Archive for October, 2008

CCK08: Discussion Forum Marking Rubric for the Royal Military College of Canada

October 29, 2008

Here is a rubric (hie2020820assignment20information20evaluation20criteria) for grading discussion forums for RMC (Canada) including a grade for participation.

CCK08: Spirit of Openess for Assignment 1

October 28, 2008

In the spirit of openness and to flow the wave Lisa set, here is my assessment of Assignment 1(paper1_bradleyshoebottom) and my original post.

I focused on trying to define if we were in a revolutionary, transformative, or evolutionary learning environment using a historical example of current military affairs. Here’s what George had to say:

My one suggestion in your paper is for you to explore how we can see past web 2.0 terminology and focus on established trends….and of course, where those trends suggest we may end up.

Good observation George. Some would say, who cares if it is revolutionary, transformative, or evolutionary, and if youa re living the moment, all you want to do is get stuff done. I was having a bit of fun with language, something I do not get to do with my day job as I am mostly in the moment.

My professional development at work focusses mainly on technology trends in the user centered design environment. What is often lacking is examples of how to use tools to enhance outcomes, so my focus lately has been to do that (besides this course). This course is an example of gaining that knowledge. Many of the people in this course have provided links to interesting studies that I would have never had the time to discover on my own.

I am a follower of semantic web 3.0 technologies and I do have a idea of where I would love this whole internet thing to play out so that it is finally user friendly. Semantics will tie so many disparate things together. I’m no trying to figure out if there is going to be a Web 4.0 and what that will be (higher levels of “thought” knowledge?)

CCK08: User/Learner Centered Instructional Design

October 23, 2008

I have been designing training and educational materials now for 20 years through my time with the army in pre-internet days, designed and developed a number of soft skills e-Learning courses in the 2000-3 time frame, writing telecommunications technical publications, to offering history and political science course online and in class, to now being an information architect with a practice of user centered design.

What I have come to realize is that up to 2 years ago, I often relied on others description of who the learner/user was. I never got to meet the learners; instead I relied on a subject matter expert who told me who the target audience was and provided the details and I applied objectives, wrote content and provided testing. Often the subject matter expert was several years removed from interacting with the end-users.

At no time until become an information architect was I ever allowed to question the medium/mechanism or design of what I was doing. My practice as an information architect has led me to start the process of training design by actually asking the question of “do we even need training?” Is it possible there are other forms of information that is more useful to the target audience?

To discover this, you actually need to talk to the users. You may discover that the users don’t need to be tested, they only what just in time information of how to do a task (insert a hyperlink) that an html help file can provide. So part of the problem is instantly saying we need to do training, when we actually need better information design. Better information design comes from talking to the users of the information to see how they consume it, how they need to use it, and the environment they need to operate in. Only them can you start to say we have x or y types of users and this is what each x or y user need to do. This process then allows you to come up with a list of requirements or recommendations, but these recommendations are not for all users, but the significant majority of users, or the users with the “most” pressing problems.

The recommendations may be on product help, topic based web help files, a Wiki publishing and user corrected feedback system, a better intranet/website, structured authoring, or single source publishing. So the technology choice comes last and not first. Perhaps the current technology is good enough, it just needs better implementation. Knowing what the general capabilities of technology are useful so potential avenues of exploration are possible, but what if there is no current technology? Then the requirements start a new development process for that technology to aid in the information creation and dissemination and re-synthesizing (if needed).

So, I see instructional design as being a sub-set of information design, and perhaps one of the last options to consider for the deployment of training since training can be so expensive and of limited durability in the product-driven world.

Perhaps the best thing that could happen is an easily findable website that is user constructed with links to reputable or useful information for the problems I need resolve for the information I need education in. Even my New Brunswick lumberjack with a web-enable cell phone in an area with service could trouble-shoot why his Husquvarna chain saw is acting up. He doesn’t need a fancy piece of e-Learning in an LMS or to take an operators course (unless the law says so).

This difficulty, of course, is trying to provide the information for what the software industry calls the “corner cases” or users that operating under what may be rare circumstances. In the Connectivist world, this means users that find themselves unable to connect to the internet due to lack of a computer or networking infrastructure. This may be coming rare in the “westernized” world, but a significant population may face challenge. The situation or user environment will help decide the educational/training mechanisms that are most appropriate. So a study of infromation architecture is extremely relevant to instructional design.

