Archive for September, 2009

Memetics and Connectivism

September 20, 2009

Hello Connectivism & Connected Learning 2009,

I took the course last year. I just finished reading an article by Andrew Sullivan on memetics and how it applies to strategic communications to counter terrorism ideologies (his article). I immediately thought of how to relate this to Connectivism. The Sullivan talks about how the broadcast medium and the internet are the focus of counter-terrorism message sending, however, among the Islamic community, people do not listen to the message because the counter ideology to Islamic ideology is a head-on attack to the teaching of the Koran. Thus, no one listens to Voice of America etc for their counter-terrorism ideological message. Sullivan argues, that to be effective, strategic communications needs to occur at the grass roots levels.

In many cultures, our values, beliefs, and ideology is formed through those we have close contact with. Therefore, to be successful in Iraq and Afghanistan, NATO must take its message directly to the people. And counter terrorism message cannot be a direct assault on Islam. Instead it must be what he calls “oblique” or what the English Interwar period military strategist, JFC Fuller calls, the indirect approach to defeat your enemy.

So what does this talk of strategic communications and counterterrorism mean to connectivism? Well connectivism is partly about how the social web allows many disparate people from all over the word connect with those of similar interests. Sullivan argues that technology will have little impact, instead you have to get the “oblique ideas” into peoples heads through verbal and personal discussions. (I guess that is why the Provincial Reconstruction Teams are so important.) So, Connectivsm and connected learning do not appear to be valid in this case. Read Little Boxes, Glocalization and Networked Individualism for another viewpoint that may support Sullivan’s thesis.

However, in support of connectivism and connected learning, I would argue that the broadcast and internet communications have to be more subtle. Rather than be a “bulldozer” you have to be a “gardener” to cultivate change in ideas. This is a principle of Facebook and Twitter. Companies that try to force their message out there, do not do well. It is better to have a conversation. So NATO and the US would be well advised to take advantage of the social aspects of the web to counter terrorist ideology.

In Afghanistan, the context of communication is the personal dialog. Therefore, the message must be carried by real people. In Afghanistan, maybe Connected Learning is the personal. So the trick is to get the message out to as many areas as possible and that it be consistent, but local. Perhaps NATO’s use of information technology allows the messengers (the PRT team) to be rapidly responsive to changes and to disseminate that information to all the military forces, to the Afghan government and ultimately onto the Afghan people.

POE206 Fall 2009 and New Experiment

September 14, 2009

I am teaching POE 206, RMCs Canadian Civics course. I am doing it completely online compared to teaching it to a live class like I did in  Winter 2009, so students have some essay requirements, discussions in online forums, and some timed quizzes composed of an essay question.

I disagree with the time essay question on two points: 1. Timed testes especially essays, result in regurgitation and not critical analysis. 2. Many of the students are on operations or temporary duty whether home or abroad, and while the quiz can be done anytime during a specific week, they only have 2 hours. Some students will not have connectivity that week, thus forcing me to modify the quiz  time frame in the LMS or accept email submissions based on an honor system. How many students will this happen to? Well its been my experience at least every student has to ask for a modified submission date for at least one assignment per my courses. This makes at least 25 out of 175 assignment submissions have to have negotiated alternate arrangements. So why not go to an honor system like the History department at RMC does for HIE208 and HIE275?

Now for my experiment. In my Winter POE206 course  that I blogged about previous (Post 1, Post 2, Post 3, Post 4), I had the student stake a political orientation survey. I found the majority of the class was conservative leaning last winter, which surprised me because the Military was Liberal leaning in the 1990s. So I suspected in the Winter of 2009 that it had something to do with recent budget increases, purchases of new equipment, and what soldiers don’t love a war, and the conservatives are running one (Despite the fact it was the Liberals that took us int that war.)  So for my fall course, I have decided to ask the next question as ask the students to recollect who the voted for in Sept 2008, January 2006 and June 2004 and why they voted for who they did (local considerations , federal leader, party platform, did not vote, spoiled vote).

Whit this info, I expect to be able to answer the influence of the orientation survey.

The next thing that interests me is if this course will have an impact on how students view politics. Many students report disliking politics or often finding themselves ignorant of the Canadian system, so I wonder if the course will change their views. Thus, I plan on asking them in the last week to retake the political orientation survey to see if their scored change and in which areas that they do. If there is a forced election this fall, then I will have even better information to work with!

Perhaps I can turn this into a combined Masters of education and political science degree? perhaps I can compare how I was able to teach the course in Winter 2009 (live students in the class)  in the Winter of 2009 to Fall 2009 (online versions) to see which course is more effective by looking at grades and studnets qualitative comments to me?

A couple issues come up here: 1. Can I get into a MEd program quick enough to take advantage of the situation. 2. Will RMC get annoyed with me by having students be surveyed without their permission, 3. What ethical questions do I raise not only with my employer (RMC), but by using my own course as the basis of a MEd thesis when the students were taking the course for credit and I am probing them for information? (Do they answer the survey because they fell that to not answer the survey will affect their grade?)

I look forward to your comments.