#OpenEdMOOC – Final thoughts

(Source of Image – https://youtu.be/iHmHWVHmyfQ –  0.56)

Like Rebecca Heiser, I have been reflecting on the EdX Introduction to Open Education MOOC.

The title of the MOOC led me to expect a broad discussion about Open Education and in my first post about the MOOC, I wrote:

My hope is that it will offer a fresh perspective and rekindle the enthusiasm I had for open education in the early days of the first MOOC in 2008, but which I have found increasingly difficult to sustain in the last couple of years.

It turned out that my hope was not realised. The MOOC focused on Open Education Resources, which I think is just one aspect of open education, and I have to say the aspect that is of least interest to me since I work independently of an institution and no longer teach, so although I come up against some of the issues presented in the course materials, they do not have the impact on me that they might have on others. This was the syllabus for the course.

Week 1: Why Open Matters
Week 2: Copyright, The Public Domain, and The Commons
Week 3: The 5R Activities and the Creative Commons Licenses
Week 4: Creating, Finding, and Using OER
Week 5: Research on the Impact of OER Adoption
Week 6: The Next Battles for Openness: Data, Algorithms, and Competency Mapping

Disappointingly for me there was little discussion of open pedagogy or open teaching. But I did stick with the MOOC. I found the videos of discussions between George Siemens and David Wiley interesting, as were the videos by Norman Bier and other resources provided, and I was particularly grateful for the alternative thought-provoking perspective of Stephen Downes. Did I learn a lot? I don’t think so. I think this was because OER isn’t of huge interest to me, but also because there was minimal discussion between participants. But I don’t feel negative about the MOOC, just that it didn’t rekindle my early enthusiasm for open education.

Rebecca Heiser  has thrown down the gauntlet twice during the course and been largely ignored. First, at the end of the course she tweeted:

So will we get to see Open Analytics in #OpenEdMOOC? What were we clicking? What were our activity-levels? Hashtags generated? Most importantly what were our most discussed topics, was knowledge transferred? #OpenPL Did we form our own network? Will we continue the conversation?

I saw that Stephen Downes picked this up (I think in OLDaily), but otherwise no-one responded to these good and legitimate questions.

And then Rebecca tried again with a post reflecting on her experience of this MOOC.

I can’t help but be critical of the #OpenEdMOOC, Introduction to Open Education, hosted by edX. With as much excitement that was generated by the Open Community prior to the start of the MOOC, I feel that we were let down by Week 3 of the course. Here’s a recap of my critique by week…

This time she received a response (notably not from George or David) and a few comments.

Geoff Cain commented:

This was pretty ironic for me. MOOCs are the only educational space where instructors and institutions are comfortable with the “Set It and Forget It” model of teaching. Despite everything that we have learned about what makes for a successful online class, all the rules change when it comes to MOOCs. As an instructor who has worked in developmental education and education support my whole life, that model seems like a huge step backwards.

This, and Rebecca and Lena Patterson’s comments, seems to me what we should have been discussing, i.e. some of the more difficult consequences of open education and the questions that remain unanswered.

Having participated in and completed a number of MOOCs, I was not surprised by the “Set It and Forget It” model of teaching that Geoff mentions. From the very first MOOC (CCK08) the idea has been that participants teach each other and take responsibility for doing this, because in a massive networked environment it is impossible for one person (the tutor) to interact with everything that is going on. But the complexity of this as a model for teaching and learning, and whether it is an effective model, has yet to be adequately researched.

Thank you to Rebecca for bravely raising these questions in an environment which is known to reward consensus and punish dissent!

#openedMOOC Week 3: The 5Rs, CC, and open Licensing

 This image is a screenshot taken from a YouTube video – https://youtu.be/x3CY6RR4uns

I have been working independently, i.e. not in an educational institution, for the past 12 years, so my take on this week’s content of Week 3 of the openedMOOC is probably not typical.

Much of the discussion is about the re-use capabilities of open educational resources (OER). Stephen Downes has pointed out that this discussion pre-supposes that you have access to the OER in the first place, and we know that quite often the resource is only accessible if you pay for it. On a personal note, I am currently trying to decide whether to pay for a  research paper a colleague and I are working on to be openly accessible in the journal we think is the best fit for the work! That could be a whole discussion in its own right.

