Back in March 2013, I signed up to do the “Open Education“ MOOC from The Open University on the OpenLearn platform. Also in March, I started my Doctorate in Education (EdD) at Canterbury Christ Church University, so the “Open Education” course took a back seat.
The EdD is made up of seven modules at Master’s level, on the successful completion of these modules can I then progress on doing the EdD thesis. For my first EdD assignment, a 4000 word essay, I undertook to “identify and analyse a theoretical approach in an area of [my] choice”. I choose to look at Connectivism, on the back of the “e-Learning and Digital Cultures” course that I took with the University of Edinburgh using the Coursera platform – I wanted to understand more of what I and others had experienced on that course. Interestingly, the concept of connectivism was raised in the “Open Education” course and a whole activity was devoted to it.
In some sense, this blog article is my contribution to that “Open Learn” activity as well as a reflection on the essay that I wrote for my EdD.
A tangled web
You can imagine my surprise that when I started to read around this notion of connectivism, I started off thinking that it was indeed “a learning theory for the digital age” (Siemens, 2005) to conclude that in its current form, the ‘theory’ needed to be relegated to that of a “phenomenon” (Bell, 2011), or a ‘hypothesis‘ at best. I had a lot of trouble with Siemens’ complex and messy theory. I thought Downes’ (2005) work on Connective Knowledge, which provides connectivism with the “epistemological framework“, was much more grounded.
When you start reading around connectivism, you soon come across a lot of other competing “networked theories of learning” seeking legitimacy like: heutagogy (Hase & Kenyon, 2000, 2001, 2007; Blaschke, 2012); communal constructivism (Holmes et al., 2001; Leask & Younie, 2001); navigationism (Brown, 2006, 2006); wildfire learning (Engeström, 2007, 2009); rhizomatic learning (Cormier, 2008); c3-learning (Sims, 2008); affinity spaces (Gee & Hayes, 2009); and quantum perspective of learning (QL) (Janzen, Perry & Edwards, 2012) to name but a few. But it is Siemens (2005) who makes the bold claim that behaviourism, cognitivism, and constructivism are unable to address how learning can be externalised; that learning can take place in “non-human appliances“ (i.e. databases, devices, and tools); and the meta-skills that are necessary to cope with the burgeoning “knowledge-rich environments”.
You also get a sense from this tangled web that not everyone has a clear and cogent understanding of what connectivism actually entails. Rita Kop provides, in my humble opinion, the best “definition” of connectivism, thus far:
“…learning organization whereby there is not a body of knowledge to be transferred from educator to learner and where learning does not take place in a single environment; instead, knowledge is distributed across the Web, and people’s engagement with it constitutes learning” (Kop, 2011:20).
So learning and the production of knowledge is less about “know-how” and more around “know-where“. A number of educational commentators (Kerr, 2007; Bell, 2011; Friesen & Lowe, 2012) have argued that there are other existing theories that could adequately explain the concerns that Siemens raises, such examples include: social construction of technology (Pinch & Bijker, 1984); third-generation activity theory (Engeström, 1999); flexible learning (Bigum & Rowan, 2004); and actor-network theory (Latour, 2005).
A constellation of meanings
In response to criticism from Verhagen (2006), Siemens (2005) uses both the work of Driscoll (2000) to explore the “three epistemological traditions” to demonstrate their weaknesses and cites work by Mergel (1998), a University of Saskatchewan student, who cites the “five definitive questions that serve to distinguish learning theory from the others”. Mergal originally found the “five definitive questions” from Ertmer & Newby (1993:53), though the original source of this work comes from Schunk (1991) – I’ll come back to this later (see The Emperor’s New Clothes below).
Needless to say, as much of the criticism is levied at Siemens on his use of ‘theory’, you have to examine that aspect of his work as well. You will soon discover that the word ‘theory’, within an educational discourse, is constructed with a “constellation of meanings” (Thomas, 1997:77) so it becomes hard to pin down – the word ‘learning’ suffers from a similar semantic issue. If that is not enough, you soon trespass into deep and dangerous waters regarding theory as it has a fair number of advocates and critics on either side of the theoretical spectrum, with Wilfred Carr (2006) extolling that:
“… the educational theory debate will no longer appear as contributors to some timeless philosophical argument about how educational theory is to be conducted and understood but as the unconscious inheritors of a flawed intellectual project whose faulty presuppositions were to ensure its eventual and inevitable demise” (Carr, 2006:137)
Gary Thomas (1997:76), for example, would like to see more “methodological anarchy”, where educators should think outside the box and not be too hamstrung in developing theory for theory’s sake. Using Miller’s (1993) differences between ‘theory’ and ‘developmental theory’ as a lens, Kop & Hill (2008:6) argue that connectivism, currently, does not “warrant … being treated as a separate learning theory in and of its own right”.
In the field
I then turned my attention to the phenomenon that is the massive online open course (MOOC), specifically the cMOOC variety as that has features that are inherent within connectivism. This for me is where connectivism as a ‘theory’ does not adequately explain the processes that are going on for those learners who “don’t get” social media or online networking – I am not entirely sure what type of learning, if any, actually took place.
For those researchers who were evaluating the “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge“ (CCK) online course that was developed by Siemens and Downes in 2008, some of their findings were similar to the experiences of the learners on the “e-Learning and Digital Cultures” course in terms of being “infowhelmed”; needing more support and guidance; and having trouble developing coherent conversations using the tools that they personally selected. Even Downes (2012a:para.17) acknowledges that the “connected learner” are most likely going to be “more advanced reasoners, thinkers, motivators, arguers, and educators [who] can practice their skills in a public way by interacting with each other“, and offers the following sobering conclusion that the CCK course was “insufficiently connective and they were tending to slip towards an emphasis on content” (Downes, 2012b:para. 76).
The Emperor’s New Clothes
I feel rather churlish mentioning this, and it does seems that I am nit-picking, which I probably am. But, I have noticed in Siemens’ (2005) original paper that there are a couple of instances of what I would consider as being misattribution. For example, Siemens cites from the work of Mergel (1998) who refers to the “five definitive questions that serve to distinguish learning theory from the others” which she had originally picked up from Ertmer & Newby (1993:53). In Ertmer & Newby’s paper, they had derived the “five definitive questions” from Schunk (1991), the original author. Mergal had credited Schunk, but Siemens did not – perhaps this was an oversight on his part?
The other instance comes from a simple definition of chaos, Siemens’ cites Nigel Calder for saying that chaos is a “cryptic form of order“ in the August 2004 edition of “Science Week“. Again, Calder is explicitly clear that this phrase is attributed to the mathematician, Ian Stewart from his 1995 book: “Nature’s Numbers: Unreal Reality of Mathematics“, you’ll find the definition on page 123 of that book. Again, Siemens does not acknowledge Stewart. It does kind of suggest how rigourous he has been with his other references and citations.
