Shel22’s Weblog

CCK08 – Concept Map
November 25, 2008, 12:07 am
Filed under: Concept Maps


Final week of the CCK08

Here’s my concept map for CCK08.  This was one of those tools and exercises that I didn’t like at all to begin with, but found it really quite an interesting and useful learning strategy as time moved on.  I wish now I’d been more assiduous with it and carried out the thoughtful gardener role of pruning and watering regularly.


Here it is: CCK08 Concept Map


And this is a moment to thank everyone on the course for all the wonderful material, generous connections, contributions and comments.  It’s been a fantastic learning experience and I wish everyone well.  


How bad can withdrawal be, we have to ask ourselves?

Good luck,





Short Paper 3 CCK08: Opportunities and Resistance
November 22, 2008, 11:03 pm
Filed under: CCK08, Short Papers for CCK08

Reflect on the opportunities and resistance found in society and organizations in adopting different approaches to teaching and learning.

As George Siemens (2008) says in New Structures and Spaces of Learning[1], exciting times lay ahead for educators as the dream of learner centered education moves daily closer to reality. So why, when we now have the theory [Connectivism] and some of the tools [Web 2.0 applications] and many of the individuals are we not further down the path to the educational revolution we might have expected?   And why as he points out has education continued to exist primarily in a class room environment? 

Stephen Downes in The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years on talks about how the major shift in instructional technology will be from systems centered on the educational institution to systems centered on the individual learner. 

Why is there resistance to the above within corporates and other educationally focused bodies? A definition of resistance according to Wikipedia, is the act of defending one’s position in response to confrontation. Yet resistance seems almost too strong a word to use, lack of fluency, and progress seems apposite.    Some reasons for such lack of progress include:

Corporate Lack of Progress
Why embrace change? Large private companies do not frequently perceive themselves as learning institutions, while there are always exceptions, the predominant goal is to improve market share, increase profits, expand and so on. Whilst many companies employ CLOs, in many workplaces, there is no such fluency in educational thought and theory. 

It is infrequent that corporations examine how successful learning methodologies are or might be.  If learners are passing the tests, getting to know new products etc. how efficient or effective the learning channels and environment might be, may never be measured.   Many learning programs come into play when a new piece of knowledge/content is required, not a new way of thinking about education.  

Education is often seen to be a check box looking for a tick. Education is often imposed or mandated.  There may even be a punitive feel to it, as a new piece of compliance imposed by a regulatory body leads to a rapidly implemented series of compliance programs.   

With financial markets in meltdown and the ensuing recessionary wind blowing cold over the US and Europe, companies that once were in rude financial health move away from risk/change and batten down the hatches.  This may not seem to be a good time to explore a new educational model or new tools that may be seen as too open and uncontrolled in an economy already out of control.


Corporate Opportunities
On the other hand, as web 2.0 sweeps into companies in a variety of forms, is it just a matter of time before these new connecting vehicles are boarded, not just by IT but by everyone in the organization?   Slow change must surely be afoot.  The journalist Karlin Lillington wrote about seeing bloggers registered for the first time at the annual Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Franscisco’s Moscone Center this year.  The conference ran an event wiki, event blog, event videoblog, event, RSS feed, bunch of Twitter addresses …and it’s brave  as Lillington says, ‘Encouraging attendance at a massive company event by bloggers, for example, puts citizen journalism on par with the “real” press.’ If technology companies are finally taking notice of real world use of web, communications and collaboration technologies, perhaps mainstream companies are not too far behind.

And there are many companies that have been brave about new ways of learning.  Nigel Paine brought Web 2.0 to the BBC[2] and transformed their intranet into a learning space.  His description of his organization ‘We concealed knowledge’ pushed him into bringing blogs, wikis, podcasts, vodcasts and other informal learning modes into the organization.  And when discussion forums started with just 60 people discussing the water quality in the water coolers, he held his nerve and this jumped quickly to 10,000 engaging in 100s of forum. 

As work and learning coincides more and more by necessity, our work ways and needs combine into personal learning environments.  

But why is it so difficult to change the practice of education?

Howard Rheingold in his talk two weeks ago, talked about his daughter coming home from school, terribly disappointed, ‘they made us sit in chairs and all the chairs were in a row’.  He mentions how a certain amount of deprogramming is required.  This is true, students ultimately end up wanting to sit in the very same chairs they occupy every week.  Three elements make it difficult to change the practice of education, the institutions themselves, the formats and the individuals, instructors and learners.  