CCK08: Week 6 Chaos Ramblings

October 18, 2008

The title says it all. In a week we are looking at Chaos, I am going to wander all over the place so here are my highlights:

  • The utility of Journal publishing versus open-source publishing/blogging
  • New Book review: iBrain
  • Just Received Book: On intelligence
  • My own Chaos This week

Journal Publishing

During the live Wednesday session, Stephen Downes had a negative criticism about Journals. While I agree I dislike having to pay for articles, and that the articles often have to go through a stifling anonymous peer review process, there are some journals that are useful.  For example, some journals only charge for the cost of the printing and distribution. The editing and peer review process is done on a volunteer basis. Many of these types of journals only charge for the current issue and will post the issue for free when the next comes out. For example, the Journal of Canadian Military History published by Sir Wilfred University. This Journal gives a voice to undergraduate and graduate students for term paper or thesis research that may not make it into the bigger and more exclusive History Journals that tend to publish only post doctoral work. These journals often serve a demographic that prefers off-line reading. For the online readers, the article is made available on a regular basis (quarterly). With blogging becoming popular, I expect more historical pieces to be published, but often hard-copy/online journals have a more polished appearance because there are volunteer staffs to create maps, enhance pictures etc. Is it asking a lot of an student author to also be very conversant in graphics tools, photo-manipulation tools, effective layout etc? Isn’t that a kind of exclusivity? And to partially answer my own question, yes, some online publishing is powerful because of the animation, audio, or video clips that can add so much context that words fail to do. In 10 years, when all the undergraduates and grad students now in the system have become “experts” at web 2.0 publishing, I will eat my words because that will be the new norm (with no need for editing staff and instead use their network) and I will likely no longer receive any journal by Canada Post.

New Book Review: iBrain

I was actually reading my delivered-to-the-door copy of the Fredericton Daily Gleaner and serendipitously saw a book review for iBrain by Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan. The review notes this is an interesting study that studies neurological growth in the brain due to Internet usage. They do MRI scans of non-users with users, and users that increase their Internet use. While the sample size was small, the authors not that even 1 hour of internet searching over a week can bring their neurological activity level up to that of Internet savvy users.

Brain scans showing brain activity of Internet naïve group (blue) while performing the reading task (left) and the Internet task (right). Below: Brain activity of Internet savvy group (red) while performing the reading task (left) and the Internet task (right). THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

New Book: On Intelligence

While I was ordering The Numerati that George Siemens recommended to me several weeks ago, Chapters.ca recommend On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins. I bought it because I am a sucker for any book starting with “On…” (I own On War by Clauswitz, On Killing by Dave Grossman, and On Infantry by John English). Anyways, Jeff Hawkins has a commentary website located here that has some interesting resources.

My Own Chaos

I found I helped create my own chaos this week. After 3 weeks of 60-65 hours of work (day job 37.5 hours), teaching two undergrad course part-time (12 hours a week) and taking this course (8-14 hours a week), having a 3.5 and 6 year old, my body said enough (and my wife, I thought, was hinting something needed to change). So my only solution was to drop the course. So I told U of Manitoba I was dropping. My wife expressed surprise that I hadn’t discussed it with her. My employer had initially given me 4 hours a week to take the course on company time because they some strong benefits from it, but project pressures soon ate into that. Anyways, both my wife and my employer, after talking to them agreed that I should continue as it was important to me and that some re-prioritizing some of their time and me re-prioritizing time spent on some of the more social aspects of the course would allow me to continue without needing to go into the 60+ hour work week.

The moral of this story: I needed to “network” with my work and home “groups” more than I was with the course to bring some de-randomization of the chaos in my head.

Ta ta for now. Its midnight and the kids like their Saturday AM cartoons at about 7 AM.

CCK08: Review of the “The Numerati”

October 14, 2008

Back in Week 2 of CCK08, George Siemens told me of a new book entitled “The Numerati” by Stephen Baker. Reading the Amazon publisher’s comments gave me the feeling Baker was another conspiracy theorist. I held off buying the book for 2 weeks due to course readings but found it at my local Chapters (much to my surprise!). I still had a feeling he was anti-something, but by the end of chapter 1, he had me hooked.

Baker describes how math is being used to understand social networking in a variety of subjects. This is not unlike the CBS TV “Numbers” where some local mathematics professors help the FBI crack some hard cases by applying math to behaviours of criminals.

