notes on Downes’s PLE presentation #plenk2010

Spent part of a morning and part of the afternoon listening to Stephen Downes’s Oct 20 2010 presentation on Personal Learning Environments and PLENK2010.

When I watch videos, I take notes, so here they are. Stephen covers a lot of territory in this video – some technical, some practice, and some theory and speculation. My next post will have some notes of my own.

Managing a MOOC

>I describe the organization of connectivist courses such as CCK08 and PLENK2010, demonstrate some of the technology, and discuss some of the thinking behind the design.


OV of PLENK2010 from moderator’s perspective. Discusses tech elements of the course: wiki, blog, moodle forum, elluminate discussions.

Design of wiki and course. Found that in practice, no one redesigns the wiki as they expected. Find that the course blogs are being less and less. Instead, moderators and learners are creating stuff on their own blogs and providing links to that material. More comfortable. Forums by week. Open enrollment supports massive enrollment: scales well.

1530 people registered in PLENK. Courses do work in smaller groups, but less well. You have active participation of about 10%.

Distributed course means resources are all over the place on the web, and of different kinds.  Refs to PageFlakes. The idea is that resources are scattered all over the web, and a PLE is a tool that brings them together in one place so you can work with the resources or take whatever perspective you want on the course: just read, or read and create, etc.

Elluminate sessions hit 100 or so. Guests are willing to participate because they are reaching a lot of people – and they record it and so reach even more. [Sessions also mean that moderators interact with each other – which keeps the session moving].

Other component: twitter. They set up a course tag.

The Daily: Seems to be the most important component in the course.  Daily news letter, with compiled links and OVs.

  • Announcements
  • Facilitator posts (links to own sites)
  • Discussion posts from Moodle, aggregated
  • Participant’s blogs, aggregated
  • Twitter posts, with links, aggregated

Goes out every weekday, and is archived. Beginning of the week announces the topic and direction of the course for that week. THis is the thing that gives structure to the  course, it allows them to sustain the distribution of the course.

Uses gRSShopper running a website as a backend to maintain the course website and newsletter. Harvests the rss feed from each blog, harvests appropriate posts that use the hashtag. Each blog is submitted to the grsshopper website, grsshopper draws out the rss feed and verifies everything. grsshopper website also produces the daily.

Example: Downes grabs a delicious rss url to create a daily feed for Delicious PLENK tag. Then adds that feed to the newsletter.

The deal is that the aggregator sends out links that those who have participated have created. The kinds of content that can be aggregated can be selected by the moderator.

This means that the structure of the course is a connectivist map. the content of the course, ditto. The activities, ditto. That is, the course enacts connectivist. Students create content, but also feedsl and aggregations that support the course

Like socail construction? not so much. soc construtoin is more gruoup based – not  requirement here.  Not a deliberative construction. in connectivist, it’s developing personal knowledge.  Not a mater of making meaning for yourself. It’s a matter of organic cognitive – neural network – growth.

The PLE is like an exercise machine. You do the kind of work that people in the discipline do. The knowledge is complex – you can’t put your hands on it to know it. Tacit practitioner knowledge.

The weekly topics is not a curric so much as a research agenda. The participants are along not only for the ride, but they contribute to the research being done by the community that the moderators represent. the beauty is that we don’t get hung on declarative knowledge, but they develop tacit knowledge – if they participate in the activity.

Constructionism from Papert.  Learning by doing and presenting, in a social environ, with other people and reflection.

BIggest difficulty: getting people to get past the listen – repeat mode. Students want to know what to learn to past the test and get the certificate. Problem there is that it leaves all the power in the hands of the instructor. But in more environs, people have to make decision and choices on their own – including in business environs.  Taking control of whatever is part of learning. And if the course doesn’t engage that, then we’re undercutting the learning itself.


Questions: How do you find niche to learn in?

Start with google. Scope out the area. The resources are going to be all over the place, so you need to find them.  Set up a google reader account for the research. locate and subscribe to feeds. You have to sort through sources – select the good stuff and set aside the trash. Subscribe to a few feeds. Treat your google feeds like a daily newsletter. When you see a reading useful to you, put it in delicious or your own blog with some reflection. Tag things, develop them.

Extend your network by adding more feeds, start layering your own topology over what you’re finding. Add flickr images. Join the niche community by locating email lists. Not trying to find authoritative content all nicely organized. Trying instead to get a feel for it. Start watching for activities: conferences, practices that are being engaged in … whatever they seem to be: posts, help articles, discussions. videos …  Post your stuff out there with the others.

Use personal development or photography as an example.

You are in charge of the directional you gain your own perspective. You put aside the idea that there is a thing out there called “personal development” that you must know.

Learning styles and PLEs? Downes: doesn’t know about any research. Seems that because you have control over how you learn, it seems like learners will select activities they are inclined to work with. If you’re visual, you might want to watch and create videos rather than read and write. Learning styles is taking some kicks right now.

MOOCs and assessment: How do you figure out if they’ve done the work or captured the knowledge. A: Short answer is, we don’t figure this out. The connectivist theory separates learning and evaluation. The eval of what an individual has learned is different than learning. The bar is a model: take a test. In the connectivst course, they made the assessment rubrics public so whoever wanted to evaluate the activities could do so. Everyone takes the same course, but people are evaluated by different people in different places, with different criteria: distributed assessment. Downes: certain that this is the way assessment is going to go. Right now, unis have monopoly on certification, but they are going to loose it. There will be a separation of learning and assessment. Students will participate in a network, and from time to time be assessed on what they have mastered.


Next: MOOC in a stock university course