Ice Bucket Challenge – the woolly liberal version

I suppose it’s almost inevitable that once you comment on people doing the Ice Bucket Challenge, you have raised your head above the parapet and should expect to catch a bullet.  In my case it was my dear sister-in-law Moira Richardson, a recent entrant to Facebook, who challenged me. Although I am rather too old and overweight for the wet t-shirt competition, I thought that I should stand up to the plate, and try to make the best of it in my best woolly liberal manner.

First question – to which charity should I donate?  I figured that the ALS Association in USA and the Motor Neurone Disease Association. in the UK had probably done very well from it already. I wondered about Macmillan but, alerted by my son Dan Bell, I noticed the paid ad at the top of the Google Search. I wondered how much they paid for that ad. So I decided to donate to a good cause dear to the hearts of friends Toni and Si Blower who lost their precious firstborn son within days of his birth.

Next question was the thorny issue of wasting water on this #firstworld tomfoolery.  I decided to stand in a tray and try to recycle the water.  The video will reveal my success? in this aim.

Finally whom should I challenge?  I have a lifelong horror of chain letters (and now emails).  The emotional blackmail makes my toes curl so this is my challenge:

To anyone in my network and circle of friends, I challenge you to choose to

  • Do your own version of the challenge and donate to the charity of your choice
  • Don’t do the challenge and donate to the charity of your choice
  • Ignore the tomfoolery

Whichever you choose is just fine with me.

I had some concerns about the exploitation around this initiative – teach your two year old to swear on video as she drenches herself, endless media feeding frenzy on the topic, competitive social media strategies by charities.  But…. If it means that we are stirred into some sort of action and give more money to charity than we have done otherwise , it’s not all bad. So do think about donating this good cause or any other.

P.S. I forgot to say that if nothing else, it’s a great opportunity to see me make a fool of myself.

PLE Conference in Aveiro, Portugal and Melbourne

PLE Conference logo
The 2012 Personal Learning Environment (PLE) Conference is being held simultaneously in Aveiro (Portugal) and Melbourne (Australia) in July this year. You can submit paper 1200 word extended abstracts for full papers or 700 words for short papers, posters and doctoral consortium panel participation and there will soon be news on other types of presentation, such as Pecha Kucha, workshops, symposia, demonstrations and installations.
The important thing is to check the site at http://pleconf.org/call-for-papers/
I have been invited to give an interactive keynote with Professor Dias de Figueiredo and I am very excited about this. I am so looking forward to joining the PLE Conference community.

Comment for Kevin Stranack

I just tried (twice) to post a comment on Kevin Stranack’s blog  but failed twice.

His post is at http://stranack.ca/2011/09/25/transitioning-journals-to-open/
My comments was:

Already we have a connection Kevin.  I am co-editor of Research in Learning technology – journal for Association Learning Technology that will be Open Access from Jan 1 2012.
ALT’s Chief Exec Seb Schmoller was presenting with our new publishers Co-Action at the Tallinn workshop on the process of procuring a publisher to meet society’s aims.  As editor I am hoping to increase readership and submissions – exciting times!

A comment on George Siemens post plus a few more comments

I just tried to post this comment on George Siemen’s http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2011/09/01/the-narrowness-of-thought-in-higher-education-reform/ blog post but not sure it ‘took’ so I am posting it here.

Thanks for this George (I also made a comment over at your slideshow).  One of the reasons that I came into the field of Learning Technology (if indeed it is a field) was to play a part in letting lessons learned in earlier organisational applications of technology benefit what is happening in education.  This requires us to reference disciplines such as Information Systems (my home discipline), Business and Management, as well as Computer Science and Education.
Last year I was the commissioning editor, facilitating a Special Issue of ALT-J edited by 3 significant figures in education and you can see the articles here  
http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet26/ajet26.html.
You could say that the articles mainly cover additive change but that issue and the whole wealth of research into transforming institutions within a huge business and societal sector like education is a huge challenge.  I agree, we need to broaden our thought (and read around), but also ‘go canny’ as they say in Scotland.  Whatever the future will be, we are unlikely to predict it with accuracy, and will need to nudge our visions along the way.

We at ALT-J are experiencing change, with our name having changed from what sounds a bit like a keyboard shortcut to ‘Research in Learning Technology’, and Research in Learning Technology moving to Open Access publication (without author charges!) from January 2012.  This has been a process of change, with reflection, consideration of options along the way, including publishing back issues in ALT Repository (within copyright agreement) see http://www.alt.ac.uk/publications-and-resources/publications/alt-journal-research-learning-technology

Premature Stabilisation of MOOCs and other things

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I have already posted on the recent discussion on MOOCs, and I was quite pleased with the discussion that ensued in the comments. There does seem to be some interest in the nature of the MOOC discussion, at least in the outer fringes anyway.  I had thought of posting a follow up but didn’t do so until I found myself posting an incredibly long comment on Dave Cormier’s recent post about the need for a philosophy of learning. Hmm, I thought – you really do want to write a blog post about this.

I liked the pragmatic tone of Dave’s blog post, particularly his recognition that in teaching and learning that we sometimes deal with ‘points’ of knowledge as ‘facts’ to move us on to the really interesting and challenging learning  that inhabits (or is banished from) the lines and spaces between points (read his post for a better explanation).

