Footprints of emergence: open/structure and interactive environment

I want to continue my journey to understand learning dynamic using the methodology of the research project Footprints of emergence and connecting my experiences during edcmooc, E-Learning and Digital Cultures. I want to continue all the areas and the factors today and then I’ll take a longer break. First the area open/structure and its seven factors, then interactive environment which includes seven factors. These areas are the part of the emergence circle.


Open/structure means the creative tension between openness and structure. Some structure is needed in every course. How to describe this area more accurately:

Risk means movements from risk to safe,  safe to fail and risk-taking. For experienced moocers edcmooc was a safe environment. There was little to fail at, only many interesting opportunities to prove new and learn. Light area = sweet emergence.

Liminal space varies from conservative, traditional, fixed to the opposite = strange transformations and metamorphoses. The course edcmooc was in the hands of experienced participants leading to many unexpected experiences. Darker outer= sharp emergence, challenging learning.

Ambiguity means closely defined meaning at one end of the dimension and open to several simultaneous meanings at the other end. High level of diversity (participants and their products, resources) led to several simultaneous meanings from across the globe. The participants lived in all continents and there was many language groups in use (not for Finnish people, we use English). Is this darker outer zone again?

Unpredictable outcomes from fixed, micro-managed outcome to surprising, serendipitous, unpredictable outcomes. Edcmooc tempted toward the latter and I was not the only one who loved unpredictable products and thoughts. I learned more than I expected to, and it was nice and full of joy, not uncomfortable at all. Sweet zone or darker outer?

Disruption varies from comfort and familiarity to unsettling, inverting and challenging. It was mostly comfortable to study, listen the videos and take part in the discussions. I used Prezi in my final work for the first time, but I had ideas to use it earlier. There was recommendations to use more difficult devices, but I was free to choose what I wanted. Sweet zone perhaps?

Self-correction. Hierarchical control or self-correcting system? We used the Coursera platform but experienced students offered more choices. What could be self-corrective in Coursera? The facilitators reflected and listened but the original curriculum was not changed, only some extra was taken there. What is the zone? Stable or sweet?

Multipath: only one way or multiple options? In the recommended resources there was much optional and we used Twitter, Google+, Facebook group etc. Many blogs we in use and comments received there. A course could not be more multipath, I think. Which zone means the full marks?

Then to the other area, on the right in Footprints circle. Interactive environment is the heading and it means the way openness vs. structure is realised in practice. I notice that I described that already above, I had problems with separating the curriculum from real events.

Diversity from few, standardised resources to large range of resources and people. Edcmooc offered high level of diversity, thousands of students from every continent, young and old. OK, not from Antartica. It was really open, how to mark that?

Experiential from objective, abstract to embodied, immersed, practice-based. A lot of practice-based experiences were shared and the final work. digital artefact was practice to everyone. Sweet learning, really and challenging sometimes.

Adaptive from fixed to responsive, innovative, creative. The facilitators responded to participants concerns. I don’t remember any changes made to curriculum, but it is possible. Sweet area?

Co-evolution from fixed, hierarchical relationships to mutual adaptation and growth: the latter was true in edcmooc. Feedback and assessments were mutual and the facilitators wrote a blog as a team and reflected transparently  all the time. Lots of evidence of mutual growth was promoted by the atmosphere and facilitators’ expertise. I want to give full marks.

Frequent inter-action and networking from bounded learning space with walls to open, diverse networking learning. Edcmooc had Coursera platform and you had to sign in, but it is not a problem I suppose. It is good the have a place for interactions. And there was a lot of places for interaction outside the platform, more than anyone could use. You had to choice. Full marks.

Trust from competitive self-interest to mutual respect, support and growth. This is the most important question about the course culture, I think. This factor must always be in assessment boxes. Edcmooc lived in the mutual respect and support side and it was a great experience. Experienced participants begun this culture and the facilitators continued with us, mutually.  Full points.

Theory of mind means either interaction with objects or interactions with other subjects minds. The latter seems very demanding, but because of all described in this post, I could claim that we had interaction between our minds.

It is time to summarise my footprints but a break is needed. Perhaps on Monday, let’s see what my mind says 🙂



Footprints of emergence: presence

The story continues more footprints will be described in this post.

Presence/Writing is defined as exploring, articulating and networking yourself, your ideas and your feelings. (Why writing in the heading? is it supposed that writing is crucial in expressing oneself?). There are five factors in this quadrant. Presence is personal, I think, so I have to tell about my doings and feelings during edcmooc.


Solitude and contemplation. The dimension begins from isolation, untested ideas, echo-chambers and ends to personal space for interaction with people and texts. Edcmooc offered plenty of opportunity for interaction but also plenty of opportunity to stand back and reflect. I had a blog as usual and I built a network of other blogs around it. I was alone when I wanted and interconnected when it suited to my mind. Should I describe this situation as light zone, sweet emergence?

