Understandings and misunderstandings in MOOCs

Sui Fai John Mak responded to one of my previous posts and called it wonderful. I interpreted his comment to be empty politeness, he comes from a always-friendly-and polite culture. John answered and I have to apologize, he had arguments for his saying, he had read my post and knew the content.

The following question was about staying or leaving online or networked learning and John wrote a new post about it. He received many comments. The first comment was Ken Anderson’s ‘always that same theme, it arouses again and again’ and then

“People are attracted to MOOCs for the novelty effect, then leave when the novelty wears off.”  And John:  “Love you hypothesis, and couldn’t agree more! Should I say goodbye when the novelty wears off? Sure!”

There are many comments dealing with technology, some psychological factors (my main purpose) and implementing MOOCs.

By reading this discussion thread I became conscious about another basis of misunderstandings. When I say that I want to handle psychological factors around learning (for example MOOCs), I mean special phenomena, not what ever. John told about his spontaneous quick writing that it is normal conversation to him. Consciousness-stream, is that concept understandable in English? It comes from literature but could suit here, perhaps. Carmen Tshofen referred to Downes’ vision in her post:

“The next three generations of web and learning technology will be based on the idea of flow… Flow is when we cease to think of things like contents and communications and even people and environments as things and start thinking of them as (for lack of a better word) media – like the water in a river, like the electricity in our pipes, like the air in the sky.”

Flow in this definition means some kind conscious-stream, I suppose. So I could say that John is much better in this flow thing. I am too serious and always need same scientific concepts to link the actions. Now I am speaking about the misunderstanding which can be explained from diversity in education. I have studies psychology, John engineering. Between us are all 🙂 possible differences: if we can understand each other, it is great. How understanding becomes true?

This is a point where I really appreciate John Mak. He is never defensive, he does not get hurt, he is strong enough to ask more details if he feels that something is unclear. This has happened many times and I enjoy it. This is also one of the main results of the article of Jenny and Carmen which I studied in my previous posts. Healthy participation of autonomous people expressing themselves openly and freely. It is the key of psychological factors (or one of the keys). The problem which is difficult to solve here is privacy demand – ethical questions while participants broke or spoil discussions (often unconsciously, not knowing their impact). I can appreciate John in public but I cannot claim anybody, only assess my own mistakes. Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.

Psychological knowledge cannot be placed in Wikipedia, it needs certain thinking habits and open mind in deeper sense than copy-paste flows. These undermining differences rise to surface in discussions and often leave without confrontation. Someone tweeted some minutes ago that Twitter is good because nobody follows a troll. That is a simple solution.

Another end of this dimension (ego-centrism) could be so called ‘teflon surface people’ – nothing touches them, they participate neatly saying nothing original ever. I have empy-small-talk feelings near those people, I want to shake them. When I shake John, he answers peacefully and the discussion continues 🙂

How to use psychological knowledge is very complex and so are many expert domains. This is a mess. I’ve to go out and walk.



The quality of connection

It is Christmas Day and – in Finland – we spend it at home thinking about the purpose of life or other important issues. In order to be in line I ponder about the quality of connection. We always speak about quantities, numbers of followers and so on and external factors of courses. There is a lot of conversation about open courses going on. Dave has made some nice videos to illustrate the difference between formal and open courses. I believe those help some people but…

What is the real question of a learner at the beginning of the studies. The learner wants to be accepted, be seen, be heard and find real connections to other people. It is difficult in massive open courses but it can happen inside formal curriculum. I have much experience about creating the atmosphere such that authentic learning becomes possible.

Developmental psychology has always known the meaning of basic trust, the enormous power of it through the life. We all know how difficult it is to live a happy life nowadays in spite of material richness. We try to be perfect, we numb emotions and only perform cognitively. We want easy and quick answers to questions which cannot be answered or solved. We have to hide our feelings of shame and fear if we want to be accepted. The quality of human connection has turned to opposite, it is continuous disconnection. I have a lot of experiences about lonely studying in open course.

We need some people to tell us how we have distorted everything. We believe in TEDX Talk, so let us listen to Brene Brown.