But I have worked in a Higher Education institution and in schools in the past, so the issues being discussed this week feel familiar and, for those currently working in these environments, the course provides helpful resources to make sense of the difficulties associated with ownership of the materials produced when working for an institution. (See Week 3 in http://linkresearchlab.org/openedmooc/ ).

David Wiley has pointed out that the cost of textbooks in the US prohibits access for many students or causes them to drop out. Ideally students would not be required to invest in expensive textbooks, but instead use OER, which they can download, own and to which they can apply his 5R set of activities, which are:

  1. Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
  2. Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
  3. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  4. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  5. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

Source of information: David Wiley – http://opencontent.org/definition/

However, he points out that it is not possible to apply these 5Rs to resources you do not own, such as a textbook. So what is the incentive for University lecturers and teachers to create their own OER? What would be the incentive to write a textbook and then make it openly accessible, free and re-usable in terms of the 5Rs? At many institutions, this would require a cultural change and depend on the roles that lecturers play and the type of students that the institution attracts. If a lecturer’s role is to teach adequately, bring in funding and raise the prestige of the institution through high quality research publications, and if the institution serves upper middle class students, then there is little incentive to spend large amounts of your own time creating OER. There is much more incentive for lecturers in institutions where the students will struggle to pay for their education.

On top of this ownership of OER can be complicated and may not be worth the hassle for lecturers. Norman Bier acknowledges that it’s difficult to know who owns the work if a large team has worked on it (See https://youtu.be/o6FWfFPpPeY ). He advises that if you work in an institution and are keen to promote the use of OER, then you should look up your institution’s IP policies and ask yourself (and others) the following questions:

  • Are traditional rights still being protected at your institution?
  • How do online materials factor in?
  • Is your institution making investments in building better course materials?
  • How are faculty being ensured the right to continue to use the materials they have authored?
  • How is your institution ensuring that educators and learners can make continued use of resources?
  • What happens at your institution if multiple educators and development teams want to expand on and improve materials especially over and expanded time period, e.g. years?
  • How can an open approach simplify these concerns while also making a larger contribution to the commons?

David Wiley suggests that we need to pull together pockets of individual practice and collaborate on the creation of OER which could then be further developed by future teams of collaborators. This would reduce the workload for individual lecturers and also mean that lecturers don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel. Of course, collaboration in itself is a sophisticated skill that doesn’t come easily to everyone.

I did wonder, whilst going through all the materials for this week, how much time David and George spent on creating these resources and how they managed to persuade edX to allow them to host them on an independent site. What’s in it for edX? And indeed what’s in it for them?

#openedMOOC Week 1: The value of ‘open’

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Why Does Open Matter? This is the key question for Week 1 of the Introduction to Open Education MOOC, being offered on edX by David Wiley and George Siemens.

This question has been asked of participants, but since David Wiley and George Siemens have both fully answered the question in a two-part video, I suppose the question for participants should really be, Why does open matter to you?  And the assumption seems to be that we are talking about openness online as opposed to offline.

David Wiley believes open to be a value, like diversity and that openness is imperative for increasing access to, affordability and effectiveness of, engagement and vibrancy in education. He writes that “To be true to the deeper ethic of open we must be generous and open-hearted, feeling a sense of love, care, and responsibility for all humanity.”

George Siemens talks of the benefits of quick, frenzied, open knowledge generation.

Neither of these responses work particularly well for me. I have personally experienced the opposite of ‘love, care and responsibility for all humanity’ in the open environment. Openness online can encourage an ‘anything can be said’ attitude, presumably because the recipient of the comments cannot be seen. As Lisa Lane has written “…. we now have an appalling acceptance of unacceptable behavior and uncivil conduct, which in my country has now reached the highest levels of power.”

And quick, frenzied knowledge generation doesn’t work for me in terms of learning. I can understand the excitement generated which I acknowledge can be motivating, but for learning and knowledge production I personally need slow, quieter interaction, where everyone has an opportunity to be heard, not just the loudest voices.

