Tag Archive for 'CCK08'

“The classroom is nothing less than an state of the art information dump”

This weeks topic at the cck08 course is about “Power, control, validity, and authority in distributed environments“, wow thats a whole lot of ground to cover in just one week. Moreover, i believe that the questions and issues that arise from this theme are very important if we want to move forward towards a more open and connected way of learning in (formalized) institutions.

I’ll try to externalize some of the things that i think are related and important to this subject trhough reflecting on some of my readings . One of these is an amazing post by Dr. Michael Wesch which i came upon by a tweet from Grainne Conole. The article is initinally meant to explain Wesch’ new insights on a video about the students perspective he co-produced a while ago. But while reading this i realized that Wesch is actually telling us a lot about power and control in the classroom.

Wesch explains how he felt about the classroom as he walked into it one day and he saw a lot of empty chairs, a large screen and a small stage for him to stand on. Wesch explains:

The room is nothing less than a state of the art information dump, a physical manifestation of the all too pervasive yet narrow and naïve assumption that to learn is simply to acquire information, built for teachers to effectively carry out the relatively simple task of conveying information. Its sheer size, layout, and technology are testaments to the efficiency and expediency with which we can now provide students with their required credit hours.”

More than 400 students came into the room, and when Wesch started the class he noticed the following

I started talking and an almost deafening silence greeted my first words”..but..“Somehow I seem to hold their attention for the full hour. I marvel at what a remarkable achievement it is to bring hundreds of otherwise expressive, exuberant, and often rebellious youths into a single room and have them sit quietly in straight rows while they listen to the authority with the microphone. Such an achievement could not be won by an eager teacher armed with technology alone. It has taken years of acclimatizing our youth to stale artificial environments, piles of propaganda convincing them that what goes on inside these environments is of immense importance, and a steady hand of discipline should they ever start to question it. “

But after class Wesch talked to his assistants who were sitting at the back of the class

“Apparently, several students standing in the back cranked up their iPods as I started to lecture and never turned them off, sometimes even breaking out into dance….The students were undoubtedly engaged, just not with me

Ok….so what happens is that this teacher is pushed in his role as an authority and students have “learned” to play along but are actually engaged with something else. So using power on people and trying to control them doesnt really work…? I like the way Wesch describes the function of the classroom (auditorium like), it is just designed according to a power and control view on learning.

According to Wesch, the solution lies within looking beyond the walls of the classroom and technologies such as laptops, cellphones and i-phones should be welcomed in the classroom “we can use them in ways that empower and engage students in real world problems and activities”. In so, I think,  using technologies to give students the freedom to learn.

The things Welsch is struggling with reminded me of a book i’ve read a couple years ago by Carl Rogers called “Freedom to learn”. In this book (published in 1969!) Rogers tell us that he thinks that all teachers prefer to facilitate meaningful learning, but they are locked into a traditional and conventional approach:

“When we put together in one scheme such elements as a prescribed curriculum, similar assignments for all students, lecturing as almost the only mode of instruction, standard tests by which all students are externally evaluated, and instructor chosen grades as the measure of learning, then we can almost guarantee that meaningful learning will be at an absolute minimum.” (Carl Rogers)

Ain’t that one of the issue we come upon? Many of us would like to change their ways of teaching (and this also applies to management of course) towards a more open and engaging model but other elements are – at the least- not helping with this change.  I think we are in a kind of conflict here. As for example standardized (nationalized) curricula are helping to ensure a level of education among citizens and standardized test are made to have a grip on quality. Which of course is also related to power, or fear.


On groups and emerging networks

Last week’s conversation in the cck08 course has been on the distinction between networks and groups. Which is funny, because in his presentation George Siemens starts off by saying this is an unfair distinction as “they are the same”. Siemens tell is this because groups are a type of network. But aren’t we really talking here about the distinction of groups and the concept of “emerging networks” which i discussed in my previous post?

I get started to think that there is an interesting conflict underlying these two concepts and when overlook, often causes failure of designed learning environments. In this movie Stephen Downes elaborates on the differences between groups and networks.

“A lot of what people are presenting as online learning focuses on groups. I believe what online learning brings us looks more like networks” (Downes)

Groups are based on unity, coordination, closeness and are distributive in nature. Networks, according to Downes, are more diverse are  based on autonomy and openness and are connective in nature. So groups are manageable, they can be coordinated by a manager or a teacher. Groups have closed walls and teachers will present knowledge to their groups/ class. Groups will therefore need technologies like learning management systems which allow teachers to offer their class structure and manage their learning in a close environment. Networks cannot be managed. Members (learners) are autonomous and their learning environment is not bounded by (physical) walls. Networks need technology like personal learning environments, blogs, e-portfolio’s.

