My blog and my expertise?

The header image of this blog shows the history of my participation. Five years and four months is a long time and now I have a feeling that I want to change something.


In order to deepen my orientation I present more facts which Google Analytics offers me. Here is the overall situation: visitors, visits and pageviews.

Englblogi5vThe numbers of blog posts differ but they don’t correlate directly with the visits. The year 2010 is the top of posts: 20,24,64,16,26,50.

The first two years were connectivism studies CCK08 and 09. It was the beginning of my international participation.

The PLENK2010 course opened more ways and I was active for the first time. The year 2010 seems to be my real beginning towards international virtual life. After that year I have participated in many moocs. American eduMooc gave me some names to follow in Twitter. Two Coursera studies have been great experiences: Fantasy and science fiction. Human mind and Modern world was hard work and taught a lot. ELearning and Digital Cultures was so fascinating that I did it twice. Its facilitators’ team is charming and the community around the course seems to live forever.  First steps of learning and teaching in higher education was nearest to my former work at teacher education. I participated in it twice, first as a student and then as an expert participant. It helped me to find the old educational theorists in the internet and deepen my knowledge.

The following diagram shows the countries from which the visitors came to my blog. The overall number is 130.

Englmaat5vUSA is highest every year but UK goes up in 2013. Edcmooc and fslt are both implemented in British Universities. Australia goes up and more visitors come from there than from Canada. Philippines and India have noticed my blog later. Malaysia could be mentioned too. Europe is less interested in my blog (except UK). Germany was at the top on the first years, now the Netherlands leads the numbers. Finland I have left outside because I cannot separate my own visits from real visitors.

So it is a small English speaking community which I’ve learned to know during these five years. Some of my friends participated in the connectivist moocs but not everyone.  My connections are open and changing all the time. I recognise many names in Twitter and follow their blogs. Although new visitors have apparently come during the courses, the most favourited topics in my blog seem to be very general. They are near my real expertise and my permanent interest. I’ll list the blog posts here in order (how popular they have been):

Learning theories in teacher education from 2010-10-05 and category teacher education are at the top from year to year. Almost half of all direct visits are connected to this topic.This expertise is part of my history and I’ve no intention to continue in this field. They do what they want, it is not my job any more.

Then the numbers of page visits diminish quickly.

  • On connectivism again 2008-09-16 includes a diagram of experiental learning, which we used in teacher education. I suppose that this page is linked by Downes somewhere.
  • Learning theories and technology 2010-10-09 and Learning theories recent discussion 2010-10-07. I remember that Rita Kop appreciated my knowledge about Nordic discussion.
  • Social self organisation 2011-02-24 was connected to a Finnish project published in English. Understanding networking 2011-02-27  followed the same project. There was international interest in the air.
  • Learning Analytics 1st conference 2011-03-04 contains links to presentations. Also the following posts about LAK conferences have got readers for the same reason I believe. How to follow learning (LASI and LAK) 2013-07-12 continues with this theme.
  • Assessment can support development 2010-10-14 deals with the main topic of learning, based on my experiences at the teacher education.
  • Research about mooc pedagogy 2011-12-19 is my permanent interest.
  • I am the platform 2010-09-29 was my way to determine how to participate. This must be nerd talk, much spam to this post.
  • My footprints of edcmooc in febr, 2013-09-03 and the wikispace of the research project are the best research oriented blog posts which I have written until this. I should continue ..
  • Test your blog 2010-10-15 . This is a way to become famous, but I want to dive deeper to psychological knowledge and I haven’t continued in this way. It was interesting that all the answers belonged to introverts.

In the future I will focus my writing better. I do not participate in any courses but follow discussions according to my interests. Online learning, pedagogical principles of moocs and how research can help to find answers. Those are my topics this year.

Next weekend I intend to copy this blog to a new place and say farewell to edublogs. This platform has served very well, but I am not in a right place, I am not a teacher any more. I move this blog to my site or actually my son does it and I gave orders. I am not sure how I’ll continue blogging. Time will tell.

Andy Mitchell, one of those edcmooc digital angels, said me in Twitter that “You need to learn to praise yourself. Your contribution is important…” I have a lot to learn. How could I believe what Andy said?

Old and new steps into digital life

Some discussion in the fslt13 course has aroused memories in my mind. I want to check my writings at the beginning of my online teaching. I used to write in Finnish, of course, so I try to translate some thoughts and figures now. I was one of the first teacher educators who became interested in online teaching. We got the first learning platform in the year 2000. I began my blog in 2007 and published these figures in it.

onlineteachI had worked the last 1990’ies in teacher education with up-to-date pedagogy. We had adult students from all professions and we supported them individually. The student built their becoming way to work as a teacher = their theory-in-use. We had flipped the classroom already.

