September 2008


My background is in the Humanities – Economics. I’ve always thought it a no-brainer that people and groups working together in networks achieved better results than individuals working alone. At work, my staff rooms have always included colleagues who readily shared and assisted each other – despite regular philosophic and political differences. Learning was truly about the ability to create and navigate networks (thanks George) – our working definition of Connectivism.

Recently, the Vocational Education sector in Australia has seen a seismic shift in the nature of its networks. Legislation and some managerial practices have encouraged a paradigm of competition and commercialisation between our Registered Training Organisations. One of the outcomes has been the dismantling and discouragement of many of the effective networks we relied upon and the subsequent need to re-create these in different formats for different purposes. Stephen’s outline of “Learning Networks – Theory and Practice” tells us this growth and change is essential, as networks can’t be controlled and the democratic processes need to take their course to allow the participants to learn how to tap into this distributed knowledge.

It’s intriguing to watch the range of networks in operation- those that are “officially” sanctioned and those which spring up as professionals see the need.

Another outcome has been the unwillingness of some to share their resources and ideas as this may give an advantage to a competitor and therefore lead to a loss of students. All of this at a time when the infrastructure and the tools exist to enhance and improve the sharing that we have used successfully for a long time.

Speaking of tools, in my readings and research this week I came across a paper from Macquarie University in Sydney. Gibbs and Gosper in “The Upside Down World of E-Learning” outline the way that e-learning and its implementation has been driven by the tools and not by the pedagogy. They assert that many of the early technologies “promote narrow pedagogies – the delivery of content – centric instruction via a transmission model of learning” (p47). Instead the technology needs to lead to “the creation of learning environments and sequences that provide opportunities for multi-user collaborative activities or the co-construction of knowledge – both representative of current learning theory” (p48).”

In one of my recent roles I facilitated a range of professional development activities with teachers outlining to them many of new Web 2.0 and other technology tools available to them. At one point a team of teachers concluded a session by saying “don’t give us choices, just tell what you want us to do”.  Looking forward to exploring this further with some upcoming topics.

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Began this week needing to look-up epistemology. The Stanford online dictionary tells us it is “the study of knowledge and justified belief.” Added to my ongoing confusion over the meaning of connectivism I did the weekly readings, studied most of the dailies, watched George’s video introduction to the week and spent quite a bit of time beginning my second concept map (this time using the Brain). I didn’t write anything – couldn’t get my head around a useful theme.

Woke up this morning with a few ideas buzzing in my head. Does this mean I literally needed to sleep on it to make the connection? Perhaps connectivism is the process by which we collect all of the information from all of the sources bombarding us each day and then working out which bits we need and making some sense of it. One of the real advatntages of enrolling in a course like this is the “pressure” to reflect through things like this blog, the Moodle posts and reading the dailies. This reflection is critical to making the connections.

At times there are things we are not ready to hear (and which wish we could recall when we need to). Increasingly we forget as much as we remember – probably due to to information overload.

So what does that mean for us as teachers? Do we continue to filter this information for our students? or do we spend more time facilitating and “teaching” the skills of skimming, sorting, discerning and validating? These employability skills are potentially the best thing we can tache rather than increasingly ephemeral pieces of information

Then of course, in a quick read of yesterday’s daily I see George telling us exactly the same thing “As we filter information. As we create content and engage with others. Traditionally, education has provided much of the filtering work for us through the bounded information structures provided by instructors/faculty

Found the readings variable. For this post I am looking at the pre-readings, the week #1 readings and some of my own.

Really enjoyed CISCO’s Equipping Every Learner for the 21st Century, Challenges of Participatory Culture and the New Structures and Spaces of Learning.  Each of these allowed me to grapple with some of the concepts related to Connectivism, while mapping the ideas to the big picture changes which are impacting on my area of Vocational Education and Training in NSW (Australia).  Our legislators and financial controllers are asking us to be more flexible in our delivery and assessment of our courses whilst at the same time ensuring we incorporate Workforce Capability development, Recognition of Prior learning (RPL) and Workplace Delivery and Assessment. Each of these articles resonated for me in these areas and have helped me to give an educational framework for these principles. i will pursue this theme through the course.

Another emerging theme for me is the concept of the technologies versus the required paradigm shift in our teaching and learning practices. Stephen in his course blog post of Sept 10 said of the connectivism critics: “These arguments, it seems to me, are circular. They defend the current practice by the current practice.” All of the web 2.0 and other Internet based tools available to us as teachers can become either tools to augment our current practices or a means to seriously change the way we do things. We need to get over the operational aspects of the technology first eg look and feel, functionality, etc.

The paradigm shift requires us to ensure we explicitly teach the life long and work based learning skills mentioned by CISCO, Jenkins and Siemens in the readings. Building these into our facilitated delivery and assessment will be an important part of this shift. At the same time that delivery and assessment to incorporate the key aspects of connections, collaboration, creation and employability skills.

I suspect Wellman’s piece on Little Boxes, Glocalisation and Networked Individualism will resonate more as the course progresses. One of the ironies for me will be how this mass participation course with no f2f contact will create a meaningful network or “Affinity Space” (Clinton et al) rather than a convenience.

Well, about to begin and the instructions from George and Stephen are coming thick and fast. They are clear and accurate but with a level of assumed knowledge eg about tagging. There is always a balancing act between too much information and not enough. The course outline wiki is a really big help. One of the tricks for me will be knowing when and how to use the wiki vs the blog vs the Moodle site. At this stage I have set aside a fixed time each week to engage – I need that discipline.

I won’t be able to participate in the Elluminate sessions as this software is not available at my workplace. I’ll catch recordings of the UStream session as the live session occurs at 2am local time. Hope this doesn’t interfere.

In terms of setting similar structures for my own students this exercise will be invaluable.

Also interested in the readings, it’s been a long time since I’ve studied formally and I find I am skipping quickly through the stuff that doesn’t grab me and engaging with the other stuff I like.

Hi folks and welcome to this blog which I’ve set up to track some of my thoughts during the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge course being run out of the University of Manitoba thanks to George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Let’s see what happens.