Connection not Content

A Blog for MOOCs and Other Animals

Posts Tagged ‘Change11

#Change11 :: MOOCs, Education and The Infinite Hotel

with 4 comments

A MOOC isn’t a course of course. Courses are about curricula and the management of time, resources, learners and teachers. A MOOC is Something Else – I think it belongs in the Infinite Hotel and there’s plenty of room there for any number of different types.

Connectivist MOOCs were first to arrive in the Hotel and surprised everyone by attracting a vast multitude of guests even though rather less turned up for the learning party. Some complained about chaos and confusion as the party spilled over into scores of different learning spaces. Some guests were happy to welcome visitors in their own room while others quietly lurked, content to study by themselves – or not. Some even left the Hotel never to return! With as many learning objectives as participants nobody was very clear about what was learned – but no matter – how they engaged! It was a great party and, for better or worse, they called it a ‘MOOC’.

Then along came Stanford AI, Udacity, Cousera and Edx with their ‘instructivist’ MOOCs. The few large rooms they took over were still open and free but there was some huffing and puffing about spoiling the party when the instructivists took over the gigantic Hotel Theatre as a learning space and herded in thousands of new guests. Several sages wowed the guests with expert stage performances but relied mainly on old stuff and tricks taken from home. A friendly bunch of facilitators were employed to answer questions and keep an eye on the guests. They could be difficult to find but the more knowledgeable guests did try to help others when they could. The original MOOCers thought it wasn’t much of a party and re-labelled their own rooms, ‘Connectivist MOOC’, to underline the distinction.

I don’t think that connectivist and instructivist MOOCs are so fundamentally different that features of each can’t be usefully exploited according to different objectives. Hasn’t it happened already? What type of MOOC is DS106 or fslt12? Connectivist MOOCs blazed the trail and deserve much credit for that but word gets round and I can see a succession of ‘hybrid MOOCs’ joining the party.

MOOCs demonstrate that education reform doesn’t have to be done chunk by chunk in terms of the traditional stuff – lectures, tutorials, labs, classrooms, homework and so on – supported by a considerable amount of scaffolding. The many excellent presentations in Change11 and the discussions flowing from them point to the future and exhibit a great deal of consistency. All seem to recognise the worth of learner autonomy, peer support, openess, authenticity, diversity, mobility, internationalism, OER, OCW etc etc. The devil is in the detail of course but the Infinite Hotel of the Internet allows plenty of room for experimentation. Best to plan for a time when bandwidth and data storage pose less of a problem and irksome technological wrinkles are ironed out. Automatic speech recognition and language translation will be much more effective in the future – virtual or augmented reality could converge with reality itself. Really effective learning spaces will be manipulated far more effortlessly and moulded as circumstances dictate – by whoever, whenever and wherever – the party’s just begun and we ain’t seen nothing yet!

Written by Gordon Lockhart

May 23, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

#Change11 :: Identities

with 2 comments

I enjoyed Bonnie Stewart’s post on Digital Identities and also the recording of her presentation (I missed the live version – physical identity with my dentist). I found the background chat often too interesting or entertaining for multitasking so I proceeded by ignoring the chat every few minutes then pausing Bonnie and returning to consume the last fragment of  chat. It was a fascinating presentation and I think one of the best in Change11.

I’ve yet to come to terms with my Quantified Self. When I joined my first MOOC (CCK11) I decided to be almost completely open about my identity and I have no regrets with that. I like to do my own thing, in my own way and I like to know the consequences. I resent attempts by commercial interests to quantify and covertly reshape my involvement. I sign up for anything going – facebook, Twitter, Quora, Udacity etc more often out of curiosity than anything else but I’m very wary about clicking on anything I don’t understand. In short, I try to use or adapt these sites for my own selfish purposes. (This can be wearing. For example, I try to keep facebook for family purposes only and then feel obliged to explain this to worthy but non-family digital friends who try to ‘friend’ me.)  I don’t consider the actual numbers of my ‘followers’, ‘friends’, Klout score etc to be of much importance.

