My experiences of the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC to date

First a bit of background

The task for this week in the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC is related to the topic of Community in the distributed web.

This is the task as created by Stephen Downes:

As a community, create an assignment the completion of which denotes being a member of the community. For the purposes of this task, there can only be one community. For each participant, your being a member of the community completes the task.

And this additional text was posted in one of the daily newsletters:

This week’s task is deliberately open-ended. It requires the formation of a community, but only one community, with tangible evidence of consensus. How to do this? How to even get started? That’s the challenge…

Some people may ask, “What’s the point?” Well, as we discussed in this week’s conversation (also in this newsletter) it’s a challenge to create consensus without deferring to an authority – a trusted source, if you will. In a course like this, that’s usually the instructor. But not this time. This is – on a small scale – the same problem we have on a larger scale. How do we create consensus with no common ground?

This task is challenging on several fronts. Can a community be created at all? What is there are competing communities? How many participants can the community actually encompass? How do people join at all? The conditions for succeeding in this assignment are very simple – be a member of that community. But the manner in which this is to be accomplished is not clear at all.

Roland Legrand quickly proposed how we might complete this task. I could immediately see that this would work and accepted. This is what he proposed:

I suggest we all post about our experiences in this course. It would be a short or long piece about the content, the way it’s being organized, the way the learners did or did not interact with each other or how we reacted in blog posts and on social media.
Such a post seems like a natural thing to do, there are no good or bad posts, yet it would affirm our being together in this thing – #el30.

There have been some alternative suggestions and, as yet, no evidence of real consensus, but I am going to follow Wikipedia’s advice to ‘Be Bold’ and just go ahead with this. This doesn’t mean to say that I am not open to other suggestions. If the consensus becomes clearer and shifts to somewhere else, it wouldn’t be impossible for me to shift too. Roland’s suggestion makes for a useful task, whether or not there is consensus about it. So here is my contribution.

My experiences of this course

When I saw the course advertised, I wasn’t sure if it would be for me. The topics looked too ‘ed tech’. I am not an educational technologist, and whilst I am not debilitatingly technophobic, my technical skills leave a lot to be desired. To be honest, I am just not sufficiently interested. I tend to develop technical skills as and when I need them, but of course I realise that not having good technical skills means that there’s a lot I am not aware of.

I have been surprised at how interesting I have found this course, despite the heavy emphasis on ‘tech’ stuff, which I doubt I will ever use, not because it’s not useful, but because of the stage of life I am at, i.e. retired. (Maybe that’s an erroneous assumption and it certainly won’t apply more widely to other retired people). The glimpses into what the future might hold in relation to learning are fascinating, and there are many associated philosophical questions about the nature of teaching and learning, and why we are interacting on the distributed web at all, which have kept me engaged. (When I am not working on this I am delving into more philosophical topics about the meaning of life etc., something that I haven’t had time to do until now.)

There has only been one point in the course, so far, when I lost motivation – and that was last week. The topic was ‘Recognition’.  I have been a teacher all my working life, and have experience of all phases of education, i.e. from very young children in Reception classes to post-graduates in Higher Education. I have always been troubled by the emphasis on extrinsic rewards as opposed to intrinsic motivation. As such, the emphasis on the award of badges last week sapped my energy a bit, even though I could see that it fits in a course about the distributed web. All the other topics have been great, and I particularly enjoyed the week on Identity, and the fact that I was able to enter into some deeper and broader discussions with a few participants about ideas such as ‘betweenness’, that are of particular interest to me at the moment.

Design of the course

I like the course design and the fact that Stephen Downes ‘walks the talk’ and has been true to his educational philosophy as expounded in his theory of connectivism.

Although there is a course site, where information relating to the course is aggregated, participants have been encouraged to engage from their blogs.  Interaction also takes place on Twitter (#el30) and to a lesser degree on Mastodon. If there is activity elsewhere I am not aware of it. The point is that participants exercise their autonomy in choosing how they want to participate. I have always preferred working on MOOCs from my blog. It is calmer and more manageable than discussion forums, although there are no discussion forums in this course. Twitter is useful for quick access to information, but I rarely use it for discussion. Interaction on blogs requires more effort, which is difficult to sustain over a long period of time, but for me, both the writing of and commenting on blogs leads to deeper learning. It can also be difficult to keep a track of blogs, but one of the first tasks in the course was to aggregate all the blogs’ RSS feeds into a reader of our choice (I use Feedly). This has made it easier.

In this course, each topic is introduced with a Synopsis and some initial readings. The Synopsis for each week has been there from the start of the course, which means we do not have to wait for them and can move ahead if we wish. These are very helpful advance organisers.

The weekly video conversations with invited guests are always interesting. One or two have been a bit too technical for me, but I have learned something from them all. Stephen also creates a video at the end of each week as a summary, as well as providing a written summary, which he openly drafts on a Google Doc so that we can each contribute if we wish. I see this as exemplifying what we should expect from open online teaching practice.

I have surprised myself by enjoying the weekly tasks. They have focussed attention on the key concepts of the given topic and the doing of them has, for me, resulted in learning and increased clarity about the subject. I have succeeded in completing most of the tasks, with one notable exception. I feel I should be able to complete this task and might go back to it. I would be able to complete it, if I knew a bit more html, but I am not going to ask someone to do this for me. That would rather defeat the object.