What got me hooked was his description of how IBM is trying to create mathematical models of its workforce so it can better optimize the selection of workers to fit the right projects (PP 33-40). Baker describes how IBM started with a skills database, integrated with calendars and basic demographic information about the employee, looks at past projects worked on, but wisely stays away form annual performance evaluations. Like IBM, the company I work for realized that in today’s competitive world, workforce optimization was critical to continuing success. So Baker hit close to home with his book.

Baker then goes on to describe in various chapters how mathematical models are in use in consumer shopping behaviour analysis, voting (US), blogging, terrorism, patient care, and even matching-making. Match-making was the funniest by far as he tests the mathematical models of one website site by trying to “match-up” with his wife whom he co-opted into the experiment. I won’t give away what happened!

His chapter on voting and the breaking down of the electorate actually stuck home here in Canada in our own Federal election of Oct 14, 2008. I actually say a Conservative Party of Canada TV commercial that made the same “family values” appeal that was described as one category of swing voters in the US. It would appear someone in the CPC has read this book too or is using applied mathematics in the same manner.

This book is of very good value in understanding networks and trying to get to “understand” them. While it lacks some academic rigour documentation, it makes up for it in its excellent discussions of examples. Understanding what a network and a group are has been tough to understand in CKK08, so I welcomed these examples.

There were several places where a chart would have helped in understanding the content especially in the terrorist networking diagrams. There has been some excellent papers writing on social networks, but Baker does not refer to anything in his bibliography other than published books. His citation technique was one of the weirdest I have ever seen. He did not use any indication some text had a notation. Rather, you had to read the Notations section at the back of the book to realize that he was discussing something in further detail. Ideally, the book should have been published as a series of articles/blogs, but I understand it took him a year to write this, so he needed some sort of remuneration at the “end of the rainbow”. Baker does have a Blog site which discusses various aspects of the subject in more detail.

Just how “forward” is New Brunswick, Canada’s education system?

October 10, 2008

In a recent comment to a post by Stephen Downes on the 7 Habits of Highly Connective People, I comment about Stephen’s point 3 Connections Come First. I criticize the tone of this point in which Stephen seems to portray that going online to write emails, blogs, forums should come before other things like reading a book or magazine. I wrote that critique 5 hours ago at work, and here I am blogging to partially retract it.

I am partially retracting it because I just sat through a supper out for a friend’s birthday party. Opposite to me was a teacher in the Fredericton NB Canada School system teaching 15 year olds.  She is teaching in a middle school where there is a trial program for all students to have laptops and use them in class for projects, notes etc. The school is one “hotspot”. When I told her I was taking CKK08 Connectivism and Connected Learning, she seemed somewhat interested until I described how the course actually was about being online a lot and using computers to learn. She commented that she was glad that this year the Department of Education was blocking Facebook because now the kids would pay attention in class (to her)

I couldn’t believe my ears. She explained that kids would spend too much time doing non-education surfing and that New Brunswick system encouraged non-failing of students and the kids knew it. By blocking popular Social Web 2.0 sites, the kids would focus on more educational surfing. When I described what CKK08 advocated, she did not want to hear that. And this was from a lady no older than 35, which is to say, a relatively recent grad of the university Education program. I described how curriculums needed to be built around connective/network learning and how students could learn more. I did agree there was a basic knowledge level that needed to be achieved and that perhaps 5 and 6 year olds might not be ideal candidates for online connective learning. I dropped the subject because it was turning ugly at the table.

When I got home, I asked our 15 year old grade 10 babysitter if they had wireless in the high school. The high School consistently does well in achievement standings. She said yes. I asked if anyone brought in laptops to take notes, surf the web to look for materials while the teacher was talking and she said they were only allowed to use laptops at lunchtime (if they had laptops. I asked if anyone used electronic pens so they could digitize their notes. She said no. I described how in the business world, you can’t afford to be offline, that even in meetings, you are expected to come up with answers right away.

It would appear that one school still lives in the 1980s as for note-taking and interacting with content, the other restricts what techniques of networking and interacting can happen. I do not know if they are representative of the whole province, but as a concerned educator and a son in an elementary school who will eventually go to a similar middle school and that high school, I think its time to go investigate and maybe start a grass roots revolution!

School District 18 in Fredericton likes to pride itself as a leader in the province, so I think its time to see how forward thinking it can be.

