Reflections on The Future and Research – Week 12

CCK08 – I missed the Friday session last week, and the review of it is one that I’m sad I missed. It’s a huge relief to have it over. In the future I hope that courses in this reality we go in a couple of slightly different ways.

The Daily – you need some sort of central location to allow people to sift through the vast array of materials before they can select their aggregation of feeds.

Moodle – I would not use it next time. Strongly suggest blogs, and e-mail a listserv (the Daily listserv?) to announce your blog.

Emotionality – Stephen makes a point about emotions and motivation at 9 minutes or so in the wrap up, and how the student should be responsible enough, and intellectual enough, to disavow those emotions. I don’t think that’s right, or even just. I would hope that someone in my peer group would think of the consequences of their actions, and how it might have an effect on others. I would’ve thought that Stephen would consider another’s emotions, and the emotionality of learning – this stuff isn’t as dispassionate as that. Learning is confusing, frustrating, angering, reflecting… It’s part of the role of a facilitator to consider the emotions of the participants. I don’t know if there’s anything else than that.

Twitter – I never really got this technology. I’m into depth of understanding. I don’t think this provides it. I have an account, follow a few people… but largely I’m not that interested in twitter.

CCK08 Final Piece

CCK08 – Ahhh, the culminating piece of learning. Here’s a synthesis of my connections in the moodle forum that raises a few questions on the nature of memory in a world where everything is recorded (such as the forum). I’ve found I’ve forgotten to remember what was discussed, much less with whom and why. Here’s a 3 minute Flash based presentation about that, created in Camtasia and recorded in my home studio on a Korg D888 multitrack recorder and a sublime Audio Technica AT2020 (really, a great mic at around $125).

Reflections on Systemic Change – Week 11

CCK08 – This was written but forgotten in draft mode for the last week. So, through the magic of the internet, I’ve backdated it to reflect that. It’s interesting to see the connectivism work to some extent in a small class (and let’s face it, this large class is actually a large class with a small active component of 40-50 people). Can this change over into a larger scale? In one of my earliest Moodle postings, I commented that the paradigm had already shifted, albeit that was in reference to copyright, the sentiment is the same. I’m sure there a definite change in how people interact with computers, especially the newest influx of higher education students.

So there’s a change with how people interact with computers, so does that necessarily mean there’s a shift in how they learn? No. It does mean that there’s a shift in how they operate, and in which environments they feel comfortable in. Does that mean there’s a shift in how educators should teach? Yes. In my opinion, good teachers find new ways regardless of what is going on around them. Curiosity should be rewarded.

Dunbar’s number of approximately 150 suggests that maybe networked theories of learning are limited to smaller social connections than what a systemic change might require. Perhaps the weaknesses of prior learning theories were in that they didn’t account for informal learning as much as connectivism does. We’ve been working with Dewey for almost a century, Freire for about half that; not exactly a ringing endorsement of formal education being a social emancipator.

Informal education, well, there’s another story all together. Social organizations understand that formal education is to fit people into roles in society (whether that be engineers, artists, musicians…). Political movements understand that as well, and I think that’s why we see a distinct lack of formal training outside of the corporate world, who wants to deal with the classes, boring lectures and the formality of it all? Anything you need to learn in a social context you learn by doing. Lots of what you learn in school is by listening and reading. Is it any surprise that there’s a gap?

Hopefully connectivism addresses this gap. I think, as it stands now, it does.

Reflections on Openess – Week 10

CCK08 – I have a serendipitous relationship with the world. Case in point, when I decided that the job I am currently doing is not good enough (for me) – three other positions that suit me pop up. When I have to write about openess, and my thoughts about the week, I find this blog post about UVU goes open. Well, the article was posted last week – but much like my life, I’m about a week behind.

What’s interesting about that is that UVU is seen as a vocational University. I’ve always associated openess with regards to philosophy and sociology and history, not necessarily vocations. Of course, why not? I suppose my own perception of vocational skill training as specifically hands-on – but what’s to stop people from working on their own?

I’ve often thought that open courseware was always appropriate for computer skills (with it’s history of open source software, peer to peer sharing and the undercurrent of piracy of software), and I can certainly see that things like automotive repair would and could lend itself to sharing over the web. In fact, the last few times I’ve been interested in learning something new, I invariably end up at YouTube, watching a video how to do it. Installing taps? Attempted to do it (actually couldn’t get the bolts off) without any sort of help – except for the videos online. Configuring software? Went online to find a tutorial. All because someone thought someone else would need it.

In this age of information gluttony, it’s easy to just google it. It’s hard to find experts, though. I think open courseware attempts to address this sort of thing. You don’t have to have a degree in Philosophy to understand Wittgensten (although it probably will help…), see what others say about him. You don’t have to have a plumber’s certificate to do some basic plumbing.