With no background in psychology and a geeky disposition, I tend to see things more in terms of how people behave online using the technology of the present rather than through an identity lens. The idea of different identities in the non-digital world, the wearing of different ‘hats’ in different social situations, is very familiar of course. Everyone creates and projects multiple identities for home, work, families, friends etc and identity management seems just about hard-wired into our systems. I recall when I was about about 7, attending the primary school where my own father was a teacher and having no particular difficulty wearing my pupil hat for school and taking it off at home. (Though occasionally, when alone with my father in his teacher role, my pupil self worked hard to stay in character – the dichotomy was not lost on the young me!)

From about the same age that I first grappled with identities my grandchildren now effortlessly (or so it seems!) manage their own digital lives quite happily alongside their ‘real’ ones, or perhaps more accurately, as a part of their real lives. But in 2012, most of us don’t have the advantages of extreme youth. Many aspects of digital life are still relatively new and stable norms of behaviour have hardly had time to evolve before rapid technological changes upset things yet again. It may be that many of the current problems associated with digital identity – who we are seen to be – the frustrations of mass asychronous communication – the wide gap between virtual reality and the ‘real’ thing etc etc, will ease or even vanish with improving technology. The problems that resist technological fix may be the same human problems that have been with us since the beginning of time!

Written by Gordon Lockhart

May 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

#Change11 :: MOOC Comment Scraper (update)

with 13 comments

To recap, I’ve been developing a MOOC Comment Scraper that brings together brief summarised versions of recent blog posts with their comments (‘A ‘Comment Scraper’ for Aggregating Blog Posts with Comments in a MOOC‘). The idea was to provide a quick impression of current MOOC activity but in principle any online event where discussion is distributed over participant blogs could be treated in a similar way.

I’ve found the Scraper helpful myself but we all work in different ways so I would like to know how useful such a tool might (or might not) be to other people? Some aspects of design, choice of colours etc, are easily changed. Others that depend on the properties of input feeds, less so. Further development could proceed in several different directions (eg as a research tool) – suggestions are welcome!

MOOC Comment Scraper

Scraping a MOOC for Comments (Based on ‘la vaca de los sinvaca’ – by José Bogado)

As an experiment I will attempt to scrape the Change11 MOOC on a daily basis until its completion. The Scraper output will be published here: MOOC Comment Scraper. An RSS feed (tested OK for Google Reader) is provided by this link: Scraper RSS Feed.

I’ve adopted two forms for publication – ‘full’ and ‘abbreviated’ (examples below with links disabled). The full form includes the first line of the latest comments (pingbacks excluded) whereas the abbreviated form omits comment text but retains dates and commenter user names. The full form could be considered to be a derivative work so I’m using this form only with the explicit permission of the blogger or if the blog bears a CC licence permitting derivative works. More full form permissions (currently Jaap, John and Brainysmurf – thanks!) would be very welcome but equally, any request by a blog author not to scrape their blog in any form will be respected.

Full Form:

20 Apr: ‘Scraping Comments off MOOCs – good or evil?’ by gbl55
I’ve decided that comment scraping in the full form could be considered a derivative work and so…

20 Apr: What nonsense! Who cares? Publish and be damned! Everyone else does and wh…(AlterEgo)
21 Apr: Thanks AlterEgo but some MOOCers could be offended by unintended juxtaposition of th..(gbl55)
22 Apr: They might be just as offended by the so-called abbreviated form! Get a lawyer or…(AlterEgo)
22 Apr: I just thought I should draw the line there AlterEgo – no I don’t have any legal training bu…(gbl55)
23 Apr: In my learned opinion and notwithstanding the above, hereupon the party of the fir…(LegalEagle)
30 Apr: Thanks LegalEagle for information on copyright violation and risk of my extradition to the…(gbl55)

Abbreviated Form:

20 Apr: ‘Scraping Comments off MOOCs – good or evil?’ by gbl55
I’ve decided that comment scraping in the full form could be considered a derivative work and so…
Comments by:
 AlterEgo(20 Apr), gbl55(21 Apr), AlterEgo(22 Apr), gbl55(22 Apr), LegalEagle(23 Apr), gbl55(30 Apr)

Notes on the current implementation:

I’m no expert on RSS or in coding – some of the following may be misinformed!