I have not completed all the reading, and some of the resources, e.g. those about Blockchain, Jupyter notebooks etc., have gone right over the top of my head. But at least I am aware that they exist and what the significance of them might be.

Things I have really appreciated so far

I am grateful to Stephen for being so willing to openly share his knowledge, experience and expertise. He has also been willing to share his practice, letting us see how he works things out as he goes along. This fits with his belief that the role of the teacher is to model and demonstrate.

It has been intriguing to see the course being written as we go along. This is so unlike my own way of working. I am always planned well in advance. It must take a great deal of confidence in your own expertise to be able to work it out as you go along and in response to participants’ contributions.

I have also appreciated course participants’ thought-provoking blog posts. I don’t know how many people are ‘observing’ this course from the side-lines, but there are only a few fully participating. This suits me. I prefer the ‘front porch’ discussions to the ‘market place’ as Matthias Melcher once described it.

Stephen has commented (and I can no longer find the comment!) that in this course we are working at the ‘leading edge’ of developments in E-Learning. This is what I have so enjoyed, whilst at the same time finding it challenging. The last time I had this feeling was in 2008, in CCK08 The Connectivism & Connective Knowledge Course (the first MOOC of this type).

I could probably write more, but this seems quite enough for now, and I’m sure we will be asked to write something similar at the end of the course. For now, I’m leaving this here as a draft. If this is the task we all agree to, I might edit it. If another task is agreed then so be it; I can still leave this here as a record of how I have experienced this course up to now.

Consensus and community in the distributed web

The topic for this week in the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC is Community. I struggled last week to understand how the concept of ‘Recognition’ was being interpreted in relation to the distributed web, and I suspect I am going to struggle this week to understand how the concept of community will be interpreted.

In his Synopsis for the week Stephen Downes writes that recent times have seen us shift from an idea of community based on sameness, to a time when society has difficulty agreeing on basic facts and truths. A whole blog post could be written about just this, but I will move on.

Stephen sees community formation, in this day and age of the distributed web, as dependent on decision making and consensus. Consensus is no mean feat, but is essential if we are to counteract the influence of ‘bad actors’ who distribute false information and fake news. A critical mass of society must check and agree on what information we can trust or not trust. In an interesting article by Preethi Kasireddy- How Does Distributed Consensus Work? – decision making and consensus at the level of algorithms is discussed and it is clear that artificial intelligence will have an increasing role to play in determining what we trust and how we perceive truth. But for now we will stick to a more familiar environment in which we can observe how decision-making to achieve consensus is achieved, by real people rather than robots.

This week Stephen’s conversation was with Pete Forsyth, Editor in Chief of the Signpost, a community newspaper covering Wikipedia and the Wikimedia movement.  Their discussion covered what we mean by community and consensus in relation to how ‘Wikipedia approaches questions like managing fake news, reaching consensus, and managing content‘.

I’m not sure that a discussion of how Wikipedia reaches consensus is comparable to reaching consensus on the distributed web, since Wikipedia is built on a centralised platform, but it is a platform used by tens of thousands of people across the world, and therefore provides a good basis for exploring how consensus works across large numbers. According to Wikipedia’s own site an average of 561 new articles are written every day and Wikipedia develops at a rate of over 1.8 edits per second, with editing being carried out by about 10% of users. As of August 2018, about 1000 pages are deleted from Wikipedia each day.

How is this consensus achieved?  What can we learn from Wikipedia about how to trust that the information we are reading is ‘the truth’? These are some of the thoughts shared by Pete Forsyth.

  • Wikipedia does not trust in people. There is no mechanism for establishing the authority of the writer in Wikipedia. It trusts in facts.
  • Facts must be checked and backed up by sources. (Although this wasn’t mentioned, I think Mike Caulfield’s Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers – is worth remembering here).
  • Trust should always be rooted in understanding. It’s important to check the history and discussion forums in Wikipedia.
  • Wikipedia defines a reliable source as being independent of the topic.
  • Trustworthiness of sources is on a gradient. Exceptional claims require exceptional sources.
  • Wikipedia prefers consensus to democracy, i.e. decisions are not reached by voting but by consent, which does not necessarily mean agreement.
  • Wikipedia promotes individuals as decision makers.
  • Wikipedia is edited according to Be Bold, Revert and Discuss principles.
  • A record of every edit in kept in the page history.
  • Open process, open access and transparency are strongly held core values in Wikipedia.
  • Wikipedia software is designed to focus on creating a space for interaction and keep the software out of the way.
  • Wikipedia provides guidelines for interaction and editing.

Here is a video recording of the whole discussion.

For me the questions that remain are, is Wikipedia a community and what is a community?

Wikipedia is a community for some people – probably for the 10% using it who actually contribute to it, rather than simply use it, although on the Wikipedia page about the community, the community in the larger sense is defined as including: all casual and/or anonymous editors, ideological supporters, current readers and even potential readers of all the language versions of Wikipedia-the-encyclopedia.

