Posts Tagged ‘networked learning’

Connectivism Wiki and the creation of knowledge

Friday, September 18th, 2009

From twitter I just happened to stumble upon a wiki-page on Constructivism which is being developed as part of the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge/09 online conference. While I find many of the ideas of connectivism appealing and really interesting, I think there are some problems in calling it a new learning theory or paradigm in itself (as the criticism section of the Wikipedia entry on Connectivism also suggest, and which is explored by Kop & Hill in the article: Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?).

I really do not mean to make a long-winded criticism or dismissing a perspective which I truly find interesting, but looking at the wiki I also think there are some problems. For instance I found the following passage, which I think is quite curious:

What then, do we find to be distinct about connectivism?

1. Existing theories of learning fail to account for the expansion and creation of knowledge

I think it is rather curious that the authors use the word expansion without making reference to e.g. Yrjö Engeström’s theory of expansive learning, which he wrote back in 1987 (is available here). And in the table describing different theories of learning PIaget and Vygotsky are placed under ‘Constructivism’ – although I think there are many commonalities, there are also some differences, which I think would place Vygotsky more within a ‘socio-cultural’ approach (e.g. as also explored in Dillenbourg et al. 1995 who differ between socio-constructivist, socio-cultural (and then situated cognition)). However, there are many different attempts to group learning theories and is difficult to provide overviews without simplifying a bit of course. However, I think it is not quite right to suggest that existing theories fail to account for the expansion and creation of knowledge, as I do find that socio-cultural theorist (Engeström, Saljö and many many others have provided very interesting and extensive accounts of this) – also I would say that others have contributed to this as well (as discussed by Paavola et al. (2004))

Furthermore, I do find there are or could be some very interesting links between Networked Learning and Connectivism – e.g. when looking at the definition from Goodyear et al. (2004):

“Networked learning is learning in which information and communications (ICT) is used to promote connections: between one learner and other learners, between learners and tutors; between a learning community and its learning resources”

I think it would be interesting to further explore how connectivism resemble, differ from, extends or in some ways lack thought from some of these frameworks. Therefore I am also very happy that George Siemens and Stephen Downes will be hosting an online seminar in relation to the Networked Learning Conference from the 26th of October – I am sure some very interesting discussions will emerge from that, and I am also really looking forward to getting to know more about their perspective! (hopefully I will have all the time in the world to participate vividly during those days :-) )

Some references

Dillenbourg, P., Baker, M., Blaye, A., & O’Malley, C. (1996). The Evolution of Research on Collaborative Learning. In E. Spada & P. Reiman (Eds.), Learning in humans and machines: Towards an interdisciplinary learning science (pp. 189-211). Oxford: Pergamon/Elsevier Science. http://tecfa.unige.ch/tecfa/publicat/dil-papers-2/Dil.7.1.10.pdf

Goodyear, P., Banks, S., Hodgson, V., & McConnell, D. (2004). Advances in Research on Networked Learning. Dordrecht: Klüwer Academic Publishers.

Paavola, S., Lipponen, L., & Hakkarainen, K. (2004). Models of Innovative Knowledge Communities and Three Metaphors of Learning. Review of Educational Research, 74(4), 557-576.  http://rer.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/74/4/557 

Networked Learning Conference 2010

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

I am looking very much forward to the next Networked Learning Conference which will be hosted here in Aalborg 3-4 May 2010 (also I am proud to say that I am part of the local organising committee :-) ). The Networked Learning conference is:

“an international, research-based conference. Since its inception in 1998 the conference has developed a strong following by international researchers. In addition it is well supported by practitioners, managers and learning technologists interested in contributing to and hearing about research in this area. The conference is considered a major event in the international ‘technology enhanced learning’ conference circuit.”

The bi-annual conferences are organised by Lancaster University, Glasgow Caledonian University and Open University UK in collaboration with local hosts (in this case Aalborg University with collaboration from Open University Netherlands). I have attended the NLC conferences since 2004, and I always find them to be both engaging and challenging with good quality papers and interesting people, so I am very happy be involved in the planning of the conference.

The upcoming conference features keynotes by Etienne Wenger and Yrjö Engeström, and I think it will be very interesting to hear about their views on networked learning and more their current research – really great that they both had the time and wanted to do it.

The call for paper is being circulated to various list and conferences at the moment, and one thing to note for the upcoming conference (and future ones I suppose) is that  papers will go through a full peer review, whereas it used to be only review of an extended abstract (also this time it will be possible to submit the paper online – you can read more about paper submission here) -deadline for full papers is the Friday 13th of November.

