Is anyone home?

you know I don’t live here anymore, right? This blog is a conversation had many months ago, still here for sentimental reasons and occasional drop in visits… but I live in many other blogs now, depending on the topic, mood, motive etc….  one of these days I guess I’ll get around to updating things, notifying of new addresses and all that… so hard to find any time to do anything anymore… why is that?

on again for young and old…

Be there or be square, the gang meets again next week… such nostalgia I am feeling.








champagne anyone?

Maddie reminded us today that it’s 6 months since the first email from EDC mooc teaching team 🙂

Have just started reading through all the other papers in eLearning Papers issue 33 on Moocdom, and really enjoyed David Boven’s paper… made me think of William Rankin’s Youtube video on mobile learning…

I love that kind of historical view, having started my own studies with a focus on medieval literature and manuscript culture, and ending up focused on the teaching of academic writing, and a critique of the whole concept of literacy, theories of learning, and ‘what’s digital got to do with it’.. it does seem a very special moment in history now, with our cultural past more readily accessible than ever, so that lots of people can explore it, and consider in a much more informed way what has and hasn’t changed, and what it is the technological developments we’re living with now that changes educational practice.

I tend to agree with the view that classroom or face to face, mentoring type educational relationships will become more, rather than less, important with the rise of the MOOC and the Internet. It’s certainly working that way in my context, where students really need the intensive conversation around the mass of information we have access to – and I’m certainly enjoying teaching more and more as I reshape courses to take advantage of ed techs…


the story continues….

hot off the press – noticed this morning that a couple of short articles we’ve written about EDCmooc have now appeared

Unfortunately the very first line of the editorial has something of a clanger in it, saying that in 2009 Coursera had a million students…. it should of course have read, August 9, 2012…. hopefully that will be corrected before you even have time to go the url and see it, but if not, please ignore that and continue reading the issue!

So we put these together very hastily when Wayne Barry mentioned the call for papers… we hadn’t actually heard of the journal to be honest, but it seemed reputable and a good opportunity to formally reflect….

What I’m very very interested to know now though is how it goes down with you, so please let me know, if you read, whether this represents your experience of EDCmooc ok, or if it horribly misrepresents it! I mean we were just speaking for ourselves here, but I would like to know if it resonates ok.

I’ve only just started reading, but the other articles in this issue seem very interesting – so anyway, hope you’ll share your thoughts with us 🙂

– E




disruptions of the past century revisited…

Ballet Mecanique
Directed by – Fernand Leger, Dudley Murphy
(1924) – B&W – 15 min
The film also explores many Cubist themes – especially beautiful is the subtle use of black and white tones. But the most remarkable aspect of the film is the musical syncopation with the score written by George Antheil – perhaps the earliest example of what we now call Industrial. Of Fernand Leger’s many paintings also indulged in Industrial type themes – and the concept that all these machines were taking the human nature out of humanity. In amny ways – this short film reminds me of a super fast paced Metropolis and I suspect Fritz Lang was greatly inspired by this very memorable piece of art.

Ballet Mecanique

By ep Posted in art

a final word? hardly


although the official journey is over and we are supposed to have completed our mission and returned to earth, this course has been such a stimulant to many of us that the conversation continues… many are still blogging about the course, writing reviews, discussing it in G+ and FB and twitter conversations and scheduled twitterchat sessions, and generally not letting it go…. a LinkedIn conversation has begun, to talk specifically about how we’re applying what we’ve learned in our teaching practice…. some of us are drafting journal articles about the experience…. and very very many have jumped immediately into more moocs, and have created G+ and FB discussion pages for those experiences… so the social networking seems set to continue for years to come. I just had a two hour ‘hangout’ with my quad blog team yesterday….

Maddie posted her reflections on the course yesterday

I just read this debrief from Debbie today

I wrote a review for coursetalk, and encourage others to do so too

I am incorporating the discussion of moocs and this one in particular into a chapter of the thesis I’m writing…

I have a strong feeling this will never end! the conversation will, like a lovely marriage that was simply meant to be, grow and mature over time, and deepen ever more 🙂

as a matter of arty fact

Well here it is the last week of our lovely little (!) mooc, and time to submit a digital response of some kind… the biggest challenge – making time! It seems to take so much longer to make a decent visual text than language one… but it’s fun trying 🙂

I submit, in evidence of my learning, this blog…. I also submit the video just below here, which I did this week.

  • The blog is an epic triumph of will… a log of an amazing ride and the people I encountered along the way. It represents how I imagine the whole course and my place within it…. please browse around if you have time…
  • The other digital story… the video below… is an epic fail of will…. because I always like to keep a healthy balance in life… it makes perfect sense to me, but that’s because I can hear the responses to the questions… something happened when it moved to… the Internet.. 

There always seem to be at least two choices…. in every micro second of life…

I can leave it as poetry for you to make sense of as you willl…. be amazed by the suggestions and subtleties and let your mind run wild….

or I can add something to the video that will force you to interpret the story as I originally intended…

Maybe I’ll just let you have an unsettling experience first, think about it for a while…. then I’ll post a hangout where I ‘explain’ away what is missing… or maybe I won’t….. such is the nature of a mooc…. you will be kept guessing… the web is a dynamic environment…. nothing ever stays the same… and you never really know where you are…

So, here is my ‘thing’ – I hope you enjoy it!

And now that you have been suitably unsettled and have no idea what I am going on about…. here is a version that probably makes more sense….

Now I’ve got this done, I am going to really enjoy browsing through everyone else’s I can find ‘out there’ and commenting, because it’s that community building part that’s so valuable to me in the end.

Good luck everyone – it’s been such an enjoyable journey, I hope you all make it safely back to earth, and I hope we’ll meet again on some other amazing future journey into space 🙂

Sound by:

“Rasp Scours Gleam” – Elizabeth Adams & Praxis ensemble at Free Music Archive

Images (in order of appearance) by:

“Mark 1”, the pre-digital electro-mechanical computing machine by Howard Aiken, and its paper tape, at

Charles Babbage and his ‘difference engine’ at Wikipedia

Planet earth at Mail Online

Retinography at Wikipedia

“Glass” by Jjb@nalog at flickr

“Freud” by Alan Turkus and “What lurks behind” by Enrico (One From RM) and “A most famous sofa” by Robert Huffstutter

“Philips Reel to Reel” by Jacob Whittaker

“Musical note” by The Rising Sky lesson 29

“Typewriters Resurrection” by Jeremy Mayer

Words, Psychology and Relationships at The Electric Typewriter blog

“Untitled” (stairs) by ecastro

“spiral staircase” by Ross Grady

Words by:

well, me, I guess… if you believe we are authors of our own discourse….

visually learning, collectively yearning


what a blast the past week has been with all these lovely pictures to look at and ponder on!

and the google hangout by the course teaching team this week was just wonderful, from my point of view. As I’ve been saying in various comments online (such as), I’m finding the ‘openness’ of this online learning we’re doing within and beyond this mooc quite extraordinary and fabulous… I am acutely aware of the storyline that says moocs are a disaster for higher ed, and fully expected this one to be pretty crap, as I said to Angela when we first met before this course began – we happened to attend the same small group meeting at the uni where I work about moocs and eLearning and in introducing ourselves around the table as you do we found we were both enrolled in the same upcoming mooc.. Angela had a bit of experience already, and was clearly quite enamoured of the potential riches they offer (girl in candy store was the feeling she described having), while I was the sceptic, enrolling just to see if it was or wasn’t possible for students not yet particularly proficient in English (the sorts of students my work at uni focuses on helping), and fully expecting this kind of environment would evidence a hundred reasons why it’s not a great place for them to be… and after this past month I have come away with quite the opposite than expected experience.

Obviously I’m not in the linguistically vulnerable position here (I’ll experience that when I try to do a mooc in one of my ‘other’ languages), and I don’t pretend to speak on behalf of others, but what I am finding amazing is the amount I’ve learned and been freely able to consider in this environment about my own teaching practice and what else I could be doing with available technologies and task ideas and subject design…. I mean I’m pretty happy with what I do generally (or I was til I came here), but I have learned far more than I anticipated I would, and I am coming away with a very different conception of what ‘open’ education means…. which I’ll probably elaborate on in the final artyfact thingy I guess…

but meanwhile, I’m just enjoying thinking about what a great opportunity this is, not just to learn a few new technological tricks of the digital trade, but to learn by doing what effect networking on this scale and at this speed can do for a renewed sense of joy and value and potential in an eLearning environment. and best of all is the ability to see so much of what goes on not just in this course context, but also in others, so that we can compare, and we can also immediately see and hear what others with every possible level of experience and perspective think about it all… I mean, here we are, hearing the team who have designed and are managing the delivery of this course, talk openly and honestly about what they are thinking as it happens! How often have you experienced that as a student? How often do you, if you’re a teacher (which most of us here are) how often have you been that transparent with your students?

This is a kind of openness and connectedness to ‘the literature’ (which now includes various modes of representation and delivery) that I have NEVER experienced before – not this fast. I mean it normally takes literally years to get this level of juxtaposed information and opinion based on extensive observation and experience happening in this way… that’s the big impression I’m getting at present anyway, and I’m really impressed! I think because of the ease of sharing digitised material in these social networking spaces, we’re currently able to make comparisons and develop collective understanding of what does and does not work well in eLearning not only faster, but with far greater fun and joy than is the usual dragging of self through the academic treadmill of ethics approvals to ask your own students a few bloody questions and publishing and peer review and yawn yawn – here it’s all happening live and now and it’s fun. what? no this isn’t higher education as we know it, it’s a damn site better! And what is more, and better still, the community of learners is more diverse and is growing and diversifying all the time. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see the facebook and G+ pages being posted up with messages in languages other than English – this is how it should be. It’s real. and it’s human.

None of which is to say I am oblivious to the problems and limitations, and I’ve been tracking the growing great debate for some time, and reading with interest various other and no doubt better trackers of this debate (such as Ronald’s blog and scoopit pages)… but somehow the more diversity that appears in this debate about moocdom, the more interesting it becomes, and that’s of course the other great take home message – opening up discussion like this is what higher ed is all about, not limiting and pretending there is only one ‘correct’ way of looking at anything

Anyway, that’s enough for today, got to look at some more visuals and read more blogs by others, and get to the beach!

playing with pictures, managing metaphor, thinking visually


This week we are encouraged to imagine things visually and come up with an image to share at the fair… I couldn’t quite contain myself to a single image, so I have a 3-part story happening here…. hope you enjoy this little bit of fluff in the air, and do favourite the image in flickr, if you care 🙂

vis art comp wk 3 EP

I enjoy thinking visually, and messing about in words…. I guess what prompted this little photo story is my musings this past week on ‘open’ education, and on the nature of representation, and human ‘identity’….

I’m just playing with the metaphor of the ‘digital cloud’, and the potential dystopia of the web’s presence and intervention in everything we do as we cloud gaze… and then with the idea that our humanity, our identity, is just the representations we make, mainly in language, that are reflected in the cloud where we make so much of our meaning these days… does the increasing visibility of language (because it’s online and written and everywhere to be noticed) actually help us see where ‘we’ are, as we stand on earth and spend our conscious lives in discourse? how grounded is our sense of self?

… these are all thoughts I was having in the past week or so, especially as I read the triffic text by Badmington… what I’m reading into it, and what we’ve been watching in the film festivals, is that the ‘post-humanist’ way of looking at things is an all-but-lost-cause… however hard we might try to understand ourselves in terms beyond the established but questionable and perhaps intellectually bankrupt and dead metaphor of human ‘essence’…. corporate sponsored popular culture just keeps bringing it back and dominating the discourse…. epitomised by the sorts of ads we’ve been watching in the mooc… the battle for the popular imagination of the self, the ‘real’ human, is always being re-won by the image of the fixed, unchanging essence…  and nobody pays much attention to the role of representation…. of storytelling… we just get seduced over and over again

I should note here the image sources…  the first is a photo I took last year, just outside my home, on a lovely summer’s day. The other two I found, as you do, in a cloud…. one via flickr (CC license of course) and the other via um i forget now, one of the other photo search places you see when you go to CC…. anyway, the second photos is called, brilliantly, “broken sky” and it’s by Lee Haywood, and the third is called “glass” and it’s by Jjb@nalog.

and, for those who take art criticism too seriously, here’s a spookily accurate assessment of my creative work, generated in next to no time with the wonderful bs text generating software 500 letters

E P (°1962, Sydney, Australia) is an artist who works in a variety of media. By applying a poetic and often metaphorical language, P seduces the viewer into a world of ongoing equilibrium and the interval that articulates the stream of daily events. Moments are depicted that only exist to punctuate the human drama in order to clarify our existence and to find poetic meaning in everyday life.