The mapping of groups and networks with the technology that fits with their charecteristics was a real eye-opener for me. It made me think about organizations wanting to implement portfolio’s in closed learning environments, demanding employees to write a blog post every week and doing this in a shared blog (non autonomous!), etc…..

Thinking about the differences between groups and networks is not a very easy task, but its very worthwile for every educator/ learning designer to be aware of the distinct differences between those. We (or I) certainly need to do a lot more thinking on the matter, make it concrete for deeper understanding. Many web 2.0 tools are gaining loads of attention nowadays for their educational/ learning purposes. We need to question ourselves wether such a tool was designed for a network audience or if it was based group principles and in what sort we would like to use it.

Emergent social networks

Last Wednesday Valdis Krebs gave a guest lecture at the CCK08 elluminate meeting. Krebs talked about  emergent networks and social network analysis. I wasn’t able to actually attend the session but watched the recording and looked at the slides. As i’m a plain newbie to this subject of social network analysis i also used Wellman’s presentation on networks for newbies.

Krebs explained social network analysis as follows:

“Social Network Analysis [SNA] is a mathematical and visual analysis of relationships / flows / influence between people, groups, organizations, computers or other information/knowledge
processing entities.”

I found it really interesting to see how Krebs looks at organizational structures using social network analysis. He showed us a traditional organizational hierarchy diagram. Then he flattened the picture out and showed the hierarchy as a network diagram. You could see that this traditional organization consists of small (business) units  and that there are no connections between them other then via the top (management). Krebs stresses that in the white spaces between the units happens the work that’s most valuable to the organization. This is just like we see with innovation processes that occur the post at the periphery of and between communities or networks of practice. But then Krebs showed us the same picture that shows lines between the diverse nodes, those are the actual connections that happen during work. We now see that there actually are connections between the diverse units. Krebs has visualized the prescribed organization vs the actual organization.

Online social networks

Krebs also talked about online social networks, see also this article on his website. Krebs states that most online communities consists of three social rings: “a densely connected core in the center, loosely connected fragments in the second ring, and an outer ring of disconnected nodes, commonly known as lurkers.”

Online Community

The image above is a visualization of an existing online network, the three social rings are clearly visible. In the chatbox of the presentation, many people instantly talked about the similarities with the CCK08 community. People in the core of the community are actively participating and sharing their views on connectivism, people in the second ring are not that actively connected but do follow the course and perhaps connect with a small group of people. People at the periphery probably just read the daily and maybe follow some blogs or the disccusion at the moodle board (Stephen also wrote about this at the cck08 blog).

Unfortunately Krebs didn’t hook into that immediately, but at the Q&A George asked him about how to deal with the people in the outside ring. Should we pull them in, get them more active? Krebs told us that there is “no requirement to bring those in but its nice to know who they are and where they are. You can be a very pasive participant in one environment and a very active one in another, so its not just by personality. Its what you consider is important and what u consider urself skilled at.”

I think it’s important to consider how the networks in which you participate are build up and being aware of your position in those. I consider myself to act in the cck08 network somewhere on the border between the green and the red nodes. As i connect with more people and keep participating i expect to move further to the core. One question that arises me here is that this whole network was almost completly new to me. Is it so that those who initialy had more connections are moving quicker or perhaps starting at the core? In that way networks like this one really are emergent.

Virtual worlds for learning

This week I’ve spend a couple of hours on updating my knowledge on the latest developments in virtual worlds and their possibilities for learning. In this post I’ll outline some of my finding. When I’ve reviewed this weeks material of CCK08 on networks I hope to publish soon about the possibilities for learning networks in virtual worlds.

I’ve tagged interesting sites at del.icio.us under virtualworlds.

I was specifically asked to look into Croquet and Active Worlds but being used to resident in Second Life I found the interface of AW difficult and graphics boring. Then i reminded myself that i still didn’t look into Google’s new service called Lively so started with that.

Basically the concept of Google Lively is that everyone can easily create his own little virtual world, which they call rooms. The idea is that you can easily integrate a room to existing websites so you can add your Lively Room to your weblog for example. In that sense Lively is different then eg Second Life because its not one big world but many separate rooms. I’ve tried it as well and added a room to my weblog. You can enter my sunny Island and if you are very, very lucky someone will be there to chat with you :) , all you need is a Google account. Graphics are great and its very easy to use. I really think it could add value to the conversation on weblogs. It makes real time communication added with the context (= blog items) possible.  Lively rooms make a connection with what already exists, namely a website, blog, wiki or moodle environment instead of creating an external world thats not connected with our reality. Unfortunately the software at this time is relatively closed and its not easy for the community to contribute. If that’s going to change I would love to see more Lively rooms in learning environments!

