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 🙂 )



Learnt in open online courses

I tried to describe my phases (of learning, participating) during last years. Here is my diagram about the most important factors or steps I have made while participating.


I leave the Critical Literacies course outside because I consider it different from these three general courses. I want to assess CritLit separately.

First I had to learn to participate using English and win my shyness. Self confidence is necessary in some amount, I had to build it up and find my knowledge again. I had to get some bonds with participants. It happened after CCK08.

During PLENK2010 I recognized some contributions I could offer for the community, not only my own friends. So this is a description about my growth to a networker (one who has capacity to participate in networking environments). And after writing this here, all seems Very Obvious. Why should I do this? What is my next step?

I could continue this analysis by checking what I have said at the end of each course in this blog: does it match with this? I could find some emotional states according to each phase. I was an autonomous learner and expert in learning issues before participating these courses, but you have to build up the autonomy in new contexts. And I did it, I am proud of it.

But my main question is still about my expertise: what has happened in it? Has it broadened? I suppose it is not deeper in any area than it was in the year 2008. I have learned to use new tools, it is so obvious that I did not mention it, but so what?  How do they help me in my work? What is learning actually? What can be found beyond technology driven development? I learned a new concept yesterday when Teemu Leinonen had his doctoral dissertation: we need informative guessing. This blog is full of my guessings 🙂

Research about online communities

PLENK2010 – the course program has ended and many people are pondering about their participation and learning. What happened and why? and why not? I liked the presentation Vahid Masrour gave in our Moodle General Forum: the Participation Spiral. There are stairways to confidence and trust, many excellent questions in this presentation.

Vahid also spoke about about categorizing online participation; consumer, interactor and producer are the main categories – more in this link. The Social Technographics’ Ladder are suitable in many contexts I suppose. Producers can be creators or elite – so we have hierarchies in open web world 🙂  I like Vahid’s spiral more than this hierarchy.

Then I remembered this presentation in Networked Learning congress in Denmark last May: Who is taming who? Tensions between people and technologies in cyberspace communities, written by Terrie Lynn Thompson, Alberta University, Canada. I refer only one part of the presentation:

The participants in the study include: postings; avatars; tool bars; emoticons; archives; community member profiles; the search term in Google that takes you to the cyber location; viruses; hyperlinks; the delete button; passwords; the technology that delivers postings such as e-mail, discussion forum, or RSS feed.

Human actants included: “newbies”, “wannabes”, colleagues, “big names”, celebrities, competitors, posers, lurkers, employment recruiters, clients, friends, strangers, and the online paparazzi.

We have mentioned newbies, lurkers and  friends. Colleagues mean co-learners or participants in open courses like PLENK. We have member profiles in Moodle and some of us have avatars in the Second Life. Some people have mentioned spam or viruses. What else? Are we blind to some factors?

I just listened to the last Friday Session about Critical perspectives or Modeling Learner Autonomy. Sebastian Fiedler’s model about Adult Learner, Rita Kop’s Model of learning in PLE and Stephen Downes’s Roles of educator in PLE world. Fiedler resembles action theory Engeström developed in Finland in 1980’s (international roots in the Soviet Union, Leontjew), Rita Kop knows experiental learning and combines it to new technologies, I like that model. I did not catch the excellence of Stephen’s presentation. Of course learners can produce the concepts, so we did in teacher education all the time. But the raw material is only a beginning, it is not interesting as such. So what, I let it be.

Learner autonomy and online participation spiral and who is taming who – please give me a summary about these.

Complex and open – simple and secret?

Now I am enjoying some papers guided by CCK09 week 6 Complex adaptive systems. I found the wonderful sites of  SantaFe Institute, really easy and motivating to use. They will be my favourite sites…

Another source worth of reading in my opinion is Francis Heylighen, Free University of Brussels. He deals with complexity and information overload in society: why increasing efficiency leads to decreasing control. It is possible to predict causal effects but not human behavior. The amount of information in society and the speed followed by open publications increase and we get data smog that covers real knowledge. We have tools to organise flows of informations but here is again the overload, the overload of opportunities. I don’t know how to find any valuable from my Google Reader or iGoogle or Twitter, but I find a lot of data smog all the time.

It is a paradox that the only way to use complex and open systems is to make them more simple and restricted. So I build a system of  ‘people I can trust’ in my mind and choose what and whom  to follow. But if I have never time to read or think I can follow many wrong prophets. One of the problems is that those who know only technology have a strong voice in social media and others can follow them quite blindly. This is a bubble of social media that is good to see, I opened my eyes while participating in a discussion in Finnish last week. Young guys take the power with poor understanding of substance things, they have done it some years because it seems normal to other participants. This means losing control and unpredictable influences. There is no friction in tweets, nuisance is open to everybody so let’s use it to be postmodern up-to-date people  🙂

To understand developmental dialectics is needed again: every property and opportunity turns to its opposite and you should be careful and open all the time ,which is impossible. Thanks to F. Heylighen who deepened my thinking and gave me devices to see what’s happening. And thanks to open CCK09 which seem to be an excellent orienting course (source?) to knowledge and connections needed to .. what? to live and learn and participate today.

Connectivism in Europe

Yesterday I turned this blog to an European project and found the question why it was possible to study globally but harder to work in small groups of different universities. And today I found a discussion about the same theme in elearningeuropa pages (communities> discussions):

“Web 2.0 is about social networking and the impact it has on learning or learning 2.0 is that it supports and enables learning networks. Rather than trying to limit the social networks in the boundaries of educational environments I would sport George Siemens and his theory of connectivism arguing that learning networks need to be open, with the learner in control. Learners should be able to choose networks that they trust and belong to. Web 2.0 is promoting and supporting such openness and connectivity the challenge is for educational institutions to develop a supporting culture of sharing and exist as an ecology not in isolation.”

And following:

“Yes, I think that the topic of “connectivism” by George Siemens is very interesting and challenging too.
I would agree that learning networks should be open and that learner should be in control of their learning and so have the chance to chose the networks they trust the most.
But still as you said “the challenge is for educational institutions to develop a supporting culture of sharing and exist as an ecology not in isolation”…. and this is very very challenging today…. I have no idea how institutions could overcome “competitions among them” and “privacy issues” among users, since in my experience even publishing an individual assignment in the provided course forum was not an easy task for the more shy or introverted student. In my experience it is not easy for any students to share with other peers (imagine if with milions or bilions of people..) their assignments, because they will receive a mark for that….I think this is still a tricky topic which need to be further researched and investigated.”

I love these writings and agree with them mostly. But it is not at all impossible for students to work openly, I have many experiences about success in shared knowledge and shared assessment in my online courses. People can share but institutions have problems in sharing because of continuous competition. So the project must be really useful to all participants? Usually it is, I suppose, otherwise it doesn’t begin.

Sharing is a skill that can be learnt.. and millions of people do it every day. For instance I am shy and introvert 🙂