In his article on Universities Peter Scott (2002), it’s noticeable that the major rivals to universities still come in a university shape, border-less education institutions, e.g. on-line universities, private for-profit universities [e.g. University of Phoenix] and thirdly corporate universities, e.g. the National Health Service Industry in Britain. But he comments it’s misleading to see the evolution of the University solely in terms of the emergence of rival institutions. What’s needed he argues is more subtle account which places as much emphasis on the process of ‘internal’ transformation as ‘external’ challenge or substitution. Siemens (2008) talks about the lack of effort assigned to date on conceptualizing innovative and creative uses of existing participatory technologies.

John Seely Brown (2002) describes how initial uses of new media have tended to mimic predecessors, early photography imitated painting, movies the stage and so on. It took 10 to 20 years for filmmakers to perfect new techniques and while teachers may bring in new media to the classroom, it may take longer for the shift to the new media to really take place. But changes are afoot, with learners becoming more involved in creating curricula, witness CCK08 of course.

Individuals [teachers or learners]
If the development of a certain type of person with certain mindsets is more important than being in possession of a particular piece of knowledge (Siemens, 2005) and nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning then learning is about a way of being, and being always takes effort.  This translates into a challenging, constantly changing landscape for either teacher or learner.  Howard Rheingold talks about being ‘not ashamed to fail’ and some of the changes he made and explored with his class when he taught social media using social media challenge, changed and at times failed.  Some of them are striking in their creativity, novelty and bravery, e.g. the idea of handing out a grade of 500 points to be distributed by the group to the group.

If we make fundamental, systemic changes we can expect:

New what, new how, new by whom, new when, new whys, new accreditation and new becomings.  Opportunities include

§         Self–directed lifelong learning

§         Self–directed lifelong personal development

§         Changing roles – teacher, learner and people following self-generated interests

§         More efficient learning

§         Greater economic well-being and greater social equity

A new How
Just looking at one issue threatening Irish schools is the large pupil teacher ratio, second highest in Europe.  The web could as John Seely Brown (2002) says, combine the small efforts of the many with the large efforts of the few, similar to the Hewlett-Packard engineers who helped kids with science and maths problems.

Can our current world of weak ties and easy connections produce the depth of learning required to meet the complex challenges facing our future?

We’ve got to try different things. Different things will work for different people and different organizations.  The starting point of connectivism may be the individual but as John Seely Brown says, the web leverages the small efforts of the many with the large efforts of the few. The potential is limitless.  





Brown, J.S (2002) Growing Up Digital How the Web Changes Work, Education, and the Ways People Learn. Retrieved November 11th, 2008 from


Conole, G.C. (2008). Summary of work/learning design.


Downes, S. (2006). Learning Networks and connective knowledge. Retrieved November 11th, 2008 from


Downes, S (2008) The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On. Retrieved November 20th, 2008 from


Gorman, M. (2007) Web 2.0: The Sleep of Reason, Part 1, Retrieved November 11th, 2008 from


Lillington, K. (2008).  Bloggers take their place beside ‘real’ journalists. Retrieved November 11th, 2008 from


Learning Leadership Award, Nigel Paine, BBC Retrieved November 12th from,com_alphacontent/Itemid,99999999/section,9/cat,28/task,view/id,1389/


Scott, P (2002) Globalisation: What issues are at Stake for Universities?


Siemens, G (2008). New Structures and spaces of Learning: The systemic impact of connective knowledge, connectivism and networked learning.


Siemens, G (2005). Connectivism: A learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved November 12th, 2008 form


[1] New Structures and Spaces of Learning: The Systemic Impact of Connective Knowledge, Connectivism and Networked Learning

[2] British Broadcasting Corporation

Short Paper 2: Changing roles of educators
November 10, 2008, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Short Papers for CCK08 | Tags:


My point of emphasis is that of an independent instructional designer, instructional Design as the systematic process of creating a learning output making use of a variety of delivery channels to meet a defined outcome agreed with a client. The task range is wide from needs analysis, tech specification documentation to areas as broad as game, simulation and test design to helping follow-through learning happen within organizations.              


The role of ID for many of us has changed greatly. Early days and technologies allowed mechanistic, dull looking, formulaic page-turning particularly in elearning.  The tide of new ways of thinking about what makes good design, advances in cognitive and brain science, research and debate and new theory on the nature of learning, intelligence, and knowledge has forced a constant examination of what the role must strive to do.  Web 2.0 has engendered the biggest shift.  Not only do IDs now have access to better resources, people, and tools, they are now challenged to use this content and community in their relationship with and product design for learners. Brown and Adler (2008) write that the most profound impact of the Internet is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning, contrasting the traditional way of looking at knowledge and learning ‘I think therefore I am’ with the social view of learning ‘We participate, therefore we are’. So the challenge of keeping abreast in ID requires at a minimum competencies in widely diverse areas from writing audio for pod casts to simulation and game design, but it is the community and social learning element that is the real change to be taken into consideration and included in desired outcomes.  