Another thing is that we have been putting some work into implementing the conference website in Joomla, (Joomla is an open source content management system that is really easy to use, but with loads of functionalty – I can reallly recommend it!). The primary reason for doing this was to make the conference site more interactive and community oriented – so this year the conference site also features a community/social network where people can:

  • Create a profile (or use their facebook login through facebook connect)
  • Import their tweets, external feeds, slideshare presentations, delicious bookmarks etc.
  • Create groups to discuss symposia and paper proposals or to host a hot-seat or seminar (the latter can be arranged and scheduled by contacting the conference committee)
  • Participate in various discussion forums and connect with other researchers interested in Networked Learning and much more :-)

The community is up and running and people are welcome to sign up  (we’re still adding bits and pieces and working on some guides and descriptions). The community builds on the JomSocial plugin for Joomla, which is a very nice and easy to use plugin (but is not freely available beyond the trial version).

Anyways – I hope to see lot of interesting people at the conference and online before the conference :-) Do stop by and have a look at:

http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk

Conference Papers online and happy students

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

This is just a quick post to say that the papers from the Networked Learning Conference are now available from the conference website. This might not exactly be why some students are happy today (although that would be nice). A lot of the students at Aalborg University have handed in their semester projects today – at least at Humanistic Informatics, where I do some teaching and supervision. The semester projects are the result of three to four months of work where students work collaboratively in groups with a self-chosen problem. These group projects are results of the Problem Oriented Project Pedagogy (also called Project Oriented Problem Based Learning) which is the pedagogical foundation at Aalborg University. Simultaneously with the courses on a semester the students work with their projects, and as the courses begin to fade out they engage fully with their projects. This, however, also means that those who supervise and facilitate the groups become busy reading through the student reports, comment, suggest literature, propose ways of engaging with the empirical work, the analysis and so on. This semester I have been supervising quite a lotof students on different semesters – at least more than I am used to! Therefore I have been quite busy lately with supervising groups and individual students. Even though this is time consuming it is usually a pleasure, as the students often write interesting reports and really engage in interesting theoretical and empirical work in relation to their cases/problem (the group projects are usually between 40-100 pages depending on the number of members in the group).
So, congrats to those of you who have handed in your projects today (there’s still also batch handing in on the 28th on the Master of ICT and Learning).

Well, to return briefly to the networked learning conference, the papers are now online and there are really many interesting papers that I am looking forward to read in more depth (and comment on in later posts). As earlier mentioned I was part of two symposiums ‘where is the learning in networked learning?’, (organised by Vivien Hodgson) and ‘Breaching the Garden Walls? Social media, institutions, infrastructures and design for learning‘ (organised by Chris Jones) . No time to go more into the symposiums now, but I really enjoyed the other presenters’ papers and the feedback and discussions!

Social Networking for Justice – Flat worlds, ‘access’ and Online Activism

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

As mentioned in my previous post I have recently returned from lovely Greece and the Networked Learning Conference, so now it is time to return to some of the issues and presentations that I found thought-provoking and interesting.

The conference actually started off with a very interesting keynote delivered by Charalambos Vrasidas with the title ‘Social Networking for Social Justice: Challenges and Possibilities‘ (Grainne Conole has already posted a good summary and discussion of the keynote on her excellent blog where she has also commented on other presentations from the conference).

The keynote was a thought provoking reminder of the unequal access to education in the world (and the general inequality in terms of the economical and social distribution of power and goods) – something we should really keep in mind every time we talk about “open education”, “digital generations” or the “world wide web” which is really not that “world wide” in terms of access and the capacity to utilise the online resources (a good point I shall return to).

Charalambos Vrasidas argued against the notion that ‘the world is flat’ (adopted from Friedman) and drawing on Richard Florida he suggested instead that the world is ‘spiky’ – meaning that even though we are indeed seeing new power centers and super economies emerge (e.g. in Asia) there are still billions of people around the world (in both developing and developed countries) living in (extreme) poverty not benefiting from the apparently ‘flat world’.

The notion of a ‘flat world’ also seems to include the idea that more people have been given access to information through the ‘world wide web’, which to some extent is also true. Here, however, I think that Charalambos made a great point! While initiatives like MIT Opencourseware and OER Commons (open educational resources) give people free access to wonderful resources for teaching and learning two questions should be asked: whom are they actually open to – or rather what languages are they available in? But actually more important – where are the infrastructures (e.g. teachers, context and networks, accreditation systems etc.) to make sense and use of these resources? While having access to material is of course a great thing it may not be enough in and off itself.

