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:

Online resonance in random crowds

What may be the factor which makes a connection between two people? There has been plenty of research on how to develop online connections once they have been made, but the question of how the initial contact is made has not received much attention. Jenny Mackness and Matthias Melcher explored this question in a discussion paper. You find the addresses of their ponderings in Jenny’s blog. The paper was published in 2010 and I remember how it inspired me. I decided to follow my connections in the next course (don’t remember what it was) but I didn’t succeed in doing it. I found some irritating people which I didn’t want to follow. The positive connections needed more time to occur in my online life.

The question about the quality of connections is fascinating  anyhow. Is it possible to plan a research on it, if I could not follow myself? How online connections are made in the very first instance of contact? What is it in an online environment that causes/enables one person to recognise another, in that first instance of ‘meeting’, as a potential learning partner, colleague or friend and to make the connection? When an idea or other element of an online artefact by an online author ‘resonates with’ an online reader, and he/she comments or responds, or at least will subsequently watch more attentively for more work by the author, then resonance occurs. This resonance initially occurs on a social (person to person) level, but it also involves the conceptual level and, furthermore, links the two levels in a very singular way.

Yesterday I followed #OER15 at home watching the keynote lectures and reading the Twitter stream simultaneously. I met many old friends and felt myself happy if they re-tweeted or favoured my tweet. I began to follow many experts which had interesting profiles in my eyes. Many of them followed me back and I suppose that these relations will stay mutual, because they are based on a shared interest. We are, or may be, on the same wavelength. I am not working in any institution any more, I am retired, but I can enrich my life by participation, sharing ideas and experiences world- widely. I am free to choose my friends.

The online environment offers a unique combination of the affordances. The technologically enabled online environment allows for both quick reactivity and asynchronous slower reflection. I prefer asynchronous communication because I am an introvert and  asynchronous online communication allows for more reflection and choice and the way to respond is more in the communicator’s control. I can check the words and make my English better. Also trust, empathy, closeness and friendship, all of which affect learning and communication arise differently in the online environment. There are new possibilities for us introverts. How could I proceed in understanding the question about online resonance?

Reflection on how any online connection is initiated, what might spark online resonance, leads immediately to the realisation that resonance is related to common thinking patterns and interests. There must be some shared interests. But resonance does not necessarily involve reciprocity and should not be confused with recognition. It does not require a response to be made for it to occur; it precedes this stage of communication. Neither does it involve acknowledgement, nor the identification of something as having been previously seen, heard or known. My friends do not necessarily know that they made me happy yesterday (or perhaps someone knows). All this would imply that online resonance is under our control, whereas Jenny and Matthias believe that it relates to ‘out of control’ unconscious communication. This being ‘out of control’ is in line with the complexity of online communication, where learning and connectivity are necessarily unpredictable, surprising and emergent.

Resonance is not about ‘sameness’. Rather it is about one or more ‘similarities’, which may be nonverbal or ‘beyond verbal’. To find like-minded people who just share the same interest we could simply search for a suitable forum or other site. Online resonance is more than this. Online, we are asynchronously situated at our own ends of the communication channel, having the freedom to pick distinct aspects to mentally engage with, interpret them individually and independently of others and then decide whether to react (arguing or affirming) or just skip them. Misunderstandings or talking past each other f2f might go unnoticed or be ignored, leaving the illusion of successful communication. Online we have more freedom to disregard and ignore elements of communication and engage only with resonating elements.

On a personal and social level there are many indicators of online resonance. These often have emotional or affective associations which may be articulated verbally or ‘sparked’ by feelings of empathy, excitement and stimulation evoked by the online message. Some work products of other participants just jump out and grab my attention. Before I know it, I’m connected to something. The resonating post might also fulfill a previously unrecognised gap or need in the reader’s learning/experience leading to new aspirations and stimulating further interest. Or it might not be the content of the post itself that ‘sparks’ the resonance, but rather a secondary topic, such as a mutually shared interest, which is revealed on the online site. Thus the initial resonance on this personal and social level may happen. Online resonance can therefore be thought of as ‘something beyond’ the message content, something non-linear and non-linguistic, which offers the possibility of a ‘glimpse into the mind’ of an online author. Jenny and Matthias used Bottger’s (2005) diagram but I could not find that text any more. Perhaps online resonance is ‘located’ nearer to the recipient’s mind than to the communication channel, said Bottger and I can agree with that. The key indicators of online resonance are associated with beyond verbal eye-catching, filtering and selecting information, on personal and conceptual levels, within the online environment, which should not be confused with conscious information searching activities. Those are easy to follow. Online resonance occurs at the beyond verbal and beyond words level. It is more unconscious than conscious and cannot be controlled, but the online environment does have qualities that allows resonance to occur.