I am somewhat reminded of the digital natives / digital immigrants controversy that emerged as a result of Prensky’s (2001) seminal work. A lot of academics, and indeed a lot of learning and teaching policy documents and strategies were based upon the heralding of a new breed of learner. Almost 10 years later, we discover that this “new breed of learner” is not what was originally prophesied and that Prensky’s work was made up of a large dollop of homespun common-sense and a huge dose of rhetoric, but was incredibly short on empirical evidence that became an ”inadequate explanation of young people’s competence and effectiveness with digital media and services” (Bayne & Ross, 2007; Bennett et al., 2008; Selwyn, 2009; Bullen et al., 2011, cited in Bell, 2011). I just hope that connectivism doesn’t fall down this particular pathway.
Technology has a tendency to expose, highlight and make transparent those processes, procedures and phenomena that would have ordinarily been hidden from view and I think connectivism has an important contribution to make to network theories, but at the moment I am not convinced that it is a ‘learning theory’, but it is an phenomenon that needs to be examined and maybe, just maybe, explained in behaviourist, cognitivist, or constructivist terms.
Bayne, S. & Ross, J. (2007). “The ‘digital native’ and ‘digital immigrant’: A dangerous opposition”. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE), Edinburgh, Scotland, December 2007. Available at: http://www.malts.ed.ac.uk/staff/sian/natives_final.pdf [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Bell, F. (2011). “Connectivism: Its Place in Theory-Informed Research and Innovation in Technology-Enabled Learning”. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), pp. 98-118. Available at: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/902/1664 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Bennett, S., Maton, K. & Kervin, L. (2008). “The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence”. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), pp. 775–786. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00793.x [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Bigum, C. & Rowan, L. (2004). “Flexible learning in teacher education: Myths, muddles and models”. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 32(3), pp. 213-226. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1359866042000295389 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Blaschke, L.M. (2012). “Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning”. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), pp. 56-71. Available at: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1076/2087 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Brown, T.H. (2005). “Beyond constructivism: Exploring future learning paradigms”. Education Today, 2. Available at: http://www.bucks.edu/media/bcccmedialibrary/documents/academics/facultywebresources/Beyond_constructivism.pdf [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Brown, T.H. (2006). “Beyond constructivism: Navigationism in the knowledge era”. On the Horizon, 14(3), pp. 108-120. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/10748120610690681 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Bullen, M., Morgan, T. & Qayyum, A. (2011). “Digital learners in higher education: Generation is not the issue”. Journal of Learning and Technology, 37(1), pp. 1-24. Available at: http://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/550/298 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Carr, W. (2006). “Education Without Theory”. British Journal of Educational Studies, 54(2), pp. 136-159. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8527.2006.00344.x [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Downes, S. (2005). “An Introduction to Connective Knowledge”. Stephen’s Web, 22.12.2005. Available at: http://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=33034 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Downes, S. (2012a). “What a MOOC Does – #Change11”. Half an Hour, 1.3.2012. Available at: http://halfanhour.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/what-mooc-does-change11.html [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Downes, S. (2012b). “Education as Platform: The MOOC Experience and what we can do to make it better”. Stephen’s Web, 12.3.2012. Available at: http://www.downes.ca/post/57725 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Driscoll, M.P (2000). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. 2nd Edition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Engeström, Y. (1999). “Activity theory and individual and social transformation.” In Engström, Y., Miettinen, R. & Punämaki, R-L. (Eds). Perspectives on Activity Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Engeström, Y. (2007). “From Communities of Practice to Mycorrhizae”. In: Hughes, J., Jewson, N. & Unwin, L. (Eds.), Communities of Practice: Critical perspectives. London: Routledge.
Engeström, Y. (2009). “Wildfire Activities: New Patterns of Mobility and Learning”. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning, 1(2), pp. 1-18. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.4018/jmbl.2009040101 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Ertmer, P.A. & Newby, T.J. (1993). “Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective”. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), pp. 50-72. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1937-8327.1993.tb00605.x Accessed 20.3.2013].
Friesen, N. & Lowe, S. (2012). “The questionable promise of social media for education: connective learning and the commercial imperative”. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(3), pp. 183–194. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2729.2011.00426.x [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Gee, J.P. & Hayes, E. (2009). “Public Pegagogy through Video Games: Design, Resources & Affinity Spaces”. Game Based Learning, 19.1.2009. Available at: http://www.gamebasedlearning.org.uk/content/view/59/60/ [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Hase, S. & Kenyon, C. (2000). “From andragogy to heutagogy”. UltiBASE, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, December. Available at: http://www.psy.gla.ac.uk/~steve/pr/Heutagogy.html [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Hase, S. & Kenyon, C. (2001). “Moving from andragogy to heutagogy in vocational education”. Proceedings from AVETRA Conference 2001 – Research to Reality: Putting VET Research to Work, Hilton Adeliade, Adelaide, South Australia, 28-30 March 2001. Available at: http://www.avetra.org.au/abstracts_and_papers_2001/Hase-Kenyon_full.pdf [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Hase, S. & Kenyon, C. (2007). “Heutagogy: A Child of Complexity Theory”. Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education, 4(1), pp. 111-118. Available at: http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/complicity/article/view/8766/7086 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Holmes, B., Tangney, B., FitzGibbon, A., Savage, T. & Mehan, S. (2001). “Communal Constructivism: Students constructing learning for as well as with others”. Proceedings from SITE 2001, Florida. Available at: https://www.cs.tcd.ie/publications/tech-reports/reports.01/TCD-CS-2001-04.pdf [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Janzen, K.J., Perry, B. & Edwards, M. (2012). “Viewing Learning through a New Lens: The Quantum Perspective of Learning”. Creative Education, 3(6), pp. 712-720. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2012.36106 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Kerr, B. (2007). “A Challenge to Connectivism”. Transcript of Keynote Speech, Online Connectivism Conference. University of Manitboa. Available at: http://billkerr2.blogspot.co.uk/2006/12/challenge-to-connectivism.html [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Kop, R. & Hill, A. (2008). “Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?”. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(3). Available at: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/523/1103 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Kop, R. (2011). “The Challenges to Connectivist Learning on Open Online Networks: Learning Experiences during a Massive Open Online Course”. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), pp. 19-38. Available at: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/882/1689 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Leask, M. & Younie, S. (2001). “Communal constructivist theory: information and communications technology pedagogy and internationalisation of the curriculum”. Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education, 10(1-2), pp. 117-134. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14759390100200106 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Mergel, B. (1998). Instructional Design and Learning Theories. University of Saskatchewan, College of Education. Available at: http://www.usask.ca/education/coursework/802papers/mergel/brenda.htm [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Miller, P. (1993). Theories of Developmental Psychology. 3rd Edition. New York: W.H. Freeman.
Pinch, T.J. & Bijker, W.E. (1984). “The Social Construction of Facts and Artefacts: or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology might Benefit Each Other”. Social Studies of Science, 14(3), pp. 399-441. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/030631284014003004 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Popper, K.R. (1968). The Logic of Scientific Discovery. London: Hutchison.
Pountney, R., Parr, S. & Whittaker, V. (2002). “Communal Constructivism and Networked Learning: Reflections on a Case Study”. Proceedings from Networked Learning 2002, University of Sheffield, March 26-28, 2002. Available at: http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/past/nlc2002/proceedings/papers/30.htm [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Prensky, M. (2001). “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”. On the Horizon, 9(5). Available at: http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Prensky, M. (2009). “H. sapiens digital: From digital immigrants and digital natives to digital wisdom”. Innovate, 5(3). Available at: http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=705 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Schunk, D.H. (1991). Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective. New York: Macmillan.