Her artworks sometimes radiate a cold and latent violence. At times, disconcerting beauty emerges. The inherent visual seductiveness, along with the conciseness of the exhibitions, further complicates the reception of their manifold layers of meaning. By manipulating the viewer to create confusion, she tries to create works in which the actual event still has to take place or just has ended: moments evocative of atmosphere and suspense that are not part of a narrative thread. The drama unfolds elsewhere while the build-up of tension is frozen to become the memory of an event that will never take place.

Her works are given improper functions: significations are inversed and form and content merge. Shapes are dissociated from their original meaning, by which the system in which they normally function is exposed. Initially unambiguous meanings are shattered and disseminate endlessly. By rejecting an objective truth and global cultural narratives, she presents everyday objects as well as references to texts, painting and architecture. Pompous writings and Utopian constructivist designs are juxtaposed with trivial objects. Categories are subtly reversed.

Her works appear as dreamlike images in which fiction and reality meet, well-known tropes merge, meanings shift, past and present fuse. Time and memory always play a key role. By putting the viewer on the wrong track, she tries to approach a wide scale of subjects in a multi-layered way, likes to involve the viewer in a way that is sometimes physical and believes in the idea of function following form in a work.

Her works are on the one hand touchingly beautiful, on the other hand painfully attractive. Again and again, the artist leaves us orphaned with a mix of conflicting feelings and thoughts. With a conceptual approach, she tries to grasp language. Transformed into art, language becomes an ornament. At that moment, lots of ambiguities and indistinctnesses, which are inherent to the phenomenon, come to the surface.

Her works directly respond to the surrounding environment and uses everyday experiences from the artist as a starting point. Often these are framed instances that would go unnoticed in their original context. By examining the ambiguity and origination via retakes and variations, she makes work that generates diverse meanings. Associations and meanings collide. Space becomes time and language becomes image.

Her works focus on the inability of communication which is used to visualise reality, the attempt of dialogue, the dissonance between form and content and the dysfunctions of language. In short, the lack of clear references are key elements in the work. By emphasising aesthetics, she creates intense personal moments masterfully created by means of rules and omissions, acceptance and refusal, luring the viewer round and round in circles.

She creates situations in which everyday objects are altered or detached from their natural function. By applying specific combinations and certain manipulations, different functions and/or contexts are created. By investigating language on a meta-level, she creates with daily, recognizable elements, an unprecedented situation in which the viewer is confronted with the conditioning of his own perception and has to reconsider his biased position.

Her works doesn’t reference recognisable form. The results are deconstructed to the extent that meaning is shifted and possible interpretation becomes multifaceted. With the use of appropriated materials which are borrowed from a day-to-day context, she often creates several practically identical works, upon which thoughts that have apparently just been developed are manifested: notes are made and then crossed out again, ‘mistakes’ are repeated.

Her works never shows the complete structure. This results in the fact that the artist can easily imagine an own interpretation without being hindered by the historical reality. By applying abstraction, she wants to amplify the astonishment of the spectator by creating compositions or settings that generate tranquil poetic images that leave traces and balances on the edge of recognition and alienation.

Her works question the conditions of appearance of an image in the context of contemporary visual culture in which images, representations and ideas normally function. By studying sign processes, signification and communication, she tries to increase the dynamic between audience and author by objectifying emotions and investigating the duality that develops through different interpretations.

Her work urges us to renegotiate art as being part of a reactive or – at times – autistic medium, commenting on oppressing themes in our contemporary society. E P currently lives and works in Wollongong.

quite – couldn’t have said it better myself!

Bleekness & the braindead test

I took the Bleeker text downstairs with me between my moodle making tasks at work the other day, to read while I ordered a coffee…. I found myself sitting down with it and letting my coffee go cold… damn. I had to reheat it in a microwave when I eventually got back upstairs, and I left it in too long it splattered everywhere, so then I had to clean up the coffee mess…. don’t you just love the way solving simple problems in daily life turns them into bigger ones?

anyway, the point is I was so interested in the Bleeker text I read it straight through and forgot where I was and what I was meant to be doing…. all I do is think about blogjects now.. all day long.. and wishing all these bright young folks had the maturity and humanity to think of intelligent applications that help solve genuine problems….

but anyway, I also really enjoyed the Campbell lecture this past week… something resonated strongly when he was taking the piss out of that kind of ‘grading rubric’ we all know and love so well.. the one that specifies to the nth degree what the student is to do… and then icing on the stodge, orders them to ‘be creative’… yes, that is scary control freakish stuff alright… all of the creative goodness squeezed right out and all the while pretending that this is ‘helping’ students learn….

not what teachers want, yet what we all somehow end up doing a lot of the time… a double bind, Bateson said – two conflicting demands, have to choose but can’t… meeting one, means not meeting the other…. extreme anxiety and contradictory behaviour – in us and our students… golly, suddenly I don’t feel I quite want to be in education!

I found the thought worth throwing around inside my empty head a while though, that double binds are used as a form of “control without coercion”… creating confusion that can’t be resisted, or effectively responded to… I could feel myself totally identifying with the whole argument, so persuasive it was…. I was seeing my whole professional life as one big fat double bind…

things declared to be in the interests of ‘the learner’ being, probably, more in the interests of staff… causing students to feel both  deceived and unable to say so…

visions of ‘good’ learners and teachers playing along with the faux relationship, and silenced forever from actually ever talking about their experience… paranoid… suspicious.. defiant… cynical.. depressed, apathetic… silent.. withdrawn.. mute…. yep, I think anyone with half a still functioning brain knows what that’s like!

How can a teacher tell students stuff and at the same time encourage them not to take what is said as gospel or given? How are we supposed to both tell students what and how to think, and yet at the same time encourage them to think in ways we don’t specify – to think differently, independently, creatively?

I’m taking home some tricks from the design of this mooc, that I think are pulling that one off rather well… (but bearing in mind of course, that its success relies on an enormous degree of pre-existing high level engagement and linguistic creativity potential of the sort of student who willingly writes this kind of reflective blog….)

And thinking about technology, what else changes, when the medium does? Can we continue doing the ‘same’ activities in new media, or do we only pretend to? or are we missing the point, missing the meaning potential of new media as we try to stuff square pegs into round holes? yes I think we can all identify a bit of that going on in our workplaces….

And what do we mean by ‘open’ education, really? When, where and how often do we seriously consider the ‘systems’ we’re in – not as technologies, buildings, administrative processes and faceless executives counting beans, but as linguistic, discursive experiences, shaping how we read and write, or speak and listen?

Campbell considers ‘openness’ not in terms of easy access to ‘free’ information, but in terms of the possibility of shifting meaning and context… he said, the double bind might be a prison, or it might be a way out… depending on how it’s framed… well, that seems quite a pearl! It resonates with the sort of linguistics I knowthat openness is about contextual shifts that enable significant semantic shifts, and deep learning is about desire to make meaning, together…

that love is a philosophy… is simple

and then…. what does that mean for daily teaching practice?

And another little pearl slipped in…. fostering habits that are helpful to learners.. ‘practices laying rails for knowledge to run on’ (thankyou Jeff, for that lovely phrase you quoted there)

now like a mindless sheep following the latest thing I hear, I want to begin every class with Campbell’s mock Apgar test….

Blue or pink baby? Are you alive, can we proceed…. love that!

As I ponder the compatibilities of Bateson and SFL and semiotics, I wonder, do I help my students develop a meta-contextual perspective of sets of choices, where they’re willing to put self at risk and go there, into the questions that ‘blow the mind’? How many of them are, and how often am I, living with a sense of free agency?

I’m just thinking out loud to myself, but it’s bed time now, so I’ll sleep on it…. good night 🙂

the sci-fi future of social media


Annalee Newitz’s short talk about the hopeful and fearful fantasies of where social media might be taking us, as represented in science fiction, was interesting…. I don’t know most of the references, not being a sci-fi fan, but the way she put the stories in context makes me want to read/see them. I’ve seen her website before, and it’s nice to see the person behind it… (I love how this screenshot makes her look like she’s singing!)


Her story here is that there are four big stories told about the future of social media, across the field of sci-fi:

  • some kind of artificial intelligence, or collective ‘hive mind’, will rise up from all our user-generated data – which Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, hopes … but which may be a mind that’s super smart (as in Neuromancer or Rainbows End) …. but may be ‘dumb as a shark’ stupid
  • the proverbial privacy apocalypse cometh – social media will invade and spy on every part of our lives, infiltrating our minds on the back of entertainment and advertising (as per 1984, Minority Report and the Quantum Thief)
  • mind control – we will be completely taken over by corporations, and function to passively think what they want us to think, as we fuel their desires and profits (as in the Matrix), or we’ll catch ‘brain viruses’, which are plugged into online media (as in Snowcrash and Glasshouse), so that our brains might ‘crash’, or stop functioning correctly… media will control us to obey aliens who have taken over the world (well that certainly sounds like New Media, doesn’t it?)
  • instant social revolution – popular media like TV will get hijacked by socially subversive, anti-capitalist messages (as in Max Headroom, and Transmetropolitan), and social media vigilantes will appear (like Anonymous), and bloggers will be the only reporters talking about ‘the zombie apocalypse’ (as in Feed)

Golly. So I’m getting the distinct impression that sci-fi by definition takes an extreme view, one way or another. What a great overview – very helpful. Gives me a much better sense of where last week’s short films are coming from…

She winds up with the happy thought that ‘our’ hopes and fears about the future of social media are embodied by a phrase from the movie Serenity, “you can’t stop the signal” – which might be taken as either or both ‘you can’t stop revolutionary ideas getting out’… and ‘you won’t be able to stop the signal that controls your mind’

I think I like the absurdity of the extremes. makes a point, gives you something to think about. no grey. provocative. nice

but I also think it’s funny how the focus is always on the technology… as though computers are not being directed and used by people, but the other way round. Like the reading this week that talks of blogjects – as though wildly proliferating aggregations of digital noise can be marshalled by machines to not just shift ‘information’ around, but to actually make meaning and take social action… makes me laugh…

but it doesn’t make me identify – these are not ‘my’ hopes and fears! are they yours?

what’s a ‘meta’ for, miss?

a line from an Australian kids poet I used to listen to with my daughter in the car… just re-lived an old roadtrip to my aunt’s in the country as I typed that!

anyway, the ‘ancient text’ reading this week by Rebecca Johnston prompts us to ponder on metaphor.. I like pondering metaphor… ‘on the other hand’, I exhaust myself in everything I read, going off on too long tangents of related thoughts with equal measures of interest, amusement and irritation… (seeing too many sides at once is something my daughter absolutely hates about me – I never simply love or hate… every simple question she asks me gets answered with ‘well it depends’ and the beginnings of an extended discourse about the contingencies of history, perception, subjectivity and dynamic language – until she cuts me off with a roll of the eyes!)

anyway, what was that thought that prompted me to start writing a post, that point that I’ve now all but forgotten as I digress…? ah yes, metaphor. I’m interested in metaphor and read this text with care. I remember Lakoff and Johnson from my student days… actually come to think of it, I remember sitting in on a class of Lakoff’s in Berkley once, many years ago, on a very long way of getting home back from China via Germany, and visiting a friend who was studying there… anyway, I’ve always been interested in everything to do with language, so this approach was part of the picture….stop digressing for god’s sake and say what’s on your mind!

Well, given that my whole blog is a metaphor of travels through space, yes I clearly love thinking about the metaphors we think by… but I do get a tad bemused by the suggestion lurking here that it’s somehow optional – that we might do language without it… hmmm. Isn’t the whole language system one big fat metaphor? Perhaps the trick is to enjoy the dance for what it is, on its own terms.

