The stories we want to tell ourselves

I want to be a part of an awesome story – is this a proper way to describe human life? I’ll tell of a serendipitous moment of learning.  I listened to a Finnish radio programme in which a young woman told about her new book. The book (available only in Finnish, Ilmiön kaava) deals with social phenomena which come and go in public: political phenomena, eating behaviours, brands, idols, what ever. Social media helps in aggregation of these phenomena. The pattern of these phenomena is the book’s theme. The book is very practical and its intention is far from mine, it helps to sell something to anyone, it gives lists to check if you have tried properly. My intention is to understand online learning and my interest is in authentic events. In spite of that great difference, the radio programme helped me a lot. It made me change my frame from individuals to phenomena. My former attempt to understand self-organisation was in February 2011 in this blog. I was interested in crowd behavior and the answer was that leaders or organisers were always needed. I told about some cases, which aimed to ‘do something good’.

In the radio programme the premise was that nowadays everyone wants to be a part of a good story. We leave in crowds and want to share things. That is why we need phenomena to connect us with certain people. Simple positive emotions and communication between the participants are crucial. Light satisfaction is the glue of a crowd for enjoying. What is needed for an successful phenomenon (event, case) to occur?

There must be some authentic shared interest and a group of people who feel in a similar way. People want to act jointly and so that everyone still can choose his/her own way. There must be members who want to spread the message/the thing not only buy or participate once. People don’t walk in and join, they throw themselves into the process. The illusion of one’s own choice is very important. The identity is mirrored in the crowd and there must be some freedom.

The phenomenon may raise unintentionally or it may be designed and supported. First innovative people begin the process but then we need the strengtheners. They may be older idols or known things appreciated which can be connected to the process wisely (in the way which people accept).
The innovators must be sensitive to the needs and hopes of the potential crowd: what it wants to be a part of, and what it wants to be against, not belong to. There must be something old and something new, a frame is a combination. Fans and likes are an essential part of the phenomenon. The roots are growing  when the members want to tell others and spread the ideas. The ideas worth spreading must be sensitively understood. Not every phenomenon is commercial but some requisite is needed. (T-shirts and so on). Passion for spreading the idea leads to emergent creative ideas.

Also the negative events may reinforce the phenomenon. How dare you to resist this lovely event is common attitude. Enemies are needed – this helped me to interpret how the rhizo14 FB group refused to accept some negative results – those must be a mistake of the researchers. I wrote about this in March in this blog.

New tribes celebrate around their totem poles and the  irrational elements are connecting people, not only rational actions and discussions. Rapid heavy streams in the internet require intuitive participation. The basic need is to be charmed by something with other people and take part in something jointly, yet feeling like an independent individual. Research is not the right way to do. This is apparent in the new discussion about the rhizo14 research between Francess Bell and Simon Ensor.

How to win the obstacles when an idea is rising? If the idea is fresh and authentic, the phenomenon may rise with little work, if not, nothing happens no matter how hard one tries. How to find the people who want to spread the message and are happy doing that and those who recommend the new idea. What are the common mistakes? One of the blunders is to fall in love with one idea and forget other people’s needs. Another is to tell confused stories so that the big picture disappears (please come here everyone this is awesome). The third obstacle is to be afraid of negative comments and stop doing what is needed (save one’s jewels).

We could explore a mooc as a social cultural phenomenon. Some phenomena may become a part of identity (for instance Apple) and keep up continuous emotional binds. We =people who have been studying connectivism from the beginning can be described as a tribe which has a new branch around Dave and rhizomatic learning. We have to choose Engagement or alienation (I remember the name of Tanya’s article about rhizo14).  I think that the model pattern of phenomenon describes well the rhizo-like courses without content, where community is the curriculum. The internet is full of this kind of phenomena, events, happenings, cases based on light emotions and intuitive approval. People are doing what they want in their self-developed silos. So what?

Many times I’ve been thinking that perhaps we live again the Middle Ages. What I experience is true as such and no evidence is needed. Sciences are a hobby of some old-fashioned  people at mentally dead universities and our new practical journals (as Hybrid Pedagogy) tell the up-dated truth.

Rhizo14 in Sunlight and in Shade, part 3

I’ll continue with my reflections on the article by Jenny Mackness and Frances Bell (Open Praxis 1, 25-38). The research article is close to my own interests to follow learning in open MOOCs and I know the researchers and appreciate their aim to get deeper insight into open online learning: What is going beneath the surface? Perhaps this article will be remembered for its results concerning the light and dark sides of participants’ experiences and the ethical implications around this issue. So I think that I have to handle this theme here in my blog.