My prior understanding of a community is more in line with their narrower definition: the community –  is that group of contributors who create an identity (either a user account, or a frequently-used anonymous IP), and who communicate with other contributors.

This is a better fit with my knowledge of Etienne Wenger’s work on communities of practice.  I mentioned this briefly in a comment that I made on Laura Ritchie’s blog post, where I wrote that in Wenger’s terms a community of practice exhibits the dimensions of mutual engagement, shared repertoire and joint enterprise. Laura identifies her orchestra as a community, which seems to fit with how Etienne Wenger sees a community.

In his blog post Kevin Hodgson wonders whether a community is the same thing as a network or affinity space. I have heard Etienne Wenger say that all communities are networks, but not all networks are communities (see p.19 in this publication).

I also noted when watching the video that Pete Forsyth described community as ‘an amorphous concept of affiliation’.

And Stephen in a comment on Laura’s post writes about ‘natural as opposed to organised communities’. I will copy his whole comment here as I think in it we have the essence of how we are to understand community during this week of the course, and for considering how community might be thought of on the distributed web:

When we look at (what I’ll call) natural communities (as opposed to organized communities) they have two major features: lack of trust, and lack of mutual engagement, shared repertoire and joint enterprise.

Think of your average city. There may be a lot of what we call ‘trust’ (eg. people stopping at stop signs) but in nearly all cases there’s also an enforcement mechanism, because we don’t actually trust people (eg. to actually stop).

Similarly, while in a city we can talk about engagement, repertoire and enterprise (and we should) in most cases there is no engagement, repertoire and enterprise that is _common_ to everybody in the city. Cities are polyglot, factional, disjointed. Yet, still – they are communities.

The challenge (indeed, maybe even the challenge of our times) is how to understand and improve communities where people are *not* engaged in the same enterprise as everyone else.

From all this I am beginning to think that the word ‘community’ has too much associated history to be useful when considering how to communicate, interact, make decisions and reach consensus on the distributed web. It leads to a set of expectations that may not be useful in this context. On the Wikipedia page about community is written: The essence of community is encoded in the word itself: come-ye-into-unity. That’s a lovely way to describe community as I have always understood it. But my understanding of this week’s topic is that we no longer want or need unity. Instead, we need consensus on what is true.

I don’t believe that the traditional idea of community or a community of practice will be lost. We will all interact in communities of one sort or another; Laura in her orchestra, Kevin in his classroom, me in the village where I live, and so on. But we will probably need to think differently about community when considering what information we can trust, and what is true, on the distributed web. A new way of thinking about it may become more obvious the more we interact on the distributed web.

The idea of a distributed Wikipedia was briefly discussed by Stephen and Pete, with reference to Ward Cunningham’s Federated Wiki. In 2014, I explored the potential of FedWiki with a few others. It is a wiki with no centralised space i.e. each person has their own site, from which they can link to other people’s sites and select or reject edits of their own pages. Looking back at my blog posts, I see that I found it intriguing but not easy – a bit like this course, which seems to challenge a lot of my prior understanding about learning on the web.

Mike Caulfield described Fed Wiki as a ‘neighbourhood’, not a community, nor a network. Would this be a better word than ‘community’ and if not what would? I think a different word would help with the change of mindset needed to understand all this.

Resources

How Does Distributed Consensus Work?
Preethi Kasireddy, Medium, 2018/12/05
The brief basics of distributed systems and consensus. Nakamoto Consensus is truly an innovation that has allowed a whole new wave of researchers, scientists, developers, and engineers to continue breaking new ground in consensus protocol research.

What is Blockchain?
Lucas Mostazo, YouTube, 2018/12/03
Blockchain explained in plain English Understanding how blockchain works and identifying myths about its powers are the first steps to developing blockchain technologies.

Education Blockchain Market Map
Stephen’s Web ~ OLDaily, 2018/12/05
HolonIQ, Nov 30, 2018 Though dated last June this market map appeared in my inbox from Holon only today. It reports five sectors of the education blockchain market: credentials and certifications (the largest by far), peer-to-peer ecosystems, payments, knowledge and marketplace. The website describes each briefly and links to some representative startups. The site reports, “Blockchain’s significant potential in education – from powering efficiency to collapsing costs or disrupting the current system – is becoming clearer to technologists, educationalists and governments alike.”

Consensus decision-making
Wikipedia, 2018/12/04
Consensus decision-making is an alternative to commonly practiced group decision-making processes. Robert’s Rules of Order, for instance, is a guide book used by many organizations. This book allows the structuring of debate and passage of proposals that can be approved through majority vote. It does not emphasize the goal of full agreement. Critics of such a process believe that it can involve adversarial debate and the formation of competing factions. These dynamics may harm group member relationships and undermine the ability of a group to cooperatively implement a contentious decision. Consensus decision-making attempts to address the beliefs of such problems.

Wikipedia:Consensus
Wikipedia, 2018/12/04
Decisions on Wikipedia are primarily made by consensus, which is accepted as the best method to achieve Wikipedia’s goals, i.e., the five pillars. Consensus on Wikipedia does not mean unanimity (which is ideal but not always achievable), neither is it the result of a vote. Decision making and reaching consensus involve an effort to incorporate all editors’ legitimate concerns, while respecting Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines.