Selwyn, N. (2009). “The Digital Native – Myth and Reality”. Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives, 61(4), pp. 364-379. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00012530910973776 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Siemens, G. (2005). “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 2(1), January 2005. Available at: http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Siemens, G. (2006). “Connectivism: Learning Theory or Pastime of the Self-Amused?”. elearnspace, 12.11.2006. Available at: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism_self-amused.htm [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Stewart, I. (1995). Nature’s Numbers: Unreal Reality of Mathematics. New York: BasicBooks.
Thomas, G. (1997). “What’s the Use of Theory?”. Harvard Educational Review, 67(1), pp. 75-104. Available at: http://hepg.org/her/abstract/234 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Thomas, G. (2007). Education and Theory: Strangers in paradigms. Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open University Press.
Verhagen, P. (2006). “Connectivism: a new learning theory?”. Surf e-learning themasite, 11.11.2006. Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20070113075233/http://elearning.surf.nl/e-learning/english/3793 [Accessed 20.3.2013].
Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Available at: http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/files/thedigitalscholar.pdf [Accessed 20.3.2013].
This is my final submitted digital artefact for the Open Education MOOC course (#h817open). The images and music used in this presentation are all Creative Commons licensed content. This is a reflection on the notion of “openness” and what interests me the most is what is this thing called “openness” and how and why is it different to be just “open”. The discussion conducted around “openness” is between a young woman, a sock puppet and a fish…
In 2006, my institution took part in a joint Higher Education Academy (HEA) and Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) venture called the e-Learning Benchmarking and Pathfinder Project (HEA, 2008). Our project was called Digital Experience Building in University Teaching (DEBUT) (Westerman & Barry, 2009) and we had identified quite early on that digital literacy was going to be rather important. In 2011, JISC had funded a £1.5 million Developing Digital Literacies Programme, so it was clearly something that the UK HE sector felt was important enough to throw money at it.
Anyway, back to our project, we soon discovered that the term “digital literacy” was (and still is) a highly contested term that was open to interpretation, though for the purposes for our project we adopted a definition that was initially proposed by Martin & Grudziecki (2006) as part of their Pan-European DigEuLit Project (Martin, 2005):
… digital literacy is the awareness, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital tools and facilities to identify, access, manage, integrate, evaluate, analyse and synthesise digital resources, construct new knowledge, create media expressions, and communicate with others, in the context of specific life situations, in order to enable constructive social action, and to reflect upon this process. (Martin & Grudziecki (2006)
In Europe, the term “digital literacy” is currently going under the new moniker of “digital competence” (Ferrari, 2012). There is a lot of currency at the moment in trying to define, or at least, suggest a set of precepts that underpin this nebulous “digital literacy” term (Jenkins, Clinton, Purushotma, Robison & Weigel, 2009; Belshaw, 2011; Newman, 2012), so much so that there has been an argument for:
… a much broader reconceptualization of what we mean by literacy in a world that is increasingly dominated by electronic media. (Buckingham, 2008:88)
So, in the world of open education what would a broad set of open learner literacies begin to look like:
- Online Identity – The open learner develops and maintains an online identity which is both centralised (e.g. WordPress blog, Gravatar) and distributed (e.g. YouTube, Flickr, SlideShare, Scribd), but can be propagated, or aggregated, (e.g. FriendFeed) across a variety of preferential services and platforms enabling the learner to build upon relationships and their personal reputation.
- Connecting with Communities – The open learner actively engages and communicates within online communities,or networks, of open learners and peer groups (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+) where they will regularly participate and contribute to that community, thus enriching the collective with resources, ideas, materials and discourse, as well as cultivating an online presence and reputation within those online communities. The engagement can be collaborative, connective and/or co-operative. It can also be off-line (e.g. Public Lectures) and organised through meet-ups (e.g. MeetUp, FlashMob).
- Reflective Practitioner - The open learner is able to reflect upon their learning objectives and decide upon courses of action that will either remedy or enhance those outcomes. The reflective activity could be solitary or informed from discussions with the wider community of learners through a process of peer-review.
- Critical Filtering - The open learner would need to be able to critically consider the content that is available to them and be able to filter and make sense of the overflow of information that is available on the Internet, either through technological tools (e.g. Feed Rinse, Google Alerts) and / or metacognitive skills and strategies (e.g. advanced keyword searches, quick reading).
- Knowledge Prosumer – The open learner is both a consumer and producer of knowledge and information outputs and artefacts. The open learner creates and contributes to open learning materials and resources (such as videos, podcasts, slidecasts and documents). This materials will be shared and disseminated through openly accessible repositories (e.g. YouTube, SlideShare, TED-Ed, Cloudworks, Connexions, Jorum, SlideWiki). An open learner may wish to contribute towards open scholarship, so may well pursue additional open publishing avenues.
- Online Rights - The open learner is sensitive and respectful to their own online rights, and that of others. Outputs created by the open learner would need to shared and published using an open licence (e.g. Creative Commons, GNU Free Documentation, Open Games Licenses, Free Art License, GNU General Public License, BSD License). This would inform others who wish to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute the creative and intellectual outputs and artefacts of the open learner.
- Privacy and e-Safety – The open learner ensures that their online privacy and identity are safe and protected. Where appropriate the open learner may wish to seek the advice of expert others (e.g. Online Privacy Foundation, e-Safe Education) and in the spirit of openness to share good practices with those within their learning communities.
- Confidence in using Current and Emergent Technologies – The open learner should be aware and confident in using a range of technologies that can be used to support the learner through the development and maintenance of a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and through the development and regularly contribution towards a Peer Learning Network (PLN). The open learner should critically evaluate the appropriateness of such tools which supports or facilitates their learning.
- Advocacy of Open Standards and Formats – The open learner will support and engage with open standards and formats that support and facilitate their learning and that of the community of learners through open education resources (OERs) (e.g. Khan Academy, Jorum, Merlot, Open Courseware Consortium), massive open online courses (MOOCs) (e.g. OLDS MOOC, MOOC MOOC, DS106, Change MOOC), open source software (e.g. OpenOffice) and curriculum (e.g. Wikiversity, Common Curriculum, Open Learn), open accreditation (e.g. Open Badges).
- Advocacy of Lifelong and Life-wide Learning - The open learner will embrace a positive attitude towards further personal and professional development through lifelong and life-wide learning practices. Not only adding to the enrichment of their own learning but contributing towards the enrichment of other open learners.
- Sustainable Futures – The open learner is concerned, therefore, with providing the skills, concepts, tools and critical thinking abilities to ensure that their own and that of the community of learners can understand the challenges of an uncertain and fast changing world and respond in an appropriate manner to redress the problems that threaten our common future. Thus emphasising a cross-disciplinary and integrated approach to developing the knowledge and skills needed for a sustainable future, as well as a critical approach to understanding, and where rational, supporting the changes needed in values, behaviour, and lifestyles.
My top eleven list could be applied to all learners. The fundamental difference between a “learner” and an “open learner” is the way that the “open learner” embraces, endorses and advocates the “open movement” in their personal and professional educational development.