My orientation comes from psychology and I interpret the happenings in Rhizo14 as usual interaction problems between people who have different expectations. I commented immediately when the worst (?) misunderstanding influenced the atmosphere in the course. What is an attack or what is honest feedback? This question is still unresolved and people speak passing different opinions while following only their own truth. Jenny comments in her blog (March 5 Light and Schade)

But the paper seems, for some readers, to have further polarized discussion about the learning experience in Rhizo14, making the light and shade even more obvious and oppositional than it was before. An emerging light for me is that some of the issues that were raised by the paper are being discussed, which is surely a better outcome than the paper being ignored.

My opinion is that the principles of connectivism are ideals or dreams of what human interaction were at its best. People are not autonomous, they live in the prison of their own mind and life history. They are defensive and only partly conscious about their needs. When one man is facilitating an open course for hundreds of participants, he is seen as a guru, a father, an enemy or whatever. Very few people are interested in what he really says and what are his aims. When I read my own blog about Rhizo14 times yesterday I found these comments useful: Jaap Febr 4 2014

.. rhizo people do share a culture? Inhabitants of that global village recognizing some shared interest. Nobody ever uses the Global Village any more.
Dave Cormier is an artist, his questions are more and more stupid and yet most people stay in the course and try to answer. Does that make the rhizo course a kind of congregation?

Another comment that touched me was Simon Ensor’s saying that he participates in Rhizo in an affinity space. That could be a key for deeper interpretations.

There is plenty of research about human interaction in open courses. Mariana Funes mentioned T-groups in her blog post. They were called Sensitivity Training groups in Finland when I brought the idea to the university education for psychologists. The frame was social psychology and all the concepts were well grounded in both social sciences and practice. The process and its phases are well-known psychological knowledge:
1. positive (fall in love) and careful (inner control by participants)
2. incident (I had to use dictionary and learned that incident has a negative connotation)
3. emotional stir up > after that people know each other better and the atmosphere changes, more commitment and identification with the group
4. new level of trust and better collaboration etc.
Shortly said: forming> storming> norming> performing> mourning.
BUT if we are a crowd or network or tribe or whatever is the new concept which describes cMOOCs – we should have new concepts for the process – or do we deny the process and “just network”. Do we need new ethics for free networking?

I have lost my focus on what I intended to say today, but
I want to end this post with a EdTechTalk video about The ethics of innovation in education.

Rhizo14 in Sunlight and in Shade, part 2

I’ll continue with the theme which I began in the previous post. I will try to find answers to the question: what do I learn about the newest research article by Jenny Mackness and Frances Bell. I chose my line in the previous post: I copied the open survey questions and the reported results as positive (sunlight) or dark or negative (shadow) sides of participants’ experiences. I told that this is a normal situation in any massive courses, how else could it be? Many love, some hate and most people are between. I consider these results as some kind of side effects, very obvious and simple as such.

I am more interested in the content of the answers. The first three begin with “How does the image of rhizome relate to” and continues “prior experience of teaching/ learning (1) or learning in Rhizo13 (2) or future pracice (3). The questions are relevant of course but for instance I could not answer them although I had participated actively and blogged many posts. I do not understand how that image could help me in my learning or teaching. I told this to the researchers and they tempted me to answer the 4th, totally open question about my experiences. So I did, because I always support research about MOOCs.

I didn’t find my original answers from my computer but I am wondering if I can interpret my experiences as positive or negative. It is both as always. I learned what I wanted and my interest didn’t die even it didn’t focus on rhizomatic thinking. The researches mention on the page 31 that the principles of Deleuze and Quattari were not discussed but nevertheless influential in the way the course was designed and experienced.

I suppose that other participants could answer better than me and I should like to know what is the meaning of this sentence: “For some the course promoted deep or wide learning, was transformational and had a positive impact on classroom practice” (p. 32). Perhaps explanations will come in the next article, I can wait. I am writing in order to find my own thoughts.

Is there a hidden belief that Rhizo14 offered some quite new or revolutionary pedagogy in the history of pedagogy? What if a participant has lived in the middle of similar experiment for many decades? People have a tendency to love what they do and appreciate the courses in which they participate. It is a group process with known dynamics which makes people happy for some time, nothing wrong with it. But it not all learning. It would be a theme of a new research to follow for instance happenings in the FB Rhizo group. It is still alive but why and for which purposes?

Ethical implications are still lacking here, even they are the focus of the article which I have handled. So I’ll have to write more some day. Thanks to Jenny, Frances and Mariana for getting me and Simon Ensor to comment!

Rhizo14 in Sunlight and in Shade

Jenny Mackness and Frances Bell have published findings from Rhizo14 in Open Praxis, vol 7, issue 1, Jan-March 2015, pp. 25-38. The title of the article is “Rhizo14: A Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC in Sunlight and in Shade”. I have written about their research earlier and I was very interested in reading this publication. What is new, are there any deeper interpretations about learning in cMOOCs?

