The stories we want to tell ourselves

I want to be a part of an awesome story – is this a proper way to describe human life? I’ll tell of a serendipitous moment of learning.  I listened to a Finnish radio programme in which a young woman told about her new book. The book (available only in Finnish, Ilmiön kaava) deals with social phenomena which come and go in public: political phenomena, eating behaviours, brands, idols, what ever. Social media helps in aggregation of these phenomena. The pattern of these phenomena is the book’s theme. The book is very practical and its intention is far from mine, it helps to sell something to anyone, it gives lists to check if you have tried properly. My intention is to understand online learning and my interest is in authentic events. In spite of that great difference, the radio programme helped me a lot. It made me change my frame from individuals to phenomena. My former attempt to understand self-organisation was in February 2011 in this blog. I was interested in crowd behavior and the answer was that leaders or organisers were always needed. I told about some cases, which aimed to ‘do something good’.

In the radio programme the premise was that nowadays everyone wants to be a part of a good story. We leave in crowds and want to share things. That is why we need phenomena to connect us with certain people. Simple positive emotions and communication between the participants are crucial. Light satisfaction is the glue of a crowd for enjoying. What is needed for an successful phenomenon (event, case) to occur?

There must be some authentic shared interest and a group of people who feel in a similar way. People want to act jointly and so that everyone still can choose his/her own way. There must be members who want to spread the message/the thing not only buy or participate once. People don’t walk in and join, they throw themselves into the process. The illusion of one’s own choice is very important. The identity is mirrored in the crowd and there must be some freedom.

The phenomenon may raise unintentionally or it may be designed and supported. First innovative people begin the process but then we need the strengtheners. They may be older idols or known things appreciated which can be connected to the process wisely (in the way which people accept).
The innovators must be sensitive to the needs and hopes of the potential crowd: what it wants to be a part of, and what it wants to be against, not belong to. There must be something old and something new, a frame is a combination. Fans and likes are an essential part of the phenomenon. The roots are growing  when the members want to tell others and spread the ideas. The ideas worth spreading must be sensitively understood. Not every phenomenon is commercial but some requisite is needed. (T-shirts and so on). Passion for spreading the idea leads to emergent creative ideas.

Also the negative events may reinforce the phenomenon. How dare you to resist this lovely event is common attitude. Enemies are needed – this helped me to interpret how the rhizo14 FB group refused to accept some negative results – those must be a mistake of the researchers. I wrote about this in March in this blog.

New tribes celebrate around their totem poles and the  irrational elements are connecting people, not only rational actions and discussions. Rapid heavy streams in the internet require intuitive participation. The basic need is to be charmed by something with other people and take part in something jointly, yet feeling like an independent individual. Research is not the right way to do. This is apparent in the new discussion about the rhizo14 research between Francess Bell and Simon Ensor.

How to win the obstacles when an idea is rising? If the idea is fresh and authentic, the phenomenon may rise with little work, if not, nothing happens no matter how hard one tries. How to find the people who want to spread the message and are happy doing that and those who recommend the new idea. What are the common mistakes? One of the blunders is to fall in love with one idea and forget other people’s needs. Another is to tell confused stories so that the big picture disappears (please come here everyone this is awesome). The third obstacle is to be afraid of negative comments and stop doing what is needed (save one’s jewels).

We could explore a mooc as a social cultural phenomenon. Some phenomena may become a part of identity (for instance Apple) and keep up continuous emotional binds. We =people who have been studying connectivism from the beginning can be described as a tribe which has a new branch around Dave and rhizomatic learning. We have to choose Engagement or alienation (I remember the name of Tanya’s article about rhizo14).  I think that the model pattern of phenomenon describes well the rhizo-like courses without content, where community is the curriculum. The internet is full of this kind of phenomena, events, happenings, cases based on light emotions and intuitive approval. People are doing what they want in their self-developed silos. So what?

Many times I’ve been thinking that perhaps we live again the Middle Ages. What I experience is true as such and no evidence is needed. Sciences are a hobby of some old-fashioned  people at mentally dead universities and our new practical journals (as Hybrid Pedagogy) tell the up-dated truth.

Where is research on MOOCs headed?

