Monday, October 31, 2011

La cura per l'ansia e i timori

Una o due settimana fa ho causato un po' di ansia per i lettori di questo blog quando ho scritto sul tema della partecipazione in in MOOC. Veramente non volevo causare di ansia, ma voluto fornire alcune spunti per riflessione.

Credo che molti, non sola la mia amica Serena, quando hanno letto la mia idea per il sistema di "notificazioni" pensano a la scuola, i controlli, e le segnalazioni. Io non li colpa di essere ansiosi perché questi metodi di educazione e di docimologia sono metodi di educazione molto strutturati, senza immaginazione, e molte volte la docimologia è punitiva.

Nello stesso tempo, quando qualcuno parla della partecipazione, molti pensano a la discussione, o forse un blog post, o qualche cosa visibile a molti come qualcosa scritta a twitter. È vero che questi sono topi di partecipazione ma io credo che la partecipazione ad un corso MOOC deve essere ripensata perché un MOOC non è come altri corsi, allora la docimologia, e allora che voglio dire "partecipazione"' non funziona funziona allo stesso modo.

Come persone che lavorano in educazione, come pedagogisti, deve che noi rompiamo le vecchie strutture che non funzionano più in questa nuova forma di pedagogia; deve che noi problematizziamo le definizioni che esistono; e deve che noi ripensiamo il nostro ruolo e cosa facciamo nel mondo della pedagogia MOOC e non-MOOC. E finalmente, spero che, l'apprendimento sarà divertente e attraente, e non abbiamo più questa ansia che viene dalla pedagogia punitiva :-)

Spero che questo post è comprensibile, non ho scritto qualcosa in Italiano per dieci anni (wow!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

On selfish blogging and form & function

Yesterday while taking the train back home from work I was catching up with Change11 related blogs.  Two of them caught my eye and sparked my imagination (or perhaps cognitive process is a better any case it got me thinking). First I read Tony Bates' initial summary of the week he facilitated, and then Jenny's response to him on selfish blogging.

Tony writes (and this is not the only thing he writes so read his entire post):

There could be all kinds of reasons for the shortage of comments on this week’s topic, but I was more struck by the form in which they occurred. Participants did not comment directly to my post for this week, but within their own blogs. I call this the syndrome of the selfish blogger. We all do this. If we have something interesting to say, we’d rather say it on our own web site than someone else’s (it would be nice though if the post was also copied to the site that originated the topic). I had to go and cull all the comments from the #Change 11 newsletter and from pingbacks to get them into one place, so I could comment on them as a whole.
I have to say in MOOCs where an LMS (example: LAK11) or a Google Group (example: MobiMOOC, eduMOOC) were used and there were discussion forums, I really did find it obnoxious when people created (or responded to) a discussion post with something like this:
Oh, I wrote something about this very thing in my blog the yesterday day with regard to insert-MOOC-name. Check it out here:
As a matter of practice I did not bother going to those people's blogs. There was enough content in the discussion forums to keep me occupied without having to sidetrack.  What I did find very considerate was when people copied and pasted their blog content into the discussion forum with an attribution link.  I think this is the best of both worlds, because as Jenny states, she post on her blogs because those are her reflections on a topic (and reading between the lines here:) not something that is necessarily a response to some discussion somewhere. If we have something that is our reflection on something BUT at the same time fits into a discussion, then the considerate thing to do, as far as I am concerned, is to copy and paste the entire post in the discussion IF it fits in.

Personally, I didn't take offense to Tony's selfish blogger  comment. I think the key theme posed by Tony "Can change come from within, or do we need to re-invent new forms of higher education that are de-institutionalized?" is what drove me, and others this week.  I did post twice on the subject, once in English and once in Greek, with different content in each. Of course I don't expect Tony, or others, to speak Greek, but at least something was there.

Now, as far as forums, blogs and comments go - for me at least, these are three different cognitive processes.  If a MOOC has all three (like MobiMOOC, eduMOOC and LAK11) I tend to stick to the forums for most things, and to blogs for personal reflections.  If a MOOC has gRSShopper, like CCK11 and Change11, where all your content is harvested into a daily newsletter, then longer pieces (like this one) where more time and thought go into it and/or I am referencing more than one source go into a blog.  If I see something interesting on a blog, and I want to add a quick reply, thought or comment then I do indeed post to that blog and comment.  I don't see comments as a venue for discussion, even though threaded comments have become the norm these days, the form is still limiting for longer posts like this one. Mini-discussions are achievable if you keep it to 2 paragraphs or fewer per comment.

Why not use the gRSShopper system for blog comments?  I did try that with CCK11, but I found that
  1. I wanted to maintain "authorship" of my comments, and many blogs have disqus, which allows me to do that
  2. comments on gRSShopper, for me, are disconnected a bit from the blog content.
I don't have any suggestions on how to fix the system. Perhaps a way to harvest and collate comments automatically from blogs?  I don't know how technically difficult that is :-)

Finally Tony asks:

  1. Could I have done something that would have resulted in more comments, more discussion and more integration of the discussion in this MOOC?
  2. Or is the topic itself the problem – just not of interest to most people in this MOOC?
  3. Or are people just too busy to go beyond the webinar and a short response?

OK, to answer these in sequence 
  1.  I don't think so. I think you are limited by the distributed nature of this MOOC. It's neither space bound not time bound. Much of the content is all over the net AND the MOOC-fathers have already setup an expectation that there aren't forums on here, so it's hard to break apart (I think) from an distributed expectation and try to corale people into a forum for a week. It's also a fact that some people are a week, or two behind, or some people skip a week in MOOCs. This type of freedom makes it a bit difficult for facilitators.
  2. For me the topic wasn't a problem, but then again I work in academia, in IT, so I know the issues. Perhaps other participants may have had a harder time getting started with this theme because they didn't have the required social capital to tackle it right from the gate.
  3. Some people will be too busy, for sure.  I am pretty sure that most people are not. I think a lot of MOOC participants take time to read many (if not all?) the facilitator provided materials and do respond via their blogs with their thoughts on the subjects...and then comment back to others via comments (for short comments) or longer expository blog posts (for longer "comments"). I know that there are many people who are on here whose native language is not English. I really like reading blogs from people like this (like Serena for example in Italian and Jaap when he posts in Dutch) because it adds another dimension to the MOOC. If English isn't your native language this takes time, and if a MOOC has been established to not be as strictly time bound as traditional courses, then it will take people more than the "allotted time" to get their thoughts and comments out :-)

For what it's worth, I enjoyed the topic, and thought that Tony did a good job, but he was limited by the existing MOOC setup. I think that the "weekly guest" is really a misnomer because people only get "revved up" that week for that topic, but the topic tends to persist for a week or so after the official "end" of the topic.

mLearn 2011 conference proceedings now available!

I was reading Micheal's blog the other night and I realized that the Conference Proceedings for mLearn 2011 are now up!  You can download them from the Conference website, or you can read them on Scribd (see bellow)

In other news, it seems like the MobiMOOC research team is big in China :-) We were contacted yesterday by PhD students (under the direction of their advisor) to see if we would consent to have our mLearn paper translated into Chinese for publication in a core Chinese academic journal - this is both a great honor and über cool!

mLearn 2011 (BeiJing) Conference Proceedings

Thursday, October 27, 2011

OCW και Ελληνικά Πανεπιστήμια

Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο Change11 MOOC, το θέμα είναι το OCW ή OpenCourseWare. Όπως μάλλον γνωρίζετε το OCW  άρχισε εδώ στα λημέρια μου στο γνωστό MIT και από εκεί επεκτάθηκε σε άλλα πανεπιστήμια, και ένα από αυτά είναι και το δικό μου. Συγκριτικά το δικό μου πανεπιστήμιο δεν είναι στην ίδια κατηγορία όσον αφορά το μέγεθος των πόρων που έχουμε στο δικό μας OCW.

