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CCK09 – Week 1

September 21, 2009

This is my comment on Week 1 of CCK09, Connectivism and Connective Knowledge on-line course of University of Manitoba. As a former student of CCK08, seeking for updating concepts and recreating learning experiences while flowing in the chaos, I will try not to repeat myself and recommend you all, to revisit my last year comments on this same blog. In the meanwhile, I will try to polish my own personal learning environment that would defy the existing canonic model.  All suggestions will be very much appreciated.

Networks are everywhere, says Lazlo Barabasi. And everyone agree now on this. And learning theory and pedagogy would not ignore the chance of participating in this hip. Connectivism is its name. Learning as a connective phenomenon. Knowledge as a distributed character.  A participatory pedagogy that engages in co-creating.

Nodes and links are basic elements of networks, in its most infant epistemology stage. As in classical netownian physics, compared to relativistic or quantum physics. The separation we need to make between nodes and links is convenient, but it hides a more nonlinear and complex phenomenon. Links and nodes should be considered as parts of same entity. Like irregular membranes. In the meanwhile, let’s use what we have and understand: networks. And lets us them to push the knowledge of knowledge and learn on learning a bit.

See you next week.

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CCK08- Connectivism Concept Map

December 6, 2008

connectivism-concept-map1Connectivsm and Connective Knowledge concept map.

This is the final concept map briefing the 12 weeks Conncectivism and Connectiv Knowledge main concepts.

CCK08 – Paper 3: Opportunities and resistance

November 27, 2008

 

Chinese do not have a word for crisis. Crisis is written using two ideograms: risk and opportunity.

Is education facing a crisis? If education means challenge and change, education will always be in crisis. Let’s face education as paradigm of permanent risk and opportunities.

The kind of crisis that Education is facing now is leveraged by technology. A new theory of knowledge and learning emerges out of the construction and navigation of knowledge networks: Connectivsm. Networks manifest its connecting character allowing the flow of distributed knowledge. Based on networks structure in a complex changing environment and distributed cognition a new paradigm emerges claiming deep changes at the fundamental basis of the theoretical and practice of the education building.

We have huge amount of evidence of the impact of technology at all levels in human society. We assist at signs of this crisis manifested in a generational divide. Or should we say that technology is deepening the generational divide? In the classroom this is quite evident. The practice exercised by learners around technology is completely different from that of the teachers.  Resistance and conservatism is the answer of many teachers to the presence of technology in the classroom. Would teachers be able to catch up their pupils overcoming the divide? In many cases this may be solved through intensive technology literacy training. But in some other cases, the divide is that. Like the rivers, they flow to different oceans.

We read this divide in the way that the space in the classroom is articulated. The central position of the teacher is a barrier to allow the pupils to develop their networks. But it is not only the teachers who are acting the resistance. The educational organization expresses the paradigm of conservatism as well as the curricula. He have seen some curricula being updated, but the pedagogy stays the same.

Considering this panorama, connectivism and connective knowledge will have better chances of unveiling all its potential in non formal education, postgraduate studies and new pedagogies experiences. It will take some time till connectivism will be seen not as thread to traditional education. Points of resistance will not be neutralized through the introduction of technology. On the contrary, it will deepen the crisis. Connectivism will has its opportunities as social networks of teachers and pupils will interconnect in a complex manner. Going back to the Japanese culture, they have recognized that the softer the elements are, the harder to change them. It is easier to change a technology. It is very difficult to change a culture.

The following question Will connectivism be able to produce the learning required to meet the complex challenges facing the future? should be re-estated. It is not a matter of connectivism. Connectivism will make evident the need of using the network and complexitiy metaphors in order to find a path to produce the changes that the future is claiming. The educational organizations will have the chance to react,  and some will demonstrate that there is a new way of allowing to learn. A more centreless education with more protagonist pupils.

CCK08 – Week 12: The best way to predict the future is to build it.

November 25, 2008

 

In order to answer the questions on the future of Connectivism and Connectivism Knowledge, some vision of possible futures may help.

Futurelab, a UK not-for-profit organization committed to research on change on education policies and practices, in its document 2020 and beyond: Future scenarios for education in the age of new technologies  tries to build a vision for personalized learning facing year 2020. The report proposes five key areas in the field of digital technology of potential interest to educators:

1. Personal devices. Technology will be invisible embedded and distributed in most objects. Audio communicators, visual displays and communications devices and other sensors will be embedded in  keys, clothes, shoes, notebooks and newspapers.

