Archive for September, 2008

CCK08: Week 4 Musings: History of Networked Learning

September 29, 2008

I thought this was going to be an easy week as there was only one reading, A History of the Social Web. (Review to follow). I was looking forward to being able to get caught up on outlining the major themes for each reading from week 1 and 2 because I spent more time in the forums than I should have those 2 weeks. I also knew I had an assignment coming up so it would give me some time to work on it. My day and evening jobs had some major deliverables this week so it was looking manageable. Things looked rosy on Friday as I said, 1 reading.

Then low and behold I check out the Course wiki to find the hyperlink for the reading and I suddenly discover 2 more readings, one from George (8 pp) and an optional one from Stephen. George’s was at least written as an article so it has some sense to it. Stephen’s is a bibliography with almost zero context as to the usefulness or content of each link (Hint Stephen, perhaps a sentence or two to introduce each link? A little bit more user-friendly, or is that my job since this is in a Wiki site :-)) Just when I though I had a handle on things, here’s more work for the week. The least they could have done is left a placeholder on the Course Wiki that they were working on something that would eventually be linked in.

Now I am going to vent without swearing. I would add more readings whether required or optional once the course starts. Students need to know what the workload is up front. They make rational decisions based on course outlines and readings to decide if the content is what they want and if they have the time to do the work. In my 20 years of working as an educator, I have never added more readings to the course outline after the fact as a requirement to read. Yes, I sometimes point out new stuff I have run across, but I never add the required reading list. I usually try to work the new material into my lecture the first time, and then add it as a required the next time the course is run.

Now George and Stephen would likely argue that the process of Learning has to be dynamic and that if they suddenly trip across something that is utterly fantastic and should be included for a particular week, then they should do it. With a course this size, someone is bound to have insight into a study/article that George or Stephen may not have seen before. Following that logic, it would actually be irresponsible of them not to add it to the outline. I would say OK, but now you have to yank something out to compensate for the additional work. There, I said my piece about course management, now onto A History of the Social Web.

I looked forward to reading this article because I am a historian at heart with 2 Master of Arts degrees in History (Warfare Studies and Atlantic Canadian History). IT started of well with a good introduction, thesis and key points, and then it fell apart. Trebor Sholtz fell into the classic first year history student error of providing a temporal approach with very little analysis. Many of his short paragraphs began with a date, the antithesis of bad history. Many of his paragraphs stated some fact and then left the reader hanging as to the implications or the outcome (Cyclades, Closing of ARPANET, Netscape, BitTorrent, Technocrati, New IT lifestyle, Adsense, revelations, Facebook privacy statement, Deleting Online Predators Act, and User Riots). I found the info on Second Life to be particularly sparse. Then there was a brief 2 paragraph conclusion. This would have been much better had he looked at some key technologies, examined how different social tools addressed privacy, how corporations took over, how widespread some are used, etc. I found he quoted Discloser statements for websites all over the place with no real reason linking back to the thesis (“The evolution of the social Web was driven by fear, desire (to be with others), and fandom. By no means exclusively an American story, it shows instances in which users succeeded when striving for open access, jointly negotiating with corporate platform-providers.”) Unfortunately, Trebor has a serious rewrite to do. (He also needs to avoid passive voice.)

Now for an intermission while I read George’s new piece (A Brief History of Networked Learning). If you want, hum the theme song to Jeopardy…

Now that’s better compared to Sholtz. George provides an analytics framework for looking at why the social web is useful. He uses the Five Significant Stages to explain how network learning has grown. This I can bite into. I have no quibbles with his five stages although I wonder if those that went through the 5 stages understood what was going on! My own field of Information Architecture has gone through something similar and it is only the last 3-4 years that has seen an explosion of literatures (Stage 5) explaining the practice. In my case it is around user-center-design, not unlike leaner-centered design. (Stephen may take umbrage with that term and whether it the focus should be on network-centered learning. My Information architecture practice may actually about networks of similar users so perhaps this is not an unreasonable leap.) Anyways, a much better piece, albeit too short, but I understand why as it is only attempting to explain a small part of the social web.

Well signing off as it is 12:30 AM and I thought tonight was going to be an early one.

CCK08: Week 3 Musings

September 27, 2008

I was a bit late putting this up this week. I have been putting in some serious time at work designing some ontology’s about the Advanced Learning industry, and marking term papers for my Royal Military College online and onsite courses. I am starting to see everything in ontology’s.:)

I did a critique in the CKK08 Moodle about “free” learning of Stephens Downs’s presentation (Learning Networks: Theory and Practice) for this week.

