Tag Archives: MOOC

the cynicism of profits

Aaron Barlow, over on academeblog.org, and a participant in the upcoming “E-learning and Digital Cultures” MOOC, made some observations on Thomas Friedman’s recent NYT op-ed piece.

That Friedman’s conception of MOOCs is “starry-eyed” is an understatement. Friedman’s piece is textbook stuff: the wholly anecdotal, mind-numbingly-misleading hyperbole of self-declared visionaries.

But Friedman’s puffery gives Barlow the opportunity to present a more worldly and moderate sense of the course.

But, alone, MOOCs are not going to change education or revolutionize it. Any careful study of the history of education will tell you that.

Over the course of the five-week MOOC we are engaging upon, a number of us will be posting here on our experience. I look forward to it, but I am not going into this starry-eyed like Friedman. However, I do recognize that, though the MOOCs may be a fad, even in a fad there can be something of value.

I’m on the course, and I, too, am looking forward to it – not the least because the group from Edinburgh considers it an experiment rather than a revolutionary shot heard round the world.

I wonder if Friedman is in the course. That could be interesting. Typically, revolutions in education are declared for others, not the prophets.

bookmarks for December 24th, 2010 through December 25th, 2010

bookmarks for December 17th, 2010 through December 20th, 2010

en3177 update

In a course revamp for ENGL3177: Weblogs and Wikis, inspired by PLENK2010, and incorporating connectivist and MOOC ideas, I’m using FeedWordPress to syndicate student feeds to a new Daybook (experimental at time of writing).

An aggregator is at the heart of a working PLE – and also at the heart of a MOOC. I’d like to use Steve Downes’s gRSShopper but I’m not sure my host will run it, and I want to wait for a RC or at least a later beta.

So I took an alternative route, inspired by Jim Groom’s new design of his Digital Storytelling course. (Earlier version here. And collaborative notes on course design are here. Damn, he’s good.) I set up a new iteration of WordPress on my domain, then added the FeedWP and two extra  plugins. Set up went well – and I’ll be donating to radgeek’s tipjar. Adding feeds works well. As a test, I syndicated feeds from a few public sites, and a flickr feed: all good. I set up to trim the extract to 250 words: worked. FeedWP provides a lot of options, and while it’s well-designed, a lot of options means a couple of (enjoyable) hours experimenting.

But I want to filter posts by hash tag, so that students can syndicate to our aggregator only what they want to. That has been problematic. (Seems like Jim is having a similar issue). There’s a filter in the FeedWP Categories and Tags panel that looks like it should work, but I haven’t had much luck with it. So while I sort it out, I’m trying an alternative solution.

I’m using a Google Alert and will syndicate that. Let Google to the heavy lifting of finding the hash tagged stuff, then feed it to the Daybook in one flow.

– Students don’t have to register with the Daybook site, but I will ask them to anyway.
– I don’t have to register every stream (blog, flickr, twitter, tumblr, facebook …) on the Daybook. Google should find all the hash tagged stuff, wherever it’s published.
– Should be easy to set up new hash tag Google Alerts.

– All the posts come in as a big firehose stream. I may have to find a way to help readers sort them. Careful tagging will help, but seriously, who’s really careful about tagging?

Extracting a daily newsletter from this set up looks problematic, too, but I’ll deal with that when I get there.

bookmarks for November 20th, 2010 through November 21st, 2010

  • NSFW: Sarah Palin – How’s That Promotey, Embargoey Stuff Workin’ Out for Ya? – i love this guy, using the Palin Massive as a case study for author and publisjer gamesmanship. "publishers simply don’t have the luxury of controlling the flow of information any more. The idea that they can release thousands of preview copies of a new title, in electronic form, weeks (or even months) ahead of publication and rely on a gentleman’s agreement with the press that their embargo will be respected is simply laughable." – (publishing politics )
  • EPIC FAIL: the sorry state of web education in schools | opensource.com – via tech_rhet. Move away from teaching and using proprietary software – from Word to Dreamweaver – and start incorporating open source and web-based stuff – the kind of stuff that students can use to get beyond the proprietary. Excellent little article, but I wonder what took them so long to figure this out. Academia doesn't move as slowly as all that. Been doing this, and wrestling with it, for years. Might want to read this in conjunction with TBL's Long Live the Web. – (ple pedagogy webdesign wcw berners-lee plenk2010# )

MOOCs and the stock university course #plenk2010

A first consideration of adapting MOOC techniques to the stock university situation.

Have a look at these notes on Stephen Downes’s presentation.

The more I’m immersed in the PLENK course and material, the more possibilities I see for driving MOOC teaching techniques and approaches into the stock university courses I teach.

For instance, we have new a sophomore level Argument and Exposition course (A&E. Gotta like the double joke in that course title) for learning research practices. Downes’s example of how to find a niche and set up a PLE suggests that I can adapt MOOC practices into a course project. The course wouldn’t be a MOOC (maybe a Minimal Open Online Project), and I would have to evaluate the students in the end. But this approach gives students the opportunity to develop tacit practices – both of research and of the subject they are studying with their PLEs. What they create along the way – the blog posts, delicious links, google feeds, and the artifacts they create and post – along with some periodic reflective posts or discussions, provide plenty of material to evaluate the learner, and plenty of material for my supervisors to evaluate the course.

