Saturday, July 2

The 'What is Learning? Merry Go Round

Was directed by a Tweet from Dave Cormier to David Wiley's Yes Virginia, there is knowledge transfer post and it affirmed my recent decision to jump off the merry go round.
David's post made profound sense to me, and good on him for being the dissenter. It's all too easy to join the clan of 'yes' men.  Many academics seems to be endowed with the ability to confuse rather than clarify any given issue and the semantic realm seems to be their favourite. It would be far more productive to move on from debating what is knowledge/what is learning and get on and do some of it. Has there been no common ground established after all these years and years and years....... I'm weary of it, and I'll continue learning while the debate still continues about how I'm doing it !  It's all a matter of perspective.

Monday, April 18

Aggregation Agravation

In the past I've tinkered with aggregators. Many people say they employ them with great success. I found them to be yet another box that needed to be ticked each day. Perhaps I just didn't uncover one that worked well for me. I now prefer to simply wing it, returning to 'Old Favourite' online haunts via some of my blog links. I don't subscibe to any blogs and limit the number of people I follow on Twitter. I LiveBinder or Diigo any tasty morsels. Now no doubt this would be different were I an academic or a researcher who needed to compile data and maintain currency. But I'm not, so it suits me to be modern day Hansel, ensuring my breadcrumbs leave a clear trail.

Soon we'll be needing an aggregator to aggregate our aggregations.



I've experimented with a new tool today that came to me from a link via George Couros' ( Alec's brother) blog. He'd been a contributor to The Super Book Of Web Tools For Educators and I can see 'Answer Garden' as having great applications for learners of all ages and a great tool for Connectivist type learners. It also includes a great flash widget customiser. It's easy to set up, only accepts short answers, updates in the blog immediately and creates a cloud

How Do You Use Flickr ?... at AnswerGarden.ch.

Thursday, April 14

Dilbert Gems

Dilbert always has something profound to offer during these times of change

New Web 2.0 Friendship Paradigm
Dilbert.com

Information Overload
Dilbert.com

Vital Skills For Maintaining Connectivity
Dilbert.com

The Pressures Of Maintaining Technological Currency
Dilbert.com

The Precarious Nature Of Self Promotion
Dilbert.com

The Inherent Dangers Of Leaving A Digital DNA Trail
Dilbert.com

The Semantic Merry-Go-Round
Dilbert.com

The Connectivist Learner Needs To Be Diplomatic
Dilbert.com

Acronym s Is Much Valued
Dilbert.com

What Can We Now Say About Knowledge ?
Dilbert.com

Friday, March 25

Self Promotion For Introverts

Self promotion seems to be an expectation for the Connectivist learner. Some personalities are far more comfortable with this, so does this mean that the Collective Knowledge is largely moulded by the thoughts of extroverts rather than introverts ? Then again, I believe it is far easier to act outside of a preference within an online medium. It is only our words which come under scrutiny. The rest of 'self' remains untouchable.

Self-Promotion for Introverts: Career advancement tips, quips, and insights for the quieter crowd by Nancy Ancowitz was an interesting read. The article explains introverts:
If a crowded cocktail party feels like a holding cell to you, even as you gamely keep up your end of the chatter, chances are you're an introvert. Introverts are drained by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative pursuits. Their disposition is frequently misconstrued as shyness, social phobia or even avoidant personality disorder, but many introverts socialize easily; they just strongly prefer not to. In fact, the self-styled introvert can be more empathic and interpersonally connected than his or her outgoing counterparts. The line between introversion and lonely loners gets blurry, however, as some introverts do wish they could break out of their shell.
This aligns with my understanding of introversion as defined by the 'Myers/Briggs Type Identification'. I've happily accepted the introvert tag since my early twenties and it would generally be my preference to work alone on a task. I am energised from within. However, I believe my learning would be seriously compromised if I were to exist entirely within this introverted vacuum. Therefore I need to explore methods whereby I can fuel my spirit by operating within my introverted bubble while simultaneously encouraging myself to seek balance, further enlightenment and redirection when necessary by episodic forays into the world of the extrovert. It's not easy to operate from outside a personal comfort level.
image source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KVpVn4xxno


When writing my post on online resonance I believed resonance was experienced when a connection was made with another who voiced similar thoughts and perspectives or appeared to be motivated by similar quests for enlightenment, perhaps equating with a 'lightbulb' moment. Increasingly I'm discovering it to be more the equivalent of the greeting offered by the Na’vi as depicted in 'Avatar'.  They acknowledge each other with the words  “I see you”, thereby acknowledging the interconnectedness of humans and the world they inhabit. Perhaps the quest of each of us is to simply have others say "I see you" when our paths cross, irrespective of whether we are introverts or extroverts. Perhaps the Na'vi were the original Connectivists.