CCK08: Week 5: Are Collectives more predominate than networks?

October 9, 2008

This weeks reading on networks, collectives, and groups made me realize networks may not be true “networks” as some might suggest. A network is ever changing, growing, contracting, depending on peoples level of interest. So should networks be drawn with connectors with no node at the end, just waiting for the next node to join? ie person 1—-person 2—–?

Further, Since no network could document all of humanity, aren’t networks just collectives writ large? Networks are people linked sometimes tenously, but by a common subject. For example, the SARS outbreak network. There were many different organizations with people in them where the communication passed despite hierarchical lines of communication. But the subject that joined them all was SARS. When SARS was over, how quickly did the network come down? Some people stay in the SARS network and likely work in it to this day, but for the rest, wasn’t it just a collecrive.

This is what I was hinting at in my CKK08 Moodle Forum post about there being any good collectives in history. The Soviets organized collectives around agricultural production. They seemed to have worked. Or did the lack of land ownership provide a disincentive to work? Perhaps the quota system worked?

I understand networks exist for each different subject that we encounter. A concept map for myself might have hunderds of networks classified with some people appearing in more than one network. For example, Stephen Downes appears in my “network” for CKK08, DNDLearn Conference (RMC’s LMS system) for the presentation he gave last January 2008 in Cornwall Ontario, and he appears in a network for a project I am working on currently (Stephen doesn’t know it yet, I just haven’t established the connection yet! We are only in the planning stage). I think these networks are actually collectives becasue each had a specific focus and purpose which has ended or will end. I entered at a certain point, and I left at a certain point as per Dron and Andersons description, page 3. Now, my participation in CCCK08 will last until the end of the course becasue I paid to take it, however, ther are other sthat joined int he disucsison sooner before Sept 8 and other that will continue after. I may be one of the afters. Stephn particpated in the DNDLearn conference before i did, and is likely still carrying on conversations with some participants – I am not. So, do we spend most of our time in collectives and not networks?

CCK08: Week 4: Concept Map

October 7, 2008

Here is my concept map at the end of week 4. cck08_mind_map_bradley_shoebottom-mind-map-of-course-information-week-4

I had to deploy as a PDF because the PNG format was 10 MB. PDF was only 2.7 MB.

The top left is the course management side of things and technology. The real substance is my linkages of ideas on the right. I had to clean this up because my initial concept map had things organized around Readings, presentations, additional readings, my own readings etc. and then repeating the Week 1-12 list to the right. I would have been constantly reformatting, so I decided to go with Week 1-12, list the readings in the order they appear in the Wiki, and then draw in concepts of Required Reading, Additional etc, and draw the lines to the concept. It works much better and is actually more legible.

CCK08: Writing Assingment #1: A Personal Reflection

October 7, 2008

I decided write a bit about how I wrote the first assignment, in part to show some anecdotal support for my thesis that Connectivist learning is a revolution in learning affairs. (See my earlier post)

I read the details of the assignment on Sept 27 and realized that I needed to get organized since I did not recall all the details I had read re Connectivism. Luckily, one of the course requirements is to maintain a Concept Map for later grading, so I spent 4 nights Monday-Thursday (or about 6 hours of work) playing catch up on all the readings to day summarizing them in the Concept Maps. My concept map got really messy as to how I laid it out so I had to spend an hour reorganizing it. While logging summaries of the readings, I embedded hyperlinks in the file. This would save me time later.

On Friday Night, Oct 3, I laid out the draft outline of the paper and formulated my introduction including the thesis that Connectivism is a revolution in learning affairs. I then caught up on the forums and discovered an energetic discussion around the Revolution in Military Affairs/Learning affairs metaphor. So I spent Saturday mulling the thesis over and its proof while doing things with the kids. Saturday night I was wiped form a week of staying up till midnight working on the concept map, so I just limited myself to some forum posts and rereading of Week 1-4 stuff.