With this pedagogical awareness it was clear to use the same pedagogy  in online teaching as well and it was easy. The energy went to learning how to use the first learning platform, it was a big change. I have written in my figure that it took one year to use the first one, and the change to the following learning platform took another. All the technologies must be integrated to the ‘theory-in-use’ and it took over three years. The aim was to build continuous development as online teachers in teacher education – this change of culture takes ten years or more and sometimes it never happens. What is needed to implement this vision, it was the topic of my second figure.

passionYou must be interested in, to have passion to teach online. It was so demanding at the beginning that it was much easier to stop and say that it is not working, students don’t want it, we have no time for so many technological problems. Attitudes changed very slowly and I can still meet all those old prejudices against online teaching.

The most important source of learning to work online is in the action, you have to teach and facilitate online in order to learn from practice. You may get support from literature, research and theories but you cannot assess their value and practicability without acting yourself.

Networks developed from year to year when online teaching became more usual and popular. OnLine Educa Berlin is an important international conference to meet colleagues abroad, a short flight from Helsinki,  and we have our Finnish meetings in Aulanko. Many online networks are available every day. The first began in 2007 – before that there were some communities for nerds only, I think.

When I compare these writings in the situation just now, I feel that the development has become faster and it is normal to work by implementing many changes simultaneously. New devices come and go, you try them and leave them. You need networks to learn from others’ experiences. Technologies have become easier to use and follow at the same time when teachers have got better digital literacies. Attitudes have changed so that online teaching is wanted and appreciated because many people have positive experiences about it.

During our fslt course we have had presentations from Jenny Mackness and Sylvia Currie. Jenny’s theme is open academic practice and Sylvia’s theme is building open communities. I can see an analogy from my description of online teaching, how it has developed, and these new areas of opening. Technology has a central role in these new digital openings. Jenny uses the dimension of limited vs extensive use of digital technologies combined to open digital academic vs. closed and lone academic. Read her blog for better descriptions (I am tired in this phase of writing English 🙂 ).

Sylvia’s pondering about building open communities touched my mind too. She asked if the organizational side of development has taken too much time from the intellectual and social sides. Jenny has a good post with links about Sylvia’s presentation.

Who are the best facilitators in all this development? The answer is not the experts who have forgotten the past difficulties. The best facilitators may be the co-learners who have just learned the thing, just succeeded to solve the problem. The experts may tell about their experiences but they may answer to a wrong question, change the question so that it is more interesting. Now I have a feeling that this all is pretty obvious but I hope that I learned something while writing this 🙂


Open education or opening minds?

What is the quality of learning on online open courses, can it be defined or described or understood? This question has been in my mind many years or always. When I try to understand my ongoing open course, fslt13, I simultaneously try to catch learning. During my former MOOC, E-learning and digital cultures, we got an address to Gardner Campbell’s lecture. I blogged about it Feb 8th this year with a heading Learning from the future as it emerges. I was critical in my writing, but now I listened Campbell again and received his message better than three months ago (so I am learning!)

I copy here the recommendation on the former course edcmooc (I cannot write complicated English like this, please enjoy):

Campbell draws on Bateson’s ‘orders of learning’ to explore what open education is, and is not, doing, and what it might do. Using Bateson’s metaphor of the double bind to describe the situation many students (and teachers) find themselves in, Campbell urges that we attempt to make space for double takes, and for what he calls ‘opening education’, which ‘has to provide hospitality, a feeling of home, not so confusion is reduced but so confusion is strengthened’. This lecture is important because it addresses learning as a difficult problem – perhaps the difficult problem – and not as a natural consequence of free access to information.

As a contrast with the other educational perspectives, it serves as a warning that what we really want – our utopia – is not necessarily to be found in the structures we are putting in place (or finding ourselves within). As we move on to talk about how digital culture and digital education might ask us to reconsider the meaning of ‘the human’, let’s leave this week with a big question for pondering: what does ‘opening education’ mean for you?

