Connection not Content

A Blog for MOOCs and Other Animals

Archive for May 2018

Consolidation is the Name of the Game

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Having been around for more than three quarters of a century I’m trying to consolidate and integrate some of my interests before I forget what they are! The time has come to draw together the ragged ends of various projects and half-baked activities with a view to planning for the future. What follows is essentially a note to myself, a brief personal account of what I’ve done, or not done – and a quick look ahead.

The Past

I lectured for about 30 years in a UK University on electonics and communication topics. I was pretty single-minded about my work there so when I retired in 2001 I decided to diversify. I’d already started iBerry, a Higher Education website in 1999 and when my wife and I moved to Malvern in Worcestershire in 2002, kids having flown, I added several other interests. I helped with a charity, I tried to understand quantum computing, (still don’t), and we gardened (still do). I played with the open source Linux operating system. I experimented with a Raspberry Pi computer and camera with a view to detecting and videoing marauding foxes (never did!)

I also took an interest in the fascinating history of the Water Cure as it panned out here in Victorian Malvern. Apart from collecting info, taking local photos and writing a related short SF story that few read, the history project has yet to take off. I wrote a couple of other SF stories (see top right menu) and a publisher has actually expressed interest – we’ll see! I’ve also collected considerable info on my doggedly Scottish ancestors – another project awaiting completion. Oh – I sort of learned to cook, proudly graduating from a real life course entitled, ‘Man in Kitchen’!

Education and iBerry has always been one of my main interests and in 2010, as an experiment using xtranormal, I made an animated video, ‘A Cautionary Tale‘, a fantasy involving Open Education. I thought it wasn’t too bad but I never tackled another. A year later I was lucky enough to join one of the first MOOCs, CCK11, (‘Connectivism and Connective Knowledge’, facilitators Stephen Downes and George Siemens ).

The original connectivist MOOCs encouraged learners to contribute on their on blogs and being somewhat dubious and befuddled about connectivism as a learning theory, I created a fanciful ‘MOOCow‘.

The reaction was astonishing. 42 comments and now over 2,000 views including plaudits from Jim GroomGeorge Siemens and other big names. MOOCow popped up in keynotes and presentations of all sorts, all over the globe, with or without attribution. I pontificated in this blog on various education issues during CCK11 and made contributions during other later xMOOCs but MOOCow is my main claim to fame! On the whole, MOOCs are excellent resources for learning and I have no qualms about Milking a MOOC for whatever takes my interest. Current monetised xMOOCs have moved some way from the free and open connectivist model but there’s usually a wealth of good open educational content for self-directed learners to view and download to suit themselves. I’m the proud possessor of a couple of MOOC certificates, collected when they were free but there’s no obligation to pay.
This MOOC is Something Else!

MOOCow -Based on ‘la vaca de los sinvaca’ by José Bogado Creative Commons Licence [This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.]

 In fact only a small proportion of learners bother about assessment and buy certificates. Multiple choice questions, essay review by peers and so on can be interesting and helpful for learning but their value as assessment tools is limited.

More recently, I became an approved mentor, twice on FutureLearn’s online course, ‘Learning in the Network Age‘ – a whole new experience! Unlike the really massive MOOCs, there were only a few hundred active participants on each course and an abundance of fellow mentors. I’m no education expert but the course was introductory and I assisted learners on the basis of my personal experience of MOOCs and the web.

I enjoy coding, (I’m a Fortran veteran) and I began to learn Python in 2011. As an exercise I developed a ‘Comment Collector‘ (first version called a ‘Comment Scraper’) with the purpose of bringing together abbreviated versions of MOOC blog posts with their comments on one page – here’s an example. I thought others might find this useful so I used it in a series of MOOCs and also for the renowned RHIZO14 and RHIZO15 online courses that were facilitated by Dave Cormier. Participants on these courses considered the Comment Collector interesting and useful but it did compete with several other blog aggregation tools and there’s not been much interest since.

Politically, I’m lazy but as a young man I did participate in the famous Grosvenor square demonstration in London in 1968 (I refused to throw stones!) and more recently with my wife in Edinburgh against the Iraq invasion in 2003. I also joined the Green Party but, regrettably, don’t do anything.

The Future

Virtual Reality This is a completely new project. I’ve only recently acquired a suitable computer and now I’m considering what headset to get. The technology is not nearly mature but the impact VR will have on education and other fields is likely to be enormous.

iBerry, Connecting the World’s Learners a simplified iBerry focuses on self-directed learning and learners rather than just anyone with an interest in Higher Education. But how does anyone become a self-directed learner with the self-confidence and motivation to take charge of one’s own learning? Connection with other like-minded learners is one obvious answer but exactly how this can be encouraged and achieved is another question! Our Drupal content management system is being abandoned in favour of a relatively straightforward HTML format. This does not have all the Drupal bells and whistles, taxonomies, news aggregator etc but it’s still quite easily managed. The iBerry blog is integrating with this one – spelling will be English English!

Malvern Water Cure I’m anxious to get this project going again. More photos to be taken over the summer and info organised as time allows.

Linux and Raspberry Pie – I want to explore the possibilities of an open operating system and a tiny computer. I’ve already installed Linux on an old laptop and I’ll try to make time for further investigation.

Writing – I’d like to try writing more light SF. Unfortunately, I find much of current SF either incomprehensible or so good it puts me off writing my own! Perhaps I’ll try again later this year.

Comment Collector – Unless there’s further interest I will probably abandon this project

Politics – My wife and I are planning to attend the London anti-Trump demo in July this year – we feel like throwing stones ….

Written by Gordon Lockhart

May 30, 2018 at 9:08 pm

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