  • Current operation is experimental – apologies if comments are altered in peculiar ways.
  • Output is derived only from WordPress and Blogger post and comment feeds. Together these account for a large proportion of MOOC blogs. I have yet to look at other types of feed.
  • Output is limited to the contents of current post and comment feeds and placed in order of date of posting – latest posts first.
  • The Scraper does not aggregate posts and comments (like a reader does) – only the updates provided by feeds are made available at any one time.
  • The Scraper ignores pingbacks. A flurry of very recent pingbacks can push slightly earlier comments out of a current feed.
  • The Scraper is not smart enough to deal with very complex HTML at the beginning of a post or comment and may even default by deleting text. Messages sent by the Scraper itself are indicated by: { … }:  eg {image} if an image is found.
  • A time limit has been set so that only postings less than about 2 months old are included. The greater the number of active blogs the tighter the limit required to avoid generating reams of output.

Written by Gordon Lockhart

May 1, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

#Change11 :: Commentary on Comments

with 13 comments

Commenting in MOOCS

As I experiment with my comment scraping program I’m becoming more aware of the important role that MOOC participants play in commenting on each others blogs. As Mira comments (in a comment) “Some of my most memorable learning experiences have been reading blog comments . . .” In general, I find that there is usually something of interest in any comment stream – even on YouTube, and with some ‘reading between the lines’, online comments can provide a far better cross-section of opinion, informed or otherwise, than the typical ‘Letters to the Editor’ in a newspaper.

Sometimes lengthy comment strings blow up in no time at all before tailing off a few days later. (The recent thread following Jenny’s excellent post on The philosophy of MOOCs is a good example.) Such comment strings may lack narrative but the best examples can be highly engaging with overt signs of real learning. On one level they remind me of brief and informal staff room discussions over a quick coffee where participants come and go at will, questioning and interacting with those who appear to know what they are talking about but also talking over each other, mis-hearing and misunderstanding – all (usually!) in an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect. But the comment streams in a MOOC offer rather more than this. There is opportunity to put some real thought into what is posted and, something I suspect that many bloggers and commenters forget, the record of their words of wisdom remains for posterity. Given the interest engendered by these very first MOOCs, the associated blogs and comments could be picked over for many years to come!

One thing that strikes me about connectivist MOOCs such as Change11, is the number of blog postings that attract no comments at all. It is often not obvious why this should be so but when it is, isn’t there all the more reason for other participants, inspired by the connectivist spirit, to make a connection? I see that a large number of registered Change11 bloggers have never posted in the New Year and I wonder if this reflects a perceived lack of interest in their posts? On the other hand, some bloggers rarely reply to comments on their blogs, a practice that can hardly strengthen connections. Of course participants are free do as they like in a MOOC and I don’t mean to imply disapproval (as a semi-lurker, I’d be the ‘pot calling the kettle black’). Many, or even most MOOCers seem to get more out of the free-wheeling MOOC ethos than strict adherence to connectivist principles might suggest: more a case of (to misquote T S Eliot on cats [1]):

For they will do
As they do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

Comment Scraping

Returning to the Comment Scraper, Jaap, John and Brainysmurf kindly gave me permission for their blog comments to be scraped and published on an experimental basis. This has been done and several program changes have been tested. I’m now in a position to try out the Scraper on a larger collection of blogs and this raises issues that I’ve mentioned before on the propriety of publishing other people’s material. It is not practical for me to contact the authors of many blogs individually so I am proposing to continue scraping blogs authored by the authors above while adding more blogs in an abbreviated style along the following lines:

#Change11 :: A ‘Comment Scraper’ for Aggregating Blog Posts with Comments in a MOOC by gbl55 on 04 Feb 2012
Trying to keep track of what’s going on in a MOOC where discussion is distributed over nu..

