4th Networked Learning Hot Seat is underway

This year’s fourth Hot Seat discussion in the area of networked learning (in preparation for the 2012 conference) runs from January 9-13. Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld, Vivien Hodgson, and David McConnell are facilitating a week-long asynchronous discussion, Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning.

The Hot Seat discussion has 3 parts:

  1. History of Networked Learning in the UK and underpinning values (this thread has, so far, attracted the most discussion)
  2. The history of networked learning in a Danish context and its relationship to problem based learning (pbl), the role of technology and web 2.0, and the net generation and digital literacy
  3. Ontology, epistemology and pedagogy of networked learning, and relevance to mainstream higher education in the 21st century.

I arrived late for the discussion and it has been difficult to catch up with such a wealth of posting – but so far I have taken away two key ideas.

First, the definition of networked learning used for these Hot Seat discussions is quite narrow and only relates to networked learning in higher education courses. As such David McConnell introduces Part 1 of the Hot Seat by saying that

Networked Learning is based on:
Collaboration and cooperation in the learning process
Group work
Interaction with online materials
Knowledge production

With such a heavy emphasis on interaction, collaboration and group work, this raises the ever difficult question of whether or not participation should be assessed and if so how. In the Hot Seat David McConnell shares his model for assessment which is based on peer and self review. He writes:

The model is discussed, with examples of the process, in CHAPTER FOUR, “Assessing Learning in E-Groups and Communities”in the book: MCCONNELL, D. (2006) E-Learning Groups and Communities. Maidenhead, SRHE/OU Press (pp 209)

With respect to learner autonomy, the premise is the same as that expressed by Erik Duval in his presentation to ChangeMooc (Week 10) – i.e. that if a learner chooses to take a particular course, then s/he must expect to abide by the conditions (such as collaboration, interaction, online participation) stipulated by that course and be assessed in line with these. This was discussed in a previous blog post – https://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/the-tyranny-of-sharing/

However, it is clear from the Hot Seat that a lot of thought has gone into and continues to go into, how assessment can be best designed to fit with principles such as learner autonomy, peer-to-peer learning and negotiation.

The Tyranny of Sharing

I have really enjoyed listening to Erik Duval this week in his presentation to ChangeMOOC   on Learning in Times of Abundance

I was particularly interested in Erik’s second presentation where he described how his students are required to comment on each other’s blogs – to be ‘open’, ‘to share’.  His approach is – ‘if you can’t /won’t  agree to this, then don’t sign up for my course. Evidently, this is what learning in times of abundance means. But not for me 🙂

Erik also referred us to Dean Shareski’s video from his keynote presentation ‘Sharing: The Moral Imperative’

That word ‘moral’ made my ears prick up and I have to say my hackles rise. I hate being lectured about morality and I long ago decided that ‘duty’ is a word that I do not wish to include in my vocabulary – at least not in reference to my own actions. If I am going to do something it has to be because I believe it to be the right thing to do – not from a sense of duty which could be misplaced.

Despite this – there is lots about Dean’s video that is inspiring on quite a few fronts – but not all 🙂

His starting point is that he personally  is a giant derivative of his network – because each and every one of his network embraces a culture of sharing, he benefits.  Well – yes, I can see how much I have benefited from the open sharing of others, but at times I have also been ‘led up the garden path’ as we say in the UK.

He then goes on to say that the entire premise on which education is built is sharing and that if there is no sharing there is no education – not learning please note, but education – and he appears to equate education with teaching and vice versa – so I wonder where is learning positioned in this.

According to Dean a sharing culture begs the questions:

  • Is it safe
  • Is it worthwhile
  • Is it valuable/meaningful
  • Is it an obligation

… we need also to consider who, where and how we share – which all seems reasonable.

According to one speaker on the video – sharing (online) can mean that the time spent on developing a resource is more cost efficient because it is shared with numerous people on the net. That seems fair enough if you have bought into the sharing mantra.

According to another, sharing means that we can share in people’s experiences and lives, people who we would not meet face-to face. That also seems fair enough, although whether you want to it a different matter.

Alan Levine has shared ‘Amazing Stories of Openness’  – http://cogdogblog.com/stuff/opened09/

My response to all this and to Erik Duval is that this is great for those who wish to do it.

What about those who are introverts?

