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


Diary of a wanna-be Connectivist.
October 26, 2008, 12:21 am
Filed under: CCK08

These are just some notes I’ve been making as I work through a Connectivist course on Connectivism – CCK08.  They’re pretty rough.


Why make them? I simply wanted to log my thoughts about the experience as I worked through the weeks, watch my own learning as it were, log any insights.  Somehow I thought, it might also help me help other learners come to grips with a connectivist course, or at least talk to them meaningfully, or at least sincerely about stages in my becoming a connectivist [smile].  Not sure it does anything of the sort, but here are my thoughts so far….This may all be blindingly obvious to all you guys on this course, who are pretty digitally literate if not digitally artistic. I also haven’t documented yet my path and trails of thinking via resources, other participants etc.  and I haven’t yet looked at my own pattern making, I need to that. 


0-Week 5: Early Flounder period of Connectivism:

General feelings of trying to get to grips with the amount of content, the readings, the links, the postings and various presentations. Whilst the introduction mentions that we’re not supposed to read everything, i.e. the trick is to pick and choose and create our own connections, finding it difficult to for example, not to follow the readings in the chronological order offered. Find the strait-jacket of instructivism has me well and truly locked in….need to escape.. 

 I lose this fear over the next few weeks [i.e. the read in order thing] as I simply can’t seem to keep up with all of the material that’s out there, threads and different discussions and so on. 


 Also note that a certain group of participants seem to have ‘hit the ground running’, they seem very familiar with the types of concepts, vocabulary etc. being discussed and used.  This I find off-putting, reminds me of the phrase ‘faux debutantes’, i.e. those learners who are a little more than beginners in language learning for example and it can be offputting to the beginners who literally don’t have a word, or a clue!  Anyways, my point is that because of this, I’m scrabbling around looking for a group that are a bit more beginner-like.  Go into the yahoo group but find after an initial couple of comments, I get lazy and don’t bother going back, my fault here, by the way, need to revisit.


Learning strategy

Pick out a few core pieces of material, presentations typically from George or Stephen and re-listen to them over the period a couple of times. Still in Flounder mode, but perhaps moving to Lurk mode.  


What not to do

Under pressure to at least start posting something, I post ‘something’ as in not particularly insightful even interesting pieces.  The pressure is to post, even though my thoughts and beliefs at this point are relatively unformed. Is this a good thing to do? Dunno.


Maybe I shouldn’t join and then fail to revisit frequently a group, perhaps there’s some commitment required here? Of course there is, actually I think it’s more to do with not managing the feeds better, Google reader would probably help here.  


Week 6:Lurk to the left, then move to the centre…

Oh God, half way through the course and not a child in the house washed [as they say]!  Panic – Should I panic?  There is still a pressure [self-imposed of course] from seeing everyone else use the blogs so fluently to scrape something together and do something myself.  Had used the blog part of Moodle up to this.  Reckon I was the only one in the entire 2, 000 participants to do this. Nice to be maverick, or worse…. 


So I start my WordPress blog.  Handy tool and I like, though my site hasn’t all the bells and whistles I see in other peoples great blogs.  Will set myself some of these features to include in the next few weeks. Spend ages, trying to find what the RSS url is on the weblog you ultimately produce, as you need it to circulate –  and ultimately use just the login and the weblog address. Stunningly easy.  Now I sit and wait, [drum, drum sound of fingers on my laptop].

Also, having played with Cmap a wee bit, start playing with MindMeister… Up to now, I’m actually just hand drawing my concept maps.  And to be honest, they’re not really concept maps, they’re just short notes on what the content of a particular presentation, or paper is….Not sure I see the real learning value for me, of becoming adept with these tools.


Learning Strategy

I mentioned in my blog that I was doing this diary, posted that as a comment and it’s like telling the world you’re giving up smoking,  you kinda gotta keep to the promise.  The pressure is on.  Blog as self-applied pressure, nice. Oh yeah, Google Reader getting helpful as management tool. 

What not to do

Don’t avoid the tools.  Get digitally literate.


Week 7: Radio silence and then..

And then…first PingBack. Mm, don’t sigh all of you blog experts, remember that feeling, it’s great, someone has made a link to and with what you’ve put down in your blog.   Great feeling and a very generous comment from another participant.  Interesting how he did exactly what Stephen Downes refers to in his 7 Habits of highly connected people , he refers to my point and then offers a link to something that might be of interest me,  to someone reflecting a similar experience or point of view.