Comments:[04 Feb 2012] [ 04 Feb 2012][25 Feb 2012][25 Feb 2012][29 Feb 2012]

In this form, the content appearing from a blog is less than what is already available via the Daily and only the dates of comments are given. As the Comment Scraper is likely to be more useful in the full form, further permissions for this would be very welcome. Equally, any request by a blog author to refrain from scraping their blog in any way will be respected. At present I am focusing on Change11 WordPress and Blogger blogs but hope to look at other feeds and MOOCs in due course.

If the Scraper proves to be useful in a MOOC context I will eventually make it available (I’m no expert programmer and have only gone so far in learning Python.) I should point out that I have absolutely no interest in exploiting the program for any other purpose.


[1] Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T S Eliot.

Checking out my Eliot misquotation above I also came across his poem on ‘The Naming of Cats’ and suddenly realised that he had some very important things to say about MOOCs:

The Naming of MOOCs (apologies to T S Eliot)

The Naming of MOOCs is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a MOOC must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that you find in The Daily,
Such as Eddy, Udastard, DS Something or Change,
All brief and hashtagable everyday names.
But I tell you, a MOOC needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else, how can she grow knowledge, her nodes perpendicular,
spreading connections with undisguised pride?
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess
The name no researcher will ever discover–
But THE MOOC HERSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a MOOC in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
Her nodes are engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of her name:
Her ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

Written by Gordon Lockhart

March 18, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

#Change11 : A ‘Comment Scraper’ for Aggregating Blog Posts with Comments in a MOOC

with 11 comments

Trying to keep track of what’s going on in a MOOC where discussion is distributed over numerous participant blogs can be daunting. An RSS reader such as Google Reader does help but at any particular time a high proportion of blogs may not be of interest or active and finding the relevant ones can take time. Many blogs provide RSS feeds for the comment threads attached to posts but the most recent comments appear first and it can be difficult to spot all the scattered comments that belong to one post. Also, sometimes I’ve arrived at a blog post a day or two just after a lively and interesting discussion has ended. Maybe I first spotted the post in the MOOC Newsletter and viewed it before it had any comments and now it’s acquired a lengthy comment thread but the topic is exhausted and folks have moved on! The Newsletter certainly does a great service in highlighting all the new posts in one place although the role of the additional comments on posts provided via gRSShopper is not so clear.

What I would like is a ‘Comment Scraper’ that aggregates very brief summarised versions of posts and their comment threads as they appear so that some quick initial impression can be gained of where and what current MOOC activity is about. So ……, invigorated by the DIY spirit engendered by MOOCs, I’ve been developing and experimenting with a program that aggregates brief up-to-date listings from blog RSS feeds. At present my Comment Scraper only works with WordPress blogs but there are enough of these around in a MOOC such as Change11 to prove the concept.

Would such a tool also be useful to other MOOC participants? I wrote the program initially as an exercise in learning Python and it could be made available after some further development but its action for WordPress blogs  (summarised at the end of this post) is not very complicated. In due course I could probably publish aggregated listings somewhere public but this raises other issues. Some MOOC participants may not wish their posts and comments to be presented in a considerably more compressed form than is usual via an RSS news aggregator. As for legalities, I have no idea who ‘owns’ the content of a WordPress feed or the ramifications of publishing ‘munged’ versions!

Here’s an example of the Comment Scraper in action – taken from real blogs but with the real names and text replaced with fictional ones for illustrative purposes and with all links disabled.

* * * #MOOC What I have decided to do about my Learning by Blogger1 on Thu, 19 Jan 2012 * * *
After much thought I have decided to lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer ad elit nisi…..

Wow! Well all I can say is tellus sceleris luctus turpis phare enim ad minim…..[Commenter1: Fri, 20 Jan 2012]
So?…..[Commenter2: Sat, 21 Jan 2012]
Hi Commenter1! Yes of course pet pigs should be licensed but dolore magn…..[Blogger1: Sun, 22 Jan 2012]
* * * #MOOC Introduction to Sed Fermentum, Nisl et Iacul by Blogger1 on Thu, 19 Jan 2012 * * *
The first thing to remember is that sed dui odio tristique in viverra sit amet nec odi….