Lakoff and Johnson describe the effect of metaphors as giving us “ways of viewing events, activities, emotions, ideas etc as entities and substances”…. and make the point that “viewing ideas as objects allows us to quantify them, point to a particular aspect, see in terms of a single cause…”, etc and to “deal rationally with our experiences”…. yes…. and isn’t this the same definition we might make of reification, reductionism, and nominalisation? Is this not just how language works? What it does? (note irony of imagining language as an ‘it’ – a single, comprehensible, locatable, containable entity).Can anyone point me to a discourse that isn’t metaphoric? And what’s the difference between a metaphor, a concept, an idea and a keyword or ‘idiom’? I don’t think everyone just ‘agrees’ on what a metaphor is or isn’t…

but ok, the so-called world wide web is not ‘actually’ a spider web (even if we imagine a giant evil googley-eyed aracnid lurking in its middle, trapping all our data, ready to devour us alive), and sure, it’s a fair and interesting point being made here, that there seems to be a pattern in the culture, of representing the Internet as a space, a place, where everything happens very ‘fast’, and where what’s going on is either dystopian destruction or utopian liberation….

I enjoyed reading Johnston’s story – even if it’s just a bit of fluffy comment with no new knowledge or lasting significance, it relates to ground control’s choice of the utopia/dystopia theme, and it’s clear that metaphors of ‘space’ and speed are widespread in our imaginings of the Internet – and apart from influencing my choice of blog theme for this course on digital cultures, I no doubt imagine too sometimes that I’m in a ‘fast’ environment here (when in fact I, like everyone else, am evidently wasting a hell of a lot of time in this ‘space’! because I have so much choice, and opportunity to browse, consider, compare…. and be reduced to indecision and incapacity to say anything!)

Anyway, Johnston’s paper has stimulated my thinking and got me asking lots of questions, such as:

  • How influential are metaphors, and how ‘deterministic’ is this reading of them?
  • What does it really matter whether we refer to the WWW as a web, or an info superhighway, or an invading alien monster from outer space – or managerial rhetoric?
  • How much choice do we have, or need, in naming (and ‘norming’) phenomena?
  • What do I think of the claim repeated here that it’s difficult or impossible to understand something as dynamic and abstract as the WWW without the aid of a metaphor?
  • Do I think it’s the metaphors we live by that free up or get in the way of our using the Internet well in educational and political arenas…. or mainly other factors?

And I’ve enjoyed thinking about these questions…. and being reminded of what was for me one of the most influential papers I read as an undergraduate – Michael Reddy (1979) on the ‘conduit’ metaphor (published again in 1993 in the 2nd ed of Metaphor and Thought, CUP).

On the less than impressed side, I don’t find that the categorisation of metaphors here is helpful… I mean, if I refer to discourse as ‘dance’, who cares if that’s a structural, orientational or ontological metaphor? Maybe I’m using  physical experience to refer to linguistic experience… or maybe I’m using the idea of dance as a way of viewing writing events as ‘things’? Do these categories ‘hold any water’?

More importantly though, I just wouldn’t call this paper ‘analysis’ at all, because the ‘method’ is pretty dodgy. It’s really interesting commentary… but ‘analysis’? Getting down to brass tacks’…. how does this constitute analysis, if:

– the identification of a metaphor is a matter of ‘making free associations’
– the ‘general’ analysis of a metaphor is a matter of IT ‘suggesting’ it role, dimensions and ‘related concepts and idioms’
– ‘uncovering the conceptual metaphors for each expression’ is a matter of deduction and ‘informed intuition’
– conducting a ‘text immanent analysis’ is a matter of documenting recurrent patterns across discourse in different contexts and categorising metaphors by ‘drawing on surrounding text, narrative, context’ to find ‘evidence of deep-rooted cultural beliefs and values’….

I mean, how can ‘associations and interpretations’ be ‘suggested by the text’, rather than by an interpreter? (according to a theoretical framework they may just be unaware of)…

but what does it matter? I only care about this because the topic of metaphor, keywords, and clashes of discourse in the academy around teaching practice are the stuff of my own thesis.. so if I’m going to latch onto anything in this course, it’s likely to be this one!

On the whole, I thought it was worth spending a bit of my time reading and pondering upon.

I am Oddbjorg, digital viking…. watch me roar!

I immediately identified with Amy’s image of us as digital Vikings, and hereby pronounce myself….

ODDBJORG the Wanderer !!

The name has a certain resonance with this blog of course (space oddity), but also has some rather charming and appealing semantic associations in ancient saga literature, with sharp swords and world saving behaviour 🙂

You may want to create your own Viking identity, or add some Viking related thoughts, to Amy’s Kapsul page too… please do!

I rather fancy being so transported back to the mindset of the first academic job I ever had… I was a post-grad student, and got employed to teach a term of Old English poetry – such gems and pearls as The Seafarer and The Wanderer, along with the usual fare of Beowulf and Riddles… what a joy that was, and what a joy it is to think of it all again in this strange journey through cyberland, somewhere over the mooc, between seafaring and space invading

wk 1: threads to pattern


well, now I’ve been to the movies and read all the theory, it’s time for the weekly digest…

guided by the thought dichotomy of utopia and dystopia, it’s been fun to explore a few short films and several readings around the topics of digital culture and eLearning

my favourite films this week were New Media and Inbox, as a contrasting pair. I love the visual style of Benito Machine, it stays in the mind, but the eery misery of New Media created the most dramatic contrast with the upbeat Inbox, so they’re at the forefront of my thinking this week.

my favourite readings were Dahlberg, Daniel and Noble, because they resonated most strongly with my experience and concerns in my current teaching and research… I was much less impressed by the papers of Chandler and Prensky – light on evidence, big on questionable metaphor and/or just sloppy and boring (and I’m sure few will agree with me there, but I dare to say what I think in this space, it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to…!)… as for the sketch video by Wesch, well… I absolutely love the animation, but the ‘argument’ strikes me as specious nonsense, and it annoys me because it’s potentially very influential – the seductive visuals cover a very problematic sleight of hand… should I elaborate?

I guess, because of my immediate interests and concerns in what I’m writing at the moment, I tend to go straight for what theorists of communication say about language – whether they even mention the word, and if so, what they say. I keep finding a lack of language theory, and while that doesn’t surprise me, it does still disappoint me (decades after ‘the linguistic turn’).

Chandler’s section of deterministic ‘language’ for example seems to be using the word as a synonym for a few recurring phrases or keywords, leaving the impression that somehow everything else going on in a linguistic representation (ie his and every text he’s referred to) is NOT language…. which is rather odd. There are of course important patterns he is picking up on, and much of interest in the paper as a whole, it just seemed a great shame to me that there’s no sense of need indicated here for a more sophisticated kind of analysis of  ‘the language’.

I found Dahlberg’s account much more thoughtful, well researched and engaging – even though he didn’t mention the L word either…

Prensky’s argument irritated me a lot I guess because it just takes the ‘accent’ metaphor too far, and his  generalisations and exaggerations throughout do the opposite of persuade for me. It’s simply not the case that all or even most people under the age of whatever are ‘fluent in ICT’ and heavily into computer games – and that leads me to the second gripe, his motivation for such absurd generalisation… Prensky’s argument is just the sort of bias Daniel warns us to beware of (he is after all in the business of selling an educational ‘gamification’ instructional design service!)

Wesch’s ‘argument’ (she said in inverted commas, given that there is no evidence or logic holding it together, just a cool animation), so irritated me I started writing a much longer response (that I won’t bore readers with here and now, but will no doubt emerge somewhere soon)… probably my ‘visual artefact’…

BUT anyway, what I REALLY enjoyed in the material selected for us this week is the quality of the selection itself – it struck me as a very well considered set of films and readings, in relation to each other and to the questions being asked. I also thought the guiding advice was very good – to consider the material in relation to specific patterns of thought; such as the claims identified by Hand and Sandywell, the ‘technological determinism’ stance in various readings of what’s going on with digital culture and eLearning, and whether and how each ‘text’ represents a relationship between utopian/dystopian-ism, technological determinism and a stance towards issues of democracy, access and resistance…. I’m trying to digest all that as I think about the ‘visual response’ we’re tasked to create

I enjoyed considering how these utopian, dystopian and determinist ways of thinking may affect how we / I think about and practice online education, and was amazed to see, particularly in Noble, how current debates were so alive and well articulated in 1998’s educational discourse – absolutely nothing has changed there, I could see echoes of his points everywhere in the debate I’ve been collating over the past month or so

in the discussion forum


I don’t think I can deal with the discussion threads in the course website, they’re just too massive and chaotic and I get lost and overwhelmed because users are not following the basic rules of replying to questions (they are creating new threads on the same topic), and where they are replying there are hundreds of responses, too many to possibly read… so I’m just going there to pick up Jeremy’s questions and answer them here!

  • Jeremy said Benito Machine is one of their favourite films back at ground control, and asked what we think it’s saying about our relationships with technology, and how this  might relate to the ideas of technological determinism… What are the characteristics of the various technologies portrayed in this film, and how might they relate to the ways that technology has been depicted in educational literature?
    I blogged about the film before I’d read the educational literature, so I didn’t comment then about how the technology representation in the film relates to the representation of technology in educational literature (apart from a brief reference to Wesch)…. Thinking about it now that I’ve read the theory (and pseudo theory) recommended, I’d say this film represents mass communications technologies as the opposite of meaningful ‘communication’, as a colonising force and a social and environmental threat. In terms of the literature, it’s easy to classify it as an example of one of the common claims about IT identified by Hand & Sandywell, namely, that while the technology itself may be banal, meaningless and inherently neutral, it is controlled by anti-democratic forces and is therefore dangerous, when people don’t think and resist. I noted as I was reading Dahlberg that it’s example of what he refers to as technological determinism and media reification (as is New Media)
  • then he asked how we think Inbox might suggest utopian or dystopian ideas about the nature of communication in a mediated world, and what kind of educational debates can we draw associations with here…
    as I posted, I find this an entirely utopian view of what can be achieved with social media, by those who use it carefully and for their own purposes. It doesn’t deal with issues of democracy and resistance, but certainly with human agency. In relation to the literature, I found myself noting in the margins as I was reading Dahlberg that we could read Inbox as an example of ‘cyber liberarianism’… but I did find it very interesting, as Angela noted in her post, that the action is very deliberately located within a commercial context, which I was thinking about when I was reading Dahlberg’s comments about social deterministic accounts that inadequately account for how media technologies involve multiple interests, unintended consequences…. and possibilities for alternative uses, as I thought the film was deliberately if subtlely alluding to these things
  • about Thursday he asked what we think it’s saying about technology, what people seem to lose and gain, and whether we “perceive similar themes of deficiency or enhancement in discussions of technology use in education”… I blogged about it a bit, and on reflection now, having read more, I still find it saying least of all four films… it seems to me a benign view of technology, even though the life of people and birds depicted strikes me as a nightmare of mindless conformity and emptiness, and I can’t see anything ‘gained’…. have to admit that this one irritated and bored me a bit, I guess because I couldn’t determine a clear message and because I don’t personally find the cutsie computer gamesy look appealing
  • I couldn’t see a discussion thread specifically about New Media, but I blogged about it here
  • I noted in my reading of the literature that New Media not only does some of what Benito Machine does (reifying media in a depressing dystopian vision), but also seems to represent, perhaps, something of the ‘naturalising’ tendency in some of the discourse ‘out there’, as the sequence moves from a close focus on vegetation covering the built environment smoothly into the more and more threatening images – which don’t seem to disturb the only human we see in the film, who calmly accepts what’s going on as though normal and inevitable. Like Inbox on the other side of the utopian/dystopian fence, this one seems to “encourage mystification” and also (unlike Inbox) passivity.

anyway in terms of the ‘learning objectives’ of the week, I feel that engaging with this material has helped me develop a  greater familiarity with typical utopian & dystopian modes of representation, and confidence to classify material and justify my interpretations.

I’m not yet sure whether I’ve developed better understanding of how such “common constructions of the web, technology and online learning” might be influencing my  understanding of what’s possible and desirable in my own practices as a learner and teacher…. but I’m very much in a reflective process about that at this point in time…

I don’t think I’ve ever been ‘swept up’ one way or the other (into believing that educational technologies are either perfectly wonderful or dangerously disastrous for educational access quality or cost), but I’ve certainly been exposed over the past decade to arguments on both sides of that fence… I’ve been an early adopter of all new ed techs I encounter (and actively seek them out), from the early 90s to now, but at the same time I think (hope) I consider them carefully before inflicting them on my students… at the same time, there are some I have no choice about. I work at a university that is very heavily into ‘blended’ learning, and all subjects have websites, and we’re currently transitioning from WebCT to Moodle… I’ve been involved in part of the evaluation of various platforms and in the peer learning about the one we selected…. I’m happy with some aspects of it and hate others, and so continue to seek out other options, so as to be able to give my students a good set of options to suit their needs rather than enforce a corporatised experience on them….

