How to contribute wisely?

Still pondering about my participation in the course fslt12 in order to help the researchers and myself as well. Answering this comment: “.. would be interesting to know if you felt that you helped other with their learning in any way… if you felt that you contributed to the collective level ..?” This is a challenging question again and got me to think :

What is a contribution actually? Does it need to be heard? But if happens only in one participant’s blog post, is it a contribution? The timing is another important factor here I suppose. And then a simple diagram:

There are “good” discussions going on, for instance about learning or teaching. The topics are in line with the course curriculum, everyone wants those topics. When you give something that helps others and they give feedback, everything is fine = contribution A. So what I did:

  • I gave a map (Google map) so that participants could see how global the course was. Some liked, not everyone. But the purpose was to help.
  • I checked my online habits in a blog post and gave lists of others’ blogs – and said thanks to Eleni Zazani who had helped me. This is community building I suppose.
  • I analysed the feelings during third week – it was a mirror to others and there are comments. This was conceptual work and I appreciate this more than my secretary work (the map, the lists etc).

My main feeling is that I was somewhere in the border of fslt12 community and did not contribute to the collective level in the Moodle discussions. Sometimes I mentioned that I agree and gave some sources of Finnish education to them who were interested (Ida, Lucy). I was disappointed to myself that I could not give more, my expectations were higher (read: always too high).

Contribution B is for instance my blog post about the British Empire. I did not wait for comments either – I knew it was outside the course but I wrote it anyway. It is not good to be so critical that you cannot write out of topic. I am still studying the Empire, we have interesting TV series going on in Finland. Global courses always teach about other countries, it is fine.

I am not used to conceptualize on the collective level, I have forgotten that word (it was used in the political student movement when I was young). I have used ‘community’ instead. Collaboration or co-operation could suit better? I could say that I was near some emerging moments but not in any collaboration.  I have read again some papers of Allison Littlejohn which she offered in Change11 in autumn 2011. I liked her research orientation, I was interested in the same questions. But it is better to write a separate blog post about her concepts  so that I can write on a general level, not only my experiences in fslt12. These self assessments have been very useful to myself, I wonder if this is the last one (said so many times already).


Did I change in fslt12?

Eleni Boursinou and Jenny Mackness are researchers and they want to understand learning in the course fslt12 (May-June 2012, Oxford Brookes University). I have blogged eight posts about my thoughts and this will be the last one. I want to help the researchers but I am not sure if I have anything new to say. I was an outsider, with assignments and assessment the experience had been different. I am an old, individual moocer and do what I want and when I can take the time.

Jenny is interested in this question:  What evidence is there for the ways people learn in MOOCs. ( Jenny’s blog post). After my comment she asked: How finding evidence differs from measuring learning?

Eleni Boursini wants to explore how people participate in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) (i.e. behavioural, interaction and engagement patterns). By observing learning behaviours she aims to develop an understanding of how learning occurs through networks. She is interested in collecting examples of changes occurred through participation in a MOOC, by asking participants of the fslt12 MOOC to write short narrative descriptions of their experiences on the course: what changed, and how? Is this story about:

  • A change in your conceptual understanding (connecting the dots: changes in concepts and relationships between them)
  •  A change in your behaviour (changes in ways of doing)
  • A change in your professional identity (changes in ways of being and becoming
  • Other:

I love these challenging questions and try to answer now, a month after the course has ended. I have pondered how the learning process is a part of my life and cannot be explained without contextualizing it my work life history and my retirement in 2010. I made some simple diagrams to describe the situation how I feel it.

My motivation based on learning more about learning and to compare the Oxford Brookes University course to the teacher education where I had been working. The British education is very appreciated in Finland (students go to England and pay a lot of money to get it). I felt that I have to leave this comparison because it was not the topic. It was only a frame in my mind.

I had an idea of sharing my experiences and knowledge. The main perception was that the content, the theorists were just the same. Now I got them in digital format, earlier via books.

Did I learn, did I change? No, but I was happy. All the discussions convinced me that we had been on the right way in our teacher education.

