Wednesday, October 8, 2008

connectivism week 5

Mulling over the readings for this week. The first one on ‘collectives, networks and groups in social software for eLearning’ is by Jon Dron & Terry Anderson makes a start at defining concepts of group, network and collective. Groups are formalised with lines of authority, prescribed roles and perhaps hierarchies. Networks connect ‘distributed individuals’ ie people may be connected to other people either directly or indirectly, but these people may not be aware that they are part of a wider network, non-formal / designed and share a marginal sense of commitment to each other. Collectives are aggregations which are formed of individuals who do not see themselves as part of a group or network. Therefore the connectivism course, although formally a group is at the moment more of a network.

They then apply these two concepts to teaching & learning implications in using social networking tools. There is a good Venn diagram to illustrate how networks, collectives & groups overlap and the types of social networks that lend themselves best to each. There are a couple of good tables too. One to illustrate the mode of communication (one to many, one to some, one to one, some to many, some to some, some to one, many to many, many to some and many to one) linked to them being groups and / or networks and /or collectives and examples of each of them. The other to link uses of social software to learning. An example would be activity appropriate for groups would be collaborative projects, networks would be discussion & queries & collective would be data mining, individual submissions & search & query.

The other resource from the above paper is a summary of the support factors that enable groups, networks & collectives to be used effectively. Work on groups included the work by Buckingham-Shum, Motta & Domingue, networks (virtual communities of practice) and collective strategies by Hargittai (dealing with digital use divide) and Dron, Mitchell, Boyne & Siviter.

Another interesting reading also by Terry Anderson is ‘Blogging and other social software developments and Distance Education’ . The site provides a powerpoint summary of the social networking phenomenon. Much of the information is not new to me but the powerpoint does make it easier to access a raft of information all collected in one bundle.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Connectivism week 4 - NZ perspective on the internet

The focus for this week is on the history of the social web which I have some familiarity with. This timeline provides a good overview along with ppt slides – part 1 (142 slides) & part 2 (125 slides) which provide a visual accompaniment to the text. All of this provides a really good explanation of how the internet developed and especially its roots which are summarised in the beginning of the slides in part 1 (which is new learning for me). Again, I would have appreciated hyperlinks in some of the headings and slides but the information is covered in the reading as well.

A bit of a nostalgia trip for me as I remember listservs, the first emails, my excitement at clicking on the first hyperlink, the psychedelic web pages of the early 1990s, the first blog & read, using pubsub before moving on to bloglines when it folded etc. WWW less then 20 years old & my kids rely on google instead of using the library (sigh). An alternative to follow up is the history of the internet from a New Yorker’s perspective by Fred Wilson.

Also had a browse through a new book from the CPIT library called Glut: Mastering information through the ages by Alex Wright which tracks the pre-history before above slides by Scholz.
An interesting read that tracks the way in which humans have grappled with organising large amounts of information. Methods used to store and retrieve information include stone age jewellery (& string quipu), the role of monasteries during the dark ages, the first ‘encyclopedias’, use of ‘trees’ to describe genealogy, create taxonomies and a glimpse into how the present ‘information age’ will develop into the future.

Plus over the weekend, had a read through a another new CPIT library book ‘Connecting the clouds : the internet in NZ’ which provided me with some fascinating NZ history & helped to provide me with a better understanding of the role of the internet within the NZ context. The ‘no.8 wire’ ethos permeated much of the book providing me with affirmation that passion with a bit of luck often goes far in bringing about change from the grassroots up. This book is also available online as a wiki which links to a timeline of the internet in NZ. A great example of the way books providing another method by which networks connect, form & produce new knowledge.

Quote for the week from Scholz, “The future of networked sociality is clearly linked to the anticipated two billions cellphone users of the near future. They will make the one hundred million bloggers look marginal. “ which provides me with lots of incentive for working on my mlearning project.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Week 3 - networks

I dipped in & out of this weeks powerpoint with interest. Over 100 slides, all with NO embedded hyperlinks (drats), so I had to google continuously to find out more as each slide would bring up items I was unfamiliar with. This would then lead to ‘discoveries’ and it would take me some time to wend my way back to the main powerpoint. All a good example of how my learning has been enhanced by the web. In the past, I would have jotted down interesting bits to follow up & at some stage (often the next long break from work which could be a couple of months down the track), I might get back into following the bits up at the library. Therefore, my learning had to be much more organised on my part, although I had less exposure to ‘new ideas’ then & did not have to be too structured.

The important thing about networks at the moment is the ease in which they can now form, expand, mature & then in many cases fade away. Some of our networks are ‘evergreen’, these include our connections with the things that are closest to our hearts, our inner circle of friends, our professional networks & our learning ‘projects’. Many are the result of work or study related interests. As an example, I recently joined the graduate junction which is a place for Masters, Doctoral and Postdoctoral researchers from any discipline around the globe to connect. I registered & had my little page going in a couple of minutes. I entered in keywords pertinent to my PhD research – apprentices, vocational education & identity formation. Then I did a search of each of the keywords & achieved instant connection to people researching in these areas. I then had a choice on whether I wanted to make contact or to just have a look at the resources that were archived on their pages.

The other interesting paper was on concept maps which came through from one of the discussion forum participants. This provided a good explanation of how concept maps should be constructed and use supported by theories of constructivist learning. If I have the time, I will download the cmap tool to be used as a sort of ‘place holder’ for all the various bits of information on elearning, mlearning, apprentice learning, adult learning etc etc which are continually floating around my brain.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A mention in "The Daily'

My post in my main blog was picked up by it's CCK08 tag & rated a mention in Stephen Downe's 'The Daily'! Looks like the tags are working & links are happening. Also very admirable of Stephen to wade his way through what must be hundreds of posts with the CK08 tag.