The aim of this blog is to help me understand online learning. There is a new book “Preparing for the Digital University: a review of the history and current state of distance, blended and online learning.” G. Siemens, D. Gasevic and S. Dawson are working on a project of the MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) funded by the Gates Foundation. The goal of MRI was to mobilize researchers to engage into critical interrogation of MOOCs. The writers have gathered a big amount of research and built a frame for describing the situation until now. Siemens is a Canadian in Texas (MRI), Gasevic in Edinburgh and Dawson in Australia and the project seems to be global. The material they have used in the analysis comes mainly from North America, perhaps because of the language. They began from the autumn 2011, when Stanford University began its global MOOCs.

The paper is an exploration of MOOCs; what they are, how they are reflected in literature, who is doing research, the types of research undertaken and why the hype of MOOCs has not yet been reflected in a meaningful way on campuses around the world. Much of the early research into MOOCs has been in the form of institutional reports by projects, which offered many useful insights but did not have the rigor, methodological or theoretical,  expected for peer-reviewed publication in online learning and education. I was, as a learner, disappointed with this condition. Now the writers explored a range of articles and sources, and settled on using the MOOC Research Initiative as the dataset. I follow the part “Where is research on massive open online courses headed?” They report the ways which were used in collecting the materials. I am not very interested in assessing how well it includes everything – it never does- but I am interested in the content and the themes.

The results revealed the main research themes that could form a framework of the future MOOC research:

  • student engagement and learning success
  • MOOC design and curriculum
  • self-regulated learning and social learning
  • social network analysis and networked learning
  • motivation, attitude and success criteria.

The submissions were dominated by the researchers from the field of education (75% of the accepted proposals). There is need to increased efforts towards enhancing interdisciplinarity. Keywords was the concept most often used when they describe their categories. Computers can find words, it is true. Quantitative and mixed methods were used more than qualitative methods. Both Gasevic and Dawson have developed methods for social network analysis and learning analytics. I list for myself some topics which may be worth following and further exploration.

Engagement and learning success: the main topics in this cluster are related to learners’ participation, engagement, and behavioral patterns in MOOCs . Peer learning and peer assessment. Self-regulated and social learning and social identity were topics which analysed cognitive learning strategies and motivational factors and wanted to reveal students at risk. Social network analysis  and networked learning: identifying central hubs in a course or improving possibilities for students to gain employment skills. Learners’ interactions profiles may be analysed in order to reveal different patterns of interaction between learners and instructors. Motivation attitude and success criteria: diverse motivational aspects and course completion. I have done my own observations about these themes while participating on many MOOCs. I have to check the material in order to find the most interesting results.

Putting it shortly: the book seems to lack theoretical underpinnings and it is very North American, they know MRI and Gates. But I am glad that research is supported and I’ll follow next projects as well as LAK conferences. Here you can read what the Chronicle of Higher Education said about the report. They call George Mr not a Dr and I suppose they do it on purpose. It is not easy to change one’s role 🙂


Using Twitter in scholarly networks

I continue my journey to find meaningful results about open online learning. This research is new: Bonnie Stewart defended her thesis  “Scholarship in Abundance: Influence, Engagement, and Attention in Scholarly Networks” yesterday in UPEI Canada and I followed it via YouTube. I’ll write this post not to assess her research but to ask myself questions. How do I understand the meaning of her work? What can I learn about it?

I’ve never liked preaching about abundance, because in my mind it has always been the situation. Libraries have more content than human beings ever could follow. We have new tools nowadays as Twitter and that’s why Abundance is used in the title. Twitter brings new possibilities and challenges, so I can ‘accept’ the title. Bonnie has used ethnographic method  with 13 participants, who were twitter residents for at least 2 years, and had varied institutional affiliations and roles in 8 different countries. There was ethnographic participant observation, 24 h reflections, blog posts, profile reflections and interviews. She was interested in the following questions:

  • what counts as academic influence within open networked circles?
  • how does scholarly engagement in networks align with institutional scholarship?
  • how do attention and visibility operate on Twitter, and how do they shape participants’ experiences of care and risk within networks?

The participants were voluntary because they had to be ready for participatory work: invitations to expand, clarify, or reframe their answers. This is the only way to work in a research like this if you want to get deeper insight. I believe that the participants are a good sample of different scholarly Twitter users although it is not a statistically random one. More I am more concerned about the time period, because everything changes so quickly. The results are history already when they are written down.