How Wikipedia dodged public outcry plaguing social media platforms
Pete Forsyth, LinkedIn, 2018/12/05
Wikipedia has problematic users and its share of controversies, but as web platforms have taken center stage in recent months, Wikipedia hasn’t been drawn into the fray. Why aren’t we hearing more about the site’s governance model, or its approach to harassment, bullying? Why isn’t there a clamor for Wikipedia to ease up on data collection? At the core, Wikipedia’s design and governance are rooted in carefully articulated values and policies, which underlie all decisions. Two specific aspects of Wikipedia innoculate it from some of the sharpest critiques endured by other platforms.

Hacking History: Redressing Gender Inequities on Wikipedia Through an Editathon
Nina Hood, Allison Littlejohn, International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 2018/12/05
This article explores the “experiences of nine participants of an editathon at the University of Edinburgh on the topic of the Edinburgh Seven, who were the first women to attend medical school in 19th century United Kingdom.” The authors argue “it was through the act of moving from consumer to contributor and becoming part of the community of editors, that participants could not only more fully understand issues of bias and structural inequities on Wikipedia, but also actively challenge and address these issues.” It makes me think of the slogan: “no knowing without doing.”

Wiki Strategies. Making Sense of Collaborative Communities – https://wikistrategies.net/

Digital badges and the purpose of education

We have now come to the end of the sixth topic – Recognition – in Stephen Downes’ E-Learning 3.0 MOOC.  For me, this has been the least satisfying of the course topics so far. I have been trying to work out why this is so, and think it must be because I have somehow failed to ‘recognise’ what it is all about ;-). At some level, which I am finding it difficult to identify (I am hoping that writing this post will help), I have not been able to align my own knowledge and understanding with this week’s course content. This has been somewhat demotivating.

I started off on the wrong foot. When I saw the topic ‘Recognition’ I thought we would be digging into how knowledge is distributed across a network and how we identify or see this as knowledge. I thought this might lead to further discussion about how we learn across a distributed network. And, yes, on one level the topic was about this, but it was much more about ‘giving’ (or collecting) recognition for knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviours and keeping track of this through the award of badges.

It took me until the end of last week to realise that the topic wasn’t really about assessment or learning, but ultimately about how to automate the issuing of records of achievement in the form of badges. This is what Stephen worked on for most of the week; he has shared his learning on how to do this on his Half an Hour blog. See the Badge API and Setting Up Badges. He is rightly pleased with this outcome. A job well done. He could award himself a badge 🙂

Meanwhile the rest of us were exploring how to create a badge in Badgr or similar sites, with greater or lesser degrees of success. See the end of this post for links to participants’ posts. A very useful post was shared by Random Access, who, it turns out, has extensive experience of working on Open Badges with the Scottish Social Services Council. I liked the video explanation of Open Badges shared in that post, which I’ll include here, and the emphasis on authentic learning experiences and reflecting on learning. It’s worth watching the video and reading the whole post.

Stephen also emphasised authentic tasks in his summary for this week. He hopes that these will be designed by humans to balance the possibility of biased algorithms. I think this is one of the things that has been troubling me. It has all felt a bit detached from the learner – a mechanism for determining at scale ‘what counts as success’ and how we measure that success.

As well as badges, Stephen discussed competencies and competency frameworks. He writes in his summary for this week Badges, certificates and awards are recognition entities. So are endorsements, references, and plaudits. I have said in the past that the recognition entity of the future will be a job offer.’ This of course has implications for the purpose of education. I really hope that there is more to education than collecting a personal backpack of badges to prove to employers that we are who we say we are, and that it is more than an encounter with robots or algorithms (Gert Biesta talks about this in his video talk about The Beautiful Risk of Education – with thanks to @mark_mcguire for sharing this in the #el30 twitter stream).

Stephen shares the draft writing of his weekly summaries in a Google Doc, which is a great example of open practice and the summaries are so very helpful This week he wrote:

The traditional educational model is based on tests and assignments, grades, degrees and professional certifications. But with xAPI activity data we can begin tracking things like which resources a person read, who they spoke to, and what questions they asked – anything.

This concerned me – so I commented:

Is this what we really want? How can we avoid living in a ‘Big Brother’ /panopticon world?

Laura Ritchie replied:

In reply to Jenny – to me this is more about the possibilities of a more broad understanding and acceptance of evidence rather than a surveillance model. I doubt Stephen is suggesting ‘spying’ on students or tracking/mapping, but that instead it could be something they catalogue as part of ‘evidence’ for some task/concept.

I doubt it too, but that’s not to say that this couldn’t happen. In fact, unless the purpose of education remains really clearly thought through and all these developments are clearly underpinned by clarity of purpose, then I think it would be easy to slip into practices which might be detrimental to learning.

Biesta sees the purpose of education as going beyond student-centred education. He sees it as learning what it means to live together in the world. Ronald Barnett hopes that the student will develop a sustained will to learn. (Barnett, T., 2007, A Will to Learn. Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty. Open University Press ). Etienne Wenger discusses in depth, in his book, Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning and Identity, issues related to how learning changes who we are. These are just three of many authors, not to mention philosophers, who have questioned the meaning and purpose of education.