First I’ll refer to the data collection and the main results. The main data consisted of answers to four open questions in open Survey Monkey. The questions were as follows:

  1. How does the image of a rhizome relate to your prior experience of teaching, learning?
  2. How does the image of a rhizome relate to your experience of learning during Rhizo14?
  3. How might the image of a rhizome represent your future practice?
  4. If the above questions did not allow you to fully explain your learning experience in Rhizo14, then please comment in the box below on those aspects of the course which were significant for you, and what kept you in the course or caused you to leave early.

Following this initial survey – they got 47 answers -the researchers sent further questions by email to 35 survey respondents who agreed to receive these followup questions. The final stage of data collection was a Skype interview with Dave Cormier, convener of the Rhizo14. And then the results (p. 31) :

For many participants Rhizo14 was a very positive experience. They valued the metaphor of the rhizome for teaching and learning. It gave a new way of framing education, exploring education and thinking about education. (A long list of adjectives which I can’t follow 🙂 ). These participants valued the lack of a centre = the lack of traditional tutoring and the lack of prescribed content. They valued the high emphasis of learner autonomy, self-organization and handing over control to learners. The course was experienced as a spirit of exploration, openness and experimentation. These were thought to be important aspects of Rhizo14. The Facebook group was active also after the official course time and this was the light side of Rhizo14 (page 32). The majority of survey results were positive.

There was also a dark side for those participants who did not feel connected and could not find a voice in the community. They felt isolated, They felt unable to make meaningful connections despite in some cases being experienced MOOCers.

  • One viewed the emphasis on community as an unnecessary pressure, which led to artificial effects, exclusion and limited learning.
  • Another viewed the community as disjointed networks of pre-established subgroups.
  • Another described the community as having a dark edge.

These participants felt that there was a lack of appropriate facilitation, and there were inappropriate exhibitions of power and politics in the course. Some felt that the course was based on weak philosophical foundations and that the rhizome was an empty signifier, Some questioned the lack of content and felt that the course lacked depth and theoretical discussion (and many adjectives again which I can’t follow).

This was a short summary of what I consider as essential results in the article. I agree with the researchers that it was valuable to get some descriptions about the dark side of MOOC learning. Usually those participants leave the courses without telling more about their experiences. The positive side of learning communities is so well known that I suppose educational researchers are tired of reading praises of the pedagogy which the researcher supports him/herself. They are mostly pseudo-science more like religious confessions.

My orientation differs in some parts of the article. I do not think that Rhizo14 is an exceptional pedagogy or a new experiment. I think that the internet is the experiment in which we all are taking part. The background of the research could consist of the developers of the free internet and describe the Rhizo14 as part of this continuum. Dave Cormier began with Jeff Lebow in the year 2005 or so and they have proved that interaction can really work. The roots of pedagogy in the free internet are very old and well-known in the history of educational sciences and practices as well as politics demanding democracy.

I am not sure what is the value of connectivism. It is a list of good principles or aims – and those can be easily forgotten in praxis. I don’t believe that the differences between c and x MOOCs are true. There is political discussion between the free individuals versus all institutions. The world of education is not so simple.

What else could I say to the researchers? There is no need to excuse the number of responses when  you have 47 participants who write to your quite open questions. The data is always partial, it is never complete. The research aims to find qualitative differences, not quantitative numbers. I had a feeling that you excused also the results about the dark side of Rhizo14 (even you told that it aroused your attention). You are so deeply engaged in developing cMOOCs that you want to be closer to the positive side of your results 🙂

How to dive deeper into the qualitative data? The human consciousness of the participants is limited and the ways to illustrate own thoughts or feelings are partial if I use the concept you used describing the data. I can see that some of the descriptions of the  dark side used psychological concepts but those concepts are not well known. We speak about autonomous learning but we cannot be autonomous …

Now I am so tired of using this language that I have to take a break …


How to measure the success of learning in rhizo14?

This time I’ll discuss a small but interesting  part of the autoethnography gathered after rhizo14. This was the introduction for the participants:

“Share your personal story of rhizo14 in your own voice. You could freewrite, link to some of your blog posts, quote things you said in Twitter/Facebook or if you prefer a loose structure you might like to consider some of the questions below.”  The last question was: “measures and perceptions of success??” and it was connected to an article of Bentley et al 2014 “measures of success and perceptions of the success of their learning (OLDSMOOC, many cases) .

I’ll only deal with the answers given to this last question for rhizo14 participants. Half of the 31 participants had answered this question (15). I’ll summarise  their results and leave  away the other half: more individualistic solutions (images, zeega, numerous links) or very short answers without a clear comment on learning. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that eleven answers to the given question were given by men and only four of women, while the total distribution was 15/16. How to interpret this difference? Does it matter?

