Lisa’s CCK08 Wordpress Blog

November 19, 2008

Reflections on Personal Connections

Filed under: Musings — lisahistory @ 11:40 pm
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I happened to read George’s blog post about his grandmother passing while he was far away, on an evening where I skimmed around the course blogs and comments, looking myself for some connection.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the weak ties we have, the catch-as-catch-can communications both made possible and encouraged by web interaction, are most appropriate for when in-person contact is not feasible. I didn’t used to believe this. I used to think those connections to be not only adequate, but in some ways preferable, to sharing physical space. I would pester my non-internet-using friends to go online, chat with me, meet me online. I do that less these days. I would get frustrated that the faculty I work with always want in-person workshops about online teaching, instead of meeting online. I’ll let go of that better now. Even today a colleague requested a phone conversation instead of emailing on a subject, and I saw his point.

In sharing my views about the necessity of physical learning space in the Moodle forum, I mentioned that the students who do best online are those who are comfortable in the web environment already, have some self-motivation, and need to be there instead of an on-site classroom for a reason other than mere convenience. Perhaps this is true of non-students too: the web is where we go when we cannot find the connections we need near us, when our friends are not nearby.

I’ve “lived online” for a number of years now. I have gained much support both from people I’ve met on the web and from people I know in “real life” with whom I communicate online. But I am often left wanting to know someone better, instead of just knowing that person through the artifacts s/he chooses to share. I share my artifacts very selectively, and since in real life I am hard to get to know, it would be even harder to get to know me online. The personal support I’ve both given and received has been very context-specific, based on a particular event or interaction, very weakly tied. I’m pretty sure that isn’t the same thing as being someone’s “friend” (a word that has been corrupted by the online services).

Professionally and intellectually all this is great. But I think after this class is over, the blogs I’ll come back to, the people I want to know better, may not be the ones whose work stretches my intellect or changes my approach to work, although those were the connections I initially hoped to make. They may be the ones, like Ruth Demitroff, with much wiser things to say. They may be the ones posting beautiful pictures of their walk in the woods with their dog. And the things I’ll treasure will be things like Ed’s whiskey haikus, Ken’s bizarre satires, and Mike’s visiting with me in Second Life and playing guitar on video.

This surprises me, because I’ve gotten such a rush out of all the reading and writing, the intellectual discourse, and the creativity (however restricted inside these still-primitive technologies and the confines of the class itself). But living inside the net with this intensity, doing this class, has taught me a lot, and they weren’t the things I intended to learn.

October 16, 2008

Thoughts on Waste, Efficiency, and the Web

Filed under: Musings,Week 6 — lisahistory @ 4:52 pm
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We can be all connected, but do we have anything meaningful to say?

The mobile (or cell) phone works through satellites and huge towers and relay stations, and people use it to make sure hubby gets soda on the way home from work. (cartoon). The student phone conversations I hear outside my office are clearly not content-based. Most are immediate personal reporting: “yeah, I’m OK, I just got out of class, you going to the beach later?” These young people barely talk to each other on campus; all their friends are on the phone, and the people next to them are distant. Much of the technology is thus wasted in terms of creating and maintaining quality communication with others.

Television has the capability to bring extraordinary content into every home, but most of the channels on TV are dedicated to sensationalism and shopping. TV watching can be highly educational, but most of it isn’t. The popularity of reality shows is a clear indication that people are not experiencing much reality in their daily lives. Much of this fantasy world comes in through the TV itself, and through their computer screens. The television networks encourage you to go to your computer and log your opinion on the news byte, the current pitcher, the contest winner. The lure of convenient participation is more important than what is entered.

When we travelled by slower methods of transportation, everything took longer. That meant we met people along the way, ate different foods, heard different accents, and experienced different ways of life. Now we see nothing but clouds between this part of the world and the part we’re going to. We have gained convenience at the cost of beauty and diversity of personal environment. This increases productivity. Its cost is high.