Constantly upskilling in an ever widening range of areas is not possible, the response is a multi-disciplinary team highly specialized. As for social learning, ID must decide on the implications of this aspect for learning, become competent with the tools and creative with the possibilities of their combination. So, ID must participate in social learning experimentation, joining communities of practice, ‘learning to be’ within these social learning spaces, monitor progress, effects, and implications for learners.   


There are many impediments to change. They include limited knowledge and experimentation in the new technologies for both vendor and client and a factory type model of production of learning that limits creativity and scope.   


There is a frequent lack of debate about the nature of the learning interventions required.  The traditional model of learning holds sway and is made evident in the e-learning production process whereby, a hand over of content [document, brochure etc.] assumes a process of transformation or republishing into a different medium by ID. As Geoff Mulgan writes in Connexity Revisited (2004) for all the talk of the network economy, most businesses are organized as fairly tight hierarchies.  This hierarchy means that that by the time ID comes into the picture on a learning solution, the creative direction may already be decided on, not to be revisited easily. This tight hierarchy is reflected in a production model that often once kicked off does not allow revision or change of scope.  In a question posted by Elliot Masie in, What changes in Learning Strategies is your organization planning for 2009? It’s notable that in the 20 comments posted, the term Learning 2.0 appears once, Communities of Practice once and Collaborative Spaces once. This is still, uncharted waters for many vendors and clients.   


Issues of privacy, power and control also raise their heads.  Many technologies are blocked or unavailable.  This may even be at a basic level, e.g. audio and video.  


Elearning is frequently an externally sourced service, seen as limited in scope and meeting a short term need. The finish line is seen as the end of the program. Questions on  how learners will transfer what they’ve ‘covered’ in the course into their work life or an examination of factors that might ensure they do, doesn’t often fall into the realm of the external ID.  Research suggests that these issues may even be more important than what’s contained in the learning program.  Newstrom’s (1983) survey of trainers listed a serious of barriers including ‘lack of reinforcement on the job’. 


How can we change what we do? A walk on the wild side?

Learners in large organizations will always be given specific learning aims to achieve. Learning will always be structured to some extent. Educators will always have a range of function as George Siemens describes in the session on Curatorial Teaching, compiling good structure, facilitating and mentoring people, encouraging, helping and so on and ID fits into that structure.  But we must offer learners at least the experience of social learning and participation.  To do this, I suggest a national or international holiday from all formal learning programs. This is a fallow period to render the future more fertile.  During this time, no official learning with specific learning outcomes will be delivered.  Titles of educators would be revoked for the period.  Learning sentinels replace the above. Their priority to expose people to the role of their own personal agency in learning in order to become autonomous, self-led learners, competent in a range of digital tools relevant to their goals.  As George Siemens said in discussion week 9, we need to redeem the notion of individual context and agency. This is what the sentinel would protect during this brief learning holiday.  No prescription in most matters but learners might look at the Top 100 tools for Learning 2008 for suggestions.  The expectation is that all participants would ultimately create and design a personal learning environment that they share, exchange and evolve with colleagues.  The sentinels operate as modellers on this task seeding and encouraging participation with the various communities of practice and networks. Nancy White [2008] in the recent Elluminate session talks about a variety of activities for participants, usefully participating, finding and creating content, expressing identity, being in and using communities and networks. This period is used to attempt to grow the open participatory learning ecosystem, Seely Brown and Adler talk about.  By taking this break in the structured learning curriculum, we prepare better for going forward, it is as they say in french ‘reculer pour mieux sauter’.   



John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler (2008). Minds on Fire, Open Education, the Long Tail and Learning 2.0, Educause Review, January February 2008


White N.  (2008).  Nancy White in Elluminate Discussion for CCK08 with Stephen Downes moderating.


Hart J. (2008). Top Ten Tools for Learning 2008. Retrieved November 9th, 2008, from


Masie, E (2008). What changes in Learning Strategies is your organization planning for 2009? Retrieved November 9th 2008,  from


Calhoun W. Wick, Roy V. H. Pollock , Andrew McK. Jefferson, Richard D. Flanagan (2006),

The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning: How to Turn Training and Development Into Business Results, Pfeiffer, A Wiley Imprint.


Mulgan, G (2004) Connexity Revisited, Demos.


Newstrom John W. (1983) – please note I could not get access to this survey of trainers or the related document, so my reference is based on reading about it in above source and web enquiry.