Thursday, March 24

It's All A Balancing Act

The unearthing of John Mak's 'model for teaching and learning strategies' had me pondering once again the significance of 'personality type' for learning, networked or otherwise.
I enjoyed it because it provided a perspective of balance and the opportunity to view people as distinct 'others' not just as a 'collective'. The Keirsey/Bates' type identification does the same, categorises without judging which is the preferred type. Each of us is different, neither better nor worse because of our learning preferences. John identified metal, wood, earth, fire and water 'types' then suggested how these types may be blended with others to better facilitate collective learning. Now if we were forced into these hybrid groups by organisations or systems we may feel uncomfortable and rebellious, however if we can choose the sandpits in which we play the freedom to leave is always a liberating option. Perhaps there is a sense of this self regulation or counter balancing each time we navigate to another blog which arouses our curiosity. Or when we make a conscious choice to respond or otherwise to a Facebook posting.
Funny Animals
The balancing act can be demanding and take us out of our comfort zone.
What attracts or deters us:
the fact that someone agrees or disagree with us ?
the quest to see life from another perspective ?
to learn about something which appears to be outside the realm of our current life experience ?
humour ? Will paper replace e-readers ?
lack of pretence or artifice ?
figurative language ?
blog design and navigation ?

For me the relative 'character' anonymity of participants in the CCK11 as compared with the PLENK2010 cohort is an obstacle I'm not convinced I have the motivation to surmount. The PLENK forum provided an easily navigated discussion interface.  From the contributions on a wide variety of topics (some way off subject but nonetheless food for thought) I learnt a lot about the passions, the character, the beliefs of the participants. We were fellow learners, not just network nodes, and I would imagine a certain degree of trust was established between many of the participants. Facebook, the seeming preferred CCK11 gathering place, does not provide the same level of personal connection for me, so I am not currently feeling particularly nodish. This may be a positive thing, for to feel truly nodish according to Connectivism I guess one needs to accept that networked learning is the only option - "Network Or Remain Ignorant".
"........One of the more significant challenges we face in online learning is climbing the wall that blocks our view of learners responding to a course. In a classroom we can see who is making eye contact, nodding in agreement, or sighing with frustration..... "

Paying Attention to Attention

I'm convinced, based on both personal and life experience that 'one size does not fit all' in every facet of life, learning style preferences being one of them. If we are to be responsible for our own learning, we need to ensure that we expose ourselves to differing perspectives before weighing them on the scales of life experience. It needs to make sense to me, for me to accept it......I need to be in a state of cognitive, situational and mood 'readiness'.

then again, sometimes it's just a case of ....

Sunday, March 20

Are you MOONing or MOOCing ?