I learn new stuff every day in this ed tech field, and experience and consider a fairly balanced range of ups and downs with it all… whatever the ups and downs, I rather enjoy thinking about it and striving to improve my own practice, but I don’t adopt a deterministic stance – I think I quite consciously maintain a sense of agency and encourage my students to also, and basically see any technology as an extension of literacy, and therefore a central element of education… not in a simplistic instrumentalist way (as if it makes no difference what ‘tools’ we use, we still ‘think’ the same) – of course we make different meanings as we make meaning differently, but we also maintain much more than we perhaps realise….

the biggest change going on as I see it is simply that so much more of our conversational language is now in writing, and being visible and on the record, this modal shift is in itself jolting people into noticing things that have been rather invisible in spoken conversation… whatever names they might currently be giving it

the end of week ‘hangout‘ run by the teaching team was great!

we have lift off

well that was smooth… perfect launch, so far so good…

I just logged into the edcmooc website that has opened up and read the instructions…

Very clearly set out page, easy to follow instructions, and already a live twitter chat happening down the right side.

launch pad

this week’s to do list

  • read through all the pages for week one
  • watch film clips (add anything new to my blog pages)
  • discuss films in Synchtube
  • read academic references in week 1 resources page, and add to my blog pages (and if time also check out the references on the first page: Deuze, M. (2006). Participation, Remediation, Bricolage: Considering Principal Components of a Digital Culture.The Information Society, 22, 63-75 and Baumann, G. 1999. The multicultural riddle: Rethinking national, ethnic, and religious identities. London: Routledge)
  • consider and discuss how the theme utopias and dystopias emerging from popular and digital culture relates to how we think about online education
  • contribute to the discussion board
  • blog responses to the topic, tagging them with #edcmooc
  • create an image or other visual representation of your response to the topic and post it in a social media space. Tag it with #edcmooc
  • Tweet your thoughts – particularly if you can give a link to a blog post or other online artefact – to #edcmooc

Well… I’d better get busy

– I’ve already watched the film clips last week, so I’ll post my comments on them tomorrow to one of the discussion spaces

– I just found the Deuze article in my library, so I’ll read that in the morning too. Don’t know if I’ll find the book, but I’ll look

– not sure what they mean by ‘blog your responses’ – can I do that from here? not sure, will work it out tomorrow

– not sure when I’ll find time to create an image this week, but I’ll aim for Friday 🙂

#edcmooc wrap up of week one  here

on dis-connection & e-education

Hey presto, finally back online after an exile enforced by having used my quota and everything having slowed down and ground to a halt. Reading all the talk about ‘connectivity’, then being thrown into the land of the disconnected ‘other’ was interesting…. good to have an enforced holiday from moocy distraction (I got a lot of other writing done), but I’m glad to be back online.

During my period of exile at home I was able to dip in a bit from my workplace computer, and had a ‘hangout’ session in team ‘quad 3’…  Laurie couldn’t get on, so it ended up just three of us.. here’s Desi and Elizabeth hanging out in my office…


photo copy
now we know how it works, we’ll do it again after week one – which omg, is this week!

So coming back to look at the mooc, what do I like, and what worries me?




  • Transparent inter-connection with a larger story – I love how this short mooc is embedded within a larger more complex course, so our tribal conversation is being studied as part of the wider phenomenon of eLearning and digital cultures, and we’re welcome to browse the other course if we want to
  • Balanced focus on topics and learning technologies process – I love how the means of experiencing, developing and demonstrating learning here is explicitly part of what we’re here to learn…. because they’re assumed ‘new’ to most participants, the technologies and practices of peer learning and visual artifact construction are paid as much attention to as the science fiction and academic discourse on the themes of digital culture, networked communication, online education and the utopian/dystopian fantasies of human-machine relationships and futures… I like seeing this from a student perspective, because it’s the sort of balance I work to achieve through curriculum design at my institution, so students who are entering authentic academic English for the first time have opportunity to get their heads around what are for them quite new literacy demands
  • The opportunity to observe language and learning process – I love how writing and recording online means that how we engage with and learn from one another in this environment is recorded and reviewable.  Universities often make it hard for students to share what they know about the technologies and genres of the literacy demanded of the learning environments they find themselves in, and I’m always looking for curriculum design ways to get that balance right and to include plenty of examples of how the texts expected are actually constructed and developed.
  • The task to create a visual artifact – I love that for the assessment of our learning, we aren’t asked to (yawn) write an essay or some such… The given task here is really well aligned with the learning objectives, design and topic. I see all too often how woefully that can all get out of kilter in tertiary education, and lead to confusion and predictably poor learning ‘outcomes’ for students, so I appreciate seeing good alignment of a course’s stated learning objectives with the modes of assessment and the teaching practices (which in this case, are distributed to a large extent).
  • The focus on storytelling. I love this. I started making the move from academic writing to academic storytelling a few years ago, and enjoy getting students doing digital storytelling projects, as a way of developing their English language repertoire and proficiency. It’s fun, it’s engaging, and the outcomes are so much better, in terms of learning and confidence, than any other approach I’ve tried. I still show students how to develop the academic writing they have to do in their disciplines, of course, and am thoroughly immersed in traditional practices of logical argumentation, source searching, diverse voice gathering, evidence incorporating, cohesion and coherence developing etc (just compiled a list to prove it), but I don’t engage in ‘generic’ teaching activities whereby some mythical construct of a ‘skill’ is taught apart from an authentic disciplinary or professional context… I think storytelling can be a very engaging and intellectually productive way to develop ‘knowledge and understanding’ of a topic.. and I know from experience how much more rapidly students expand their capacity to make meaning with ‘English’ when their learning challenges are approached in a storytelling rather than ‘rationalist’, positivist manner. .

In my last post I mentioned a paper that another blogger drew my attention to (link Ellsworth 1989, HER 59:3). Ellsworth had reported in the late 80s her shift in thinking and practice “from critical rationalism to the politics of partial narratives”, and it interested me to read a writing teacher’s shift in thinking. She came to realise that ‘liberationist’ goals probably wont’ be achieved by insisting that students only speak in ways that teachers of critical analysis (academic writing and debate) deem rational and appropriate, as they/we preside over student discourse from a position of relative power… and however much we might want to ‘empower’ others, the way to achieve it probably isn’t anarchic free for all speech (given that most of us most of the time have limited capacity to recognize where ‘our’ discourse is coming from and what it might mean to others).

Ellsworth was questioning the assumptions (inherited from educational discourse) that she’d been working with, which though they sounded good, in fact undermined the very goals she was being led to want to achieve… In attempting to help students speak in their voice, be heard and have influence, she was requiring classroom interaction to conform to modes of argumentation and abstraction that prevented most participants from achieving the very goals she thought she’d be helping them achieve (because they deny lived social context and personal political agendas). Ah, the eternal ironies of education!

It was apparently a short sharp dose of genuine diversity in her classroom that shifted her thinking and practice as an educator. We’re not experiencing any radical diversity in this mooc classroom at this point in time (seems like all participants speaking so far are a pretty homogenous tribe, however widely distributed globally), but it shouldn’t be too long ‘til these learning environments do represent great diversity, and not everyone speaking will have similar educational experiences behind them, be fluent in the language of instruction, professionally employed in an area closely related to the topic, and very hip to the ideology and practice of ‘peeragogy’. What then? Well watch this space I guess, but I’m thinking it’ll be interesting to see whether moocs do get used in very empowering ways, by people, who, finding unprecedented ‘access’ to ways of making meaning and knowing, will start connecting on much larger scale, voicing their immediate and real concerns in their social and political contexts in ways that will change the ways things are thought and played out… meanwhile, I don’t suppose we’re being ‘liberated’ from anything but the mild occasional boredom of our day jobs…

Laurie and Desi raised questions in their comments to that previous post that are so worth discussing in our mooc here – about the role of technology in learning, about how different conversations get connected, about the nature of knowing and learning, and the extent to which changing the means of production and distribution of ‘knowledge’ could undo the institutionalized ways by which we’ve come to know and measure and validate all knowledge… I crave engaging and intelligent discussion of what we mean by ‘learning’ and ‘knowing’, and escape from the endless nonsense that gets spoken in so much educational discourse (especially in governance of higher education, where the focus is relentless on really questionable construct of ‘skills’)…

I’m fascinated by the literacy being played out in the networked digital environments we find ourselves in these days… the greater visibility of more of the language we’re using to conduct our daily interactions and professional lives is an ethnographer’s dream, and may lead to much greater general interest in theories of writing, thinking, learning and ‘mind’ and wow maybe even ‘language’… (is there something ‘else’ constituting most communications?)… but at this stage, the state of the discourse in education and computer studies, and flow-on discourse in this mooc, worries me… Some of the concerns I have are:


  • Failure to define key terms – like ‘knowledge’ and ‘learning’. Though I’m new to reading academic literature on computer studies and ‘artificial intelligence’, I’m certainly not new to reading ac lit on ‘learning’ and I’m really sick and tired of all the assumptions and lack of proper argument based on logic and evidence. While better understanding of such words is an objective, rather than a start point, in a course like this, I wonder how many will grab that bull by the horns and really think about it… or whether most will just carry on imagining that we somehow all just know and agree on what these words refer to and how they might be defined.
  • Lack of theory and philosophical debate. Given that teaching and learning are linguistic activities, it seems to me that any exploration of how we learn (or how machines may or may not) that doesn’t seriously consider how language works is going nowhere fast… But most of the discourse I’m reading about learning (in education) or ‘machine learning’ (in computer studies) surprises me for its lack of any reference to linguistic or semiotic theory (and I don’t mean what came out of MIT in the 1950s and 60s!)
  • Fetishization of technology. Of course the question of which technologies we’re using ‘to know’ is fundamental (what we do, who we do it with, and how quickly and flexibly we do it, changes with the different possibilities of different technologies), but when people start imagining disembodied brains and ‘intelligent’ machines ruling the world … oh please! Look, I’m totally amazed and mightily impressed by the work done in developing computer technologies, but I cringe when electrical engineers and computer geeks start fantasizing that they’re doing something other than playing with and refining electronic machines…. when they seem to really believe (and worse, when hoards of followers believe) that they’re saying and doing something ‘deep’ with respect to ‘mind’… lordy, go read some semiotics, deconstruction, functional linguistics, and philosophy of language, and think about it properly…

Well whatever, that’s what jumps out at me this lovely rainy day in Wollongong, as I rejoin the mooc and prepare my head for the launch later today 🙂

I’m looking forward to thinking about questions of representation in this space.. how the mode of performing and demonstrating what’s ‘learned’ (what we want to ‘know’) shapes our conception of what learning and knowing are… (as McLuhan might have said) – and whether we’re seeking to attain and ‘have’ some ‘thing’, or seeking to engage in a somewhat expanded or altered way of doing and being with others (as a systemic-functional linguist might have said).

Right now, as the countdown starts, I’m thinking human life is just a cacophony of past, shared and emerging narratives that we all move in and out of, making  more or less sense of, and participating in, through modes and manners largely prescribed by tradition but also quite malleable once you’re experienced with them and can see past the constraints and the belief that they ‘refer’ to anything beyond the discourse itself… I wonder whether I’ll end up thinking pretty much the same as I begin, or quite differently….. safe travels everyone.


Good night and good luck.

learning, knowledge, process

if you like it then you shoulda put a badge on it… thanks to the tip from Laurie, I did the ‘course’ and now have my first badge, yay (too easy)

I'm a Web 2.0 tools master

but seriously folks… one of the things I’m really here in this mooc to consider is how some of the key words at the centre of a thesis I’m writing play out in an educational environment like this, and I’m picking up heaps of links to blogs that are following similar lines of thought. One I was just reading this morning is from a maths educator who was reflecting on an article she’d read by Elizabeth Ellsworth [(1989). Why Doesn’t This Feel Empowering? Working through the Repressive Myths of Critical PedagogyHarvard Educational Review59(3), 297].

The question of interest arising for the blogger, Angela Vierling-Claassen, is: “can a constructivist MOOC, moocified course, or personal learning network” create an educational experience in which “‘knowing’ doesn’t just describe the speech acts of those in power”… what is the potential of a ‘connectivist MOOC’ in that enterprise…?