2. Intelligent environments. The environment will adapt to the individual and connect and know everything about him.

3. Computing infrastructure. A blanket wireless connectivity to the network for relationships between users and software for complex simulations and experiments with infinite storage capacity.

4. Security. Access to all of your embedded devices, interactions with intelligent environments and connections to the network.

5. Interfaces. Interactions will be with things and people and not with machines, screens and keyboards.

In summary, interaction with digital technologies will be more pervasive, seamless and invisible enabling ongoing interactions with people, buildings and materials and with a constantly connected network with unimaginable computing power and reliable storage capacity to interact more with more intelligent (and responsive) technologies to use simulation and visualization tools to solve problems, experience alternative realities and prepare for new experiences.

In the past language and text offered fundamental benefits for thinking and learning processes. Now, thinking, learning and knowledge may be conceived as a distributed activity across mind, body, community and digital resources. How much of what is our present pedagogy artifact is based on the constellations of community and resources available? What is the pedagogy to be built facing this networked vision? Let’s build it.

CCK08 – Week 11: Ecology and networks, the space and structures of learning.

November 24, 2008

 

A learner-centered education is being driven by the development of social learning theory and the advancement of participatory web technologies. The information and communications technologies have influenced in three dimensions:

·         our ability to create and share information and content

·         our ability to connect and dialogue with others

·         our ability to experience a simulated reality

that leads to:

·         a diminishment of barriers to the creation of content and information and challenges the validation of information accuracy and  quality

·         the ability for conversations to occur, no longer confined by space and time

·         experience events previously unattainable for individuals to due to cost and access.

 

This is bringing challenges to traditional education:

Knowledge fluidity: Knowledge has become increasingly fluid.

Competition:  Border-less education, private for-profit and corporate universities

The ability to continue to learn and develop new knowledge replaces the importance of existing knowledge. The development of certain type of person with certain mindsets exceeds the importance of being in possession of a particular type of knowledge: becoming in contrast with knowing.

This trends and innovations impact on the spaces and structures of learning which claims to rethink classrooms, courses and programs. At the same time, new affordances arise. Societies and organizations generally value learning that occurs in traditional classroom models above other forms of learning. Yet learning occurs in many places, formats and process. Learning occurs also through games and simulation, mentoring and apprenticing, self-learning, communities of practice, personal learning networks, informal learning situations like conferences, reading, volunteering and hobbies, in summary: a broad-spectrum of learning situations.

Three concepts will form the foundations for reconsidering the spaces and structures of education:

1.       Long-term trends influencing information creation and structures of education;

2.       The nature of systemic change;

3.       The multi-faceted, dimension-less nature of learning.

Our ability to learn, grow and adapt to chance pressures is directly linked to the nature of our learning environments. But traditional education is defined by bounded classrooms and hierarchical organization and mindsets of information and content. So, a need for a different metaphor arises to guide learning design. Metaphors of learning ecology and learning network are suggested as encapsulating the needed shifts.

Ecology:               Can be viewed as an environment that fosters and supports the formation of communities and networks, the space of learning. Learning is seen as bounded, structured, managed by a single expert (the teacher) and occurring within the confines of a small group of peers. Information filtered in advance, by the educator and presented in a fairly coherent form defines the classroom. In contrast, the internet can be seen as an ecology of learning with different affordances, a hub of creative chaos.

Networks:           Can be viewed as the structures of learning. Networks arise in a space that both supports and confines their creation. This centrality of networks as an organizing scheme is also reflected in education, teaching and learning under the concept of connectivism. The distributed nature of knowledge and the growing complexification of all aspects of society require increased utilization of technology to assist our ability to stay current, manage information abundance and solve highly complex problems.

Thus, a call for a new pedagogy arises. In the 70’s Paulo Freire called for reform based on the changing power structures in society and Ivan Illich founded his motivation for systemic reform in the growing costs of education and the inability of the existing system to scale and meet new challenges. The reform calls of today are limited by lack of effort assigned to date on conceptualizing innovative and creative uses fo existing participatory technologies. A participatory pedagogy is one that does not fully define all curricular needs in advance of interacting with learners. Learners are able to contribute to existing curricula.

Education is concerned with the act of becoming. A highly connected and well educated populace appears to hold the greatest prospect for preparing individuals and societies to participate in the information and knowledge age.

 

CCK08 – Week 10 (bis): Openness and Sustainable Open Education Resources.

November 17, 2008

Let’s consider Open Education Resources (OERs) as:

·         Open courseware and content

·         Open software tools

·         Open material for e-learning capacity

·         Repositoires of learning objects

·         Free educational courses.