The next step is to connect my online experiences to my participation in fslt12. I know how to give attention to others and try to find mutual interests. I mentioned people and their blogs and topics. A simple diagram about this all:

Almost all my online networking has dealt with my professional areas: learning and teaching, facilitating. This fslt12 course focused same themes and I enjoyed the sessions with guest speakers. I got some new ideas and perspectives, critical views and broad thinking.Most visitors to my blog came from other sources, not fslt sites or participants – but if I want to be positive, I got new knowledge in the sessions and I had the opportunity to observe experienced chatters at work.

“Some efforts to analyse” MOOC behavior means that I considered the third week loneliness in one of my posts. Jenny came to discuss about unrealistic expectations in open courses an told that she does not enter MOOCs with the expectation of making strong connections. If they come, it is a bonus, she said. Vanessa told that she is more engaged and less lonely when participating open courses. She has left behind wrong expectations. This was a moment of learning to me. I also loved Eleni Zazani’s concept “small pockets of deep learning” in blog comments.

I am living through a slow process of retirement and so my greatest insight in fslt12 dealt with my problems to retire, leave something behind me. I learned that I don’t want to take responsibility of Finnish (or global) education any more. I cannot tell all the time how we did that in 1980’s – I do not find the way to meet novices in a constructive manner. I am not convinced that it is fine or reasonable to use open courses for random people. Still one diagram about my situation:

I feel that I should take a big step to something new way to participate in online courses. I have to use my autonomy and do what I want. I had decided not to participate any courses anymore but I tried fslt12 in spite of my decision.

I have practiced to live in the middle of many tensions and uncertainty many decades and supported my students and colleagues in this all .. but there are always challenges.. many insights must be found again and again.

You are never ready to life. There were some excellent microteaching cases at the end of the fslt course, which can help me in my challenges. I remember Eleni Zazani’s digital identity – how to take care of it. I need those devices and have used them.

What I have to answer to the researcher Eleni B. still? What are my patterns? Do I ever check them? I had a blog post about this – I have my habits from year to year. How about my changes in fslt12: a few conceptual, no behavioral changes, no professional identity changes anymore – but a deeper understanding of my retirement process. My networking has developed during many open courses and now I feel myself  confident. The internet is my open course in future and I’ll survive …





My experiences in fslt12

First Steps of Learning  and Teaching is an open course organized by Oxford Brookes University, in Oxford, England. This is the last week going on. I participated with a general interest toward open online learning and because I knew one of the facilitators, Jenny Mackness. I thought I’ll have free time but it was not true. After the beginning in May I was traveling one week and some other interesting meetings held in June too. This disturbed me because all happens slower in English language. So I have an experience of many broken situations.

The content reminded me about by working in a teacher education in Finland. The recommended material is the same and now I got it in digital form, I knew the books but not the links. Feedback- week was my favorite in the Moodle forums. I got some contacts there but because I did not write much I could not connect much. I read the forums about Learning, teaching and supporting which were the first orientation to the course. They seemed to work very well. I should have read them at once. I am not interested in teaching any more and the weeks of small and big groups and the short teaching practice exercise were not for me. I don’t belong to the assessed group.

The synchronous sessions in Blackbord Elluminate with the guests were meaningful to me. I have Frances Bell, Etienne Wenger and David White in my blogroll, have followed them some years. It is fine that recordings are available, so I can read the chat discussions later. Some experienced moocers participated very actively and gave a model of multichannel participation. The atmosphere was nice and a lot of humor was in air. I like it. The Moodle forums were more serious, this came to my mind just now.

I blogged here seven times, first 23th May and this will be the last tagged with fslt12. Two posts dealt with the sessions and one was very general (The British Empire in the honor of the Queen’s Jubilee). I tried to analyse living in moocs on third week and found insights about wrong (too high) expectations. My blog got some comments, thanks Eleni, Lucy, Cathy , Cris, Vanessa, Alan and Jenny of course.

Google Analytics gives me information about visits to my blog during the last month. My first blogpost has 56 visits, the second about S. Brookfield 52, communities, networks 49 and Just checking my habits 17. The numbers are not very high I think. Some changes in the countries were visitors came: New York (27) >California (21, which has been on the top all the time) and British Columbia (15) > eastern parts of Canada. From England this blog came 83 visitors, London 19, Oxford 9. The key word to my blog has been “learning theory teacher education” and there was no change in these – most people came to read my blog via key words. Only 12 visits came from the fslt Moodle and 11 from the course blog. Twitter was important, 102 visits from there. I can summarize that participating fslt12 had not many consequence to my blog life, until now. Some new friends I hope, some names to remember.