Being in the middle of this clearly ‘connectivist’ mooc, I’m listening, watching, thinking about this kind of thing… I’m not personally interested in buzz words and pseudo categories, but am always interested in discussions of the nature of knowledge and how that’s perceived in educational contexts, and in the degree to which educators and learners do or don’t ‘acknowledge’ and manage linguistic processes, networks and social contexts in learning environments…

I like the acknowledgement in this post of the ‘fantasy’ element of certain stories we have in mind in education, notably, that of equity of access or of ’empowering’ the voiceless to participate and make choices, and how the stories that might motivate may also undermine the very endeavour (by being in denial of reality and therefore glossing over the very things that need to be attended to)…

But a keyword in all educational discourse is of course knowledge, and in this moocspace it seems a key consideration how we imagine not only what it is to know and to come to know, but also what technologies have to do with it, with our stories about the experience imagined as noun (knowledge as thing to acquire and possess) or imagined as verb and process, or imagined as space, as circumstance…. how is the experience of ‘learning’ represented, and how do technologies feature in it? I guess these are some of the things that will be represented in my assignment, because they’re certainly on my mind…

Meanwhile, I busy myself playing with the various technologies of learning and with proving that I have them…. off to pursue another ‘badge’ somewhere, perhaps to get lost in space….

sunday too far away….

I just made one of those Gloggy things…. an online poster – apart from wanting to learn the software and see if it’s something I would use in my teaching, I thought it might help me focus on the task at hand… so here is my first effort – let me know what you think!

Back to yesterday meanwhile…. my Sunday this week began, as they do in summers here, at the beach… because, apart from the beach being fabulous in every way, my daughter is basically a dolphin and hard to keep out of the water for any length of time… a keen surfer, and a trainee life guard… so there I was, turning snags on the surf club BBQ (that’s sausages to people who don’t speak Australian English) and I’m chatting away with another parent, and I ask her (because what else am I thinking about these days but my mooc) what she finds coming to mind when I say “science fiction”… I am asking because this course has made me realise how ignorant I am in matters sci-fi, and I need tips on what I should view next…), and she said what most people seem to be saying when I ask that question… Star Wars and 2001 a space odyssey… (and some other movie she couldn’t remember the name of with Robin Williams as a robot that becomes human)… so that just confirmed it, I really have to watch these things or I just won’t know what the significance of half the references in this course are….

So after duties at surf club, and picking up some art works my daughter had put into a local show (yay, she got second prize for a drawing and $15 – whoo hoo), we go to a video store to see if I can find a copy of 2001…

tree1 here’s an early draft of the drawing she scored a prize for – doodle art done to avoid paying attention in class no doubt, but hey, go girl I say…

well anyway, three video shops later I still haven’t found a copy of 2001… and I have encountered four young sales staff who have never heard of it…. I am feeling old 😦

So I come home not with any of the films I have started to think I ought to see, but instead with Solaris (how could I resist, it has George Clooney and it was only $9!) and a documentary about space travel called “In the shadow of the moon”..well the rest of Sunday was spent watching those and I dont’ regret either – the first because it has George Clooney in it, and the second because it’s a fabulous de-archive of footage and set of wonderful interviews with the American men who have been to the moon, and gave me lots of great quotes for my assignment here too, such as:

“I called the moon my home for three days and I’m here to tell you about it – that’s science fiction”
“I promise you, I’m human”
“Science and technology got me there, but what I was seeing and feeling – science and technology had no answers for”

I was intrigued to learn, or be reminded rather, (and hope it isn’t an omen for our impending course launch) that the first Apollo mission was a fail – a simulated launch countdown was staged on January 27, 1967, and it blew up….

and that just before the Eagle had landed, on the Apollo 11 mission, there’d been a “1202 alarm”… “computer problem… too much data”…

I was feeling there’s something very deja vue about our trip to the mooc….

reviewing scale & strategy – or, how to remain sane while in a mooc

focus time folks – the sudden upsurge in numbers online in the course this week has been a bit… omg.. from a sort of manageable hundred or so using the social media, to…?? I know we have been expecting this all along, but it still feels like a tsunami when it hits!  I’m not even going to try keeping up with reading discussions now…. Dirk’s cartoon that I quoted yesterday said it all..

So, a different strategy seems called for… which is pretty good timing for me as it happens, because I’ve been feeling guilty spending so much time here the past couple of weeks anyway, and now I have a good reason to change my roaming ways…

speaking of net surfing I just went to find an image and saw that, today’s google image is in honour of snugglepot and cuddlepie (favourite storybook for little Australians, about gum nut fairies in the bush) – how cute is that?

google snugglepot and cuddlepie 2013-01-17

Anyway, I know I’ve been spending quite a bit of time each day browsing around, following links, reading blogs, reading articles, watching videos, because my connection has slowed right down, meaning I guess that I’ve used my download quota for the month –  and it’s only half way through the month!

It’s been great though – I’ve learned a lot from all the reading, and been stimulated to think about some new topics, and I’ve enjoyed it… and whenever I find something of relevance to the thesis I’m writing I can tell myself I’m doing research rather than wasting my time – yay…

As I’ve been thinking about the course objectives and expected outcomes more carefully, I’ve reorganised this blog (again) this morning …. now I think I’ve settled on a structure and a simple routine, that should see me through the five weeks of the course delivery and interaction, and the production of the assessment task. So I guess I’m ‘focused’ now…

I remind myself that the course leaders reckon we should only be spending 3-5 hours per week on this course! So my preparation for the course has far exceeded the time I’m going to spend on actually doing the course…. hmmm

So, no more browsing and contributing to such a range of discussions in Facebook and G+ for me, just a really quick browse of them every other day, grab anything that seems to fit into the story I’m constructing here in this blog, limit my browsing to half an hour max each day, and post a quick message or two to one of the social media to share only the most interesting stuff I’ve found – I don’t have time to check, but I’m going to assume that if I inter-link social media, my one message will appear in all of them automatically…

Anyway, what have I learned so far in these prep weeks? I think this blog represents it pretty much, in its page organisation and their contents, but in short…

toolbox tiny tools for online communication & multimedia text production

I thought I already was tech savvy and had a good collection bookmarked in my personal ‘toolbox’, but I’ve learned a heap from conversations in the social fora of this mooc… and I’m really developing greater proficiency in using media I had accounts with but wasn’t actually bothering to use well…. particularly the inter-linking of social media is becoming an eye opener, now I’m beginning to really see the point of it – it saves time and connects you with masses more people, fast. They may or may not want to connect with me of course, but at least I’m able to give them the choice, and I’ve started following heaps of people on twitter and have started using RSS feeds too – I never really understood what that was all about, but now I’ve started using Google Reader and I get it – it really does save time, and I need that right now.

And that’s the point – you learn at the point of need
(amazing how many educators don’t get that, and construe their students as deficient and unmotivated, when the problem is more likely a lack of discussion and good task design)

I’m becoming a better blogger thanks to this course – I’ve been using blogs for years, but not in a particularly sophisticated way, just as private journals for my teaching and research, or semi-privately to talk with a small number of colleagues.. going ‘public’ with a blog has been something else…

crowd tiny managing conversation in a crowd

trying to participate in conversation with a very large group, in the FaceBook group, has made me feel a bit like I’m back in high school really…. the sense of crowd and competition to have your voice heard… not what one has become used to in professionally organised life… both quite fun at times and quite devastating at others – as when noone listens or talks back to you, and you keep trying to say something that’s intensely meaningful and important to you and it’s either ignored or trodden on, like so many jack boots on a flower…. and then suddenly someone ‘likes’ something you put out there and it makes your day… and then you’re just ignored again…. and then someone disagrees with you in a way that makes you feel things you’re not used to feeling…. and then you have to reconsider how you have worded your own messages and worry about whether you’ve offended anyone and that’s why noone is talking to you… and then you start imagining that everyone else is more ‘liked’ than you are… this can be exhausting!… and then you think, what the hell am I thinking? I’m not a teenager, why am I having all these existential angst moments? and then you take an academic interest in the phenomenon as a coping strategy, and then you accept that this is just an upscaled and fast forwarded version of normal everyday conversational life, and  you empathise with your teenage child’s transition from primary to secondary school coz that’s exactly what it’s been like for them… and then you reflect on how they were friends with everyone in first year, and how second year brought tears and traumas and realignments as people simply had to focus on smaller groupings and make some tough stances to work out who the hell they were and what they really wanted to be talking about, because it’s in the stories we spend our lives constructing that we find the friends who help us ‘get it all together’…

So yeah, streamlined management of the tools of trade is one of the most valuable things I’m learning in this course, because I’m feeling the need to learn that right now…


but the big take home message is the fact that nobody had to ‘teach’ me any of it – just throw resources out there and let me find my own way to the stuff I need when I need it…. relevance of all this to my teaching and research seems clear to me, in that I’ve been thinking for years that design is everything, and this experience confirms it for me – I wanted to do this course in the first place in order to feel what it’s like to be a student again, to better understand my own students… now I’m convinced that this ‘go help yourselves and feed each other’ approach to teaching works well, when the task and conversation are designed and articulated well, which I think they are in this course.

Should I ‘do something’ to up my readership? I really am not good with that kind of thing. I find it excruciatingly  awkward and uncomfortable to be honest – the whole business of going public as a blogger has been a VERY big step and it verges on the traumatic sometimes – but this is very much one of the themes of the course, so I have simply taken an academic interest in the phenomenon and am considering the whole experience as a mini participant ethnography of my own – sort of doing an empire strikes back on the course organisers, and using their course as they are using us who would participate in it… I think their design is brilliant actually, and I am learning from it.. and have now started writing about it in chapter 6 of my emerging thesis…. I have been doing similar things with my students for some years, but not of course on this kind of scale.. but the experiment they’re engaging in, because it’s so open, is very instructive (well that’s what I would think isn’t it? It’s been designed that way…. perhaps I am in the Matrix after all)…

pop sci-fi

I’ve always been keen on science fact, but I’ve never been a fan of science fiction (notable exceptions being Dr Who, Life on Mars and the wonderfully fantastically bad and therefore brilliant Lost in Space) , and so I’ve missed most of the ‘classics’ that everyone else seems to know inside out… so I am now getting familiar with movies I’ve only known the names of in the past, and look forward to learning more

discourses from AI & ‘post-humanism’

I’ve been exposed to a fair bit of communications theory over the years in my work with electrical engineers, and of theories of ‘culture’ in my word with students of business, and always found it interesting how differently technicians and scientists and business folk often view key themes of interest to me (such as culture, communication and language)  which due to my main education I see from a humanities / linguistics perspective…. I grew up in a social-functional theory of language (radically different from the traditions in linguistics that have been dominant in the US), and always find it very easy, shall we say, to critique discussions of communication, ‘mind’ and learning that are based on other, (to me less sophisticated and robust) theories of language (or based on no theory of language or semiotics at all, which is more often the case it seems to me)…. so as I read much of the discourse in the fields of artificial intelligence, I do tend to find myself laughing out loud sometimes…. I really can’t take it seriously… but I read on, hoping to learn and find something that might challenge me and make me really think hard about my own assumptions and beliefs…. haven’t yet, but I am striving to be open minded!… meanwhile, I find that Kress’ writing resonates with me still very much, all these years later…

the mooc debate

I started reading about the mooc phenomenon in earnest about 6 months ago, and it’s from that  general interest that I found my way into this course… and I really like the way having an assignment to do is helping me shape (tame?) my thinking into an exchangeable form of some kind… some kind other than the standard academic paper that is… it’s really rather fun thinking about it I’m finding 🙂

i luv dirk

some of my favourite cartoons from Dirk Vershure’s blog – he’s one of my all time favourite cartoonists, somewhere between Michael Leunig and Le Petit Prince 🙂

548 579 553

kinetic typography

I love text animations like this one based on a talk of Stephen Fry’s…. I have been exploring Matt Rogers’ other work, and discovered this one, based on a talk of Carl Sagan – it seems so relevant to our course I added it to the ‘about’ page of this blog.

I have done a few ‘prezi’ presentations (eg this edited down to just the visuals version of a much longer walk and talk through version that I won’t bore you with here), but I haven’t yet dabbled in the creation of kinetic typography – maybe the assignment for this course will be a good reason to… Matt uses Adobe ‘After Effects’ software, as do most people doing this kind of work.

