Week 8 of the CCK11 course focussed on power and authority on online networks.
Networked technologies have changed power and authority. This, networked learning has a great deal in common with approaches to learning that focus on personal empowerment and freedom.
The speakers for this week were Frances Bell and Ailsa Haxell. Their session was recorded as was the follow up session by Stephen Downes and George Siemens. Both are well worth viewing/listening to again.
There were many thought provoking ideas in these sessions – but the one that caught my attention was the idea proposed by Ailsa that if knowledge and agency are distributed across the network then accountability must also be distributed. She asked, ‘Am I responsible for the ways that others around me act’ and answered her own question with a ‘Yes’ – there is networked accountability.
Given the activity on my blog for the past two weeks I have found this interesting to think about. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about ‘Attacks on Connectivism’ which to my surprise has attracted a lot of attention and comment. The interesting thing is that this attention and comment is not about me or what I have written, but about Stephen Downes, George Siemens, connectivism and those who have something to say about connectivism as a theory.
If we take the metaphor of blogs being a place where we can invite people to come and sit on our front porch, as opposed to forums which can be viewed more as a market place with lots of hustle and bustle*, then my blog has felt a little more like a market place recently – with a number of people visiting and holding their own discussions.
*(see 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)
All this has been very interesting for me, but I have not felt the need to be involved in further discussion about this – so to what extent am I accountable for the ideas expressed in the comments made on this particular blog post and does it matter?
I know some of the reasons for this post attracting such a lot of attention. First the ‘jury is still out’ on connectivism as a learning theory and there are plenty of people out there who are following associated discussions. More than this George and Stephen made reference to my blog post. That always results in increased readers on your blog. But mostly it was Twitter. For some reason there were lots of tweets about this post. Am I accountable for all this? Am I responsible for the ways in which others have reacted to this? If I am, does this mean that the network has some sort of power over me and what I can post on my blog? How does this relate to autonomy, which is a key principle of connectivism?
Week 8 Readings
- Stephen Downes, Things You Really Need to Learn
- Henry A. Giroux, Paulo Freire and the Politics of Postcolonialism
- Gary A. Olsen, History, Praxis, and Change: Paulo Freire and the Politics of Literacy
- William H. Dutton, Through the Network (of Networks) – The Fifth Estate .pdf
- Infed, Ivan Illich: deschooling, conviviality and the possibilities for informal education and lifelong learning
- Helen McCarthy, Paul Miller and Paul SkidmoreNetwork Logic: Who governs in an interconnected world? (.pdf) (this is a book of essays; skim sections that you find to be of interest).
- Edgar Gumbert, ed., Poverty, Power and Authority in Education (.pdf) (this is a book of essays; skim sections that you find to be of interest).
- Mohamed Amine Chatti, Matthias Jarke and Marcus Specht, The 3P Learning Model
- Vance Stevens, Revisiting Multiliteracies in Collaborative Learning Environments: Impact on Teacher Professional Development
The principles of connectivism are autonomy, diversity, connectedness and openness. Stephen has written and presented about this on a number of occasions. My experience of connectivism in MOOCs or even OOCs is that these principles are not straightforward to apply to course design or learning.
My current interest is in autonomy, as I believe that when thinking about the principles of connectivism – autonomy rules, i.e. it is not possible to experience diversity, connectedness or openness without autonomy, i.e. being an autonomous learner.
Being an autonomous learner seems to be a pre-requisite for successful participation in a MOOC/OOC – but what is an autonomous learner? Are you an autonomous learner? Am I an autonomous learner? Are our students/colleagues/children/friends autonomous learners? How do we know? What are the characteristics of an autonomous learner?
I have spent a bit of time trawling the web and journals with this question in mind and there has been loads written about autonomous learning, much of it in relation to language teaching (haven’t quite got to the bottom of why language teaching yet). I have been wondering whether learners who participate in MOOCs/OOCs have unique characterstics in relation to autonomous learning – and I invite anyone who ventures here to read this blog post to join me in thinking about this – if you are interested. For me the design of a course based on connectivism principles will have to take account of the characteristics of autonomous learning – hence my desire to get my head round this.
So far I have come up with the following characteristics – the problem is that few of them could be said to be specific to MOOCs/OOCs.
- show responsibility for their own learning
- show initiative
- are able to monitor and evaluate their own learning
- are reflective and show ‘high’ (in inverted comments because I’m not sure how high is high) levels of metacognition
- are self-aware in relation to their own learning (need unpicking)
- are intrinsically motivated
- are life-long learners (not sure about this one)
- can manage and regulate their own learning (OK but what does this involve?)
- are adept at taking/making decisions (how adept is adept?)
- are meaning makers
- are risk takers (not sure about this one)
- have specific skills and strategies for managing their learning online (OK but what skills and strategies?)
- are adaptable and flexible in their approach to learning (how adaptable is adaptable and how flexible is flexible? How would these characteristics manifest themselves?)
- are pro-active (i.e. they don’t wait for things/people to come to them)
- are critical and analytical thinkers (this might be too much of a supposition)
- know how to ask questions (and ideally good questions – but what is a good question?)
- are good at filtering and selecting the information they need
- can take constructive criticism
- can navigate the web
- are technically adept (not sure about this)
I am aware that each one of these characteristics could be questioned. After all how autonomous is autonomous?