Αυτό που αναρωτιόμουν είναι αν στην Ελλάδα, που  πολύ εκπαιδευτική ύλη φαίνεται να είναι public domain. Αν δεν κάνω λάθος τα βιβλία του ΟΕΔΒ είναι δωρεάν στους φοιτητές και είναι public domain, έτσι; Η Ελλάδα θα ήταν καλό περιβάλλον για μια ακαδημαϊκή αναγέννηση, με κάθε ΤΕΙ και ΑΕΙ να έχει κάποιο OCW, και τα βιβλία να διανέμονται δωρεάν και σε μορφή ePub, καθώς φυσικά και άλλα δεδομένα όπως ασκήσεις, σημειώσεις, παρουσιάσεις και άλλα σχετικά.

Δεν ξέρω, μπορεί να είμαι πολύ αλτρουιστής και να μου πει κανείς «εδώ η Ελλάδα καίγεται, ο κόσμος άστεγος και πεινασμένος και εσύ μου μιλάς για OCW;» Εντάξει, η Ελλάδα έχει κάποια μεγάλα προβλήματα, αλλά αυτό δεν σημαίνει πώς δεν πρέπει να συζητάμε άλλα θέματα, γιατί στο κάτω κάτω, πάντα κάτι «άλλο» θα είναι στο νου μας που θα πρέπει να πάρει πρώτη θέση.  Ποια είναι λοιπόν τα μεγάλα εμπόδια για την επέκταση του OCW στα ιδρύματα ανώτατης παιδείας στην Ελλάδα;

Synchronicity in MOOCs

I was reading a blog post from inlearning titled Is Demanding Synchronous Bliss Missing the Point of Change? Quite an interesting blog post to read so head on over there after reading this post ;-)  It's interesting how different people have different preferences.  I for example dislike synchronous online meetings, and  I have never attended a synchronous MOOC meeting as long as I have participated in MOOCs. Instead I download the MP3 later on, put it on my iPod and listen to it while commuting to work. I know other people feel differently about the topic, but I fit it curious.

If the point of change (change in education in general, not just Change MOOC) is to get away from the sage on the stage and seek out our own peer learning groups, aren't Massive synchronous sessions antithetical to that?  Why would I want to attend a Massive synchronous voice chat (where only one person can speak at a time)?  My voice would be drowned and I wouldn't have an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation and learn something.  As Tim Owens argues, it becomes (or actually is ) a broadcast, so why not take pre-recorded questions for the experts and have them do a radio show?

As anyone has observed in massive gatherings, people tend to cluster together. They move from group to group until they find a suitable topic for them to explore with others.  Instead of one Massive synchronous sessions, it would be better to develop smaller SIGs, throughout the week and then MOOC participants can elect to attend (or not attend) any SIG they want.  The Massive in MOOC works because it is distributed throughout the time frame of a week (it also works because previous weeks become OER, so people can access them whenever they want event after the cohort has moved on). Massive in synchronous does not work because it is time and place bound. :-)

Update: I know that I used the term experts above. Expert is really a loaded word, with certain connotations of putting someone on a pedestal and pointing to them as the authority. I have problems with that word - especially when people call me an "expert" because I simply don't know everything - but it's also a problem in MOOCs because most MOOCs that I have been part of seem to go with a Freirean approach to education which doesn't privilege anyone in particular. Perhaps "guests" would have been a better term, but that also doesn't really get to why one "guest" gets picked to broadcast over others. More to discuss later I guess :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Allergic to assessment or measurement?

OK, so now I am sort of in catch up mode to respond to some interesting blog posts I've read in the past few days on Change. I was reading a blog post from Brainy smurf on being allergic to measurement where he asks:

Why does it even matter how I learned to perform as long as I can do the job well ?!”
 I think that you're not allergic to assessment (or measurement) but rather you are allergic to crappy assessment.  The easiest way to think of assessment is to gather some sort of number - clicks on a link, or amount of time spent in a discussion forum, or number of paragraphs in an essay or number of correct answers in a multiple choice test, heck the multiple choice test is itself an instrument of assessment.

Now, just because you have a hammer, not everything is a nail, and this is where crappy assessment comes in.  Numbers gathered are meaningless in a decontextualized environment - so who cares how many people have clicked on a link and "read" an article if they can't apply what they read? Multiple choice tests are equally bad outside of appropriate environments (I would say that multiple choice tests are bad the majority of the time, but that just me).

I think that if there is authentic assessment, as you mentioned "if you can perform...", then congrats, you've actually passed the test :-) ! Assessment, in my opinion, should be authentic and unobtrusive.  Once assessment becomes obtrusive it becomes a problem and many of us have an allergy to it. Why?  Because (in most cases anyway) it ceases to be authentic assessment and it becomes decontextualized "bad" assessment.

It reminds me of a time I was in a graduate class in project management.  I really loved the class, and we (looking back at it) had a lot of assessment opportunities in the class throughout the semester.  Students did case analyses (which are assessable), students performed a semester-long project management project where they planned, analyzed and presented every angle of a project that they were to manage (all that needed to be done after that was implementation) and students also lead class sessions - again all of these were assessable.

At the end of the semester what did we have?  A final exam, 3 hours, sit-down, in class, that was multiple choice and short answers.  Why? because the department required it. A blanket rule that you needed to have a final exam in all your classes, regardless of what the content of the course and what the instructional strategy was.  This is an example of bad assessment, and luckily you're not the only one allergic to crappy assessment, we all are :-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's OCW week on Change

It seems like it's OCW (open courseware) week at ChangeMOOC.  When I read the initial description (it referring to OER) I was wondering what sort of readings or thoughts would be seeding this week's discussions. In my initial post for the week I made reference to the paradox of OER (I think it was David Wiley who originally wrote about it), but I am glad that this week is about OCW.

I have to say that personally I have a love-hate relationship with OCW.  I love that OCW exists; I think it is an awesome concept because not only does it open up academia, it offer cross-pollination opportunities with other colleagues in other schools (that you don't necessarily know of), it makes courses more transparent to your current and future students, and it offers opportunities for people to self-study if they can't come to your institution or can't afford your institution.  I often look for OCW content in my own disciplines to see what other institutions are doing.  One such example is Utah State. I think it's great for universities and individual faculty to want to put their stuff out there and it's something we should encourage.

Of course, there is the "hate" aspect of OCW as well.  Well, OK, hate is a strong word to use, and I actually don't hate the OCW, just the politics, apprehension and misinterpretations about it. Let me take each one of these individually:

Misinterpretations of effectiveness of OCW content  
I did see this in the articles about MIT's OCW. The idea went as follows: if you put your material online, in OCW, you are (potentially) helping the poor get out of poverty by retooling and providing a means for an education.  Sure, that may be possible, but do the poor always have access to a computer and the internet to access OCW?  Do they always have the prerequisite literacies to be able to self-direct their studies based on OCW materials?  Are the materials that are placed on OCW free and open source (including all the readings) - in other words is it just the course outline that is open? or are the readings there as well? Look at this MIT course for example, unless you've got access to a college library to get them for free some of this material is straight out of pocket.

Don't get me wrong, OCW is great, but at the same time it's not a panacea or a catalyst for social change - it's simply one element that must work in concert with other elements to make things happen. Content without instruction and/or mentorship is not easy for everyone - it's an acquired skill.