If we assume that learning arises, not only from reading/internalising information, but equally through participation, dialogue and students’ active self-governed, problem-based and collaborative activities, then we might need to think about how we can leverage the access to active networks, dialogues and spaces of meaning making – just as much as access to materials and resources.

One other point (out of many others) mentioned in Charalambos’ presentation was the idea of how social networking and ‘Online Activism’ might be a way to promote and strengthen social justice. He used a video from Amnesty International and mentioned the power of networks in (virally) distributing the video, thereby raising awareness about Human Rights and that ‘your signature counts‘. Distributing videos and utilising the power of networks certainly help in getting messages across to a broader public, and Charalambos also gave other examples of how technology and social networks can be used to promote social justice (e.g. games such as food-force or the empowerment experienced by peasants being able to check crop prices on the net).

However, I have come to think of if certain forms of ‘Online Activism’ may actually lead to a sort of ‘laid back’ or even ‘lazy activism’. For instance it is great that just by using Facebook I can (apparently) help reduce C02 emission, give rice to poor people and save the rain forest by nursing my (Lil) Green Patch…but on the other hand – do they actually engage me or disengage me (one is helping while maybe not being particularly aware of or reflexive about it)? A lot of great work is going on within the field of ‘motivating design’ or persuasive design’ (for instance I would recommend the blog Architectures of Control? Design with Intent that is maintained by Dan Lockton). Here one of the ideas is to embed ‘good, sustainable practices’ into the design and function of various technologies causing people to automatically save water, electricity and so forth. Like many of the Facebook-application this is a really great idea (assuming that they actually do work), but I do have one concern! While such ‘persuasive or motivational’ designs surely can change people’s behaviour, do they also raise awareness and engagement – do they change our minds and not only our behaviour?

Likewise, it is great that I can easily sign petitions at Avaaz.org and hope that politicians will listen and take action correspondingly – also it is wonderful that I can quickly send an sms to the Danish Red Cross to donate money for the victims in Myanmar. But do such initiatives and ‘the easiness’ also eschew our collective focus from long-term, difficult efforts of capacity building, sustainability onto ’causes’ and ‘immediate solutions’. Not that these two are mutually exclusive, but some Danish charity and developmental organisations have pointed out that while people are willing to donate a lot of money for specific ’causes’ and ‘events’ it is harder to promote and ensure support for more long-term and slow-moving projects which may take decades to succeed. With ‘direct’ support and aid we can see the value and results (or imagine the impact) quickly (people get rice, blankets, water or the popular ‘donate a goat’ presents etc.), whereas with an ‘indirect’ support (building up public administration, training teachers, collaborating on building up capacity on Universities or in other sectors) it is somewhat more difficult to see immediate and concrete results.

Of course this is not to argue that we should not engage with motivating or persuasive design and embedding good practices into technology; that we should not easily be able to donate money, school books, goats etc. to poor people needing the help – or raising awareness by distributing widely videos like the one from Amnesty International. However, what would be very interesting to study is how and if such initiatives and technologies affect or transform our ways of engaging with the world and our ways of taking action?

Back from Networked Learning Conference 2008 and Greece

Monday, May 12th, 2008

This Friday Malene and me returned from a wonderful week in Halkidiki, Greece. I went there to participate in the Networked Learning Conference, which ran on the 5-6 of May. We, however, decided to arrive a bit in advance and stay a few days after for a bit of vacation. The conference was held at the Sani Beach hotel, which was a wonderful setting for a great conference (and for vacation I might add :-) – below are some pictures of the view from our room).




The conference was really good, well organised and a great inspiration – something which I will explore in more depth in some follow-up posts on some of the presentations, symposia and keynotes from the conference (Gráinne Conole has already summarised and discussed some of the presentations and keynotes on her very interesting blog).

I was part of two symposiums which both went really well, I think (Where is the learning in Networked Learning? & Breaching the Garden Walls? Social media, institutions, infrastructures and design for learning) . They both generated good discussions which was a great opportunity for getting some feedback and start reflecting more on the central themes of the symposiums and one’s own paper(s) – the full papers by the way should soon be available from the conference website, and I will discuss the symposiums in other posts.

For now, it is sufficient to say that the conference was really good, and that I met a lot of interesting people and heard some great presentations and keynotes – so a big thanks to the organisers of the conference and to all participants for making it a very worthwhile event!