The first article dealt with influence and defined it as capacity to contribute (slide 8). The basic concepts are scale of visibility + common interests+ shared ties and these are connected to capacity to contribute to the ongoing conversation.  Institutional affiliation doesn’t matter except for Oxford. (Here I disagree: I found David White to be a charming man and not only Oxford guy when I met him at an Elluminate session in 2009). Matter-ing matters is a funny way to illustrate the situation and I believe that I can follow the idea, and I agree with that.

The second article is most difficult to follow for me because the concept scholarship has so many meanings. Networked practices = Scholarship.
Scholarship of discovery/ integration/ application/ teaching (Boyer 1990 – nice to see an old source). And then Scholarship of abundance: a researcher wants to share his article so it could live its own life. Abundance is connected to openness here.

The third paper deals with changes. The new work habits give rise to (new?) personal emotional experiences

  • attention + visibility => vulnerability,
  • commodification + institutional indictments of deviance + re-inscription of societal biases (I can follow only partly)
  • attention + visibility => care

The participants came from very different backgrounds, not only universities. (My first thought was that university workers have always been vulnerable, the work is connected to their intelligence and it is not easy).

Bonnie describes her overall findings: networks operate in distinct pattern of connection, curation and collaboration. Generally said, so it must be so.
Networked scholarly practices enable and demand scholar’s individual rather than institutional cultivation of influence, visibility, and audiences. Yes, they do. Digital networks offer participants a sense of being someone who can contribute, and contributions open new doors. The intersection of high networks status with lower or unclear institutional status creates identity dissonance. This must be true as well, I can imagine.

What happens in the future then? One way is that networks become institutionalized and consequences of public speech become amplified etc. Twitter is used in tactical ways for helping one’s career building. I don’t know how separate from each other are traditional university habits and open social habits or is there much overlapping already. All that is said to be new is not new at all.

If you are interested in these themes please read Bon’s blog, in which he tells about the research process and results.

Here comes the slideshare of Bonnie Stewart:

Rhizo14 in Sunlight and in Shade, part 3

I’ll continue with my reflections on the article by Jenny Mackness and Frances Bell (Open Praxis 1, 25-38). The research article is close to my own interests to follow learning in open MOOCs and I know the researchers and appreciate their aim to get deeper insight into open online learning: What is going beneath the surface? Perhaps this article will be remembered for its results concerning the light and dark sides of participants’ experiences and the ethical implications around this issue. So I think that I have to handle this theme here in my blog.

My orientation comes from psychology and I interpret the happenings in Rhizo14 as usual interaction problems between people who have different expectations. I commented immediately when the worst (?) misunderstanding influenced the atmosphere in the course. What is an attack or what is honest feedback? This question is still unresolved and people speak passing different opinions while following only their own truth. Jenny comments in her blog (March 5 Light and Schade)

But the paper seems, for some readers, to have further polarized discussion about the learning experience in Rhizo14, making the light and shade even more obvious and oppositional than it was before. An emerging light for me is that some of the issues that were raised by the paper are being discussed, which is surely a better outcome than the paper being ignored.

My opinion is that the principles of connectivism are ideals or dreams of what human interaction were at its best. People are not autonomous, they live in the prison of their own mind and life history. They are defensive and only partly conscious about their needs. When one man is facilitating an open course for hundreds of participants, he is seen as a guru, a father, an enemy or whatever. Very few people are interested in what he really says and what are his aims. When I read my own blog about Rhizo14 times yesterday I found these comments useful: Jaap Febr 4 2014

.. rhizo people do share a culture? Inhabitants of that global village recognizing some shared interest. Nobody ever uses the Global Village any more.
Dave Cormier is an artist, his questions are more and more stupid and yet most people stay in the course and try to answer. Does that make the rhizo course a kind of congregation?

Another comment that touched me was Simon Ensor’s saying that he participates in Rhizo in an affinity space. That could be a key for deeper interpretations.

There is plenty of research about human interaction in open courses. Mariana Funes mentioned T-groups in her blog post. They were called Sensitivity Training groups in Finland when I brought the idea to the university education for psychologists. The frame was social psychology and all the concepts were well grounded in both social sciences and practice. The process and its phases are well-known psychological knowledge:
1. positive (fall in love) and careful (inner control by participants)
2. incident (I had to use dictionary and learned that incident has a negative connotation)
3. emotional stir up > after that people know each other better and the atmosphere changes, more commitment and identification with the group
4. new level of trust and better collaboration etc.
Shortly said: forming> storming> norming> performing> mourning.
BUT if we are a crowd or network or tribe or whatever is the new concept which describes cMOOCs – we should have new concepts for the process – or do we deny the process and “just network”. Do we need new ethics for free networking?