Apprehension about putting your materials online
As a student I always wanted to know "what's next" in my curriculum.  There were two reasons: (1) I wanted to know how things I am doing now connect with future things and (2) I wanted to use my "free" time in between semesters preparing for subsequent school semesters so I could make better use of my time (and take more classes than one normally would).
I was fairly resourceful and if professors didn't give me a sample syllabus (and many did), I was able to ferret things out from fellow classmates. This preparation helped me in my studies but not everyone does this. Having asked some faculty to post materials online for future students I get a look of apprehension. They feel great about teaching the courses, but they don't want to put their materials out there ( I should point out that these faculty are tenured faculty and thus don't fall under my adjunct exception rule that I articulated in a previous post) - part of it is that they feel self-conscious about the materials - someone will discover a typo for example or will be a harsh critic of their pedagogy; Other times they feel like it's their copyright and they don't want others to have their materials.
What I really dislike is that as academics we sometimes have a duplicitous nature. We will beg/borrow/steal from other colleagues' syllabi and course outlines to enrich our own, but we don't put our stuff out there to be used (or improved upon!) by our colleagues in other institutions. Now, not everyone is like this, so don't think that I am painting with a broad brush, but there are enough people like this that it makes me wonder about academia.  We need to #changeAcademia ;-)  Perhaps one should #adoptAfacultyMember and help them get their stuff out there :-)

Politics and the new and shiny thing
Finally, from a programatic end of things, the nuts and bolts of the OCW operation.  I know that our OCW project was started with grant money when OCW was new and shiny and everyone was ooohing and aaaahing about this and everyone was saying how we should get onboard right now!  From what I understand the seed money (being seed money) is running dry and it's now up to institutions to fun the maintenance and expansion of OCW projects (like MIT is doing!)  The problem that I've come across is that people aren't necessarily really interested in OCW as an "open" tool, but rather they were interested in OCW as the "new and shiny thing" or "the new toy".  Now that this shine has worn out and grants won't pay for it, those initial OCW champions seem to be on the hunt for new grants for new and shiny things, instead of taking a stance and really fighting for keeping OCW alive and expanding on campus.

Anyway, those were my initial thoughts for this week - what are YOUR loves and hates about OCW?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Summative Evaluations

Last week on the MOOC Research Google Group the following post came up by Alan Selig (reproduced here with permission):

I just got around to listening to the presentation by Tony Bates. Toward the end Stephen made reference to the surveys that many institutions give to students at the point of graduation. Not surprisingly these are usually very favorable, as the respondents have self-selected according to their favorable feelings toward the school.
It made me wonder (again) how we get evaluations in a MOOC from those who only participate at certain points in the overall schedule. Especially since we want to affirm that sporadic or episodic participation is a successful approach to MOOCs, how do we get summative evaluations when the end point for an individual participant can be anywhere during the course of a MOOC, or event beyond the official end of it?

While I don't have the time right now for an immediate answer, I intend on coming back to this later on this week. I also wanted to get it out there because I think that some form of evaluation is important - both learner assessments if you are accrediting people in your course and course assessments to make sure goals were realized. I am interested in what other people think about this issue :-)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

REL pour l'apprentissage

Cette semaine sur ChangeMOOC le thème est vers les ressources éducatives libres pour l'apprentissage. Notre hôte est Rory McGreal de l' université d' Athabasca au Canada. Le thème des RELs n'est pas nouveaux dans ce MOOC. Aujourd'hui nous n'avons pas d'aces sur les matérielles de la semaine et donc je ne sais pas quels sont les objectifs de la semaine et quoi veut Mr. McGreal communiqué à nous. Je dois admettre que le titre du module de cette semaine, pour moi, est un peu déroutant parce que la raison d'être pour les RELs est l'apprentissage, alors est il pas redondant de dire "REL pour l'apprentissage"? Ou peut être il y a des usages des RELs dehors l'apprentissage que je ne connais pas!
Pour moi, les RELs, comme une idée sont intéressants, mais (de mon expérience) c'est trop difficile trouver des RELs qu'on peut utiliser sans pain dans leur cours. La majorité des RELs sont très spécialisés ou ils sont trop général, alors on doit faire un peu de massage pour s'adapter ces RELs dans un autre cours. Je suis ravi de lire les réactions des autres participants dans ce MOOC cette semaine.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Τεχνολογία, παιδεία και αλλαγή.

Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο ChangeMOOC ο καλεσμένος καθηγητής της εβδομάδας ήταν ο Tony Bates και το θέμα μας ήταν η αλλαγή της ανώτατης παιδείας και αν αυτή θα οδηγηθεί απο εσωτερικούς παράγοντες και ανθρώπους ή αν οι αλλαγές θα έρθουν απο έξω, εκτός που πανεπιστημίου. Έχω ήδη γράψει μια ανάρτηση στο μπλογκ στα αγγλικά για το αμερικανικό σύστημα αλλά έτσι περιληπτικά να γράψω πως το σύστημα είναι δύσκολο να αλλάξει εσωτερικά.
Υπάρχει μια άλφα τεχνοκρατία στο πανεπιστήμιο που αν δεν θέλουν όλοι (ή τουλάχιστον πολλοί) μια ριζική αλλαγή, αυτή η αλλαγή δεν γίνετε. Πιστεύω πως τα πανεπιστήμια τώρα έχουν τον χειρότερο συνδυασμό του παλιού "ακαδημαϊκού καθεστώντος" και ενός συστήματος επιχειρησιακής διοίκησης που κοιτά μόνο αριθμούς, "παραγωγικότητα" (όπως και αν μετριέται αυτή σε ένα ακαδημαϊκό περιβάλλον) και κοιτά μόνο τα έσοδα και τα έξοδα αλλά μόνο για τους "μικρούς" - τα μεγάλα κεφαλιά που πληρώνονται τα πολλά λεφτά που παίρνουν τις αποφάσεις και διοικούν τα πανεπιστήμια ως επιχείρηση δεν εξετάζουν τους δικούς τους μισθούς και της δική τους "παραγωγικότητα". Απο τη αλλη πλευρα, το παλιό ακαδημαικο καθεστως χαρακτηριζεται απο ακαδημαϊκά σιλόείναι με τον κάθενα να κοιτα μόνο την τσέπη του (ή τη φήμη του). Έτσι όπως φαίνονται τα πράγματα η εσωστρεφεις αλλαγη λίγο δύσκολη μου φαίνεται εμένα αλλα όχι αδύνατη!
Τώρα απο το ελληνικό σύστημα δηλώνω άγνοια. Έφυγα απο την Ελλάδα όταν τελειωσα το γυμνάσιο οπότε το πως είναι το Λύκειο και η ανωτάτη παιδεία στην Ελλάδα είναι ολίγον μυστήριο. Ξέρω κάτι λίγα απο φίλους αλλα αυτά είναι απο ζητήσεις με καφέ μετά τις εξετάσεις που το μυαλό ίσως να είναι λίγο θολό. Με ενδιαφέρει να μάθω παραπάνω για το ελληνικό σύστημα ανώτατης παιδείας και τι νομίζετε εσείς, εσείς που εργάζεστε σε κάποιο μέρος του ελληνικού συστήματος παιδείας ή εσείς που είστε φοιτητές. Αν είστε στη Ελλάδα τι νομίζετε; Αν πήγατε στο εξωτερικό για σπουδές γιατί; Τι δεν σας άρεσε στην Ελλάδα και τι σας έφερε στο εξωτερικό; Αν είστε στο εξωτερικό τι κριτικές έχετε για το σύστημα που είστε; Και φυσικά η μεγάλη ερώτηση: μπορεί η αλλαγη να είναι απο εσωτερικούς παράγοντες ή όχι και γιατί;

Friday, October 21, 2011

Congrats to the MobiMOOC research group!