Siemens, G (2007). Curatorial Teaching, George Siemens in Elluminate session, September 18th, 2007

CCK08 Short Paper 1: Position on Connectivism
November 10, 2008, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Short Papers for CCK08 | Tags:

Fast moving changes in technology, in the rate of knowledge and information change and evolution require fresh examination of how, where and when we learn.


The following present a strong case for Connectivism

  • There is a need for a networks based learning system to interface with the knowledge and information flow that characterizes many disciplines today
  • There is a need to know more about how effective networks work and how to navigate them as teachers and learners
  • Whatever learning is, we continue to learn, unlearn, relearn constantly. Too many ‘courses’ have a finish line, an event-over status, connectivism offers a continuous, ongoing relationship with the learner that is missing in many traditional formats of learning.
  • The ‘learning as conversation’ metaphor used by Stephen Downes works both on a personal level and network level.
  • Connectivism encourages metacognition. The technology, the tools, RSS feeds to sign up to, friends to choose or reject, threads to follow or not, posts to reply on and so on, these choices push participants to constantly consider what’s relevant for their learning at this point in time. This promotes reflection on learning and thinking, an undervalued element in more structured models of learning.

Technology is pre-eminent in this learning theory. Whilst the pipe is important matching learning vehicle to speed on the knowledge/data highway and in promoting a self awareness not offered in many formal learning vehicles, the question remains whether it outweighs the content in importance. It’s as important but not more important. And while the rapid growth in knowledge means new techniques for handling that knowledge are vital, whether it we can off-load cognition, sense and meaning making to a non human network remains a question for me.



A new theory of learning?

Whether the existing major theories of learning [Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism and sub-sets] qualify as well constructed theories, seems irrelevant in one sense. They are what the debate on learning has used as a centre around which to orbit. Merkel talks about each of the learning theories building on the previous one. This seems sensible, a series of concentric circles with Behaviourism at the centre and moving out through Cognitivism to Constructivism and its many incarnations to Connectivism at the outside. Nothing is replaced or eliminated, there is accretion and building upon the base or beliefs and propositions of previous ‘theories’.



When faced with instructionally designing content for a particular learning audience, elements and approaches from all of the theories are still being applied whether we label ourselves behaviourists, cognitivists and so on. We still see objective setting, not prescribed but generated by the learner as in this course, we see building on prior knowledge, worked and practice examples to help build understanding …and so on.



What are the weaknesses and strengths of connectivism as formulated in this course? Does it resonate with your learning experiences, if so, how?


The weaknesses are contained in my Gaps section below. Briefly, I wonder what a fully connectivist course feels like, can we categorically state what’s allowed and disallowed. Even in debates on CCKO8, some felt it was too structured, others wanted more structure. What role does structure, scaffolding, guidance to learners take and how fluid is the prescription for these characteristics? Does curriculum float as well as learning space and structure for example? How many varieties of connectivism exist currently?


Gaps to be filled:

  • Concrete learning examples allow people to process them deeply and test their validity against their own internal systems. We need to generate more concrete connectivist examples and offer deeper analysis of them.
  • Connectivism covers some learning situations but not all. What does it not cover and why? In one article, the university is described as a ‘connection forming organisation’ and the model proposed includes formal structured pathways as well as more self-led exploratory modes. What variants of Connectivism are proposed and what research around students using such systems exist?
  • What types of content/knowledge is Connectivism ideally for?
  • What types of learners is Connectivism ideally for?
  • Do we need to develop learners so that they are Connectivism ready? Lurkers to center players etc.
  • Can we say something about Connectivism and long term memory?
  • Connectivism has an intimate connection with technology. But a dependence on levels of technology won’t cure all educational ills. Is there a necessary link between high levels of computerisation and higher levels of literacy, numeracy at primary level? Alan Kay talks about basic tokenism asking whether schools just won’t face up to what the actual problems of education are, whether you have technology or not.

The inclusion of technology, the application of network principles to define knowledge and learning, the continuous relationship with the learner and with context all make Connectivism an approach to study. T he truth of it is, we need a new way of looking at learning and we need new ways of teaching and designing our learning spaces: this has always been the case.



Downes, S (2007) What Connectivism Is. Retrieved October 2, 2008



Kay, A. Retrieved October 2, 2008 from



Kerr B. A Challenge to Connectivism. Retrieved September 11, 2008, from http://learning



Kirschner, P. Clarke, R.E, Sweller, J. (2006) Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does not Work, An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential and Inquiry-Based Teaching



Mergel, B (1998). Instructional Design and Learning Theory



Siemens, G (2006). Connectivism: Learning Theory or Pastime of the Self-Amused



Siemens, G (2006). What is the Unique idea in Connectivism?