Lisa’s CCK08 Wordpress Blog

November 29, 2008

Course Recommendations: Revamping a MOOC

Filed under: Week 12 — lisahistory @ 7:51 am

Having been invited to do so by both George Siemens and Tom Whyte, I here note changes I would make if I were teaching this class (or a class like it) in future. This builds on my previous critique-y posts Environmental Engineering and Course Critique (week 9) and Network Control via Grades (week 5). Except for the first one, they are about form rather than content.

Get historical

I am still struggling with taking a traditionalist, conservative role in my concerns about basing so much of our study in trends that only emerged within this generation.

I think for the future, it would be good to see some consideration of the larger view, the context that goes back beyond the last 20 years and beyond the formal field of educational research. I would have liked a much larger perspective into which I could fit contemporary theories of teaching and learning. Since I had to develop it myself, it seemed I was often jumping up and down saying “that’s not new!”

Redistribute the assigned workload

I would redistribute and revise the marking scheme. Putting 90% of the graded items into the last few weeks left too much floating time at the beginning of the class, and far too much work at the end, which didn’t allow for proper feedback along the way. Participation should be worth far more, and deterministic assignments (CMap, “papers”) far less. Most of the grade should be based on the overall blogging, if that is the central learning repository being tracked for each student (see Get Visual, below).

Improve participation in synchronous meetings

Set at least one synchronous weekly meeting as fully participatory.
Students should be able to “present” their ideas and perspectives to others at the synchronous meetings as part of the “presentation”. Student participation needed to be built in, not treated as a sideline/backchat/commenting thing. If the idea is that the teachers are learners too, then asking questions of them is not enough.

Create specific topics or questions, not just the topic of the week.
A set topic or question would level the field, with the instructor acting only as a guide. Students who took trouble to arrange time to be present would know what would be discussed, be more prepared, and feel a responsibility to participate.

Get visual

No blank screens
Jeff’s multiple webcams using MeBeam, evident in a couple of UStream sessions, could have been used to bring in groups of students, who volunteer in advance to share their ideas. For more free-wheeling discussions in Elluminate, students could collectively record main ideas on the whiteboard. That space, like the chat, should be used (as Nancy White did so effectively). It would even be possible to show one of the instructor’s “talking head” videos right in Elluminate, and discuss during and after.

Use of images should be encouraged.
Things were way text heavy everywhere, even on the blogs. The metaphors for connectivism could be pictures rather than text and stories. And no, a diagram with connected text boxes doesn’t count.

Determine the pedagogical goal for each element of the course

Clear objectives are needed for the pre-set elements of the class: the Moodle forum, course wiki, connectivism blog, Google groups, etc. Discussion should take place about what types of content might be appropriate for the Moodle forum vs SL vs blogs. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each for forming community, sharing information, expressing individual ideas? There are norms already for these tools, developed collectively by those who regularly use them, but people don’t necessarily know these trends. Perhaps a list of suggested options by usage could be developed:

  • posting reflections on course reading = blog
  • asking questions of the instructors = forum 1
  • arranging times and places to meet elsewhere = forum 2
  • presenting or listening at live, instructor-led meeting on particular topics or questions = Elluminate
  • tracking colleagues’ blogs = rss
  • real time meeting with colleagues but not instructors = SL or elsewhere


Encourage a dynamic course wiki

Allow student access to change the main wiki, and have doing so be an expectation.
The course should grow organically. Instructors mark out the planting beds, and plant a few of the basic items (readings, assignments). Space could be made for adding other “found” readings each week, and inserting links to various discussions or other content.

Keep up with posting correct links and times for synchronous sessions.

Adapt the concept of The Daily

Limit it to what’s up for that week, and the RSS feeds from student blogs. No commentary or “special” posts noted.

Make assigned readings (and more) interactive

The basic readings are a focus, so they could be treated as such. Each could be placed in the Moodle forum as a place for focused discussion. If one didn’t want to put the talking head videos only in Elluminate, they could also be inside a forum. (In Moodle, I like the “single simple discussion” format for this, with the media item as the first post.) This provides an element of immediacy to content responses.