Students will be on their own when it comes to the kinds of activities they take on, the kind of artifacts they create. They may have to learn how to edit and upload videos, they may have to figure out how to share a scanner, and I can see having to have students create their own support network in for the course itself, but that’s part of the beauty of the thing.

What’s in it for us?

  • Not less instructional time, but both students and I get to spend our instructional time differently than we have for the past bunch of years.
  • Less classroom time and more learning time for students.
  • Less lecture prep time because less lecture and more practice time for all.
  • Students might start to learn what it means – tacitly –  to take control of their own learning. Need to measure this.
  • Relatively safe experience in facilitating a MOOC-like course. The course provides my own scaffolding for a more complex move in the future.
  • If it works, a pretty impressive demonstration of an alternative to using D2L.

What’s needed?

As Stephen mentions, The Daily is vital to the movement and maintaining participation in the course. The Daily motivates. The Daily holds participants accountable. I could probably monitor student feeds in my own google reader account, but I’ll probably have to install gRSShopper on Dreamhost.

What else is needed?

Probably an intensive first week or two in getting students to re-conceptualize how the class will progress, and get them comfortable with the approach. Probably need to survey what kinds of online work students already do and get them comfortable sharing that expertise. Probably have to provide some early support for getting RSS feeds together. Probably have to really work on getting students to take responsibility for their learning, for creating and submitting stuff regularly  – and it needs to be regular so that they have a better chance of passing the final evaluation.

Seems worth it so far.

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

bookmarks for November 3rd, 2010

  • Colleges Transform the Liberal Arts – The Chronicle of Higher Education – Rebrand the lib arts: "Taking a new form and, in some cases, going by a new name, the liberal arts are becoming a very visible force in the curricular lives of students. What's more, the number of students majoring in most humanities fields—disciplines viewed by some as the key to a liberal-arts education—has grown since the late 1980s." – (none)
  • Faculty Views About Online Learning – – via Tech-Rhet. Bar charts. Online is more work for less educational quality, and practiced mainly by the tenure-track faculty. I'm assuming this refers mainly to institutionalized CMS stuff. That's my over-generalization for the day. – (#plenk2010 DE openeducation open_learning CMS ple )
  • Stephen Downes: Deinstitutionalizing Education – Go, Stephen: "While a great deal of virtual ink has been spilled over the need to reform our schools and universities, I think we need to question how we manage education altogether. For it is manifest that the institution, the form in which we have managed education and society in general, has ultimately come to failure." This article is difficult to summarize, but it places institutionalized ed in there with corporate greed, exploitation, outsourcing, and powerlessness. And my university says, "Education is broken because we don't assess." Ed is broken alright, but it's broken like corporations are. – (#plenk2010 assessment openeducation open_learning ple )

my first pass at practical advice for engaging a ple: foundations

Couples at Bowness

A caveat: I’m working only from my own experience in making these suggestions. Experience is limited and limiting, but these are the moves that I can trace back and forward to my being able to learn independently. I’d suggest that my experience is not unique, so others might find the set useful. These are not the only moves, but I would argue they are foundational.

For a learner new to using a PLE, I would advise the following in no particular order. Get everything used. Ideally, you can pass the books on when you’re done with them.

> Get and read and work through the first 8 chapters of Stoner and Perkins, Making Sense of Messages. For evaluation, don’t compose a paper. Do something else, multimodal.

> Read Lanham’s Analyzing Prose, 2nd edition. Follow his lead in a chapter of your choice in workiung with someth9hg other than a literary text: use your drivers license, or a menu. Then see if you can apply any of the techniques Lanham uses to something visual.

> Read and work through Berthoff’s Forming/Thinking/Writing. There are assisted invitations. Take up the invitations. Start and use a dialectic journal. Draw as well as write. Read Louis Agassiz as a Teacher, by Lane Cooper (Gutenberg link), especially those of Shaler and Scudder. Pretend you are a student and Berthoff is your Agassiz.

> Read social semiotics – not commentary on it but the actual stuff. Social semiotics will give you the literacy chops you’ll need to really read the texts you’ll encounter online and in RL. I haven’t found a good practice book yet, so practice Kress’s techniques on non-textual artifacts: a fashion spread, a car or two, something your kid drew at primary school. Try one of these: Multimodal Discourse, Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual…, Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication. If you don’t get it right away, push on. You will.

> Read and with practice something on visual thinking. I like Colin Ware, Visual Thinking for Design, and Horn, Visual Language, but Dan Roam, The Back of a Napkin and books of that ilk are good. Ask around. Search Amazon and read reviews to find something comfortable.

Why not read bits and pieces of these things online? If you want to, if you can locate them, go ahead. Some of the books aren’t available in e-versions, or only bits are available online. Those that are will read differently – hence mean differently – than the print versions. Materiality is modal; we create meaning with it – but you’ll still get what you need. My suggestion is to read and manipulate the texts: try to do what they do. Practice. Take your time.

Two more if you fancy novels: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and Lila, both by Pirsig. Read these as you read about Agassiz: as an autonomous learner on the move. Just don’t romanticize them. Please.