But like Lisa, I am an advocate of open education and I am grateful to all those like David, George and Stephen Downes, who have done so much to promote it. As David said in one of the videos, open is beyond free. Even in countries, such as Germany, where education is free, open can unlock new pedagogies. David also said open matters because if we learn by ‘doing’ then anything that constrains that ‘doing’, e.g. copyright restrictions, prevents learning. For me that is a powerful argument in support of open education, but I would add, as mentioned above, that some online behaviours can be equally restrictive. This is the aspect of open education in which I am most interested, i.e. I am interested in both the rhetoric and the reality for individual learners, although I suspect, as Andy Lane (2016) has argued, that currently the reality does not measure up to the rhetoric.

However, in the meantime, I continue to benefit from open education; in fact my work as an independent researcher depends on it. In return, as I have written about before,  I try to be an open practitioner, within the constraints of my own capabilities and personality!

Reference

Lane, A. (2016). Emancipation through Open Education: Rhetoric or Reality? In T. eds. Blessinger, Patrick and Bliss (Ed.), Open Education: International perspectives in higher education (pp. 31–50). Open Book Publishers ,. http://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0103.02 Retrieved from: https://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/531/open-education–international-perspectives-in-higher-education

#openedMOOC begins October 1st

David Wiley and George Siemens are offering a new 6 week MOOC – Introduction to Open Education – on EdX at the beginning of October.

There is already a Twitter hashtag – #openedMOOC –  and you can enrol on the EdX website where you can also find the course syllabus:

Week 1: Why Open Matters
Week 2: Copyright, The Public Domain, and The Commons
Week 3: The 5R Activities and the Creative Commons Licenses
Week 4: Creating, Finding, and Using OER
Week 5: Research on the Impact of OER Adoption
Week 6: The Next Battles for Openness: Data, Algorithms, and Competency Mapping

I have signed up for the MOOC, mainly out of curiosity. My hope is that it will offer a fresh perspective and rekindle the enthusiasm I had for open education in the early days of the first MOOC in 2008, but which I have found increasingly difficult to sustain in the last couple of years.

Despite this, I remain an advocate of open education in the terms in which it was first offered. It would be difficult not to wish for a global democratic education system which offers free open access to all no matter what their circumstances – or is that an erroneous assumption? I am hoping this course will take a critical approach, encourage diverse perspectives and be willing to surface and challenge assumptions, such as the assumption that ‘open is good’, as implied by the header on the EdX course site.

Source of Image: EdX website 

In 2012 Stephen Brookfield wrote that “critical thinking involves three inter-related phases:

  1. Discovering the assumptions that guide our decisions, actions and choices
  2. Checking the accuracy of these assumptions by exploring as many different perspectives, viewpoints and sources as possible
  3. Taking informed decisions that are based on these researched assumptions 

(Informed decisions are based on evidence we can trust, can be explained to others and have a good chance of achieving the effects we want).”

It is getting increasingly difficult to recognise evidence we can trust. We know that over time ‘open’ has led to as many problems as solutions, not least the pursuit of ‘fame and glory beyond your wildest dreams. Or, at least, a few thousand views’ that David Wiley writes about in his blog post. Is this what we really want from open education? I have recently wondered whether one of the problems of ‘open’ in relation to networks is that it is so often discussed out of context, i.e. out of the context of the principles of networks expounded by Stephen Downes, who believes these to be autonomy, diversity, openness and connectivity. He has written about this many, many times over the years, but here is one reference.

Downes, S. (2010, Oct 26th). What is Democracy in Education?http://halfanhour.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/what-is-democracy-in-education.html 

I see these four principles as being interdependent, i.e. they should be thought about in relation to each other and the absence of one will have consequences for the others. For example, openness without diversity simply leads to echo chambers. In addition, autonomy is a key principle. An open network must respect personal autonomy. My perspective is that loss of diversity and lack of respect for autonomy is an increasing problem in open networks. Hopefully we will get to discuss some of these issues in the MOOC.

David and George  on their blogs, have asked that we create a 3-5 minute video sharing our perspectives and experiences regarding one or more of the weekly topics. I have exercised my autonomy by deciding not to do that but to begin my thinking here on this blog. But I will point you to the videos Stephen Downes has created in response to this request. He is always a hard act to follow!