First I read all the answers (>2000 words) and then I combined similar answers together and the story diminished to a half. I am not sure if it is wise to separate answers to parts but it was easy/ possible. The answers had a lot in common. I’ll describe the results using the raw material. I do not mention the names of the participants. I try to write down one idea per paragraph. Here come the answers, let’s listen to the raw material:

Each individual participant has to define their own goals and measure the success in relation to them.
Although we had the option of presenting a personal project .. we didn’t use it. Dave Cormier has given his guide how to participate successfully in a mooc: only one used his concepts (declare or focus).
Success = meaningful connections for own learning /new friends/names to recognise. As my intent was to work at building a personal learning community, I’d say the success of that is ongoing.  I am successful when I strengthen the useful connections I already have, make some new useful connections, and identify some potential connections that might be useful. Making connections with individuals who have a passion for connection (and education) is priceless.  That, much more than content, was the largest part of what I define as success.
There was only one comment referring to learning theories:
From my own teaching and research experiences, the building of learning communities is the key. James Paul Gee talks about affinity spaces and Etienne Wenger-Trayner writes about communities of practice. Learning with others. That’s what rhizo14 has been.
I really wanted to improve and increase the diversity of my learning network. This is a very selfish reason and measure of success. MOOCs that are open are a fertile ground for cultivating your learning network. This course , more than any other that I have done before, have caused me to grow. My network is much larger and much stronger and I feel very much more connected.
Success = having participated. Learning and practicing the range of digital literacies needed to participate, even marginally in some areas, is valuable. I made some progress in the “I can’t read everything” department.
It may be an illusion of enthusiasm that I’ve “learned” these things but it feels like I have a better grasp on how to know them or reconstruct a more viable approach. I’ve gained a tool of understanding that clarifies things that I didn’t have before. Success = People having a serious conversation or, very often, people having fun together. That’s enough. This has been a good experience and I feel that I passed through something. I want to return to some of the potential paths I spotted over the past weeks and make sense in terms of this rhizomatic learning.
Success = I come out with a different perspective on my own network? Do I have at least one or two new nodes (people or ideas) that have altered the landscape or perspective I went in with? Rhizo14 was a rousing success for me and I look forward to ongoing conversation, engagement. / I measure success by my perceptions of the amount of consolidation and change in my thinking and doing. / have stretched me to think outside of the box. I am thinking and engaged in the higher levels./ helped me to think over the questions I had on learning together. I’m grateful for all the people that helped me in my thinking.
Success = I was able to take the ideas from the conversations into interactions with colleagues and was excited by their excitement.
Success = Yes, for me it was success. There was much beauty, I loved the occasional poem and other artistic expressions. I for myself can say I learned a lot.
Success= means also to have some new devices to use (Zeega Diigo Pinterest Unhangout)
Success number one = a working understanding and ways of thinking about rhizomatic learning
  • case 1. I thought that new ideas and ways of thinking about rhizomatic learning would be one measure of success. In fact this could be said to be aligned with the main reason why I joined. I was not entirely convinced that I know what rhizomatic learning is all about. I have to admit that it is not much clearer but I have a working understanding of the idea.
  • case 2.  As for content, I finally got motivated to read some of the insanely convoluted writings of the revered Messrs. Deleuze and Guattari. I understand much more clearly how to articulate, “Continued participation in a community like this allows me to be able to do things I did not consciously set out to learn how to do.” I am still grappling with the rhizome metaphor – trying to see positive points in Knotweed.
  • case 3.  On characteristic of rhizomatic learning lifted from Dave Cormier is to “…participate with and among those people who are resident in a particular field…” This I have done and will continue to do. In each community I will leave behind my rhizomatic project idea with a rootlet (URL) back hoping the connections might strengthen the meme. I clarified and strengthened my own ideas about rhizomatic education, gained many new ideas to test and work with, and outlined some future ideas that I need to know more about. Win-win-win.
Now I have listed all the factors which I separated in the stories. At last I give a copy of a story, which combines all of them:
I did this MOOC to explore and experience new pedagogies and ways of learning online, discover new people to inspire me and introduce me to new ideas and ways of thinking and it’s certainly been a success from that perspective. It’s been fairly pervasive and made me realise that almost every aspect of life involves some form of learning – life is rhizomatic, and thus rhizomatic learning is about learning about life and living it better. I found myself reflecting on it all the time, and it’s evolved my thinking on a range of things, and introduced me to some new people some of whom will develop with closer ties over time.
Here comes another story about the learning journey:
Yes, I learned new things, I met new people, I found new rabbits to chase. But the idea of success implies a stop, to reify the process. If I need to reify the experience, or get it certified, I can do so, and the generation of this text is a case in point, but for me rhizo14 was a participatory journey. Not a place but a movement. And the criterion for success may be only that this movement continues. Dave Cormier described the course at one point as a beacon, an attractor. I think he got that right, and many. We came together, or crossed paths, each in our trajectory, and new fires developed, and around them conversations. Now we move on…
So? Have I learned anything new?  Bentley et al spoke in their article about their reflective exercise. I think it was a suitable concept.  This is learning by writing. The descriptions found here are similar to earlier given in so called connectivist principles. The participants belong to that bigger community as I said in my previous post. The theme rhizomatic learning was weakly understood although it was the main content – or there were huge differences in understanding it? The participants didn’t copy Dave’s sayings about how to mooc well, which fact can be considered as  positive? The connections to learning theories are weak or hidden, because attitudes against educational sciences are mostly negative? I am only asking  comments.
If you have read this you may be interested in Tanya’s blog post and article about inclusion and exclusion in rhizo. It was one of those questions in the autoethnography.

