Lisa’s CCK08 Wordpress Blog

October 13, 2008

Save me from too much connectivity

Filed under: Week 5 — Lisa M Lane @ 5:09 pm

The 7 Habits of Highly Connected People. I thought it would be descriptive, but it came off as prescriptive.

First, there is my personal take. I don’t like to waste time either, but I see my inability to waste time as a personal failing, not a valuable attribute. My inability to relax, to just do nothing for awhile, is probably shortening my life. In the last decade,the web has succeeded in filling any gaps I may have had (though I don’t recall ever having any) — it just gives me another way to be busy.

The variety of possible connections on the internet is overwhelming — I sometimes wonder whether that alone is the foundation of connectivism theory. Studies note that time on the internet is cutting into people’s sleeping and eating, not just their reading and reflecting. The web is an endless source of things to do, things to learn, people to meet. All night long. All the next day. All weekend. Till your typing fingers rot off.

Second, there are issues of personal relationship. Connections with other people are important. When they are tenuous, consisting primarily of weak ties, they are not very satisfying over a long period of time. This happens a lot with networks over the internet, which we enter and exit as it serves us. It’s like going to a buffet every night. It’s wonderful at first to have such a variety, but if it’s every night you eat too much and get overweight, and eventually wish someone would bring you just one thing to eat.

That’s not to say that deep connections cannot be formed and nurtured on the internet — of course they can. But being always connected seems inefficient. You will certainly meet more people, but the amount of time and energy left for deeper connections is reduced.

Last, there is the social dimension: the opportunities missed to connect with people in person. It’s good to talk to others, participating in that boring f2f meeting to make it less boring and more productive, meeting someone new on the bus, finding commonalities among people who happen to occupy the same real-world place you’re in. And, as should be obvious from my previous posts, I have concerns about the implication that individualized networks are the best thing since sliced bread, when I see real potentional for them to lead us into lives full of echo chambers and a lack of connection to those who differ from us. Because whoever I meet on the internet, they may be individually diverse, but they are part of one big group: people who meet on the internet. Millions of people are not on the internet. Some never were, some are philosophically opposed to it, and some have been active members but are leaving to get their “real life” back after internet addiction. I’d never meet them if I stuck my head in my laptop when I went out in the world.


October 11, 2008

Network Control via Grades

Filed under: Week 5 — Lisa M Lane @ 8:20 pm

This week we were asked to deal with specific questions in our blog: “Have you Have you begun to see the rudiments of a learning network forming? Has some of the conceptual uncertainty settled?”

I’m not sure I ever had any “conceptual uncertainty”, or if I did, it certainly hasn’t been debilitating. But the first question is more complex. Some networking has occurred in this class because the structures set up, and the reading assigned, allow for a rich communication experience via blogs, Moodle forums, and others. I am having trouble seeing the class “members” as forming a “learning network”, however. At least, it’s not a network in the ideal connection-based form suggested by this week’s readings, including Groups vs Networks, and Downes’ comments in the Friday Elluminate session.

We may in fact be a just a group, because we have leaders (Stephen and George). Although these leaders are very open and do not necessarily try to control the conversation, they are still leaders. Thus, as I questioned in the Moodle forum this week, the network ideal (and idyll) is being subverted by the group, which I think happens a lot. I’m coming to a position where there is an ideal, and an operational reality, that are often in opposition when it comes to defining types of connections.

In the case of those of us who are being graded (formally enrolled students) the ideal more markedly differs from the operational reality. Referring to George Siemen’s presentation this week, there is a “coercion to the norm” (a “sameness”, according to Downes) implied by the marking scheme. I am an autonomous agent, and yet my grade will be dependent on my performance through elements (and levels of achievement) determined by the instructors. These elements may not reflect my total learning experience in this course. For example, a mere 10% for all my blog posts seems very low; 40% is based on, essentially, for big posts or “papers”. 20% for a concept map that reflects the entire course does not reflect how I learn. And 30% for the final project implies that I should start working on that right now instead of writing this post. I have thus lost autonomy as a learner, and am experiencing similar frustration as my students must experience with my own class grading schemes.

I am uncertain whether our instructors’ goals, in offering this course, are more on the freedom (high innovation) or the control (for achievement of particular outcomes). The course seems to have a particular outcomes for them in terms of research they may be doing on this type of course and on connectivism and networks. As the learner, I would prefer to restructure the grading scheme to actually reflect my learning (for example, grading my understanding of the subject in terms of an aggregate of *all* my work, at 100%). So perhaps there is a network forming, and I’m just a discontented node.

October 10, 2008

A Contrarian Chart

Filed under: Week 5 — Lisa M Lane @ 11:14 pm

October 7, 2008

Dogs Group, Cats Network

Filed under: Week 5 — Lisa M Lane @ 10:48 am

This morning I was hurrying to catch up with a group I walk with every morning. One of the members has a puppy who’s training to be a therapy dog. When this puppy saw me on a perpendicular street, walking toward the group, he began encouraging me. His body turned toward me, he looked at me as if to say “come on, we’re all moving this way!” and he didn’t stop fidgeting around until I physically joined the group, even though his owner kept tugging at the leash and telling him to heel. I noticed that, possibly as a result of this canine acceptance, I was more social in the group this morning; usually I say very little other than “good morning”.

I was reminded of my theory regarding students having cat or dog learning styles.

Then I made the connection to this week’s topic: groups versus networks.

Groups are full of dogs, eager to do what the others do and all be accepted. The alpha dog sets the agenda, and everything is distributive. As Stephen Downes puts it, they “risk anything for that team feeling” (2006). They do work together, are rule-bound, and for the most part subsume individual identity. They even “form linear hierarchies“.

Networks are how cats operate. Cats form connections for their own autonomous purposes, and only when needed. They will cuddle up to a human being, or another cat, to keep warm one day and not notice you the next. They are sociable only when it pleases them to be so, and often don’t seem to recognize their own similarity to other cats. You can’t get much more open and diverse. I couldn’t even consider them to form a community.

They say that dogs have owners, but cats have staff. The autonomy of cat thinking makes them supremely independent and able to ignore many external social checks on their viewpoint. They do not organize well, and their selection of nodes for their network can be extremely limited. Occasionally they choose to live in colonies (according to the article, when food is abundant), where they tend to live and let live. But is their network effective? If the cat is getting what she wants from it, then by definition it is. I do think, however, it would very, very difficult to rate the benefit of her network from the outside.

Create a free website or blog at