I have lost my focus on what I intended to say today, but
I want to end this post with a EdTechTalk video about The ethics of innovation in education.

Facilitating random people in #edcmooc

My purpose is  to continue my discussion about network facilitation. During the last weeks I have tried to do some facilitating operations 🙂 in edcmooc. We have a lot of people there and they come from 154 countries and and I cannot imagine their motivations or interests.  I use my photo of a tree which grows by developing branches to many directions. It could be a metaphor of edcmooc.

CTAworkThere are numerous little groups in the discussion forums or around the blogs. The members move from one group to another following their own interests.

The main groups could be for instance interest to teach better or interest to develop games or understand future perspectives or …

It is called identity-based interest which is rather permanent in adulthood. Some people may follow their friends and have human bond -based orientation. Depending on their educational background participants may have academical interests or very practical ones. This description illustrates my header facilitating random people. I cannot know whom I help or confuse more in this complex emerging environment.

How to model networked learning through openness, transparency of my thinking and connecting with others?  It is experiential, and to truly understand the power of networked learning and openness, students need to participate in a highly collaborative connected culture.  So create successful learning environment for needed experiences.

Could gamification help us to develop random facilitation? Here is what Tarmo Toikkanen says in his blog.

As people find the course, they need to be onboarded. They don’t yet know if they are interested, so it needs to be immediately obvious what the benefits might be and how to start. As people sign up for the course, the scaffolding phase begins. Its goal is to minimize the time that people feel they are not really productive or understanding what’s going on. Some have called this unhappy period the suck phase (since it sucks to do that). So the suck phase needs to be minimized by providing various scaffolding, support, tips, aids, and help, so that people can quickly become familiar and productive with the course and start gaining new knowledge and understanding. After this, the course needs to make it clear how students can achieve mastery, meaning in this case how they can complete the course, excel in it, and even go beyond the minimum results.

I also liked the Different people, different ways of fun – paragraph in the same blog. Some people want hard fun and some easy fun, some serious fun and still one: people fun. There is a flower image describing these options. So, what are you seeking for in edcmooc? What about the quality of scaffolding? It cannot be quite clear and work similarly for all participants. The facilitators are not robots or are we? Is there any difference between human and robotic tutelage? Do we sometimes work in a Teacherbot-like-manner? We copy the guides from the navigation side and say: Yes you can. Yes you may. Be brave and just do it. When a human says it, it is human 🙂

One point which I consider important is recognising the critical moments in one’s learning. This is Christine’s comment in a discussion forum. I copy it because I can trust her words more than my English.

There are quite a lot of things I don’t get, and only some that I feel inclined to want to know about. That point comes, I think, when there is a good reason to want to. So before that it’s probably important to have exposure to some technologies that you’re never going to use; when a desire to use a particular form comes up, at least you may have heard of it.

The trick is not to let it make you feel inadequate. I now recognise that feeling when it starts to arrive, and have learned to talk myself out of it and live with some uncertainty and ‘messiness’. Things will unravel and then can be pulled back together.

Those sentences help me to calm down and continue my random facilitation 🙂 Thanks


Research about cMOOCs

It is my lifelong interest to follow research about learning events during cMOOCs. This time I’ll tell about an article Participants’ Perceptions of Learning and Networking in Connectivist MOOCs, written by Mohsen Saadatmand and Kristiina Kumpulainen. It was published in Merlot Journal of Open Learning and Teaching in March 2014 and you can read the whole text here.

I remember this research because I have answered all the questions and had discussions with Mohsen during  the PLENK2010 and CCK11 courses. I liked the way Mohsen planned the research. Now I can learn more using his article. I have to copy pieces of the article in order to use the right concepts, please read the whole article if you are interested. This is only a short copy of it.

The research questions were as follows:
1) How do participants in cMOOCs use tools and resources for their learning?
2) What networking activities take place in cMOOCs?
3) What is the nature of participation and learning in MOOCs, and how is it perceived by Mooc learners?

I am interested in the question 2 and 3, not so much in changing tools and resources. Twitter had become well-known in those days, perhaps for the first time in cMOOCs.