Communities around rhizo14

I continue my rhizo research topic by pondering on internet communities. The subtitle of the rhizo14 course was ‘community as curriculum’. It includes an assumption that a community develops around the course and creates new connections and content . I studied in this blog many concepts around this theme: virtual communities, networks, crowds, tribes and clusters and found new ones: congregation, fan club, Dave as our Elvis. Network is most popular in describing life in internet, but  communities and tribes can be used as well.

Now I am thinking about rhizo14 and notice that I see it as a part of continual process happening in the internet. Most of the people who participated in the autoethnography at the end of the course already belonged to the community. Perhaps it could be named a community of connectivist life long learners or networkers. I don’t like the term connectivist, but I used it because it is known and may help to understand what I am saying. There is no beginning and no end, said Vanessa Vaile. I had a similar orientation in my autoethnography: I just passed by the rhizo14 and studied something. Later in this text I want to say story, I am tired writing the long term autoethnography.

When I read the collected 30 stories, I can recognise 11 names which have lived in the interned many years. They are experienced moocers and self-directed learners and their participation skills are up-to-date. So they come to a course and take what they want and contribute here and there so that others can learn from their comments. Dave Cormier’s transparent live in the internet is very well-known to these people and they like him. They believe that something will happen when Dave is the facilitator. Some of these people were interested in rhizomatic learning and their connection to Dave included this shared interest. A few were very old friends of Dave and co-worked many years with him. Some of the experienced networkers have more general interests about learning and living in online communities. I could name them outer circle ripples of the Dave community 🙂

I found 30 different stories and only three were written by novices in the sense of first time moocers. I appreciate that they have written their stories. So I have about 16 stories left. It is a heterogeneous group of people following actively and participating selectively in the open internet. Some of them were interested in rhizomatic thinking and wondered why it was not studied properly.

I belong to this group. I remember that I had discussions about the allowed interests. I felt guilty of not being interested  in rhizomatic philosophy and someone (Tanya) promised that it is allowed to be interested in human learning generally. I was not alone with my orientation. Cath Ellis had a researcher’s orientation and she helped to find writings about Deleuze & Guattari. Some followed her but most participants wanted to be free learners. When the course proceeded further, the artistic ways of describing learning took more space. It is metaphorical and near the ideas of the course, so this trend is easy to understand. Some very touching stories were presented in the blogs and warm support was in the air. Simultaneously I could recognise a norm arousing that writing is boring and linear, do not use it.

Some of the participants had been publishing about learning online in some journals, I remember Apostolos and Maha. Now Sarah and some others were interested in following this line. So we have this rich material of 30 stories in Google Drive. The idea of collaborative autoethnography is excellent and suits the purpose. It is

A form of self-reflection and writing that explores the researcher’s personal experiences and connects this autobiographical story to a wider cultural-political-and social meanings and understandings. source

We have  different stories which could be used in various ways. My first feeling was that no one wants to read the stories as such, separated from the context or the community. I have tried to contextualize the stories partly to wider cultural settings in this post. I could use the stories by analysing them focusing in certain questions. For instance I’ll leave the inner circle of experienced networkers around Dave and continue by analysing more normal people 🙂 I have no intention to deepen into rhizomatic thinking and I leave it to them who are interested in it.

I had an idea to draw a map of different motivations but I changed my opinion. One question is how to use the writers’ names. If I connect names into motivation I could get feedback (and many angry comments). So? If I give new names for people it will be ridiculous. Every research effort is valuable in my mind but it takes time. An idea of collaborating is very challenging to implement.