Stephen believes that’ new decentralized network technologies will enable individuals to manage their own credentials’ ( see this week’s summary). In his final paragraph he writes:

These developments represent a signal change in the deployment of both learning analytics and artificial intelligence in education in the years to come. Today, such systems focus on process, and centrally and institutionally designed, and benefit teachers and employers far more than they do individual learners. Indeed,  the only people not benefiting are the learners themselves, with their own data. And that’s what can and must change.

Having reached the end of this post I realise that I do understand that if teaching and learning are to happen at scale across a distributed network, so that there is the potential for anyone anywhere to have access to an education, and learners can be in more control of their learning,  then we need new systems to recognise and validate this education. I suppose my concern is whether these new systems can or will encourage the type of purpose for education so eloquently discussed in such depth by authors such as Biesta, Wenger and Barnett, and whether learners will ‘recognise’ that there is more to education than being awarded a badge, a certificate or even a PhD.

Update: 05-12-18

In addition to the comprehensive comment from Stephen below, in which he responds to this post, he has also now posted this video, in which he explains his thinking with respect to this topic – Recognition – and why he thinks it important.

References to Participants Blog Posts

Davey Maloney – http://daveymoloney.com/el30/el30-recognition-task/

Roland Legrand – https://learningwithmoocs.com/uncategorized/el30-task-congratulations-you-earned-a-badge/

Frank Polster – http://frankpolster.com/blog/elearn30/elearn-3-0-week-6-recognition-task/

Kevin Hodgson – http://dogtrax.edublogs.org/2018/11/30/when-you-give-yourself-a-badge/

Lou – https://learningreflections.wordpress.com/2018/12/01/week-6-recognition-task-create-a-badge/

Random Access – https://randomaccesslearning.wordpress.com/2018/12/01/recognition-assessment-realising-the-potential-of-open-badges/

Laura Ritchie – https://www.lauraritchie.com/2018/12/01/connected-learner-badge/

Matthias Melcher – https://x28newblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/el30-week-6-automated-assessments/

Badges are not sufficient

This week Stephen invited Viplav Baxi to join him in a discussion about this week’s topic – Recognition – for the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC.

They only mentioned badges briefly, but the task for participants this week has been to create a badge – see my last post.

I have been struggling to identify the key issues in this week’s topic.  I don’t think it is badges. As Stephen himself said at a keynote presentation in Delhi in 2012, to which he was invited by Viplav Baxi:

Badges are not sufficient, analytics are not sufficient, it’s the interactivity, it’s the relative position with everybody else in the network, that represents learning in this sort of environment. (Stephen Downes, 2012)

See – Stephen Downes. Education as Platform: The MOOC Experience and what we can do to make it better. Keynote presentation delivered to EdgeX, Delhi, India. March 14, 2012. Slides and audio available. http://www.downes.ca/presentation/293

See also Downes, S. (2012). Connectivism and connective knowledge: Essays on meaning and learning networks. National Research Council Canada, p.541 https://www.downes.ca/files/books/Connective_Knowledge-19May2012.pdf

So what are we to make of the topic this week? I have watched the conversation between Stephen and Viplav, checked out some of the resources for this week (which I have copied from the course site at the end of this post), read the Synopsis for this week, and explored my own ‘library’  that I have collected over the years, not specifically on badges, but on assessment in a digital world, and how this might be changing.

I have a terrible memory, so having a library and a blog to refer back to is essential. My blog reminded me that I travelled to Greenwich in 2014 to hear Stephen give this keynote.

I blogged about it at the time. Here is a quote from that blog post, which seems to identify the key issues as I interpreted them.

“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.”

Viplav and Stephen discussed the role of Artificial Intelligence in tracking students and scaling up assessment, a real need for Viplav in India given the huge numbers of students requiring assessment and recognition.  Stephen has written this week:

…. we need to think of the content of assessments more broadly. The traditional educational model is based on tests and assignments, grades, degrees and professional certifications. But with activity data we can begin tracking things like which resources a person reads, who they spoke to, and what questions they asked. We can also gather data outside the school or program, looking at actual results and feedback from the workplace. In the world of centralized platforms, such data collection would be risky and intrusive, but in a distributed data network where people manage their own data, greater opportunities are afforded.

This paragraph immediately raised concerns for me, about privacy. The thought of being constantly ‘observed’ in class and out of class feels very uncomfortable and I wonder to what extent the ethics of these new forms of assessment have been considered.

And then there is the question of what information is being gathered, and, as Stephen asks  ‘How do we know what someone has learned?’ Further questions must also be: What is knowledge and how do we recognise it? Will a certificate or a badge accurately represent a learner’s knowledge?