Here is the first one:

And here are the links to the others, one for each week

Week 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPHYAFcUziA
Week 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVVULztlp1s
Week 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKaJNTgwHWc
Week 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3S3xOK6-GA
Week 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ic1sRq46hys
Week 6: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wT_IaZG797

Reference

Brookfield, S. (2012). Developing Critical Thinkers. Teachers College, April 20th & 21st. p.14 http://www.stephenbrookfield.com/s/Developing_Critical_Thinkers.pdf

Questions about online ‘openness’

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  • What motivates academics and teachers to get involved in areas of practice that are NOT supported by their institutions?
  • Why invest even longer hours in supporting educational practice? My dentist doesn’t give me free root canal treatment outside of work?
  • Why personally finance conference attendance and travel, and what are the implications of this for the education sector?
  • What is in it for those willing to ‘go open’?

These are interesting and pertinent questions from Viv Rolfe in the wake of her attendance at the Association for Learning Technology Conference this year. They prompted me to look back in this blog to see what I have written about openness in education and going open. I am surprised at just how many posts relate to this topic; this has been one of my main areas of interest since 2008 and before.

I can remember clearly the point at which I realised I was ‘in the open’. It was during CCK08 – the MOOC which coined the term MOOC and was convened by Stephen Downes and George Siemens. I started this blog for that MOOC and about a month later made a post in which I questioned the need to be online to be connected. At the time, because I was new to blogging, I thought I was fairly anonymous and invisible and it gave me a tremendous jolt when I saw that Stephen Downes had included this post in his blog aggregation. Since then I have often considered (for example in this blog post) how open I am or want to be, because the feeling of over exposure and discomfort has never completely gone away.

So as Viv asks – Why do I do it? For me Viv’s first question is easy to answer.

  • What motivates academics and teachers to get involved in areas of practice that are NOT supported by their institutions?

I work independently of an institution, and have done for 10 years, so any support that I do have comes from my network. The big question for me is ‘who do I want to be in my network?’ I am not interested in collecting numbers for the sake of it. When I get a friend request on Facebook, or a connection request on LinkedIn, or a follower on Twitter, I don’t automatically connect. If I don’t know the person or ‘of ‘ the person, I look them up (Google them etc.). If I think we have topics of interest in common, then I will connect. I am not looking for social connections, but for professional connections. Sometimes these overlap, but I don’t assume that they will or even want them to. I have found the increasing blurring between public and private, personal and professional, troubling and constantly find myself wavering about what the difference is. I use ‘open’ social media as an information source. If and when I share information online, it is in the hope that it will be useful to others – but I am never sure of whether it will be and whether it is a conceit to be sharing in this way. I am thinking this as I write this post.

Then Viv asks:

  • Why invest even longer hours in supporting educational practice? My dentist doesn’t give me free root canal treatment outside of work?

Again for me this is fairly straight-forward to answer. In my career I can’t remember ever sticking to the statutory hours. I have always done more hours and sometimes many, many more hours than in my contract. There have been various reasons for this, but I think the main reasons have been to do with wanting to learn more and to do a better job – not for any recognition, although it is great when this happens, but simply because that’s what I find fulfilling. Currently most of my work is voluntary, unpaid research, which I hope in some small way supports educational practice. I am committed to publishing in ‘open’ journals, although this isn’t necessarily what all my research collaborators want or need for their career advancement, so it doesn’t always work that way. Collaboration usually does involve some degree of compromise 🙂 and I value openness between friends and collaborators, far more than openness in the online network.

Viv’s next question was:

  • Why personally finance conference attendance and travel, and what are the implications of this for the education sector?