It’s the gifting culture of web 2.0, or of Connectivism, priceless.


Write a comment back on his blog.  Mmm, not sure of protocol on referring to other post he mentions for me.  Should I comment back on that one first, i.e. the one he suggests, or is there even an expectation of that?  Must check out the protocols on all of this.


Things to do with Tools

Clearly try them. Then try and explain them to someone else. Useful exercise. Oh yeah, and start to critique the tools.  I was just lamenting, to myself, how a particular tool doesn’t seem to do the accompanying audio, and then I noticed  that another participant  had also made a similar comment, to which the co-founder of the company had replied or at least queried her comment! Wow what service!  As a novice to these tools, I wouldn’t be prepared to say anything about them yet, but by critiquing, you’re ultimately going to learn more, see reaction, and of course ultimately see evolution and fixes on tools, I suppose.


Question to myself – should I be mentioning all of the tools, people, participants etc. I refer to in these notes by name, not sure of protocol..this is a trust thing and a privacy thing, and this is an issue for people, I imagine. …Actually, probably should include names etc. Will update later.

Stephen Downes in discussion session on Wednesday, gave a stern warning to all of ‘those people’, ‘us?’  who use a recipe based, prescription based approach to learning.  He believes that there is not a strong future for ID proper,  but does point up his belief in logic, rhetoric, acting, drama, modelling and demonstrating.  I need to relisten to this as I missed the final part but, how do we work this into a learning programs that we’re paid to produce. Already, there’s someone, ‘deciding’ what participants will learn.  Where I’m going with this is should we be helping participants really feel the strength and generosity of the blogosphere over doling out the prescriptive stuff?  So, what are the best ways of modelling, or demonstration of blogging strengths to people in large private organisations?


Learning strategy

Haven’t time to run this one right through to conclusion, but some ideas might be to use the blogs to get people to talk about their learning challenges, or their modes of learning or what they actually really do want to learn in their courses.

This is actually the week that we’re discussing Instructional Design or the role of educators and how Connectivism might change or affect what educators do, need to do.  Is it my imagination or is this a quieter week than any preceding?


Question are there ebbs and flows in connectivist models and networks?  If there are, and surely there would be, how or should a flow and dynamic be maintained?   How does this map to patterning and making connections? Need to look at this.  TO BE CONTINUED [maybe?]

Week 6, Complexity, Chaos & Randomness
October 20, 2008, 10:16 pm
Filed under: CCK08


Revolutionary technologies like the computer and ultimately the web and its vast stable of innovative applications seems to be a manifestation of complexity theory whereby as Heylighen notes, non-linear side effects can result, witness the recession that followed the dotcom boom.  He describes productivity paradox whereby technologies that increase productivity can also have paradoxal effects like complexity and information overload.


It brings to mind other everyday paradoxes.  At my local gym, I noted how people going into the gym would struggle to park their cars in the nearest car space to the gym entrance, the gym about physical exercise, yet the unwillingness to walk the few extra feet. I don’t where I’m going with this but I suppose it’s to question how one technology or idea can embrace us and at the same time let us lose sight of the other issues or value systems we might subscribe to. It’s about fitness, but I’ll drive up to the door of my gym or health club.  It’s about productivity, but I’m paralyzed through information overload. Of course as Francis Heylighen suggests it’s about problem solving, discovering productive ways to use a technology.  He integrates 3 resources, human intelligence, computer intelligence and coordination mechanisms into a potential solution, a master information system omnipresent and omniscient that could support individuals and society at all levels of information need, information management , decision support while dealing with the negative side-effects he cites.  But this is problem solving at a very complex level.  Dr. Joseph A. Tainter in a lecture on the Archaeology Channel talks about problem solving techniques that have occurred within history. He comments that history doesn’t repeat itself but problems often do.  We respond to problems today much as people did before. He goes onto chronicle how the Western Roman Empire in fifth century AD had huge responsibilities to administer and defend its empire, and this was largely paid for from agricultural production. By the middle of third century AD the government was bankrupt.  In the early fourth century AD, the empire created a larger and more complex and more highly organised government, doubled the size of the army but to no avail.  Peasants abandoned lands, and fast forward to when the  Barbarians overthrew the empire in 476AD.