If we consider Open Education as freely available on non-commercial terms the different alternatives we have on sustainability of Open Education Resources (OERs) become critical. There are different models for funding Open Education:
Endowment model: the project is sustained from interest earned on managed funds to be previously obtained.

1.       Membership model: interested organizations are invited to contribute or subscribe.

2.       Donations model: supported by donations.

3.       Conversion model: giving something for free and convert later into a paying customer.

4.       Contributor-pay model: contributors pay the cost to make possible the provider to supply for free.

5.       Sponsorship model: sponsor explicitly contributes to get a return for its action.

6.       Institutional model: Institution pays as part of its mission.

7.       Governmental model: project is funded by government agencies.

8.       Partnerships and exchanges: the output of the exchange is an OER.

 

We should also take into account that the development and distribution of the OERs need to be accomplished. So, access, usability/reusability and quality are to be considered. Finally, the production of the resources requires a staff to complete the work, which in some case, but not in all, they make be staffed with volunteers, which also demand some level of organizations.

The concept of Open Education is widely considered here as a the capability of getting access, the possibility of having a conversation, individual networked centricity and dynamic self-determining educational paths, to mentions a few of them.

Be the Universal Access to Internet services and tools a change in paradigm which will bring a new level of literacy in Education?

CKK08 – Week 10. Openness: The collective building of Utopia.

November 15, 2008

Jimmy Wales and Jorge Crom

Jimmy Wales and Jorge Crom

It took seven year to write the biggest Encyclopedia in Spanish. It has 413.000 articles and 22 millions of editions that revised, extended, corrected and updated its content. Its distribution is completely free, using any Internet navigator. Its contents may be copied and re-distributed freely. It is Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org). A non profit, open and collaborative effort of networked volunteers that spontaneously and generously write and edit the digital encyclopedia.

Founded in 2001 by Jimmy Wales, it is written in 264 languages. Its credibility and verifiability is based on an infinite edition and correction process by its community of followers.  Any hacking and bad intentions are neutralized and emended in 20 minutes average time. Their articles try to show a neutral standpoint where all the positions are expressed through a knowledge collaborative building effort, which in some cases is not easy to obtain. MediaWiki, the software license of its platform can be freely downloaded from Internet. Their servers are distributed all over the world.

Talking with Jimmy Wales, last week in Buenos Aires, he defines Wikipedia as “an open Encyclopedia freely licensed to all persons in the world to access all the human knowledge”. Wikipedia is today one of the five most visited sites in the web and is sustained by the collaboration and donations of the public.  “Small individual contributions are better than large institutional donations to preserve independency” says Jimmy. A staff of 22 persons work in the development, maintenance and technical support of the platform and coordinating volunteers. Jimmy is always traveling around the world advocating and pushing this wiki spirit.

Nature magazine selected 50 articles of similar extension from Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia and gave them to same quantity of specialist for them to detect errors. Three errors per article were founded in Encyclopedia Britannica while four were founded in Wikipedia’s articles. “What is amazing is that the articles of Encyclopedia Britannica are written by specialist on each subject and could not be corrected till the next printed edition. This brought a crisis in Encyclopedia Britannica while Wikipedia made the corrections immediately” says Jimmy. Wikipedia is one of the best examples of the Wiki spirit, the collective construction of Utopia.

CCK08 – Paper 2. The shifting role for an educator.

November 10, 2008

 

Learning is complex to be confined or reduced to a mechanistic model. Instead, we use networks and ecologies as a model for learning. Networks and ecologies are a suitable replacement for the current classroom and hierarchical model of education. This complex environment we find in education explains the emergency of learners understanding, group formation, advancement of a discipline, etc.   

In learning we have individual parts, dynamic interaction, criticality of feedback in influencing adaptation and openness. Complexity provides a perspective on learning based on non-linearity of thought and variation as a source and outcome of thinking. Emergence is the outcome (understanding) that arises from different agents interacting and producing unanticipated outcomes. Emergence may manifest through collective self-organization, un-programmed functionality, interactive complexity or/and incompressible unfolding

For an autonomously developing system to acquire knowledge about a realistically complex environment, it must be able to interact extensively with that environment. Such interactions require very sophisticated sensors, which bring information into the system so that the system can test its understanding of the outside world. It requires speed and immediacy, ability to access a vast amount of information, demands user participation, mash ups, remixing and co-construction, capability to combine sources, cut, paste and edit on other peoples’ work, make cross referencing, manage the disappear of “the expert”, accept user generated content, mass participation and co-construction of ideas in a subject field fragmented and diverse, be able to participate, negotiate and personalize tools.