I have been doing this for the past 10 years. I try to physically attend one conference a year but I have to weigh up costs against gains. Sometimes it is interesting to meet people face-to-face, but I am looking much more for something that stimulates my thinking and sets me off in new directions. There is something about being physically present that can be much more powerful than attending virtually. For many people a conference is about networking and meeting people. For me, when I am paying for myself, that is a luxury. I need more than that. I need to be able to come away and feel that my thinking has changed in some way – and I need to know that I have invested my time and money wisely and that the costs will pay dividends in terms of my future work. What are the implications for the education sector? I think that in the years to come there will be many, many older people, like me, who are already drawing their pensions, who will want to attend conferences and contribute to presentations. Hopefully conference organisers will see these contributions as welcome, but also realise that current costs are often prohibitive. And it is usually the case that people who are paying for themselves can have higher expectations and be more demanding of processes 🙂 This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on whose perspective you are taking!

Viv’s last question is the key one.

  • What is in it for those willing to ‘go open’?

I would describe my practice as one of ‘guarded openness’. I haven’t thrown myself out there and revealed all, as I see some people doing. I find it disturbing when people seem to ‘wash their dirty linen’ in the open. Some things are not meant to be discussed in the open, but should be reserved for private communication between the parties concerned. I also find that group think, constant self-affirmation and self-validation, either individually or as a group, that fails to stand back and look critically at this online behaviour, makes me feel equally uncomfortable. In the past year I have seen so much of these behaviours online. When I joined CCK08, I was really excited by the altruistic sharing of knowledge and learning behind the idea of ‘openness’, but recently it has seemed to me to be more about narcissism than altruism – about getting noticed and building up ‘numbers’ of followers, tweets etc.

So why am I still here? To be honest, I am no longer sure, but I am hanging on to Stephen Downes’ and George Siemens’ original and hopefully ongoing aspirations for open education. And I am not expecting any response to this post because what I have learned in the last year is that the internet favours consensus and punishes dissent. I should have paid more attention when Dave Snowden told us this in the Change 11 MOOC – another MOOC organised by Stephen Downes and George Siemens.

Access to open teaching and learning

This week I have been reminded that I cannot assume that everyone working in education will have online access as and when they want it.

I live in a beautiful part of the UK – Southern Cumbria – a county filled with mountains and lakes and lushly green because of all the rain we get. I have never had any significant problems with getting an internet connection. Sometimes it has been slow and sometimes I have dropped out when making synchronous connections such as in a Google Hangout, but this has been minimal and has not interfered with my ability to work. This week even these minor difficulties have been removed as I now have a high speed fibre broadband connection for the first time and I can already see the difference.

British Telecom claimed a year ago that half of Cumbria was covered by faster, fibre broadband – but we have only just got it in our area in the South Lakes and many still don’t have it.

I only have to travel 20 minutes from my home, on the motorway going North, to get into a valley (this must be one of the most beautiful stretches of motorway in the country) where I lose signal. I know from my hill walking experience that it can be easier to get a signal on the top of a mountain than in the valleys.

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But few people in Cumbria will be living on mountain tops. The majority are living in the valleys, and many are living in remote rural areas.

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Eventually everyone will have high speed broadband, but in the meantime this has implications for anyone working online, for rural businesses and particularly for schools and for students in further and higher education and their teachers.

This came home forcefully to me this week when testing Google Hangout and appear.in with a couple of colleagues. This worked fine for me, but was virtually impossible for one of my colleagues whose online connection depends on tethering her phone to her computer. My other colleague pointed out that she could only join the Hangout from her work base, as at home in rural Cumbria, she doesn’t have a mobile signal and even her telephone line isn’t working. She is investigating satellite broadband, but it is expensive and for students probably wouldn’t be an option.

This is the reality for many students and educators in the area I live in, which adds another perspective to the meaning of open online learning and how it can be promoted.

The good news is that the county council claims that 93% of homes and businesses will have access to superfast broadband by the end of the year so hopefully this will increase the potential for open online learning.

The Pedagogy of ModPo

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One of the things I appreciate about ModPo (the University of Pennsylvania’s Modern and Contemporary American Poetry MOOC ) is that whilst the essential syllabus remains the same from year to year (or has done so far and it is a very extensive syllabus), there are changes to the ‘course’ each year (course in inverted commas for reasons which will become clear below). This year there are two significant changes.

