Creativity in a Mooc

I have followed the research which aims to understand learning during open online courses. This time I’ll tell about Rita Kop’s and Fiona Carroll’s research about participants’ creativity during PLENK2010. I’ve blogged many posts about my learning and feelings in PLENK (autumn 2010). It was fine to notice that we have this open journal in Europe, I have to follow it.

The objective of this research was to explore the level of importance of creativity for learning and then to closely investigate how this creativity might be fostered in such a ‘vast’ educational setting and what factors might be of importance to enhance creativity in open networked learning. Through the participants’ experiences, we discuss the various dynamics and profiles of the participants as they move from being consumers on the environment to becoming ‘producers’ and take creative steps in their learning. More importantly, we identify the elements of the course that need to be in place to encourage and support this move towards more effective creativity and learning.

It was not easy to make choices about the methods with which to find the appropriate knowledge. The Moodle forums were used and some blogs (mine was one of these I suppose). Very few were active producers: between 40 and 60 were active producers, the other 1580 were not active in this way. In the end survey there were  ‘Active producers’ survey (N= 31) and ‘Lurkers’ survey (N=74). It is obvious that active participation in open online courses is not easy and it must be learned and wanted. It is a journey, though participants assessed themselves to be self-directive learners already at the beginning of the PLENK studies.

What helped this journey of becoming a producer? What would tempt people into creating something during studies?

In the active participant survey it became clear that different people have different ideas on this. 64% of respondents indicated that the content of a discussion post by someone else and 56% a blog post from someone else were triggers for people to produce something themselves. It would also spur people into action when others would connect different concepts (52%), or shared a particular tool (40%) . In addition respondents highlighted issues such as the need for self reflection on what was being learnt from the various sources, inspiration from the connections the individual was making and the urge to share what was being learnt, in additional to examples of creative work by others.

Researchers give some examples about participants’ products.I remember the duck image and I remember that Chris Jobling was very active in the Moodle forums and he used the Pearl Trees. I met him once in the web and helped him to prove Pearl Tree – so I felt myself to be skillful even I am not. Great feeling anyway.

The majority chose to be involved in aggregating, ‘remixing’ and sharing of information, without getting involved in the creative production.  It seems that to bring out the creative potential in people and to inspire them into the production of digital artifacts, they must feel comfortable in their learning environment and have a certain level of trust in fellow-participants and  feel comfortable and confident in using the  new tools that are available. There should be an atmosphere that nurtures an inner confidence in the learner to engage in playful activities, to experiment with new and different ways of articulating their thoughts, feelings and ideas, to push boundaries for creative expression and then share these with others. It takes time for people to build confidence and to experience the spark that drives people towards taking that creative production step.

I can agree with this interpretation of the main results. But I’ve some questions in my mind: is there any “new networking” , new connections between people and/or knowledge. Confidence and trust are still important and take time to develop, it is an old and well-known truth. People are same people still, they do not change in digital world, perhaps become more flexible? My next question deals with the role of facilitators. It was clear that they were excellent role models, they shared openly many artifacts and supported participants’ learning:

Creating: participants would then be encouraged to create something of their own. In the PLENK2010 MOOC the facilitators suggested and described tools that participants could use to create their own content. The job of the participants was to use the tools and just practice with them. Facilitators demonstrated, gave examples, used the tools themselves, and talked about them in depth. It was envisaged that with practice participants would become accomplished creators and critics of ideas and knowledge

If Rita says so, it must be true 🙂 I often have this feeling of being a humble pupil in a traditional teacher-lead course in all these Moocs. Perhaps it is because there is a group of real university students, too and they must be supported. I have been working with adult students in Finnish culture and used to be equal and sometimes I miss this feeling in Moocs.  Principles are fine, but not easy to implement…


Research about PLENK, experiences from ds106

I didn’t participate the Digital Storytelling course – ds106 but I followed it via Twitter. I love this blog post in which the facilitators describe the process during that open online course. I can feel the inspiring spirit during studies, how participants appreciate each other. They loved the assignments and wanted to comment and develop further, build and mash up. The participants opened new ways (web radio, web TV). The facilitators ate own dog food = did the same assignments as everyone and that made them understand the studies deeply. I can feel the enthusiasm while listening to the video.