I tried to do the global Google map for the course but it was not a success. Elisabeth friendly helped and put the address in the course blog and the Moodle forum. The map shows the main places where the participants live, but many are missing. Some did not like Google, some did not succeed in putting the mark. In case that students live in Oxford or near it, it is not so interesting to see the map. And I can feel myself lonely in Finland , so far from others 🙂

This is my self assessment. I did not participate actively and therefore did not learn or connect very much. I enjoyed everything I did but I am convinced that participating courses is not any more my job. The internet is my mooc in the future. I could evaluate the course but why to do it? It is too near to my living in work life, teacher education and the culture is different in Finland. So, thanks to all facilitators and participants for this possibility to open studies – I am one experience richer now.


Openness matters or not ?

Still three days going on fslt12 studies with other students. We Finns have Midsummer Eve on Friday, it begins on Thursday and then comes the Midsummer weekend – no studies allowed, only celebrating our beautiful nature and warm weather. So, how do I use these days? I read the Moodle discussions already and the guiding material given to this evaluation week. But first I’ll write here some thoughts about last Wednesday, the session with David White. Jenny Mackness has blogged about all themes David presented, I focus following my interests just now.

David works in the University of Oxford, Technically assisted Lifelong learning. When he speaks I can fill the gap between technology and human mind, psychological knowledge about learning. I have a feeling that we have many years studies technical devices and been happy about every new gadget or widget or whatever they are. We have forgotten the knowledge about learning which we already had. Theories of learning have stopped to develop, no time to them, only easy solutions. But when David asks “content or contact?, learning vs. academic?, gratis or libre?, learning black market?” and comes to pedagogy of questions – I begin thinking again. So thanks for that moment. I can refer to some points in this blog post.

Content: quality of it is forgotten too often. We admire TED videos which are more like Hollywood superstars with no academic background. I believe that becoming a researcher in an university with credibility – it is a good way to careful critical thinking. Open learning is assumed to be always better than institutional, academic and we are ready to throw away the excellent principles that have been invented long time ago. Then we begin to re-invent those principles and name them to be new. Where comes the credibility of information quality? You cannot apply new literacies in a knowledge domain if you have no  expertise in it. This result has been found many times but we ignore it and recommend to dive in the flow and wait serendipity. We should know better, there are many ways to proceed. Blind doing is overestimated nowadays.

How to cite in multimedia – this is interesting. How to deal with the big elephant, Wikipedia. When I was a young student, we pretended that we knew the original sources albeit we had not. Now students learn not to refer to Wikipedia but to the sources it gives. It makes it easy to find the beginning points and gives answers very quickly. Remix = plagiarism? Copy-paste culture? Digital literacy means, however, making good questions, not finding answers. Learning needs effort and engagement. This is the old truth, welcome back 🙂 Careful search, value uncertainty and admit complexity in the study of all things.

It was a thought-provoking session, time well spent. I could observe new literacies in-action: many old moocers as Brainysmurf, Mark, Lindsay and Cris (with the facilitators and David) had very intensive chat discussions. They shared new links and arouse serious questions – and had fun doing it all. Some newcomers learned to participate in that way, using many channels. I agree that it is a skill learned in practice: to articulate your initial thoughts quickly, and confidence  comes with success (Thanks, Lindsay for giving these words). It is nice to participate with a lower pace, too. I don’t even try to chat in a quick tempo in English.

A core moment in online participating is that when you begin to contribute after only following, observing or consuming. This post is my humble contribution. Confidence comes not only from success, it needs self-acceptance as well (becomes easier with age 🙂 )



Just checking my habits in fslt12

When you go to an open course you have to decide what to do there, how to participate. I have my habits from earlier courses or my web life generally. I don’t like to subscribe to discussions or blogs or their comments. I don’t want that my email is full of messages so that I do not see the connections, the thread. I want to go to the original place, for instance Moodle week and decide there how to continue. I need broad entities to study. And I am person-bound, want to know co-learners orientations, not only posts with hashtag #fslt12. I have used Eleni’s blogroll because many of fslt12 blogs can be found there. Now I decided to gather my own list in order to learn by doing. I did the same in PLENK2010 which was my last mooc.