  1. There’s an additional ModPo Plus section. ModPo has a lot of participants who keep returning. This is the second time for me, but some participants are back for the third time. The ModPo Plus section introduces new poems for each week (in a separate section of the syllabus) and encourages people who need to/want to, to move on. I see this as supported differentiation within a MOOC!
  1. A section has been created especially for teachers. The ModPo team realizes that lots of teachers attend the course looking for ideas on how best to teach poetry in their classrooms. They have developed this area of the course to highlight resources that relate to teaching, to share lesson plans and teaching strategies and to facilitate discussion and interaction between teachers. This must be incredibly helpful to teachers who teach poetry.

Within the teaching resource section, I have watched two videos.

  1. The pedagogy of close reading
  2. ModPo and open education

I don’t teach poetry, but I have found both these videos interesting and helpful in relation to my own work as an independent researcher of open, emergent learning environments.

1. The pedagogy of close reading

What I liked about the discussion about close reading was the emphasis on the need to slow down. Close reading cannot be done quickly – unless you are a 600 word a minute person and I do know someone who can do this – and I am so envious!  But for someone like me, it is good to have confirmation that for most people meaning making and understanding requires slow reading. The ModPo team in this discussion shared strategies they use for close reading with groups of students, strategies such as reading aloud, repeating lines, reading backwards, selecting and mapping key words, assigning lines to different students, creating false dichotomies/binarisms on interpretations and so on.

These are strategies that can be used on any text. As Julia Bloch (the lead teaching assistant) said – ‘You can close read a cereal packet’. I know someone who after having done ModPo decided to close read an assignment question with his students – to help prepare them for writing it. I can see that this could be very helpful. Anyone who has set student assignments will know how difficult they can find it simply to read and understand the question.

Al Filreis’ rationale for close reading is that it disperses interpretative responsibility amongst the group – it is more democratic, but also harder than listening to a lecture. The focus in ModPo is on the process rather than the content, although there is plenty of content.

2. ModPo and open education

This was an interesting discussion in which the team discussed their understanding of xMOOCs, cMOOCs, connectivism and where ModPo sits in relation to these.

Dave Poplar, one of the teaching assistants, did a good job of sharing his knowledge and understanding of xMOOCs, cMOOCs and connectivism. He pointed out that ModPo is technically not a cMOOC because in a cMOOC the syllabus is not centralized.

What is a cMOOC? This was how Dave Poplar answered the question. A cMOOC is a connectivist MOOC, structurally created to enable connectivism. (See Stephen Downes’ and George Siemens’ blogs for more information.) This approach recognizes that society has changed. We are confronted with a chaos of information. Knowledge can no longer be possessed by HE institutions and transferred, but is instead the process of forming connections. A cMOOC uses the global communications network to distribute the whole concept of the authority of knowledge and make it accessible to all. In cMOOCs the students drive the direction of the course.

Needless to say this approach to teaching and learning can pose a threat to HE institutions who are committed to the idea that they are the authority, they distribute knowledge and students pay for this. It therefore suited many of them when some platform builders, such as Coursera, Udacity and the like, came along and offered the possibility of taking existing courses and distributing them to huge numbers of people (the massive in MOOC). These then became known as xMOOCs. xMOOCs took the traditional approach to teaching and learning and put it online. Unlike cMOOCs, in xMOOCs there is nothing inherently different to the traditional approach to education.

ModPo doesn’t think of itself as either an xMOOC or a cMOOC. Although it uses the Coursera platform, it doesn’t believe that this platform is inherently a regressive pedagogy – there is nothing inherently lecture dependent about the platform. ModPo believes it is as connectivist as an xMOOC can get. My experience of ModPo would support this.

The ModPo team do not believe that they offer a course or a text book. Instead they offer a set of resources, synchronously once a year for 10 weeks, including links to a huge number of open resources. They have nurtured a dynamic community which helps with the curation of these resources. It is not ModPo’s intention to replace existing courses.

They believe that the most powerful learning in this dynamic environment can be experienced in the discussion forums and through the live webcasts. For them the advantage of the forums is that the discussion cannot be controlled or predicted. Close reading of poetry is an open activity which requires the collective intelligence of lots of people and in ModPo this is the collective intelligence of a global community of lovers of poetry.