Casual encounters/ conversations. From highly formalised interaction to chance, serendipitous encounters. I don’t remember any highly formalised interactions during edcmooc. Also the G+hangouts  which were planned by the facilitators, were very relaxed and enjoyable. We could not speak there, but we could chat by writing and one of facilitators followed chatting. Serendipitous encounters I remember very well, they made my feeling comfortable. So where goes my mark, to outer darkening blue perhaps.

Networks, encounters and engagement. From formalised, inflexible groups to initiating, creating, engaging with new contacts and groups. Edcmooc was the only mooc where students organised meetings and places for them already before the course begun. This kind of networking and encountering continued through the course, it was open, new friends available all the time. So I have to give full marks – the dark blue = challenging emergent learning. I cannot assess only my behavior, this factor needs other participants too.

Hybrids, informal/ante-formal. From mono-media, mono-modal, abstract interaction to diversity and choice of media and modes. This factor is easy to describe in edcmooc: it is challenging learning with the latter end of the dimension: diversity and choice of media. The assignments showed great variety of media. The topic digital cultures tempted to this direction. So my mark will go to dark blue, sharp emergence.

In/formal writing and inscriptions (what is the difference between these words?) From formal ritualised assessment to informal, creative, light interaction. In edcmooc the assignments promoted creativity and assessment was rather open. All should be accepted if it was seriously done. Perhaps – or surely- there was also diversity in assessments: one of students got feedback that her digital artefact was too serious. I thought her work was well done. My mark goes to sharp emergence.

Footprints of emergence: agency

In this post I’ll handle the agency quadrant of the Footprints, which I am studying in order to understand better learner dynamics. The entity which I want to describe, is the course E-learning and Digital cultures (edcmooc, see my previous post).

Learning dynamics, visualisation of learning events without absolute good and bad statements is the idea. This is qualitative research without quantified scores. I began to fill the Footprints circle from a part that is easiest to me. My education pushes me to observe and assess individuals psychologically. Agency is the heading of the quadrant and it means Developing your capability on your own terms. First I changed that to ‘my capability and my own terms, but it was not working. I thought the participants as a crowd. Here comes my image, look at the right side only.

tulos1krThere are six factors for illustrating agency. Identity varies from complying fixed roles to creating and developing your own roles, affordances and capabilities.

In edcmooc it was obvious that we = participants could determine our roles from active engagement to observer. Anonymity was allowed in the discussions and sometimes it was in use. Many participants took on the role of supporting other participants. There were thousands people participating and even experienced ones needed support. Following the given description I gave my point to darker outer zone, because it means more challenging learning. I chose a drop to be my point.

Negotiated outcomes is the following factor. It varies from externally determined success factors to mutually determined ones. We had an assignment to do, a digital artefact, but it could be almost anything. We received feedback from three students and of course we had to give feedback too. The outcomes were not externally determined. My drop falls on the challenging learning area again, because there was great variability of outcomes.

Autonomy means in this context the dimension of working with others agendas to creating your own agenda and goals. During edcmooc we had to choose our own goals.  I have problems with translating agenda here, it is broader than goals? How could a course influence or change participants’ agenda?  We were allowed to act as autonomously as we could in our life general. The drop follows others to the dark blue, sharp emergence area.

Self-organisation varies from hierarchical fixed processes to creative self-organisation and self-motivation. The topic of edcmooc, digital cultures in the future is open to many directions. I had never thought that it could be hierarchical, but of course some parts of the course could be constrained to selected gurus. This was not the case, or I did not see it. Now I read the guides again and remember that I should describe self-organisation in this factor, not the curriculum. To put it shortly: we could engage or not as we chose. An example of self-organisation could be the digital artefact of one participant. He chose to build a fake account for a facilitator to Twitter  and published it. The facilitator was pleased, not angry, it was a good joke and demo of how easy it was to do. The students were adults so this was possible. My drop falls in the same line, even on a little bit darker blue because of full freedom.

Open affordances varies from compliance with predetermined outcomes to creative innovative engagement. Now I have a feeling that I have already dealt with this topic. What could I add any more? The given  advice to peer grading were general nature and allowed freedom. Here is my blog post about this topic. My peer learners understood my ideas better that I could expect. I was lucky perhaps, but I was interested in all kind of feedback, not only positive. The drop goes to the same line again.

Cross-modal and multi-modal dimension is not easy to follow to me.  Mono-modal, abstract interaction is the other end of the dimension and synaesthesic, embodied, holistic interaction the other end. Interaction during edcmooc was very multi-modal and cross-modal, even trans-modal because of the topic. I have never experienced so great diversity of expressions and interactions. So the drop falls again to the same zone of challenging emergent learning.

Now I’ll take a break, my brain has worked enough. Why all my descriptions are so alike, like each other? Do I miss something, is this halo-effect with memory distortions? I’ll continue with the other lower quadrant named presence after the break.

