which was a break from traditional ways of working and was designed to address the issues that anyone working in education has to deal with in relation to the global changes in connectivity, information sharing and knowledge creation that we are seeing in current times. I hope the principles on which CCK08 was founded will not get lost in this variation.

What new term could we come up with which would keep the original MOOC philosophy intact and distinct from the many variations of MOOCs that are now being created, if indeed it is important to do this?

Questions to ask when planning a MOOC

The task that has been set by Stephen Downes in Week 25 of ChangeMooc,   is to create and present an artifact, which answers the three questions below.

Since I am currently working on planning a new MOOC (massive open online course) – First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, May 21st – June 22nd  – I thought I would focus on this as a response to this task (this is called ‘killing two birds with one stone’!), although I suspect that this is not quite the kind of artifact that Stephen had in mind 🙂 But taking my autonomy into my own hands – here it is with the questions and my answers below.

Q.1. How does your learning artifact instantiate knowledge? And what is the knowledge the artifact represents? Focus not simply on the statement or expression of that knowledge, but also on the organization that constitutes a deeper and more complex knowledge.

I am aware that this artifact looks over simple. There has been a lot written about the organization of MOOCs, not least by Stephen himself.  Having just started with George Roberts  and Marion Waite to plan a MOOC myself (First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, May 21st – June 22nd) I have become aware that the planning depends on asking the right questions.  The quality and validity of the questions  in my artifact depends on what I already know and will only be as good as what I know. What I know about MOOCs is a result of my direct experience over the last four years in a number of MOOCs, the research I have conducted and my gradual increasing ability to recognize emerging patterns in my own understanding.  So the questions in the artifact are my questions, that are specific to my context, reflect my understanding and are personal to me … but might also (hopefully) be recognized as helpful to others.

(Not sure that I’ve answered this question correctly or adequately.)

Q.2. How does a student use your artifact to learn? In what way does the artifact replicate or emulate the experience and performance of a person who already has this knowledge?

The artifact models and demonstrates my belief that raising questions is usually more effective than providing answers. I hope the questions I have raised are open enough to be answered by any learner at any level, in the sense that if the learner doesn’t know the answer, then the learner will be encouraged to find out. They are only ‘starter’ questions. Each question leads to a whole load of further questions, some of which I have indicated as possibilities. I have deliberately not provided answers to the questions. A MOOC runs on principles of autonomy, diversity, openness and interactivity. I would like to think that the questions in this artifact also promote these principles.

Q. 3. What is the community around that knowledge – is it a community of language speakers, or practitioners, of adherents of a faith? What would characterize the community – does it revolve around an object, set of beliefs, way of looking at the world? How does the community learn?

There is a recognizable community/network ‘MOOCers’ – a community which, for me, is searching for new and more effective ways of ensuring that everyone on the planet has a right to an education that leads to effective learning.  The community interacts to explore this concern through open sharing  of diverse resources, made richer through the belief that autonomy is fundamental to effective learning. It makes use of advancing technologies to increase the network and the affordances of the web to run massive, open, online courses. Through these MOOCs we give voice to some of our dreams and aspirations for a better future for education across the world.