A significant affordance of online resonance is the possibility of sparking new connections. If the idea for one’s own new thinking was not conveyed in the verbal message but via the accompanying components of the resonance phenomenon , then it is reasonable to speak of ‘new’ because it was not articulated. This can be illustrated by the case where an online post might raise the same questions that the reader already has, or where the words alone do not do enough to stimulate interest and only vaguely identify the matter. If the accompanying resonance guarantees that the aspect is of interest to both the reader and the author, but that this has not yet been articulated, then the thinking is ‘new’. But also the stimulation of dissimilar ideas via the similarities involved in resonance. Resonance does not imply a tendency to groupthink or echo chambers but rather the affordance of diverse inspiration resulting from divergent as well as similar ideas.

This process of selection of a resonating idea, whilst most likely to be unconscious and uncontrolled, is supported by the lack of auditory and visual cues within an online environment, which allows for conceptual connections to be more prominent and less influenced by personal and physical attractiveness, appearance, charisma and personality. Resonance happens indirectly rather than directly, just as children’s learning mostly happens.  Online resonance is unconscious, uncontrolled and is most likely to occur in the ‘messy’, ‘vague’ communications between very weak ties. There are skills that online learners rely on to support the likelihood of online resonance occurring. These involve being able to filter and select from a wide range of information, even within one post, if resonance is to occur. The parts of a text that do resonate with someone else are a very significant selection of the entire text because this selection indicates a conceptual connection within someone else’s cognitive network. Online connectivity is as much about inter-conceptual connection as interpersonal connectivity. The potential for conceptual connectivity is increased in contexts where online resonance can flourish, because it occurs at the level of ‘meeting of minds’ free from the distractions of physical and visual cues. It occurs at a ‘beyond verbal’ level. Finally, e-resonance is not about ‘sameness’ but about similarity, which can also support dissimilarity. It is likely to be constrained by strong ties, groupthink and echo chambers. The authors Jenny and Matthias  suggested that further consideration of online resonance and how initial connections are made between online learners will be important in furthering our understanding of online connectivity. The riddle of online resonance remains unsolved, they said. Thanks to them for many sentences which helped me to write this post.

This topic touched my mind when it was published in 2010 and it still does. How could I continue going deeper into the participants’ mind and find answers. ‘Forced consciousness’ is more challenging than ‘forced independence’ but both are needed in autonomous learning. Consciousness can never be forced, independence sometimes is.

I’ve lived in a world of pure in heart people while writing this post. But I can’t help seeing the other way: indoctrination or cunning ways to connect people’s minds into objects which they are selling. I favourited this link “Make an Emotional Connection for Lifelong Customers and Rapid Fans”  in order to remember it – and I got many Twitter followers who presented themselves as marketers. They disappear when I do not follow back. But should I learn something from them? Is it possible to choose the reality in which I want to live?


The things I learned last week

Last week I commented a research about Rhizo14 in this blog in three posts. I have followed research about MOOCs all the time (since the year 2009), so it was something I would normally do. I didn’t know how other people had commented this one and I was very astonished about what I have seen. It is The Thing I learned last week. There are different orientations toward research.

First some facts about my background and orientation. I have been interested in action research since the 1970’s when I acted as a researcher for the first time. The idea of participatory action research, where the doers are the subjects, not objects, it has been close to my heart for forty years. Another dream was to do practically oriented research and avoid narrow academic traditions. I still remember when a famous professor Martti Takala smiled at me and my colleague and said that he agreed with our motto more than the research itself. Now I can comprehend his feelings. Since then I have learned how challenging it is to act as a ‘practitioner researcher’ and I understand that it is necessary to focus every research, to find the question which can be answered. I have done action research and every time got negative feedback. If you follow development in an institution, they want to hear that they are excellent, not anything else. This is my background shortly and too simply, but I’ll handle the basic concepts in another blog post next week. Now I’ll concentrate on my learning last week.

I could not imagine the amount and content of some attacks on the research which was handled. It was impossible to follow or understand for me. I felt astonished and embarrassed every time I visited the Rhizo14 group in Facebook.  Yesterday I decided to sit down and learn more. So I read again two long threads which began as follows:

  • another from the negative results of the research I am speaking about and
  • another about a blog post of a Rhizo14 participant which had not an account in FB. So they spoke intentionally behind her back. They named her an attacker and I don’t know why. It was a normal or good post for me.