Anderson, T. (2009). Association for Learning Technology Conference 2009, Keynote Speech. Powerpoint presentation. In: ALT-C 2009 “In dreams begins responsibility” – choice, evidence and change, 8 – 10 September 2009, Manchester. Available at: http://repository.alt.ac.uk/659/ [Accessed 14.3.2013].
Beetham, H. (2010). Review and Scoping Study for a Cross-JISC Learning and Digital Literacies Programme: Sept 2010. Bristol: Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). Available at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/elearning/DigitalLiteraciesReview.pdf [Accessed 14.3.2013].
Belshaw, D.A.J. (2011). What is ‘digital literacy’? A Pragmatic investigation. EdD. Durham University. Available at: http://neverendingthesis.com/doug-belshaw-edd-thesis-final.pdf [Accessed 14.3.2013].
Belshaw, D.A.J. (2012). “Web Literacies Grid (v0.8)”. Flickr. Available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dougbelshaw/8053416766/ [Accessed 14.3.2013].
Buckingham, D. (2008). “Defining Digital Literacy: what do young people need to know about digital media?”. In: Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (Eds.), Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.
Ferrari, A. (2012). Digital Competence in Practice: An Analysis of Frameworks. Luxembourg: Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies. Available at: http://ftp.jrc.es/EURdoc/JRC68116.pdf [Accessed 14.3.2013].
HEA. (2008). e-Learning Benchmarking + Pathfinder Programme 2005-08: An Overview. York: Higher Education Academy. Available at: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/learningandtech/completed/benchmarking/Benchmarking_FINAL.pdf [Accessed 14.3.2013].
Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. & Weigel, M. (2009). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Chicago, IL: The MacArthur Foundation. Available at: http://digitallearning.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7B7E45C7E0-A3E0-4B89-AC9C-E807E1B0AE4E%7D/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF [Accessed 14.3.2013].
Martin, A. (2005). “DigEuLit – a European Framework for Digital Literacy: A Progress Report”. Journal of eLiteracy, 2(2), pp. 130-136. Available at: http://www.jelit.org/65/ [Accessed 14.3.2013].
Martin, A. & Grudziecki, J. (2006). “DigEuLit: Concepts and Tools for Digital Literacy Development”. ITALICS, 5(4), pp. 249-267. Available at: http://www.ics.heacademy.ac.uk/italics/vol5iss4/martin-grudziecki.pdf [Accessed 14.3.2013].
McAuley, A., Stewart, B., Siemens, G. & Cormier, D. (2010). The MOOC Model for Digital Practice. Charlottetown, University of Prince Edward Island, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Knowledge synthesis grants on the Digital Economy. Available at: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/MOOC_Final.pdf [Accessed 14.3.2013].
Mozilla Learning Team. (2013a). Web Literacies White Paper (v0.8). Mountain View, CA: Mozilla Foundation. Available at: http://bit.ly/weblit08 [Accessed 14.3.2013].
Newman, T. (2009). “Consequences of a digital literacy review: Moving from terminology to action”. In: Digital Literacy: Shock of the Old 2009 Conference, Oxford University, 4.4.2009. Available at: http://www.slideshare.net/TabethaNewman/digital-literacy-literature-review-from-terminology-to-action [Accessed 14.3.2013].
Newman, T. (2012). “A definition of digital competence”. Timmus, 20.2.2012. Available at: http://www.timmuslimited.co.uk/archives/218 [Accessed 14.3.2013].
Reedy, K. & Goodfellow, R. (2012). Digital and Information Literacy Framework. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Available at: http://www.open.ac.uk/libraryservices/subsites/dilframework/ [Accessed 14.3.2013].
Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Available at: http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/files/thedigitalscholar.pdf [Accessed 14.3.2013].
Westerman, S. & Barry, W. (2009). “Mind the Gap: Staff Empowerment through Digital Literacy”. In: Mayes, T., Morrison, D., Mellar, H., Bullen, P., and Oliver, M., (Eds.), Transforming Higher Education through Technology-Enhanced Learning. York: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/learningandtech/Transforming-09.pdf [Accessed 14.3.2013].
Wiley, D. (2009). “Defining ‘Open’”. Iterating Toward Openness Blog, 16.11.2009. Available at: http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/1123 [Accessed 14.3.2013].
This is not my first foray into the realms of the “rhizome metaphor“, I was aware of Deleuze & Guattari’s (1988) rhizome metaphor which was introduced to me as a student on the MSc in e-Learning with the University of Edinburgh (yes, I know, another shameless plug). The rhizome metaphor was used in the context of hypertextuality (Burnett, 1993) and “smooth” (open or “nomadic”) and “striated” (closed or “state”) cultural spaces (Bayne, 2004).
The space of nomad thought is qualitatively different from State space. Air against earth. State space is ‘striated’, or gridded. Movement in it is confined as by gravity to a horizontal plane, and limited by the order of that plane to preset paths between fixed and identifiable points. Nomad space is ‘smooth’, or open-ended. One can rise up at any point and move to any other. Its mode of distribution is the nomos: arraying oneself in an open space (hold the street), as opposed to the logos of entrenching oneself in a closed space (hold the fort) (Massumi, 1988, p. xiii, cited in Bayne, 2004).
According to Deleuze & Guattari (cited in Burnett, 1993), the “approximate characteristics of the rhizome” include:
- principles of connection
- principles of heterogeneity;
- principle of multiplicity;
- principle of asignifying rupture; and
- principles of cartography and decalcomania.
Whilst the metaphor of the rhizome was familiar to me, Dave Cormier’s work and his application of the rhizome as a “metaphor for the learning process” were very new to me. Cormier suggests that “networked learning” offers a nice, tidy, clean and convenient model where it is “point-to-point” and “all lines are connected”. Whereas, he postulates, “rhizomatic learning” presents a “special” kind of network where there are multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points and you begin wherever you are and follow a particular path to see where it may lead. At the heart of Cormier’s argument is this notion of “uncertainty” and how learners (or people in general) deal with that. Cormier offers the question “why do we teach?” and suggests his five thoughts on how he could go about answering that question (through the lens of rhizomatic learning):
- The best teaching prepares people for dealing with “uncertainty”
- The community can be the curriculum – learning when there is no answer
- The Rhizome is a model for learning for uncertainty
- Rhizomatic learning works in the complex domain
- We need to make students responsible for their own learning (and the learning of others)
I have to say that I found the notion of rhizomatic learning and that of uncertainty was both appealing and attractive in the way that Cormier expressed it in such simple and plain terms, I could see the argument that not everything in life would have a clear black or white answer and that it could sometimes sit somewhere on a spectrum of grey, with possible solutions that could lead to different outcomes, a kind of butterfly effect if you will.