I read Networks for Newbie’s so when got to George’s 20 minute presentation on Introduction to Networks I found George did not hit me with much I had not picked up. In fact, I would like to comment on George’s medium for presenting the Introduction. He chose to do this as a video/audio blog built by Articulate. I found myself distracted by the medium. What he had to say I could have read much faster if it had been text instead of video/audio. In fact, it looked like George was reading form a script. I commented in general terms to my night class how some learners, myself included, absorb material much faster in the text format than listening/watching someone talk about it. This is especially true for theories that do not lend themselves well to diagrams, graphs etc. Interestingly, people transmit information much more quickly in the oral fashion because they can talk faster than they can type. So what is good for the speaker is not good for the listener. I commented to the class if I could just get some good audio to text translation software, I would talk to my “secretary” and it would write all my reports and emails! 🙂 Perhaps George could spice his presentation up with some bullet overlays?

Someone in the course sent me a link to Introduction to social network methods. What a snoozer! IT was full of Algebra matrices and the author kept saying “as you can see by the matrices….”. Well, h e double toothpicks, it wasn’t obvious to me. I will grant it has been 20 years since I took university algebra. Anyways, not high on my recommend list of reading.

Valdis Krebs presentation on networks was very interesting although I found his analysis of the terrorists and Sept 11 to be a bit dubious as to his conclusions as to their connections to various people. Perhaps he had some insight I am not aware of but isn’t hard to describe a network of dead people unless you have a lot of their correspondence? His Porn Star HIV network was a bit funny. Sure they are real people and the disease needed to be studies to determine who got infected, but seeing the names up there was “funny” the Tuberculosis example was a bit “Scary” I wonder if anyone has done a biological warfare scenario network analysis for anthrax?

Roy Williams emailed me a draft of a paper he did on Networks and Global Micro Structures. I found it ironic his link was to Sage publications for the published version and it would cost me $20 to download it. I only pay for history texts these days. Everything else I want for free unless my company is willing to pay for Information Architecture books for my day job. George Siemens told me about a book called Numerati the other day that I have to check out because it reads like a conspiracy theory. Anyways, back to Roy‘s article. Interesting read about complex adaptive networks. My read on the microstructures is that we did not understand structurally how they worked until we understood that the were actually complex adaptive systems.

I started a thread in the Moodle about whether or not we are in a Revolution in Learning, analogous to the Revolution in Military affairs in the strategic studies field. I don’t think it is a Revolution, and with Catherine Fitzgerald, I will agree. It think the tools side has been an evolution. On the theory side, I think Connectivism allows us to find others (networks) with closer interests to ourselves. I suspect the interaction can be more intense since there is a higher probability of talking to people, and more of them, that you would get “glocally” or in your family/neighbourhood group. Does intensity = a Revolution? Hmm…

Signing off as its 11 PM on a Friday and its time to network with my wife.

CCK08: An Onotology of my Belief system

September 22, 2008
Bradley Shoebottom Belief System Mind Map

Bradley Shoebottom Belief System Mind Map

In a discussion about non-hierachial ontologies, I was challenged how to come up with one. It was suggested I do my belief system. Here it is, and darn it, after the first 4 major concepts, it went hierachic. Maybe I have too much darn logic in my noodle (brain).

Here it is:

CCK08: Week 2 Mind Map of Course

September 20, 2008

Here is my first posting of my mind map of the course. I spent 2.5 hours laying it out on the 17th only to realize I had no idea how to describe the relationship. I went to the CMAP website and found some excellent resources particularly the step by step process and an example. So after “learning how to do this” I spent 2.5 hours tonight (19 Sept) changing the arrow directions on most of my links and describing the links. I think I got the majority of what I would call the technology side and course administration and navigationdown.  What a huge mess. I am going to have to play around with the layout to prevent overlapping lines. I think I might put some nodes in to reduce the “fanning” and running over top of the boxes. This might be a just before the final due date re-formatting effort.

Tomorrow I hope to list all the readings/presentations, build the links between classes in the various 3 domains and then describe the key ideas for each presentation or reading. I am going to draw the line at the recordings as they can go all over the place. Same for the blogs.

Anyway, here it is. By the way, I exported to format as it is clearest for printing and smallest format going around.

Mind Map of CCK08 Course Information in Week 2

Mind Map of CCK08 Course Information in Week 2

CCK08: PISA testing of K-12

September 19, 2008

Stephen Downes wrote a critique of the PISA testing given to 15 year olds world wide and the faulty data collection and statistical analysis.