I really like the videos Elena and Angela have made also, using Sparkol’s VideoScribe software, but I haven’t gone into that yet either… maybe one day, when I find the time, and money, 🙂

There are lots of great videos ‘out there’ playing with animated text and drawing like this – do you have any favourites?


just watching some of the shorts recommended in the EU version of the EDC course (the slightly more serious course framing the free fun short mooc we’re in)… will add comments as I go (when I find time! – just doing this for distractive fun)


the mission

reminding myself of our mission here at edcmooc, in preparation for the launch…

This is my current interpretation, or breakdown, of what we’re being encouraged to do in this mooc – there is an emergent file on this in FB if others would like to contribute to it, please do – I’m sure we all have quite different ways of interpreting the learning objectives

1. to learn the tools of trade in digitised education (beyond my institution’s LMS)

  • blogs, tick – have already been using them for a few years and can’t live without them, either in teaching or in recording teaching experience for reflection, or in writing my thesis – I find the blog to be an effective, easy and pleasant way to compose and categorise thoughts and make notes on readings
  • FB, tick – used to only have an account in order to keep in touch with kids and their parents, but now see some purpose and value of it in professional context too
  • twitter, tick – occasionally read, but never used until I signed up for this course, and now see the value of quick, easy access to any kind of conversation, as well as cross-linking between different social media
  • flickr, tick – learned how to use it at least, though just playing at this stage, have no sense of need to use yet
  • youtube, tick – very glad I learned about playlists here, and will learn about personal channels soon. Obviously essential tool for the course in that much material will be delivered through it, but maybe also the platform for delivering my own teaching material… not yet sure. I have played with podcasting in my apple mac account, but mainly feel compelled to use institutional CMS and LMS – especially as we have just moved from blackboard to moodle and I am required to be informed about it and advise others, I have to keep focused on that… so I’m thinking about all these other tools in terms of how when and where to plug into Moodle sites that I am developing for the subjects I teach…
  • Gmaps, tick – love this simple tool and will use it with students in week one for sure, as all my students come from overseas
  • G+, tick – have been using for a few weeks now, getting my head around circles, communities, hangouts and various other options down the left side menu – not yet using pages, but wanting to learn if it’s the same, different or better than files in FB… and how it relates to Google sites and Google docs… I use Google drive every day for my research projects and find it absolutely brilliant and indespensible when working between devices and platforms, and in collaboration with others… but I haven’t really had time yet to get my head around how these various Google tools inter-relate…
  • scoopit, tick – have been reading others’ for a year or so, but just became a user a couple of weeks ago – really like this tool, and am thinking about how to use it effectively with students, possibly getting them to curate pages on their disciplinary topic as preparation for language development and reflective tasks… and in relation to teaching them how to search more effectively with Google
  • synchtube, tick – well, I’ve only looked briefly and signed up, I haven’t actually played with it yet
  • the rest no, not quite, not yet – I’ve looked at them, but haven’t become a user of more than the few above yet, as I don’t feel the need for more yet and will explore them during the course I guess, IF I can see from other participants and teachers that they might help me do my job – I don’t want to waste time thoughintegration of tools, sort of gettin’ there – I have learned how to link some tools, but I haven’t quite cross-linked everything because I’m still thinking about what and when I need to have them linked – like should I automatically have a blog post tweeted and notified on FB or G+, or should I make different choices each time? Will I piss people off with too much notification and sound like a self-promoting wanker, or will I piss them off by under-notifying and giving them ‘work’ to find the utterly fascinating stuff I post? I figured out how to get something I tweet to automatically appear on this blog, but should I also link my tweeting to my G+ and my FB and god knows what else? or should I stop worrying about it ?! I don’t know, I have work to do, forget it!

2. to explore common perceptions in our culture of great ‘promise’ and ‘peril’ with the advent of new technologies

  • in relation to MOOCs, tick – I’m organising new information I glean from others about moocs into a debate construct, that I will turn into a poster, probably as an assignment in this course, if that seems an appropriate and useful thing to do
  • in relation to other ‘tools’ of digital education…? well, I started last post to think about popular perceptions of twitter, and the history of simultaneous enthusiastic and worried responses to new literacy and mass media tools… and how uninformed notions affect the potential academic use of the twitter talk tool… and how I enjoy some of the silly, humorous tweeting of otherwise very smart people, and I am reminded as I write now of all the nonsense some people talk about the terrible dangers to literacy that txting supposedly represents – which seems nothing more than the sort of creativity stifling grammar police nonsense that Stephen Fry vents about here
  • currently I’m thinking more about AI though – more than I normally do anyway, because of some things that Laurie and others have posted recently, and because of the theme of the course, but also because of the thesis I’m trying to write, which is as much about perceptions of language in higher education as anything else… so I’m particularly interested in how people define and generally refer to ‘language’, and in this course where ‘artificial intelligence’ is likely to be a central point of interest in the imagining of both promise and peril in the digitisation of our lives, of how we know, and of how we represent knowledge, it interests me how we think about the ‘intelligence’ that is ‘natural’, or supposedly unmediated by ‘technology’… because the one defines the other, no? What is artificial is only so in relation to what is believed to be natural… and because AI is to date remarkably uninfluenced by any other theory of language than Chomsky’s, the assumptions made in the imagining and pursuit of computational intelligence and ‘language’ can be pretty hilarious (from my point of view)… and that’s where my focus will be through the course, as well as on which tools might be used effectively in the sort of language education I’m employed to do… my working hypothesis is that most of the hype on either side of the fence – the promise and the perils of technology in relation to ‘humanity’ – stems from some pretty questionable metaphors of mind and communication that have no theory of semiotics

3. to view, read & reflect on popular stories we tell about the use of technology, as either normal and integral part of our development, or as challenge to our understanding of what it means to be human

  • I haven’t started viewing the course videos yet, or reading the readings – I mean there aren’t any for our part of the course, the mooc, yet anyway, but I did have a browse in the EU part – the credit bearing course that is starting next week I think, because I am curious how the students’ in it (who will become our mentors in the mooc) are being primed to think about it…. but last time I looked the video material had been banned for breach of copyright. I found one of the readings in my university library, and it gave me much to critique! and will no doubt find its way into my thesis as an example of the problem I am focused on in that discussion…

4. to think about how popular ‘cyber cultures’ relate to formal educational practices

  • not sure about this one yet, haven’t had time to think about it

5. to consider & demonstrate in our own practice what difference digital makes to the presentation of academic knowledge

  • this interests me most of all I think, having dared to do a very non-traditional poster presentation at an academic conference in November, which was well received, and because I’m thinking about the nature of knowledge in my thesis, and encouraging my students to present their experience and understanding of academic English in different, storytelling, ways

reading the lives of others

just quickly browsing through some of the many, various blogs that colleagues in edcmooc are putting out there, I stopped for a moment to ponder on this one of Chris Swift’s, and of Nigel‘s that it responds to – to wonder about ‘worrying’ about new technologies of literacy…

Apart from all the usual worries about ‘what is who going to do with my identity details and data’ (and what if I lose the address book that has all my fifty thousand passwords in it), like Nigel, I’d also felt a serious twinge of embarrassment in creating a ‘twitter’ account… from the outside, you can easily get the impression (from mainstream media I suppose) that the twittershere is a young person’s thing, so older people getting into it might look sadly ridiculous… like they were wearing baggy pants half way down the bum and riding a long board around their workplace thinking they could be cool… and the names of these online social media are pretty poxxy – twitter doesn’t make me think ‘sweet little birdies chatting’, it makes me think twit – as in moron, air head, plastic person… and why does technology need ‘disney’ logos? I hate having to grin and bear all the irritating mass marketing silly speak in order to explore the software…

BUT, of course, once you’re actually into it, you realise you can just  ignore the idiotic names and logos, it’s about the easy and interesting conversations these tools give you access to, and which help you do what you want to be doing… with twitter you can quite easily and quickly find people who want to talk about the things that matter to you too – theoretical, political, social, serious, silly – you name it – pick a conversation and join in. amazing – and unlike a conference, you don’t have to get on a plane for 30 hours to get there, and it costs you NOTHING! bloody brilliant (and as a language educator, I’m thinking it looks like a good way to develop fluency in the tweeted language, by simply engaging in lots of authentic, meaningful exchange – so I’ll be incorporating it into my teaching this year I think).

As I learn how to use it, I’m thinking twitter’s a great technology for open and inclusive conversation – so thanks to all those nameless people who have been working on its conceptual and material development for countless years and not getting the credit (which is always taken by the person at the end of the process)…

Nigel’s sister may or may not really think that twitter is the work of the devil (!), but media are often reacted to that way when they’re new – TV… the printed book… one person’s salvation and freedom is another’s subversion of semiotic capital and trusted text production and distribution processes…. and another’s business opportunity..

reminds me of when secular workshops took over manuscript production in the 14th century (replacing monastic scriptoria) and the church lost its control of what was written and who was reading it (and how)… and when printing enabled ‘mass’ production and cheaper distribution to the general public… and then, egads, public education brought literacy to the great unwashed – and all hell could have broken loose… (except that schools were more about factory fodder training than enlightenment).

Well you don’t wait to be given power, you have to take it, and this story in the guardian’s poverty matters blog caught my eye the other day, because it’s a good example of how twitter can be used for socially significant purposes. I tend to think it’s fabulously good, for the most part – if new communication tools accelerate the potential for people living in economically oppressive and politically repressive environments to reshape their own circumstances into something livable. But like a sharp knife – I don’t imagine it’s the technology that will be doing good or harm, but the people using it. I guess the point I’d want to make is that ‘twitter’ is a tool, not an activity. We don’t need the tool in order to do the activity, but if we have a good tool, we can do it differently, or better or just much faster and more inclusively.

This pre-course phase of edcmooc is a real exercise in exploration of tools, to work out how they work, and how they compare, and which might suit our individual and variable purposes best. The name of the game isn’t Twitter, it’s conversation – exchange of language.. and it seems to me there are days I learn more via twitter than I do in conversation with work colleagues in a year!

So getting back to the theme of the course that Chris reminds us of… we’re here in edcmooc to learn the tools of trade in digitised education, and to explore common perceptions in our culture of promise and peril with the advent of new technologies – the stories we tell about the use of technology, as either normal and integral part of our development, or as challenge to our understanding of what it means to be human… and to think about how popular ‘cyber cultures’ relate to formal educational practices, and what difference digital makes to the presentation of academic knowledge…

That common perception of conversational tools like twitter (created by marketing and mainstream media) – that it’s ‘light’, silly, intellectually vacuous, frivolous fluff stuff – reminds me how easy it is to focus on a tool rather than what users are doing with it, and how or whether the tool helps… it also has me thinking about how often language is invisible to those who are fluent in it, and how educational talk about ‘learning’ often fails to focus on the nitty gritty of how learners can actually expand their awareness of lexico-grammatical choices to better make sense of information and extend their capacity to make meaningful exchanges in diverse and shifting contexts….