The rhizomatic way suggests exploration, discovery, trial-and-error and touches upon experiential and co-operative learning approaches (with a smattering of critical pedagogy) and, I think, a lot less on what Jacques Rancière calls explication (I have just finished reading “The Ignorant Schoolmaster” and am still getting my head round some of his ideas) and perhaps leans more towards something called panecastic (“everything is in everything”). It seems for rhizomatic learning to take place, learners need the freedom and autonomy to be allowed to grow and create their own individual learning identities as well as making connections to those topics and materials that “have intellectual and/or academic significance” for the learner (Sasser, 2012). This does rather require tutors “letting go” of their teaching practices and lessening their grip upon their control of content and to embrace “autonomy, experimentation, discovery, originality, connectivity, organicity, relevancy” (Sasser, 2012). Thus, according to Cormier (2008):
The role of the instructor in all of this is to provide an introduction to an existing professional community in which students may participate—to offer not just a window, but an entry point into an existing learning community.
A potential pitfall to allowing learners in having autonomy over their learning and, more specifically, what they are learning is that it may lead towards “shallow knowledge” rather than “deep knowledge“, by that I mean the learners may not wish to explore or pursue a particular topic more deeply where they may discover “nuggets of knowledge” that are waiting to be unearthed. Similarly, rhizomatic learning may only work in the discovery and production different style of knowledge or learning that are perhaps not so black or white in their outcomes. Kaska Hempel (2013) makes a potentially interesting association between the rhizome metaphor and it’s botanical heritage that could have dangerous implications:
Bamboo and other rhizomatic plants are great at spread, survival and colonisation of new territories. But as ecologists and gardeners know, if unchecked they become weeds and can dominate and suppress a plant community or a garden instead of enriching it. They are also clones – the rhizomes produce exact copies of the ‘mother’ plant.
So instead of free exploration and exchange of ideas leading to rich and unpredictable learning – the story of rhizomatic learning can equally be a story of domination and monoculture, with rarer and more delicate ‘flowers’ getting pushed out, suppressed – not able to grow.
If anyone is interested, I have added some addition sources in the references section of this blog post for you to explore as part of your own rhizomatic journey into this fascinating topic.
Bayne, S. (2004) “Smoothness and Striation in Digital Learning Spaces”. E-Learning and Digital Media, 1(2), pp. 302-316. http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/elea.2004.1.2.6 [Accessed 13.3.2013].
Burnett, K. (1993). “Toward a Theory of Hypertext Design”. Postmodern Culture, 3(2). AVailable at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/pmc.1993.0003 [Accessed 13.3.2013].
Cormier, D. (2008). “Rhizomatic Education : Community as Curriculum”. Dave’s Educational Blog, 3.1.2008. Available at: http://davecormier.com/edblog/2008/06/03/rhizomatic-education-community-as-curriculum/ [Accessed 13.3.2013].
Cormier, D. (2012). Embracing Uncertainty – Rhizomatic Learning in Formal Education. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJIWyiLyBpQ [Accessed 13.3.2013].
Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1988). A Thousand Plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia. London: Continuum.
Gough, N. (2004). “RhizomANTically Becoming-Cyborg: Performing posthuman pedagogies”. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 36(3), pp. 253–265. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-5812.2004.00066.x [Accessed 13.3.2013].
Gough, N. (2006). “Shaking the Tree, Making a Rhizome: Towards a nomadic geophilosophy of science education”. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 38(5), pp. 625–645. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-5812.2006.00216.x [Accessed 13.3.2013].
Gregoriou, Z. (2004). “Commencing the Rhizome: Towards a minor philosophy of education”. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 36(3), pp. 233–251. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-5812.2004.00065.x [Accessed 13.3.2013].
Hempel, K. (2013). “Rhizomatic growth – learners as weeds or explorers and survivors?”. Nauczanki Blog, 29.1.2013. Available at: http://nauczanki.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/rhizomatic-growth-learners-as-weeds-or-explorers-and-survivors/ [Accessed 13.3.2013].
Hodgson, N. & Standish, P. (2006). “Induction into Educational Research Networks: The Striated and the Smooth”. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 40(4), pp. 563–574. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9752.2006.00533.x [Accessed 13.3.2013].
Kania, J. & Kramer, M. (2013). “Embracing Emergence: How Collective Impact Addresses Complexity”. Stanford Social Innovation Review Blog, 21.1.2013. Available at: http://www.ssireview.org/blog/entry/embracing_emergence_how_collective_impact_addresses_complexity [Accessed 13.1.2013].
Landow, G.P. (1997). Hypertext 2.0: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Massumi, B. (1988). “Translator’s Foreword: Pleasures of Philosophy”. In: A Thousand Plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia. London: Continuum.
Peters, M.A. (2004). “Geophilosophy, Education and the Pedagogy of the Concept”. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 36(3), pp. 217–226. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-5812.2004.00063.x [Accessed 13.3.2013].
Rancière, J. (1991). The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. Translated from French by K.Ross. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
Sanford, K., Merkel, L. & Madill, L. (2011). “’There’s no fixed course’: Rhizomatic learning communities in adolescent videogaming”. Loading… The Journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association, 5(8), pp. 50-70. Available at: http://journals.sfu.ca/loading/index.php/loading/article/view/9 [Accessed 13.3.2013].
Sasser, T. (2012). “Bring Your Own Disruption: Rhizomatic Learning in the Composition Class”. Hybrid Pedagogy, 30.12.2012. Available at: http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/Journal/files/Disruption_and_Rhizomatic_Learning.html [Accessed 13.3.2013].
Sellers, W. & Gough, N. (2010). “Sharing outsider thinking: thinking (differently) with Deleuze in educational philosophy and curriculum inquiry”. Special Issue on Thinking with Deleuze in Qualitative Research, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 23(5), pp. 589-614. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2010.500631 [Accessed 13.3.2013].
St.Pierre, E.A. (1997). “Nomadic inquiry in the smooth spaces of the field: A preface”. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 10(3), pp. 365-383. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/095183997237179 [Accessed 13.3.2013].
St.Pierre, E.A. (2004). “Deleuzian Concepts for Education: The subject undone”. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 36(3), pp. 283–296. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-5812.2004.00068.x [Accessed 13.3.2013].
Tietz, W., (2004). “Linking and Care in Connection”. New Literary History, 35, pp. 507-522. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20057851 [Accessed 13.3.2013].
Zembylas, M. (2007). “Risks and pleasures: a Deleuzo-Guattarian pedagogy of desire in education”. British Educational Research Journal, 33(3), pp. 331–347. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01411920701243602 [Accessed 13.3.2013].
In Martin Weller’s 2012 paper, he explores the nature of open education resources (OERs) and suggests that there currently exists two “flavours” of OERs. The first he calls “big OERs” which are the “large-scale, externally funded projects”, like MIT’s OpenCourseWare and the Open University’s OpenLearn (ibid, p. 7), who have developed large repositories containing a huge catalogue of learning materials, great and small. Non-departmental public bodies in the UK like Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Higher Education Academy (HEA) have, in the past, required funded projects to submit their outputs, resources and materials into Jorum, a free online repository service for the collection and sharing of learning and teaching materials, thus allowing for their reuse and repurposing.
The second “flavour”, which Weller calls “little OERs”, encompasses all those resources created by individuals and “shared on sites outside the formal education portals” (ibid, p. 7), which would include the likes of YouTube, SlideShare, and Flickr to name but a few. Though I can see that TED Ed could potentially be a “game changer” as I think it sits somewhere between the “big” and “little” OER concept.
