E-Learning 3.0 Experience

The task for this penultimate week of the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC on the topic of Experience is:

Here is my submission


This is the musical accompaniment for the verses below. Please sing along.

For the introduction to this week’s topic, see Stephen Downes’ Synopsis.

I posted my initial response to this text in a previous post – Creativity and Experience on the Distributed Web.

See also Kevin Hodgson’s post for one example of how to respond to this task. Stephen wrote: “Here’s a good example of the sort of thing you could create, by Kevin Hodgson (who apparently also studied mind reading as he completed this Task before it was posted).

A Conversation about Community in the Distributed web

This image created by Kevin Hodgson, a participant in the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC, as Stephen Downes said on Twitter, ‘basically completes the Task for week 8’.

For an interactive version of this image see: https://www.thinglink.com/fullscreen/1129211585894547458

The final discussion about the topic of community in the E-Learning 3.0 course centred on a Google Hangout discussion between Stephen Downes and Roland Legrand. The Hangout was open to anyone and there were a few people, including myself, in the chat, but only Roland Legrand in the Hangout with Stephen. This worked really well, allowing the conversation between them to develop and dig deeper into some interesting ideas. I can recommend watching the video recording, as their discussion helps to clarify some of the issues we have been struggling with in relation to this topic on community in the distributed web.

The discussion started with a review of how the week’s task had been experienced. Stephen had asked participants to create a community through consensus, without giving us any indication of how to do this, or what else to do, and ideally without using a centralised space. Laura Ritchie, Kevin Hodgson  and Roland put forward proposals on how to do this and ultimately we went with Roland’s initial suggestion, whilst also taking account of Laura and Kevin’s thoughts. Stephen pointed out in the Hangout that had the course attracted a larger number of participants the task would have been more difficult, because there would have been more proposals and people would have organised into groups. How then would we have chosen which community to join (the task stipulated only one community)? How do you solve consensus generally?

Roland thought that his proposal only required minimal commitment from participants, but Stephen thought that it could have been even more minimal. Whilst we all (those who participated) reflected on our course experience in our individual blogs, Stephen suggested that all we had needed to do was to provide evidence that we were there, maybe by posting the #el30 hashtag and stating that anyone who posted this was a member of the community. By making the task performative (writing a blog post) did it become exclusive? Roland questioned how posting a hashtag would work. Wouldn’t people be too dispersed?  He asked, ‘Why even talk about community?’

For Stephen (and see his summary for the week for further thoughts on this) the concept of community is important in the context of truth and facts. How do we know we belong to a community? This relates to how do we know a fact is a fact? And how do we know which facts to believe? How do we meet each other to discuss this?

Roland suggested that we need empathy and openness beyond the facts, because when faced with alternative facts our identities are threatened. The first thing people need is to feel recognised and safe. His question was, if we want people to meet each other to discuss alternative facts and perspectives, won’t the distributed web make things more difficult? Stephen agreed that lot of things are harder on the distributed web. It’s easier to build and work on a centralised platform, but as Stephen pointed out, we are already living in a world where information is distributed. For him centralised to decentralised is six of one and half a dozen of the other. He also pointed out that the decentralised web flourishes in the financial community and that there is no empathy in this community.

Roland questioned whether there is a planetary community and thought that the idea of a planet-wide lack of empathy was a bleak vision. He wondered whether we are too negative about it all, saying that humanity is more peaceful today than ever before, and most people can be trusted. But, as Stephen said, whilst most people the world over are ‘good’ there remain bad actors. We have to build resistance to bad actors and that’s why making things harder, through blockchain, encryption and managing our own data, might be a good thing. But Roland suggested that encryption and managing our own data might also be bad for security. Stephen agreed that there is tension between openness and privacy, and that a balance is needed.

They then went on to discuss whether we could set up some sort of community/forum to continue to discuss these complex ideas and whether this space should be open or closed, on a centralized platform or on the distributed web. Roland is keen to continue the discussion.

From my perspective the community topic has been very challenging, causing me to question my understanding of what we mean by community on the distributed web, and the role that trust, truth and consensus play in the formation of community on the distributed web. I have not come to any firm conclusions yet about how all the ideas fit together and why they are significant. But as I have mentioned in a previous post, I think it may be necessary to rethink the language we use when discussing how community is formed in the distributed web. A verse from the King James Bible comes to mind.

Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.

Many thanks to Stephen and Roland for a fascinating discussion.