Another interesting blog post came from Rita Kop. She has continued the research about the PLENK course with Helene Fournier. I am eager to follow how they capture our learning. I participated myself and have blogged about my experiences earlier here – and followed their first presentation in LAK11. The background factors about PLENk are still the same, of course. We participants were adults, 27% over 55 and 10% in age group 49-54. I like those numbers. Activity in the basic tools remained low (Moodle, Elluminate),  but blogs were written and Twitter was most popular. It is easy to show beautiful images about tweet networks but I believe that they were only information about what was happening. Tweets remind everything, no need to plan or remember.Everything muts bee easy to us nowadays 🙂

What can be said about learning during the PLENK studies, it is interesting. Active participation is important, of course. It made students to reflect, involved them in a creative process and it was fun. Participants wanted to give something back to each other. We produced blogs and what ever (see the slides 31-32). But why some people chose to lurk? They were tactical lurkers who wanted to pick up what they wanted or they had always been self-directive learners and didn’t want to share their experiences.  It is not easy to describe learning in open studies.  Some participants assessed that active participation is not at all important (20%!) and 10% said it was somewhat important. How this should be understood? I do not know.

The motivational issues were easy to understand: we wanted to learn something new, to find a real gem of information, others recommended something really interesting,  to get  involved in an online community, see something amazing done by others, to produce something that can be proud of.

I am wondering if anything new about learning is found here. Learning is true in open online courses but some diversity can be seen, lurking is normal as well as active participation and learning with others. Finding something new and co-working increase motivation. These principles are the oldest ones found in learning theories, I think. The research continues and opens new ways in the future I hope. Until this, we have got only new tools for our global online interaction and learning new applications is the main product – is it so? Only new tools or should I say amazing tools? I don’t know.

I noticed some discussion in Elluminate about cliches: someone asked if there are more cliches in open courses than institutional courses. Could it be so? Rita wanted to describe open courses as learning events. Temporary center around the course content, said someone.

Here comes the slide presentation of Rita and Helene, so you can see what they really said. My intention was to draw my own description but I need more time to do it. Don’t know what I am thinking today..

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 🙂

Diversity in open online courses

I can’t stop thinking about online communities or courses, I need to analyze happenings in order to understand what my opinions are. I have many threads to this post. Yesterday Chris tweeted this picture . I noticed it is in Flickr and we have a group there, I had joined it earlier and forgot it. Now I can link the picture here. Ian Woods has done it and explains it more in his blog.

I have been pondering the hierarchies in online participation. I have tried to understand diversity of expertise. Ian speaks about the expertise to participate in PLENK and describes the situation of newbies. I have pondered possible influences of background expertise, what do we bring to the course, what we have especially to give. I have a simple picture about it:

expertonlineMember profiles in PLENK tell that most participants have high skills in ICT and some are professional experts in it. Most participants have educational professions or -how I call it – human science expertise. My third case “no expertise” is hypothetical, everybody in PLENK has some expertise background. I just wanted to illustrate that you could participate without any expertise and learn new digital skills. I know some guys who follow internet .. web .. blogoshere and they are respected because they can drop others the newest hints. They sometimes call themselves as parasites – I have named this “copy-paste” expertise. Is this behavior the purpose (excellent) or false (do not know one’s borders).

The most common story in PLENK seems to be that teachers, educators or lecturers learn new technologies to use. We  train communication skills, writing, thinking, using web tools and creative thinking. Simultaneously we have technological nerds who give us hints and help to prove new tricks. This is normal networking, concrete questions can be answered. I learn something new tools in every course.

Ian Wood describes well the situation from newbies’ point of view. It is tough to manage one’s time and follow the flow of many discussions and themes. You have to learn to use PLE, it cannot be clear from the beginning.  Organizing mentoring sounds good, or is it better to continue spontaneous mentoring, I am not sure.