The discussions varied a lot and I could follow many constructive paths, not only of inferior quality as I had earlier seen. The keys of solutions were included in some comments; they used the concepts defense mechanism and ego. Many people said that in every research of students’ opinions, there are some that won’t like it. It is normal. But why it was not acceptable in this rhizo14 case? I draw a simple image:

Dia1There was much “we-speech” and that orientation excluded the others. I used the concepts Resident and Visitor here instead of Insider and Outsider. David White developed those concepts for participation in the internet in online studies. I think they are the appropriate concepts here. I feel myself a visitor even if I have written there sometimes, I have had long breaks as well.

After drawing that image I noticed that it is like the old social psychological description of groupthinking. The residents belong to the group and this frame influences all their interpretations. For instance the line around the box, the border, changes what is bullying and what is not. Those inside are free to name others but they are very sensitive about “others'” sayings.

The discussions in the two threads consisted of different parts. Many people behaved well and then it turned to low level again. This is ridiculous, said Simon Ensor many times and I agreed in my mind. Simon said earlier that he participates in Rhizo14 in an affinity space. Perhaps I should understand what it means.

Another image:

Dia2The rhizo14 course supported creativity and the use of artistic ways to describe one’s experiences. I appreciated that and enjoyed as long as I could follow without being a native in English. Poetry was difficult to follow but the videos easy. This all helped me to realise that some participants accepted only artistic ways. Every presentation should be dynamic and include whole and complex life in it.

So this way may lead to a point where research is not possible or not acceptable. I wonder whether it is possible at all to conceive a research for these people? There are other ways. For instance participants’ experiences may be collected on a platform Padlet where videos can be included as such. Here is an example of the last Padlet of EDCMOOC.

I could recognise huge differences in attitudes toward research in the rhizo14 group. Many rhizo14 participants are doing research and want to learn about doing it better while some people deny its value totally. There seems to be a gap between these lines. Building a bridge between these is perhaps too challenging. Anyway it should be understood what research is and why it is necessary to focus on appropriate questions which can be handled.

In both groups of the image (interested in research and artistic line) I have recognised negative attitudes toward so called academics or even universities. Sometimes those who make fun of universities know what they are saying and sometimes their criticism comes across as children’s crying or mere envy.

I have an intention to handle this issue, I mean research of online learning, during this Spring many times. This is my farewell to the Rhizo14.

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.

Rhizo14 in Sunlight and in Shade, part 2

I’ll continue with the theme which I began in the previous post. I will try to find answers to the question: what do I learn about the newest research article by Jenny Mackness and Frances Bell. I chose my line in the previous post: I copied the open survey questions and the reported results as positive (sunlight) or dark or negative (shadow) sides of participants’ experiences. I told that this is a normal situation in any massive courses, how else could it be? Many love, some hate and most people are between. I consider these results as some kind of side effects, very obvious and simple as such.

I am more interested in the content of the answers. The first three begin with “How does the image of rhizome relate to” and continues “prior experience of teaching/ learning (1) or learning in Rhizo13 (2) or future pracice (3). The questions are relevant of course but for instance I could not answer them although I had participated actively and blogged many posts. I do not understand how that image could help me in my learning or teaching. I told this to the researchers and they tempted me to answer the 4th, totally open question about my experiences. So I did, because I always support research about MOOCs.

I didn’t find my original answers from my computer but I am wondering if I can interpret my experiences as positive or negative. It is both as always. I learned what I wanted and my interest didn’t die even it didn’t focus on rhizomatic thinking. The researches mention on the page 31 that the principles of Deleuze and Quattari were not discussed but nevertheless influential in the way the course was designed and experienced.

I suppose that other participants could answer better than me and I should like to know what is the meaning of this sentence: “For some the course promoted deep or wide learning, was transformational and had a positive impact on classroom practice” (p. 32). Perhaps explanations will come in the next article, I can wait. I am writing in order to find my own thoughts.

Is there a hidden belief that Rhizo14 offered some quite new or revolutionary pedagogy in the history of pedagogy? What if a participant has lived in the middle of similar experiment for many decades? People have a tendency to love what they do and appreciate the courses in which they participate. It is a group process with known dynamics which makes people happy for some time, nothing wrong with it. But it not all learning. It would be a theme of a new research to follow for instance happenings in the FB Rhizo group. It is still alive but why and for which purposes?

Ethical implications are still lacking here, even they are the focus of the article which I have handled. So I’ll have to write more some day. Thanks to Jenny, Frances and Mariana for getting me and Simon Ensor to comment!