Campbell, Gardner (2012). Ecologies of Yearning. Keynote at Open Ed ’12, October 16, 2012, Vancouver BC. (63:19)

The lecture is 63 minutes and I think it is better to go to YouTube to listen if you want to take the time. Campbell asks many questions about open education which are worth of pondering. Learning can be on level zero: simple response, or level one: correction of errors, conditioned reflexes (stimulus-response). Level two means learning to learn and context recognition and then the context becomes a trap. Level three means meta-contextual perspectives, not just adaptation but own choices, to become human. This is a challenge: how to see more than usual contexts. Don’t fake the double take, Campbell says. He yearns for opening minds, I think, open education (as MOOCs) as such is not enough, it can have the same content and ways to study, without any deep changes.

Opening needs feeling of home and moments of choosing. We shall not cease from exploration. Hunger for new learning and a little love combined is the ideal which is hard to reach. Perhaps we have much of this quality in fslt13? I remember how George Roberts blogged about fslt and how Marion Waite follows  participants in fslt13 and organizes different ways to support. Many excellent participants do their best and we are learning. But anyways: We see things as we are, not as things are. What does this mean in my thinking, or yours? I have been pondering same questions on 1970’ties and still do. Waste of time or what may be this  back to basics dreaming?

Fantasy and Science Fiction

A new episode in my life in the internet is going on; I study literature on the course ‘Fantasy and Science Fiction. The Human Mind. Our Modern World’. This is my third week on the course and I am writing my essay about Edgar Allan Poe today. I took a break in writing and came here to tell why I am committed to these studies. All important things are excellent:

  • the course is well organized and it  helps to proceed in learning and monitoring with other participants
  • the expert Eric Rabkin loves literature and languages and us, his students. I can feel it when watching his videos.
  • the learning environment / platform is clear and everything works there, no problems at all
  • the best parts for learning are 1. writing an essay after reading the material and choosing the theme and 2. giving feedback to the fellow students about their essays anonymously (randomly selected four students)
  • receiving the feedback, which the students write to me, listening it and pondering on it

It is obvious that learning needs structures, rules and guidance. Following the pedagogical structure I can find my strength and creativity. I am guided to “write to enrich my intelligent, active, attentive fellow students”, so I have to do my best. I have to focus and find the perspective which I can offer as enrichment to them. The essay must be short, only 300 words, so I have to select the content carefully.  I have to respect others as our teacher respects us – the atmosphere is one of the most important things in open online studies.

I was astonished that I learned so much about the peer assessments, which I got from the four fellow students. The assessments differ greatly but I can learn from everyone. Someone corrects my English, someone the  structure of my essay. It is useful to know what leaves unclear to readers. I have already learned a lot, for instance to focus my sayings  better, to say more clearly what I mean, and do not trust that the reader can guess my meanings.

This course reminds me about my experiences as an online teacher. I have found the same principles while teaching online myself and now I can see their effectiveness on a global online course. The studies are well organized. Human development needs guidance to emerge, it needs supporting structures and challenging assignments. Lisa Lane shared in her blog a definition of three kinds of MOOCs: networked-based, task-based and content-based. This ‘fantasy and science fiction’ course is both task-based and content-based, but it is still more: it is based on emerging learning process. It supports the students’ learning process from simple to higher, more complex levels. This improvement is the aim of all online teaching and learning. Have we lost this simple truth and have to find it again and again?

Individual experiences in MOOCs part 2

This is my second comment to Jenny Mackness and Carmen Tshofen about there IRRODL article. This time I am studying the concept connectedness/interactivity and how the article links it to personality theories selected to juxtapose. My insight today is that they need one theory more – Etienne Wenger’s identity. I agree with that, it is no sense to handle a topic like this without the concept identity. It combines everything what is learned in interactions and relations. Another insight is that they need new concepts from web networking, for instance privacy, solitude, control and troll behavior. Yesterday, in the autonomy part, they used lurking as one form of autonomous participation. This is pretty obvious, of course we use concepts that describe the object which is under exploration: living in open online world.

Here comes my new diagram

I wanted to save the previous diagram and show the connections between concepts – how Jenny and Carmen did it. The diagram leaves some concepts outside in this paragraph, you can see them too. And I added the daily life concepts in the places they described. Sorry that the diagram is too broad, but you can click it open. I used Power Point Smart Art and it was too smart to me. Arrows were better if I had drawn with free hand but I do not change it any more.

I try a new strategy to write today. I don’t copy their sentences any more – I only tell what astonished me and what questions are in my mind. Relatedness + Agreeableness + Neuroticism were described together. Why troll behavior was linked to neuroticism?