Now I should combine my pondering with the scientific knowledge Kraut gave. I participate in open online courses because my self-concept tells me I am that particular type of person. I want to be part of something bigger, I want to live in global world. I am interested in human learning and development – what happens in web world? I have to experience it myself, it cannot be read from books. I emphasize community, what it stands for. If the direction is right in my eyes, I can commit to it instantaneously. I am inspired through my identity, I have identity-based commitment to open courses. I have found like-minded people in CCK courses.

How about you?

Who was active in the forums?

If you are interested in the individual differences of our activity level in PLENK2010, please read this. I’ll give you a rough estimate on this. I began to look at the participants list: who had logged in during last days and then I took a glimpse of the forum posts behind the name, how many pages they had written. I found that

Chris Jobling  had written on 43 pages ( our main reflector?) and after him two Susan:

Susan O’Grady 35 pages and Susan Grigor 23 pages (emotional leaders?).

Ken Anderson had a lot of critical questions, 20 pages.

Vilimaka Foliaki and Vahid Masrour, both 12 pages.

Linn Gustavsson 11 pages

Eduardo Peirano, Rita Kop, George Siemens and me 10 pages each.

Stephen Downes, Jim Stauffer, Eva Birger, Ken Masters 9 pages each.

Chris Saeger and Patricio Bustamante 8 pages – and so on. There can be mistakes, I do not guarantee anything. I did not check all the 1800 participants…

These are only numbers (quantity). I can say about myself that I participated in Introductions -forum (saying  hi) and in Google Map discussion (General Forum in September) – I don’t feel that I said anything in the Forums – I was astonished about the number of pages.

No sense in this, just looking – and tell this to you if anyone is interested and wants to analyze further?

My learning in PLENK?

This is the last day of PLENK2010 (actually nothing ends and often the best discussions happen after the course) – but anyway, I have a need to integrate or evaluate something. I found this in our program, what to do in just now:

Artifact of your Learning

Details: Your final presentation can be handled in a variety of formats: podcast, slidecast, Articulate presentation, video recording, Second Life presentation, or, if your feeling creative, an approach of your choosing. The presentation could answer any of the following: “What role can PLE/N’s play in my teaching? Or my personal learning? How has this course influenced your view of the role of networked technologies and learning networks? What types of questions are still outstanding?”

I am not creative, I am the same boring blogger as always. And I am waiting for a call from my husband, he perhaps can return home today after a month in a hospital 🙂 So I cannot completely focus on PLENK. But I have some ideas.

I am not a typical course student and I do not wait anything from the facilitators. It is enough that they offer the structure and the platform (Moodle). I am ready to study “alone” and find my way. All depends on the time I can and want to use for finding new friends, trying new tools, checking materials etc. I see no difference between students and facilitators, we have many 55+ students who have much to give to others ( I say this aloud after filling Sui Fai John’s questionnaire – he is so correct and polite. Asian culture versus Finnish independence, you know).

Why to blog and how to blog are my questions today – and the answer is connected to differences in expertise. From my point of few, I am tired to read writings about psychological phenomena without knowing basics. I am tired of listening advices to teachers given by people who never have taught anything. I don’t want to hear that all institutions are stupid and bad and only free individuals know how to live. And I understand that when I speak about technology, it sounds ridiculous in the ears of engineers – I always hesitate which concepts are suitable (tools devices technologies?)

So how to make sense in discussions? Jenny and Matthias pondered this question just when PLENK began: what is the eResonance and how it arouses in the very beginning. How can I find the people with whom I could collaborate and create? Have I learned anything about this? I have to smile (to myself) when I find an interesting blog after three years participation (Howard Johnson for instance, found but not read his blog, not yet). I will continue this project, I have many names and blogs to explore during next weeks. I want to follow Rita Kop, for instance, in the future.