Emergent learning as a landscape

In this post I will describe emergent learning as a map, landscape or topography. I do not develop my own views today, I repeat what Jenny and Roy had written already. The sources are their article in IRRODL and the wiki for this research. The topic is so challenging that I have to divide my journey into pieces. The images are taken from the article.

The aim  is to explore ways to visualise what happens in MOOCs, or related open learning event, courses, etc, using the Footprints of Emergence template, based on a work captured in the open wiki which shows how 3D ‘footprints’ are used to map out the dynamics of learning. In any learning community, there is always a need to balance the acquisition of knowledge with the creation of new knowledge. This 3D learning landscape is a model for exploring the relationship between prescribed and emergent learning in any given curriculum.

The graphic is a map – it is metaphorically a 3D landscape, or a 3D topography – of a learning environment. It has a ‘valley’ (the dark blue zone in the central circle) an exposed plateaux (the lighter central zone) , an increasingly steep slope (the outer zone), and a very steep slope, down, in the thin, dark zone just before the edge (of ‘chaos’).

Dia2In this image you can see a half of the whole circle. I have to use the same concepts which the researchers have used. I am not confident with my English (my third language) and it is challenging to handle exact phenomena. In my view every English word has ten meanings and I do not not the connotations in each context. But here is no choice, the research is published in English. I tried a Google translation to my language (Finnish) and it was very funny.

This is a 3 D description with a valley and plateaux and slopes. This gives space for imagination. Dynamics is always complex and this is one way to demonstrate it.

I need another image to show the 3D properties in a cross section view.


I present still some copies about the basic concepts from the wiki. I try to be careful and not to change or distort these descriptions.


All of these four zones have value for learning, each in their own way. None of them is, in principle, better or more desirable than any of the others.

The central circle (or valley) is the zone of prescribed, fixed, stable learning and knowledge, and has value for learning knowledge which is valid in any context, and can be used by any person. The zone for instruction.
The light, central zone (or plateaux) is the zone of ‘sweet’ emergence, for exploring different perspectives, approaches and strategies, for developing your own perspectives, and trying them out in an open but reasonably supportive environment (hence the plateaux metaphor). This is the zone for somewhat challenging learning.
The darker outer zone is the zone of ‘sharp’ or ‘sour’ emergence – a continuation of ‘sweet’ emergence in some ways, but much more challenging learning (experienced as either positively challenging (sharp) or negatively challenging (sour) emergence. It has value for moving learners on to new ideas and new perspectives. This is the zone for challenging and more creative learning.
The outermost, thin, layer is right on the edge of chaos – high risk, not much support, and potentially in danger of falling off the ‘edge’ into chaos – which might be too much information, too little information, too much isolation, overwhelming crowds – of people, ideas and options, etc. It’s where learning unravels, for many different reasons. It can have value too – for shaking learners out of their comfort zones, and stimulating creativity. This is the zone for provocative and disruptive learning.
And then there is the area ‘over the edge‘ which is, unfortunately, where some aspects of learning end up – and from which recovery and re-engagement with learning is much more difficult. You can position factors over the edge too, if that is how you experience them. There is no value in this – it’s not a learning zone at all, it is, instead, a zone for ‘fire-fighting’ and emergency management.

Chaos and over the edge area seem to be a negative process here, not a learning area at all. My orientation to changes in the human mind has based on theories of Bateson and Mezirov in which the change to upper levels goes through disorientation and blurry views and conflicts. All researchers of developmental psychology know this gap between old and new in human mind. In this Footprints of emergence the darker outer zone describes this movement toward new thinking. The idea of transformation must also be within the clusters and  factors, which describe the individual experiments. The main findings are in those concepts, but I had to paint the landscape first in order to settle my mind down there.

I want still to show my visualisation at the beginning of my first open online course CCK08 (September 2008) . You can see the phases from prescribed learning to flow. No chaos but much movement (dynamics). I was eager to learn and optimistic.



Dreaming about deeper learning

One of my basic dreams is to understand human learning. I am not sure if I have to define learning in digital environment as a separate form of learning. That way leads to listing tools (blogs, tweets, RSS etc) and seeing PLE only as a collection of devices. I am tired to use that way, I have tried it here too many times. It is better to speak about learning in human systems. People are communicating with each other and computers help to do it.

I needed the words of Otto Scharmer at the beginning of the video I embed here: there are two sources of learning but most theories are interested only in that part which has already happened, experiental learning, how we organize and use our knowledge. The other source of learning is to focus on the future as it emerges just now. I suppose I have lived this moment many times but now I went deeper. I had to stop to ponder about it. Is it possible to stop downloading the old stuff and observe, live in this moment? Scharmer described the psychological inner voices that limit us: fear, cynisicm and judgment. Open mind, open heart and open will are only dreams. We have lost our ability to live in the presence, only children can do it (if they live in safe conditions). I like the simple way Scharmer presents these basic phenomena. I recognize it to be true but so what? What is the next step, my step to real emergent learning? Time will tell and networks help..