While belatedly establishing some links in my MOOC Live Binder, I returned once again to the eminently practical, critically thinking , Sean Fitzgerald's Blog where he ruminated on the Semantic challenges of courses, PLEs, PLNs. learning etc.
"......From the beginning of this course I stated (I’m baaaaack! And I’m reviving this blog for the PLENK2010 MOOC) that my intention was to explore how we can use the MOOC model and principles to engender the “large-scale and rapid social transformations I believe we need in this time of change, challenge and crisis. (I’m not so much interested in the content of #PLENK2010 – PLEs & PLNs – as I am in the process.)..."
 and
 "..... If the goal is to extend the MOOC model beyond a strict learning or education focus then shouldn’t we come up with another name for it? Wouldn’t calling it a “course” hold it back from its full potential? Suggestion ? What about Massive Open Online Network ? (MOON) or Massive Online Network (MON), since it’s only open in relation to historically closed courses anyway? Or what about Massive Network (MN), since the “online” is a given and therefore superfluous? What about just Network, as they can be small or large, depending on need? Does it really even need a name?......."
 which directed me to:
Cris Crissman's  comment on Sean's blog directed me to Ulises Mejias blog. He suggests: 
The lack of a critical approach to understanding digital networks is partly due to the fact that most analyses have theorized the digital network only from within (what I call a nodocentric approach), while I am also interested in looking at the social, political and economic impact of the digital network as it looks from the outside (except that in networks the outside is everywhere)
Now these are the same issues and questions that are arising in CCK11, and as has been stated in many locations before, it reinforces the value of a well designed Open Course freed from most of the restrictions of a walled garden. The participants, even the peripheral learners (as defined by John Mak) are exposed to a kaleidoscope of perspectives from which they can formulate their own thoughts and beliefs. Sean's ruminations then led me on a quest to explore rumination as a thought process, which directed me to:
As I processed what I read, I perceived an analogy between the ruminant's digestive process and the node's process in a network. Now the image of a cow is much more in keeping with the term MOOC, however I felt a sheep, being a fellow ruminant was as good a mascot considering the significance of not sheepishly following any node, irrespective of reputation or credentials, so I thought i'd go with the flow, so to speak. It's a return to my thoughts about the dangers of 'hive think'
"....Sheep belong to the ruminant classification of animals.The rumen is a large storage space for food that is quickly consumed, then later regurgitated, re-chewed, and re-swallowed in a process called cud-chewing. Rumination or cud chewing occurs primarily when the animal is resting and not eating. Healthy mature sheep will chew their cuds for several hours each day...."
The ruminant's digestive process parallels the node's in a network.  The reality is that the ruminant/node needs to quickly consume large quantities of information (aggregate), and the expectation according to Connectivist principles is that it is then remixed/ regurgitated, re-chewed, and re-swallowed   
The rumen is also a large fermentation vat. Fermentation in the rumen produces enormous quantities of gas that ruminants get rid of by belching (burping). Anything that interferes with belching is life-threatening to the ruminant and may result in a condition called bloat. (infoglut) Mild cases of bloat can usually be successful treated with an antacid (personal reflection) One of the global impacts of ruminant livestock production is that when ruminants belch, they produce methane/'crap', one of the greenhouse gases.
which directed me to:
 which directed me to:
Howard Rheingold has some strategies for crap detection............


 which directed me back to Sheep 101:
 
"....A small amount of methane is also produced by manure. Scientists are currently study ways to reduce methane production from ruminant livestock. For example, it is known that livestock fed certain plants (accurate information) produce less methane. Australian scientists are testing a vaccine to reduce methane production. "Fart" taxes have been proposed to help fund the research. They have not been implemented...."
How proud am I to be an Aussie! We get right down to the basics, even our scientists. Is imposing 'fart taxes' a possibility for networks ? Could this be a strategy for dealing with trolls ? For this to be effective, networks would need to be both self regulating and highly evolved. And I certainly believe that these kinds of networks exist. But all is not perfect as in any facet of life, both online and RL. 
Now this has ramifications for my interpretation of Gordon Lockhart's MOOC infographic, however I'm focussed enough to not become distracted by drawing version 2 of my own interpretation.
Now in an endeavour to not fall off the semantic merry-go-round, I Googled whether 'distillation' was the most appropriate term for ellucidation of my thoughts,
and I uncovered a wonderful new resource: Webster's Online Dictionary with multilingual translation.......
which directed me to
which has proven to be a resoundingly worthwhile discovery. Now, whoever doubted the power of serendipitous learning when one is not burdened with the time restraints of credit courses ?
Reading back, all this post has done is document my propensity for being distracted. I believe it has been personally productive distraction - it continues to contribute to the distillation, (or should that be filtration) of my ideas .

Friday, March 18

Resonance - The true solace of an online network

Many debated the meaning of resonance on the forums during the PLENK2010 course.
Ken Anderson asked :
"......What is this thing called resonance?  I've seen it mentioned in a few posts here and there, but I don't have a good idea on what it means. Wikipedia talks about resonance as involving oscillation of a system, where the oscillation is of higher amplitude at certain frequencies than at others. Should I be oscillating? Is this how resonance is being used here? Is resonance a form of evaluation?  If I oscillate largely when reading something, does this mean it is good?....."