It is a nice summer day today, not too hot, but next week is predicted to be very hot again. Perhaps I’ll rest.

Open online learning in this blog during rhizo14

The assessment process is going on in the rhizo14 uncourse. It would be most popular to make a Zeega with music and rapidly changing images. Digital culture offers great new possibilities and learning is complex: so we need new artistic media. I’ve nothing against that direction but this time I’ll follow my old style and try to combine practice with theoretical concepts. I try to describe what happened in this blog when we tried to understand learning in our uncourse. My interest was to understand the conditions for well-working online community. I blogged and some old and new friends came to comment on my posts.

My first post in Jan 29th ended in some kind of hype: we have a possibility to create something quite undone earlier in online communities. Jaap understood me at once and was ready to continue. That clumsy sentence meant that I had a hunch about something new, I could not explain what and why, but there were possibilities in the air.

My way was to continue with scientific concepts which could help us in understanding our doings. Actually Jaap had written a post about roles of participants first. Sense of virtual community was my post on Febr 4th and I used a short slideshare of a Finnish researcher Miia Kosonen. In this post I offered some basic concepts to use in exploring in our participation. The comments of Jaap, Tanya, Mariana inspired me and I remembered also my earlier posts about a similar topic (bond or identity based commitment). Jaap gave me the concepts congregation and market, Tanya described her paths and gave me better English to use, Mariana handled power dynamics and choices of trust or not trust. I stepped from my social and cognitive psychology & sociology to the field of communication on the internet. I need a model for describing  the process, in which participants’ experiences meet the scientific concepts.

nonakaThis is a famous model about knowledge creation in innovative workplaces or projects, made by Nonaka and Takeuchi. I suppose that most of my blog’s readers know it and have used it in some contexts. This could still be a good model for understanding the learning events: how tacit knowledge is shared and externalised/ internalised and connected in new ways. The learning event has not changed, we can still use these concepts. A team was the concept used about the participants and it had similar ideas as a network has nowadays: there must be diversity and it must be used in the working process.

This blog received comments from Jaap, Sarah, Tanya, Mariana, Matthias, Frances, Jenny, Rita, Dave, Simon, Pat, Kathleen and Mark and some more in the Facebook. I referred to Apostolos, Ann, Maha, Maureen, Kevin, Viplav and Terry. My first idea was to write the names or faces of all the participants around the model, but soon I understood that it is not possible to put a name only in one place. The real interaction is too complex. (Or should it be a Prezi or Zeega to describe the process and its quick changes?) It was important to notice that people commented to each other, not only to my writings. I think Frances and Jenny were very good at this. They took the whole topic in her hands.

Everyone brought his/her voice into the learning process.  All the differences are valuable and can be used as a step in the spiral process.  It is a collaborative process open to people who want to bring their voices in participation. I don’t describe every post and every event in this process, that would sound boring even it is interesting in my mind. You can read the ten posts and make your own conclusion if you want. There are excellent links, which are worth opening. A rich material indeed.

What is success in this working process? To me it means that my understanding about online communities and learning in them has deepened. I have a feeling that I know these phenomena and the diversity inside them. I also see many borders in my understanding: for instance the participation funnel of open online courses could have been handled more and I have a hunch that it could explain the inclusion/exclusion phenomena. If we don’t see the exclusion process going on, we must be blind (or defensive actually). There are a lot of open questions and there will be more.

What were the emotionally touching moments during the course? I mentioned the enthusiasm with Jaap at the beginning of the course (to do something great, undone before this). It is a normal phase of a community building: get engaged> forming> storming> norming> performing> mourning.  The next emotionally touching event to me was Dave’s comment to Jenny in her blog and the FB group. I had to handle it in my blog “the community is the curriculum” and I could forgive the event after his apologies. How to handle the mistakes made during the process, it tells about the quality of interaction (authentic, honest vs pretended). It was a storming> norming phase simultaneously with working and collaborating.  Now I can see much emotional support in the FB group, when the course is ending and we have the mourning phase going on.

One happy fact still: I found a solution to my problem “how to find interesting books which I want to read”. I went to the local university library and learnt that anyone can borrow books there. I got a card and came home  with McLuhan and Rheingold and some other books. I can easily find the shelf of communication science and will visit there in the future. Perhaps this solution came to my mind when folks were pondering the connection between books and stupidity 🙂

I have often had a feeling of re-inventing the wheel. I have written better posts about similar topics some years ago. Here comes a slideshare from Vahid Masrour: Participation Spiral. I used it also in November 2010.