Trust, Truth, Consensus and Community on the distributed web

The seventh topic in the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC  has been Community. I have invested quite a bit of my time over the years learning about community – or more specifically communities of practice. I have been a founder member of a community (ELESIG which is still going strong) and a facilitator/moderator in a community (CPsquare – which no longer functions as a community, but relationships still remain – see image below). I have attended courses on CoPs to dig deeper into the theory behind them (BEtreat workshops ), published three research papers about communities of practice and have written numerous blog posts. (I should add a page to my blog about this). I thought I had a reasonable understanding of what it means to be a member of a community, but this week has made me doubt this understanding.  Why?I have been asking myself this question for quite a few days now, and today it occurred to me is that it is a language problem. The way in which language related to community is being used in this course about the distributed web, i.e. what we mean by community, consensus, trust and truth in the distributed web, is not how I have previously understood it.

Let’s start with trust.

Trust is thought to be an essential component of communities of practice. In their book (p.8) Digital Habitats, Wenger, White and Smith write:

‘Learning together depends on the quality of relationships of trust and mutual engagement that members develop with each other, a productive management of community boundaries, and the ability of some to take leadership and to play various roles in moving the inquiry forward’

And in Wenger, McDermott and Snyder’s book, Cultivating Communities of Practice  (p.85) they have written:

The trust community members need is not simply the result of a decision to trust each other personally. It emerges from understanding each other. As one oil reservoir engineer observed, “Sometimes you can share an insight that is so useful it saves a well from going down, but you don’t save a well at the first meeting.”

In other words, communities take time to develop, which is also depicted by the diagram above.

But in the conversation that Stephen had with Pete Forsyth they both agreed that the internet is a trust-less environment. In his post on ‘The Problem of Trust’, Vitalik Buterin has written:

If you were to ask the average cryptocurrency or blockchain enthusiast what the key single fundamental advantage of the technology is, there is a high chance that they will give you one particular predictable answer: it does not require trust.

This suggests that trust either functions differently or doesn’t exist at all on the distributed web. Stephen and Pete both believe that trust is an aspect of community. So both trust and community on the distributed web, in their terms, seem to mean something different to Wenger et al.’s understanding of it.

Pete Forsyth suggested that in Wikipedia (which I have written about in a previous post) we put our trust in facts and not in people. I can accept that on the distributed web it probably makes more sense to understand trust in these terms. That’s not to say that there won’t be trust between people, but perhaps we don’t need this on the distributed web. So the meaning of trust might be more limited term on the distributed web?

But what about community?

In a draft document he has shared with us (I have typed draft in bold, so that we can acknowledge that it might change), Stephen distinguishes between what he calls ‘natural’ communities as opposed to ‘organised’ communities of the type discussed by Wenger and his colleagues. He describes natural communities, e.g. ‘your average city’, as lacking in trust, where there are enforcement mechanisms, because we don’t trust people to obey the law or rules. ‘Cities are polyglot, factional, disjointed. Yet, still – they are communities’, he writes. I have yet to be convinced by the idea that a city is a community.

I believe that there can be and are communities within cities, but that cities are not communities. I agree with the author of this post about ‘What does community mean?’ where s/he has written: ‘just living near each other, as in a suburban neighborhood, doesn’t mean you’re in community.’ (The rest of the post is also interesting). ‘Neighbourhood’ may be a more appropriate term for a city, as Mike Caulfield suggested for FedWiki – which could be described as a decentralized distributed wiki (see my previous post for further discussion) and ‘network’ may be more appropriate for the distributed web.

But there is a reason for Stephen’s focus on community this week, which seems to be that working on the distributed web requires consensus; consensus to agree on what information can be trusted to be true. How do we achieve this consensus on the distributed web where there is no ‘leader’ and no ‘common ground’? Stephen believes that we do this through community and that community is consensus.

My question is, do we have to have community for consensus on the distributed web?  Unless I have completely misunderstood this, the evidence from Preethi Kasireddy’s post How does distributed consensus work? would seem to suggest that the answer is ‘No’, unless we are attributing the word ‘community’ to non-human actors. I have a horrid feeling that I have completely misunderstood all this, but from where I am standing, the word ‘community’ being used in this context just does not fit with any of my prior understanding.

In relation to achieving consensus on the distributed web about what information we can trust, we are told by Waggoner et al. that there are many consensus methodologies, to the point where they have written a paper questioning whether there is a consensus on consensus methodology.  From this article we can see that many researchers are working on how to achieve consensus in relation to the trust we can put in facts on the distributed web.

But what about in society? What are the consequences of a consensus driven society which relies on agreement. As John Kay wrote way back in 2007 in his article ‘Science is the pursuit of truth, not consensus’, ‘Consensus finds a way through conflicting opinions and interests’. (The Financial Times has blocked me from posting a link to this article. You will need to ‘trust’ me that this is what he wrote!) Kay seems to suggest that consensus is often arrived at, at the expense of truth. If this is so, should we ‘trust’ in the ‘truths’ arrived at by consensus?