Congrats to everyone in the MobiMOOC research group for getting the  Best Paper Award at the mLearn 2011 conference!  In addition to myself, the team is made up of  (alphabetical order):  Sean C. AbajianInge deWaardMichael Sean GallagherRebecca HogueNilgün Özdamar Keskin, and Osvaldo Rodriguez .

A big thank you to Rebecca, Michael and  Nilgun for representing our team at mLearn in Beijing (wish I could have gone but oh well, looking forward to meeting the rest of the team in person one of these days :-)  )  I wonder if the presentation was video recorded.

Inge has uploaded our paper at for anyone who is interested and the conference slides up on SlideShare (link bellow).

I have to say that I really enjoyed working collaboratively with the MobiMOOC research team both on this project and on projects we are currently working on. While there is still place for solo-research activity, I think that research is strengthened by having a diverse group of people come together for a common goal.

Transformation from within...or from outside?

I have to say that this week I haven't been as active on the main topic of Change11 but rather following side-threads or catching up with previous weeks.  I think part of it has been my own frustrations with institutionalized information technology, even though I work for "the man" (the man being IT).  As an instructional designer and educational technologist my job is not to be some sort of technology pusher but rather to try to figure out what technology best complements and augments the instructor's learning goals and help them implement this technology in their classroom.  As a corollary to that, if we don't happen to have this technology; if there is a lot of demand; and  if these services need to be campus provided for better access, my job is to lobby, on behalf of these instructors, to get my institution to pony up for these services.
What we see however (not all the time, but enough times) is that technocracy takes hold in institutions. The process of getting the technology and justifying it is much more important than the need for it.  Take for example a technology which we already have access to, but it is not enabled. We don't need more money to access it, the button needs to be pressed for it to be enabled. Even to just press a button, we need to go through the motions of providing justifications, work flows and other rigamerole to gain access to it. Learning management systems (LMS or VLE depending which country you're in) seem to be a sore point in many institutions. These things are expensive so we're in VHS vs. Beta Max debates again and again. Once a technology has been adopted, there is a push to get more people to use it, even if it's not the appropriate technology.  I think this just shows how problematic change is within the IT department.
I think that change in the university will occur form within, but it won't come from the IT department. I think that change will come from the faculty and students themselves.  In a recent CIT (center for the improvement of teaching) forum I heard a faculty say that they don't count on technology being present because they don't know what the school supports and what they don't. At the same forum another instructor indicated that they don't use Blackboard (our LMS) because it is too complicated.  At last year's EdTech conference I saw faculty who were openly flaunting the fact that they don't use any IT supported by the campus and instead opted for free Web 2.0 alternatives for their Web Enhanced classes.
If campus IT is providing tech that is hard to use, or is erecting barriers for their use, the non-tech savvy people are not going to use them and the tech-savvy people are going to find other alternatives. One thing is clear: technology which is paid for won't be used. Wouldn't it be better to return to basics and (1) examine the  current pedagogical needs on a class-to-class basis and recommend tech based on those needs, and (2) make ourselves friendlier and more flexible to our users needs...or else we'll go the way of the mainframe and remote terminal.
Image retrieved from:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Letting the inmates run the asylum...or not?

On of the themes that has come up time and again in MOOCs is the nature of openness. It's also come up in my twitter stream these past couple of days with Educause 11 underway, and Blackboard announcing that they are now open (I will reserve my cynicism and scoffing for other media ;-)  ).

One of the ways in which MOOCs are reported to be open is that MOOCs allow the participants (learners) to define their own learning goals and learning outcomes and what this translates to, generally, is an "everything goes" attitude from MOOC participants.

I don't disagree that having learners have their own personally meaningful goals is important. After all many research studies have shown that if a learner has strong internal motivation (as exhibited in MOOC by  having your own set goals), then the learning is much more meaningful to the learner and they take away more.  This is great, but in my opinion it doesn't absolve the instructor, the instructional designer, and the facilitator from their duties to the course.  A course is not, nor should it be (IMHO) a hodgepodge of loosely connected (or worse, non-connected) topics. While I don't ascribe to the notion that a course needs to be in class (virtual or physical) for X amount of weeks with some sort of uniform exam in order to be called a class, I do think that there is a programmatic element to the course, it is designed, it is meaningful by itself but extensible by the learner and there is some sort of assessment.

I keep coming up to the blog post from early in Change11 titled The C is for Conference. I am more ready to accept the dip-in-jump-out mechanism for MOOCs, the loose structure and the over-reliance of participant personal goals versus a balance of personal-goals and programmatic course goals IF we say that MOOCs are NOT courses but rather prolonged web-conferences.  The nature of the conference allows it to be somewhat more programmed but mostly fluid compared to the format of a course.  It may seem like semantics to most, but I think that in most people's minds there is a distinction, and people looking for Courses may signup and never participate simply because of this disconnect.

MOOC participation - open door policy and analytics

The other day I was reading ZML Didaktik on the topic of MOOC participants. In MOOCs, one of the big questions is why are people lurking and not participating? If more than 500 people join a MOOC, why are only 10% contributing with any amount of regularity?  On the same blog, in a previous blog post, I had commented (it was an open stream of thought really) that perhaps there should be an open enrollment period, and then if the system sees that certain participants are bellow a threshold of activity, the system may give them the option to self-identify as a lurker, or un-register from the class.

This line of thought went along a view that compared to the traditional classroom; in a traditional classroom students register for the course, they can attend classes for a week and then decide whether or not they want to stay with the course or not. If they do stay with the course they know that there is a certain amount of "lurking" that they can get away with, but they do have to participate a certain amount.  This is what makes traditional classroom analytics easier. You know exactly how many people registered, how many people dropped the course (early in the semester) or withdrew (late in the semester), and you know how often people participated and the quality of their participation. There is also some artifact involved with their participation that indicates their mastery of the topic.

In contrast, most MOOCs (that I've been a part of), have open enrollment, the dip in-jump out aspect seems to be a big thing, there are many lurkers and many people who've signed up but don't come back (not even as lurkers), and for most registered users there is no artifact that shows their mastery. I am not saying that the that I want to eject people from any MOOC I create (like jupidu I want to give people an opportunity to participate), but the question is - how does one collect meaningful learner and learning analytics when there are so many no-shows in a MOOC? Perhaps a "snooze" button would be a good idea for measuring lurkers.

If people don't participate for X period of time, they get a notification by email. They can choose to "snooze" by saying that they are a lurker (and X weeks later they get notified again), or they can cancel the alarm by saying that they decided to opt-out of the course.  If they decide to opt-out we can find out why.  If they decide to lurk, we can find out how often they lurk, what topics they come out lurking for, and we can figure out if there is a lurking-to-participant or lurking-to-drop-out rate (and why).

Some questions I will leave you with:

  • Should MOOCs continue with this come-and-go as you please policy? What are the implication of either approach?
  • Should MOOCs actively interrogate/poll lurkers and drop-outs to figure out why the MOOC isn't to their liking? After all, a MOOC cannot be all things to all people.
  • What are ways to conduct a learner analysis in MOOCs? After all, you can't design a course if you don't know your audience.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gestion de la technologie pour transformer l'enseignement

Cette semaine, à Change11, l'hôte de la lecture est Tony Bates et le thème est la gestion de la technologie pour transformer l'enseignement. Cette discussion se cencentre sur le monde de l' Université et, je crois, l'agilité de l' université. Est-il possible que la change, (ou l' innovation) en l' enseignement, vient naturellement des processus existants? Ou, peut-être, devons nous inventer des nouvelles méthodes et nouvelles formes des études supérieures que ne songe pas déjà institutionnalissées?

