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.

8 thoughts on “Rhizo14 in Sunlight and in Shade, part 3

    • Should I say that I found it patronising as well? Pretty much everything that was said in this video about the course I ran and myself is false: I did not run an experiment, I did not want to “see if people could socially organise themselves without my presence”, no money was exchanged (at least not with me!), etc.

      My ethics are directly questioned, while the podcasters do not even seem to understand the issue at hand. I disengaged from the course because I started questioning the ethics of the platform itself. I had signed contracts (the standard Coursera contracts) which prevent me from criticizing directly the company, and weaken significantly the protections I might have compared to an usual academic. I had no way to explain this to my students properly, and once I was prevented to speak no way to explain it to the rest of the world.

      • Clarification: “I did not run an experiment to see if people could socially organise themselves without my presence”, as Cormier et al discuss here. I did run other well-announced informal experiments (no control) during the course. This is documented in many other places.

        The confusion stems from one article in Inside Higher Ed, which conflated two different sentences that I wrote into one, and twisted their meaning.

  1. Good morning Frances and Paul-Olivier

    I embedded the video only because it had the similar topic “Ethics of innovations in education” and the Rhizo course was mentioned in it. It was published in July – I don’t know if there has been former discussion around it.

    Paul-Olivier : I can’t follow what you are speaking about but it doesn’t matter. It was a course for hundreds of people and I met only some. But was it a Coursera? It was not in that platform. It was in P2P University and I never registered, so I am not sure about these conditions.
    I don’t remember your name (not very polite, but I suppose you don’t remember me either).

    Frances: your shared a part of the video which illustrates Dave’s opinions very well. Perhaps I have been tired to listen English in this last part and did not assess it as patronising while listening it. But today, when my iPhone told that Dave began to seek for bullying people from Rhizo14 (in Twitter and in the FBgroup), what should I think after watching that part again. He seems to be very conscious about the attacks during the course.

    I tried to deal with psychological phenomena and what is the result? More psychological phenomena.

    My relation to that video is that I agree with Jeff Lebow. Adult voluntary people in open online courses may always leave the course and they do not need any special protection. I take it that simply (don’t remember how Jeff said). On a course level there are recommendations (Coursera for instance, thanks Paul-Olivier for reminding) for the quality of discussion forums. Be civil was one point in the slideshare of M. Holland I shared in my post during the Rhizo14. It is not easy or possible even in case of adult students. As we have seen.

    I have somewhere the guide lines for Community Teaching Assistants by Coursera, I thought they are technical but now I have to check them. I used to be a CTA in EDCMOOC which is Coursera but much more connectivist as the cMOOCs 🙂

    Discussion around ethics in open online courses is needed, let’s continue it

  2. As I have said to Dave privately and on Twitter, I don’t find a ‘blame frame’ particularly helpful for resolving communication difficulties online (or offline come to that).
    What is interesting to me about this video is that we can view it as three friendly people (they seem to be very pleasant) having a chat about things that have happened online. In the first case, they are talking about something that none of them had direct experience of, and in the second case they are talking about an incident that one had experienced as facilitator and getting support from people who know him well. Well, that is the sort of talk that people might have in a staff room or in their living room, and it may help them think critically or reinforce their mutually agreed positions. When the talk is made public, I think that the situation changes. I hadn’t encountered Paul-Olivier at the time this talk was published – or seen the video of the talk until much later. But Paul and I, in my opinion, managed to have civil and productive dialogue about the same issue https://francesbell.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/cool-webs-for-rhizo14/#comment-1119

    • Thanks again Frances

      Many blog posts and discussions during rhizo14 have been untouched by me – the poetry part totally and many others. So thanks for the link it seems very interesting. Of course I didn’t doubt your or Paul’s ability to civil discussions. I speak from my personal history in adult education.

      The discussion of the video is important. Transparency and openness – what do they really mean in this context? Dave tells about his frustrations during Rhizo14 and his friends give sympathy or empathy. When the video is published, so what? Many things follow…

      Now I have a positive problem of how to choose what to read? My intention was to read Mariana’s blog posts and now I want to read yours and Paul’s and Simon is writing every day, I should read him as well. Perhaps I go walking with my new icebug shoes – they help to walk on snow and ice…

  3. I am going on holiday on Monday for a week to a place without wifi so I will only have intermittent access to all of this – that will be good for me. I like your comment about transparency and openness – they aren’t as simple as they might seem.
    Perhaps we all need icebug shoes and a flameproof body suit 🙂
    Seriously though, when I talk with you here, I feel confident that you would share with me (publicly or privately) if I seemed to say something offensive about you and we could resolve any misunderstanding. I also feel confident that we can disagree as well as agree and both benefit from agreement/disagreement.

    • Frances, have a good holiday and enjoy it.

      I have during this week understood that I need both icebug shoes and a flameproof body suit if I ever comment on Rhizo14 experiences. Never seen so much defensiveness in my long life … I feel myself a criminal if I don’t love rhizomes every minute 🙂

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