Great post Blogger1! – resonates with me too!! ….[Commenter1: Wed, 01 Feb 2012]
I can’t agree that proin pede arcu gravida quis, porta a, sodales in, dolor…..[Commenter2: Fri, 20 Jan 2012]
Really? It’s well known that dui vel temporibus autem quibusdam tellus. …..[Blogger1: Sun, 22 Jan 2012]
* * * #MOOC Examinations Examined by Blogger2 on Thu, 05 Jan 2012 * * *
There is little doubt that examinations are cum soluta nobis est eligendi cumque nihil cupid…..

* * * #MOOC Finding your Feet in a MOOC by Blogger2 on Sun, 29 Jan 2012 * * *
Don’t be afraid to itaque earum rerum hic tenetur et sapiente delectus, sit aut reiciendis…..

Losing your head can also porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum dolor…..[Commenter3: Wed, 01 Feb 2012]
Thanks Commenter3 but losing my head is not so omnis voluptas assumens….[Blogger2: Wed, 01 Feb 2012]
I would give an arm and a leg to omnis harum quidem stule omnis repel….[Commenter4: Wed, 01 Feb 2012]
* * * #MOOC Where we have Lost Our Way by Blogger3 on Sun, 29 Jan 2012 * * *
One thing I have always said is occaecat et cupidatat non sapiente proident, sunt in culpa…..

Enough said and furthermore I am libero tempore, cum soluta nobis est e….[Commenter4: Wed, 01 Feb 2012]
I don’t have much to say about this except id est laborum et dolorum fug…..[Commenter5: Wed, 01 Feb 2012]
Just sayin’….[Blogger3: Wed, 01 Feb 2012]
* * * #MOOC Learning Theories – No. 37 by Blogger4 on Thu, 05 Jan 2012 * * *
This weeks theory needs no introduction because harum quidem rerum facilis est expedita…..

Thank you so much Blogger4! Now I know that numquam teius temporas…..[Commenter6: Wed, 11 Jan 2012]
Are you serious? This theory is ab illos veritatis et quasi architectos expl…..[Commenter7: Wed, 11 Jan 2012]

The action of the Comment Scraper is fairly straightforward for WordPress blogs. Two RSS feeds are accessed per blog (eg gbl55/ and gbl55/ listing recent postings and comments respectively. Comments are scanned in reverse order (so that the oldest appear first) ignoring ping-backs. If a comment belongs to a post in the postings file then the first few words of that comment with the  date and user name of the commenter are selected. This is all added to any other comments for that post under a heading (in bold above) containing brief details (Title, Author, Date and first few words) of the post itself.

Written by Gordon Lockhart

February 4, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

#Change11 :: Anatomy of a MOOC

with 5 comments

For some time I’ve been saying, rather negatively, that a connectivist MOOC is not a course at all, at least in any conventional sense and that the ‘C’ in ‘MOOC’ is unfortunate and leads to misplaced expectations. But the name has stuck and so now, trying to be more positive, I’m reaching for the defining properties of a MOOC – the essential MOOCiness of a MOOC. In what follows I’m taking ‘MOOC’ to mean, ‘connectivist MOOC’, typified by the CCK series including Change11 and not the massive Stanford courses that do seem more like conventional courses. Anyway, here’s my conception of what a MOOC is or should be:

  • An Open Learning Opportunity – a ‘cloak’ or ‘wrapper’ providing massive numbers of participants with learning opportunities in the widest possible sense of broadening their horizons (like travel does!). There’s a good chance of a small but critical mass of active performers emerging from large numbers of individuals connecting in whatever roles they choose – personal, collaborative, ‘toe-dipper’, lurker, or even troll.