Another thing i looked into was Multiverse.

“Multiverse enables development teams to create high-quality, unique, and engaging virtual worlds and MMOGs faster and for less cost than ever before.”

This is more like a platform (OS) for development, but they recently have started with a new virtual world which is called “Multiverse Places”.

I really like the concept of this virtual world in which every member has his or her own appartment. I see this as your 3d Facebook profile. There are also ways to connect with your Facebook profile. It is a way to profile yourself and who you are in your real life. Its important to have connections with real life. Besides your appartment you can visit other people appartment or you can visit publice places like the Times Square, this is a place where you can network and meet other people. Multiverse says that within time, game elements will be added as well.

Many posibilities but i hope learn more myself about how learning networks in these types of virtual worlds can be established in order to provide our learners a great virtual learning experience.

Social aspects of learning

This blogpost reviews a small spectrum of the available literature on epistemology, notions of knowledge and the relation to the social nature of learning. It is actually a re-publication of a chapter from a working paper for my master thesis. As this weeks topic in the cck08 course is about learning theories I found it worthwile to publish this again. I will elaborate on two worldviews, the positivist and constructivist view. Within these views several cognition theories are explained. Further, a connection is made between the constructivist view of the world with the use of digital media and web-technology. In addition to the original article I’ll eloborate on how connectivism and rhizometic view on knowledge fit in these perspectives.

Positivist view of the world

From the positivist point of view, the world is seen as an objective reality, a pre-given state in which “the aim of the cognitive process is to create the most accurate presentation of this reality” (Harrison & Kessels, 2005; pg. 142). The cognitivist view of knowledge is rooted in this positivist view of the world. It views knowledge as abstract, task specific and oriented towards problem solving (Von Krogh, Roos & Slocum, 1994). Learning is seen as acquiring knowledge by reshaping your personal view of the world through the assimilation of new experience (Von Krogh et al., 1994; Akkerman, 2006). Within the cognitivist view, knowledge, as the managers representation of the world, can be stored and retrieved in organization wide repositories or content systems that give organizational members a shared perception of the world (Von Krogh et al., 1994).

Constructivist view of the world

The constructivist point of view sees the world as an objective external reality, a not pre-given state (Harrison & Kessels, 2005). A powerful cognitive theory rooted in the constructivist view of the world is the autopoiesis theory. Originally in the field of neurobiology, autopoiesis theory was later developed in the field of social science as a theory of knowledge of a social system. Autopoiesis theory views cognition as a creative act of bringing forth a world (Von Krogh et al., 1994). It views knowledge not as abstract, but as embodied in the individual. Or, as Brown and Duguid (2002) put it: “knowledge entails a knower” (pg. 119). The autopoiesis theory makes also a clear distinction between data, information and knowledge. In this view, the mere storage and availability of knowledge in organization wide repositories as within the cognitivist view is not sufficient. (Digital) materials stored in repositories are viewed of as data. People create information of these data by not only retrieving it, but also discuss it and file it for later use (Von Krogh et al., 1994). Pieces of information are used to actively construct knowledge trough a process of personalization and adding meaning to it.

Under influence by the ideas of Vygotsky, the social-constructivist and the socio-culture perspectives emphasize more on the social nature in which the construction of knowledge takes place. The two perspectives differ in their notion on where information processes lie. The social-constructivist perspective makes a distinction between the learner and the environment, but the socio-cultural perspective sees the individual as part of that environment (de Laat, 2006). Also Akkerman (2006) outlines this specific situation of the socio-cultural perspective in a comparison with the cognitive theory and notes that with the former, information processes lie within social interaction. The construction of knowledge lies within the social interaction, such as might be found in work related learning networks as networks of practice and communities of practice.

Networks of practice are networks of people who have a shared practice and knowledge in common, but these people are mostly unknown to each other (Brown & Duguid, 2002). Web-technologies have extended the reach of such networks, in which information can know be transmitted with higher speed to a larger audience of people. An example is a network of people established through Wikipedia. The content of this encyclopedia is produced by the members of the network, everyone who surfs on the web and wants to make a contribution.

Communities of practice are smaller units within the networks of practice. These are small groups of people who work together and mostly know each other also in the real world. Communities of practice are emergent, they evolve around a shared topic of interest. Within these communities, some members are core participants, while others act more peripherally (Brown & Duguid, 2002; Lave & Wenger). Whereas the learning that resides in networks of practice remains more static, in communities of practice allow for rich creation of knowledge through collaborative learning activities between members. Social software or web 2.0 technologies made these rich collaborative learning activities also possible trough the web, thereby enhancing the reach of such communities and the ability for people to form communities that don’t know each other in the real world. Especially weblogs or blogs might be a great opportunity to facilitate such networks. Obviously, the network of CCK08 learners can be called a community of practice.