For me, the comment- that "really resonated with me", is the equivalent of an internalised  'Yes' moment when someone makes a statement that explains so beautifully what one feels/believes based on life experience. Alternately it occurs when someone stands up to challenge some of the absurdities perpetuated in life. It's a social connection that removes the isolation frequently experienced in the workplace when one appears to be the 'voice in the wilderness' at odds with the practices of our colleagues.

I don't believe I have ever been one to blindly accept the ideas or opinions of others irrespective of their credentials, deemed social status or professional reputation. I developed an early 'lack of respect' for the voice of authority. I recall my early years in a Catholic school, approximately 7 years old when 'Sister whoever' was adding her contribution to the indoctrination of our young minds. She was assuring us that children of mixed religious marriages ( i.e Catholic + anything else) were doomed to eternal damnation as the 'other than Catholic' partner, through their non Christian practices would be responsible for our eventual downfall. In hindsight, she didn't appear to have a particularly optimistic view of ability of the Catholic partner to counteract spousal challenges. I can remember thinking "bollocks" or an equivalent commensurate with my 7 year old vocabulary. My mum was one of these non Catholic perverters and in my mind I immediately rose to her defense, believing her worth to be ten times that of the devil's advocate standing before me in religious garb. Sister 'whoever' ( I'm fairly sure it was Baptist) immediately lost all credibility thereafter, as did all but one of my subsequent teachers for a multitude of reasons that would require the skills of a Jungian psychologist to analyse.

Being relatively new to Connectivism theory, but a longtime follower of Downes' other offerings, I'm still trying to formulate my own perspective on it all. One thing I do believe is that I'm more likely to establish a network relationship with personalities rather than names. For trust to exist, I like to be able to perceive the personality, the character and the intent behind the message. I enjoyed participating in the Moodle forum during PLENK because of the people who contributed to the discussions and the variety of content. It engendered much  serendipitous learning and continues to do so as I follow leads from return visits. The forums revealed the personalities behind the postings, unlike Facebook and Twitter. Life can be a serious business and it's refreshing to read posts delivered with a good dose of humour, with a little humility never going astray, thereby maintaining some semblance of balance. Self interest and gratuitous self promotion leave me cold, however an altruistic sharing of self and ideas is I believe indicative of a healthy network.
Therefore Jabiz Raisdana's blog posting resonated deafeningly with me. After attending the
21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong he posted:

".....It was so exciting to eat dinner with people I had only known online. At every conference there are a group of people who do not blog or use Twitter who end up looking on amazed that their peers could be so connected. There is always the confused question, “How do you guys know each other again ? Really ? You have never met. ”A network is only as strong as it’s connections and these face-to-face meetings really help create authentic communities. A network is only as strong as it’s connections and these face-to-face meetings really help create authentic communities. I loved chatting with Robert about the great work he and Gary are doing at their school with WordPress and Scratch. It was a pleasure to share ideas with Dana and Stacey, or to meet Tim for the first time after the many RT’s. Suddenly Ben was more than an avatar, but a living breathing person who helped my session not fall apart. He is headed to Jakarta next month to visit Hugo and I hope we can meet up again, maybe with Rod who I already know in Jakarta. I finally met Colin, but couldn’t pin him down for an actual meal. And of course I started conversations with Neil, John, Jason, Justin, Greg (already started a great chat on his blog), Jamie, Gary, Philip, Lynn, and Makky. So what did I learn from this conference? I learned that there are people across the region who are doing great work and they are ready to connect and learn. I may have crossed paths with these people eventually, but a conference is like a crucible to strengthen relationships quickly. It is  because of this human connection that I go to conferences.  We meet. We chat. We eat. We connect. As for the sessions… ...."
Perhaps the most illuminating comment is his "...as for the sessions ...."

It is a network like this I imagine would be worth nurturing, but appreciate that it would certainly require a substantial time investment. There are many resonating moments for me when I visit Jabiz's blog, most importantly it is his attitude and passion for education that attracts me. I want what Jabiz wants:
There is also something to be said about simply moving forward and taking the training wheels off to see what will happen.....I want to sit in rooms with teachers who are working at the edge of possibility and connect our learning, our skills, our students, our schools. I want to cloister myself with a group of teachers who are pushing the boundaries and doing amazing work in their classrooms despite their school policies not because of them. Where are the sessions for us ? Where are the times that connected teachers can move forward instead of looking back ? ............There are pockets of teachers worldwide who seem to get it. We often work in isolation at our schools.....
I'm sure each person is seeking pockets of people who "get it",  not just teachers and it is the beauty of online networks that I can be invigorated by those pockets and sense some sort of camaraderie in spite of the possibility that I may never achieve the equivalent of Jabiz's 21st century learning moment. I will however gain sustenance for the ongoing battle on the home front knowing that I am not fighting alone, I have others who walk beside me. Some people would possible respond 'misery loves company' but I would like to put a slightly more positive spin on it than that. I would say 'spirit' appreciates company, the 'human connection'.