Le thème est trop intéressant pour moi parceque je travaille comme technologue éducatif pour dix ans et mes opinions autour la technologie éducative change le plus que j'apprends sur la technologie éducative et le plus que je m' expose à la bureaucratie universitaire.

- Posted using BlogPress from my Newton 3000 (iPad)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Content as faculty production...

I was reading this post yesterday by Paul Prisloo on his reflections on Open Content.  I found his post enlightening because through my studies I had not really encountered to topic of history of distance education and the evolution of distance education has been of interest to me.  I have to say that I somewhat agree with Paul's view that lecturers (professors) are in the teaching business and not necessarily in the content creation business.  Any content creation (aside from scholarly publishing which is another activity that professors undertake) is really a happy by-product of preparing for teaching and carrying out that teaching.  I do however disagree with Paul on two issues.

Paul seems to diminish the curation aspect of teaching. From what I gathered, Paul doesn't really see the collection and curation of a set of materials (yes, other people's scholarly output) as something that is worth while recognizing.  I think he is dead wrong!  The design of a class does need to take into account what material is needed and how it fits in with the learning objectives.  You can't just take five journal articles on any topic from any journal and use them in your class and claim that the class will be the same as when you carefully read, evaluate and incorporate your materials, and other people's materials into your course.  I think that this design aspect to education is a type of activity that is undervalued by Paul and others, and it's really not fair. Designing a good class is as much work (if not more work) than teaching the course. So yes, I see a professor's (or lecturer's) output as both teaching and curating materials for their course. That doesn't mean that I don't think those materials should be openly available, it just means that I value them and other people need to value them too if they are ever to become available under some sort of open license.  If you don't value these materials, and by extension the people that created them, then those people won't release those materials (why should they?)

The second thing that I disagree with Paul about is that he doesn't seem to distinguish between those people who are tenured faculty and those who are adjuncts.  For tenured faculty, I think that their institutions should require that their academic output be made open, after all they are academics for a reason.  The people that Paul doesn't factor in is the many, many, many adjuncts that are teaching courses in the US these days (I don't know how things are abroad).  The adjunct's life isn't that great - as many articles on and, as well as many blogs, can attest. Adjuncts also don't generally get any money for developing a course, they only get to teach the course, and in some institutions the institution requires that the instructor to hand over this material (even though not paid for this labor of creating something).

I think that it is indeed true that instructors don't get paid for their course creation and content curation skills, but some instructors do get paid for intellectual output. Those instructors are tenured, and that intellectual output can be a course that they created or an article they wrote. If institutions are paying for that output, it should be public.  But, if an institution is not paying for the output, as is the case with adjunct faculty then I completely understand why those faculty don't want their materials out in the wild. It is, in a sense, one element of their competitive advantage (the other being teaching). If they spend countless hours developing a course, handpicking other people's work, and creating their own from scratch, so that they can teach the best class possible (and they are not paid for this prep work) then it's not fair to paint them with the same brush as full time faculty because those people do get paid for this labor.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Artifact FROM learning

The other day I was organizing some materials at home and I came across a box of things that I used to have hanging around on my old office's pinboard, things that I haven't brought to the new office yet.  The index card on the right is one of those items and it is an artifact FROM learning (as opposed to an artifact of learning...maybe it can be both, who knows).

In any case, the story behind this artifact comes from my days as an MBA student. It was in one of my Human Resources courses, Labor Relations to be precise, that this artifact was generated. In this course we were broken down into teams of Labor Leaders and Managers and we had to negotiate a new union contract because our old one had expired. I have to say that this was and interesting and useful experience despite the fact that it was a mock negotiation.  The card was given to me by one of the members of management (quite a character that classmate!) when I had brought up an alternative to their suggestion in the course of negotiations. He took the note card, wrote something on it, and either slid it across the table, or tossed it at me (I don't really remember, it was 2005). I looked at it and chuckled. If this were a real situation he wouldn't have done this (it would have been a token of bad faith on the part of management I believe) and I wouldn't find it funny.

I haven't kept many incidental or impromptu tokens FROM learning experiences over the past years like this one, but this one I thought worthy enough to pin to my pinboard. I wonder why? (perhaps it the Matt Groeningeque handwriting)

Ανοιχτό Υλικό

Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο ΜΑΔιΜΑ (κοίτα να δεις που αυτό θα γίνει ειρωνικό όνομα για τα MOOC τελικά, να μου το θυμηθείς! χα χα!) έχουμε το θέμα του ανοιχτού υλικού (open content) με τον David Wiley. Η ύλη αυτή την εβδομάδα περιέχει κανά δυό βίντεο και δύο άρθρα που έχει γράψει ο ίδιος περί του ανοιχτού υλικού, τον πρόγονο του Creative Commons, την ανοιχτή παιδεία, και το OpenCourseWare.

Η αλήθεια είναι πως βασικά δηλώνω άγια για το ελληνικό σύστημα παιδείας επειδή ήρθα στην Αμερική μετά το γυμνάσιο οπότε ούτε λύκειο έβγαλα στην Ελλάδα, ούτε πανελλήνιες έπρεπε να δώσω, ούτε ξέρω και πως είναι τα πανεπιστήμια στην Ελλάδα. Ότι γνωρίζω το γνωρίζω από τις εμπειρίες φίλων και γνωστών. Εδώ στην Αμερική τα βιβλία που χρησιμοποιούν τα σχολεία είναι όλα από εκπαιδευτικούς εκδοτικούς οίκους, οπότε οι εκδοτικοί οίκοι έχουν τα πνευματικά δικαιώματα, και τα βιβλία αυτά δεν τα βρίσκεις ποτέ (νόμιμα) σε δωρεάν ψηφιακή μορφή. Απ' όσο γνωρίζω, τα σχολικά (και πανεπιστημιακά;) βιβλία στην Ελλάδα είναι κάτι που το κράτος παράγει και τα δίνει δωρεάν (ή με λίγο κόστος) στους μαθητές - σωστά ή κάνω λάθος; Αν είναι έτσι, γιατί το κράτος δεν έχει και ψηφιακές μορφές στο διαδίκτυο, δωρεάν, για να μπορεί και η ομογένεια στο εξωτερικό να τα χρησιμοποιεί;

Η ανοιχτή παιδεία είναι κάτι αρκετά ενδιαφέρον, και φυσικά αν το κράτος δημιουργεί εκπαιδευτικό υλικό, τότε τα πνευματικά δικαιώματα είναι τύπου public domain, οπότε λογικά πρέπει να βρίσκονται κάπου δωρεάν για τους Έλληνες πολίτες και κατ’ επέκταση τουλάχιστον σε άλλους Έλληνες παγκόσμια (εγώ πάντως θα έλεγα οτι θα έπρεπε να είναι δωρεάν για όλους). Το θέμα ανοιχτού λογισμικού είναι αρκετά μεγάλο στην Ελλάδα, ή έτσι τουλάχιστον μου φαίνεται όταν διαβάζω και ακούω τα ποντκαστ διαφόρων Ελλήνων geeks. Αναρωτιέμαι αν υπάρχουν άλλοι και στην Ελλάδα και έξω, που ενδιαφέρονται να «ανοίξουν» την Ελληνική παιδεία, ιδικά την παιδεία στα πανεπιστήμια. Θα με ενδιέφερε να δω ανοιχτό υλικό από Ελληνικά πανεπιστήμια, και βιβλία, αλλά και OpenCourseware, καθώς και ελληνικά αντικείμενα μόρφωσης (learning objects)

Κατ’ επέκταση αυτού του ανοίγματος, υπάρχουν Έλληνες ακαδημαϊκοί μου ενδιαφέρονται να αρχίσουν ένα Ελληνικό MOOC;

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Online Self-Organizing Social Systems

This morning while commuting to work I had the opportunity to the last of this week's reading from David Wiley and Erin Edwards (Change MOOC) on Online Self-Organizing Social Systems. I have to say that this really piqued my interested. While reading the document I was transported back to my MBA days when I first started learning more about the topic of Knowledge Management and the work of Etienne Wenger. I am a big fan of communities of practice and I have attempted to get an instructional design community of practice going with mixed results (mixed results are just my opinion, other's opinions may vary- more in article form here).