Sunday night I started at 9:30 writing the essay. It took until about 11:30 to nail down what Connectivism is, differences with other theories, what the critics say and what I think about it. Then I started in on my last 3 paragraphs discussing the revolution metaphor. When looking for some material in the forum, I discovered another student did not like Revolution, preferring Transformation so that I incorporated that into discussion. I also included Stephen and Georges Ustream comments that they did not consider themselves Revolutionaries. I then compared them to Marx and Engels. I found myself thinking Marx and Engels were academics and not revolutionaries. The real revolutionaries were Trotsky and Lenin. I felt uncomfortable with that assertion and I thought I was going to have to dig out some old Russian history texts. But Wikipedia had my answer. Marx did advocate revolution and even went back the Germany to start a paper to help incite it. Engels actually participated in a military uprising. With my assertion negated, I included that into the paper and calmed my argument. I spent a few minutes critiquing my thoughts about where Connectivism leaves me felling “hollow” and brought in some readings I had found on free educational materials at MIT to back up Stephens’ hopes for the Web. I spent the last half hour documenting and hit the publish button at 1:45 AM

All told, the actually essay writing took 4 hours and 45 minutes for 1875 words. (Yes Stephen, I was only a thousand over, but I had a lot on my chest and a thesis to prove.) The preparation (note taking so to speak took 6 hours or so, which was kind of equivalent to attending classes for course up to this point. Forum reading and replies which helped clarify my ideas and forced me to re-learn my old college major, took another 2 hours. The interesting point I wanted to bring out was that the writing phase was under 5 hours. In the old pre-internet days, I would have had to stop writing at 11 PM and race to the library before it closed to validate Marx and Engels. The U of Windsor library would have closed at 11PM so I would have had to wait until 8 AM Monday morning to validate that and then skip first class to write it out and submit in time.

I estimate that the Social Web 2.0 and all the free internet materials saved me at least 50% of my writing and research time because I was not wasting time going to and fro to the library and wasting a lot of time validating some basic facts. Google gave me what I wanted. Also, the idea of concept maps did not exist in my undergrad days so studying involved a lot of re-reading of the same lecture notes hoping I picked up on enough concepts to pass the mid and final exams. I think Concepts maps were a critical part of me navigating the readings as I drew linkages form one other to another. Also, the Forums gave me an excellent chance to practice my ideas, without having to physically go out and find a classmate on campus to play “bounce the idea”. The fact that everyone’s ideas were available for instant recall by using the Moodle search was a real joy. Remember college days when discussions took place over beer and wine and learning was adversely affected by the buzz and a hang-over?

So, long story short, Connectivism really worked for me.

CCK08: Assignment 1: Is Connectivism a description of a Revolution in Learning Affairs?

October 6, 2008

Is Connectivism a description of a Revolution in Learning Affairs?

By

Bradley Shoebottom, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, 2008-10-06

For

Connectivism and Connected Learning, CKK08

George Siemens and Stephen Downs, Instructors

University of Manitoba

Recent trends in social web technologies, the growth in freely available information, and discussions in how human’s network together has led to a desire to formulate a new theory in learning. Connectivism seeks to explain how learners actually learn from each other more than from the traditional authoritative forms of teachers or expert. In doing so, Connectivism actually describes a revolution in learning. Teachers or the schools no longer have a monopoly on how learning occurs. This revolutionary idea is just beginning to take hold. Before talking about how revolutionary it is, we need to discuss a definition of Connectivism. Then, does it rate its own status as a theory? Some other questions include: Who hates it and likes? What makes it attractive to someone like me? Finally, we outline some problems with Connectivism. Then, we can tackle the issue of is Connectivism a revolution in learning.

Connectivism is a theory advanced by George Siemens and Stephen Downs. Siemens describes Connectivism as networked relationships towards learning where learning occurs at numerous levels (biological, neural, social, conceptual and external), facilitated by advanced communications technologies with the idea of the primacy of context or the moment. (Siemens, 2008) He goes to say that Connectivism finds its origins in social learning theory, contextual nature of learning, complexity of the mind, complex and systems-based thinking, network theory, epistemological views, communications tools, and McLuhan (“The medium is the message”). Downs describes learning based on connections and experiences as opposed to the cognitivists’ view of learning based on linguistics and logic. (Downs, Feb 3 2007) According to Downs, with Connectivism, knowledge is not really about transferring, making, or building knowledge, rather it is the connections one makes when undertaking activities to grow oneself. This type of learning happens best in networks that are diverse, autonomous, open (free), and connective (with others). Where the two diverge is that Siemens considers Connectivism to be more about the absorption of information by the learner interacting with others, whereas Downs focus is on the creation of new knowledge through the learning interaction which can then be consumed, or lead to even newer creations of knowledge.

