The community as the curriculum

I’ll continue my journey describing my observations during rhizo14 in the light of the heading: the community is the curriculum. It is the other heading of the course but usually the first Rhizomatic learning has been dealt with. I am interested in the latter part because I’ve been working on that theme many decades, I had to write a curriculum using personal learning orientation in the 1990’s (had to write tells about my attitudes against administration, I had to work as a head of teacher education programme for six years). My solution was that I began the curriculum by describing the students’ co-learning, how it must be organised.  Much has happened after those years and now I am interested in open online communities.

What can be said about open courses, what is the normal process. I use the image, which Doug Cloud has developed.

dougclowThere was discussion about the power law of diminishing participation but Doug wanted to turn the discussion to a different direction. The diminishing does not follow the power law, we have to explore what happens in the process. What factors lead to ending  or proceeding during the studies.

In my previous post I dealt with rhizo14 a little. We, the participants have different levels of awareness and motivation at the beginning of rhizo. Many of us have participated in CCK or edcmooc or PLE or whatever courses and many are involved in other courses all the time. There seems to be some competition between courses, which to choose and use time with it. The basic motivation to take part is broader than only rhizomatic learning or Dave Cormier. I am grateful to Tanya who commented on me and so I found her blog. She offers the option to be interested in facilitation or learning more generally than in rhizomatic learning specifically. This helps me give up my guilt about my lack of interest in Rhizomatic learning per se. I drew an image about this situation: crossing and moving motivations and expectations etc but it is so messy that I left it out. You have that image in your head, your personal image.

I am not interested in the numbers of participants in rhizo14. Dave shared the results of his survey some weeks ago: 65 answers were given and they can be found in Dave’s blog.  About engagement I chose 2, because I wasn’t engaged in that moment. About connections I chose a bigger number. The assessments are sensitive to many factors and change from moment to another. But something they do tell. The number of active participants have been 30-40 in every mooc which I have followed.

What is interesting in rhizo14? It is an experiment about a totally personal curriculum without a teacher. Dave speaks about “new kind of self-evolving under the pressure of information overload and the technology instantly available”.  Mariana in her tweet called it a power shift. When I have been thinking and observing the rhizo14 community, I have become conscious about the quality of the participants (students, learners > read a thread began by Apostopolos in the FB group). We have many years’ experience about moocs and, what is perhaps more important, about work life and education generally. We should be able to analyse our community and our curriculum.

We know (psychology knows) a lot about cognitive and social processes and dynamics. We have experts in this course. How do we combine the older knowledge with the analyses of this time. The sociologist Barry Wellman showed this slide in LAK13.

lak12nutshell

We function more as networked individuals. Our social networks are large. Networks are sparsely-knit and loosely-bounded. Rhizo14 is an interest-based community but there is a great variety of interests inside it.

The core concept in developing a curriculum (or a course?) must be interaction. It is easy to build connections with like-minded people. It strengthens and sharpens, Lou tweeted today. We live in the middle of self-made abundance. We know that innovations happen near the borders. There must be people who break them and connect with different people. For instance Wenger has built excellent models about this many years ago. You remember the circles crossing each other, do you? I should like to draw some circles about rhizo14, but I am afraid of naming them. It is a taboo to classify people, isn’t it? I cannot do it, it is hard enough to describe myself for my front-page.

How about our interaction in our numerous discussions? We explore the edges of what is possible in open online learning, said Tanya in her blog. She spoke about thoughtless sharing and creation as well. Jaap spoke about a market and walking around, choosing what we need and going home. Mariana mentioned the ripples following every action or saying. So am I in a trap: do not deal with difficult issues? The borders of openness and freedom, where are they, how near or far?

I take an example. When somebody says in a discussion:

Your negative response to the course has been a strong pattern. While I have found your critiques of the course helpful, I wonder if there isn’t some other underlying critique that has kept you from trying on the ideas in the course. I would very much appreciate it if you would address this underlying critique.

How do we interpret this? Many were astonished, because they had no idea that the response was negative. But every interpretation is true, so the writer was also right. Norms are created in this way, what is allowed and what is not.  If the speaker has power, he gets followers and it happened. The story continues when the same person says:

My request for more information is not a rhetorical flourish.  I’ve followed XXs work for years and would like to better understand what it is that concerns her if there is a deeper issue involved.

Now we have the interpretation problem again? Does he mean that he expects better, stronger and deeper critique from XX because he knows her work or is it a bitter comment: be quiet if you haven’t better thought to express. I don’t know and I don’t want to solve that question. I have told my opinion already. But I want to illustrate how we, adult and well educated people in our networking, we behave as people always have done. Defensive behavior arises when we feel threat or criticism, real or not. We may project our own problem to another participant and blame him/her. I use these old findings of psychology in order to understand this kind of happenings. We are human beings. The new nomad is like the old one and he behaves using ancient mechanisms in a stressful situation.

Something positive in the end. Here comes a presentation which Matt Holland, a participant of Elearning and Digital Cultures published as his digital artefact. There was discussion in the forums during the process. Matt shows the way, which is not complex at all. Or is it? What should be added to these five rules for being human in a MOOC:

 


EDIT 8.2. I have received excellent feedback which helps me to understand that there is great diversity inside rhizo14 and I use “we” too much. I speak to a tribe which has been hanging out here for years and knows the basics of networking. I try to build that community forwards when I say “we”.