I have realized for a while now that instructional design and knowledge management go hand in hand however I had never bothered to actually put anything to formally bind them.  At times instructional design can seem very rigid, after all it is a systems view of learning, and there is a process to getting things done (also known as "a method to the madness" ;-)  ).

What Wiley & Edwards posit in this paper is  that the collective knowledge one find in forums (fora), or places like slashdot are good examples of Learning Objects. Now, from a 30,000 foot view, I do agree, that these nuggets of information (and a helpful community that will disambiguate and augment what's there) are examples of Learning Objects. Even thought I am a big fan of Let Me Google That For You (where's my tongue-in-cheek smiley when I need it?) and teaching people how to be self-sufficient in troubleshooting their own problems (or at least trying to find the solution online first before they talk to someone else) I am still having a hard time calling stored knowledge somewhere a Learning Object.  By that rubric, are libraries not containers of learning objects?

I think my main sticky point is one of semantics - what does one mean when using the terms following terms?

  • Open Educational Resources (OER)
  • Learning Objects (LO)
  • Open Content (OC)
Are all these terms synonyms? Are they in the same super-class of "thing" but different instantiations? Are they different but similar?  What sort of intent is there when you create one type of object versus another? Do you make it with the intent that it will be reused? do you make it with an "one off" intent but if it's reused it's OK? What sort of agency goes into the creation, storing, use and reuse of each type?  Am I thinking about this too hard? ;-)

Open Content

I was watching David Wiley's two videos (video 1 and video 2) on Open content, open publishing and open educational resource, oh and creative commons licensing too! I haven't had the chance yet to read the articles yet - but I plan on doing that before the weekend comes. I thought I would start off this week's Change thoughts on Open Content with my own history with it - and the cognitive dissonance that goes along with it!

So one side of the brain acts in the persona of the student.  As a student (and I've been a student for a very long time), I am all for open content!  I wanted to see the professor's syllabus before the semester started. I wanted to know what the course content would be so I could prepare for the course in advance, or just figure out which courses would work well together. I also wanted my professors to have their content as open content because it meant that I didn't have to keep reams of printed paper material (not always searchable) but I could find it on the web (something like a school repository).  Alas, this didn't really happen on the departmental level, so in a rogue fashion I created the PocketID (Pocket Instructional Design) wiki, which contained thematic outlines for each course in my instructional design program, as well as other useful information for students.  Not many faculty took to it, but I am still advocating for its use and for open content on campus.  I also advocate for people to put their content on our campus OCW (but that also is an uphill battle).

OK, now let's switch sides! I will take on the role of faculty or instructor. This coming spring I am scheduled to teach a new course on research methods for the instructional design program (yay!). For this course I am developing everything from scratch - content, syllabus, objectives, rubrics - the whole thing. Provided that the materials I use are not copyrighted I plan on posting them on PocketID, so they can be there for all. For any copyrighted materials (like journal articles) I plan on putting a proper citation and then people can use their library subscription to get the stuff.  Then this past weekend I was thinking to myself oh no! What if I have typos? What if some of these sentences make sense to me, but not others? What if someone takes my stuff but doesn't give me attribution?

Now, I won't be posting rough drafts, but still there may be typos, or things that I discover along the way that need fixing. I also don't expect to get paid for people using my materials under a creative commons license, but I would like some attribution. I had to come to terms with the fact that things will never be perfect, there can always be a better revision made. In the end, things will have to be good enough to go online, and then update them as  needed. After all, if someone finds a typo, they can tell me and I can fix it ;-)

As far as attribution goes, I decided that I didn't care much - for one reason: an idea (or intellectual output) cooped up is an idea that's no good. No idea is borne out of the mind of one person and eventually someone else will have it and show it to the world - so to hoard some intellectual output is counterproductive for everyone. It's better for things to just be out there and to be used, than withheld for a very long time and then find another avenue out.

As an aside, I am not sure if this was shared somewhere in the #change11 MOOC, but I came across this Guardian piece the other day on OER.  Personally, most OER that I have seen is too specific for the uses I wanted (so they don't fit into my own course development) or they are too general (so they aren't that useful).  Someone else on #change11 posted this paradox but I found that it perfectly described my issues with OER content up to now :-)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Shades of knowing?

Wow, I honestly didn't think that my open pondering about "knowing" would get this traction - but this is the beauty of the massive open course (and heck...perhaps this is a great example of collective learning!)

First, Brainy Smurf wrote an interesting post about the process (or perhaps the indicators) which are necessary for him to write a response to something he finds online. I have to say that he's hit the nail on the head with most indicators. I do dislike errors in blog posts - but I do take certain into consideration: if I read something that has errors in or, then I am less likely to respond because I feel like the bar is higher - those people are not my peers.  If I read something in this MOOC, despite any minor grammar issues I am more likely to respond because I see MOOC participants as peers.

As far as profiles go (i.e. does the profile provide any info on the person), that's not are as a high factor for me because I've been used to seeing anthropomorphic avatars - after all, for the longest period of time the BSD Daemon was my avatar on the forums (or fora? ;-) ) that I participated on :-)   I am not saying that it's not important, it just depends on context. I think that the issue of online identity is very important to people, as one can see from John's posting on the topic,

John writes:
It is a personal choice, and although I am in favor of openness, I could understand that openness is not viewed as a nominal practice for many professions. This is especially so, for certain professions like medical profession, where duty of care, professional accountability and responsibility comes before any disclosure of incidents or experience that relate to patients or medical care. Exposure of one’s true identity (both as a professional, an educator or student) might have an impact on one’s professional identity, personal security and privacy – like those working in sensitive professions – in defence or police operations. I also think there are significant issues not addressed when debating about political or social aspects in public which may relate to individual organisations, especially when such debates/discourse could be viewed and judged by the public, present or potential employers.

Here I think this is where the virtual identity can interfere with the real world identity. Sometimes the two are the same, however sometimes they are in opposition to one another; or you may be considered "an expert" by your peers, but  your company or institution may not appreciate you spending your time (at work or at home) evangelizing, sharing your expertise, or airing certain political opinions.  If you are in the US, read Speechless: The Erosion of Free Speech in the Workplace. It's a fascinating book and the bottom line is that if you are working in a right-to-work state, you have no free speech. If you employer doesn't like what you do or what you say, even on your own free time, they can summarily dismiss you. I think that's why it's important to give some people some slack on their online identities. Then again, as John writes if you are contacting a company you expect someone eponymous, of if you are following some company on twitter or facebook, you expect a real person there.

So where does this leave us with the whole issue of knowing?  I think that there are many facets to examine, and there probably isn't one simple answer, but it would be an interesting thing to explore with other people who are interested in this: "What does it mean to know someone in the digital realm in our Web 2.0 world?"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Συλλογική Μάθηση...