In his article: Fake News, Wikipedia and Blockchain (Truth and Consensus), Arthur Charpentier seems to suggest that the words we use matter. He writes:

This plurality of words, and the absence of a reference word, is not unlike the philosophy conveyed by crypto-currencies: instead of a centralised mode of governance (validation, certification), it is a global validation by a network, a consensus, which will prevail. Have we changed our definition of what truth is?

This resonates with me because this week I have been asking myself similar questions. What does community mean in relation to the distributed web? Can community function on the distributed web? Do trust, community and consensus take on different meanings on the distributed web? Perhaps we need to go back to what these words mean and whether they have taken on different meanings for use in discussion about the distributed web.

Stephen Downes’ summary of this topic – Community – Summary of the topic

https://el30.mooc.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=68638

Source of images

Stages of development of a community of practice  – https://www.slideshare.net/richard.claassens/communities-of-practice-stages-of-development-388654

Fake News, Wikipedia and Blockchain (Truth and Consensus) – https://freakonometrics.hypotheses.org/52608

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.

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.

Identity graphs as a ‘source of truth’

Week 4 on Identity in Stephen Downes’ E-Learning 3.0 MOOC has come to an end. It was another very interesting week. Stephen has summed up the week with a video and a paper, both of which I will link to in this post. They deserve to be widely distributed.

Whilst the topic title for Week 4 was ‘Identity’, and we had some discussion about identity in general as a philosophical idea that ‘runs through the history of education in a single thread’, the week mainly focussed on digital identity, which Stephen clearly said is not the same as ‘my identity’.

I was pleased to hear him say this, as throughout the week I consistently felt that our digital identity is nowhere near the whole picture of who we are. As Stephen says it is just one outcome of ‘myself’, through which I can recognise parts of myself and others can get glimpses of me, or if they know me can recognise a bit more.

I subscribe to National Geographic and this week I received a mailing from them which included this stunning photo by Yuri Andries.

But it was the text underneath that caught my attention. ‘…. the photo was taken in Ladakh, a remote alpine region of northern India where Tibetan Buddhists, Shia Muslims, Sunnis, and Christians live in villages connected by rocky roads. There’s no phone signal, Internet, or gas stations, and hardly a single person in sight.’ So no digital identity for anyone living there, but of course that doesn’t mean no identity.

I was struck by this because also this week I have been trying to understand what Stephen means by the ‘source of truth’ for the identity graphs we have created. How do we know the graph is an accurate representation of who we are? Where does the information come from? In his video Stephen says ‘we are the source of truth for our digital identity’; we are the thread that runs through the disconnected and distributed data that makes up our digital identity graph. Instead of our digital identities being about quantified demographics, they will (in E-Learning 3.0) be about quality, about the rich tapestry of data relations we have.

In case your were wondering, there is a link in my thinking between the people living in Ladakh with no digital identity, the many of us who do have a digital identity of one sort or another, and the idea of a source of truth, because it occurred to me that the truth about identity has to also include what is neglected, hidden or invisible. The emergent identity from the graph must surely be as much about what is not there as what is there.

As I was thinking about this Vahid Masrour published a post in which he writes about how he discusses online identity with this students. He urges his students to consider how their digital identity might be interpreted by future employers. This highlighted for me the idea that we have to manage our identities, deciding what to reveal and what to hide.

Stephen has said that identity in E-learning 1.0 and 2.0 was about the ‘quantified self’ where our digital identities were represented by demographics and numbers. E-Learning 3.0 will see us shift towards digital identities which reflect the qualified self and ultimately the connected self.

For the connected self, being represented by numbers (the quantified self of E-Learning 1.0) and facts (the qualified self of E-Learning 2.0) will not be sufficient. The connected self will be more about our relations and interactions. Will this lead to a more ethical Web? Will digital identity as a ‘connected self make the ‘source of truth’ of these identities more visible? Will the ‘connected self’ be more reflective? Will ‘the connective self’ more honestly reflect our hopes, aspirations and dreams?

Much of what is being discussed in this course is new to me and that includes the idea of identity graphs and the qualified and connected self. Stephen has clearly been thinking about this for some time. For further insights into his thinking I can recommend watching the video embedded above and reading this paper, which he shared as a summary of the week.

