Testing The Technology?

I saw on the OLDaily an article that railed against technology testing at the K-12 level in the US, sort of a “No Child Left E-Behind”. A ridiculous idea at best. Even if it is a good, well designed test about technology (and that’s like doing a great big test on literature… what kind of literature??) who’s to say that this test will not be outdated and passe by the time the test is written, vetted, collaborated on and approved.

The other thing this idea reinforces is the gap between the haves and have nots… if you are unable to access a computer on a regular basis, your skill level will lag behind those that do. Over time, you can catch up, sure, but is your technical capacity really that important in grade 5? Or grade 8? Is it so important to test something that doesn’t start to come into play until much later in life? Or maybe we all could spend a little more time teaching and modelling critical thinking? Yeah.

Reflections on Instructional Design – Week 7

CCK08 – I’ve been doing a lot of connecting this week – polished off Introducing Wittgenstein which was a nice light read that makes a lot of sense in regards to the Connectivism course. I also saw Religulous which is tied into the idea of self-determination and control (this time, the control that religion imposes on behaviour, something that education also does).

Instructional design for me has always meant the “stuff” you do in class. It strikes me that instructional design (which implies a power structure from the get-go) is not how one would want to approach the process of using a connectivist approach to teaching (again, another word filled with power implications). If connectivism is chaotic by nature (as nature is chaotic), if connectivism is distributed, if connectivism is reacting to student needs rather than proactively dictating then how can one design what happens in the classroom?

This thought originates from a comment by Guy Boulet in Harold Jarche’s blog that went:

“In my mind, this is the university of the future, and the future is now. It is time that faculty stop thinking that what they teach is gospel. The role of faculty staff must shift from teacher to tutor. Students must be guided, not taught in order to better prepare them for the reality of the workplace.”

Hmmm, tutors… is that the future of teachers(/facilitators/instructors…)? What an incredible jump for someone to make! If instructors are to move to the tutoring model, does that not assume that we have to be subject matter experts, able to deftly move from one aspect of a topic to another? Certainly there are people in education who are there because their intellect and ability to think grants them some power. Sometimes, this power is granted through the mere act of publication – but now that self-publication is de rigeur, we have all fallen into a popularity contest of sorts – whoever has the most hits and links, whoever publishes the most is the “expert”. Critical thinking will sort some of this out (trash is still trash whether it’s Chomsky’s or my trash). The implication of higher education moving towards making professors into tutors is idealism without any sort of grounding. Maybe I’m so cynical that I believe that the power strutures that exist are unmoveable.

Reflections on Chaos and Complexity – Week 6

CCK08 – This week was interesting in that the ideas put forth have been things I’ve been saying for a while. Life is complex. Nothing is simple. Chaos and complexity is illustrated  well by the everyday classroom, and the things that can occur in it. The same material taught the same (and it could be argued that it’s never exactly the same) way has different outcomes depending on the contextual.

Complexity. It’s funny how the two courses I’m currently taking and the myriad of stuff I’m doing outside of schoolwork has a way of intertwining. I’m applying some of the things that the Connectivism course is doing to my Distance Ed course I’m teaching. The stuff that the Brock facilitation course talked about this week was context-heavy: that’s a big piece of the Connectivism course. Serendipity? Maybe. I don’t want to believe that anything is that mystical. Might as well start believing in unicorns and pegasii too. It does, however, speak to the idea that things are interconnected in ways that we don’t always see. Could that be the real-world application of connectivism?

A Non-Reflective Post For Once…

Interesting couple of days, had a Distance Ed class pop up from nowhere and all of a sudden I’m back in instructor mode. So I took the powerpoints that I present in the face to face version of this course, and do a couple takes of the voice over, in an incredibly noisy office and voila, a weekend later I have five little videos uploaded to the internet that talk about the internet.

The process was quite convoluted. I’m sure I could’ve tried to figure a more streamlined approach. This post is going to be purely nostalgic after I’ve done this a couple times, so if you are interested in how NOT to do this, this post is for you.

On Friday, I updated the powerpoint, having to use Power Point 2007, instead of the old 2003 that was available in my office. So having to figure out where all the things that I used to do automatically was a bit of a learning curve, but nothing too bad. Then do some sort of narration. First I tried using a Firefox plugin called CaptureFox but that didn’t do the job I needed. I wanted something else that was a little more slick. So searching for free/shareware I came across Cam Studio 2.5. Now I realize, I could’ve just walked over to the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Research and used Camtasia, but there’s not a great narration facility there. The Camtasia computer is in fact in a hallway, that’s secluded enough, but I know people over there and it probably would’ve been distracting for me to perform (teaching is a performance isn’t it?). Anyways, Cam Studio did the job. I set it to convert to SWF, and discovered that, to my knowledge which is about 2 hours of use, there’s no way to convert the screen size. And that converting to SWF would take me about 12 hours. I didn’t want to come back to work just to upload my video, so I bailed and came home to use some Adobe product. Surely CS3 will be able to handle this sort of easy task?

Maybe I’m a moron, but it turns out that Premiere Pro CS3 doesn’t convert AVIs to Flash (I did discover that After Effects can, but won’t resize the dimensions of the screen without fuss). Or do anything easily. So again, back to the world of shareware, I found Xilisoft FLV Converter. Took the AVI I had (1.5 gig), resized, converted to FLV and chopped it to the length I needed (10 min segments).

Total time? Started sometime after 2 PM Friday, posted sometime on Sunday (in between Thanksgiving turkey and apple strudel).