Rhizo14 in Sunlight and in Shade

Jenny Mackness and Frances Bell have published findings from Rhizo14 in Open Praxis, vol 7, issue 1, Jan-March 2015, pp. 25-38. The title of the article is “Rhizo14: A Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC in Sunlight and in Shade”. I have written about their research earlier and I was very interested in reading this publication. What is new, are there any deeper interpretations about learning in cMOOCs?

First I’ll refer to the data collection and the main results. The main data consisted of answers to four open questions in open Survey Monkey. The questions were as follows:

  1. How does the image of a rhizome relate to your prior experience of teaching, learning?
  2. How does the image of a rhizome relate to your experience of learning during Rhizo14?
  3. How might the image of a rhizome represent your future practice?
  4. If the above questions did not allow you to fully explain your learning experience in Rhizo14, then please comment in the box below on those aspects of the course which were significant for you, and what kept you in the course or caused you to leave early.

Following this initial survey – they got 47 answers -the researchers sent further questions by email to 35 survey respondents who agreed to receive these followup questions. The final stage of data collection was a Skype interview with Dave Cormier, convener of the Rhizo14. And then the results (p. 31) :

For many participants Rhizo14 was a very positive experience. They valued the metaphor of the rhizome for teaching and learning. It gave a new way of framing education, exploring education and thinking about education. (A long list of adjectives which I can’t follow 🙂 ). These participants valued the lack of a centre = the lack of traditional tutoring and the lack of prescribed content. They valued the high emphasis of learner autonomy, self-organization and handing over control to learners. The course was experienced as a spirit of exploration, openness and experimentation. These were thought to be important aspects of Rhizo14. The Facebook group was active also after the official course time and this was the light side of Rhizo14 (page 32). The majority of survey results were positive.

There was also a dark side for those participants who did not feel connected and could not find a voice in the community. They felt isolated, They felt unable to make meaningful connections despite in some cases being experienced MOOCers.

  • One viewed the emphasis on community as an unnecessary pressure, which led to artificial effects, exclusion and limited learning.
  • Another viewed the community as disjointed networks of pre-established subgroups.
  • Another described the community as having a dark edge.

These participants felt that there was a lack of appropriate facilitation, and there were inappropriate exhibitions of power and politics in the course. Some felt that the course was based on weak philosophical foundations and that the rhizome was an empty signifier, Some questioned the lack of content and felt that the course lacked depth and theoretical discussion (and many adjectives again which I can’t follow).

This was a short summary of what I consider as essential results in the article. I agree with the researchers that it was valuable to get some descriptions about the dark side of MOOC learning. Usually those participants leave the courses without telling more about their experiences. The positive side of learning communities is so well known that I suppose educational researchers are tired of reading praises of the pedagogy which the researcher supports him/herself. They are mostly pseudo-science more like religious confessions.

My orientation differs in some parts of the article. I do not think that Rhizo14 is an exceptional pedagogy or a new experiment. I think that the internet is the experiment in which we all are taking part. The background of the research could consist of the developers of the free internet and describe the Rhizo14 as part of this continuum. Dave Cormier began with Jeff Lebow in the year 2005 or so and they have proved that interaction can really work. The roots of pedagogy in the free internet are very old and well-known in the history of educational sciences and practices as well as politics demanding democracy.

I am not sure what is the value of connectivism. It is a list of good principles or aims – and those can be easily forgotten in praxis. I don’t believe that the differences between c and x MOOCs are true. There is political discussion between the free individuals versus all institutions. The world of education is not so simple.

What else could I say to the researchers? There is no need to excuse the number of responses when  you have 47 participants who write to your quite open questions. The data is always partial, it is never complete. The research aims to find qualitative differences, not quantitative numbers. I had a feeling that you excused also the results about the dark side of Rhizo14 (even you told that it aroused your attention). You are so deeply engaged in developing cMOOCs that you want to be closer to the positive side of your results 🙂

How to dive deeper into the qualitative data? The human consciousness of the participants is limited and the ways to illustrate own thoughts or feelings are partial if I use the concept you used describing the data. I can see that some of the descriptions of the  dark side used psychological concepts but those concepts are not well known. We speak about autonomous learning but we cannot be autonomous …

Now I am so tired of using this language that I have to take a break …


E-learning community around #edcmooc

The third edcmooc is nearing its end now. I tried to get a grip of the facilitating process during this MOOC. It was not easy and perhaps I have to stop trying. Edcmooc is a process itself and it is not easy to separate between different realisations. The process of becoming a Community Teaching Assistant has been described already in this fabulous story.  I have nothing to add.

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