E-Learning 3.0, Part 4: Identity – https://el30.mooc.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=68516

Further resources

Digital Identity on the Threshold of a Digital Identity Revolution – http://www3.weforum.org/docs/White_Paper_Digital_Identity_Threshold_Digital_Identity_Revolution_report_2018.pdf

The Economic Impact of Digital Identity in Canada – https://diacc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Economic-Impact-of-Digital-Identity-DIACC-v2.pdf

Canada’s Digital Economy Relies on a Foundation of Digital Identity – https://diacc.ca/2018/05/16/the-economic-impact-of-digital-identity-in-canada/

Identity as an Analytic Lens for Research in Education https://www.jstor.org/stable/1167322?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

See also the resources listed on the course site: https://el30.mooc.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?module=8

The Quantified, Qualified and Connected Self

This week the topic on the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC has been Identity. We have tried to answer questions such as:

  • How do we know who someone is?
  • How do we project ourselves on the internet?
  • How can we be safe and secure?

To answer these questions we have discussed what identity means, digital and otherwise, we have created identity graphs (there are some great examples, see the end of this post) and Stephen Downes, convener of this MOOC, has introduced us to the idea of encryption keys.

For me there remains a topic which perhaps needs further discussion, and that is, what do we mean by quantified self, qualified self and connected self, what is the difference between them and why do we need to know?

Stephen has written:

We were the client, we were the product – are we, at last, the content? We are the thread that runs through an otherwise disconnected set of data, and knowledge about ourselves, our associations, and our community will create an underlying fabric against which the value and relevance of everything else will be measured. Instead of demographics being about quantity (sales charts, votes in elections and polls, membership in community) we will now have access to a rich tapestry of data and relations.

If this becomes the case, then we will have an unparalleled opportunity to become more self-reflective, both as individuals and as a community. The “quantified self” will give way to the “qualified self” and ultimately to the “connected self” as we begin to define ourselves not merely by simple measures of ethnicity, language, religion and culture, but through thousands of shared experiences, affinities, and inclinations. Evidence for this trend already exists and can be found through the exploration of expression of communities and culture online.

I am familiar with the idea of the Quantified Self. I’m aware that I could track and measure a lot of what I do if I so wished; my calorie intake, how much I sleep, how many steps a day I take, my heart rate etc. etc.  In the past, I have done a little of this. I did once own a Fitbit and I do have a Strava account, but my interest in them waned very quickly, and I now don’t use either. I find I don’t need a machine to tell me when I am eating badly or am not fit enough – I know. And I don’t want to think of my body, or myself, as a machine. I was dismayed when searching for information on the Quantified Self to find reference to the Quantified Baby. I would suggest there’s a limit to how much we should be measuring human beings. And that goes for activity on social media too. I have observed people on social media who admit to measuring themselves by the number of followers / friends etc. they can display on their sites. Like Geoff Cain (see his tweet below), I am happier with two or three in depth interactions and I am even happier if these happen in private rather than public.

geoffcain @geoffcain Analytics does not mean very much in the end. I have been happier lately with the two or three in depth interactions I have had with people online than I have with months of high traffic “hits.” #el30 #highered #edtech

So I am not a fan of the Quantified Self, for myself, although that’s not to deny its uses, in terms of health and well-being.

The Qualified Self sounds like a move in the right direction, but what does it mean? According to one recently published author, it means a more ‘well-rounded’ self ( see Humphreys, L. 2018. The Qualified Self. Social Media and the Accounting of Everyday Life, MIT Press, http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/qualified-self )

I haven’t read the book but José van Dijck, Distinguished University Professor, Utrecht University; author of Mediated Memories in the Digital Age and The Culture of Connectivity, has endorsed the book as follows:

The Qualified Self offers a new perspective on how social media users construct and distribute ‘self-portraits’ through media technologies. Lee Humphreys has delivered a truly original revision of ‘mediated memories’ and a much-needed update to the age of connectivity.

Lee Humphreys, from the reviews I have read, believes that online sharing of the minutiae of our daily lives, ‘selfies’ and so on, is not narcissistic, but simply a continuation of an age old tradition of diary writing and similar activities. As I say, I haven’t read the book, but I would want evidence that the sharing of the ‘diary writing’ is not for the purpose of collecting more followers and more clicks, if we are to believe in a fully Qualified Self. Of course the Qualified and Quantified selves could presumably exist alongside each other.

Stephen has suggested that our identity graphs will provide the rich data of tapestry and relations which will give us the opportunity to become more self-reflective, both as individuals and as a community and shift from the Quantified Self to the Qualified Self. This is not statistical data. It is data reflecting self-knowledge.