Essentially, Connectivism is a theory emphasizing networks that change depending on the context of the learning enabled by the social internet. Previous theories[1] did not reflect that rapidly changing networks that is common to internet-based learners. (Siemens, 2008b) Siemens analytical focus is on behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism. Constructivism is the closest to Connectivism, but as Siemens points out, constructivism is based on mixing old and new knowledge. Connectivism is about the expansion and creation of new knowledge using theories from previously untapped fields of “neuroscience, cognitive science, network theory, and complex systems” added by communication technology. (Siemens, 2008b)

A new theory does not come without its own detractors. Bill Kerr admits the technology side that has become associated with Connectivism offers resonance that is hard to ignore in the Web 2.0 period. Learning has become “just in time”. (Bill Kerr, 2007) That aside, Kerr points out the four issues of language pre-dates the internet, how we think about the mind is a several thousand year-old discussion, that there are other theories that discuss distributed cognition so Connectivism is not the first, and that “network based learning theories might be more visible because the network is more visible, new and exciting.” Catherine Fitzgerald, a learner in the Connectivism and Connected Learning course run by Siemens and Downs in the fall of 2008, believes that Connectivism, because of its premise on the Web 2.0, allows a few people to dominate networks as opposed to it being a truly democratic and thus learning forum. (Catherine Fitzpatrick, 2008)

Connectivism does appear to be an explanation for the web 2.0 phenomena. It brings in the new disciplines like network theory and complex systems to help explain what is happening out there in the social web. For me, I am all about adding new people to my circle, not because of what they know, but what can be achieve through our discussions together. However, adding new people with similar interests or even people from different disciplines but intrigued by the same dilemma is difficult in small communities much like Barry Wellman explains in the phenomena of little boxes (groups), glocalization, and networked individualism. (Barry Wellman, 2002) The Web 2.0 allows for a global contact group that can then truly aid in the creation of new knowledge while consuming. The connections are as important as the information residing in the other person.

Now that I put Connectivism into my own context, I am left with two difficulties. The first is the impact Connectivism will have. Is it revolutionary? Second, Connectivism does not offer some clear prescriptions for how to apply it in the real world.

When talking about a revolution, it is necessary to clarify by what I mean by “revolutionary.” Quite simply, it is “is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.” (Wikipedia) It ususally applies to the social, historical, political, and economic spheres. In essence, there is drama to the “sea change” as it occurs reletively quickly. One could argue it is a transformation[2] where there is “a change or alteration, especially a radical one”. (Free Online Dictionary) Note that a transformation does not specify a period of time. The change may be no less than a revolution, but there would appear to be less “drama” caused by a more compressed time frame. What is not clear is if a transformation can be evolutionary which is paramount when comparing to a revolution. It would appear a transformation could be evolutionary. This implies it may be harder to pinpoint exact moments in time where significant events or influences (and what those influences were) had in the change.

So, what does this mean about Connectivism? Are we living in revolutionary times? For it to be revolutionary, we would have to see certain basic structures changing or toppling. For example, the end of universities or schools as centers of learning. OR, companies would stop charging for their training programs that support their products or stop hiding their content inside learning management systems. This has not happened. In fact, organizations are becoming quite adept at providing face-value acceptance of Siemns and Downs in that knowledge is no longer the “property” of the instructor or the institution. Other mainstream literature seems to think we are in a revolutionary time. (David Scott, Sept 2008 and Mary Ellen Bates, September 2008) One only has to look at the availability of user manuals, consumer product rating sites, or unofficial blogs on “how-to-use-my-camera”. Even presitigious universities like MIT have made their content open to the world. (Vijay Kumar, 2008) Where these institutions then retain control is over the networking with the information and the issue of credentials. To be able to contact the instructor for clarification or exaplanation or to have credit for the course, requires payment. So, where does this leave Siemens and Downs? If I could borrow a historical metaphor, they are the Marx and Engels of Socialism. They have a revolutionary theory, but the Russian Revolution of 1917 has not yet occurred.[3] In fact, organizations are borrowing some ideas from the theory, much like liberal democracies did in the late 1800s and early 1900s to curb the excesses of capitalism. In fact, Siemens and Downs would not want a Russian Revolution of 1917, because that revolution, much like any other political revolution of the 1900s, saw the original ideas horribly corrupted to suit the local needs. So, perhaps “transformation” is a better word when discussing this theory among educators. Siemens and Downs argue learning best occurs through networks, via the Web 2.0 communcations tools, and it is learner-centric, and contextual. What’s so revolutionalry about that?