Here is my reply in which I agree with him and my own thoughts on the misuse of one disciplines (economics) methodologies in another (education).

CCK08: Connectivism Week 2 Readings

September 17, 2008

Here are some thoughts on Week two required readings:

Stephen Downes Types of Knowledge and Connective KnowledgeI can’t really disagree with any of Stephen’s discussion of the qualitative or quantitative nature of knowledge and the knowledge of networks and knowledge created and stored by networks.

Stephen Downes Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge First off, I noticed Stephen doesn’t use a bibliography or foot/end notes for most of his writing. Instead, he uses hyperlinks. Good use of technology however there are two situations where this technique falls down and can cause problems for readers int he future 1. Broken links because the linked in info is no longer stored in the same place or at all (This is a big problem with web publishing) and 2. What if the info is not available on the web because it is legacy info (a book Amazon does not carry. I think there is still a place for traditional citation styles. If the link can incorporate publication information, then even better, but I do not know of any standard that when you build a link, you add author, title, publisher, date, place etc.

Now onto what he had to say…

I am not sure what Stephen has against the PISA international education scores. I would like him to explain that in more detail.

Stephen talks of a personal Learning Environment which is a good idea. The Royal Military College creates semester long course based on a number of modules. Students complete readings, writing, participate in blogs, pod cast to meet the module’s knowledge objects. But what is really neat and that I have not seen any other public education institution do is that the student can stop taking the course in mid-stream and pick it up within a year because of work, personal, medical or military operational reasons. This means students do not have to take the whole course again. wouldn’t it be great if all universities adopted a modular content approach so that students can pick up where the left off if they run into difficulties. The course I teach have about 50% attrition rate so the ability to restart the course later where you left off is very important.

I noted by inference, and not by anything Stephen said, that he seems to be a likely fan of the DITA XML authoring language because DITA XML is open source standard where content is separated from the publishing format.

Shifting From Knowing Knowledge. Not much to say on this one. Well written and argued well.

Dave Cormier Rhizomatic Education: Community as CurriculumI liked his comment Knowledge becomes a negotiation. From an instructors point of view, questioning by students forces the instructor to re-evaluate base knowledge and interpretations especially if the student digs up information not previously encountered by the instructor.

Carl Bereiter Rethinking Learning I agree with Carl, the metaphor “the Mind is a container” is rally bad. It implies it is can be full and what do I do when it is full. This is analogous to the idea the mind is like a computer and RAM gets full. What about the other containers out there. How do they connect? Can I partially empty my container?

Metaphors are inherently bad and should not be used. In technical writing, we now follow the practice of internationalization which means getting rid of non standard English like sports analogies and common conversational language.

Carl discusses mental models and way finding, two subjects dear to my discipline, information architecture. Mental models are often skewed as I discover taking to workers. Interstingly, I find about 75-80% of people have the same perceptions. These core perceptions then find their way into a solution for the problem the people are experiencing. The other 20% may be unique requirements that then need evaluation as to how critical they are for resolution. Way finding is tracking how people remember disparate pieces of information. While in in training as an IA, I was told to document how it was that I accessed certain features on my computer and on the web. Way finding is in part learning to know where to go. My wife is still amazed at my ability to navigate in unfamiliar cities. AS a former pilot and army officer, I was “one” with maps and terrain. I learned how cities get laid out, their topography, sectioning of a city, history (British survey pattern versus none). As such, I can be approaching a city with 4 exits and by reading a few navigation signs figure out that the commercial district is actually the 3rd exit. Previous way finding signs just didn’t have enough symbols to warrant the part of the city I wanted to go to.

Carl then talks about how do you train a knowledge worker to write about knowledge (software). I would say this is no different than trying to train a person to be a non-fiction writer. There as to be some affinity to the subject, there has to be self-reflection, organization, discipline, and practice, practice, practice! The non-fiction writer has to recognize subjects work writing about and then tel them in a compelling way. They can do a better job if they have gone through a similar experience although this can sometimes taint the story.

Stephen Downes Introduction to Connective Knowledge is a good background read. Not much controversial I found in there.

CCK08: Connectivism Week 1 Additional Readings

September 16, 2008

Here’s some thoughts on Week 1 Additional Readings:

Maarten de Laat Networked Learning. An outstanding piece of research that shows how learning and human resources managementneed to be linked to provide outcomes based learning that results in improved performance. This is the way industry needs to go. He notes Human Resources Departments must think strategically what are core competencies.