Connectivism seems to be the learning theory most applicable to the distributed web, proposing that:

Knowledge is literally the set of connections between entities. In humans, this knowledge consists of connections between neurons. In societies, this knowledge consists of connections between humans and their artifacts. What a network knows is not found in the content of its entities, nor in the content of messages sent from one to the other, but rather can only be found through recognition of patterns emergent in the network of connections and interactions. [i.e. in what people ‘do’ – see above]

See Downes, S. (2012). Connectivism and connective knowledge: Essays on meaning and learning networks. National Research Council Canada, p.9

And on p.584 of this book Stephen quotes Rob Wall (2007) as saying:

“Literacy, of any type, is about pattern recognition, about seeing how art is like physics is like literature is like dance is like architecture is like …Literacy is not about knowing where the dots are. Literacy is not about finding dots about which you may not know. Literacy is about connecting the dots and seeing the big picture that emerges.”

Rob Wall. What You Really Need to Learn: Some Thoughts. Stigmergic Web (weblog). June 3, 2007. http://stigmergicweb.org/2007/06/03/what-you-really-need-to-learn-some-thoughts/ No longer extant.

This seems to describe how knowledge on the distributed web will be recognised, i.e. by trying the see the emergent big picture that a learner’s activity demonstrates. How this will be formalised to be able to award badges, certificates and the like, is unclear to me.

I don’t know if Stephen still believes that ‘badges won’t be sufficient’. He sounds more optimistic in his Synopsis, writing “with trustworthy data from distributed networks we will be able to much more accurately determine the skills – and potential – of every individual.”

But it makes sense to me to be cautious about badges. As Viplav Baxi said in the video (relating this to his context in India, but relevant, I think, in many contexts), it’s not all about technology and pedagogy, but also about trust and identity. A change of mindset, culture and beliefs will be needed, if new approaches to assessment which take advantage of the distributed web are to be adopted.

Resources (provided by Stephen Downes for the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC)

Testing for Competence Rather Than for “Intelligence”
David McClelland, 2018/11/26

“…the fact remains that testing has had its greatest impact in  the schools and currently is doing the worst damage in that area by falsely leading people to believe that doing well in school means that people are more  competent and therefore more likely to do well in life because of some real ability factor.”

How did we get here? A brief history of competency‐based higher education in the United States
T.R. Nodine, The Journal of Competency-Based Education, 2018/11/26

Competency‐based education (CBE) programs have spread briskly in higher education over the past several years and their trajectory continues to rise. In light of the spread of competency‐based models, this article provides a brief history of CBE in the United States.

Competency & Skills System (CaSS)
Advanced Distributed Learning, 2018/11/26

The Competency and Skills System (CASS) enables collection, processing, and incorporation of credentials and data (“assertions”) about an individual’s competencies into accessible, sharable learner profiles. CaSS will create an infrastructure enabling competencies, competency frameworks, and competency-based learner models to be managed and accessed independently of a learning management system, course, training program, or credential. See also: CASS Documentation.

Knowledge as Recognition 
Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, 2018/11/27

In my view, knowledge isn’t a type of belief or opinion at all, and knowledge isn’t the sort of thing that needs to be justified at all. Instead, knowledge is a type of perception, which we call ‘recognition’, and knowledge serves as the justification for other things, including opinions and beliefs.

Beyond Assessment – Recognizing Achievement in a Networked World
Stephen Downes, 2018/11/27

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. See also the transcript of this talk.

Digital Badges as Recognition of Success

Looking back through this blog, I am reminded that in 2012 I attended a SCoPE seminar on digital badges and wrote two posts about it. Reading back through these posts I see that at that time I had some reservations about badges.

In the first post of the two – #digitalbadges: SCoPE seminar on Digital Badges I raised these questions:

• Will badges promote quality learning or will they simply encourage people to ‘jump through hoops’?
• Will badges be ‘recognised/valued’ by employers – will they need to be?
• Will badges stifle creativity and emergent learning?

In the second post – SCoPE Seminar: Digital Badges Implementation – I reflected on the credibility of these badges, their value, their integrity, their status, what and who they represent. I wondered whether the badge system would promote the ‘completion of tasks’ approach to learning, more than a focus on developing a depth of understanding. And the discussion of the design and implementation of badge systems made me wonder whether this could ultimately disempower learners rather than empower them.

It will be interesting to see whether this week’s discussion in the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC, on how the distributed web can change the way in which learning success is recognised, will answer the questions and concerns I had back in 2012.

The task for this week is to:

Create a free account on a Badge service (several are listed in the resources for this module). Then:

– create a badge
– award it to yourself.
– use a blog post on your blog as the ‘evidence’ for awarding yourself the badge
– place the badge on the blog post.

To assist you in this, you can see this blog post where I did all four steps with Badgr. (I also tried to work with the API, with much less success).

Before I started on this task I found that I had already been awarded a badge by Matthias Melcher for completing the task he set for participants earlier in the course. He posted this task on his blog – el30 Graph Task – and I describe how I completed his task in this post.

Matthias’s award was a great help, as it functioned like an advance organizer  enabling me to know what I could expect to see and what I should look out for.

Here is the badge I received by email from Matthias via Badgr. I really like the design of the badge.

Clicking on download (as in the image above) took me straight to the Badgr site, which was used to create this badge, and by following Stephen Downes’ instructions, which he outlines in this post  it was quite straightforward to create an account and award myself a badge.

I now have two badges in my Backpack.

Clicking on a badge provides details of the evidence for the award, including links to the sites where the evidence is held. See image below.