Dave’s post led me to reflect on the (in)stability of knowledge in the context of the recent discussion on MOOCs and on Connectivism.  My main experience of both of these phenomena was CCK08 a MOOC on Connectivism and Connective Knowledge in which I participated in 2008.  I have critiqued Connectivism as a theory, questioning its premature stability  “If Connectivism is mutable knowledge as it extends its network, then it will behave like the knowledge and networks it describes in the theory.” link to Networked Learning paper.  I have argued that Connectivism is a useful phenomenon rather than a theory and suggested ways in which it might be developed and used.  In those papers I compared Connectivism with Actor Network Theory that deals with the concept of stabilisation but I was pleased to find a somewhat more accessible treatment of stabilisation knowledge in Engestrom’s writing.

Stabilization knowledge is constructed to freeze and simplify a constantly shifting
or otherwise bewildering reality. It is used to turn the problematic into a closed phenomenon
that can be registered and pushed around rather than transformed. It
commonly takes the shape of fixed and bounded categories, but also narratives may
be used to stabilize. Stabilizing categories often become stigmatic stamps on objects,
both human beings and things. Engestrom 2007.

(Note: I just found Engestrom’s writing on stabilisation and possibility knowledge – other examples of the (in)stability of knowledge very welcome)

So we are sitting in a room at something that we call a table and we acknowledge that this table means something different to all of us but we can somehow suspend these differences and have a worthwhile conversation about the table that increases our personal knowledge of this table thing as long as we acknowledge the differences and are listening to each other.
In the part of the recent MOOC discussion I saw, this was not always happening.  I would characterise some of the contributions as either trying to solidify and stabilise the concept of a MOOC, or perhaps in Wiley’s case reject it.  To me it seemed like a bit of a power struggle between Knowledge as fact to be transferred, preferably via OERs, and Knowledge as implicated in the ‘new’ concept’ of MOOCs.  In both cases, there is the risk of a premature stabilisation of knowledge taking place: in the first case of fixed knowledge artifacts: and in the second case that MOOCs are a label for something that has happened in other ways in the past, and the label and premature stability could impede future development.

So why does this matter?

I would say because premature stabilisation removes the possibility of development and can exclude valid and relevant perspectives, as I argued in my previous post.  I don’t know if Siemens, Downes and Wiley complete the assigned Belenky reading;)

Let’s have some possibility knowledge in the OER and connected learning discussions.

Possibility knowledge, on the other hand, emerges when objects are represented
in fields with the help of which one can depict meanings in movement and transformation.
One traces transitions of positions in a field, which destabilizes knowledge,
puts it in movement and opens up possiblities. In this sense, possibility knowledge is
agentive knowledge, the instrumentality of agency at work.Engestrom 2007

I am a simple soul who needs to ground ideas in my personal experience or other examples, and so my reflections led me straight back to my own personal contrasting experiences of CCK08. (Warning: these are neither points nor facts but my own subjective interpretations of what happened within my own experience).
1.Once the disrupter had left, there was some great discussion on the (disapproved) Moodle forums where I was learning and observing others (appearing to be) learning. There was a great tolerance for different views and pragmatism of approach.
2. External speaker sessions where new ideas could be introduced and these may have sparked discussions amongst participants in the chat window, on blogs or in forums (suggesting learning).
3. Friday sessions which tended to be broadcast-only by George Siemens GS and Stephen Downes SD, with slightly quizzical moderation from Dave Cormier, plus a bit of lively chat window interaction often strangely disconnected from the monologues (at least in the ones I observed before giving up on the Friday sessions).

I think that 1,2,3 are in order of greatest to least learning taking place.

If we look at each in terms of who was (apparently) learning: in 1 participants learned frequently, GS sometimes, SD rarely; in 2 participants sometimes particularly if followed up, GS and SD more likely than in forums, presenter very little if at all; in 3 if learning was taking place here I couldn’t see it except in chat window interaction.
My own very personal views were probably highly influenced by my own reactions to the different environments, and by my own growing certainty that connectivism was something to be tossed around and critiqued not ‘learned’. I argue that MOOCs and connectivism are organic phenomena that are not ready for being tied down and ‘judged’.

Useful questions are:
How are MOOCs and Connectivism like and not like other phenomena X Y Z?

How do people make effective use of them?

What can the protoganists learn?

I think that Dave’s pragmatic approach might help – that OK we know knowledge isn’t really ‘transferred’ but sometimes that simplification of what is really happening can move things forward a bit. Attempting for precision of definition of things that are still a bit fuzzy for everyone doesn’t always help matters.  It’s still time for possibility knowledge in the areas of informal learning in a digital environment and modes of organisation (such as MOOCs, networks and virtual communities).
I found it interesting that Dave referred to parent/child interactions where provisional/revisional approaches to ‘knowledge’ are most helpful for learning – parents are there for the long haul, they don’t need to the last detail on the first attempt.
I would question every letter of the MOOC acronym with the possible exception of online but that’s not to say I think they are a bad thing – I am just not yet sure what they are going to be.
I think they can really maximise learning when participants can tolerate different philosophies of learning (including “I don’t have a philosophy of learning”), be good-humoured and willing to learn.

doi: 10.1177/1350507607079026 Engestrom,Y.  Management Learning July 2007 vol. 38 no. 3 271-275