Lisa’s CCK08 Wordpress Blog

October 25, 2008

Open assessment (of my own Paper #1)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lisa M Lane @ 8:50 pm

It seems a little bizarre to me in a course about openness and connectivity that the grading of student work should be hidden, but I understand that there may be privacy issues. I don’t have any of these, so here’s a link to George’s evaluation of my Paper #1. I’d like to answer here some of the questions he poses:

I would like to see you develop some of your ideas on knowledge in particular. You mention that you have difficulty accepting weak-connection knowledge as equally valid with established (traditional?) knowledge. This is a significant statement and potential area of debate. While it’s partly based on Stephen’s views of knowledge, I think you’d do well to begin by defining your view of knowledge. This is a short paper and a full critique is not possible. If, however, you disagree with assertions made, it would be helpful to provide reasons. For example, the introduction of strength of connections as a value base is an interesting concept. As it stands in your article, however, it doesn’t receive the appropriate treatment. What about “connections” can serve to make value statements? Why is weak less superior to strong connections? Or, turning to the readings earlier in the course on latent semantic analysis, why is it that some connections yield greater results than is inherent in the connection itself? Is historically validated knowledge superior? If you feel it is – and can provide reasons why, then you could use it as an effective lever in addressing the technological aspects of connectivism that you find unsettling (or even the moral dimension). Filling out this area of your argument would serve as a basis for addressing the final two points you mention as well: content/connection distinction and the “presentism” that you see as part of connectivism.

History itself does not provide validation, because history is comprised of a collection of interpretations which are as embued with value judgements, emotional context, and presentism as anything in contemporary times. But each traditional thread of discussion does provide a tree of connection among ideas, and the longer the idea has been around, the larger the tree. The diversity is thus apparent through time, rather than diversity of opinion being available only through multiple views created in the same approximate timeframe. This means that historically-developed discussions of topics have a broader base of context. In other words, a discussion of anything taking place only within the last 20 years or so would be a discussion among people whom, despite their differences of opinion, are all working within a similar context: the recent timeframe. Discussions with historical reference propose arguments from within different temporal contexts. To me, that makes them broader, more diverse, and thus more valid.

If one wishes, validity of a sort can also be found by researching particular timeframes, so long as one doesn’t lose sight of the context. For ideas about reason versus passion, for example, the Enlightenment (Voltaire versus Rousseau) is, well, enlightening. Anything implying categorization can be referred to Aristotle, and educational ideas involving “the greatest good for the greatest number” might benefit from access to the 19th century utilitarians. Discussions of voluntary society should at least make mention of utopian socialist conversations, even if they don’t reference Kropotkin or Proudhon directly.

Concerning value in weak versus strong connections, I was not arguing against the value of the former, rather I was raising the issue of automatic validity, as if every idea coming through any connection carried similar weight until shown otherwise. As I noted, I see this as a step toward justifying a disregard of the quality of information (and even, now that I think of it, interpretation). If, as my definition of knowledge states, true knowledge is a higher form of cognition, than more highly-informed nodes would originate connections that carry greater weight. But their connections only do so because the originator is well-informed, or highly educated, or very wise. All pipes are not created equal, and I continue to struggle with seeing “connections” without reference to the “connectors”.



  1. Thanks Lisa for sharing that with us. ” All pipes are not created equal” – I love it!
    If we view historical accounts and evidence as a network, then quality becomes paramount, the task of the historian. This is a lesson to apply to connectivism and to anyone who uses Google.
    Regarding weak connections, they do have value, see Haythornthwaite, C. (2002). Strong, weak, and latent ties and the impact of new media. Information Society, 18(5), 385-401.

    Comment by Frances Bell — October 25, 2008 @ 10:34 pm

  2. Hi Lisa!
    Thanks for sharing your marks, as I have not received mine yet I somewhat can rely on them for feedback. Your mention of time lines to validate concepts or knowledge seems sound to me, time will tell us more about connectivism.
    Maru :X

    Comment by Maru — October 26, 2008 @ 12:55 am

  3. You are a wise originator.

    Comment by Ed Webb — October 26, 2008 @ 3:08 am

  4. Sorry to bother you (it is an unfair fortune that exactly one who did the most perfect work, now has the additional onus to contribute most prominently to the repair or planing of the toughest issues with the theory).

    I think the discussion of weak ties in the course so far has gone astray to suggest that it is mainly about web connections to people (pipes to connectors, conveying ideas from originators) rather than about the embedded connections of concepts, and about binary pipes (existent or not, with certainty and validity of 1 or 0). In this context I completely agree with your concerns.

    The aspect of LSA (latent semantic analysis) mentioned by George in his assessment has somehow escaped me in the previous readings, but I think it impressively shows how valuable weak connections can be when they (i) originate from several originators, and (ii) become stronger over time or when taken together. Since I don’t find the URL presented in the course, this one explains how “A typical American seventh grader knows the meaning of 10-15 words today that she didn’t know yesterday.” although she heard or read much less new words: it is from weak ties strengthening.

    For example, my weak tie to your great concept of diversity apparent through time, has strengthened only after rereading it in the context of this assessment exchange.

    Comment by Matthias Melcher — October 26, 2008 @ 11:00 am

  5. Matthias, my ideas are far from perfected, and I’m delighted to report that your comment has had me thinking the whole day about inductive and indirect learning as representing “weak ties” (thanks for the article link!). I appreciate also the idea that the human “connectors” may not be as significant to learning as the connections among ideas. This is the conceptual aspect that has been barely acknowledged throughout this course, and yet I think it essential in any discussion of learning.

    It hadn’t occured to me that latent semantic analysis could support my view. The implication that multiple cognitive connections over time results in greater learning certainly sits well with me, as does the idea that a weak tie is strengthened when put in a particular context. That seems to make the weak tie simply the initial idea, or trigger, which helps the mind make connections that represent learning.

    Comment by Lisa — October 26, 2008 @ 10:02 pm

  6. Seeing the evaluation added a dimension that most of us didn’t expect to get. It was interesting to see the evaluation criteria, the comments and the defense. It certainly points out that something is lost without having the human feedback challenging one to go deeper or encouraging one to add the cross-pollination that comes from entering a new field from a different academic discipline than the developers of the course. Your historical perspective has been a great addition to the course for all of us. A massive open course allows many people to absorb information for free. Although students think they are paying all that tuition money for accreditation, perhaps the biggest value for the money is the challenge to take a well-thought out position and go even farther – to be all that one can be as an academic. It’s quite the compliment that you got a well-deserved A+ as well as a challenge to defend your position further.

    Comment by ruthdemitroff — October 27, 2008 @ 5:35 pm

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