So in line with the course theme, my thought of the day, or plan for the month, is to think very seriously about how I can use Twitter, for example, this year to help my students, in at least one of the subjects I teach, to notice, reflect on and develop English. I work with several groups in different disciplines who have one thing in common – they’re post-graduate students using English as an additional language. I have been using blogs for a few years for introductory and reflective tasks, and to make a suite of online language development tools part of their daily learning environment, but the limitation of 140 characters could be a very appealing thing to those who feel daunted by an expectation to write blog entries, and it could facilitate much more frequent commentary, questioning and language learning, so I want to explore it, along with daily photos of their experience as students – the trail left providing material for reflection later… I just started exploring 140 character fiction as a stimulus – maybe they’ll want to compose their own too, for a lark (there are many sites for this kind of thing), but I’m also thinking they could choose a site a day from the range of resources I put on my teaching blog and tweet about why they find it useful or not…  maybe they could tweet each week about the main thing that was a linguistic challenge to them – that could help me identify patterns and focus my attention where it’s most needed. just thinking – very open to suggestions 🙂

But wait – there was something else in Chris’ post that made me stop and ponder today… the notion that changing the media of communication could somehow do away with ‘mis’-understandings…. that in some future version of communication technology, we might be able to do away with language altogether, so that ‘thoughts’ could be conveyed without ‘error’, and ideas could be exchanged without the muddied waters middlespace of inarticulate you and me imperfect humans… hmmm. I struggle with that basic notion of ‘thoughts’ existing apart from social semiotic, material communicational practices. It seems to be the dominant thinking in our culture (it has a very long history), and it makes education very difficult sometimes, is the way I see it. I dunno – I just feel the world is horribly dominated by Pinker-type discourse and I don’t find it helpful to think in terms of us ‘having thoughts’ and then translating them ‘into’ language, as though there were two separable realms. Unlike the Chomskys and Pinkers of this world, I don’t accept the argument (however venerably old) that ‘thoughts’ and ‘mind’ exist apart from any particular medium of communication. I think language most certainly IS how we ‘have thoughts’ in the first place and that language is all we have to bind us through exchange (‘have thoughts’ being in inverted commas, because we don’t ‘have’ anything – we continually make meaning, and its just the effect of academic writing that abstractions and relational verbs construe experience in static and possessive terms). I don’t see how any two people could ever have the ‘same’ understanding of anything – seems to me we cannot BUT make different interpretations of the same material, because meaning is not ‘in’ what we observe, it’s an effect of our interpretative activity…. interpret that as you will !

disruption as storytelling device

I was just listing to the radio briefly as I passed between rooms and heard a novelist in interview saying how she (and all creative writers) needs to construct a disruption in a situation in order to be able to go on to tell a story, and of course this rings true – we all know narrative technique well enough to know the importance of the initial ‘crisis’… but what interested me was how that obvious truism suddenly struck me as just as true of the sort of creative writing we are engaging in as students in this course, and how the course itself is an emerging narrative enabled by an initial discourse on how ‘disruptive’ the mooc is to everything and anything in higher education: it’s irrelevant whether we take it as ‘true’ or not, we simply need to suspend disbelief in order to engage in the joys of the storytelling… it’s like we need to construct that disruption or ‘crisis’ in our situation so that we can proceed to join in the telling of a big story – which is nothing other than the doing of this course (‘learning’ as it were)…


I don’t even see that as an ‘are we in our out of the matrix?’ scenario, because in my old age I have come to see less and less difference between fiction and non fiction, between story and history (or hers), between creative and ‘academic’ writing… it’s all just language, in varying genres and registers…. I’m in the middle of writing a thesis and have taught both creative and academic writing for two decades, to a wide range of students, for various purposes (including to ‘learn English’ and to ‘learn Australian Studies’ and to learn some ‘Science’ or ‘Health’ or ‘Engineering’ discipline they’ve chosen to study) and I believe less and less in there actually being any real difference at all… and to see more and more the cross-over relevance of analytic techniques and developmental strategies I’ve used in one area for others…

just thought I’d share that one 🙂

all we see and seem, is but a dream within a dream, as Mr Poe once so eloquently penned…

either that or I’ve just been thinking about language philosophy for too long….

this is my story:



back on deck again after a lovely, rejuvenating break at ‘Wordfordia‘ – that’s the ephemeral tent village which appears each year around a folk music festival, for a week just after Christmas at a rural place called Woodford, then disappears again as quickly as it came…. sort of Australia’s contemporary answer to the Woodstock of an earlier life in another country …


This was my first time at Woodford, and made me feel both very old and very young at once… I went because my 13 year old daughter has been at me for a few months about it, since she found out her ‘favourite singers in the whole world’ were to perform there… while I’m very glad she’s so passionate about music of a certain kind, reminding me of how I felt about Dylan, Baez, Mitchell, Guthrie, Melanie, Cohen etc, but it is a big ask to go there from where we live, it’s over 1,000 kms… I opted for a road trip rather than a flight, because they’re fun, and good for our relationship… lots of quality music to share in the car, lots of quality talk and good laughs… memory making stuff.

Well anyway to cut a long story short, it was a delightful trip and the festival was fabulous. What made me feel very young again, and included in the atmosphere at the festival is perhaps best summed up in a line from one of the songs on a Gregory Page cd I bought while hiding in the festival music shop tent from a random torrential downpour that ended the oppressive heat of the first part of the day and began the rather more pleasant cool of the late afternoon and evening… on the journey home a few days later I was being regularly reminded by him that “it’s never too late to be the person you’re meant to be” … and that just felt so right. After the main event for us – performance by Julia Stone (in which her brother Angus also appeared, yay) – we stayed for Kate Miller-Heidke, whose first number (politics in space, or space politics or something) includes the line “the 60s was 50 years ago, get over it” – which made me laugh out loud, and feel old…

Other flashbacks included an appearance by Bob Hawke (former prime minister from the 80s) who spoke (disappointingly lamely, but the guy is over 80 now so I’m a bit forgiving) about our relationship with China, and then a comedy debate with a very good Kevin Rudd impersonator…  then on Sunday the current pm actually appeared at the festival… it was all bit surreal – not because the festival was therefore a bit political, but because it was incorporating politicians rather than just slagging off about them. Somehow I can’t quite imagine a sitting president appearing at Woodstock in 1969… but it didn’t (surprisingly, to me) make the whole thing a conformist sell-out, it struck me as rather more intelligent, engaged, and just being part of critical public debate. It was rather good.

Also spent a day at GOMA exploring the Asia Pacific Triennial… Again making me feel old in that I’ve been to most of these and the first one was 20 years ago. Good grief, seems like yesterday. But more important – the show was fantastic and images are as alive in my mind now a week later as the day I saw them – perhaps more so, as they become more part of the daily re-woven patterning that constructs the coherent sense of narrative we call understanding, thought and identity…

wish we could have stayed away another week at least – but can’t leave the dog with neighbours for too long, and oh yeah, there is that thing called a job to be getting back to… but yay – there is also that emergent community online I have just started engaging with 🙂 Time to get back to cyberspace and meet up with all my new pals in edcmoocland! yay

changing nature of literacy

Before disappearing from this space for the christmas break, I was just reading a few of the other course participants’ blog posts and this one by Chris made me smile… and then I found myself rethinking what I’ve been thinking for a very long time (well who ever stops thinking what they already know, right? we just add to the mix, we never ‘move on’ – everything important we already learned by the age of 5…), but anyway, ‘literacy’ has been my pet theme since I did a research project on it in an earlier life, and I was taken, back then when I first got deeply into higher ed, with two fields at once – medieval book culture and Halliday’s sophisticated and fascinating theory of language (that just made ‘language’ per se so much more interesting than anything we were ever told about it in school)…. and I’ve remained interested in both ever since.

What I wrote my thesis about way back then was an amusing and extraordinary phenomenon in early 14th English manuscripts, such as the splendiferous Luttrell Psalter….


imgres-1   imgres-2

where the marginal imagery started to really take off and occupy more and more of the page ‘real estate’… and where that imagery became hilariously bawdy and bizarre (from a 20th century perspective on reading medieval illuminated manuscripts, as filtered by a century of construing book painting in terms of a particular set of ‘fine arts’ discourses)…

anyways, I’m finding now that whatever I see here in our shared MOOCdom, I can’t help but interpret through the filters already implanted in my mind from those earlier educational explorations, which left far more than a trace – they’re my framework. So when I read Chris’ post, thoughts about the pertinent analogy there were quickly overtaken by my usual set of thoughts, stemming from Halliday‘s lovely way of describing three simultaneous operations of language development – how the individual’s language repertoire grows and changes through their life, how a language as a whole, in the collective mind, changes over the centuries, and how any particular text unfolds and its context and meaning changes with each new word and sentence.

I guess I’ve just been ‘trained’ to (well, I like to) take a very long term view of change – I’m just not caught up in the current wave of hype about how the digital environment ‘changes everything’ or forces us to ‘rethink everything’… it modifies things very significantly, sure, but I don’t see a technology (or suite of new technological developments) completely changing the whole game.

I just find it more interesting I guess to look a long way back, and forward, to make sense of what’s happening here and now… what’s fantastic about this digital environment from my point of view is that we can so quickly and easily observe so much of what is going on in all three dimensions or ‘scales’ of operation – the production of each new text being contributed and read; personal development as new media are experimented with and mastered; and collective cultural development as this digital literacy phenomenon emerges and grows rapidly…

I’m just seeing what’s going on in terms of changing opportunities and media for literacy, and literacy (digital or otherwise) as usual, as just part of what we do with language – a major part of what we learn to do in this lovely little bit of life we enjoy for such a brief moment 🙂

pacem et concordiam ad omnes

viral trade in tools

Obviously in a course that is being conducted entirely online and that’s focused on the topic of eLearning and digital cultures there is going to be heavy use and discussion of technologies that were designed for (or can be used for) educational purposes…. that much is to be expected – but perhaps not quite expected by me and other participants, naive little things that we are, was the degree to which, and the speed at which, they’d proliferate!

Writing here in the week before Christmas – a good month before the course even begins – we are compiling an ever growing list of tools that we’re all madly trying out for the first time (or picking up and actually using like never before), in order to prepare ourselves for the learning ahead… well this prep time is itself a significant learning curve – imagine how intense things might become once the course takes off!

Or maybe not – maybe all this orientation stuff is the more time consuming part, and we’ll now just sail smoothly through the learning journey…. huh! somehow I think the recommendation that we spend ’3′ hours a week on this course looks like deliberate marketing fraud :)

Anyways, I’m sure the list will continue to grow as we go, but so far here is the list of ‘essential’ tools that will be in use as we do the course (some for daily communications, maybe others more for comparative and evaluative purposes)…

So far, what’s been new and particularly of interest to me (in relation to the teaching I do) are:

twitter lists (IF I can figure out how to send messages to just one list and not everyone, I can see myself having separate lists for different groups of students, and colleagues, and using twitter for reminders and questions – much more likely to be read quickly than anything that requires them to login to the course website or institutional email)

pinterest (some of these I’ve seen have been interesting to browse, but I haven’t used this tool yet, and so not sure yet whether I’d use it with students – the best application for it I can imagine in my current teaching scenarios might be to share with the class things about academic English in their other classes that I have tasked them to pay attention to and report back about – this noticeboard effect might work well for that, as the posting could then be done on the go and before we meet, and then be looked at in class as the start up for discussion & learning)

scoopit (I’ve certainly seen these, but haven’t made one before this week, and I can see how it could be an appealing and effective way – sometimes – for students to receive new readings of high relevance to something we’re doing that week – as opposed to set readings that I can plan before class begins – would be good for sharing stuff with colleagues too, although most of mine actually prefer reading emails…. ahhh)

storify (have heard of this one in the past couple of years but haven’t yet explored – but as I do like to get students making digital stories of their language learning experience in their first year doing academic work in this language and country, this may be a quick and easy tool for them to use for that purpose? not sure yet)

vimeo (not new to me, but I haven’t been using it for teaching purposes because I am a Mac person and one’s dotmac account – whatever they are calling it this month – has had terrific website and video sharing software as part of the package – but I like Kyle’s movie here and I need to learn more technologies that my students are most likely to know because they are often not mac people and they don’t waste their limited finances on shiny groovy things from apple and I have to speak their language in order to communicate!)

G+ hangouts (have just today had a look at some examples, and the Sara Lipka one that Eric posted in the G+ community for us –  it seems sort of like skype on steroids – up to 10 people can video chat live at once, AND this software has a broadcast option, ie you can save your conversation to your YouTube channel… as soon as I started watching these I thought, wow, what a quick, easy, hassle free way to get mid and end of course feedback from students! and then have it all on record…. there is the question of permissions when it comes to reporting as research of course, but just meanwhile, the immediate use potential in teaching is obvious and terrific to me! – so much better than the rigmarole of getting formal evaluations done… this could be much more spontaneous and authentic for the ongoing quality improvement feedback loop)

mindmomo and mindmeister (I actually prefer cmaptools for online concept mapping, and have various other tools for visualising processes – but I really liked the mindmap Mr Chips I think posted for us – though now I can’t find it! – and I might make my students aware of this software too, if it’s quick and simple and free to use. Cmaptools is my favourite because it forces you to compose a sentence that articulates the relationship between elements in the map, rather than just to connect keywords, and for all sorts of reasons that is what I prefer my students to do in planning their writing – but hey, all visualisation tools are cool with me, I like to explore them all!)

google reader (oddly I haven’t been using this on my desktop, though I have used it a bit on my ipad… must explore further whether this is a good adjunct to my web-based Endnote, or Mendeley or whatever I or my students are using – got to think about not only quick and easy, but also integration with projects and other online systems, like databases…)

evernote (haven’t tried this yet, just noting recommendations by other students in this course – will have to check it out, though, I may not need yet another tool, I think I really just need to browse and then select according the criteria that matter most in my current work, then just stick with a very small number of really effective tools and focus…. I agree with that video about how to succeed in a MOOC!)

the countdown has begun…. mephistopheles awake!

our leaders have just tweeted that the course site is now officially open… but surreally, the message seems to be directed at another virtual group not exactly us but including or surrounding or infiltrating us…. the site is for the Edinburgh U course of the same name, for a small group of students enrolled in a masters degree program, and they are tasked to monitor and guide the coursera MOOC group behaviour it seems, as part of their, rather longer, course…. interesting design and use of the mooc for broader (and sound) educational purposes… I like the cross-course referencing, it is something I like to do in language education – get students in my class to monitor, document and reflect on the language in play in their other subjects so we have the most relevant material to focus on in paying close attention to and learning more about academic English… but at the same time, it is a strange dance to be in, and hopefully not with the devil in the data analytics detail of the great googley digital behemoth!