Of course, this is a major adjustment from where we are – socially things are going to change a lot. Sure, you’ll still have dinner parties, events to go to – but some of the culturally diverse things where you meet different kinds of people may start slipping away. The plumber that comes to your house to fix your taps may tell some sort of story that sparks an inspiration or has an effect on your viewpoint of an issue. Or maybe they tells an off-color joke that reflects poorly on them. Strangers are becoming stranger; more estranged if you will. As we become more open in one area are we becoming more closed in others?

CCK08 “Paper” #3 – Opportunities and Resistance

CCK08 – Why is change so difficult? The first thing that needs to be examined is the reasons why things change – usually there is a need that has gone unfulfilled that requires other things change. Change doesn’t occur when things are comfortable or safe. Look at the recent election in the United States; change happened not just because Obama was the better candidate, but because he offers hope of a better future, something that most people do not see from the same party as George W. Bush.  Change was a powerful word for Obama, summing up his campaign, becoming his slogan and certainly the focus of the election. Change. Hope. If people were more economically secure, safe if you will, this would have been a different election. There was a desire for change.

The same desire for change must happen for change to occur anywhere. In the classroom change occurs because an instructor realizes the instruction method does not convey the learning they wanted to, or they think of a better way to deliver and deploy material. If the impetus for change is not present, there will be no change. Of course, the more powerful the position, the easier to change other things. The instructor is rarely the person who can change curriculum, but can at least adapt that curriculum to be delivered in the framework that suits their personal beliefs.

I believe that instructors can take solace in the effort that they put into their planning they will receive back from the students. Students know when an instructor cares about their subject, has put care and time into crafting a lesson or activity. Every inch of lateral thought that is allowed will bring an opportunity to show that an alternative way can work, no matter how small. Every small battle won, and yet dismissed by administrators or the general public as irrelevant or even worse than that, can show that change can occur. Of course, that means that the instructor wants to change. For every progressive, thoughtful person interested in reaching students and attending to their needs, there are several professors and teachers that use their position as a position of power and authority. I would say that ignoring your student’s needs are a form of authority abuse – and a disservice to yourself.  At the least it is simply egotistical to think you know better than the students how they need to learn.

And not only how they need to learn, but what they need to learn as well. Prescribed learning is coming to an end. Maybe not in my lifetime, but that’s the course we’re charting. We’re seeing shorter time frames for graduation, accelerated learning, more on-line learning, more collaborative learning and more flexibility in the choices students have in their courses of study. Our world is much more complex that it ever has been before, with more choices and more ways to access information than before. We suffer from information gluttony (not just overload). Certainly, there are many people who have a cursory understanding of some subjects, but not a deep understanding of any one. Is this a problem? Not if there exists an easily accessible repository of deep understanding of a subject – all one has to know at that point is where to look for the deep understanding. Some may argue that deep understanding can only come from experience of the subject. Certainly historians might disagree with that perception; many were not born of the time that they study in detail. As we become more literate with technologies like the internet, we will become more adept at filtering (or having computers filter for us) data that is considered superfluous. We are seeing the rudimentary beginning of such activity through technologies like RSS feeds and XML (which allows you to write tags that describe the content of webpages or other information).

Where does one go from here? Well, one area is using the power of teaching for good and not evil. While that might seem so common sense, and a smidgen idealistic, it is time to take responsibility for the power that teachers have. Once the power is recognized, begin to understand how this classroom can be used to not only teach the curriculum that is required, but to do it in a way that reflects the ability to question and question intelligently. Critical thinking leads to critical thoughts. It is no longer good enough to teach the man to fish so that he can eat forever; it’s time to teach people to think about whether the fish is good to eat at all.

CCK08 “Paper” #2 – The Changing Roles of Educators

Do you agree their roles are changing?

Whether or not I think educator’s roles are changing depends on the point of view of the educator. If you are a professor who believes that they “profess” the truth and ideas then it is up to the student to get what you say. If you are an instructor who teaches skills, maybe this change applies to you; maybe you investigate how to facilitate skill acquisition. Another factor in whether or not educators roles are changing is how responsive are educators to student needs?

Yes – clearly students today are not the same as students in previous generations. Several blogs and papers (Media Multitasking Among American Youth, Teens And Social Media, Defining “Creepy Treehouse”) have looked at how this generation functions on the internet. As an educator, I believe it should be your duty to use whatever format is necessary to enhance learning; a Hippocratic Oath for teachers. Similarly, part of the Hippocratic Oath that “acknowledg[es] that it is impossible for any single physician to maintain expertise in all areas. It also highlights the different historical origins of the surgeon and the physician“, an educator cannot maintain expertise in all areas of their field of study. As such, educators should go out of their way to find the knowledge experts in the field and bring them to the classroom, using educational technology and communication technology to do so. Much like how surgeons are specialists, guest speakers take those roles in our classrooms – guest lecturers. The physician’s role is played by the teacher/facilitator.

If so, what are appropriate responses?