Too often I have seen private libraries or companies create learning, hosted on an LMS that can provide content, testing, and progress (great for HR tracking) but it is not in any way linked to on the job performance, which is the critical indicator.

Stephen Downes The Buntine Oration: Learning Networks. Stephen slams the commercialization of learning into private for profit LMSs. This has forced me to rethink the companies I have worked for, because this is exactly what they do. My current company provides training in the telecommunications space because the original equipment manufacture recognizes training is essential, but does not want to do it, so they outsource to us. We listen to what content the learners what to learn, however, we don’t have all the Learning 2.0 tools in place. We do recognize when pure e-learning will work, when mentoring has to happen, and when a live classroom is best and when you can run virtual classrooms.

In response to Stephens int ital criticism of e-Learning, much of the content was developed in proprietary tools that made it hard to truly interact with the content. We are now at a place with DITA XML where many of those concerns can be alleviated. OEMs are starting to realize the power of topic based authoring and access by the customer and feedback on a much more granular level than before. This goes with learning too. If the documentation is written properly with task flows etc, do you even need training courses? This is a fundamental questions I ask but would my company be out of business?

Stephen criticizes learning designs for packaging of learning. It was needed under the old regime of learning, but as I point out in the previous paragraph, new authoring and publishing technologies allow the user to consume whatever amount of info they want and that they can enter and exit the information at whatever point they desire.

Stephen promotes EDu_RSS and its filters for aggregating and filtering, but in a sense, is this no different than a learning design “filtering” out information that an “expert” has deemed more useful? I question his critique on learning designs and being too formal. What is wrong with having a learning design for people that have little knowledge about a subject? Why can’t an expert design a “guided tour” to ensure base knowledge? Stephen says LEanring Designs are a dea end, but Even Connectivism has a learning design to outline what is in and out of the course. It lets everyone know what will be covered. It ensure a basic level of knowledge is discussed. Companies often want to know employees received training although I point out earlier that the lack of good HR performance measure tools mean they default to tracking training received as opposed to performance outcomes. I wonder if a decentralizedweb can provide the needed learning for performance improvement especially for web novices.

George Siemens Connectivism: Learning as Network-Creation offers good ideas that higher education and the corporate world need to move more to Web 2.0. However, George does not offer very complete ideas or implications for the Human Resources management role for performance improvement. In Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, George indicates that leanring is about outcomes but again he doesn’t link this with the human resources function.

All in all, I found these additional readings to be even more interesting than the required readings with more “practical” implications.

CCK08: Connectivism Week 1 Required Readings

September 16, 2008

After doing all of the required readings I have the following observations:

George Siemens on “Connectivism: Learning theory or Pastime of the Self-Amused?” Language is technology but with ideology (stereotypes/filters). Language is needed to learn thus learning occurs when communicating. The more ways to communicate, the more learning. However, I do point out that it depends on the subject. Physical activities for workers that do things with their hands (assembly line work, manual labor, object handling) may not. I have seen simulations of objects that allow a user to see and interact with the object (pistol) in an LMS, but ultimately, the proof of the learning is the ability to do something with the object in the real world. In the telecommunications world, my company runs web events that instruct the students (with whiteboards) and then allow the student to “dial in” to the switch and configure it according to a lab exercise. I agree with his observation that acquiring learning does not equal learning. Often learning does not occur until conversations happen around the knowledge or you use it. I found at grad school that I would acquire knowledge, and then have no one to bounce ideas off of. I could not be sure of having an intellectual conversation in the student pub. Using Learning 2.0 tools, I can validate or refute my ideas as quick as I can log on and find a group in that subject.

The “Teens and Social Media” report and “Media Multitasking among American Youth” offer interesting observations however I question the final statistics because all of the statistics revolve around self-reporting. As an information architect, I often find people say one thing and do another. I would consider this study as a “tentative” status. I would suggest a follow on study is needed where a researcher actually has to watch the teens do whatever it is they are doing. Obviously more expensive but using these initials stats, we can figure out the user groups then select a dozen for each group to really see what teens are really doing. If anything, if we could get teens watching 1/2 as much TV and spending that time doing homework (self-study or online), just image what the grade improvement could be! It would also be interesting to do a similar study among adults. My company does it for our workers to determine process improvements.