He then discusses how the Byzantine Empire under attack from Arab armies saved itself and made a remarkable recovery.  It rejuvenated its society and business by simplification, by contracting cities to fortified hill tops, by settling the army on farm land so that they could feed themselves. Businesses and society simplified.  The economy was organised around self-sufficient manors.  Literacy declined. But the size of the empire doubled.   Unlike the Romans, the Byzantine model shows us a large complex society systematically simplifying. 


Finally, he talks about the European problem solving model which from colonial times onwards,  produces ever increasing complexity and consumption regardless of costs, forcing us to continuously innovate and find more and more resources, whether in the Americas as colonies initially or through our natural resources colonisation of fossil and nuclear fuels.   I attach the link below as I don’t wish to do this piece a disservice. 


This is not a critique of the global brain concept of Heylighen which when run through the transport example proposed is impressive and convincing.  But should we be wondering about problem solving and innovation that is predicated on increasing complexity?  Complex systems and complexity effects are irrefutable but is it naïve to look for more simplified and sustainable problem solving methodologies?


 Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia on Dr. Tainter.

 His best-known work is The Collapse of Complex Societies. This 1988 book examines the collapse of Maya and Chacoan civilizations, and the Roman Empire, in terms of network theory, energy economics and complexity theory. Tainter argues that societies collapse when their investments in social complexity reach a point of diminishing marginal returns. According to Tainter, societies become more complex as they try to solve problems. Social complexity can include differentiated social and economic roles, reliance on symbolic and abstract communication, and the existence of a class of information producers and analysts who are not involved in primary resource production. Such complexity requires a substantial “energy” subsidy (meaning resources, or other forms of wealth). When a society confronts a “problem,” such as a shortage of or difficulty in gaining access to energy, it tends to create new layers of bureaucracy, infrastructure, or social class to address the challenge.’  [Joseph Tainter, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]



So, is sustainability and simplification an issue for connectivism and connective knowledge?






Week 6 – CCK08 -Half way through the course
October 18, 2008, 11:31 am
Filed under: CCK08 | Tags:

This is my first posting on my WordPress blog.  Mm, you might say, seems like a good point in the course to do this, if a little tardy?  Well, it’s been a challenge to cover all of the required material/content bases and do the ‘doey’ things as well, like getting a blog together, post, reply, get involved..And because i’m one of a select group of participants who’ve been perhaps a little slower than most in getting into the connecting part, I’ve also been trying to log my progress both practically and metacognitively in a ongoing,  ‘Diary of a wanna-be Connectivist’ – to be posted shortly.  This may be a bit navel gazing but my thought here is that it’ll be something to share with other learners who may have a similar, reticent approach to becoming connected.  This reticence is fueled or shaped by a life time of linear learning even thinking, and the now i see/feel/know in a gut wrenching way,  erroneous, sense and belief that one has to have a very ‘comprehensive’, ‘complete’, ‘correct’ view of whatever subject it is, you’re talking about  BEFORE you can  actually say anything, post anything etc.  Yes, of course these points are blindingly obvious to those who live in the connected online world but not so to those who are or have been lurking around it.

The CCKO8 material is excellent as we all know but as many contributors, and our teachers have said, [Anderson, Siemens etc.] we need exposure to all of the technology tools, blogs, etc. and there needs to be perpetual experimentation with these tools, so we need to be playing with them so that we have informed opinions that we can pass onto other learners.  That’s been the huge step forward for me, and i’m only started so may not make it either. 

It’s interesting to try and log the exact point at which you become a little more comfortable with doing this type of thing. It’s a gradual thing and sometimes a certain article or phrase can really hit it home.  Stephen Downes 7 Habits of Highly Connected People i found straight talking and inspirational.  It should be one of the primers for anyone doing this course or a similar connectivist type endeavor.  Very direct, some key points like ‘Be reactive’ in other words, posting isn’t about just airing your views and opinions it’s about connecting and responding to others and drawing links between what they’ve said and your content…by the way, this post isn’t really doing that of course, :?, but it’s a first post so I’m learning.  And I’m trying to reflect point seven which is ‘Be Yourself’ without being too self-conscious. 

So, just a few thoughts and best wishes to all participants and a huge thanks to George and Stephen and the other presenters and facilitators that the next 6 weeks will be as exciting and worthwhile as the first 6.