Connectivism and the rhizometic view on knowledge show many similarities with the views of knowledge that reside under a positivist view of the world. I havent had the chance yet to study the ideas of Vygotsky very closely, but i do find it intersting to see that the socio-cultural perspective on knowledge very closely represents the connectivist ideas. As connectivism sees learning occur when distributed within a network, the socio cultural theory sees that it lies within the social interaction that can be found in a network. Perhaps the artifacts that are used nowadays are different, but that shouldnt neccesarily affect the view on knowledge.

Akkerman, S.F. (2006). Strangers in dialogue: Academic collaboration across organizational boundaries (Doctoral dissertation, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, 2006).

Brown, J.S. (2000). Growing up digital. Change, vol. 32, no 2 (March/ April 2000).

Brown, J.S. Duguid, P. (2002). The social life of information. Harvard Business school press, Boston,

De Laat, M. (2006). Networked learning (Dissertation, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands).

Harrison, R. & Kessels, J. (2004). Human resource development in a knowledge economy. An organizational view. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Lave, J., and Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press.

Von Krogh, G. Roos, J. Slocum, K. (1994). An essay on corporate epistemology. Strategic
Management Journal. Vol. 15, (summer), pp. 53-71.

CCK08 First readings

Previous to writing at this blog I kept a weblog at joostrobben.spaces.live.com in English. I started this weblog just 2 months ago and decided to write in Dutch so I could build up a network of Dutch readers. Just now I find myself writing in English again for my participation in Siemens’ and Downes’ course on connectivism (CCK08). As i truly want to participate in this learning community I’ve decided to at least write my reflections for the course in English, I’m still looking for a nice widget but it’s difficult to manage two languages….don’t know what to deal with it :(

For now, I’d like to share my thoughts on my first reading, Barry Wellman’s article on Little Boxes, Glocalization, and Networked Individualism

Somehow i have found this article difficult to read, its not very clear what Wellman’s arguments are and what they are based on. Hopefully i’m not the only want to find this. Either way, many parts of the article where recognizable and gave me some foundation to reflect on how communities work and how they can work in this course.

Wellman’s main argument is that he sees a paradigm shift in the way people are connected. He calls it

the shift from homogeneous little boxes to surfing life through diffuse, variegated social networks

I personally like to agree that people are more and more living their lives through diffuse social networks, especially through our use of technology. At the same time i think we still need to be critical on this point. As Wellman also states, we tend to meet the people online that we allready know in real life. “Online meetings are used to fill the gap between our physical meetings” (Wellman). This also corresponds with the findings in my master thesis on learning environments for Net-generation learners. So if we only use the web as an extended communication platform to our real life ones i would be carefull to state that technology causes a shift towards diffuse and variegated social networks.  Technology probably supports and helps us moeving towards more diffuse networks. In that sense i find the CCK08 course a great example i’m following this course together with two collegues of mine @hansdezwart and @daal. We can say that the three of us are having very strong ties. We know each other good and have the opportunity to interact physically and discuss on the CCK08 topics. At the same time we kinda have same opinions, work from the same context or background. Then the community of CCK08 offers us the weak ties for new insights and solutions. In that way i think its great to have joined the CCK08 course and suddendly find myself in a rather large online course with a rather great diffuse and variegated network of people.


Volgende week starten George Siemens en Stephen Downes een online cursus genaamd de “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge Online Course”. Hun weblog is een soort van verzamelpunt van allerlei informatie en tools, maar vooral de wiki geeft een goed beeld van de cursus. Ik zal zelf ook de cursus (proberen) te volgen. Niet alleen de inhoud van de cursus is voor mij interessant. Ik verwacht juist ook veel inspiratie op te doen over de wijze waarop George en Stephen de cursus hebben opgezet. Weblog’s, wiki’s, Twitter, Livecasts, Podcasts, Moodle, Google Reader (RSS) zijn zo’n beetje de tools waarvan gebruik wordt gemaakt. Juist de ervaring om deze als lerende te gebruiken samen met de discussie die zal losbarsten over leren in een connected world maken het voor mij erg interessant.

Oh ja, vraag je jezelf af wat die titel nou eigenlijk betekend?  Check deze map op Google maar eens. Dit zijn (een deel van) de deelnemers aan de cursus. Massively Multiplayer Online Game veranderd hier in Massively Multiplayer Online Learning!