It has been hard to find anything very much online about the Qualified Self, but there is a good post written in 2014 by Mark Carrigan, which seems to align with Stephen’s and Lee Humphrey’s writing. In this post, Mark writes:

….. I’m suggesting qualitative self-tracking can be thought of as a distinct type of practice.

…. My point at the time was that the ethos of self-knowledge through numbers does very little for me personally. But I’m intellectually drawn to the Quantified Self because it’s a fascinating example of the intensification of reflexivity in contemporary society. (Mark has written Quantified Self in this final sentence, but I think it’s a typo and he means Qualified Self. That would make more sense in the context of his writing)

And then he goes on to attempt to define the Qualified Self,

Here’s an attempt at a definition of qualitative self-tracking: using mobile technology to recurrently record qualities of experience or environment, as well as reflections upon them, with the intention of archiving aspects of personal life that would otherwise be lost, in a way susceptible to future review and revision of concerns, commitments and practices in light of such a review. So obviously things like personal journals would fall into this category.

From this, the Qualified Self is more reflective and less concerned with measurement and numbers.

That leaves the Connected Self. I’m assuming this means being connected to our inner selves and our own ‘Being’, which would be a progression from the Qualified Self, but would also mean being connected to the selves of ‘Others’. The Connected Self would be a more ‘embodied’ self, which understands itself in terms of relations and ‘betweenness’. ‘Betweenness’ is a topic I was exploring before starting this MOOC. On reflection I think it is relevant to both the Qualified Self and the Connected Self.

I have not found it easy to unpick what Qualified Self and Connected Self mean. If you are reading this post, perhaps you have some thoughts / alternative perspectives you would be willing to share?

Source of imageHarvard Business Review

Participants’ Identity Graphs

Matthias Melcher – https://x28newblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/14/el30-week-4-identity-graph-1st-attempt/

Roland Legrand – https://learningwithmoocs.com/education/el30-task-identity-graph/

Kevin Hodgson – http://dogtrax.edublogs.org/2018/11/15/messing-around-with-identity-graphs/

Geoff Cain – http://geoffcain.com/blog/conceptmaps/week-4-el30-graphs-and-decentering-the-self/

Frank Polster – http://frankpolster.com/blog/elearn30/franks-identity-graph-week-three-2nd-task/

Laura Ritchie – https://www.lauraritchie.com/2018/11/16/my-graph-el30/ 

Ioannou Karvelas – https://ioannouolga.blog/2018/11/16/id-graph-e-learning-3-0-1st-draft/

Vahid Masrour – https://outdoingeducation.wordpress.com/2018/11/19/e-learning-3-0-identity-mine-and-others/ 

Keith Hamon – https://blog.keithwhamon.net/2018/11/el30-prepositions-on-edge-of-identity.html

Dorian – https://engramseeker.wordpress.com/2018/11/20/el30-on-the-narrative-identity-and-our-data-obsession/

Random Access – https://randomaccesslearning.wordpress.com/2018/11/17/who-am-i-digital-identity-and-web-3-0/

Gerald Ardito – https://inventinglearning.wordpress.com/2018/11/22/identity-mine-at-least-partially/  

Lou – https://learningreflections.wordpress.com/2018/11/22/week-4-activity-identity-graph-identityg/ 

Identity from the perspective of authentication

In this video Stephen Downes, convener of the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC explains that in the future our safety and security online will be managed through the use of identification keys. We will each have a private key and a public key, which we will plug into our computers instead of signing on with a password.

Source of  image –  Yubico.com

In the future everyone will be logging in like this and passwords will become a thing of the past.

Why do we need two keys? This is to ensure maximum security and encryption.  The two keys act like a two-way security system. We can think of our private key as our ‘key’ and our public key as the ‘lock’, i.e. the one won’t work without the other. You can only get through the door if you have the right key and the right lock.

So, an example found on Quora  explains how you can use private and public keys to send and receive encrypted messages like this:

Robert wants to send Katie a file. Robert would request Katie’s public key to encrypt the file and then encrypt it with her public key. Robert would then send the file to Katie. Katie would then decrypt the file with her private key.

In this way, Katie’s public key is only used to encrypt but can never be used to decrypt, keeping the data safe. And Katie can only decrypt the data with her private key and would never exposes her private key to anyone, keeping her private key safe. (Source: https://www.quora.com/profile/Ken-Mafli-1)

Stephen in his video (starting at about 7.00 minutes in) explains this in more detail and makes it very clear that a signature on the sent encrypted message would be needed to make it absolutely secure, otherwise you couldn’t be sure who had the public key. The point is to be able to prove who you say you are and keep your communications online safe, without the use of passwords. Your digital identity (based on your identity graph/s) becomes your public key, which is unique to you, and your private key keeps you safe.

