Friday, 14 October 2011

Been there, heard most of it before

and that's not to say that I don't respect and admire David Wiley. I enrolled in one of his early open online courses (Introduction to Open Education 2007!)and the information he presented and the examples he provided and the challenging discussions he facilitated developed my strong interest and belief in open content. I began my first blog about open content right around then (which has since moved over to GoogleSites - I collect new OER sites, open content courses, and new movements or initiatives within the open content area at "Open=Free?"
I'm pleased to hear that his Flat World Knowledge initiative is succeeding. I had some serious doubts that a model like this could survive as a "business" model. While I believe in open content I assumed it would never survive without the serious funding provided by the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation and other benevolent bodies. Funny that everyone talks about MIT's work in setting up OpenCourseWare and making so many courses available but they never acknowledge that a great deal of their monies come from the TWFHF (and I give them a lot of credit for making the project successful - many others have withered even with funding)
It's interesting to read a Q&A session that TWFHF's Catherine Casserly in 2007 to find out how much skepticism there was about the OER idea and the quality of "free" course materials.
I like what I have seen develop in the OER field - the ability to study by yourself, the interactivity of online course modules in Connexions, the variety of online learning tools available through the UK's Open University's OpenLearn site.
I can't say I can see any way that some of the new developments (directions?) can ever be self-sustaining. David is talking about developing open assessment tools; New Zealand's Otago Polytechnic provides recognizable credits for open courses; BCCampus folks are trying to develop an OER University with recognized credentials. to me this is going too far and will eventually require a return to the semi-business model that traditional universities represent. This doesn't seem to be in the spirit of the original sharing without dictating standards or outcomes. Open Content  should be about sharing so that people can remix, reshape and reshare - not so they can access another country's credentials or accept their standards of what is important to be learned.
More another time

Thursday, 6 October 2011

McGonigal suggests gamers can save the world!

Jane McGonigal
Pierre Levy
Howard Rheingold
This week's topic of connected learning has made me think back to all the blogs, research, videos related to the potential power of connected minds (backchannel thoughts of hive mentality, Borg ships filled with connected minds). When I was studying at UBC, we explored many ideas around cyberculture, including Pierre Levy's work in the area of collective intelligence, Howard Rheingold's expertise in facilitating active engaged virtual communities or networks, our government's now defunct Connected Canadians strategies aimed at building a knowledge economy, and, more recently the many mobile mobs that seem to be driving social change. My current favoured approach in this area is Jane McGonigal's suggestion that harnessing the energy, ingenuity and dedication of World of Warcraft gamers could help us solve the major problems of the world (see her TED presentation . It's just oddball enough to have some validity.
Allison Littlejohn's position paper presents us with a "grand challenge", that we "have to learn to solve real-world problems faster and more effectively" Her premise is that if we pose problems " a large number of people, rather than just a few individuals, the knowledge of ‘the many’ will afford greater diversity and ideas to help solve a given problem." And certainly we have many good examples of really unique, diverse, helpful ideas derived from throwing a problem out into the cybercommunity - I know this as crowdsourcing.  Howard's newer book focuses on mob actions (see Smartmobs) coordinated by mobile devices - a crowdsourcing phenomenon gone physical.
Yet the position paper is looking at learning in a networked environment (in the hopes that if we understand learning in this situation we'll know how to use this approach to solve problems??). George Siemens and Stephen Downes have published and taught extensively on this topic. Allison focuses quickly on workplace learning; how do we develop expertise in the workplace. And her conclusion (I still need to read some of the research she cites as my first response is serious doubts) is that "expertise" is "best situated within continuous workplace learning, where people work on real-world, common problems, rather than being contained within formal training." I can think of instances where this would be true but I can also think of instances where, without some serious grounding in basic knowledge underlying "real-world" problems, assigning people to work on those problems is inefficient. And to me it is still more efficient to build foundational knowledge with guidance and focus on specific subject areas; the value of diving into the network is to build on the foundation, modify it, expand it. I know people who have built a foundation from piecing together fragments but my tendency is to think that this is slower than if you work under the formal guidance of an "expert" who can teach.
And finally (for the moment cuz I'm sure I'll learn more after I go and check my network nodes) her contention that learning is "either" individual or social?  Funny, the reading I have done suggests that learning is a continuum (or do I mean a continuous process?) and that I begin my learning internally (individual) but I test out, modify and solidify my learning through engaging socially. Isn't that why we've always asked students to explain their ideas, stand up for their beliefs and justify their positions?


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Random fragments, on to the Collective

So much for feeling virtuous cuz I got a head start on the change newsletter and website postings. I was reading Martin Weller's open copy text before I received any scrapings from other bloggers in the course or the weekly newsletter. But I got sidetracked as to which webchannel I wanted to communicate on.
I'm currently irritated like hell with GoogleDocs. I've been a user (and an enthusiastic one) for years but they seem to have changed the way the Docs save and I'm finding it makes them useless for me when I'm building Notes pages. I'm a fast typist and when I'm trying to capture ideas from a number of web sources I tend to pop in and out quickly and add chunks of text and my comments as I go. However, the constant saving interrupts me when I'm typing and doesn't save the word I've been keyboarding, instead it is lost so when I look back there are holes in my narrative. Until I figure out a different web-based tool I've gone back to my trusted Tiddlywiki which works in my browser and I can access anywhere from my Dropbox.
I also found I didn't have time to do a thoughtful blog post last week so I relied on microblogging - my Twitter voice #Northerntweeter. (a little backchannel thought: I looked at some of my blogs and I found that there is a clear demarcation from when I started tweeting - seems it sucks me away from doing really thoughtful postings about issues - instead I send bursts of 140 chars or less - what does that say about my ability to think deeply about anything anymore???)
But I'm curious about this weeks topic and why I should change my thinking about crowdsourcing to calling it collective learning. I have some deep-seated discomfort with terms like "collective knowledge or learning"; similar to my response to "friends" and "like" in Facebook.
So I'll see how it looks if I use this blog and a couple of other channels and resist tweeting for this week. Curious to see whether I feel like I've really "thought" about the subject by the end of the week. Hmmmmm.