I have enjoyed these open courses, about which I have blogged here, but I think I know the connectivism movement well enough. It has given a certain frame of the change happening in web world but – in my mind – it grasps only one side of these changes. So I am not enthusiastic anymore – I should change to heading of this blog or stop blogging.

This has been an interesting journey and it will continue everywhere I move. I promise to write comments to your blogs next week, leave them open please.

My phone is silent still, I am waiting for the call from hospital. I have time to publish this…

My PLENK2010 story

The last week of PLENK2010 is going and I come back after one month’s break. The break has nothing to do with the course but my personal life. My husband has been in a hospital and I have been very worried about the situation. Now he is better and I have some energy to use for my studies. I am interested in the researches about this course. First I have to gather my doings and writings, I don’t remember any more..

I participated first five weeks: I wrote my conception about PLE and PLN. Those were so common to me that I participate just for fun, I do not expect anything new. I summarized my first week. I liked the video of Patricio Bustamante,  and Sugata Mitra.

During personal vs institutional week I gave a case of Finland and got some feedback. I wrote a blog post “I am the platform” in order to follow co-learners blogs. I have to check, how many of them are still writing (not many I suppose). Extended web was fascinating and I remember the Elluminate session – I learned that all happenings are not positive. I found our place in the Second Life later, 10.10.

The next theme, learning theories is my favorite and I was active, wrote about teacher education, my personal history, recent discussions (European)  and technology (Nordic experts). These are perhaps my best writing in this course.

In my post Evaluation online activity – I used Clarence Fisher’s rubric and assessed myself. I also told about other given materials what I thought about them. And then I gave a possibility to test one’s blog in a second: 22 comments in it. So – if you give people something, they try it and give feedback.

I wrote a summary about assessment 17.10. before the break – and could not answer comments any more.

But now I am back and I am happy to be here and live this last week with you all. I have a feeling that slow learning is happening in me, I begin to recognize the patterns in these sandboxes for new literacies. I am more conscious about my choices and I enjoy autonomous learning. Something concrete:

The Google Map I made has got 14691 views until today and hundreds of links. So it was useful. My blog has been read in 68 countries in all continents (more than ever)  and I have got some new friends. And this has happened in spite of my absence. Now I  am ready to answer the NRC research questions …

Found the place in Second Life

So happy to find something after difficulties. This was my first time in the Second Life with my new computer (since July 10th) and I have to install new something and the buttons had all changed and I felt quite lost. But here you can see PLENK2010 bookshelf in SL and me as an avatar:

plenk2010I met only a Finnish guy in eduFinland – he was working in NopolaNews and showed me www-pages from his pocket: videos and what ever, new flash…

Second Life Chilbo & Madhupak were quite empty and no wonder, USA and Canada were sleeping or awaking. The house is Connectivism Reading Room.

So you PLENK2010 people have met three times simultaneously with Elluminate (how is it possible?) or after it? See you … took the landmark into my inventory.

Tired and happy … done something challenging!

Learning theories and technology

Is there any New Learning of this digital age? -this  has become an interesting question. Perhaps it is still open and waits for answers. The attitude towards technology has been bipolar since the 1960’s: a struggle between technophiles and technophobes. Some wait for better, more effective new learning and some are afraid of these changes. Both have grown during last decades and we have got more technological tools.

My history of working as an online facilitator began from the insight that I needed constructive, humanistic and critical didactics in adult education. It was important to understand that technology did not give any theory, I could use all my knowledge about learning theories. I appreciated a book (Matikainen & Manninen) Online education for Adults, 2001 (in Finnish only). They had five orientations to describe the possibilities between learning and online didactics: technological, cognitive, constructive, humanistic and critical. The last one was needed in transformative learning by expanding.I did not read the book first and then go and teach – I began to use our new learning platform and then noticed what I did and why. I became conscious about my pedagogical principles by answering the questions of my colleagues.

This week Finnish teachers had a conference about online teaching, and I could follow it at home by following a typepad notebook some participants wrote there. I refer here two expert’s lectures: Roger Säljö and Kai Hakkarainen.