Stephen believes that in ten years’ time this is how we will all be accessing the internet. I wonder how straightforward this will be for the average user. I will be in my 80s in 10 years’ time. Will this make it easier for me and people like me, or, as Stephen asks elsewhere on the E-Learning 3.0 course site,

“Will we be lost in the sea of possibilities, unable to navigate through the complexities of defining for ourselves who we are, or will we be able to forge new connections, creating a community of interwoven communities online and in our homes?”

Hopefully there will be more courses like this one which will help us to keep abreast of developments and where we are headed.

This is only a brief summary of the key points in Stephen’s video, as I see them. You need to watch the 25 minute video to get a more complete picture.

And have a look at the Resources – provided by Stephen which I have copied below:

FIDO U2F
Yubico, 2018/11/15

As explained on the Yubico website, “U2F is an open authentication standard that enables internet users to securely access any number of online services with one single security key instantly and with no drivers or client software needed.  FIDO2 is the latest generation of the U2F protocol.”

Public-key cryptography
Wikipedia, 2018/11/15

Public-key cryptography, or asymmetric cryptography, is any cryptographic system that uses pairs of keys: public keys which may be disseminated widely, and private keys which are known only to the owner. This accomplishes two functions: authentication, where the public key verifies that a holder of the paired private key sent the message, and encryption, where only the paired private key holder can decrypt the message encrypted with the public key.

Keybase.io – Downes
Stephen DownesKeybase, 2018/11/15

This is my Keybase page. Here’s what Keybase says about itself: “Keybase is a new and free security app for mobile phones and computers. For the geeks among us: it’s open source and powered by public-key cryptography. Keybase is for anyone. Imagine a Slack for the whole world, except end-to-end encrypted across all your devices. Or a Team Dropbox where the server can’t leak your files or be hacked.” See also (very technical) Keybase for Everyone. And Keybase writing to the blockchain.

E-Learning 3.0: The Human versus the Machine

This post is a response to a challenge set, as a result of Task 2, by Frank Polster, a fellow course participant on Stephen Downes’ MOOC, E-Learning 3.0.

Here is my challenge to all the E-Learning 3.0 cohort and a task associated with course module E-Learning 1 and 2 Conversation with George Siemens. Please comment on what fields, skills, talents, and education that you think are unique domains of humans like Stephen’s “kindness and compassion” and the skills, talents, and education required for the “ghost in the machine” that provides that alternative view.

I have given this post the Title, E-Learning 3.0: The Human versus the Machine, because that is how I have interpreted this challenge.

My response to the challenge is based on what I have learned from reading the work of Iain McGilchrist,  author of The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of The Western World. McGilchrist’s writing focusses on the differences between the ways in which the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere of the brain view and attend to the world. For example, the left hemisphere’s view of the body is as a machine. The right hemisphere’s view of the body is as a living whole in nature.

I have heard MGilchrist talk about the difference between living things and machines and have written about this before – see my post Skills for ‘Being’ in a Digital Age where I listed the differences he discussed. I will copy them here for ease of reference. According to McGilchrist these are the things that differentiate living things from machines:

  • An organism cannot be switched off. There must be an uninterrupted flow from the origins of life.
  • A machine is at equilibrium. An organism is far from equilibrium. A cell carries out millions of complex reactions every second. Enzymes speed these up to a thousandth of a second.
  • The relationship between steps and an outcome are different in machines and living organisms. In an organism there are no steps – there is a flow of process.
  • In living things there is no one-way step. Interactions are complex and reciprocal.
  • The parts of a machine are static. The parts of an organism are not static, they are constantly changing.
  • An organism is aware of the whole and corrects for it in its parts (see the work of Barbara McClintock)
  • Organisms have no precise boundaries.
  • Machines don’t generate other machines from their own body parts.
  • Machines’ code is externally generated. Organisms manufacture their own instructions.

But what is it that makes human beings unique and different to machines? My response to this (again informed by McGilchrist) is that a human being is able to relate to something ‘Other’ than itself that exist apart from us, beyond ourselves and may be ‘new’ or to some degree ‘unknown’. (A machine can only relate to what is already known.)

Priests, teachers, doctors, and similar professions do this as part of their jobs, through care, empathy, trust, altruism, kindness and compassion. They are able to put themselves in the position of the ‘Other’ and experience their experience. Human beings can experience not only their own pain, but also the pain of others. Human beings can love. We can also see all this in family relationships.