The table below considers the benefits and drawbacks of “big” and “little” OERs.
|Big OERs||Little OERs|
Explicit learning aims
Uniformed-style (can be institutionally branded)
Reputable knowledge domain expertise
Creativity focused upon structure and guidance
Clear copyright and licensing advice
Greater scholarly outputs
Enhances institutional reputation and prestige
|Low-cost to free
Shared through third-party sites / services
Creativity focused upon production and aggregation
Open filter – anyone can publish
Sites facilitate social interaction / connection between user and producer
Greater user hits / traffic to site
Unconstrained creativity of material
Unconstrained playfulness of material
Enhances personal reputation and prestige
Greater open access
High reuse potential
High searchability – can be found via public search engines like Google or Bing
Closed filter – specialists can publish
Less social interaction / connection between user and producer
Less user hits / traffic to site
Restrained creativity of material
Restrained playfulness of material
Variances in open access
Low reuse potential
Low searchability – locked into a repository search engine
|Variances in granularity
Variances in quality
Variances in explicit learning aims
Variances in knowledge domain expertise
Variances in taxonomy / folksonomy
Variances in copyright and licensing advice
Variances in interoperability
Variances in accessibility
Variances in scholarly outputs
Variances in formal recognition
Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Available at: http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/files/thedigitalscholar.pdf [Accessed 12.3.2013].
Weller, M. (2012). “The openness–creativity cycle in education”. Special Issue on Open Educational Resources, Journal of Interactive Media in Education, Spring 2012. Available at: http://jime.open.ac.uk/jime/article/view/2012-02 [Accessed 12.3.2013].
Wiley, D. (2007). “Defining the “Open” in Open Content”. OpenContent.org. Available at: http://opencontent.org/definition/ [Accessed 12.3.2013].
Like OpenLearn’s “Open Education” course, the “Digital Storytelling” course is also “open” in the respect that course content is publicly available and accessible. Whereas the courses on Coursera and Udacity are “closed” and requires the user to sign-up and enrol into a course before they are able to access content. In Coursera’s case, the content is not really available until the course is ready to run. The following table compares and contrasts three entirely different massive open online courses (MOOCs)
|Digital Storytelling (DS106)||e-Learning & Digital Cultures (Coursera)||Applied Cryptography (Udacity)|
|Lead University||University of Mary Washington, USA||University of Edinburgh, UK||University of Virginia, USA|
|Course Duration||This course takes 15 weeks to complete. The course is repeated three times throughout the year.||The course takes 5 weeks to complete. The course usually runs at certain times in the year.||The course takes 7 weeks to complete. The course uses rolling enrolment, meaning the student can start anytime they want.|
|Course Workload||There are no suggested study / workload times. Possibly running way into excess of 12 hours or more / week.||Estimated 5-7 hours / week are suggested.||There are no suggested study / workload times.|
|Available Tutors||2 course tutors manage this course.||5 course tutors manage this course.||2 course tutors manage this course.|
RSS Feeds / Aggregation
|Content Management System
Peer Feedback Form
Simple navigational bar
|Content Management System
Simple navigational bar
|Course Content||Course Syllabus
Streaming videos of advice / guidance
Bank of Assignments to choose from
|Open peer-reviewed journals (HTML or PDF files)
Book chapter (PDF file)
Online Magazine articles
Streaming videos of mini “popular culture “ movies
Streaming video of TEDx talk
2 x Google+ Hangout with Course Tutors (1 hour each)
|Video lectures (1-3 mins. long)
Submitting 2 Assignments Ideas, 2 Tutorials, 2 Daily Creates: 5%
Participation (social media and weekly shows) 5%
Final Project: 15%
Radio Show: 10%
Weekly Work (encompasses storytelling assignments, daily creates, reflections, participation) 60%
|Web-enabled media project (reflective of course themes)
Quizzes – Auto marked
|Pedagogy||Content as starting point, learners expected to create/extend
|Formal Course Structure & Flow
|Formal Course Structure & Flow
|Interaction||Aggregated Blog posts (Distributed)
Twitter hashtag (#ds106)
|Centralised Discussion forum
Aggregated Blog posts (Distributed)
Twitter hashtag (#edcmooc)
|Centralised Discussion forum|
|Learner Spaces||Students generate spaces that enable them to interact with each other, their tutors and the wider community using the tools as suggested by their tutors.||Student-generated spaces were created to support collaboration and co-operation between students on the course, using such technologies as: Facebook; Twitter; Google+; Google Docs; Flickr; Vimeo; YouTube; Wallwisher; and personal blogs||There does not appear to be any significant student-generated spaces, whether this is down to the type of student enrolled on this course or the nature of the course I do not know.|
|Philosophy||This course has taken a very connectivist approach that expects students to develop their online identities and to engage with each-other and the wider online community. Many of the tasks tend to cognitive in nature. The course comes in three flavours: A UMW student; A student from a different course/university; and an “open participant”.||The Coursera platform typically adopts a behaviourist model. In this particular course, the tutors took on a more constructivist paradigm. Some of the more “connected” students had galvanised themselves into Peer Learning Networks (PLN) and adopted a more connectivist approach to their learning providing a much more richer experience.||The Udacity platform appears to have adopted a behaviourist model where students are expected to duplicate or master the content is someway.|
EDC-MOOC Team. (2013). Teaching ‘E-learning and Digital Cultures’ Blog. Available at: http://edcmoocteam.wordpress.com/ [Accessed 11.3.2013].
Levine, A. (2013). “ds106: Not a Course, Not Like Any MOOC”. EDUCAUSE Review, January/February 2013, pp. 54-55. Available at: http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/ds106-not-course-not-any-mooc [Accessed 11.3.2013].
Pendleton, B. (2012). “Comparing the Coursera and Udacity Cryptography classes”. Journal of a Programmer, 21.5.2012. Available at: http://bryanpendleton.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/comparing-coursera-and-udacity.html [Accessed 11.3.2013].
Regehr, J. (2012). “Recording a Class at Udacity”. Embedded in Academia, 23.5.2012. Available at: http://blog.regehr.org/archives/716 [Accessed 11.3.2013].
The term Open Educational Resources (OERs) was first introduced at a conference hosted by UNESCO in 2000, which broadly defined it as:
The open provision of educational resources, enabled by information and communication technologies, for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for noncommercial purposes (UNESCO, 2002:24).
However, since then others have attempted to define OERs in quite explicit and specific terms:
…teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials or techniques used to support access to knowledge (Atkins, Brown & Hammond, 2007:4).
There are several challenges to the OER ‘movement‘ that will need to be tackled by the various stakeholders, be it governments, funding bodies, institutions, organisations or individuals. The three key issues that I perceive to be ‘barriers‘ to furthering the development and adoption of OERs include:
- Copyright issues – Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) sit right at the heart of the OER ‘movement’ and has been seen as the “root cause” of its “slow development” and take-up. Some of the copyright-related issues raised for its use and production are around the practicalities of obtaining rights (it is not always easy to locate the appropriate licence holder); legal interoperability (in terms of “unintended compatibility” between materials and tools licenced under different licences); and tutors and researchers largely unaware that they are entitled to some rights to ensure that their materials are not used inappropriately (Yuan, MacNeill & Krann, 2008). One way to address this issue is to apply Creative Commons licensing which has seen as a “critical infrastructure service for OER” (Atkins, Brown & Hammond, 2007), with licenses that can range from “All Rights Reserved” to “Some Rights Reserved”.
