CCK08: Week 4 Musings: History of Networked Learning

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.



7 Responses to “CCK08: Week 4 Musings: History of Networked Learning”

  1. Stephen Downes Says:

    In fairness to us, the course outline does say that we will be introducing new material each week, either in the form of some text or a video or a presentation or something. Maybe we should be adding it in a different place, under a heading specifically designed for the Monday content?

    As for my contribution this week – I added it simply because I thought people would be interested. It is a work in progress, as I mentioned. I am working on the ‘next’ ‘previous’ links to make it a nice linear read. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine – skip over to something more useful.

    I liked your remarks on the readings. It’s difficult to do history well, and not many people have attempted the history of networks. Probably the best histories are those written by the people involved – people like Barabasi and Watts. But these focus on social networks, not a global view. Andy Clark’s Microcognition is a good philosophical history to the 1990s. But assigning these would have been too much for a single week in a course.

    All of that said, I take your point: if we offer this course again, get better readings for week 4.

  2. Bradley Shoebottom Says:

    I missed there would be additonal items added as the course progressed. I was wondering when I saw the course developed as a Wiki. Certainely makes it easier for the two of you to update the site.

    You caught me in a cranky mood as the course has involved more hours than I thought (Which I am getting a lot out of by the way) and as I said in the blog, I thought I had a “handle” on it.

    As for alerting us, if anything has been added, how about a NEW icon. If you want to get really facing, make it user unique. What is new to me is not new for the next person who may only come on the site once a week. My Spider Sense tell me this is a fair bit of development work.

    Now here is the question, why are you adding new content on Monday’s? Are you trying to control the dissemination of the contnet? (I seriously doubt that knowing your philosophical bent), or is it a matter of not having enough time to get all the resources together before the course started? If the latter, than was the course really ready for the world?

    Stephen, I have no doubt that the links you provided are some quality stuff, I jus tdid not have any info as to determine whether or not to spend any more time on following each link. And as well all know, time is precious and we will follow the links which have good contect descriptions. No context, me no follow as it could be Amazon trying to sell me somehting 🙂

    Thanks for taking the suggestions in such good grace. Maybe there is an NRC/SSHRC/NSERC project in writing the history of the Social Web?

  3. Stephen Downes Says:

    > why are you adding new content on Monday’s?

    Because, typically, that’s when it’s ready.

    I don’t think either George or I think of an online course as something you develop ahead of time and then ‘deliver’ like a prepackaged pile of information.

    The content George and I add each week is intended to be developed within the context of the course, specifically for the course.

    That’s why it’s not always pedagogically perfect, and sometimes a bit ad hoc – like my history of the internet, which was the best I could manage on a busy week.

    At the beginning of the course, my plan was to make a video for each Monday. That’s still sort of my plan, but it has suffered somewhat in the engagement of the course.

    From the perspective of time, this course should not be occupying what a typical (lab) course would at a college or university. Consider:

    Three hours of lecture:
    – Monday contributions from George and I (1 hour)
    – Wednesday Elluminate session, often with guest (1 hour)
    – Friday conversaton (1 hour)

    – papers listed in wiki (2 hours, give or take)

    Lab (discussion, forums) – 2 hours

    Assignments (blog posts, etc) – 1 hour

    = 8 hours per week

    (Consider – a ‘normal’ course load of 5 courses would be 40 hours per week).

  4. Bradley Shoebottom Says:


    OK on the pedagogy.

    As for the math, I advise my undergrads there course will take them about 8 hours a week (they would do 5 courses). Howevr, my onlines studnets report spending much more time in the forums than I ahve outlined. I attribute it to the fact type is so much slower than being able to respond in person in class. however, In the forums, everyone can participate if they want because there is time to get theire words in edgewise, whereas in a class disucsison, we are limited in time.

    So while the hours spent on the course go up because of the foums, the learning also goes up (not a proven theory on my part, although I am getting alot out of this)

  5. ruthdemitroff Says:

    Technology and connectivism is fun but Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is still amazingly good at determining whether or not a war should be entered. War history may not be as sexy a topic as information/misinformation but it’s usually the most basic things that bring people down – like slipping on a banana peel. When they took cadets out of the school system in the 1950s, it was a big mistake. Everyone needs to know how to survive on their own terrain. Every country should have confidence in its homefront advantage. My kids were born in the 1980s at the height of mothers thinking they could create world peace by not buying war toys. The kids were all in my backyard playing war games. Life is what life is and kids instinctively know they need to grow strong, dependable bodies.

  6. CCK08: Week 4 Faster Than A Turnip? « Clyde Street Says:

    […] time measure for what is essentially a kairological experience. I did not stay up as late as bradleyshoebottom but like arielion in his post I have a sense of my own learning biography time line through the […]

  7. Jon K Says:

    In my experience using Distance Ed models, factor in 1.5 times the amount a face to face class will take. According to an article by Gary Pattillo in College and Research Libraries News (June 2005) it takes 2 times the amount of time a face to face class would.

    I second your notion (I won’t call it a theory if you don’t!) that learning is enhanced via online – although I think most of the participants in this course have come in with a positive attitude towards online learning. It would be interesting to see if those time results are similar in a hostile (or had negative attitudes towards online) group.

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