Here is an image of the Google map what gives information about participants’ countries. I am in the north, in Finland. Click the image to see all.

Blogs or First Steps of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education June 2012, Oxford Brookes University, England.

Eleni Zazani, London blog  -she takes care of us, Twitter

Fred Garnet Forest Hill? in Oxford? blog   – a thinker, Twitter

Allan Quartly Australia, indigenous learning,  – blog  at the chalkface

Lucy Johnson Norwich, UK blog

George Roberts facilitator in fslt12 Oxford blog

Cathy Wint has commented me,  the blog

Cris Crissman North Carolina USA blog sessions

Brainsmurf Canada, but who is he? blog  sessions

Jeffrey Keefer NY blogi Silence and voice   +Twitter

Mark McGuire New Zealand Twitter + sessions blog not about this course

Sia Vogel Netherlands blog  Twitter

Vanessa Vaile USA New Mexico many blogs? very active everywhere 🙂

Scott Johnson Canada moocer

Lindsay Jordan London + art also in PLENK2010 blog

Linda Burns Sail’s pedagogy Durham NC?  blog

Apostopolos Koutropoulos Salem USA blog Multilitteratus incognitus

Coleen Elmer Washington? blog

Ida Brandäo Portugal, blog

Sarah Horrigan  blog

Vikas Nethaji  Oxford  blog

Don’t mind my comments, they only help me to remember something. Very few people are active in Twitter. Some are active in Moodle discussions, some visit on the Blackboard sessions and are active in chatting there. In the synchronous sessions my energy goes to listening but sometimes I notice some chat threads and listening the recording helps to perceive more.

Now this is so long post that I’ve to write another about the quality or nature of participating in an open course.

Let me know if here is something wrong information about you. I have a longer list of names but here are only bloggers. If you want to add yourself to the Google map, go here.


Communities, networks and moocs

I listened again the session with Beverly and Etienne Wenger (in First Steps of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education) and this time I was thinking about communities of practice and other concepts near it. I try to connect it in the situation in the fslt12 course that is going on. I found some touching discussion in Course question (Moodle, welcome week, the longest thread) and want to comment it here. I also remembered a blog post of Sia Vogel from October 2008: Being there and suddenly very lonely. Sia’s post was easy to find, she has still the same blog (like me). Sia got 19 comments to her post about loneliness. There was some discussion about third weeks of moocs, when participation numbers are going down. The enthusiasm is high at the beginning, but what happens on the third week? We live it in fslt12, which is called a domesticated mooc 🙂 and feels more like a course, but do we have that normal mooc syndrome ?

I copied some comments from our Moodle Course questions written during this week. I leave the names away because I am not sure if people want to be named here. You can see the names in Moodle.

Apologies for this, but I wanted to say that I’m really struggling to continue with this course. I confess that a lot of the discussions have washed over me in a confusing wave: there are just too many unfamiliar concepts and too many words applied in unfamiliar contexts. Perhaps it’s just me, but it feels like ….

I suspect that you are not alone. For myself, I too struggle with some of the concepts and discussions, often not really sure where they fit in. etc

Vanessa: I’m struggling too but that’s more about time and connectivity. It’s good point. I’m a bit fuzzy on outcomes myself but since I am just following (or whatever the appropriate term would be) I can just go with the flow to see where it takes me.

There are discussions about the amount of information, overload and the theoretical level and new concepts. Jenny comes to meet the students and they calm down (don’t worry Jenny, I am not leaving anywhere). Jenny’s and other students’ message is the same that was told at the beginning of the course (with Dave Cormier’s videos): do not try to follow everything, choose what you need and want. It is a simple advice that is always true, but does it help? How could we describe the situation? Here is one summary:

A MOOC is education that comes to me to be processed as I choose. Were it strictly defined as a “course” this approach would likely lead me well away from the understanding the outcomes promised me in the catalogue. And this is a frustrating process.

This is a learning process which begins with disorientation and frustration and you have to find the way yourself, with help of co-learners. Metaphors can help: Cris told about smorgasboard used during some MOOC and she gets an answer:

How about a carnival metaphor? School you buy a batch of tickets for selected rides. MOOC you get a site pass to try everything and find out there are more rides here than you thought.