I liked some concepts Mohsen used to describe the research:  the study employed an online ethnography design to gain deeper understanding of participation and learning in cMOOCs. Online ethnography or virtual ethnography is a method designed to study cultures and communities online, and the complexities of technologically mediated social worlds.  Because of the researcher’s crucial role in ethnography, Mohsen participated in and observed different MOOCs since autumn 2010, which enabled a better understanding of the nature of learning in the MOOCs. I remember him. The methods consisted of an online questionnaire, online semi-structured interviews and autoethnographic insight. The numbers of complete answers were low but it is not necessary to get all the answers to understand a phenomenon.

This paragraph reminds me that research is hard work, the raw data is not the result as such:

The data were interpreted using an ethnographic research design based on a framework of analytic induction and comparative analysis. In this framework, the broad and existing categories and the initial definition of the phenomenon of study were examined through preliminary observations and a small case data collection process (questionnaire). They then underwent continuous refinement throughout further data collection and analysis. The process continued by redefining the phenomenon, developing and reformulating research questions over the course of research, and modifying and refining them based on subsequent cases and more data collection phases (e.g., interviews, participants’ artifacts). Different sources of data were scanned for categories of the phenomenon and relationships among them.

Ethical issues pertaining to online data retrieval were addressed well and the list of references was long and includes all needed sources. I trust it, no need to check them.

Some results: A great majority (87.5%) believed the cMOOC environment helped enhance student autonomy and improve self-directed learning by defining their learning goals and organizing learning activities and interactions. This is perhaps due to the less structured nature of cMOOCs, which creates more room for learners to shape their learning. The role of the instructor is also as important in MOOCs as in a traditional learning setting. MOOC learners had a positive attitude toward the support and feedback received from the course instructor or other course facilitators.

The results show that participation in MOOCs challenges learners to develop self-organization, self-motivation, and a reasonable amount of technological proficiency to manage the abundance of resources and the more open format. Participants in cMOOCs use an array of technologies and various networking skills. The nature of cMOOCs requires students to assume active roles, in a spirit of openness, to shape activities and collaborate in goal achievement. In the dynamic learning environment of cMOOCs, learners become more autonomous in selecting tools and resources, making sense of information and finding their appropriate learning pathways.

Although the descriptive results of this study were based on rather a small number of responses, the data triangulation of online interviews, participants’ online content and interactions, and autoethnographic insight provided a rich account of the nature of learning and participation in cMOOCs. The findings of this study can be further explored in different MOOC contexts.

My copy ends. These results are well-known, but how  to go deeper into participatory learning ? The voluntary answers as in this research tell about the most active students who ‘know the rules of the game’ and want to learn more. I don’t know how to continue but I’ll seek for other interesting studies.

How to measure the success of learning in rhizo14?

This time I’ll discuss a small but interesting  part of the autoethnography gathered after rhizo14. This was the introduction for the participants:

“Share your personal story of rhizo14 in your own voice. You could freewrite, link to some of your blog posts, quote things you said in Twitter/Facebook or if you prefer a loose structure you might like to consider some of the questions below.”  The last question was: “measures and perceptions of success??” and it was connected to an article of Bentley et al 2014 “measures of success and perceptions of the success of their learning (OLDSMOOC, many cases) .

I’ll only deal with the answers given to this last question for rhizo14 participants. Half of the 31 participants had answered this question (15). I’ll summarise  their results and leave  away the other half: more individualistic solutions (images, zeega, numerous links) or very short answers without a clear comment on learning. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that eleven answers to the given question were given by men and only four of women, while the total distribution was 15/16. How to interpret this difference? Does it matter?

First I read all the answers (>2000 words) and then I combined similar answers together and the story diminished to a half. I am not sure if it is wise to separate answers to parts but it was easy/ possible. The answers had a lot in common. I’ll describe the results using the raw material. I do not mention the names of the participants. I try to write down one idea per paragraph. Here come the answers, let’s listen to the raw material:

Each individual participant has to define their own goals and measure the success in relation to them.
Although we had the option of presenting a personal project .. we didn’t use it. Dave Cormier has given his guide how to participate successfully in a mooc: only one used his concepts (declare or focus).
Success = meaningful connections for own learning /new friends/names to recognise. As my intent was to work at building a personal learning community, I’d say the success of that is ongoing.  I am successful when I strengthen the useful connections I already have, make some new useful connections, and identify some potential connections that might be useful. Making connections with individuals who have a passion for connection (and education) is priceless.  That, much more than content, was the largest part of what I define as success.
There was only one comment referring to learning theories:
From my own teaching and research experiences, the building of learning communities is the key. James Paul Gee talks about affinity spaces and Etienne Wenger-Trayner writes about communities of practice. Learning with others. That’s what rhizo14 has been.
I really wanted to improve and increase the diversity of my learning network. This is a very selfish reason and measure of success. MOOCs that are open are a fertile ground for cultivating your learning network. This course , more than any other that I have done before, have caused me to grow. My network is much larger and much stronger and I feel very much more connected.
Success = having participated. Learning and practicing the range of digital literacies needed to participate, even marginally in some areas, is valuable. I made some progress in the “I can’t read everything” department.
It may be an illusion of enthusiasm that I’ve “learned” these things but it feels like I have a better grasp on how to know them or reconstruct a more viable approach. I’ve gained a tool of understanding that clarifies things that I didn’t have before. Success = People having a serious conversation or, very often, people having fun together. That’s enough. This has been a good experience and I feel that I passed through something. I want to return to some of the potential paths I spotted over the past weeks and make sense in terms of this rhizomatic learning.
Success = I come out with a different perspective on my own network? Do I have at least one or two new nodes (people or ideas) that have altered the landscape or perspective I went in with? Rhizo14 was a rousing success for me and I look forward to ongoing conversation, engagement. / I measure success by my perceptions of the amount of consolidation and change in my thinking and doing. / have stretched me to think outside of the box. I am thinking and engaged in the higher levels./ helped me to think over the questions I had on learning together. I’m grateful for all the people that helped me in my thinking.
Success = I was able to take the ideas from the conversations into interactions with colleagues and was excited by their excitement.
Success = Yes, for me it was success. There was much beauty, I loved the occasional poem and other artistic expressions. I for myself can say I learned a lot.
Success= means also to have some new devices to use (Zeega Diigo Pinterest Unhangout)
Success number one = a working understanding and ways of thinking about rhizomatic learning
  • case 1. I thought that new ideas and ways of thinking about rhizomatic learning would be one measure of success. In fact this could be said to be aligned with the main reason why I joined. I was not entirely convinced that I know what rhizomatic learning is all about. I have to admit that it is not much clearer but I have a working understanding of the idea.
  • case 2.  As for content, I finally got motivated to read some of the insanely convoluted writings of the revered Messrs. Deleuze and Guattari. I understand much more clearly how to articulate, “Continued participation in a community like this allows me to be able to do things I did not consciously set out to learn how to do.” I am still grappling with the rhizome metaphor – trying to see positive points in Knotweed.
  • case 3.  On characteristic of rhizomatic learning lifted from Dave Cormier is to “…participate with and among those people who are resident in a particular field…” This I have done and will continue to do. In each community I will leave behind my rhizomatic project idea with a rootlet (URL) back hoping the connections might strengthen the meme. I clarified and strengthened my own ideas about rhizomatic education, gained many new ideas to test and work with, and outlined some future ideas that I need to know more about. Win-win-win.
Now I have listed all the factors which I separated in the stories. At last I give a copy of a story, which combines all of them:
I did this MOOC to explore and experience new pedagogies and ways of learning online, discover new people to inspire me and introduce me to new ideas and ways of thinking and it’s certainly been a success from that perspective. It’s been fairly pervasive and made me realise that almost every aspect of life involves some form of learning – life is rhizomatic, and thus rhizomatic learning is about learning about life and living it better. I found myself reflecting on it all the time, and it’s evolved my thinking on a range of things, and introduced me to some new people some of whom will develop with closer ties over time.
Here comes another story about the learning journey:
Yes, I learned new things, I met new people, I found new rabbits to chase. But the idea of success implies a stop, to reify the process. If I need to reify the experience, or get it certified, I can do so, and the generation of this text is a case in point, but for me rhizo14 was a participatory journey. Not a place but a movement. And the criterion for success may be only that this movement continues. Dave Cormier described the course at one point as a beacon, an attractor. I think he got that right, and many. We came together, or crossed paths, each in our trajectory, and new fires developed, and around them conversations. Now we move on…
So? Have I learned anything new?  Bentley et al spoke in their article about their reflective exercise. I think it was a suitable concept.  This is learning by writing. The descriptions found here are similar to earlier given in so called connectivist principles. The participants belong to that bigger community as I said in my previous post. The theme rhizomatic learning was weakly understood although it was the main content – or there were huge differences in understanding it? The participants didn’t copy Dave’s sayings about how to mooc well, which fact can be considered as  positive? The connections to learning theories are weak or hidden, because attitudes against educational sciences are mostly negative? I am only asking  comments.
If you have read this you may be interested in Tanya’s blog post and article about inclusion and exclusion in rhizo. It was one of those questions in the autoethnography.

