Shel22’s Weblog

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


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[…] relations within which they may struggle, as well as  expanding their knowledge networks.” Shel explored the possibilities for change  in her paper posted at the end of the […]

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