The second issue I have is that Connectivism does not affor much practical advice as to how organizations should adapt to Leanirng 2.0. How should human resource departments and management approach worker performance, training, and hiring? Modern business human resource management is about linking performance to business goals. Business goals are constantly changing, so performance must also change. Proffessional development is a key part in this adaptation to change. But, how can a human resource department measure progress and competency if it is network based? How does a employee that lacks Web 2.0 skills learn? Is there a base knowledge that needs to be transferred that can be tracked. After that, is it up to the employee to indicate when they are ready? It would appear network learning is similar to the mentoring methodology that has become popular since the late 1990s, but network learning would appear to be much more dynamic. In the defence of Siemens and Downs, they do offer a prescription: open source knowwedge with communications mechanisms (the social web) to offer the bridge to the information. Not even Marx in the Communist Manifesto said anything about how to set up a judicial system or how to ensure you have the right person doing the right job (he only talked about each person would find their own niche).

In conclusion, Connectivism is a revolutionary learning theory with the potential for revolutionary outcomes. However, a student of history would note that revolutions are rare. Instead, there is a steady adaptation by people and organizations to new theories. There is nothing wrong with a revolutionary idea. It can bring out the best in people. It can also bring out the worst. What we would likely prefer to have happen is a “peaceful” grass roots thoughtful change as opposed to a usurpation of the Connectivist model.

Works Cited.

Mary Ellen Bates, “The Three Dimnesional Internet” Econtentmag.com, Vol 31, No 7, September 2008. http://www.econtentmag.com/Articles/Column/Info-Pro/The-Three-Dimensional-Internet-50276.htm

Stephen Downs (2007), “What Connectivism Is”, Half an Hour, Stephen Downs Website, February 3, 2007, http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/02/what-connectivism-is.html

Catherine Fitzpatrick (2008) , “Skeptic,” Connectivism and Connected Learning, CKK08 Moodle Foum, Week 2, http://ltc.umanitoba.ca:83/moodle/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=473

Bill Kerr (2007), “A Challenge to Connectivism,” Connectivism Conference 2007, February 7, 2007. http://learningevolves.wikispaces.com/kerr

Vijay Kumar (2008), “Recasting Distance Learning with Network-Enabled Open Education, An Interview with Vijay Kumar,” Journal of Online Education, Vol 5, No 1, October/November 2008. http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=657

Tony Poole (2008), “Re: Are we in a Revolution of Learning Affairs?” Connectivism and Connected Learning, CKK08, University of Manaitoba, Moodle Forum, Week 3, Fall 2008. October 5, 2008 http://ltc.umanitoba.ca:83/moodle/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=897&parent=5607,

David Meerman Scott, “Unlearn What You have Learned,” Econtentmag.com, Vol 31, No 7, September 2008. http://www.econtentmag.com/Articles/Column/After-Thought/Unlearn-What-You-Have-Learned-50278.htm

George Siemens (2005), “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age,” International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, Vol 2, No 1, January 2005, http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm

George Siemens (2008a), “What is the unique idea in Connectivism?Connectivism Blog, http://connectivism.ca/blog/2008/08/what_is_the_unique_idea_in_con.html

George Siemens (2008b), “What is Connectivism? Week 1: CCK08” Connectivism and Connected Learning, CKK08, University of Manaitoba, Fall 2008. http://docs.google.com/View?docid=anw8wkk6fjc_14gpbqc2dt

Barry Wellman, “Little Boxes, Glocalization, and Networked Individualism,” Digital Cities Conference in Kyoto October 2001 and to a joint meeting of the NTT Communication Sciences Laboratories and the IEEE-Kyoto section, 2002. http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman/publications/littleboxes/littlebox.PDF


[1] Learning-Thoeries.com, http://www.learning-theories.com/, October 2008, accessed October 6, 2008

[2] Thanks to Tony Poole for helping me negotiate a Revolution versus a Transformation. http://ltc.umanitoba.ca:83/moodle/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=897&parent=5607, October 5, 2008

[3] Marx and Englels considered themselves revolutionaries either Marx never “particpated or led” a revolution preferring to take a bystander reporter/philopsher perspective, but Engels did serving as aide-de-camp in an abortive uprising in Germany. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Engels


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