One of the things that the CCK08 course has already succeeded in doing is to show educators the power of networks. Not networks in the sense of individuals coming together by making links before they network, but a serendipitous network. Where a common goal, in this case making sense of Connectivism, brings together a wide range of people. These people are provided with the opportunity to network in smaller clusters or with the wider group or with the course convenors or just to lurk, read, reflect & perhaps learn.

I had my doubts about how such a large group would connect at all but so far, I do feel part of it all, although I doubt if anyone else in the group cares. Its this mixture of being part of something bigger but still 'alone' & a free agent that is perhaps one of the liberating things about on-line learning. You are provided with the opportunity to network but you have the choice of whether you participate.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Connectivism course week 2 - rethinking epistemology

I have knuckled down this week into concentrating on the readings so that I am able to make up my mind about the relevance of connectivism to my current teaching context. I am keeping a peripheral eye on what is taking place on the Moodle discussion forum but this is more of a browse through than actual reading of each post. I have not had the time to look into the Google groups forum although I am getting digests of the contributions.

The overall theme of week 2 is ‘rethinking epistemology: connective knowledge’. For me, it is an opportunity to review my concepts of knowledge. Stephen Downes provides a good revision to types of knowledge, the different interpretations, perspectives and structures of knowledge and links these to the concept of connective knowledge.

The above is then expanded in a blog arguing for the concept of connectivism as a form of knowledge along with copious discussion on Moodle of “what is connectivism” and whether it is a viable way to describe learning. There is also lively discussion begun by a sceptic of whether connectivism can be regarded as a theory of learning. Over 90 posts in the course of a week
The main readings for this week are Siemens’ introduction to connectivism, on learning networks & connective knowledge, rhisomic knowledge and the need to rethink how we view learning. In all they are invitations to think more widely about how learning takes place & the mechanisms by which individuals, groups, communities & societies learn. I am an advocate of the principle that it is important to know lots but be able to choose well. Attempts to explain how we learn has moved from behaviourism (stimulus = response) to cognitivism (an input = output model) to constructivism (prior knowledge reworked = new concepts) to sociocultural theories ( engagement + participation = social & cultural knowledge) and now to connectivism (the contribution of many = learning of one who then contributes to the many). There is something in each of the theories that relate to the many contexts that we learn in. Sometimes, one way works better than others. As teachers, we need to be able to pick out the gem that fits into a given time, place, cohort of students, subject to be learnt etc.

So far, the course has been rich in the sense that it has provided an example of how networks bring people together. This course could only have come together due to the way in which the facilitators have been able to use the networks they had previously formed to broadcast their course. Then the delivery modes that are now used for flexible delivery are used to bring the course participants together. 2000+ people mulling over whether connectivism is a viable learning theory will not only bring more contributions into the discourse but evangelise the concept far & wide! Surely an example of how connectivism works, not perhaps as a learning theory (I have yet to make up my mind on this) but as a concept to bring learners together towards discussion and connection.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Keeping up

A deluge of information to keep up with! The things that have worked so far are:-
Daily email from Stephen Downs which summarises some of what has taken place in the various forums has been helpful in focusing some of my thoughts on how to sieve through all the information coming through the course.

A daily summary of the Moodle course site forum posts which has allowed me to work out the posts that have generated activity & which I need to check. Also this alerts me to anyone who may have replied to my posts.

I am still working my way around the course pageflakes site. Although I have used pageflakes before the amount of information coming through on to the course pageflakes site is daunting. However, it does show one way to aggregate many streams of information coming in on a similar topic. I copied the course pageflakes page on to my own pageflakes. The connectivism course site is now easily accessed on a tab on my own pageflakes. A cool way to share aggregations. This is a really easy way to share your own aggregations & I can see good ways to use this in education. Just need to think of a good example of how to use it to show to our elearning & staff ed. teams so that they are able to spread the word.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Starting out

So far, I have managed to access course material via the course wiki, sign up on the Moodle site, introduce myself, add myself to the Google map, check out the course pageflakes site & do some reading.

Stephen Downs is emailing out a daily email & so far, this has been reassuring as he has reiterated that everyone will approach the course differently & that there is no need to read EVERYTHING (of which there is rather a lot of!).

So here is a start to this week’s efforts.

Introduction to web 2.0 provides a good overall port of call for anyone who is not familiar with Web 2.0 and the uses of web 2.0 social networking type tools in education. A wiki covers more material but is still in the process of being built.

Three papers on digital learners, teens & social media & how young people continually multitask was next on the list. Much of this is of relevance to westernised, usually advantaged youth. My experience with disenfranchised and disengaged learners is that the patterns reported in these three reports, do not necessarily encompass the cultural, geographical, race & class distribution of all youth. For instance, many young people who do not move into tertiary education in NZ have limited access to digital technology. Many have ICT skills that are not desktop PC based but are founded on their reliance on mobile phones. Due to their social circumstances, youth in this category are not willing to use mobile phones to ‘surf the web’ as it is a costly exercise. Therefore, the digital divide plays a role in how young people engage with social networking via the web.

The next set of reading looks at changes in how we view communities. ‘Communities have changed from densely-knit “little boxes”(densely-knit, linking people door-to-door) to “globalized” networks (sparsely knit but with clusters, linking households both locally and globally) to“networked individualism”.’

The readings for week one close with the origins of connectivism, a definition of connectivism and a critique on connectivism. All good background information to move forward with the course. In particular, these three readings provide food for thought about whether social networks contribute to individual learning. Is there then a ripple down effect from people who are part of distributed networks into their ‘little boxes’ ie the people they work with, the institution they might teach in, the prevailing policies of the government of the country they live in?