Communities around rhizo14

I continue my rhizo research topic by pondering on internet communities. The subtitle of the rhizo14 course was ‘community as curriculum’. It includes an assumption that a community develops around the course and creates new connections and content . I studied in this blog many concepts around this theme: virtual communities, networks, crowds, tribes and clusters and found new ones: congregation, fan club, Dave as our Elvis. Network is most popular in describing life in internet, but  communities and tribes can be used as well.

Now I am thinking about rhizo14 and notice that I see it as a part of continual process happening in the internet. Most of the people who participated in the autoethnography at the end of the course already belonged to the community. Perhaps it could be named a community of connectivist life long learners or networkers. I don’t like the term connectivist, but I used it because it is known and may help to understand what I am saying. There is no beginning and no end, said Vanessa Vaile. I had a similar orientation in my autoethnography: I just passed by the rhizo14 and studied something. Later in this text I want to say story, I am tired writing the long term autoethnography.

When I read the collected 30 stories, I can recognise 11 names which have lived in the interned many years. They are experienced moocers and self-directed learners and their participation skills are up-to-date. So they come to a course and take what they want and contribute here and there so that others can learn from their comments. Dave Cormier’s transparent live in the internet is very well-known to these people and they like him. They believe that something will happen when Dave is the facilitator. Some of these people were interested in rhizomatic learning and their connection to Dave included this shared interest. A few were very old friends of Dave and co-worked many years with him. Some of the experienced networkers have more general interests about learning and living in online communities. I could name them outer circle ripples of the Dave community 🙂

I found 30 different stories and only three were written by novices in the sense of first time moocers. I appreciate that they have written their stories. So I have about 16 stories left. It is a heterogeneous group of people following actively and participating selectively in the open internet. Some of them were interested in rhizomatic thinking and wondered why it was not studied properly.

I belong to this group. I remember that I had discussions about the allowed interests. I felt guilty of not being interested  in rhizomatic philosophy and someone (Tanya) promised that it is allowed to be interested in human learning generally. I was not alone with my orientation. Cath Ellis had a researcher’s orientation and she helped to find writings about Deleuze & Guattari. Some followed her but most participants wanted to be free learners. When the course proceeded further, the artistic ways of describing learning took more space. It is metaphorical and near the ideas of the course, so this trend is easy to understand. Some very touching stories were presented in the blogs and warm support was in the air. Simultaneously I could recognise a norm arousing that writing is boring and linear, do not use it.

Some of the participants had been publishing about learning online in some journals, I remember Apostolos and Maha. Now Sarah and some others were interested in following this line. So we have this rich material of 30 stories in Google Drive. The idea of collaborative autoethnography is excellent and suits the purpose. It is

A form of self-reflection and writing that explores the researcher’s personal experiences and connects this autobiographical story to a wider cultural-political-and social meanings and understandings. source

We have  different stories which could be used in various ways. My first feeling was that no one wants to read the stories as such, separated from the context or the community. I have tried to contextualize the stories partly to wider cultural settings in this post. I could use the stories by analysing them focusing in certain questions. For instance I’ll leave the inner circle of experienced networkers around Dave and continue by analysing more normal people 🙂 I have no intention to deepen into rhizomatic thinking and I leave it to them who are interested in it.

I had an idea to draw a map of different motivations but I changed my opinion. One question is how to use the writers’ names. If I connect names into motivation I could get feedback (and many angry comments). So? If I give new names for people it will be ridiculous. Every research effort is valuable in my mind but it takes time. An idea of collaborating is very challenging to implement.

It is a nice summer day today, not too hot, but next week is predicted to be very hot again. Perhaps I’ll rest.