The approach used for CCK08 could be applied to many different types of classes. I could do everything I’ve suggested above and create a perfectly good history course! This class has provided an excellent model to build upon and, interestingly enough, the further application of connectivist tools is what can make it work even better.

November 26, 2008

The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be

Filed under: Responses,Week 12 — lisahistory @ 10:24 pm

I was intrigued by the way the FutureLab’s “2020 and beyond” parallels the Horizon Report, and yet adds these vignettes of what it will be like to live in the near future. The question I asked as I read was, “of all this, what is likely to really happen and what isn’t?”

The pervasive technology for personal use reminded me of Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888). In that book, I recall two technologies standing out. One was the home music system, which piped music in to the home, and was controlled by dials on the wall. Another was the umbrella-like covering that was deployed over the entire city when it rained. The first of these came to be, in the form of our stereo systems, sensurround, Musak, satellite radio. The second did not.

In that context, perhaps it is the personal, small technologies that come to be, and the larger, environmental technologies that are predicted incorrectly.

In Star Trek, the epitome of technology prediction models, they had the hypospray, a device that injected medication through the skin without needles. They also had the transporter, which dissolved the body into molecules, sent them through space, and reassembled them at the other end. Again, the first one has come to be, through medications administered in skin patches and nasal sprays. The second (unfortunately for those of us who deal with traffic every day) has not.

In that context, perhaps it is the technologies which are close to what we already have that will come to be. In the 1960s, we were already aware of substances that could be processed into units so small they could be absorbed through the pores of skin. But we had nothing that could dissolve a human into fairy dust.

Consider, then, Future Labs’ predictions. The Personal Devices (combined devices, wearable technology) become likely on an individual basis — we already have these as novelty items. But the Intelligent Environments are less likely. Although we have the technologies (I think of the sensing devices embedded into rubbish bins in London), the infrastructure of something like a mobile game would take a concerted effort and a system with many small parts, often embedded in public spaces, to provide continuity without large base installations. A few may attempt it, but it is likely to go the way of city-wide wifi: suitable for densely populated city centres but too extravagant for anywhere else.

The Network (combining of our various communication devices at work and home)is already happening, although again I doubt the viability of cooperative effort, suggested by the Ambient Networks, to do this in a larger environment. We can’t even get cellular mobile phone companies to share towers to create efficient coverage. Competition has made the likelihood of workable networks lower, as each company tries to profit from its own. That’s what’s happened with Ricochet in my area; it’s become useless. Such network competition also produces electronic pollution, radiation from huge ugly towers just so people can say “‘sup?” to their friends. We have to go elsewhere to find analyses of market forces and how they relate to the likelihood of adoption.

Also in this Network section I began to notice a pattern. Each of the vignettes had us going somewhere (“you’re walking down the street”) and sharing the same sorts of stuff we share now (photos, video, notes). That’s where things became less innovative, and even Processing just seemed to support what we do now (sharing animations, making stories). Most of the technology here and in the Storage section was for the purpose of recording and sharing human action (film the kids, “capture an audio-visual record of every second of your life”). If we did that, when would we watch the films, view the record? Would we stop doing other things to watch ourselves, to the point of experiencing our own trivialities like reflections in multiple mirrors?

All the wonderful things mentioned in the “Questions for education” sections (experimentation, evolution of ideas, sharing information) are being done now, even without sophisticated technology. Tools for collaboration aren’t collaborators, they are still tools, at the service of people’s needs. In asking questions like “Will recall of facts and events become obsolete as a socially valued skill?” we’re missing the idea that we already act as if recall is archaic, that we’re entering a post-literate society, which is not necessarily a good thing. What use is anytime access to great ideas, writings and art when we don’t know how to read? We may not have to recall facts, but how do we decide when we want to find some?

It is telling that much of technologies predicted will be for personal, and relatively trivial, use. Everything here seems an answer to the question, “I’m bored: what should I do?” Play games, share photos, record your whole life. I won’t be one of the people ordering the communicator embedded in my belt. I think I’d rather pin it to my shirt, keeping the technology separate unless I want it there. You know, like in Star Trek.

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