Other characteristics unique to humans are the ability to recognise and experience beauty, awe and wonder, in art, music, dance and nature, and to value wisdom, intuition, metaphor, ambiguity, uncertainty, flexibility, the implicit and the spiritual. Human beings experience emotions such as humour, fear, anger, anxiety and sadness, and affective states such as hope and optimism; they have a sense of self, an understanding of the uniqueness of the individual, and search for meaning and truth in life. They do this through embodied engagement with the world, not detached abstract contemplation of it or separation from it. Human beings can imagine, wonder and dream.

An education which values the uniquely human is one that focusses on learning the meaning of ‘Other’, recognising the value of living things, nature and the unknown, learning how to think in an embodied way, and acknowledging that thinking and feeling can’t be separated.

To think is to thank. Thinking is not made up by reason. It is not certain, unidirectional and detached. Thinking is receptive and grateful. It is relational. Mind relates to ‘to mind’, which relates to ‘to care’ again suggesting a relationship. Thinking is deeply connected with feeling (feeling probably comes first) and is an embodied way of sensing……… All thinking is dependent on the body. (From my blog post The Divided Brain – What does it mean to think?)

The second part of Frank’s challenge is – comment on the skills, talents, and education required for the “ghost in the machine” that provides that alternative view.

‘Ghost in the machine’ is not an idea I am very familiar with, but what I have read seems to imply that it questions whether there is a ghost in your machine making it work and whether you can put a ‘non-physical mind’ into a physical machine.

This of course relates to Descartes’ argument that mind and body can function separately. My understanding is that this idea of body/mind dualism has long been discredited, so I’m wondering if it is worth taking the idea of ‘ghost in the machine’ seriously, although there are scientists working on trying to understand what’s unique about humans and to replicate this in robots.

If Frank is asking what human-like skills could be adopted by a machine, then I would say only those skills that can be programmed by a human being, and that there are unique qualities of humans, as discussed above, that are immeasurable and cannot be programmed. A machine, if programmed correctly, can perform many of the tasks a human can do, but it cannot do or be programmed for the important, immeasurable tasks and qualities that are so essential for a meaningful life.

And if I am wrong and machines will ultimately be able to replicate humans, then, as I think Frank is asking, what checks should be put in place in a machine to ensure that the machine always has access to an alternative perspective. If we value what is unique about humans, then machines should be programmed to ensure that human beings are never prevented from experiencing the ‘Other’, or thinking and feeling in an embodied way.

Source of image here.

Update 11-11-18

Frank Polster has replied to this post on his blog. See http://frankpolster.com/blog/elearn30/a-response-to-jennys-e-learning-3-0-the-human-versus-the-machine/ 

See also Laura Ritchie’s response to Frank’s task and the conversation there – https://www.lauraritchie.com/2018/11/10/what_makes_us_human/#comment-57854 

And see Matthias Melcher’s post which informs this discussion – https://x28newblog.wordpress.com/2018/10/24/el30-alien-intelligence-ai/ 

E-Learning 3.0: Cloud Computing

The second topic in Stephen Downes’ E-Learning 3.0 MOOC, bears the title ‘Cloud’. Stephen has provided a good synopsis of the week’s content on the course site, where he starts by saying:

The joke is that “the cloud” is just shorthand for “someone else’s computer.” The conceptual challenge is that it doesn’t matter whose computer it is, that it could change any time, and that we should begin to think of “computing” and “storage” as commodities, more like “water” or “electricity”, rather than as features of a type of device that sits on your desktop.

Stephen provided some easy to read introductory articles to Cloud Computing which I have copied under the heading ‘Resources’ at the bottom of this blog post. In the first article in the resource list Bojana Dobran defines cloud computing as follows:

A simple definition of cloud computing involves delivering different types of services over the Internet. From software and analytics to secure and safe data storage and networking resources, everything can be delivered via the cloud.

You probably use different cloud-based applications every day. You are benefiting from cloud solutions every time you send a file to your colleague via the web, use a mobile app, download an image, binge a Netflix show, or play an online video game. All these services are stored in the cloud and exist in some digital space.

Storing your information on OneDrive, SharePoint, or an email server is much different from keeping that data on a desktop hard drive or a USB stick. You can access it from just about any computer that has internet access.

For businesses, cloud computing means improved collaboration and productivity, as well as significant cost reductions. It means better data protection, improved availability, and expanded access to cutting-edge technologies.

All this will be familiar to the average computer user, even if they haven’t thought much about Cloud Computing – and it is not new. Dropbox, a personal cloud storage service used for sharing and backing up files, has been around since 2007. I don’t remember The Cloud being mentioned when I first signed up to Dropbox.