Identity, extraversion and introversion is the next paragraph. I don’t remember that Wenger have described personalities  with these concepts but of course you can combine what you want. I am glad that you mention Jungian terms because they describe the dynamics of human development. I have strong opinions about psychology and I begin to ask why -questions although I try to respect your choices 🙂 There has been discussions about extraversion and introversion in our blogs (Jenny’s and mine) and I was astonished that extraversion was the main hypothese for blogging. I have always supposed that introverts love writing more.

Privacy, solitude and control are linked to extra-introversion and social learning. Autonomy is found again in this part?

I try to say shortly the findings of this connectedness part of the article. It is a technology-based concept in connectivism and  potential quantity of connections. All links to human relations and emotions mean expanding: relatedness as a sense of personal connectedness, caring, and belonging. These areas take us into an emotional realm. Agreeableness is understood as the tendency to be compassionate and cooperative. Rita Kop has built a model of dialogue. Creativity is described but its links to personal traits leave open. Jenny and Carmen summarize :

The apparent paradox of simultaneously pursuing connectedness and interactivity while at the same time offering the potential to support the individual and that which is “personal” is an aspect of connective not yet fully explored.

Next concept in the diagram is diversity. I have always defined it in my mind that it means all individual differences. Now I understand, and perhaps it is better to limit it into different backgrounds, disciplines, languages etc. I continue about diversity and openness. What an inspiring article you have written!



Heli’s adventures in global online courses

I have been pondering my journey through CCK courses and reading my posts from autumn 2008. I was Very Enthusiastic to begin these studies. I found Howard Rheingold‘s Talk from 2005 in which he described the development of human mankind toward collaboration and mutual understanding. I told about my own history, how I participated in the  international student movement, began in Paris 1968 and came to Finland in 1970’ies. Great times, it was societal awakening in Europe. I was pondering  what I had in my mind before CCK08 and what I was seeking for. And then, yesterday, I found Aboluay Eljamal‘s final work for CCK11. It can be seen in his blog.

Aboluay describes three perspectives: philosophical, generational and psychological (with educational perspectives). His description was just what I needed, what I was constructing myself. I had my philosophy and I knew how it contextualized in my generation – and I knew psychology, human empowering. What I was searching from CCK courses were better communication and participation skills using English language, and knowing tools/practicing many new technologies. I had broad expectations at the beginning and I had to work them more realistic. CCK-courses were a good basics about learning technologies and networking skills,  and I needed practice. It was useful to ponder where knowledge resides. Abloluay presented this all, thanks to him.

It was nice to notice today, five years later, that I had had almost the same course already in autumn 2006. Here is the course structure and I had a paper with Sanna Rimpiläinen (the link isn’tworking any more).

courseProgressive Inquiry was the method used through the course. The learning theory came from Canada, Bereiter and Scardamalia and their fellows in Helsinki University: Kai Hakkarainen and Minna Lakkala. One Scottish University was the partner but the course was open and in Finland the National Board of education paid for Finnish participants.

You can see how the course proceeded from learning theories and working habits to web-based technologies and tools, digital learning materials (learning objects) and then to pedagogical strategies. Evaluation and reflection must be the last part. The project work went through all parts, it was enriched with new tools and discussions. We had Moodle and discussion forums there, we made a glossary with wiki and so on. It was great and hard work, I remember how tired I was, but I could use my real online course (developmental psychology in teacher education for adults) and it was exciting to get feedback.

So it took five years to see how good that course was 🙂 I tried to find the name of our “Technologies and Tools ” teacher (tutors they were called) but I found only the forename Jim. He showed the way to many open tools and he put RSS running to Moodle from excellent sources. I was astonished many times. When I now look at those tool lists, I feel I know them, I understand without problems. Five years and four courses have helped. I checked writer’s names and there was one paper of Grainne Conole 2004 “On the effectiveness of tools for e-learning”. Tools which have changed practice is one part of it, the article includes 29 pages. Grainne has had presentations in many courses after that time. Some JISC reports were also found in our course recommendations.

So what did I learn by writing this?  I cannot assess my learning, skills and competences without contextualizing. My motivation comes from my philosophy and implements through my generation and my expertise. Huh, we say in Finnish, not easy to understand human beings. I could make a list of technologies I have used in every course and see the broadening of tools. But what can I say about my communication skills and global understanding, critical thinking? We could arrange global meetings very well before Facebook or Twitter (never forget Berlin 1973: Frieden, Freundschaft, Solidaritet).

The hardest thing to discover during this winter to me was to understand that we had better discussions about learning in 1996- in Finnish. We used simple email-lists and we could concentrate in the content. After that time  we have followed diligently technological development. I feel sad and I see how ridiculous this situation is. So what next?