There is absolutely no parallel to this in ‘real life’. Imagine a conventional course where most of the participants stay away and the few that don’t, try to learn something by twittering around, examining each others posts on scattered notice boards and occasionally responding by attaching their own comments! MOOCs, on the other hand, exploit the magic of the Very Wide Web where it’s easy (or should be!) for participants to move around in a spirit of toleration seizing on what’s important to them and filtering out what’s not. Each participant may have their dislikes. Excessive twittering, repetition, philosophising, chatter during synchronous sessions or un-proofread blog posts (“i hate decapitalised first person singulars!”) may be some, or maybe the very opposites apply but no problem. The options are always there to get over it, tolerate it or simply move away without causing offence. Again, this is hardly true of ‘narrow’ offline courses where face-to-face encounters in designated rooms are subject to social norms and assumptions that some participants may find inhibiting or even fail to recognise.

  • A Talking Shop – is “… an organisation or place where discussion is the main activity, with no decisions or actions necessarily arising from the discussion.” (Wikipedia). If some participants in a MOOC commit to worthy plans of action such as writing a joint paper, contributing to a Wiki or some form of assessment then well and good but the important point is that it’s not necessary and nobody is made to feel under obligation to perform in any ‘correct’ or prescribed way.

Change11 Talking Shop

Change11 Talking Shop

(Based on: ‘A picture is worth 35 bazillion calories by rudecactus, ‘la vaca de los sinvaca’ by José Bogado and Tagxedo)

To my mind this is fundamental in obtaining a freewheeling tolerant atmosphere with the best chance of rising above cultural differences, language barriers and the social pitfalls that can threaten large disparate groups. Wikipedia also adds, “The term ‘Talking shop’ is usually used in a pejorative or derogatory sense; apparently fruitless discussion forums are often dismissed as talking shops.”  Now whether this applies to any particular MOOC or not must be a matter of opinion but a MOOC can be very much more than just a Talking Shop (maybe ‘Talking Space’ is a better description). For a start, the common intention to learn about a specific ‘something’ acts as a unifying goal even though what is actually learned (if anything!) may be a matter of debate and very much up to the individual.

  • A Testbed – MOOCs provide a platform for experimentation allowing, “rigorous, transparent, and replicable testing of scientific theories, computational tools, and new technologies.” (Wikipedia)

Early days for the scientific theories and replicable testing perhaps but MOOCs are certainly up for new technologies, the ‘hard’ stuff that performs in aggregation. Integration of online tools in the shape of blogging platforms, micro-blogging, social bookmarking and networking, news curation sites and of course gRSShopper deserve careful research and development. To my knowledge the widely applauded gRSShopper is the only custom designed tool for MOOCs and plays a pivotal role but some means of aggregating comments attached to participant blogs as they appear would be very welcome. (To this end I’ve been looking at tools such as AutoHotkey, iMacros and AutoKey but comment scraping seems to be a difficult problem!)

So there’s my account of basic MOOC anatomy. I’m sure there’s much more that can be said about this remarkable young animal – and without the need to assume any overarching theoretical standpoint. For me at least (an ex-engineer and educator with a reductionist brain) that can’t be bad!

Written by Gordon Lockhart

December 8, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

#Change11 :: Disconnection not Discontent

with 4 comments

I’m trying hard to be a Lurker but keep being drawn in, fascinated by all the activity and the sterling efforts made by the facilitators in sharing their time and expertise. Now I’m reduced to throwing down a few disconnected notes – nothing like a bit of chaos and confusion! So here goes:

  • What’s Education for?  – I’ve pondered this before – society and the individual need myriad survival skills. These range from very basic to countless specialist skills for trades, professions, humanities and whatever else contributes to human wellbeing. The survival problems currently facing humanity are complex, global and inter-related. They will not be understood or competently addressed by under-educated populations. Also, the effective, rational and sometimes painful solutions to these problems are more likely to be democratically acceptable to educated populations.
  • What’s Education Theory for?  – Lacking the same solid factual (yes facts!) basis and predictive power of the widely accepted scientific theories, education theory attempts to guide rather than dictate. As all sorts of theories and metaphors bubble away in the pot, the body of knowledge surrounding education is debated, tested and refined. The more acceptable parts emerge to have a disproportionate influence on received wisdom and ultimately on practice. When I was a boy, corporal punishment was justified in schools and practiced by many otherwise competent teachers – now it’s almost entirely taboo. Presumably, this was the result of a steady percolation of ideas from broadly accepted theory to practice.

