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….


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 🙂

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

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!

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…