The internet is addictive in its sheer convenience, but does it make for a better world? Organizations that do good can use the internet, but so can those that do evil. Much of the world does not have access to the web, and when they gain it the exposure to things they cannot have implodes communities, as television does. Yes, there is great potential for learning in the underdeveloped world using computers, but that use is only peripherally one of social networking: what the developing world needs is facts, science, specific ideas, not conversation. It can have the conversation on its own.

Our young people use the internet, as Mark Bauerlein writes, to cement themselves in a perpetual state of adolescence, keeping obsessive tabs on friends, fads and fashions instead of extending their cultural understanding or citizenship skills. A wealth of information is available via the net, and, like our libraries, few access it for the purpose of self-improvement so they can contribute to society. They access to answer their own personal needs, be they medical, sexual, or political. The interactive web lets every internet user have a voice, and many of them are loud. But very few of them are saying anything that increases the intellectual capacity of those who read or view it. At their mildest, they can amuse. At their most inflammatory, they can engender hatred. And they can do either at great speed.

Convenience, whether of communication, geography or information, leads to waste. Waste of resources, waste of time, waste of heart, waste of feelings. The articles for this week by Francis Heylighen attempt to deal with the issue of information overload in terms of efficiency and loss of control and anxiety because people cannot handle the overload. He argues that ephemeralization lubricates society’s systems by letting information flow more easily between points, but makes the results harder to predict. His solution seems to be a “global brain”, a system with no center, where intelligence is collective and flexible, and individual use patterns are transformed into massive filters. Limiting the information coming to the user is the way to deal with anxiety.

That creates convenience of output, at the cost of exploring alternative paths easily. It suggests that the way you work today is how you should work tomorrow, the way you explore and play is consistent. It seems to prevent waste, and may make sense in a macro context. But for the individual person, exploratory opportunities are wasted, though time and stress is saved. And what if the personal anxiety did not originate in the overload of information, which can be stopped by turning off your electronic devices? What if it originated in the fact that the access to everything is so very convenient, and the soul realizes that things which come too easily are worthless?

There are a number of people I know who deliberately do not get too connected, deliberately do not take the time to learn much about the web. They frustrate me because they only go online for a few things, like ordering books or looking up something specific. They don’t Twitter or blog — those are things mostly educational technologists and politicos do, and it’s time we looked at why. It’s not just a lack of understanding as to what the internet can do. It’s a desire for peace and quiet, self-reflection, avoidance of the cognitive overload that we already had before the internet. It’s handling the problem at the input end. These friends rarely use their cell phone or watch TV, but they read a lot and are culturally highly literate. They enjoy life, are conventionally educated, know how to relax, and can access what they need without losing sight of traditions, personal relationships, neighborhoods, and efforts to deal with the many problems (poverty, illiteracy, fanaticism) that Heylighen admits we have been totally unable to solve. They have something to say, and what they say is about human philosophical questions, not machines: how to be a good person, what the role of the individual is in society, how you can help the people with whom we share the planet, and how to tread lightly on the earth. Surely here the content is more important than the connections, and it isn’t wasted.

October 3, 2008

The Paradox of Active Participation

Filed under: Musings,Week 4 — lisahistory @ 6:21 am
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Taking off from Carlos González Casares’ reply in the Moodle forum on “The Importance of context”, I am thinking about my own participation in this class. Keep in mind that I consider myself not just a “for-credit learner” but also an “actively engaged” participant according to George Siemen’s list.

Carlos wrote:

Use the social media of the web to learning is easier by a more active way of participation because of the continuous overload of information. But in a contradictory sense a more “active” participation increase the overload of information and reduce the time to interpretation.

In this format, when I participate actively (by posting in the Moodle forum, or blogging, or commenting on another’s blog) I increase my workload immediately. This is ironic, because in participating I am attempting to understand. To understand complex ideas, I need to simplify them and organize them. Yet each post or reply creates a vested interest in that particular discussion, and I then feel obligated to follow it and see if anyone has replied to me.