    If the purpose of education theory is to influence and guide education practice then how should a new theory be presented? Given the current situation of real classrooms, lecture halls, inflexible curricula and the burden of assessment, the concern of many educators will often be less with turning established pedagogy upside down than with cheerfully exploiting the bits and pieces of whatever theory or theories fit their particular circumstances. A theory with good predictive value and a compelling message that can be translated into the specificity of action deserves to be trumpeted loudly and clearly !

  • What’s Dave Cormier for? – Change of course, and that’s a fact! The massive effort he put into his Change11 week was very impressive. Regrettably, I’ve had little time to delve much into Rhizomatic Learning but I did find the recordings informative. On the mattter of ‘alienation‘, I can understand why some aspects of the presentations might be considered unsettling. Trying to talk sense and keep an eye on the text chat while some participants simultaneously scrawl over the screen seems above the call of duty! Someone suggested that facilitators might consider initially setting the scene a little more formally – a prepared video for example and this makes good sense to me.
  • What’s this Blog for? – I’m beginning to wonder as it’s rambling all over and out of control – but this a MOOC and I’ll do what I like! There’s a bit of self-discovery involved – perhaps it’s becoming more like ‘notes to myself’ – but I’m not discontented and we’ll see how things go.

Written by Gordon Lockhart

November 15, 2011 at 7:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

#Change11 :: How Now Sweet Cow? – the Social Artist who disrupted my MOOC learning

with 6 comments

@Gordon_L @jimgroom I showed ur MOOCcow here today
in Lyon @ #fossa2011 as example of openess in other domains.
Talked abt #ds106 too
NancyWhite via Twitter for iPhone

Found the above in my twitter stream the other day so ventured right out of Lurkdom for Nancy White’s presentation and now I’m so enthused I want to tackle this weeks assignment – find stories about social artists in their learning life! Trouble is – no inspiration yet!

MOOCow Mooc Cow
0 secs ago via Twitter for CowPhone

Gordon_L Gordon
@MOOCow – Yikes !! You’ve gotten a life of your own !! You’d better come onto this blog.

MC: Well thanks G – yup I’ve gotten a learning life! Look no further G, I’m a Social Artist !
G: 🙂 🙂 – sorry MOOCow but that’s really funny !
MC: Don’t I help create social learning spaces where people can work and learn together? Look at me in this pic at Opened11 inspiring Jim Groom to do his thing !!
G: It depends on what you mean by working and learning – I don’t see much of that in this or any other MOOC! Why, in my day I’d be up studying at the crack of dawn, 3 lectures before lunch and labs all afternoon before a couple of hours in the library at night. Now that’s real learning! The only exam I ever failed was engineering drawing so at least I learned I was no good at drawing or graphics stuff.

Jim Groom introduces MOOCs during a rollicking keynote at opened11. “Open education is not a resource, it’s an experience”
MC: Err .. what about your drawing of me then, the iconic MOOC Cow, now popping up all over the web?
G: Huh! – oh that was LibreOffice and I used somebody else’s cow drawing so all the fuss took me by surprise – I’m no artist.
MC: But you learned to reuse and remix! Take it from me, MOOCs possess superpowers in the unexpected.
G: I’m not saying I haven’t learned anything at all in these MOOCs but I’m quite capable of going off and teaching myself rather than being forced to comment on peoples’ blogs or play silly games in chatrooms.
MC: Look G, MOOCs move around in the informal social regions that normally surround other courses, so it’s hardly surprising that quite unexpected things happen. What you learn is unpredictable and uncontrollable and probably not what you think of as ‘academic’. If I could tell you what’s being learned right now in this very MOOC !! People changing long-held beliefs, challenging their employers, taking their communities to new levels, making life-long friends, finding new lovers ….
G: Hey! – steady on MOOCow, I am British you know! All I can say is that apart from the cow drawing nothing very unexpected has happened to me.
MC: Does it have to be about you? What about your young grandson?
G: Eh?
MC: You gave him a copy of your drawing so then he wanted to do one for himself. Now he’s learned how to find an image, copy it, load LibreOffice, paste in the image, adorn it with stars and fancy fonts – all by himself and he’s only 7! Here’s one of the pics he did – what do you think of that?.
G: Well OK yes, and I’m very proud of him but what’s this got to do with MOOCs?
MC: You’ve learned to teach by example G! Look, one of the very few wise things you ever said about a MOOC is that it’s NOT really a course, at least in any conventional sense. The name, ‘MOOC’ has stuck and maybe that’s unfortunate but as far as learning is concerned, expect the unexpected! Like, how’s photography?