- Quality issues – The rapidly growing number of learning materials and repositories makes the issue of how to find the resources that are most relevant and of best quality a pressing one (Yuan, MacNeill & Krann, 2008). A number of approaches to quality management issues which have been used: institutionally-based involving the branding or the reputation of the University to “persuade” the user that the materials are of good quality (e.g. The Open University’s OpenLearn or MIT’s OpenCourseWare); peer-reviewed has been an approach that has been successfully adopted in open source software projects and open access journals which could be applied to OER, but it would require an agreed and credible criteria to evaluate OERs against (e.g. Jorum or MERLOT); and open user reviewed is seen as a “low-level” or “bottom-up” approach allowing individual users to decide on whether a learning resource is of high quality or not (e.g. Connexions).
- Interoperability issues – This is ensuring that learning materials can be accessed, downloaded and integrated across multiple platforms to ensure that these can be reused and repurposed by others, especially if they are located in less developed countries. The adoption of open standards and specifications like IMS and SCORM have been developed to “enable interoperability, accessibility and reusability of web-based learning content” (Yuan, MacNeill & Krann, 2008). However, whilst these standards are helpful to achieve the re-use of content, they are not appropriate for the modification of content. In this case, a number of standardised content formats such as DocBook, Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) or Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) have been mooted as being of potential value. Similarly, simple and well-structured HTML could be useful for this purpose (Yuan, MacNeill & Krann, 2008).
D’Antoni, S. (2009). “Open Educational Resources: reviewing initiatives and issues”. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 24(1), pp. 3-10. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02680510802625443 [Accessed 11.3.2013].
Atkins, D.E., Brown, J.S. & Hammond, A.L. (2007). A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities. California: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Available at: http://www.hewlett.org/uploads/files/Hewlett_OER_report.pdf [Accessed 11.3.2013].
Kanwar, A. & Uvalic-Trumbic, S. (Eds.) (2011). A Basic Guide of Open Educational Resources (OER). Vancouver, BC: Commonwealth of Learning; Paris: UNESCO. Available at: http://www.col.org/resources/publications/Pages/detail.aspx?PID=357 [Accessed 11.3.2013].
UNESCO. (2002). Forum on the impact of open courseware for higher education in developing countries: Final report. Available from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001285/128515e.pdf [Accessed 11.3.2013].
Yuan, L., MacNeill, S. & Krann, W. (2008). Open Educational Resources – Opportunities and Challenges for Higher Education. Bristol: Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) CETIS. Available at: http://wiki.cetis.ac.uk/images/0/0b/OER_Briefing_Paper.pdf [Accessed 11.3.2013].
The above visual representation of “openness in education” depicts the types of “open” formats, that currently exist, such as “open education“, “open source“, “open access publishing“, etc. and lists those characteristics that are seen to exemplify the “open movement“. Finally, the image itself resembles a key that is able to open, or unlock, these potentials.
Anderson, T. (2009). Association for Learning Technology Conference 2009, Keynote Speech. Powerpoint presentation. In: ALT-C 2009 “In dreams begins responsibility” – choice, evidence and change, 8 – 10 September 2009, Manchester. Available at: http://repository.alt.ac.uk/659/ [Accessed 8.3.2013].
Dalsgaard, C. & Paulsen, M.F. (2009). “Transparency in Cooperative Online Education”. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3), June 2009. Available at: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/671/1267 [Accessed 8.3.2013].
Dron, J. & Anderson, T. (2009). “On the Design of Collective Applications”. Paper presented at SocialCom 2009, Vancouver, 2009. Available at: http://hdl.handle.net/2149/2305 [Accessed 8.3.2013].
Looi, C.K. (2001). “Enhancing learning ecology on the Internet”. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17(1), pp. 13-20. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2729.2001.00155.x [Accessed 8.3.2013].
Weller, M. (2012). “The openness–creativity cycle in education”. JIME 2012: Special Issue on Open Educational Resources, Journal of Interactive Media in Education (JIME), Spring 2012. Available at: http://jime.open.ac.uk/jime/article/view/2012-02 [Accessed 8.3.2013].
Despite saying that I wasn’t planning on participating in another MOOC because I was about to embark on a Doctorate in Education (EdD) at Canterbury Christ Church University, so up pops the “Open Education” MOOC from The Open University on the OpenLearn platform. Life lesson #42: Never say never.
What three words describe you?
Professional, Creative, Eclectic
Why are you studying the Open Education course?
Originally I had not intended to take on another MOOC-style course especially as I’ll be starting my Doctorate in Education this month. However, I was intrigued to see what this course had to offer and to see whether there was something that I could use or learn which would contribute towards my doctoral thesis. I think this will also complement the MSc in e-Learning that I successfully completed with the University of Edinburgh in 2011. But, perhaps more tellingly, I wouldn’t mind adding some of those shiny new ‘badges’ to my ever-so-slightly-empty open badge backpack.
What’s your job role?
I am a Learning Technologist based in the Directorate of Learning and Teaching at Canterbury Christ Church University supporting the Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences. Essentially, my role entails working in partnership with academic and professional services staff in raising awareness of learning technologies; advising on their strategic use and evaluation; empowering staff to use technologies and advising on the pedagogic implications of using technology in learning, teaching and assessment.
Tell us something ‘unusual’ about yourself
I am, apparently, the “go to guy” for project-based acronyms.
What excites you most about learning technology?
I like the way that technology has enabled people to share ideas and resources; build and connect with large online communities of practice (CoP) via their personal learning environments (PLE) and peer learning networks (PLN); and to empower people to take control of their own learning trajectories. It is that ‘connective’ dimension that technology brings that I find exciting.
Your top tip(s)?
Don’t be scared or put off by technology. Work with one or two pieces of technology that is going to positively enhance your teaching, assessment, research and/or administration in some way.
What have you learned recently?
I have been on a massive open online course (MOOC) called “E-learning and Digital Cultures” which was developed by the University of Edinburgh and delivered through the Coursera platform. Supporting this course has been a number of student-generated spaces using Facebook, Twitter and Google+ that have operated on the periphery. Taking part in this highly connective environment where you are sharing ideas, resources and stories with people with different cultural backgrounds from around the world has been an enormously humbling and enlightening experience for me.
Hmmm, I still find myself not quite walking away from my phenomenal #edcmooc experience – though this has not been the experience for everyone who have not liked the laissez-faire approach of this course (Young, 2013). At 1.00am on Monday 4th March 2013, my grade and feedback on my digital artefact had been released to me. I was extremely happy to have received the maximum grade of 2 (it ranges from 0 to 2) and to have received four largely positives comments. More on this later.
Defining the ‘digital artefact‘
For the course tutors, a ‘digital artefact‘ is something that can be “experienced digitally on the web“. They go on to suggest that the artefact is imbued with the following characteristics:
- it will contain a mixture of two or more of: text, image, sound, video, links.
- it will be easy to access and view online.