Oh yeah, there’s one student enrolled in the distance ed class. Hope they appreciate the effort. (You can too here under “members own videos”).

So the moral of this story is – sometimes technology isn’t the friend of the techie.

Reflections on Networks and Groups – Week 5

CCK08 – Well, I’ve taken a couple days off to rest my weary brain, and come back to work and still have a pile of things to do. One of the questions (that I haven’t ventured forth) that I have is that if groups behave as one cohesive body (much like an individual) can groups be networked? I suppose the easy answer is yes, that in both the real and virtual worlds that groups act together to leverage legislation, work together to complete game objectives and other acts. The devil’s advocate might say that they are just acting as a larger group – for a common goal. Then the question becomes more about when groups act together do they become a larger group or a network? And if the larger groups goal is accomplished, does this larger group then become splintered to be two smaller groups networked as each group reverts to their original (and different) purposes?

I don’t have neat answers for that. I guess that’s the nature of what we’re doing here.

The second point I’m going back and forth on is information overload – specifically connections overload. I’ve seen quite a few things surfacing (namely at Lisa Lane’s blog, the readings this week, a post from Fake Plastic Fish, a couple of blurbs on TV…) about basic information overload, and how it’s a bad thing. I don’t see it as a bad thing, but as  a good thing. What you take out of the information dump defines who you are, it says a lot about you. Now certainly, you could end up at the bottom of the heap burried under all those bits. More often than not, humans find a way to deal with it (some by going out into the woods and sending letter bombs to academics… not the best way to channel it). I think dealing with all this information you find a way to conceptually handle it and sort out the wheat from the chaff. You have to prioritize. I know, I know not eath shocking. I guess I’ll be able to better understand some of these concepts after the readings this week.

Reflections on the History of Networked Learning – Week 4

I discovered this week that the discussions that happen on Friday for this course are really what people should be tuning into. They’re great conversations and are the stuff of good discourse. As for the historical perspective on last week, well, meh. I didn’t get much out of it, and I suppose the point was that one should know how we got to where we are to know where we can go. Again, the Moodle forums were much more interesting than either of the readings and I did try to keep my toe in the water there, so to speak. I think things are settling in the course, with people finding their roles and hopefully I’ll be able to attend one of the two video sessions on Wednesday or actually chat at noon on Friday (coincidentally when we have a meeting here at the college regarding online courses).

So, to further a thought that I had while reading and commenting on one of the other participants statements that SARS was the most successful network, I responded that connectivism could be the virus that SARS contained. The meaning I was driving at was similar to the McLuhan quote I posted back in early September (that a couple people either coincidentally started using or read here and liked the analogy), was that networks are organic and created by humans, so in some essense they will be reflective of what we do, see and feel. The information carried by the network can be all sorts of things, so the way it is accessed is important because that’s what provides context (and to borrow from constructivists, that’s how we create meaning for ourselves, context).

Connectivism “Paper” #1


One of the issues surrounding connectivism as a theory of learning is whether or not it is a new theory of learning. One could argue that connectivism is merely learning from those who you have networked with, which has been done since the early days of the human race. The difficult concept that the learning resides in the network (Siemens, 2008) not necessarily in the interaction between the two parties (although that can occur in a connectivist manner as well). This networked approach to learning is what I believe to be a new development and advancement from constructivism and a constructivist approach to learning.

Weaknesses of connectivism

While Siemens does debunk some initial criticisms of Connectivism in a 2007 response, he states “[a]s knowledge complexifies, patterns—not individual elements—become of greatest importance in gaining understanding.” (Siemens, 2007) One worrying aspect of the phenomenon of knowledge complexification is that there is a possibility that as knowledge becomes more complex that the patterns sought to understand knowledge will also be so complex that it renders both the pattern and knowledge unknowable. As we have seen in the case of the irrational number pi, there is no discernable pattern in the remainder. Does this mean that at some point we will reach such a similarly complex pattern of connections that we will be unable to comprehend the meaning of such a web? Certainly, this may not be concern in the near future, but as information grows at what seems an exponential rate, this may be an issue In the future.

Strengths of connectivism

One of the great strengths of connectivism is that it recognizes and highly values the context of information and that it is flexible enough to adapt or add new information as it becomes available. Downes (2006) uses the analogy of a red apple looking different under different conditions to illustrate interpretation. Downes then goes on to say “emergence is interpretation applied to connections.” So our contextual understanding of something is inherently connected to something else. Under previous learning theories context may have played a role (certainly in constructivism, much less so in a behaviourist model) but never has there been such an emphasis on context. As individuals begin to publish information on the web, I believe that understanding the context of the information being published is of utmost importance to the learner.

Personal observations

An important point to note is I have witnessed the way many people (not just younger generations who have grown up with internet access and the web) interact with information today rather than a decade ago. The immediacy and convenience of information has forced many people to rethink how they deal with information. In this process many find using the internet for information frustrating and confusing. This frustration and confusion is a sure sign that there is a shift underway. I believe that connectivism does address many of the problems in this paradigm shift.


Downes, S. (2005, December 12). An introduction to connective knowledge. Retrieved on October 3, 2008, from http://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=33034

Siemens, G. (2007, November 12). Connectivism: learning theory or pastime of the self-amused?. Retrieved on October 4, 2008, from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/Connectivism_response.doc

Siemens, G. (2008, September 8). What is connectivism? Retrieve on October 5, 2008, from http://docs.google.com/View?docid=anw8wkk6fjc_14gpbqc2dt