My autoethnography about rhizo14

I’ve to write another story about my experiences. Some participants are collaborating on an auto-ethnographical story and I want to support all research about MOOCs. Maha Bali is one of those active students and she asked for more information about my participation. So I decided to answer the questions:

Share your personal “story of rhizo14” in your own voice. You could freewrite, link to some of your blog posts, quote things you said on Twitter/facebook, or if you prefer a loose structure, you might like to consider some of the questions below:
a1. Comment on your reasons for joining #rhizo14,
a2. your level of participation and your experiences of the “course”.
b. Comment on your experiences of inclusion/exclusion in this community
c. Comment on how you are experiencing this MOOC, why or how it engages you, how you navigate it
d. Measures and perception of success??? “”measures of success and perception of the success of their learning.” Bentley et al., 2014

a1. Why I came in? I followed some people and I knew the idea of a connectivist course. Participating is normal to me. I follow the social and intellectual affordances of the internet all the time.

a2. My level of participation varied. During the first week this blog moved to this new address and I had no intention to write. I was not interested in the cheating debate, but I joined to the FB group and began to follow the Twitter hashtag #rhizo14. I started blogging during the second week. I declared my experiences and old and new connections in my post. I blogged two posts in week 4: Sense of virtual community in rhizo (8 comments) and  The community as the curriculum (10 comments). You can see that a community around my blog arose quickly. In week 5 I posted four times : Knowledge in interactive practice disciplines (5), Network as curriculum (2), Real or imagined community (15 comments). In my post “rhizo as a gathering place” I explored the visits to my blog and concluded that this is a European and ‘British global’ course, only 29% of the visits were new.  In week 6 I wrote about  My experiences during the rhizo14 and now I am writing another about the same topic. I used all my normal ways to participate: Twitter, FB group, Diigo, reading others’ blogs and commenting on them.

b. inclusion/exlusion in this community. I continue by telling which parts I ignored and why. I noticed interesting experiments with words and poetry but I did not want to participate because English is not my native language. I heard discussions around some names and cultures, music which I could not follow. That brings an experience about exclusion even it is not meant to be. This ‘culture’ increased into the end and I stopped writing. A good example is the new topic ‘Lunatics from asylum’ – not funny at all in my eyes. I don’t know the TV programmes or movies, from which that concept comes, and I do not care. I stopped following the FB group.

c. experiences. Dave Cormier said in his blog before the course had begun that to some people rhizo will

simply be an extension of your normal practice on the internet. You’ll find familiar faces who make references to previous learning events online, you already have web places from which you speak, and many of you are already familiar with the material.  I’ve been experimenting with online community style learning which I have called rhizomatic learning for about 10 years now.  A journey that will have different results for different people.

I am one of those people which are open to social and intellectual affordances of the internet all the time. This was not my ‘first love’ but one of many in my journey on the internet.

c. engagement I chose to handle the basic concepts network, community, tribe, crowd, curriculum, personal learning plan and network. I blogged and received comments and also commented on others’ blogs. Many participants had the similar interest.

c. No problems with navigation, P2PU was open without registration and I followed the course every week. I found the links to recordings somewhere (Twitter or FB threads).

d. measures of success. This is interesting. I have an intention to handle this in another post, but to put it short: some new names to recognize in the future. Three new names in FB including Dave. Many new Twitter contacts which began to go down 415-414-413-412-411 one per day when the course came to its end (and immediately up again when I started my following course). Some new devices or programs, Zeega to express the findings.

I try to embed here the presentation which Frances Bell has done. It is an excellent way to show the blogs and people behind them. And I am honoured to be one of them.


My experiences during rhizo14

I’ve been away one week and it is a long time. I’ve missed the last week of rhizo. I watched the last recording and I could see many happy participants there. To me this experience is like many other MOOCs which have been working well. I was not very active, I wrote eight posts and some comments, got three new FB friends and about ten new Twitter connections. I’ll follow some blogs after the course.

These were  my thoughts before the beginning of rhizo:  “How to participate in this international world? I’ve some circles of friends here and there and – after deciding not to participate in any course – I have noticed that many of my friends began the course “Rhizomatic Learning” run by Dave Cormier. I am a member of the FB group “Rhizo14” already and read enthusiastic writings by many people which I’ve met in previous courses. So, what to do? Perhaps I must get acquainted with the course programme and participate those weeks which are immersive enough. The real reason for participation are the people, anyway, I trust their capacity to interact with the co-learners. I follow people, not topics. It is a waste of time to ponder about my aims or interests, I’ll find them only by participating.”