- it will be stable enough to be assessed for at least two weeks.
I have seen some fantastic artefacts that the EDC-MOOC participants have shared with people via the EDC-MOOC Facebook page (requires a FB account and access to the EDC-MOOC FB group); a Padlet wall (formerly Wallwisher); and a Google Docs spreadsheet. One of the artefacts that was presented to me to feedback on was simply a photograph with some text embedded in a Google Docs presentation. It ticked all the boxes, but as a reviewer I felt somewhat ‘cheated’ as this particular individual did not appear to have put much effort in it, compared to some of the artefacts that I had seen outside of the formal evaluation process.
Considering the themes
Whilst developing and constructing the artefact, the participants are invited to consider some of the ‘big’ themes raised by the course, whether it is on ‘utopias and dystopias’, ‘being human’ or expressing a “question, an idea, a problem, a hope, a worry or a provocation that the course has raised for you“, as well as the impact the EDC-MOOC course has had on our ”understanding of e-learning“. Some other themes that were mooted include:
- humans, machines and animals
- communication technologies
- open (and opening) education
- human nature
- the meaning(s) of learning
- the evolution of information technology
- the future of learning institutions
For my artefact, I chose not to address the ‘big’ themes, but to look at ‘open education‘, ‘human nature‘ and the ‘evolution of information technology‘ through the lens of my own (and others) experience with the EDC-MOOC and presented it in a form of a ‘love letter’.
The assessment criteria
The course tutors presented us with a ‘criteria‘ (or a series of “prompts“) in which to critically evaluate and consider the work of the other participants and how we “engage with their artefact“:
- The artefact addresses one or more themes for the course.
- The artefact suggests that the author understands at least one key concept from the course.
- The artefact has something to say about digital education.
- The choice of media is appropriate for the message.
- The artefact stimulates a reaction in you, as its audience, e.g. emotion, thinking, action.
On the surface, the above criteria looks fine until you actually have to evaluate artefacts against it and that is where myself and others have struggled. It is possible that we are not use to the process of marking and grading of work. For some, they suggested that the criteria was far too broad and needed to be more tighter and focused. A good example of this ‘misinterpretation‘ of the criteria came from both a Facebook and Google+ discussion around referencing. Some of the artefacts had used quotes but did not include a reference to it, this led to a number of participants ‘marking down‘ the work. Others, myself include, argued that the artefacts were not pieces of academic work, as potentially, a number of the participants may not have come from a Higher Education background, and secondly there was nothing explicitly mentioned in the criteria that references should be included.
I guess from the tutors’ perspective they were hoping that the participants would develop a critical thinking approach in the evaluation of others’ work. The Peeragogy Handbook by Rheingold et al. (2012) perhaps addresses the peer-assessment process more meaningfully.
The feedback process
As part of the assessment criteria, the EDC-MOOC participants were expected to provide peer feedback to a minimum of three randomly selected artefacts, though we could have done more if we wanted to (I managed to complete five during my allocated time, roughly 3 hours). We were told that:
You have up to 250 words to show your analysis for all the criteria. Giving reasons is likely to involve you in commenting on some of the qualities of the artefact. These might relate to its message, media and structure but also could include thoughts about its aesthetic appeal, humour, attention to detail, inventiveness, persuasiveness, educational potential or its shock value, for example. You could also indicate whether there is a lack of a significant quality, and say what would help the author to improve the artefact in this respect.
There was clearly a lot to consider and it took me a good 30 minutes or so on each artefact. If people had invested in the time to create something that the course had inspired in them, then it was only fair that their artefact received the same care and consideration from me. I did not find this an easy task (I don’t think it was meant to be) and wanted to come across as a fair, positive critical evaluator. I eventually award two x 2 scores, two x 1 scores and a 0 score. It was perhaps the 0 score that vexed me the most (the single photograph with some text embedded in a Google Docs presentation). This is probably where I would have appreciated a more detailed, or at least, nuanced criteria to work from.
Received my feedback /evaluation
As mentioned earlier, I received four largely positive comments on my artefact. I have also been receiving some fantastic feedback about my artefact from other sources (Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Vimeo). It was quite clear from reading the feedback how the evaluators were trying to interpret the criteria. Whilst one of the reviewers made the suggestion that I had made references to ‘utopias and dystopias’ and various other themes, but felt that I should had addressed the ‘being human’ theme as well – which just goes to show how subjective we are in interpreting such a wide and broad brief.
I think it was the feedback from my last evaluator (forever known to me as ‘Peer 4‘) that I found the most satisfying as there was a serious attempt at critiquing my work. I also charmed by the “school report” style of writing referring to me as “the student Wayne“. It was also clear in the feedback that English was not the first language of my evaluator, their “mother tongue” being French, which kind of couched the feedback belonging to a much different culture to my own. ‘Peer 4′ made the salient observation that my artefact was about “the course and not for the course content” and would have liked to me to have developed one of the themes from the course content and have an opinion of that. ‘Peer 4′ was of the opinion that it was the role of the EDC-MOOC team to criticique the course and not me – I wholly disagree with that. My (and others) positive critique is what the EDC-MOOC team are looking for in order to make changes to the next iteration of the EDC-MOOC (Knox, 2013) – it is part and parcel of student feedback for any type of course. All-in-all, ‘Peer 4′ found my artefact to be a “strange love letter” indeed – this I think reflects the cultural differences between students. I should like to thank ‘Peer 4′ for the wonderful feedback, it certainly caused me to think and reflect upon my artefact.
My reason for doing the EDC-MOOC was more to do with the experiencing of the MOOC itself rather than the content. The content, for me, was secondary and to some extent I had engaged with it in various different ways in my Master’s degree. As such, much of my engagement with the content was reflected in my weekly blog posts – but how were my evaluators suppose to know that?
The next chapter…
This will be the last post concerning my experiences on the EDC-MOOC, and MOOCs in general, as I bid them a fond adieu. A new educational adventure begins for me next week as I embark on a Doctorate in Education (EdD) for the next 4-5 years. It may well be that the focus of my thesis will be around this notion of ‘open education‘ that has been so exemplary of this particular course.
My blog posts, for the foreseeable future at least, will be concentrating on my new Doctorate experience and the research that I will undoubtedly undertake.
Knox, J.K. (2013). “Staying the course…but doing #edcmooc differently”. Teaching ‘E-learning and Digital Cultures’ Blog, 18.2.2013. Available at: http://edcmoocteam.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/staying-the-course-but-doing-edcmooc-differently/ [Accessed 4.3.2013].
Rheingold, H. et al. (2012). The Peeragogy Handbook. Available at: http://peeragogy.org/ [Accessed 26.2.2013].
Ross, J. (2013). “Assessment, #edcmooc style”. Teaching ‘E-learning and Digital Cultures’ Blog, 19.2.2013. Available at: http://edcmoocteam.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/assessment-edcmooc-style/ [Accessed 4.3.2013].
Young, C. (2013). “Meditations on a MOOC – Week 5″. e-Learning Environments Team Blog (ULC), 3.3.2013. Available at: http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/ele/2013/03/03/meditations-on-a-mooc-week-5-edcmooc/ [Accessed 4.3.2013].