Rhizo14 as a gathering place

Today I want to rest and handle only easy topics. I took the heading from Dave Cormier’s post MOOCs as a Gathering Place, where he tells about us. I compare my experiences with him by showing the situation around this blog. This is only a little part of the course, but I have noticed differences compared to other MOOCs. Google Analytics gives the information about visits, visitors and pageviews so easily that I like to check them almost every morning during a course. It is feedback. So continue if you are interested in my blog’s life 🙂

My blog changed its address in January just when rhizo14 began. So the numbers tell about rhizo students’ visits to this blog. These images or diagrams tell the situation in yesterday evening. The overall situation is 376 visits, 112 visitors and 784 pageviews. Visits came from twenty countries.

rhizo1202I live in Finland and visit most often, it is clear. The next country is UK, not USA as in all other MOOCs, which I have participated. In UK, England is of course the part from which visits came. In USA, the visits came from the East Coast and not from California which has always been the first.

rhizoUSAThis map of USA is different from earlier maps from my MOOCs and the number of visits is lower than those from UK.

rhizomaatThe order of the countries is interesting. This is a British course in my mind. Also in Egypt, active on the map, can be seen evidence of British education (Maha Bali has told openly about her background). Visits from UK are now 97 and will be over 100 tomorrow.

This is more European as my former courses. Netherlands is the first in the continent (thanks to Jaap) but all the old European countries are on the map. That is not usual. France is 10 today ( and 15 on the next day).

Australia and Canada have same numbers here, but I have a feeling that Australia will “win”, the blog has many new connection there. From Canada the British Columbia comes first. So I conclude that rhizo can be considered as an European and British course. We share English language and (Anglo-)  western culture in a global world.

EDIT 14.2. I was wrong about Australia vs. Canada, the latter has 22 visits today 🙂

The content which I have dealt with is community as curriculum.  Since yesterday my posts were visited in this order:

rhizopages‘The community as the curriculum’ is the post in which I gave my interpretation about the weird behavior of the facilitator. A dangerous topic is interesting. The post ‘Sense of virtual community’ is popular too. It was written in the beginning of the course, when people are still active. The time explains that numbers go down, the posts are not yet read. The post ‘real vs imagined community’ from yesterday is not on the list, because it is so new. The topics on the bottom are the old posts to which I linked, some people have opened them. (On the next day ‘real or imagined’ is the third and I don’t know why).

What still? Only 29% of my visitors are new. I have an opportunity to meet my old moocing friends  and it is great. I have no idea about the whole situation in the course. Dave told something (link above) and Mariana has tweeted about a network analysis. It seems that communication has been very Dave- centred. In my Google Analytics Prince Edward Island (where Dave lives) was on the map with some visits but it is not essential from my point of few. The Huma Bird project concludes that “What is most impressive (and unlike anything I’ve seen before) is that each hour features at least one #rhizo14 tweet since the course starts – which shows how international the course is – it doesn’t seem to sleep.”

Any comments? Mistakes in my interpretations?

EDIT 14.2. I came to add the tag rhizo14 (thanks to Matthias for reminding me about it) and I commented on some numbers above. They are changing every day.

Real or imagined community?

Still one question about the difference between community and network. I followed  a course about ‘internet and social networking’ in my nearest university in Jyväskylä, in order to check how they handle these issues. I had learned my ways to study and participate on the internet by doing and experiencing. The following tweet has a message, which tells about my feelings:

socmediaSocial media doesn’t cause ignorance but it is very effective at documenting it. I knew this and went to the university to check the borders of my self-made ignorance. Teaching in all Finnish universities is free and open, I can walk to the lecture hall and sit down to listen and discuss with young students. All the material was open in Google Drive and it still is. Use it or lose it I could say about Finnish universities. The choice is mine. Not every teacher shares his material openly but Erkka Peitso did so.

I want to show a diagram which the lecturer presented to us. I have translated it into English. What is the difference between community and network?


In the community people have shared something, for example interest , but the membership may be imagined, it is not shared always. The network is defined by the connections between people (or whatever nodes). These connections can be identified and so they are known and visible.

This is the point where my eyes opened and I began to wonder why only communities can be imagination. How about networks? The rhizo14 participants are registered on the P2P University sites, 186 of them on the Facebook group and many follow #rhizo14 hashtag on Twitter. Dave Cormier has told that the course has about 500 students. Most of them are hidden somewhere.

In my previous post I was sure that we are a community but today I am not sure any more. The science of networks (Barabasi) deals with clusters, which are said to be the natural form of organisation of human beings. We do not know the 500 students in our course, we know some of them. We have real clusters or circles in our imagined community. When you participate actively, your circles grow larger. Let’s play with these concepts or without them. Here is an interesting experiment from Kevin H. in Twitter a hour ago. Try it!