Students may be disorientated with the directionality of the curriculum as I am with the apparent chaos of a MOOC. A MOOC allows me to play with uncertainty and depending on how my day is going, that can be scary or liberating.

Now I have used many quotes and forgotten my own experiences. I had the same feelings of loneliness and lacking meanings. I was eager some posts ago and I had feeling of belonging to this course, but it has disappeared. Perhaps my problem is, just now, that I have no teaching practice any more – I can see excellent mutual reflection about these themes. I thought discussions are practical and someone said they are theoretical. This is the world in moocs.I do not find my place or role in discussion forums.

I had already ended to participate any moocs but tried this anyway. The internet is my mooc. But I enjoy the sessions on Wednesdays, it is great to participate. Waiting for David White, he is my favorite tweeter and researcher.

My heading is ‘communities, networks and moocs’. I have not built many connections during these mooc years. No communities or networks but some names and habits for aggregating information and knowledge. Community of practice is suitable for work life projects but I am living a free after work life now. So my what-to-do list is open. It is not easy to be free..



About Identity with Etienne Wenger

Perhaps the best in First Steps of Learning and Teaching are the synchronous sessions on Wednesdays. Last week Frances Bell visited the course and this week Etienne and Beverly Wenger Trayner. (Your name is so long that I take only half of it to my heading. I’ve known Etienne for a longer time 🙂 I like the concept community of practice, we used it in teacher education and understood that boundary broking was important. I like the practice driven orientation, practice is a challenging criteria.

This time I think only about identity, its roots and concepts needed to follow it. Etienne and Beverly presented this slide :

Identity must be contextualized as the image tells: negotating identity in a complex landscape. I should like to take these concepts to describe human identity. Professional body, training and research – all are needed. Now I see, again, why it was difficult to me to follow Bonnie Stewart’s facets of digital identity. I cannot separate any digital identity, it is only listing behavioral elements, not interesting as such.

I need the whole personality and its context, cannot think without them. What did I learn in the session? Something I wrote to myself:

  • embrace the serendipity of your own history (what does it mean?)
  • category error in institutional thinkers (now I am smiling)
  • meaning is the driver of learning (true but how to find the meaning?)

Thanks for the session!

Old and new commonwealth in fslt12

Two weeks break in my fslt12 studies and why? I have been traveling and participating elsewhere, met my wonderful grandson etc When I came back to this fslt course I noticed that I’ve problems in motivating myself to ponder about school teaching and courses. I am not a teacher any more (retired 2010-) and I must take a broader perspective or more distance to concrete questions. This week I became interested in the Queen Jubilee which gives two free days for workers in England. Britain has a long history of commonwealth, it has influenced directly to 25% of countries in the world. I liked the slideshow which David Roberts tweeted. There has been a project for gathering information and experiences from 1952 to 2012 Jubilee.

Some connections can be seen between the map of participants in fslt12 and the British Commonwealth (Imperium? which word  to use?). We have students from Canada’s British parts, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Only me and some people from USA come outside the British world and we are not so far mentally. History is not history, it is still  living in our minds. When I followed the Jubilee concert last night and saw all those people celebrating I thought that we will never live only rationally. Emotions are strong and mythical elements.

What about new commonwealth? Is there any that could be named so? Open online studies and communities around them are sometimes assessed to ‘save the world’. Connecting People was the brand of Finnish Nokia mobile. It’s a fine purpose. What is happening in this new brave world of moocers? How to avoid of repeating the same mistakes that human beings have always done?


Stephen Brookfield inspires me

I have been reading the material of week 1 in fslt12 course, reflective practice is the theme. As I said yesterday, most names are known and i have their books in my shelf in this room. But I have a strange feeling now because I have known those men vi books and now I get digital material. I read Stephen Brookfield’s site today and he has went to the same direction as me. He has found online teaching and facilitating and developed discussion as a  way of teaching. I have wrote about same questions (only in Finnish). I feel as I had met an old friend 🙂

So I have found new content already, not bad. I’ll write more about Brookfield’s experiences compared to mine, later. Now I check other things in the course : we had the first session and got more guidance for studies. Never earlier I’ve got so good guidance, only went in and listened what will come. I know the facilitators George Roberts, Marion Waite, Sylvia Currie and Rhona Sharpe, I’ve heard them speaking and seen videos, too. It was nice to participate in the session even I could read guidelines alone as well.  Synchronous meetings have some influence to course climate, a feeling of being together.