Εδώ και κάτι εβδομάδες έχει αρχήσει ένα Μαζικό Ανοιχτό και Διαδικτυακό Μάθημα (ΜΑΔιΜα; ή μήπως ΜαΔΑΜα;) κοινώς γνωστό στα Αγγλικά ως MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). Στα προηγούμενα MOOC (ας χρησιμοποιήσουμε λατινικού χαρακτήρες γιατί το ΜΑΔιΜΑ δεν μου ακούγεται και ωραίο) έγραφα μόνο στα Αγγλικά, αλλά ευκαιρία γράψουμε και στα Ελληνικά και να εκπροσωπήσουμε λίγο την Ελλάδα στην διεθνή παιδαγωγική σκηνή. 

Αυτή την περασμένη εβδομάδα το θέμα στο Change MOOC (με θέμα την αλλαγή της παιδείας) ήταν η Συλλογική Μάθηση. Η ιδέα πίσω από την συλλογική μάθηση είναι η μάθηση που χρησιμοποιεί την συλλογική γνώση. Αυτό που είναι διαφορετικό στην συλλογική γνώση είναι το ότι ο Ένας και οι Πολλοί είναι αναπόσπαστοι ο ένας από τον άλλον (παραπάνω πληροφορίες εδώ, στο άρθρο της Άλλισον Λίτλετζον).

Κοίτα, ενδιαφέρον η σκέψη, αλλά πιστεύω πως πάντα είχαμε αυτή την συλλογική παιδεία. Στο κάτω κάτω εδώ και χρόνια έχουμε βιβλιοθήκες που είναι συλλογές από την ανθρώπινη γνώση και τις χρησιμοποιούμε για να διδάξουμε τους εαυτούς μας και τους άλλους. Η μόνη διαφορά με το σήμερα είναι πως η τεχνολογία μας επιτρέπει να έχουμε πιο άμεση πρόσβαση σε μερικές από τις πληροφορίες που έχει αποθηκεύσει μια βιβλιοθήκη, και έχουμε πρόσβαση σε αρκετούς μορφωμένους μέσω του facebook, twitter, και μέσω τον blog αυτών των ανθρώπων. Επίσης έχουμε την δυνατότητα να ανοίξουμε ένα δικό μας, δωρεάν, μπλόγκ για να γράψουμε τις δικές μας σκέψεις, απόψεις και αποστάξεις γνώσεων που διαβάσαμε ή ακούσαμε από κάπου αλλού και τα οποία έχουμε επεξεργαστεί μόνοι ή με παρέα για να φτάσουμε σε κάποια κατάληξη.

Αυτό που μου κάνει εντύπωση είναι πως κανένας δεν έχει γράψει τίποτα για το παλαιό ρητό  «απ’ το ένα μπαίνει, από το άλλο βγαίνει».  Πολλές φορές έχω δει κόσμο να κάνει μια αναζήτηση στο Google για να βρει κάτι, το λύνει το πρόβλημα, αλλά  δεν μαθαίνει πως να κάνει αυτό το επιχείρημα από μόνος του. Οπότε όταν ξανάχει το ίδιο πρόβλημα πάει ξανά στο  Google και ψάχνει να βρει το βοήθημα  Ναι το άτομο αυτό έχει πρόσβαση  σε ένα κόμματι συλλογικής γνώσης αλλά δεν μαθαίνει;  Γιατί δεν μαθαίνει; Αυτό δεν το γνωρίζω, υπάρχουν ποικίλοι λόγοι, αλλά το πρόβλημα είναι πως δεν μάθαινες ασχέτως σε τι γνώση έχεις πρόσβαση αν δεν θέλεις να μάθεις. Το άλλο πρόβλημα μου είναι αυτό το «ένας για όλους και όλοι για έναν» σκεπτικό. Μπορεί σε μια μικρή ομάδα να γίνεται αυτό, αλλά στον ευρύτερο διαδικτυακό χώρο όχι.

Σε γενικές γραμμές, ενδιαφέρων η συλλογική μάθηση, αλλά ως γενική ιδέα δεν πιστεύω πως είναι κάτι καινούργιο. Για να δούμε τι θα είναι το θέμα αυτής της εβδομάδος.

Friday, October 7, 2011

MBAs and leadership

The other day I was reading a Forbes article, which came to me via someone I follow on twitter, and the topic was Why MBA Programs Don't Produce Leaders. As someone with an MBA I was intrigued by the topic and what the author's views were so I added it to my Read It Later account for  my commute home.

Hansen (the author) argues that MBA programs were places that people went to learn hands-on knowledge but at some point in time (50 years ago as quoted by an HBR article) business schools shifted from practice to science - measuring and learning. As a result MBA students tend to be directed toward the numbers and an analysis of a situation but not act on this info; and the criticism is that soft skills aren't offered.

Now, I have to say that I am of two minds on this.  My first reaction is that Graduate schools aren't workshops. I think that the point of graduate education is to get you acquainted with a few key sets of facts, figures, laws and mechanisms that are pertinent to the profession that you elect to pursue. It's also a graduate school's job to make sure that you can fend for yourself - in other words the oft quoted "teach a man how to fish." Graduate school classes, in this capacity, can help you connect the dots in some limited fashion; however they can't connect all the dots for you, nor should they! Students should be trained to sniff things out on their own and connect their own dots.

The converse to this is, and I agree with Hansen, that MBA programs can seem a bit disconnected. After all, an MBA is a generalist degree, with the aim of getting practitioners familiar with the many different facets of a business, including operations management, marketing, IT, finance, accounting, statistics and economics (among other things). All of these are disciplines in an of themselves, so the connection-making may not seem that obvious.  I have to say that I was lucky because of the path I chose for my MBA. In addition to taking the required MBAMGT 650 (Organizational Analysis and Skills for Managers), or as it is affectionately known Bootcamp. In 650 we do get those soft skills that Hansen alludes to and it's up to the students to carry through, use, and perfect those skills in each and every course that they take in the MBA program. Instructors aren't meant to handhold you and cover group dynamics and other such topics each and every semester.

For me, my luck comes in three fold:  First I opted to have one of my specialties be human resources management, and those courses were very enlightening as far as management of people goes. Second, the college of management at UMass Boston has (what seems to be) a ton of guest speakers from the industry come and speak to students that are new to the game. Sometimes students are pulled out of class to go, but most times it's really up to the student to make the time to go to these events and learn from practitioners!  Finally, as far as putting it all into practice, I worked full time, as did most of my classmates, so when projects came up where we had the option of choosing our own company and project, I could always dip into my workplace for a true cornucopia of topics and projects that my team could work on and help get off the ground.

The theme that becomes apparent to me is this: Leadership isn't taught - for that matter even if leadership were taught it would be up to the student/graduate to make things happen. I took a few of the opportunities offered in the my MBA program, and I created some of my own. A successful students does not just depend on the instructor, they need to do some (or a lot) of the leg work on their own.

Do we need to know one another when sharing?

The other day I came across a recent #change11 post by Jaap on his blog and there was an interesting question:

Do we need to know each other when we are sharing knowledge and collaborating?
This is a case where I had an immediate response, then I thought back to my own personal examples of sharing...and then I ended up with no answer at all, but rather I was left with a giant question mark (i.e. this needs some research)

My initial answer, without giving it much thought, was: of course we need to know one another to share information! - This reaction came from my own preferences when meeting and talking to people. If I don't know someone I tend to size them up before I offer up any information. They also tend to be the conversation initiators.