Serendipitously (yet again) after completing this post, Jaap Bosman's post on Facebook re: Amazing Stories of Openness (Open Ed Conference 2009) drew my attention once again to Alan (CogDog) Levine's wiki - a celebration of the transformational experiences made possible through global human connections.

Wednesday, March 2

Theory Or Ideology - MASHISM

  I Think I'm A Mashist
Alan Cooper prefers to use the term 'ideology' rather than 'theory' to describe Connectivism, in fact learning theories in general. He questions whether it holds up as possessing experimentally testable predictions (in the scientific sense). Perhaps in an endeavour to process the glut of information coming our way these days we need to resort to pigeonholing as we go. Back on the semantics merry-go-round !

I would suggest applying some of the strategies Harold Rheingold suggests for crap detection online to theories/ideologies/recommended practices/concepts etc. before blithely jumping on any bandwagon.

I'm happy to file Connectivism in the theory column for now as 'theory' to me means something that is proferred, but has yet to be proven. Not very scientific I know, but I believe it's understandable when bared down to the basics and cleaned of scientific, academic jargon. Perhaps I'll define it as an educational rather than scientific theory ?


When I think of ideologies, evangelism and conversion come to mind. People's social and political lives can be driven by ideologies. Ideologies are more intense, there's more at stake. People take it personally if their ideology is criticised. A smorgasbord of theories from which to graze is my preference, considering bits and pieces of the 'isms' which will best serve individual needs harmonised into a hybrid practice - in keeping with Web 2.0 and the delight in mashups, perhaps mashism is a closer definition. Then again, perhaps I prefer my initial offering of Complexitism. Currently I don't accept any theory as my ideology.

Theories are as diverse as the motivations and personalities of those who subscribe to them. Those who have stakes in the theory, the developers, need to publish their theories, to parade them in front of their peers for review in order for them to gain any credence whatsoever, to have them published in legitimate journals. Perhaps academic researchers are responsible for this 'scientification' of education, and this is why it's becoming so confusing. When the stakes are high, ideologies are born and people generally are uncomfortable having their ideologies rejected. Give me a theory any day. Mine is mashism until something better comes along that makes sense to me.

And once again, Stephen attempts to explain the meaning of Connectivism 

There have been personal attacks directed against Stephen both on Wikipedia and in responses to his blog posts and I question whether adherents of a theory would spew forth such vitriole. It is generally ideologies.Text aggression and intended sabotage simply reduce these attacks to the level of a 'Rasputinist' rant.I wonder if Stephen ever despairs
image source: http://www.londonstimes.us/toons/cartoons/richdiesslin_cow_mom.gif

Monday, February 28

Mesh or Spiral

A Web Of Ones Own Weaving
Following a lead from 'somewhere' I landed back at Stephen's blog reading his post "The Blogosphere is a mesh"  Mark Berthelemy had previously challenged Stephen's notion of the network as being more accurately described as a mesh rather than hub and spokes arrangement, by his request for substantiation:
......I'd be very interested to know the evidence for that statement......
Stephen responded- " My evidence is that this is what I see, and that if you looked at it from the same perspective, you would see it too.
Increasingly I've experienced the frustration of being asked to provide evidence for my beliefs, and the affirmation of my belief that it is ALL about perspectives, not realities or absolutes. How liberating to have the confidence to simply say - I've seen it, I believe it, take it or leave it. I'm very much a 'personal experience' advocate. It matters not the opinions of a litany of opponents or challengers if life experience has taught an alternate lesson. Trust in the gut feeling. An example - The Edublogs Awards - a little like the 'Idol' singing competition. Whoever has the most vote wins. However the voting system is flawed. Votes can be bought and sought. Quantity over quality wins. One can almost hear the voices emanating from the monitor: " Pick me, pick me, pick me " as newsletters hot off the press request parents to " vote for Mr. B's. ...... blog ". A win is not only a win for Mr. B, but for the school executive, the parents, the student body, and the educational system. High stakes.  Personally I was disappointed with many of the winners, but then again I'm personally disappointed that a democratic voting system has provided my country with a Prime Minister who speaks like a wharfie and lies like a trooper.

