Rhizo14 – Cheating and Learning

This is my introductory post for the MOOC Rhizo14.  I have joined because I want to understand more about rhizomatic learning.  I have been quite interested in MOOCs in general (less so in the enormous MOOCs run by high-profile universities and then spun out into commercial services.  What interests me is the comparison between informal learning that can be enabled by the Internet and social media platforms, and more formal forms of association such as MOOCs, forums, online communities, etc. that seem to me to sit between the informal associations that learners make and formal education institutions.

What actually prompted me to join at Rhizomatic Learning – The community is the curriculum was the excellent post by Jenny Mackness Rhizomatic Learning and Ethics.  Both Jenny and Chadia (in his excellently titled post I do not agree with Dave Cormier ) question whether cheating is the same as rule-breaking.  I went to Dave’s video and Things to Do via Jenny’s post, and it seemed to me that dear Dave was being a teeny tiny bit provocative by choosing the idea of ‘cheating’ to link to learning.  Cheating is a great concept – definitions can be personal and it definitely evokes strong feelings. So it was really good to kick things off in week 1.  Then I noticed that Dave (in his FB  comments on Jenny’s post) was gently redirecting discussion of the posts back to the source, her post – a practical act that displayed his ethics by modelling a behaviour.

Dave asks of us:

What does it [cheating] say about learning? About power? About how you see teaching?

I suspect that cheating is more about assessment and ‘winning’ than learning.  I noticed that several people have spoken about gaming. Whilst I am sure that playing games can be an important activity in learning, if winning the game became a surrogate for learning I would question the value of the learning.

Power relations in teaching and learning are complex and it’s such an important topic that I hope we will look at power relations and rhizomatic learning.

If I saw teaching as about exercising power by means of assessment, sanctions and qualification I would not have stuck at it for so long.

The second part of the title of this course ‘community is the curriculum’ arouses a lot of curiosity in me.  What sort of community will we become? what will our curriculum be?  That will be practical ethics – what might ‘cheating’ be in our community?  I don’t know but I strongly suspect it won’t be defined by rules.

Poor sad schizostylus

Finally I offer you the poor sad schizostylis that is a rhizome plucked up from South Africa and deposited in the cold wet soil of Cheshire, bravely still showing a flower in deepest darkest January.  I have just discovered that it is only a rhizome by habitat and that others in the species are corms.  What does that have to say to us? that rhizomaticness might depend to some extent on habitat?

Knowledge Transfer: old wine in new bottles or how many contentious statements can I make in one blog post?

Punning wine

Punning Wine By Mike Knell

(includes edited content from a comment I made to Stephen Downes blog post)

I have been watching a ‘debate’ unfold over the weekend with increasing mystification.  I even posted a couple of comments but I didn’t really feel that there was much idea exchange taking place. If you want to check it out, George Siemens has some useful links here .

For me the first old wine in new bottles (itself a fairly stale metaphor but I love the picture)  is the idea of a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) – I thought that open fora and ‘free’ courses had been around for a  long time for example WebHeads in Action since 1997, open learning environments have been under discussion since mid 1990s at least (though open learning variously defined) e.g. http://carbon.ucdenver.edu/~bwilson/wils95 and I am sure (though I can’t find links at present) there have been free courses online (e.g. in HTML) since mid 1990s too.  Don’t get me wrong the recent crop of MOOCs has generated a lot of interest and experimentation but this will be more informed if they acknowledge their heritage.

The second old wine in new bottles is the terminology and paradigm debate.  Quite a lot of the talk was about the meaning of learning, knowledge and even the term ‘knowledge transfer’.  This one really made me smile, as the term ‘Knowledge Transfer’ has a fairly well-defined meaning in UK HE, as it refers to a funded graduate recruitment scheme where businesses, graduates and academic work in partnership to transfer knowledge between them – very contextual and processy, unlike knowledge transfer as item of ‘knowledge’ passing from sender to receiver . The knowledge transfer being discussed this weekend sounded more like ‘transmission mode learning’  about which acres of text have been written, and clearly linked back to earlier work on communication, explained and critiqued rather well here in the transmission mode of communication.

This critique also neatly demonstrates how a model originating from a viewpoint different from one’s own can still be useful (up to a point) in one’s own meaning-making.  I am very interested in how those to whom ‘learning’ means something different can still have a productive and meaningful dialogue. I think participants would have to start by trying to explain what the word means to them and then listen to what others have to say. It would also help participants (especially given the context of openness) to enter the dialogue with the possibility of changing their minds even if only in a small way.  Maybe what is important about theories of learning and knowledge is what they mean to learners and teachers, as we personally theorise the world around us. Since that can often be in a social context we need to get the knack of sharing theories in dialogue. I have observed over a long period (and on CCK08 in particular) that teachers use theories in a very pragmatic way (connectivism being a good example), sometimes thinking about transmission modes of learning, other times using constructivism and in our digitally-saturated environment, turning to connectivism to help them practice and reflect.  I spent a short time as a Maths teacher in school and saw the twin disadvantages of knowing your times tables without understanding how they were constructed and vice versa, whereas what practice of numeracy requires both that you know your times tables and understand what they mean.  This may be achieved by combining rote learning and discovery learning.

The last point I wanted to make was about the general tetchy tone of some of the contributions (notable exception being @dkernohan 😉 ) Stephen Downes using the term nonsense and David Wiley identifying a comment as the ‘snob’ response. Just what is this ?  are the writers claiming ‘truth’? ownership of ideas or concepts like MOOCs?  This seemed to me to a very ‘masculine’ debate (OK that’s my interpretation) both in terms of style and inclusivity.  I would playfully prescribe that the main contenders in this weekend’s debate assign themselves an OOC on Belenky’s Womens Ways of Knowing, since Belenky’s work challenged and grew out of Perry’s Model of Intellectual Development which emerged from a very restricted sample of white  middleclass male MBA students and was then generalised to others.

So here is my contention:

that if we want to grow and explore concepts like informal learning online, MOOCs and OERs for the benefit of all, we need to involve all – men, women, young, old, from different philosophical and religious perspectives, from countries all over the world, and acknowledge the contributions of earlier scholars.

Now that isn’t going to be easy, inclusivity never is, but I don’t think this recent ‘debate’ has contributed much – however good some of the individual contributions were, the whole left a sour taste, in my mouth at least.