What about those who wish to protect their privacy (I wonder what Jabiz’ 4 year old daughter Kaia will say, when she is old enough to understand, about her father taking the decision to share her life with the world when she was not old enough to question it)? (see Dean’s video)

What about learner autonomy?

What about those who wish to resist the power and control of educators/teachers  who  exert a tyranny of participation?

What about those who do not wish to live their lives in a fish bowl (thanks to vhaustudent for this image)?

I for one reject the obligation to share (not sharing itself, but the obligation to share), the obligation to help others, the idea that I owe it to others , that it is an ethical responsibility.

If I do share in any way it is not because of a moral imperative, but simply because I believe that is the right thing to do at that particular time in that particular context – i.e. as I have mentioned before I am ‘selfish’ in my sharing – https://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/the-selfish-blogger-syndrome/  and I strongly believe that people have the right to resist comments like ‘sharing is a moral imperative’ or ‘lurking = taking’ and work out for themselves, without being subjected to power influences or controls what sharing means to them.

Information abundance and learning

Erik Duval’s topic for Change MOOC this week was Learning in a Time of Abundance , which he equates to changes in connectedness (we can be more connected to people and information than ever before), openness and transparency (access and resources) and ‘always on’ (e.g. students access their online connections 24/7). See also – http://erikduval.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/change-11-learning-in-times-of-abundance/. Here are some notes I made during his session.

Abundance will not go away (at least not in the foreseeable future) and has implications for what we learn and how we learn. Erik Duval models this understanding in the way in which he teaches:

  • He encourages his students to be connected during his classes, i.e. have their laptops and mobile phones on
  • His classes can run for 5 hours, which gives students the time to find their own lines of enquiry and navigate a path through the abundance of information
  • His students have to overcome analysis and paralysis by actively dispensing with discomfort
  • His classroom has no walls – anyone can ‘break in’.
  • Everything done in class is open to the outside world
  • Students are encouraged to track their own progress and set their own goals
  • Learning is about working with wicked problems as happens in the workplace.
  • Learning is messy – that’s how life is – and messiness is OK, but incoherence is not
  • Tasks are authentic and relevant
  • He recommends that we don’t ask for permission, but ask for forgiveness if things go wrong

His main advice was to ‘Let go’ – of fake control.

Then he set two challenges – to post:

1. Any examples you find inspiring about how teachers or students leverage abundance for learning

2. Any examples you can identify or think of where openness would be more of a problem than an opportunity?

  1. I think a learners’ ability to leverage abundance for learning depends on whether they have the knowledge, skills and strategies for pulling information in, rather than going out to go out and look for it – and this of course involves the ability to filter (beware the filter bubble –  http://www.thefilterbubble.com/ted-talk ) analyse and select. The pulling in also requires technical skills that are maybe taken for granted by those ‘in the know’ and knowledge of the softwares that will do this for us. It will also depend on a learners’ networks and connections.

The question does seem to assume that leveraging abundance is desirable and will lead to better learning. On what grounds can we take this stance? Could we argue that it will just lead to a huge muddle and confusion for the poor learner? I don’t believe this – just playing Devil’s Advocate.

As far as an inspiring example of where this happens – I don’t think we need to look much further than Stephen Downes, MOOCs and OLDaily.

2.Where would openness be more of a problem than an opportunity? I can see that the ‘filter bubble’ would be an example of this – but from a personal perspective I would say – any situation where the outcome would be harmful to society, the environment or the individual. Of course, determining what we mean by ‘harmful’ will be open to different interpretations and there’s the rub. How do we decide?

In discussing this with a close friend this morning, we thought of examples where this has cropped up in the past. One is a colleague who was a Principal of a Higher Education Institution, whose firm belief was that all information in his institution should be open – he didn’t believe that anything should be ‘hidden’. A second was a colleague who is working as a management adviser to a hospice, where the question of what information should be open and what should not has been a focus of recent discussions.

In having this discussion we realized that it depends on what you mean by ‘information’ – and whether there is a difference between information, data and knowledge.  And then of course there are ‘facts’ – or maybe not (ref. Dave Cormier who does not believe in facts). So I looked it up and came across this interesting site – http://www.infogineering.net/data-information-knowledge.htm but having listened to the Filter Bubble Ted Talk – I realize that Google might simply be feeding me what I want to hear 🙂

So I’m still thinking about all this – and looking forward to Erik’s next session, which I might not be able to attend at the time, but will listen to the recording.