Finally I created an E-Learning 3.0 badge collection.

Using Badgr is a straightforward and quick way to create badges, but it does seem critically important to ensure that the evidence of achievement is comprehensive and that the evidence boxes are completed.

The question that I hope will be discussed in this week of the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC, is whether and why digital badges are the way to go in terms of recognising success in learning on the distributed web.

Resources (provided by Stephen Downes and copied from the E-Learning 3.0 course site)

OpenBadges.me
2018/11/27

Free tools to issue Mozilla Open Badges. Design and award your own open badges: credential skills, recognize learning and create bite-sized rewards to support micro-credentials in your eportfolio.

 

Open Badge Factory
2018/11/27

“Open Badge Factory is a versatile platform for organisations wanting to create, issue and manage Open Badges. Suitable for any organisation, big or small, Open Badge Factory is a user-friendly and cost-efficient service to start issuing Open Badges and building sustainable Open Badge ecosystems.”

 

Open Badges
2018/11/27

General information page about badges. “Open Badges are verifiable, portable digital badges with embedded metadata about skills and achievements. They comply with the Open Badges Specification and are shareable across the web. Each Open Badge is associated with an image and information about the badge, its recipient, the issuer, and any supporting evidence. All this information may be packaged within a badge image file that can be displayed via online CVs and social networks.” See also the IMS Open Badges specification.

 

Badgr
2018/11/27

Application for creating digital badges. Badgr is open source software based on open standards.  Here’s the community website. Here’s a sample of me creating and awarding myself a badge on Badgr.

 

Blockchain Diplomas Land In Virginia At Ecpi
Stephen’s Web ~ OLDaily, 2018/11/28
Jacob Demmitt, The Roanoke Times, Nov 26, 2018  It was only a matter of time. “Virginia Beach-based ECPI University has joined a group of early adopters that distribute student degrees through the same kind of decentralized computer networks that power Bitcoin… The concept behind the technology is virtually unchanged, except ECPI is using the blockchain to issue digital degrees instead of digital currencies.” The plan does have a definite upside: “It’s on there for life. They never have to call the registrar’s office and order another diploma.”

 

WhatIfEdu

Viplav Baxi, 2018/11/28

What if teachers learned to perform to transform rather than be a guide by the side or a sage on the stage? Teachers perhaps need to be an equal part performer who enact and ‘live’ the subject in their interactions with students.

Access to E-Learning 3.0 and the Distributed Web

Stephen Downes has once again written an excellent summary for the work we did last week on open educational resources.

He has tweeted:
Downes  @Downes

Friday’s #el30 newsletter is now available. el30.mooc.ca/archive/18/11_… If you are at all interested in the future of open educational resources, please do take the time to read the feature article.

I would support this. Here is the direct link to the feature article.

Feature Article E-Learning 3.0, Part 5 – Resources
stephen@downes.ca, Nov 25, 2018.

The task for this week was to create a content addressed resource. Although I found the Resources topic interesting, I failed to complete the task and discussed this in my last post. But, as I noted in the post, some of the course participants (those with more technical skills than me) have completed the task and found it quite straightforward.

Stephen himself completed the task declaring on Twitter:
Downes  @Downes

I hereby declare dat://502bdf152d00a35f9785f78d107b9037b5eca9354bcf593e7b4995f9be97a614/ (the NRC vision statement, illustrated by me) to be the first Content Addressable Resource for Education (CARE) #el30 @nrc

The irony of this has not escaped my notice. Since I did not have the skills to install the Interplanetary File System or Beaker Browser, I am not able to access or see this first Content Addressable Resource for Education (CARE) – or experience this example of the distributed web in action. Effectively, this open resource is closed to me.

This has made me think about how the distributed web will be introduced to the population at large. Presumably there will be a period of time when access will not be equal, and open will actually mean closed for a proportion of the population.

Before Stephen declared the NRC vision statement to be the first Content Addressable Resource for Education, I noticed that he asked, on Twitter, whether anyone could check it for him. Matthias Melcher responded.

Downes
@Downes

Anyone out there using Beaker Browser, could you test and see whether my first ‘Content Addressable Resource for Education’ (CARE) for #el30 is accessible? (Working form home with Bell’s tiny upload pipe) dat://502bdf152d00a35f9785f78d107b9037b5eca9354bcf593e7b4995f9be97a614/

Matthias Melcher @x28de
Replying to @Downes

Yes, I see a welcome and 6 slides.

Downes  @Downes

Perfect, that’s what you should see (as well as another six slides in french from the welcome page)

I am now wondering what I am missing by not seeing these six slides. It has reminded me that when I was teaching in HE, in one of my classes there was a visually impaired student. In order for this student to follow the class we were required to make special provision for her, e.g. provide handouts and copies of all slides and notes we distributed in extra large font.

It has occurred to me that the move to E-Learning 3.0 may need to make similar provision for those who do not have the technical skills to access the distributed web, i.e. alternative provision is made at least as a temporary measure.

Update 27-11-18

With a bit of gentle pushing from Stephen, I have now succeeded installing Beaker Browser (it really was quite straight-forward when I overcame the mental block). I have also viewed Stephen’s slides, and created my own site (see comment to Stephen below). I would need to know more html to get much further! Is a good knowledge of html considered an essential digital literacy?