This course is “forcing” me to use some social software that I have not yet needed to use for my two jobs or personal life (Moodle, Google Maps overlays, Second Life, Open ID) I have used many of the others. The key to making the learning experience work successfully is trying to manage user names/passwords and learning the new software. The less time having to “waste” time learning new software, the more satisfying the experience. Thus, software should be as intuitive as possible. I have been spoiled by operating in the SharePoint 2007 environment for one job and Desire2Learn Learning Management System for the other. Thus, I have not been forced to go to different software for each aspect of social interaction that I need. My company is toying with the idea of how to create the virtual Office environment for the 50% of our employees that work from home/remote offices. Can SharePoint pull it off, or do we need to go to Second Life. Perhaps it is a melding of the two? (Sorry, there is no Innovatia island yet.)

Ursula M Franklin, a professor at the University Toronto, Wrote “The Real World of Technology” in 1998. She talks about the modern interconnected world that was watching a lot of TV. This created pseudo communities in which people become identified with events elsewhere in the world and become mobilized in some way because of that. This comes at the cost of the home community, much in the same way that Barry Wellman talked about the subject in “Little Boxes, Glocalization, and Networked Individualism” Franklin then goes on to talk about pseudo realities where the immersed person then becomes totally immersed in these new realities. This can be for the good and the bad. It is good, if you learn from it, but bad if it comes at the cost of other aspects of your life i.e. becoming addicted to reality shows instead of interacting with your family or friends. Note that Franklin first wrote this in 1990 at the height of the CNN effect and prior to the wide-spread internet.

CCK08: Hello Connectivism world!

September 5, 2008

My name is Bradley Shoebottom.

I live in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

My day job is an Information Architect, primarily in the single sourcing/DITA XML area for technical publications and eLearning. Lately I have gotten into the power of Ontology’s and how to use them to spin off into creating information sets for content development. I have been doing this job for 2 years. I work in a virtual office environment with only one coworker of like function in Fredericton. Most of my team members are in a city an hour drive away and 1/2 of the other Info Architects are in other provinces. I use a laptop soft phone to communicate so I can work from home easily if I want. Prior to that I wrote telecommunications user manuals for 2 years and eLearning Instructional Design and development for 4 years. I have run a fleet of school buses and commanded a squadron (19) tanks for the Canadian Armed Forces.

I have 20 years experience as an Instructor with the Canadian Military, 10 teaching tactics, and 10 teaching Canadian history and politics for the Royal Military College of Canada. I currently teach 5 course a year, 60% are on line using Desire2Learns LMS system.

My pet peeves are:

  • passive voice,
  • incorrect use of commas,
  • bad interface/access design, but my biggest peeve is:
  • organizations that want to defer correct interface/access design problems until the next capital year because of modern accounting practices. Not a very user friendly approach!(Yes, I can be a bit impatient and a bit of a pest. 🙂 )

I am interested in this course to give me:

  1. experience in using some technology tools I haven’t had a chance to use,
  2. see/hear techniques for their implementation, and
  3. gaining credit towards the certificate program which will be helpful for me and my company.

I would consider this course a success if my exposure to the above 3 points allows me to communicate more effectively in my virtual office environment, allows me to implement strategies and techniques to make my own teaching more effective, and if I can take away ideas that will allow me to implement with my company and its clients.

I have extensive experience using Le arming Management Systems (Top Class and Desire2Learn). I have a blog on my companies SharePoint site. I am checking the 2 courses I teach each night. I mark electronic files posted there, respond to discussions, and post news items. I am on Facebook,  and LibraryThing as active users. I use AbeBooks quite a bit since I collect out of print Canadian military history books. I am an on line banking fan, and I only go to the bank machine to deposit checks, and get money for the babysitters and why little discretionary cash I can give myself a week. I use Wikis quite a bit inside of Sharepoint, but haven’t had time to contribute to Wikipedia on the history side. There are lots of subjects that need covering or could use better info, but that can be a full time job.

I find I do not have time to really read my news aggregaters. I stick to the local paper and browse CBC news. For Info Architecture materials, I read bulletins from Read/write Web, Jakob Nielsen, George Siemens, Knowledge World Magazine, the Society for Technical Communication, EContent Magazine, Boxes and Arrows, and Step Two Designs. For My military history interests, I subscribe to The Northern Mariner, Acadiensis, The Canadian Military Journal, The Canadian Army Journal, Canadian Training and Doctrine Bulletin, The Journal of Canadian Military History, and Parameters.

Technology wise, were do I see myself in 5 years? Using one electronic device that can be a phone (Bluetoothdoes not like to play with my Compaq 6325 laptop), camera, video recorder, GPS web browser, gaming (like the motion sensors in the WII) and leanring interface, office productivity tool that can find me the nearest favorite coffee shop, when away from home, at 1 am that is open, and has my favorite donut (Boston Cream).