The analogy of a spider's web suits my current understanding of a network. Gray Pilgrim's explanation of the various types of webs and spiders serendipitously appeared while I was pondering the reading above. Each network is different as each group is different according to the interactions between the members and their driving motivation, just as each spider web is different according to the spider's purpose.

Pilgrim claims the webs can be broadly classified into five types, other than the common cobwebs. He identifies them as being:
  • Spiral orb webs
  • Funnel Webs
  • Tubular Webs
  • Sheet Webs
  • Tent Webs
He further explains that the different types of spider silk serves different purposes:
  • Building the main framework of a web to catch prey
  • Building the spokes of the web
  • Wrapping and packing fresh caught prey for later consumption
  • Throwing a web strand in the air and ballooning their way out with a drift.
What is the purpose of your network and how is it engineered ?

Do I even have a network, or do I have 'fellow travellers' who accompany me on the journey, resting at their own signposts, invigorated by new insights and clues for unmeshing the puzzle that is life, armed with personal insights and varying levels of enthusiasm.

    Sunday, February 27

    Patterns of Connectivity

     Connection or Concoction ?
    I can see why it is beneficial to be able to analyse the interaction between network members in order to better understand how, why and when connections between members are created in the interests of research. Until now I didn't realise it had a specific name: Social Network Analysis  (Valdis Krebs) and at last I've been able to find information about the terminology thus far created to describe the roles in a network e.g the connectors, mavens, leaders, bridges, isolates, clusters, core, periphery. Good old Einstein is attributed with saying: “A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth.” Einstein would be remembered by most as a scientist, however I believe his brain was far more rounded that pigeonholing him in the science fraternity. He was more than 'science clever', he was wise, frequently profound and undeniably human. I wonder...... if Leonardo, Aristotle and Einstein were alive today, would they be prolific little connectivists, lurkers or 'isolates'. Did their energy come from within, or did it emanate from their connections ?

    Points raised concerning the Cascade Phenomena alluded to by Stephen in 'Cascades and Connectivity' (November 29, 2004) raise concerns.

    For example ".......... every person in a network has decided to adopt Plan A, based on the opinions of their predecessors, even though Plan B may be the optimum plan....." Surely this would depend on the age and maturity of the network members. And how does this differ from being influenced by teachers, peer group, authors ?

    and Feldstein suggesting  "active moderators who have the authority to direct the group's information-sharing activities" . I can imagine this may be a strategy considered if the age of the network members was 12-16, however it reeks very strongly of a censorious LMS which I would have thought was completely contrary to the ideal of an autonomous network.

    The more I read, the more I become confused. I would suggest that the only method of controlling a network would be in a closed system. The mesh reaches too far and wide in a complex network, and there are too many free and varied thinkers to reach a consensus on anything. The merit lies in the proliferation of ideas, perspectives and resources which allow one to refine one's own thinking. When does a crowd become a mob, and when does a network become an ideological group ?

    Following a lead from my Einstein quote unearthed a Keith Boesky's great post at A Tree Falling In The Forest. Truth and knoweldge do not by default reside in either the network or the group, and semantic distinctions between the definitions of each, cloud the facts. Truth and knowledge are disclosed oft times by the individual thinker, the challenger, the trail blazer who cares not whether he or she is being followed, quoted, linked to or tweeted .  Keith contrasts The Stupidity of Crowds and The Wisdom of Aspergers: Death of Innovation in Americab  observing:
    "......The power of the Internet and growth of social network brings an increased focus to the "Wisdom of Crowds." I've fallen for it too, writing about the hive mind and how quickly a group can come together to solve a given problem. It is easy to be seduced by the aggregated brilliance.."
    and:
    "..........The same can be said for Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Pasteur, Salk and Stiglitz. Pioneers of silly ideas like the Earth revolving around the sun or injecting disease from cows to cause immunity. They all made great contributions by not listening to the crowd and today, we remember their names and benefit from their conviction.......social media is elevating metrics over innovation and connecting and amplifying the voice of the status quo, and by extension the march toward mediocrity. We should all aspire to embrace a little Aspergers into our every day thought. Some times lowest common denominator is not the answer......."
    As is frequently the case, the comments section provided a truly illuminating observation by Yaron:
    The only problem I ever had with the theory of evolution is the claim that humans evolved from apes. From what I have learned thus far, it is more probable that humans evolved from sheep.