EDC home

to blog, to quad, perchance to deeply learn…

I’ve overspent my time allocation today already and am now getting anxious about my mind being away from my day job as I try and persuade myself that what I do here is all helpful to that, but stop I must – in just a moment, after I’ve had a brief meditation on what’s been going on!

there’s been some discussion today on the course FB page about quadblogging and why we want to give it a go, and how – and terrific contributions to the collective think aloud / write it down…. what I’m wanting to reflect on here now though, in my own blog space rather than the shared FB page, is what I’m learning and what I’m finding it difficult to learn.

I’ve already gleaned a plethora of new edtech tools – more than I can possibly keep up with the documentation of let alone the experimentation with – helpfully, Eric started an edtech Google doc so we can collectively keep the record straightish! (do we give daily thanks for the mighty hyper-link? don’t you just LOVE them?!)

but anyway, all of my explorations and comments in FB and G+ and twitter and whatever the hell else is going on has created problems as it solves others (such is life) in that while I do want to know what the different functions of the various platforms and tool types might be, I also find it extremely irritating when you can’t just find a quick answer to a simple question – like can I (or why can’t I) send a tweet to a list rather than to the entire universe? I am amazed at how quickly this environment with all its wonderful participants informs me of some things, and how difficult it can be to get information of that nature via Google…

What I seem to have learned today (though I am never quite sure really, because I simply don’t have time to read down beyond the first few items that google has engineered it to appear at the top of list when I search for something, and I am always left with a horrible anxiety that the answer I seek really is there but just beyond my reach or my capacity in the moment to think of an intelligent enough search term, and here I am feeling what it is to be a student in the 21st century… which is exactly what I joined the course in order to experience, so what am I complaining about? I got what I paid for… wait, I didn’t pay anything! well that doesn’t mean I got nothing in this case (though who knows, it may well mean I will later when Mephistopheles comes to call…

anyway, it is a good question that has been being asked the pst couple of days in our social network – what are we blogging FOR? and if we’re going to blog on the quad, what should we be writing ABOUT? and as Chris’ mind map shapes our thinking about this, I find myself putting in my ten cents’ worth about modeling literacy practices and the processes of development because that’s what I really want to blog about myself, but what I also really want to read about in others’ blogs – and that’s because it’s my research interest… and I hope I don’t bore others to death with it! but this is what i want my blog readers to read and comment on from their perspective, so that I can develop how I am writing about the things that matter to me most as an educator.

the day job for me is language education across the institution – academic literacy, English language proficiency, communications – call it what you will, I work in an institution that, like pretty well most universities in the Anglosphere these days, has a high and growing proportion of students coming into the system from backgrounds that have not quite prepared them for it, linguistically and culturally, and in which they will inevitably encounter some pretty big fat obstacles along the way, in expected and unexpected places, that they will struggle to name, let alone overcome without trauma….

And where once upon a time (apparently) people thought it would be a good idea to teach students ‘how to write an essay’ for example (or a report, or a blog for that matter) in some random optional class outside the curriculum, or behind a closed door somewhere down  a dark corridor, the trend now is (thankfully) to at least semi-recognise that it makes a lot more sense to pay attention to how literacy develops in the very contexts and moments in which it most needs to… so that ‘language education’ becomes an institutional approach to curricular and pedagogical development by and for all teaching academics across the disciplines – a matter of task and assessment design, and a matter of appropriate support just in time – ie modeling, discussing, demonstrating, engineering social interaction., and paying attention to the language in play and how repertoire might be expanded along the way in order to enable learners to complete challenging and engaging tasks…

anyway back to work for now – and if anyone can tell me how to tweet to my quad list I’m all ears!

provoking comment

and while I learn more about twitter (which my research assistant this morning also very kindly taught me a thing or two about today, and introduced me to TweetDeck… which I’ll get back to some day when I need to avoid my day job some more, but right now I’m wanting to get back into some actual work – but just before I do I just have to note that the e-learning provocateur’s post that I read today (as I was munching on my lunch after my fruitful meeting with said research assistant this morning with whom I was actually doing some work, before we got onto the frivolous topic of tweeting, she being the expert and I the utter novice) has stuck in my mind and my mind being what it is these days I figure best strike while proverbial iron’s hot or the thoughts will be thinner than air by the time I get home tonight so here I am posting again – I was planning for just one a day, I feel now like I am binging, like I’m eating the whole packet of timtams in one go… a reference all Australians will immediately understand but others may need explained) well anyway, I just want to comment on one of the many points Ryan makes in his post because it echoes something I was saying to my twitter expert friend and assistant in crime this very day, in qualified defence of moocdom, namely… about the cMOOC.

We are clearly in what George Siemens refers to as a cMOOC, not an xMOOC – or at least, some of us are. That is, one where the focus is on connected, collaborative learning rather than broadcast. I mean, as I was thinking aloud this morning, it is a month before lift off and I have already learned stuff because we’re talking to each other, and I fully expect now that this has set the scene for the whole course – most of the learning we experience will be generated by our own interactions. This interests and pleases me, because the learning experience is the very aspect I joined to investigate. I am thinking of other points raised in Ryan’s post, such as the anticipation within and around the higher ed sector that moocdom will be rapidly occupied by those who have for so long been excluded from higher education, or who have found it absurdly inaccessible (remote, expensive, linguistically challenging), even as the empire repositions itself to remain the font of all knowledge for the foreseeable future – I expect there will be interesting comebacks ahead!

What I’m really keen to observe in this mooc experience we’re about to fly off into is its linguistic nature, the degree of multi-modality, and the potential of the medium to help or hinder those attempting to engage in what is for them a second, or still quite foreign language… there is so much potential for this moocy medium to be brilliant in multi-lingual contexts, and so much likliehood that it won’t be! I wonder when the first multi-lingual mooc delivery will be… there are already moocs playing out with study groupings conducted in languages other than English, but given that the big gun providers are US and UK based, the delivery will be in the firm grip of English for quite some time to come I guess.

there is a lot of commentary about moocs of course (and I’ve just got a grabbag snippet on my moocdom page on this blog, excerpts from a much larger set of bookmarks I’ve been gathering the past few months) – but surprisingly little about the language (or have I missed a ginormous discussion somewhere? – there is this interesting post about the geography of moodcom, but what really seriously is there about the linguistics?) One person I’m aware of who’s discussing the implications is Paul Prinsloo, but the topic will be on my mind throughout this course – be warned!

the twit list

am just trying to get my head around twitter and the list feature – following on from reading Ronald Voorn’s post on his excellent blog (and scoop it page) commenting on the neo-colonialist agenda of US MOOCdom, then finding Eric’s twitter list, and then wondering how you join a list, then googling that, then finding that you don’t add yourself to someone else’s list you subscribe to their list and/or make your own list…. there is of course no end to any of this, and it all just takes me back to the one BIG CONCEPT – recursion – the only thing in Chomsky’s ‘theory’ of language I actually agree with – it’s the game changer alright… but that is another story… perhaps I will storify it, when I learn how to do that…. or perhaps I will just go back to my day job!

twit list

how do you put your twitter link onto your blog? I tried a widget, it didn’t work… rather like my rather pathetic attempt to get flickr happening there on the sidebar – have I failed digitools 201? 😦

thematic development

bit of a pun for the linguists out there…. anyway, thanks to all the engagement and sharing on the pre-course social networking sites for the EDC course, I have discovered ‘extensions’… not for my hair, but for my chrome browser (thanks Angela!). One very groovy extension is to theme design, so now when I create a new tab, I get to see this very retro zone by Carla Zampatti – which my daughter will love, she is very into black and white design drawing at the moment


and I’ve added lots of hopefully triffic apps into my webby zone, so I can avoid my day job even better 🙂

the best way forward?

I’m trying to work out what works for me and the limited time I have to schedule for paying attention to this course and its growing tribe of participants – who I want to read, but I just can’t be everywhere all the time, right? I have a half hour or so a day to dip in here, that’s it. So what to do? I’ve experimented here with quickly browsing the course’s Google+ page and gleaning a few blog URLs and adding them to my blog. I have linked all the course sites to this blog for my own convenience, so that I can just bookmark my own blog and link everything else for this course there… now I note someone has posted about ‘triberr’ (thanks Eric!) and am exploring that as a perhaps better way, given that the number of blogs I might want to dip into will continue growing and I don’t want a blogroll on my site that is a million miles long…. but I’ll explore more tomorrow and make a decision – I have to get my daughter down to the beach right now – she is a rookie surf life guard, and is on water safety for the wave warriors carnival. Unfortunately she can’t compete this year because she broke a toe two weeks ago 😦 but nothing will stop here being there and helping out in the water – go girl!

I’m all walled in

wow that wallwisher app is even cooler than the map app! thanks heaps for sharing that one Steven 🙂 I loves it and will no doubt be using that with students too


I’m really taken with the map app being used on this course! I can see myself using it in week one of various classes I teach, as all my students are from far afield and this is a nice way to get an overview of where everyone is coming from and start up conversation, and linking from there to students’ learning blogs… love it – thanks Chris, for setting it up for sharing in our course 🙂

mapping participation Dec 12

one day this will all be history…

So here we are, about to be launched into a 5 week journey into who knows quite where… like most of us in this course I guess, I signed up for it months ago, and wait here patiently for take off… now just a few weeks away… everyone’s starting to be a twit and blogger about it in anticipation, so I’ve joined the ranks. May the force be with us (if that’s a good thing – I’ve never actually seen Star Wars, so I’ve no idea what that reference means… not really into Star Trek either – I’m more of a Dr Who and Life on Mars kind of girl…).

Anyway, so far the genre here seems clear. Ground control has posted some basic instructions, no detailed map yet, but some general directions:

This course will explore how digital cultures and learning cultures connect, and what this means for e-learning theory and practice

The ‘about the course’ blurb says (cut, paste, abbreviate):

“E-learning and Digital Cultures is about how popular narratives shape our ideas of online education. We’ll look at how learning and literacy is represented in popular digital-, (or cyber-) culture…. you create your own pictorial, filmic or graphic representation of themes encountered during the course, using digital spaces in new ways…”.

I went to a bit of an overview and debrief meeting yesterday at my workplace university, where a few people reported their experience doing MOOCs, and there are some clear pattern to these experiences, in terms of duration, design, delivery, collaborative assessment, joys & benefits, overwhelms & disgruntlements… so I know a bit of what to expect.

The first expectation on us is to create a blog (check), and to say hello on the course’s Google Plus page (check), and then create a semi coherent social media habitus, comprising Facebook, Twitter, Flickr etc… (to do)… thankfully I already have all those accounts, and this is hopefully a good reason to use them. So, off I go to do all that and complete task one…

Meanwhile, back to the beginning thought – that one day, this will all be history…. how better to begin a learning journey story than with a brief meditation on language?

In the beginning was the word…. I’m thinking here in terms of Halliday‘s conception of language history in 3 dimensions: how the language system evolves, how the language repertoire of an individual develops, and how specific instances of language unfold –  logogenesis – the semiotic dynamics of text and context changing together as we go with the flow…. to set the scene….

Throughout this journey into MOOCspace, I want to consider these three dimensions of language, as we endeavour to make sense of course materials and engage in conversation with one another… I’m interested to see how the course and the various blogs unfold, how my personal knowledge of the topic expands as I start saying new things, and how doing a course online with a squillion other people does or doesn’t change our sense of what it is to learn, and whether the technology is making significant changes to our collective capacity to interact and make meaning – or whether it’s not just a different mode of literate behaviour rather than a new form of life…