 In education the primary social object is content, but Education value lies not only in the content itself but the social interaction, which occurs around the content. Social networks are first and foremost networks of communications involving symbolic language, cultural constraints, relationship of power. Each communication creates thoughts and meaning, which give rise to further communications, and thus the entire network generates itself. Living social systems are self-generating networks of communications.

Social systems produce non-material structures.  Ideas, values, beliefs and other forms of knowledge generated by social systems constitute structures of meaning. These material structures – texts, works of art, technologies and material goods – are created for a purpose. They are embodiments of the shared meaning generated by the society’s networks of communications.

Autonomy, diversity, openness and interactivity are properties of good networks that make them robust, stable and reliable which configure them in the end as good knowledge engines  aligned with connective knowledge. Connectivism plays an important role in the development and emergence of new pedagogies, where control is shifting from the teacher to an increasingly more autonomous learner, an explorer. In this new environment, students will search, discover and create information and knowledge by participating and appropriating for themselves tools, technologies and networks.

So the question is, what are the changing roles for educators based on the connectivsm theory ? Educators should be at the same time community leaders, technology stewards and network weavers.

Complexity helps us to understand the multiple interactions of elements of a system that results in particular incomes. So, we should be able to design for adaptability, that is finding ways and patterns for sense making and achieve particular outcome through distributed approaches.

So, what are the roles to be played by an educator in learning complexity? The answer is that an educator should have the same capabilities we may ask to have to anyone that would navigate complexity.

It is not possible to manage a complex system, but to manage much of its environment: probe (explore, make sense, crating disruption o intervening), sense (see what happens with the structure), answer (reflect and design the new probe).

It is not possible to control networks, but to create connections, reinforce good connections, brake connections and reconnect.

Facing networks, what should be the new educator’s role?

1.    We should promote educators to make focus on networks, recognize its structure and dynamic and navigate them.

2.    Educator should become champions in linking concepts, people, networks and organizations.

3.    Educators should manage its own personal network to be able to foster people to be network capable.

It is a very challenging future, for education. In the meanwhile, students may be surpassing some of the networks capabilities of their tutors.  This reinforce the need of a urgent focus migration from content to networks.

 

References.

Kop, Rita and Hill, Adrian.  Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?

McCarthy, Helen, Miller, Paul and  Skidmore, Paul (ed.). Network logic. Who governs in an interconnected world?

Phelps, Renata. Developing Online From Simplicity toward Complexity: Going with the Flow of Non-Linear Learning.

CCK08 – Week 9. Towards a Network Centric Education (NCE)?

November 9, 2008

Rita Kop and Adrian Hall in their paper, Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?, conclude that a paradigm shift may be occurring in educational theory, and a new epistemology may be emerging, but this is not enough to make connectivism a separate learning. However, the authors recognize that connectivism plays an important role in the development and emergence of new pedagogies, where control is shifting from the tutor to an increasingly more autonomous learner.

It is sure that the education practice is being influenced by Internet, web2.0 and other ITC tools. The center role of the teacher may be shifted towards a centreless education model. Same will happen with educational structures, organizations and administrations. Or, should we talk about a Network Centric Education (NCE)? In this new environment, students will search, discover and create information and knowledge by participating and appropriating for themselves tools, technologies and networks. Even at the concept level, the same structure and dynamic learned in networked environment will easily be replicated.

Nancy White, of  Full Circle Associates, identifies that the emerging roles and practices that this landscape brings could be described as follows:

 

Environment

Profile

Community

Leaders

Technology

Stewards

Network

Weavers

 

So the question would be, what are the changing roles for educators based on the connectivsm theory?

 

CCK08 – Week 8. Power: Networks vs. networks.

November 3, 2008

 

Networks as organization pattern in Biology and Society.

Biological systems exchange molecules in networks of chemical reactions, social systems exchange information and ideas in networks of communications. Biological networks operate in the realm of matter. Social networks operate in the realm of meaning.

The difference between a living organism and a dead organism lies in metabolism, the ceaseless flow of energy and matter through a network of chemical reactions, which enables a living organism to continually generate, repair and perpetuate itself. The two basic aspects of metabolism are this continuous flow of energy and matter and the network of chemical reactions that process the food and form the biochemical basis of all biological structures, functions and behavior. The network is a pattern that is common to all life, the very basic patterns of organization in all living systems. Wherever we see life, we see networks.