Then, I had to take a step back and evaluate my online interactions, examples of which would be on forums like and In my online interactions I have initiated conversations, both in the forms of questions (example: how do I unlock my Ericsson T28w?) and in the form of comments (example: Nokia just released the Nokia xXx, the phone for extreme sports fans!) I also jumped in conversations, with unknown people, when I read things that were factually incorrect, or incongruous with my own knowledge and experiences.  So in fact it does seem like I don't need to know someone in order to share...But Wait!

What got me into philosophical trouble is this: what does it mean to know someone? Could my standing back and observing conversations or going through the backlog of discussions in online message boards allow me to know someone in a certain way that it would enable me to converse and share with them? In that case, what constitutes knowing someone? What are the criteria that need to be met?  There are obviously shades of knowing as we can see from our relationships with other human beings and the langage that we use to describe them. Some people are in our close circle, others are in our extended circles, some are family, others friends, others best friends, others acquaintances. All those to me seem to indicate some level of knowing. 

The question then becomes not only do we need to know someone to share or collaborate with them, but also at what level do we need to know them to collaborate and share successfully.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What binds people to collective learning?

This week in Change MOOC, we see in Littlejohn's position paper that one of the things that one of the things that binds people together in collective learning is the creation of a social object. The example given is a group of scientists coming together to produce some sort of report. Littlejohn asks us, the MOOC participants, to share our view of what binds people in collective learning.

While the creation of a social object is indeed something to think about - take for example my (and possibly your) many, many, many group experiences where you needed to come together to produce something - in my case it was homework and school presentations during my Masters programs and various projects at work.

I think that this work-based view of what binds us is limiting and I think it's incorrect. I don't think that as a species our imperative, our raison d'être, is to produce stuff. I think that this is potentially a sign of our consumption-based society; and you can't consume something if there isn't something to consume (well, you could consume time to make that "something" but then you might be getting into a circular argument). In any case - I don't see a shared object as something that binds us. The shared object may be something in the workplace but it's not something in the overall field of learning.

In the US we tend to view education as a way of getting a job, so we've "jobified" inquiry and curiosity and massacred it with standardized testing. So one could see education as an social object based outcome which necessitated collective learning, but this is the wrong way to frame education.

So what does bind us to collective learning?  I think that it is our social nature that predisposes us to collective learning. We are naturally curious as a species (even if it does get beaten out of us by poor educational practices which stifle this inquiry). We are also (generally) social. If we find other people who are interested in the same things we are we light up, we become more talkative and we share more information. This is shared enterprise (satisfying our curiosities) is the basis for our collective learning in such communities of practice.  Physical (or virtual/digital) objects may come out of this shared scratching of the curiosity itch, but it's not a necessary reason why we come together to learn.

Collective Learning - nothing new...

On my commute home last night I had the opportunity to catch up with the initial readings for this week on Change MOOC. The topic this week is collective learning with Allison Littlejohn. I have to say that the concept was rather interesting, and technology has certainly enabled the possibility for Massive collective learning - but the idea of collective learning isn't new.

Some early personal examples of collective learning is my long term participation in forums like and I did spend a number of years discussing and learning when I was active on those sites, and I probably taught (or provided info for) many other members then, and maybe even now since the archives of those discussions are available. I also spent time (admittedly less than these two forums) on topics like PDAs, PocketPCs, and in communities like the NewtonTalk community. Again, through participation and through lurking I learned a lot.

Even in the pre-internet era (yes, I was there before the internet) collective learning occurred in our playgrounds when kids in our playgroup were helping each other learn new skills - they may have not been all that useful, but they were skills nonetheless. In school, too, we experienced collective learning when professors put us in workgroups and asked us to complete a task.

I guess what I have arrived at is this question: is this a different name for an activity that occurs in many different settings, including certain type of pedagogies and in communities or practice?  What does "collective learning" bring to the table that isn't already there?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Idea for gRSShopper - participant +1

I was sitting on the train this afternoon On the train catching up on the Digital Scholar (Martin Weller's book from last week on Change MOOC), reading some of the seed-posts from this week's facilitator and reading some initial posts from people who've already written something on thus week's topic (collective learning).

I have a few blog post to dos on my list for the next couple of days (which require more text and brain power than I have now...otherwise I'd get crackin' on writing those thoughts down right now) but I had this idea for gRSShopper: a digg feature for blog posts. If you really like a participant's blog post (or diigo submission or tweet or whatever) you could +1 them. Then top posts could rise up at the end of the MOOC as something to revisit if you didn't get through them the first time around.

OK that was the idea. What do you think?

- Posted using BlogPress from my Newton 3000 (iPad)

Change in tagline...

OK, the change in tagline happened last spring, but I thought I would record it now (better late than never).
When I first started the blog the tagline was "blogging about my education, one class at a time." I think my inspiration was the cooking show "Mexico, one dish at a time."
Since I graduated I though the tagline was no longer fitting so I changed it to "traversing the land after the Masters degree and before the PhD." I am not sure what my inspiration was but I am pretty sure I was channeling Will Farrell and the movie Land if the Lost.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ready for academia

I know I retweeted this the other day, but it's just too good to not share 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Killing Librarianship

This was a pretty interesting keynote presentation on the future of the profession.
I guess it was great that a former boss called me a "loudmouth with big ideas"...even though he didn't know it at the time ;-)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Digital Scholarship - weekend review

carrot or stick. Donkey can't tell

I have to say that I am a bit behind on my self imposed goals for this week in Change11. I had intended to read all of the Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice, but I was only able to read about 4 chapters some were "assigned" through the MOOC, and others looked interesting enough for a side track. The book remains in my ReadItLater list on my iPad so I will probably finish it this week anyway (it's interesting and easy to read, so it shouldn't be a problem).

The thing that kept coming to mind while reading the certain chapters (and the chapter devoted to publishing) was the academic carrot or stick: tenure and promotion. If committees that determine your tenure (or non-tenure) and your promotions and merit raises don't value digital scholarship, but rather value the traditional journal, you (as a young budding tenure track faculty member) might be tempted to forsake open scholarship in favor of the closer "norm" for your own professional sake. Once you get tenure (and your position is safe) might come back to it back those are 3-7 years of lost scholarship that enriches everyone. Personally I think that if students saw that their professors blogged and posted on YouTube about their research and about the cool findings they had (and how it applies to the student's life), you might see more students interested in education - beyond the "I am going to school so I can get my BA and get a job..."

An interesting parallel came to mind when I was reading the tenure and promotion committees part (I forget which chapter it was) - it brought me back to my MBA days! Weller writes that tenure committees have essentially outsourced their responsibility to objectively weigh their colleague's contributions to the profession by just looking at one indicator: how scholarly is the scholarly journal in which they have published in (OK, I am really boiling this down, but this is the gist that I got from it). This reminds me of countless discussions I've had with colleagues about hiring managers and human resource departments.

A lot of times (it seems) like hiring managers and HR departments get rid of applications of perfectly good candidates because they don't happen to fit a specific mold; usually this entails having some sort of specific degree, and a certain number of years in the industry. An applicant's experience and education may be perfectly good for the position, but the hiring managers outsource that critical evaluation of candidates to the degree granting institution by requiring a certain degree type. One example of such a profession is Librarianship, where if you don't have an MLIS degree (Master's in Library and Information Science), you will not be working as a librarian.

I think it's time to embrace our inner open scholar and publish a certain percentage of our intellectual output as something that is open and accessible. It doesn't have to be all of what we steps!

As a side note, I was going to do my weekend review as a video...but I didn't have enough guinea pigs to go on camera for me :-)