But, the focus this week has been on the next generation of Cloud Computing for virtual learning rather than for storage and file sharing. The invited guest speaker was Tony Hirst from the Open University. Whilst I appreciate that he is way ahead of the game in the work he is doing on Cloud Computing, it turned out that the gap between his technical understanding and mine was, for the most part, just too great to bridge. Here is a link to the video, and Stephen’s description of it, for those less technically challenged than me: URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjGyVXI2zFA

Conversation With Tony Hirst Oct 31, 2018 video We covered server virtualization with an in-depth look at using Docker to launch full web applications in just a few moments, and then looked at embedded programs in Jupyter notebooks, tying it all together with a discussion of how these might be used in the future.

But it was interesting to hear why the Open University (OU) is working on this. Students at the Open University, UK, are distance learning students who bring their own device. The OU has no way of controlling the devices that the students bring, apart from stipulating a minimum specification. The issue for the OU is that they want students to run a complicated software environment, so the OU has had to find a way of delivering the software to students so that they can manage this and the students can run it. To do this they use virtual machines which the students download and run on their own computers. These virtual boxes contain all the applications that students need. All this was interesting and made sense, but I got left behind when the discussion went ‘under the hood’ and delved into the technicalities of doing this. Docker and Jupyter notebooks are new concepts for me.

For anyone who is in a similar position to me, I would recommend that you watch Stephen’s own video first, before watching the conversation with Tony Hirst.

Applications, Algorithms and Data: Open Educational Resources and the Next Generation of Virtual Learning Oct 29, 2018 video Using examples such as virtual containers and actionable data books, I sketch the future for the next generation of OERs as a distributed and interactive network of applications, algorithms and data. My presentation starts at 1:18:00 in the video. URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4680&v=MotTQd9U0sY

And here are the slides that accompany this talk:

In the first part of this talk Stephen explains that Open Educational Resource Repositories are fairly well developed; open pedagogy is beginning to change our practices as open resources are increasingly produced not just by educators and institutions, but by the students themselves. But he pointed out that we have only recently begun to think of data as open educational resources that will be very useful for learning. For this we will need to aggregate distributed data and resources. We have already been encouraged to do this, on this course. Stephen then went on to explain how he does this in his own work, and where he thinks the next generation of virtual learning is going. From this point there was overlap with the conversation he had with Tony Hirst and again it mostly went over the top of my head. He talked about:

  • i-Python – an interactive programming shell for the Python programming language
  • Jupyter Notebooks – an open-source web application that allows you to create and share documents that contain live code
  • Actionable Data Book
  • XAMPP
  • Spoodle – Spoodle is an up to date portable moodle / ‘moodle on a stick’ solution for learners to access Moodle courses without requiring constant internet access
  • gRSS hopper in Vivaldi
  • gRSShopper as a Firefox Sidebar
  • Research and References in an MS-Word Plugin
  • Server Virtualization
  • Virtualization Platforms – Vagrant
  • Docker
  • Cloud Infrastructure Providers …. and more

Being very familiar with Moodle,  ‘Spoodle’ caught my attention, but I did wonder how, if you had your Moodle course on a stick and were not connected to the internet, you could be sure you were looking at the most recent version of the course. Courses are not static. They change from day to day (i.e. the course site changes), just as this one is doing.

Whilst there is still a lot here that I don’t understand, it has been very useful to get a glimpse of what the future might entail. But I think Stephen and Tony both agreed that it will be a while before your average single user has all this at their fingertips.

Update: For a very good explanation of this topic see Stephen Downes’ summary – https://el30.mooc.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=68440 

Resources

What is Cloud Computing in Simple Terms? Definition & Examples
Bojana DobranPhoenixNAP, 2018/11/01

“Did you know that the monthly cost of running a basic web application was about $150,000 in 2000? Cloud computing has brought it down to less than $1000 a month. For businesses, cloud computing means improved collaboration and productivity, as well as significant cost reductions. It means better data protection, improved availability, and expanded access to cutting-edge technologies.” Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]

Cloud Computing 
2018/11/01

Describes cloud computing and explains the benefits, concerns, types of cloud computing and what to consider when moving your business to the cloud. Part of Ontario’s E-Business Toolkit. Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]

Cloud Adoption Strategy: 2018 update 
Government of Canada, 2018/11/01

Cloud computing can be compared to public utilities that deliver commodities such as electricity. Instead of buying and running infrastructure itself, an organization buys computing power from a provider. Much like electricity in a home, cloud computing is on-demand and the consumer pays for what they use. The cost of the infrastructure used for delivery (storage and services in the case of cloud computing, hydro poles and power lines in the case of electricity) is covered by the charges to the consumer. Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]