They are functional networks, networks of relationships between various processes. Their key characteristic is that they are self-generating. Living networks are self-generating. All living organisms have a physical boundary that discriminates between the system – the self and its environment. The existence of membranes is therefore an essential condition for cellular life. The boundaries of living networks, then, are not boundaries of separation but boundaries of identity.

Network generates its own boundary of exceptions, of confidentiality and loyalty, which is continually maintained and renegotiated by the network of communications.

Social networks are first and foremost networks of communications involving symbolic language, cultural constraints, relationships of power. Each communication creates thoughts and meaning, which give rise to further communications, and thus the entire network generates itself. Living social systems are self-generating networks of communications.

Social systems produce non-material structures.  Ideas, values, beliefs and other forms of knowledge generated by social systems constitute structures of meaning, which we may call semantic structures. The culture’s semantic structures are documented. These material structures – texts, works of art, technologies and material goods – are created for a purpose. They are embodiments of the shared meaning generated by the society’s networks of communications.

Biological and social systems both generate their own boundaries. A social network, a non material, cultural boundary, which imposes constraints on the behavior of its members. Natural sciences deal with material structures while social sciences deal with social structures, essentially rules of behavior. A sustainable community is designed not to interfere with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life. The principles of organization that nature has evolved to sustain the web of life.

 

The Network Society

Networking has emerged as a new form of organization of human activity. The term  Network Society describes this new social structure. Internet is becoming a critical infrastructure of everyday life, crucially enabling individuals to network in new ways that reconfigure and enhance their communicative power- as a type of Fifth Estate. The communicative power of networked individuals is key. Individuals and institutional, networks of networks. People able to reconfigure their access to information, people and other resources.

Networks appear to be the organizing form of life, including social life. Networks reconfigure themselves in real time, on a global-local scale, and permeate all domains of social life. We live in a network society, not in an information society or a knowledge society. Technological paradigm is the dominant medium for social organization. The proper identification of our society, out of ruling if it is the Fourth of Fifth Estate, is in terms of its specific social structure: networks powered by microelectronics and software-base information and communications technologies.

Internet can play in reconfiguring access to people, information, services and resources. It can change the way we do things. Internet can alter the outcomes of these activities. These networks can blur the boundaries of households, organizations, institutions and nations. They enable individuals –not only institutions- to create local and global networks.

Autonomy, diversity, openness and interactivity are not properties of networks generically, but the properties of good networks. Networks in which these values are promoted are robust, stable and reliable. They are good knowledge engines because these principles align with connective knowledge. The web is an engineered space that creates a distributed information space.

Internet has the potential to reshape the communicative power of individuals and groups in numerous ways. Internet is as creating a space of flows, in contrast to a space of places. This new space of flows connects with people and places.  This space of flows enables a multitude of actors to reconfigure access to information, people, services and technologies. Through the space of flows, the networks of networks, the Internet is enabling the development of a Fifth Estate that is enhancing the accountability of many sectors across all societies.  

Networks constitute the newest major social organizational form, after tribes, hierarchies and markets.
Commerce was organized around markets. Technology is organized around networks. But networks have their structure and dynamic that imposes laws whatever is the realm where it is present. We recognize in complex linked network an unbalanced distribution that makes its nodes different one to another. That is the case of the 80-20 law formulated by Vilfredo Pareto, the existence of hubs and the free scales networks configured following the preferential attachment dynamic as described by Barabasi. This emerges as properties of a super organism that has its consequences, as described by Manuel Castells :

1.       Network society expands on a global scale.

2.       Networked organizations out-compete all other forms of organization, particularly the vertical, rigid, command-and-control bureaucracies.

3.       Networking of political institutions is the de facto response to the management crisis suffered by nation stated in a supranational world.

4.       Civil society is reconstructed at the local and global level through networks of activists.

5.       Sociability is transformed in the new historical context, with networked individualism emerging as the synthesis between the affirmation of an individual-centered culture, and need and desire for sharing and co-experiencing.

6.       Whole range of social practices, both global and local, communicates in the media space, with its infinite capacity of integrate and exclude.

7.       In the network society, power continues to be the fundamental structuring force of its shape and direction.

Power is located in the networks that structure society and is exercised by specific configurations of these networks that express dominant interests and values. Networks matter because they are the underlying structure of our lives. To counter networks of power and their connections, alternative networks need to be introduced: networks that disrupt certain connections and establish new ones. Network vs. networks.