Elisabeth Lovegrove made a Google map for this course and it is in the Community site so that everyone has the right to put one’s mark  on the map. I’m waiting there.. please come. Most people have Google accounts I suppose, it is needed. By the way, I tried to walk on Google map streetview in Oxford, and I did so, but your Oxford Brookes University is hidden or there are no streets for cars or .. I could not see your buildings. This is a funny way to orient myself to learning environments, but I have been only in London, not Oxford.

I want to put here some names which I have noticed in the participant list and Moodle discussions. I have not decided how to aggregate this course – I had some technical problems today, as always at the beginning of a course – it is good to have alternative ways.

Eleni Zazani, London blog

Fred Garnet, Forest Hill but where it is? blog

Allan Quartly, Australia blog indigenous learning sounds interesting

Jeffrey Keefer is active in Twitter, I remember him from Networking Learning Conference 2010 because he tweeted so lively. I have followed his blog via RSS. Jeffrey seems to be very quick in all his doings, he lives a different time than me, he is in NY.

I’ll continue this list later. I’ve read Moodle discussions but I had problems to get in today, so I have not written there yet. But some day I will do it. I am interested in both people and content in this new course 🙂



My first blog post in fslt12

A new open online course has begun in Oxford-Brookes University. I became interested in this course by reading Jenny Mackness’ blog, she is a member of the organizing team. First I thought it was only to British students but no: there are participants from all continents. Yesterday the number on participants in Moodle was 127 and introductions were interesting. I remember Eleni (very active) and some guy who knows Australians aboriginals (sure that I learn something new), and I could see many names in the list which I know from other moocs (about ten ‘old’ names). I’ve introduced myself and lurked the discussions but I wanted to write this post before participating in discussions more.

I want to show a photo of our summer cottage where I was yesterday. This is the landscape I look when sitting on our balcony.

We Finns need a close connection to nature and we escape from towns every summer to small cottages. Ours is in a small island and we need a boat to go there. I have only mobile connection there and so I follow email and Twitter and FB but do not write much. It is a different place. Now I’m at home and use my computer, which is safe and remembers all my passwords and my personal history in the web.

I’ve been thinking about my participation in this First Steps of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. I don’t want to define my participation yet, I let it emerge according to people and discussions. But I can see these possibilities:

  • basic phenomena of learning and teaching are always challenging, never understood totally
  • I try to share my experiences during my long working life in higher education, last years in teacher education
  • cultural differences between countries may be interesting to meet
  • I am retired and now I am practicing only online studies, not teaching any more, so I want to follow learning online
  • I want to follow my doings and learning, that’s why I tell about it here

A memory came to my mind comparing English and Finnish school. I visited in the National Board of Education in London in October 1995 when I had my 50. birthday (I was a member of a group and nobody knew it, easy to me to remember anyway). In those days Finland was developing a local  decentralized system, where every school planned a curriculum of it’s own. And England went just to the opposite direction, they were proud of great centrality and standard tests and so on. I think these differences still exist, but this is not the theme in fslt12. Perhaps we can see reflections of these cultural differences, I don’t know.

Next I’ll go and read this week’s discussions in Moodle and participate. I have oriented myself by reading the curriculum and listening to intro audios and videos. I am an experienced online student and know that I am allowed to choose and find my way. I love the theme reflective practice and the readings recommended: Brookfield, Schön, Kolb. We used their books in the teacher education I worked. I try to find some deeper perspective to them and I am sure that discussions help in this.

Some technological questions always arouse: I made a Google map to this course but could not open it to everyone to edit. It seemed to me that the participants should be invited via emails and I cannot do it. Elisabeth is working on it , she came to help quickly – and my trust to the facilitators increased. Reading the list of participants gives the same information as the map so it is not at all necessary. I like to visualize and it helps me.

Another technical worry I have about this blog’s comments. I did not know that it asks the address of another edublog (Bonnie told this after the previous post). If someone tries to comment and tell about problems, I’ll be grateful. I have moderation for the first time income but I’ll accept quickly. If there is no moderation, spams come in and it is not nice. See You!