    Continuing along the serendipitous path was amused by a results of a Scientific study
    'Sheeple' - Crowds 'pick leaders to follow' reported by Roger Highfield. Researchers at Leeds University claimed that people in crowds behave just like sheep, blindly following one or two people who seem to know where they are going. They are convinced that their findings could hold ramifications for disaster management. To an extent I'm presently feeling a bit sheepish, however I hope I'm wise enough to choose an informed leader and should he or she prove otherwise I'll have no hesitation in abandoning the flock for greener pastures.
    Which types of networks are at risk of becoming ruminant due to the absence of constructive dissention ?

    Are Connectivists at risk of developing a 'hive mind' generated by mass media as proferred in 2007 by Mack White

    "With knowledge no longer encapsulated in individuals, the distinction between individuals and the entirety of humanity would blur. Think Vulcan mind-meld. We would perhaps become more of a hive mind--an enormous, single, intelligent entity. There is no doubt that we have been brought closer to the "hive mind" by the mass media...... common sense should tell us that blurring the line "between individuals and the entirety of humanity" means mass conformity, the death of human individuality. Make no mistake about it--if humanity is to become a hive, there will be at the center of that hive a Queen Bee, whom all the lesser "insects" will serve. This is not evolution--this is devolution. Worse, it is the ultimate slavery--the slavery of the mind. And it is a horror first unleashed in 1938 when one million people responded as one--as a hive--to Orson Welles' Halloween prank. In a sense, those people who fled the Martians that night were right to be afraid. They were indeed under attack. But they were wrong about who was attacking them. Had they only known the true nature of the danger facing them, perhaps they would have ..... or at least commandeered the new technology and turned it towards another use--the liberation of humanity, instead of its enslavement.
    Article from: http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/cgi-bin/blogs/voices.php/2007/08/20/p18967


    The value of Connectivism (or any theory) lies in the continuing debate between its proponents and its critics. The truth is somewhere out, there although it may never be unearthed.  And the last word goes to John Ralston Saul -'Ten geographers who think the world is flat will tend to reinforce each others errors. Only a sailor can set them straight'........ ('Voltaire's Bastards').  


    Or maybe a Jester ?

    Saturday, February 26

    Groups versus Networks

    Is It Just Me ?
    Am feeling somewhat disappointed that I haven't been following or contributing to either of the courses for which I'd registered. Jim Groom's ds106 initially whetted the appetite, given the calibre of many of the participants, however having such open ended challenges is always my undoing. I spend too much time agonising over content and form and before I know it, the opportunity has passed and the frustration with self sets in. The format of Stephen Downes' CCK11 course doesn't suit my learning style and I've not the time or inclination to scour more blogs looking for motivating content.

    So far the most entertaining and informative discussion I've been able to track down in CCK11 emanated from Gabriella's blog "redeflexiones"- In her post - Dialogues (help!) she asked: Where are dialogues happening? The discussion that ensued on the discussion board came close to the interactions on the forum of good old PLENK2010. This new format seems to provide a 'faceless' network, a list of names and blogs with no central location for background, photos etc. which personalised the PLENK210 group. Admittedly, some members used gravatars, but those too were indicative of the personalities of the members. 
    Scott Johnson asked:
    Why are conversations spread all over the net preferable to having one collective forum? The single forum means I spend less time “in transit” and can more easily monitor many conversation.
    I ask the same question. The CCK11 cohort appear to be gathering on Facebook in the absence of a forum, however it's a small group and contributions are more 'Tweetish' than 'Discussionish' by form

    Ken Anderson stated: Re: Dialogues (help!) ken427, , February 9, 2011.
    Enforcing a distributed blog mode seems to be a bit of a 'rigging of the deck' to support the theory of distribution, by forcing distribution.
    While I'm not necessarily convinced this would be Stephen's intention, I believe it's having this effect.