All technology has been “sold” to the educational sector with unrealistic promises. Social media is not different in that regard. None of these new technologies have actually revolutionized education, said Säljö. But simultaneously:  “Technology does not improve learning – it changes learning.” For instance by building up of a social memory and new representations and documentary practises: in the stone age iconic representations were not sufficient for a versatile culture to develop – but nowadays iconic methods are taking a more central position again.  All representational tools rely on interpretive practices & interpretive communities.  Learning is in the performative recontextualization of knowledge. – I think I should read more about Säljö, has been in my mind some years. I thought he is Finnish but now I know he is Swedish 🙂

Kai Hakkarainen is a researcher and has written about three generations of technology-enhanced learning. The first generation focused on examining computer-supported collaborative learning from the cognitive perspective. The main focus was to examine to what extent knowledge-seeking inquiry elicited conceptual change. Problems of transferring inquiry learning culture from one country to another pushed us to examine social practices and other participatory aspects of learning that had been invisible to cognitive researchers.

The second-generation research focused on analyzing patterns of participation in computer-supported collaborative learning.  The emerging third generation research aims at overcoming the dichotomy between the cognitive (knowledge acquisition) perspective and socio-cultural (participation) perspective by means of long-standing and deliberate efforts of knowledge-creation, involving what is called objects of activity.

He recommended the dissertation of Minna Lakkala, see my earlier post. We have many new artifacts that help collaboration, for instance the etherpad was necessary to me to follow. Social media is a normal part of working if you are open-minded and have courage to prove new tools. We are living in an iterative process where individual skills become social property of the whole community and so on.

I have lived in that process about ten years – and in the same process with smaller amount of technologies many decades, but what is the quality of learning: we have called it transformative, emansipatory, empowerment .. The dear child has many names, we say in Finnish. Shared knowledge building and networked learning are enough to me just now.

Learning theories: recent discussions

It seems I’ll have to take a long journey – this time I am going to refer to some discussions in the blogosphere I remember, probably meaning they have made an influence on me.

First I take Teemu Leinonen, who has lived globally much longer than me and knows about wikipedia and -media and many international projects. His blog is named Flosse Posse and he wrote about the learning theories recently. He needed  behaviorism, constructivism and social constructivism. (edited 11.10, read Teemu’s comment) I like the way he tells about these theories, he convinces me about his expertise. Then he tells about Sugata Mitra’s experiments Hole in the Wall, which we have been discussing about in PLENK2010: Learning by doing, socially, in small groups. To give affordances for poor children is the way forward.

Another source was in Pontydysqu web pages and it took a time to find. They have much knowledge there and I was not familiar with those pages, but I succeeded and here it is: Connectivism vs. constructivism by Jenny Hughes. She tells about some projects (Mitra + ..) and lists the learning theories needed for interpretation. I feel empathy when she becomes confused with theories. One new concept can be found: social connectivism (it was lacking, really 🙂 ). We have to know the theories of Dewey, Vygotsky, Piaget, Papert, Bruner, Engeström – perhaps it is best to speak about their work and their development instead of putting them to one category of learning theories. I liked the style in comments to Jenny Hughes’ blog post, but I feel I am tired of listing theories. It does not help.

My last link goes to Jenny Mackness, her blog post after our Elluminate session yesterday. Jenny writes about the relevance of learning theories to teaching practice and reflects her own experiences as an educator. Theories matter, but not directly, they are tools which must be assessed and developed to different purposes. Jenny proceeds to George’s presentation about connectivism as networked learning.

What have I learned while summarizing my personal history, my work in the teacher education and these three discussions? Actually, I am not any more interested in this level of listing and shortly referring to main sources. What does it help? My question is: where is thinking, pondering and real discussion. I see Jenny M. gives an example of combining theories to one’s practice and professional development. But we don’t have time and interest to do it throughout in PLENK, I suppose.  I cannot grasp this theme even I know everything. How can I find my way forward? What is the level of our working, discussion, collaboration? How should I participate in order to make sense in this chaos in my mind? 🙁  🙂