I was interested in the question what makes online communities work. My post  ‘sense of virtual community’ is one of my favourite. So what can I tell about rhizo?  I met the old friends (Frances, Jenny, Jaap, Matthias)  and some new. I don’t mention their names, because I don’t remember everyone just now.  I was interested in some names which I lost soon. Why some connections continue and others not?  Time available is one factor, but there are differences in sensitiveness and openness. The facilitator’s behavior can influence more than other participants. I had seen Dave earlier in many situations and I admire how authentic he is in front of the camera. He is capable of interacting and listening to others. I could see this happening in the last hangout, he kept in the background and gave the space to others. Earlier on the course there was one silly comment from Dave to an experienced participant and I was very disappointed. Dave apologised openly so many times that I’ve had  to forgive him for that event. We are all human beings and make mistakes (a good model if I want to see it as such).

Rhizo is an experiment about totally personal curricula with a power shift to the participants. There must be many curricula in the course and mine is far from the normal one. I didn’t follow the weekly topics as most participants seemed to do. I did not open my heart to rhizomatic learning, I have no reason to study what those guys have said. So perhaps I am a test for personal learning plan (PLP). I wanted to learn about random learning online, what are the signs about virtual community or network. How to interpret the changing events?

The core concept in developing a course must be interaction. It is easy to build connections with like-minded people. It strengthens and sharpens the mind and the will. I remember Frances’ words about me: wise and strong. In rhizo we lived in the middle of self-made abundance. There is a tendency toward surface communication. Perhaps I should stop my serious pondering and say as Viplav in his blog: Dave is our Elvis. We lived in a Dave Cormier fan club some weeks and it was soo fuun. The event may end, but online learning in MOOCs and conferences continues. Viplav said: “A course is just a plot device to get people together, to communicate, to interact, to take part in this common exercise. And in this common exercise our connection between each other and our connections inside ourselves will be exercised, will be increased, augmented, developed — and we learn.” Show must go on …

Rhizo14 as a gathering place

Today I want to rest and handle only easy topics. I took the heading from Dave Cormier’s post MOOCs as a Gathering Place, where he tells about us. I compare my experiences with him by showing the situation around this blog. This is only a little part of the course, but I have noticed differences compared to other MOOCs. Google Analytics gives the information about visits, visitors and pageviews so easily that I like to check them almost every morning during a course. It is feedback. So continue if you are interested in my blog’s life 🙂

My blog changed its address in January just when rhizo14 began. So the numbers tell about rhizo students’ visits to this blog. These images or diagrams tell the situation in yesterday evening. The overall situation is 376 visits, 112 visitors and 784 pageviews. Visits came from twenty countries.

rhizo1202I live in Finland and visit most often, it is clear. The next country is UK, not USA as in all other MOOCs, which I have participated. In UK, England is of course the part from which visits came. In USA, the visits came from the East Coast and not from California which has always been the first.

rhizoUSAThis map of USA is different from earlier maps from my MOOCs and the number of visits is lower than those from UK.

rhizomaatThe order of the countries is interesting. This is a British course in my mind. Also in Egypt, active on the map, can be seen evidence of British education (Maha Bali has told openly about her background). Visits from UK are now 97 and will be over 100 tomorrow.

This is more European as my former courses. Netherlands is the first in the continent (thanks to Jaap) but all the old European countries are on the map. That is not usual. France is 10 today ( and 15 on the next day).

Australia and Canada have same numbers here, but I have a feeling that Australia will “win”, the blog has many new connection there. From Canada the British Columbia comes first. So I conclude that rhizo can be considered as an European and British course. We share English language and (Anglo-)  western culture in a global world.

EDIT 14.2. I was wrong about Australia vs. Canada, the latter has 22 visits today 🙂

The content which I have dealt with is community as curriculum.  Since yesterday my posts were visited in this order:

rhizopages‘The community as the curriculum’ is the post in which I gave my interpretation about the weird behavior of the facilitator. A dangerous topic is interesting. The post ‘Sense of virtual community’ is popular too. It was written in the beginning of the course, when people are still active. The time explains that numbers go down, the posts are not yet read. The post ‘real vs imagined community’ from yesterday is not on the list, because it is so new. The topics on the bottom are the old posts to which I linked, some people have opened them. (On the next day ‘real or imagined’ is the third and I don’t know why).

What still? Only 29% of my visitors are new. I have an opportunity to meet my old moocing friends  and it is great. I have no idea about the whole situation in the course. Dave told something (link above) and Mariana has tweeted about a network analysis. It seems that communication has been very Dave- centred. In my Google Analytics Prince Edward Island (where Dave lives) was on the map with some visits but it is not essential from my point of few. The Huma Bird project concludes that “What is most impressive (and unlike anything I’ve seen before) is that each hour features at least one #rhizo14 tweet since the course starts – which shows how international the course is – it doesn’t seem to sleep.”

Any comments? Mistakes in my interpretations?

EDIT 14.2. I came to add the tag rhizo14 (thanks to Matthias for reminding me about it) and I commented on some numbers above. They are changing every day.