    I really miss the forum format of PLENK2010 and while I recognise the motivation behind the structure, It's too time laborious for me now I'm back to a frenetic work schedule, so I'll just have to be content with hovering on the outskirts of each course until I'm motivated to participate.

    Had a nibble at the Discussion threads today and landed on Stephen's blog post from a few years ago comparing Groups and Networks. Once again the ambiguity of terminology rears its head. I'm not comfortable accepting Stephen's logic that ''groups and emotion' and 'networks and reason' are permanent pairings. I would not be so emphatic. I see it more Lisa's way - " Dogs group, Cats network" (personality and learning styles have relevance) or Ailsa's way - "passion and reason; burden and blessings in connectivism; a feminist critique CCK08" ( More work on what makes for a functional network is required).

    “One of the things we know about learning is that learning with emotion is a far deeper experience than learning without emotion,” 
    Van Sant uses the site www.ted.org/ in his courses (Technology, Entertainment, Design) which features top presenters talking about a diverse offering of topics, believing that technology provides access to a vast array of content which possesses the potential to resonate emotionally with students.  He observes barriers in the delayed response time, not being able to respond 'in the moment'.

    This is also a disadvantage when navigating around the web from blog to blog, rather than having all the comments on a thread in the one location, seeing the faces behind the thoughts, personalising the 'network'. Typically, in an online learning environment, students post to a discussion board or blog and then wait for a response. It may be a long time coming........the impetus is lost. Van Sant perceives the engendered thoughtful reflection in these situations to be one of the positive aspects of online learning. He observes:
    "One of the things I see, the students who do not often volunteer or engage in on-the-fly discussion in a face-to-face classroom will turn around in an online environment and become significant discussants. Not that they’re lazy in the classroom; they just don’t process information on the fly quite like somebody else.”
    This was my conclusion at the end of PLENK2010. I guess it's all a matter of perspective and as such, permanently debatable.


    However, watching Stephen's Google video did serve to clarify for me his distinction between groups and networks. If I understood Stephen correctly, the basic differences are:

    Groups = centralised, distributive, closed
    Networks = autonomous, distributed, connective
    As I see it, it's a herald back to the contrasts between an LMS and PLE. Learner freedom appears to reside in the network and the PLE, not the LMS or the group.
    Alan Cooper observes:
    Stephen also promotes the virtues of a “flat” network (with all nodes having a similar scale of connectivity) over the power law pattern of a scale-free network in which small fractions of the nodes are relatively highly connected.
    I agree that Stephen's model would indicate a healthy network in practice with each and every node connecting and sharing, however I don't believe it's the norm from the small experience I've had observing networks in action. They seem to be very much weighted in favour of the 'few' over the 'many'.

    Ponderances:
    1. What factors determine the  health of a network ?
    2. Is there a place for the 'silent voice' in a healthy network - the lurker- the free loader
    3. Is a healthy network then a sophisticated evolved group ?
    4. When does a group become a network ? When does a network degenerate into a self serving group ?
    5. What motivates someone to seek out or attempt to establish a network ?
    a. To further a career ?
    b. Altruism - to engineer change through numbers, or to share one's discoveries in the interests of collective learning ?
    c. Narcissism - the pursuit of network members in order to stroke ones ego ?
    d. Gregariousness - the extrovert loves an audience and due to the global nature of the web these days 'anyone' can establish a readership ?
    e. the quest for self validation ?
    6. Are networkers at risk of developing a 'hive mind' ?

    Howard Rheingold's article on Infotention validates the relevance of a functioning, informed network irrespective of the 'ism' one may prefer, if any
    "Knowing what to pay attention to is a cognitive skill that steers and focuses the technical knowledge of how to find information worth your attention. More and more, knowing where to direct your attention involves a third element, together with your own attentional discipline and use of online power tools - other people. Increasingly, most of the recommendations that make it possible to find fresh and useful signals amid the overwhelming noise of the Internet are social media - online networks that make possible social exchange and relationship. Tuning and feeding our personal learning networks is where the internal and the technological meet the social "
    SFGate (San Francisco Chronicle) Tuesday, September 01, 2009
     A few more of Stephen's ideas while I continue to ponder: