#PLENK2010 Curation and Balance

End of Week 1 Notes (based on listening to the recordings of the two live sessions, having read a couple of references from the list and commented here – having kept an eye on the Daily and Twitter stream – and popped in on the Moodle forums – but not read much)

There has been lots of discussion this week about whether Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and/or Personal Learning Network (PLN) are the right terms to describe what this is all about and some recognition that this a semantics issue. According to Rita Kop PLE is a UK term and PLN an American term. Dave Cormier questions whether the term personal should be used at all. Stephen Downes points out that personal is an OK term if you think about [Personal Learning] Network as opposed to [Personal] Learning Network – and similarly for PLE. I like that – but for me, the words are not as important as the process – although I can see that the process needs nominalising for ease of reference. If I am going to think about introducing the idea of PLEs/PLNs to my colleagues or students then I will be talking about the process and the implications of this process for learning rather than what we should call it, i.e. why it might be preferable for students to learn in environments/spaces of their own choice rather than be confined to an institutions VLE/LMS.

There was a brief discussion in one of the live sessions about whether we choose networks or whether networks choose us – an interesting thought.  I would have thought both. In terms of PLEs/PLNs, Stephen’s comment was that its not a question of choosing so much as not having choices imposed on us – to me this is a good way of thinking about what the ‘personal’ might mean in PLE/PLN. It reminds me of my exhortations to my children to study harder at school because one of the values of education is that it affords increased choice.

A big discussion has been around Curation and Curatorial Teaching in the context of the role of supporting PLEs/PLNs. What does it mean? At first I thought it is just the American term for what Gilly Salmon calls ‘summarising’ in her work on the role of the e-moderator. But I can see that in a massive open online course (MOOC) it needs to be a little different to this and also that George’s definition of curator/curation has a different emphasis – http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=93

Here is a quote from George’s blog post from as long ago as 2007 (and don’t miss the political correctness in terms of gender references! Would this be necessary in 2010?)

The joint model of network administrator and curator form the foundation of what education should be. An expert (the curator) exists in the artifacts displayed, resources reviewed in class, concepts being discussed. But she’s behind the scenes providing interpretation, direction, provocation, and yes, even guiding. A curatorial teacher acknowledges the autonomy of learners, yet understands the frustration of exploring unknown territories without a map. A curator is an expert learner. Instead of dispensing knowledge, he creates spaces in which knowledge can be created, explored, and connected. While curators understand their field very well, they don’t adhere to traditional in-class teacher-centric power structures. A curator balances the freedom of individual learners with the thoughtful interpretation of the subject being explored. While learners are free to explore, they encounter displays, concepts, and artifacts representative of the discipline. Their freedom to explore is unbounded. But when they engage with subject matter, the key concepts of a discipline are transparently reflected through the curatorial actions of the teacher.

So from this post and from the discussion in this week’s live session we can see that a curator is intended to be more of an interpreter than a summarizer, possibly less objective than a summarizer, but with no less or more of a teaching role, which according to Stephen should be to aggregate, assimilate, analyse and advise (my interpretation of Stephen’s comments!). This is what Stephen does with The Daily – but he doesn’t think that curation is an adequate word for what this is all about, which he sees as journalism, reportage, descriptive activity and selection. On reflection and looking back over my experience of working with Gilly Salmon’s ideas, I think that summarising is probably very similar to curating when  describing the moderator’s role. In my experience, a summary inevitably involves selection and interpretation.

Finally – this week – I have noted how often the word ‘balance’ has cropped up in discussions. So we have had:

We need to find a balance between

  • over-guiding and not providing enough structure
  • niche and diversity
  • creation of and curation of artefacts and resources
  • facilitator and participant voice
  • power relationships in networks

This for me is getting at what we need to be thinking about, if we are considering introducing this approach to learning in more traditional settings. What else do we need to balance as this sort of thinking seems to me to be key to learning in and/or facilitating learning in open networks?