Source of image 

Failing to Create a Content Addressed Resource for the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC

Montaigne’s opening words in his essay ‘Of Books’, seem so apposite to my experience of trying to engage with the task of creating a content-addressed resource for this week’s E-Learning 3.0 course. I quote them here to serve as a disclaimer for all that is to follow 🙂

This is how the task was presented by Stephen Downes.

Create a Content-Addressed Resource
Create a resource (for example, a web page) using IPFSBeaker BrowserFritter, or any other distributed web application (see some of the examples here). Provide a link to the resource using any method you wish.

To help prepare for this task, watch the video ‘From Repositories to the Distributed Web’ as well as these videos on IPFS and Beaker: installing IPFSmaking a website with IPFSinstalling Beaker. Due: Nov 23, 2018

Having just read it again, I see that I have already missed the due date, which is perhaps just as well, but was unavoidable since I have been away this week on another completely unrelated course.

I have watched the videos Stephen has created to support this week’s content and task. I am sure I heard him say something to the effect that we shouldn’t worry about not being able to understand all the technology, just aim to get the gist. Did I dream this?  Imagine my surprise to find that this task clearly requires more than just having got the gist! I hope I have shown that I have understood the gist of what this is all about in my previous post about distributed open educational resources on Web 3.0.

Despite this surprise, I thought I would give it a go, but here is a further quote from Montaigne’s essay, Of Books, which explains exactly where I am coming from.

So here is ‘my method’.

When I saw that at least three other participants had already quickly completed this task, and that Stephen had created videos showing us exactly how to do this, I thought what can be so difficult? I will just do exactly as he says.

On watching Stephen’s video, How to Install IPFS on Windows, I quickly realised that since I work on a Mac this video was of little help to me.

No matter. I had already seen that David Maloney also works on a Mac, so I went to his post and thought I would try and imitate what he had done.  Here, it didn’t take me long to see that David has skills and understanding that I don’t. In his post he writes:

The first task I set about was downloading and installing the go-ipfs distribution implementation of the Inter-Planetary File System (IPFS).

I unzipped/extracted the go-ipfs download into my home directory (davidmoloney$ in my case). It isn’t as easy as double-clicking on the .exe file in the directory and following an installation wizard I’m afraid! You are the installation wizard! 

I now have the go-ipfs downloaded, but I am no wizard. He lost me on his following instructions which for me went ‘under the hood’ more than I know how to go.

No matter. I thought there must be a video on Youtube for Mac users who need a ‘dummies’ guide. After a search I found one – IPFS – Getting Started.   I thought I’d cracked it until about 5 minutes in, when all of a sudden the creator of this video began to talk a foreign language, i.e. technical language I didn’t understand.

I found solace in Montaigne again.

Montaigne 4

So at this point I recognised that I had reached the point Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams recognises, where it was ‘too difficult to get my head round’ all this and gave up on the task. I have understood the gist of what this is all about, and I can see the importance of developing a distributed web with distributed open educational resources, but I think I will follow Montaigne’s advice when meeting these types of difficulties and ‘give them over’. Hopefully sometime in the future it will all become much more user friendly and relevant to web users like me who are unlikely to ever want to get ‘under the hood’.

For those who do want to have a go at creating a content addressed resource – here are some posts from other participants, describing how they went about it.

Kevin Hodgson – http://dogtrax.edublogs.org/2018/11/24/one-click-publishing-with-the-beaker-browser-on-the-distributed-web/

Matthias Melcher – https://x28newblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/22/el30-two-tasks/

Davey Maloney – http://daveymoloney.com/el30/el30-resources-task/

Frank Polster – http://frankpolster.com/blog/elearn30/e-learning-3-0-resource-task/

Laura Ritchie – https://www.lauraritchie.com/2018/11/28/el30-resources-task/

Roland Legrand – https://learningwithmoocs.com/decentralized-web/blogging-with-the-beaker-browser/

Lou – https://learningreflections.wordpress.com/2018/11/30/week-5-task/

And here are the videos which have been provided by Stephen Downes to support this task.

Videos
How to Install IPFS on Windows
Nov 22, 2018 video
This video demonstrates how to download and install IPFS on windows using PowerShell. For the Resources Module of the E-Learning 3.0 course.

How to Add a Website to IPFS
Nov 22, 2018 video
This video shows how I used my previously-installed IPFS node to upload a website to IPFS. It also explores the IPFS Companion plugin a bit more and shows how now everything is working perfectly just yet.

Installing Beaker Browser and Creating a Page on the Decentralized Web
Nov 22, 2018 video
In this video I install the Beaker Browser, a browser that accesses the decentralized web using the dweb:// protocol. After installing and exploring a bit we create our own site on the dweb using the Beaker browser.

Sharing Dweb Content with Dat
Nov 22, 2018 video
In this video I work with Dat, a node application that creates a Dweb node and shares files, websites and data across the distributed web. A bit long, not everything works, but a way to watch the process in action. This video is an hour and 24 minutes – I could have made it a lot shorter but I wanted to show the thinking process as I worked with this.