Learning theories: my personal history

I was admiring Barbara Fillip’s choices in her blog: we live in a global world and we try to catch it with our brain, our genes and all the connections we have formed during our life. This time I try to present the history of my learning theories: what I have learnt and why. Let’s try, is this possible at all. I name the decades in order to get some order 🙂 to my thinking.

1964- I began to study psychology and had my first courses about learning. We had a book written by Skinner, we could get the answer page by page, the book was reinforcing us. So I learned basic concepts about learning: conditioned and unconditioned reflexes, reinforcement, punishment, transfer. We made experiments about accidental learning, transfer, memory. This was a time of the positivistic paradigma of science: I learned to be accurate (or I should to ..) I learned the basics of working brain (Luria) and the concepts (neurons synopsis dendrites..) I understood the flexibility and complexity of the brains and the cortex.

1970- was the time of wonderful student movement in the world: I learned to participate and change the world better together and globally. I was empowerment in practice. In our university we criticized teaching and studied marxism, we wanted equal opportunities to everyone. It was the first time when children from working classes came to universities. Materialistic dialectics has been a part of my thinking since then: all is moving and changes happen through contradictions: thesis – antithesis – synthesis (Hegel). The richness of societal interactions was the key of development.

1980 Developmental psychology became my expertise and I understood human interaction as a source of all development. I also saw my two children to grow, what a excellent program in every individual .. I enjoyed. Constructivism arouse in learning psychology and criticism toward Finnish school life was large. We knew the results and lectured about them but did not see the possibility to change anything.

1988 was a revolution in my mind when I saw that theory and practice can meet each other. I worked in teacher education for adults coming from work, all kinds of vocations. The educators had courage to renew teacher education in an excellent way: newest scientific knowledge and best practice. Networked learning became true.

1990 I worked as a researcher and tried to catch the richness of reality but it was not easy. Concept maps came to the institution were I worked, Novak visited there some months.1994 back to teacher education and I was obliged to be the head of teacher education. Administrative work, I learned how slow is development in institutions and hard is to be a leader.

2000 I was happy to work as a teacher educator again. Perhaps I was more realistic than earlier, did not wait for miracles but was not cynical either. Online teaching interested me, we got a learning platform in 2002 and I began to use it. I could use our great pedagogical principles in online facilitating. In 2005 I participated in OnLine Educa Berlin. In 2006 was my first international course Inquiry oriented teaching online, I got feedback from facilitators about my own teaching, and began to use English language.

2007 I began blogging in Finnish as an online teacher. A community for social media was grounded in Finland and I participated in it. In 2008 I heard about the first CCK course – and here I am 🙂 I was wondering what connectivism is. I have found the importance of connections so many times but I had not been a part of global blogosphere. Am I now? Have to write another post about my learning in CCK  studies,  some day.

CCK09 -living in networks

How to describe and visualize interactions in networks? Static pictures are not enough, we must have flashes or videos. Keith Lyons helped again, I found this video Evolving twitter communities in his last blog post ( I couldn’t link to it, so I linked to YouTube).

“This is a dynamic network, showing what companies the 200 most prolific tweets were talking about. Both people and companies are nodes, and the edges change over the course of the day. Every time a person tweets about a company, an edge is added connecting that person to the company. After 30 minutes, the edge decays. The companies are labeled, and the individuals are anonymized here.”

I like this. But so what? This is the way we live everyday, all the time and our brains can follow and pick up what is needed from the mess. This is one of the best external visualizations about networks, but… the point is to interpret the happenings inside human mind and external remains external.

Another blog that touched me during this CCK09 week was a young man who said that it is very easy to receive the concept ‘connection’ because it has always been in the focus of developmental psychology. I agree with this opinion, my way is the same. Developmental psychology haven’t used the concept ‘connection‘ but ‘interaction‘ because it tells about mutual influences. Dialog is an appropriate concept, too. How can I interpret all the meanings of connection: internal and external (my vocabulary gives only connexion for trains or ships). Three levels given buy George (neural, social and conceptual) – this is basic knowledge in psychology, no news in it, easy to accept but doesn’t help me.

Should I re-invent or rewrite in my mind all my knowledge if I already have it? Psychology has produced great amount of knowledge about human actions in groups, teams and networks. Same imperfect people acting in all these social environments and repeating mistakes 🙂 and perhaps new ones in this rapidly changing world.