If you think autonomy is important to learning in MOOCs/OOCs, then I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
In reflecting on my participation in the open connectivism courses (CCk08, CCK09), I realise that I am more interested in these than the other open courses on offer at the moment, because whilst they require technology to run, they are not so much about technology as about how learners learn and how teachers need to develop to help learners to learn in this fast moving digital age. Currently, my interest is in learner autonomy. What does this mean? Stephen has written a blog post about this, which I really need to get my head round.
Three things have cropped up in the last week, which have refocused my attention on learner autonomy.
1. One of my sons is doing a music technology degree. He has just entered the second year and was excited because the course outline stipulated that he could choose a module to work on and choose a group to work in. He wanted to do a video/music module and wanted to work in a group of three. As it turned out this year two key lecturers have gone on sabbatical and one has left – so the students (for administrative purposes and logistical reasons) have been told which module they must do and the working group has been reduced from three to two. I can see why the University has had to do this, but I do wonder about the reality of student autonomy. This is a mild way of saying that I feel quite cross about it. After all his fees are huge and this is his once chance. He had already worked out what his video/music project would be – was motivated and keen to start. Now he has to do a module he is not so interested in, simply because the University allowed two lecturers to have a sabbatical at the same time. But presumably the lecturers must also have autonomy – so if everyone has choice over what to do when they want to do it, how do we deal with the inevitable conflicts?
2. I have been invited to be an External Advisor for a University post-graduate course which is being revalidated. To my delight I read that the new post-graduate course will put a heavy emphasis on student autonomy – but then I read that this is interpreted as self-assessment, peer-assessment and reflective learning. Whilst all these contribute to student autonomy, I see students’ control over their own learning as being the most crucial element. Now I’m wondering whether this is possible in Higher Education – or to what extent it is possible. I need to think more about this and will be interested to hear what the tutor team has to say when the validation panel meets.
3. A feature of the CCK11 course is that there is no central meeting place. Past courses have had Moodle discussion forums – but this course is taking a true distributed learning approach . This is going to be very interesting in terms of learner autonomy. Will participants be able to cope with this? Will they find each other? Will they be able to have ‘meaningful’ conversations? How will they forge connections? Will they like/value/appreciate the amount of autonomy that has been built into the course design? This will be a real test of whether learner participants can handle the level of autonomy on offer.
So for CCK11 – I will be observing/participating (probably more observing than participating) with a view to understanding more about learner autonomy.
The net seems awash with open courses at the moment. Three have captured my attention are:
Learning and Knowledge Analytics (LAK11)
Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2011 (CCK11)
Digital Storytelling (ds106)
Digital storytelling is already in its second week, but as Jim Groom (convenor) has pointed out it has been anticipated and discussed for many more weeks. It is fun just to look at the assignments that have already been submitted – a wonderful example of the talent and creativity that can be tapped into on the net and also a wonderful example of the four key activities of connectivist teaching and learning in action, i.e. aggregation, remixing, repurposing and feed forward. There has been quite a lot of work on Digital Storytelling here in the UK and a few years ago I attended a Digital Storytelling course at the University of Gloucestershire here in the UK, where the focus at the time was on using digital storytelling to enhance students’ learning and reflection – a different focus to Jim Groom’s course where the learning objectives are:
- Develop skills in using technology as a tool for networking, sharing, narrating, and creative self-expression
- Frame a digital identity wherein you become both a practitioner in and interrogator of various new modes of networking
- Critically examine the digital landscape of communication technologies as emergent narrative forms and genres
Information about the work in the UK can be found at the following sites:
I will be interested to find out more about ‘why’ people have signed up for Jim Groom’s course and whether people will ‘stay’ the course. I expect it will be a lot of hard work.
Learning and Knowledge Analytics has also been going a week and got off to a good start with a lot of participants signed up and plenty of discussion. The first week’s invited speaker – John Fritz – gave a really thought provoking talk. Over 90 people attended this. John started his talk with a slide providing us with a vision of the future of academic analytics, which listed the possible stages of the use of analytics as:
- Extraction and reporting
- Analysis and monitoring
- ‘What if’ scenarios
- Predictive modelling and simulation
- Automatic triggers and alerts
He asked us what our institutions are already doing and most were at the 1-3 levels. This reminded me of a JISC programme that I worked on last year – Institutional Innovation – where one of the projects was collecting data to ensure e that they could monitor student progress, catch potential drop-outs early, intervene and thus ensure student progress and retention. This was the Mining Course Management Systems project at Thames Valley University. The question that was raised for me by John Fritz’s talk and by the projects that I have worked with in the JISC Institutional Innovation programme was who controls the data – so – do the students get to analyse the data or see the results of the data analysis? What voice do they have over how the data is interpreted and what interventions will be made – given that they will be the recipients? Interesting!
Finally to Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2011 (CCK11). Despite the fact that I have already attended CCK08 and been aware of CCK09, I think that this is the one that I will be following the most closely, although perhaps still from a distance. As a learner, it suits me better to be on the edge. Stephen Downes and George Siemens have urged us to ‘share with others’. I have thought about this. Do I do this or not? Well – I have to say – not very publicly – although I do have a few people with whom I feel very connected and with whom I have some deep ‘back-channel’ conversations/discussions (which have now resulted in 4 research papers/projects). These have all resulted from CCK08. I do blog from time to time which I regard as my ‘wider sharing’, but it is the closer connections that I really value. So I am looking forward to CCK11 once again – but I will be keeping an eye on Digital Storytelling and Learning Analytics – for interest and from the perspective of being interested in how people learn in open courses.