Is this ego or just fear of missing something? I’m not sure. Is my reductionism necessary for me to understand? You bet. But if my participation causes an ever-increasing need to participate, then efforts to cull out my readings and just follow a few people are undermined. I’ll respond less to others in an effort, not to reduce cognitive dissonance or pause to interpret, but in an effort the sleep and eat.

It is indicative of the problem that I read someone’s blog post yesterday on how important it is that we all go outside and enjoy the pleasures of the season changing to autumn, and now I cannot find the post to link to it here. The overload builds on itself, and the desire to participate decreases.

If this is true of me now in this course, perhaps it is also true of students we might have use the methods of connectivism in their own work. As we head toward the weeks where we’ll discuss instructional design and the role of educators, I wonder whether my own “do I really want to participate here? won’t that increase the work I have to do?” response wouldn’t also be an issue for students.

September 15, 2008

A Sense of Constructivism Anyway

Filed under: Musings,Week 2 — lisahistory @ 10:12 am
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There has been much discussion in the class about the difference between connectivism (which focuses on the links in the network) and constructivism (which focuses on constructing knowledge individually with instructor guidance). And although it’s quite clear the differences between the two, as a class member, I am feeling a sense of constructivism.

The class is certainly set up to provide plenty of connections and opportunities for many kinds of networks, and I would like to be focusing more on the “pipe” rather than the content. But I’m seriously struggling with that.

One reason may be that I’m formally enrolled in the class (unlike the 2000 other people), which means I put additional pressure on myself to do all the readings, and make sure my output is timely and appropriate. To participate in the network this class entails (for we are guinea pigs to a connectivist experiment as well as students), I’ve got my blog, my feeds for Google Alerts, cck08 on several search tools, my aggregators, links to others’ blogs. I go to the Moodle forums because much of the conversation is taking there instead of where I expected (i.e. within the blogs themselves), to George’s and Stephen’s various blogs too.

I feel like I know where the class is (even with many rooms) and I’ve been given the plans, but now I’ve had to assemble my own desk, and tried to shape it for me even though a schematic have been provided. Then I’m putting my own textbook together, making judgements and decisions about what is most important to read. I gather my multimedia from the various sources, and determine which box to put them in (mp3 player, web access on desktop computer) and I take in much input and information.

So even though I would like to focus on connections, like most people in Week 1 I suffered from being overwhelmed, and now the sense of construction is even stronger. I am not free to just learn what I want from my connections. There is a set structure, and certain ideas I am supposed to not only grasp but be able to display in a concept map. I must construct not only blog posts, but a visual concept map, using the resources and guidance provided by instructors and colleagues. So thus far, the class itself is feeling very constructivist to me.

September 10, 2008

Musing: Wordle

Filed under: Musings — lisahistory @ 10:45 pm
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http://wordle.net/

Such a cool and trendy thing to do — thanks, Christy Tucker! (Looks like I’m a little enamored of Stephen’s ideas, though, which may well be the case.)

Musing: after reading half of week 1 articles

Filed under: Musings — lisahistory @ 9:41 pm
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Knowledge in itself is wisdom.

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Content can not be separated from learning, which connectivism does, by saying that the path is more important. There is little to go along that path without content (for example, student cell phone conversations that contain no content, only connection).
Kerr is right — the slogans of connectivism are important for generating discussions, not settling issues.

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I am continually writing “already true” in the articles.

September 9, 2008

Musing: teaching and learning goals

Filed under: Musings,Week 1 — lisahistory @ 10:20 am
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The goals of teaching are antithetical to the goals of learning. The goal of teaching is the inculcation of values inherent in a subject and the promotion of a set of norms that fits the subject into the overall realm of knowledge as has been determined by historical forces. No one takes a class to learn such a thing.

The role of schools is to teach, not adopt the currently trendy communication style as if it were the content. The technologies should be used to stimulate communication and collaboration, which is what they do best. The use of such technologies for augmenting knowledge through communication does not create the knowledge.

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