Again, this all matters on your teaching philosophy. If the power of didactic lecturing is your preferred mode of knowledge dissemination then you won’t be affected by a paradigm shift as much as someone who thinks that the learner has a role in their own learning. One response that could occur and is not at all dependent on technology is to shift your personal role from teacher to facilitator – help students facilitate their own learning. Facilitated learning often leads to deeper understanding and comprehension of the subject matter. But, as Lisa states in her second paper for CCK08 “[a]ctive learning and facilitation creates a more participatory learning environment, but its basis is still in the learning of the individual via the method controlled by the instructor. It is ‘learner-centered’ but not ‘learner-directed’.” So really, two shifts need to occur for some educators. One change, from teacher-centered to learner-centered; then a second change from learner-centered to learner-directed.

Another shift that could occur is to recognize that students are generally more comfortable with new technologies – make sure that alternative options are available to a student who might not put the same effort into an essay as he or she would into a YouTube video, flash presentation or some alternative form of analysis. A Skype conversation with an industry or technological leader may bring greater learning that still matches pre-determined learning outcomes. This could provide more learning than a simple essay. This customization may not increase educator workload during the marking phase, but it does demand that the educator think in creative and complex ways that may be outside of their norms.

What are impediments to change?

The main impediment to change is the educators themselves. Many educators have a vested, personal interest in the power they command at the front of the classroom. For these educators, lecturing is a display of their power, their knowledge and their position in life. Just looking at the language of that sentence, the implied ownership of knowledge and even the arrogance that didactic educators own something like knowledge that is so nebulous and ever changing is to someone like me, a ridiculous statement.

The other major roadblock to change is the administrative power that cannot see how to capitalize on a new learning theory such as connectivism. People who administer in higher education institutions cannot figure out ways to keep money flowing in – even though current classroom deliveries are lacking in the methods those students want them in. Modern students require more flexible options – some want online delivery, some want different hours of instruction, some want credit for what they already know. The current models in most higher education settings are incapable of that level of flexibility.

Beyond that Bob Bell states in this Moodle discussion that K-12 learning is affected by safety issues. Brookfield talks about safety in the classroom in his book The Skillful Teacher (p. 94) and discusses how one way he deals with it is by letting students know what’s coming. I can’t describe a better way to help students discover new learning than by letting them know what might be out there. Certainly, that requires a maturity about others’ viewpoints and beliefs, which may be absent in the K-12 classroom.


Bell, B. (2008, November 9). Changing Role: Fast Forward To The Past. CCK08 Moodle Forums. Retrieved November 9, 2008, from

Brookfied, S. (2006). The skillful teacher. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Lane, L. (2008, November 6). Paper #2: Insurgence for Emergence. Lisa’s CCK08 WordPress Blog. Retrieved November 9, 2008, from

Wikipedia (2008, November 7). Retrieved November 9, 2008, from

Reflections on Power, Control and Authority – Week 8

CCK08 – In the Friday wrap up session I pointed out that lurkers in the course didn’t contribute anything to the group (the ones that do contribute to the class). I thought this was essentially a selfish stance, one that was taking and not giving. Lisa Lane responded in the backchannel that you can’t take what can be reproduced infinitely – it’s still there after you “take” it. My initial reaction was something like “oh, well my wording is imprecise”. And it was. After reflecting on it, maybe the wording is inadequate. In a connectivist classroom, giving and taking denotes a power structure that isn’t there. Plus the lurker “takes” from class and may do nothing with that information, or may share it with another set of people. Maybe everyone talks about it and comes up with great ideas. Do they connect back and push the idea further?  I’m sure Stephen would say “I don’t care” about what happens to the knowledge, and maybe that’s the sort of existential attitude one needs to take. Maybe I’m hung up on the ownership of knowledge, which is an exhibition of power?

So what happens if everyone is a lurker? For instance, if everyone taking the class made no comment in Moodle, on blogs, on Twitter, in the Google group, Second Life, Facebook and wherever else this course lives, would the course essentially cease to exist? Can Connectivism account for passive learners? Or because of the distributed nature of Connectivism, it is statistically impossible to have everyone passive in a network. Someone, somewhere, will be contributing something. We just may not see it. What does this mean for instructors? I think that’s a huge thing.

Back to power – if we follow this line of thinking, and only a small percentage (and the numbers bandied about on a couple of internet sites has been 20% and 10%) of people are comfortable posting, will they continue to post? Are they the new posting elite? Is there power from posting? This blog post, seems to think so. So does this article by Jakob Nielsen, who’s been pushing for a useable web since the beginning. One point that Nielsen makes is that blogs have worse participation percentages. Well duh… the nature of a blog is personal. To get a response on a blog one has to really throw a big hook out there. A blog is not a community (although it can be collaborative, which could lead to a community over time).

And in the spirit of this blog, considering the title and all, I contribute…

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.