Grandson (7) follows G’s example and learns to mix and mash his own computer drawings.
G: Photography? Now you’re quite off topic MOOCow!
MC: Remember that nice Australian lady on your last MOOC who commented on your blog and then encouraged you to put up some photos onto Flickr and then made some really positive comments on them – mediocre though your photos assuredly were!
G: I thought they were OK! Hmm … I see what you mean though but I get tired of making comments on peoples’ blogs, particularly when I try to be helpful and they don’t even bother to respond.
MC: They’re all in a MOOC for different reasons G and haven’t you noticed how different humans are? Some, like you, are shrinking violets, wouldn’t say “Boo!” to a goose, while others comment on every comment going, blogging and twittering away like mad every single day of the week. Besides, some are not so um, ….. less mature than you. Anyway, I didn’t see you interacting much during Nancy White’s presentation!
For jam, but spurred on by comments from Down Under, G learns to improve his photography. (OK, OK … he’s a slow learner!)
G: Well, I didn’t know how to work the pencil, I don’t have a mike, she was speaking too quickly, my PC was on the blink – OK I’m British and I just don’t do interaction !
MC: THEN GET OVER IT! – or not, it’s completely up to you G. As a social artist I paint with a very broad brush – you alone decide exactly where you want to fit into the big picture. Well I’m off to do another presentation now but here’s a thought for you. When your grandson’s an old f*** like you he might just want to dig into the archives where I’m storing every single word, letter and pixel generated by you and your cronies on this and every other MOOC – Byeee !!

Wow! …. Well I guess this is where I wake up and find it’s all some sort of bad dream?

MOOCow Mooc Cow
0 secs ago via Twitter for CowPhone

Hmm … think I’d better nominate MOOCow as a Social Artist for the assignment.

Written by Gordon Lockhart

November 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

#Change11 :: Change33 – Education’s Future Revealed !

with 2 comments

Following the excellent presentation by Tony Bates and discussing the future of Universities with my old friend Dr Boss the other night, I confessed to lurking around the Change11 MOOC without pontificating much at all. I’d been out of Higher Education for some time and anyway, who can tell what the future will bring? “Biffo from 2033 certainly can!”, he shouted excitedly and came up with a weird story of how he’d somehow hacked himself into a conversation with this ‘Biffo’ person from 2033. I laughed and poured him another drink but he insisted on emailing me the transcript and why don’t I get off the hook by just pasting it into my MOOC blog? Well, OK here it is for what it’s worth and a bit of a cheat too since he’s already published it – make of it what you will while I beat a hasty retreat back to Lurkdom !

Connecting around the Globe (image by iStockphoto)

£g%^ *%%£!_-^dUU ^%FG%”(*] ghj%”` – Sysop validate?: 176467890078: 14th Nov 2033B: Eh? You’re not decoding right! Education for adults you say? It’s usually the kids that keep hassling me for education! Hey! – you’re a lost oldster, right?
DB: Yes, I’m most interested in adult education.
B: OK, fine though I’m no educat and anyway it’s changed a lot for kids since I spent time in real edurooms – classrooms they called them. I guess kids learn like anyone else now.
DB: Have universities had to make big changes?
B: Dunno – never went to one – there’s one or two left but they’re usually too expensive to get to.
DB: I see – so the fees have rocketed.
B: Nooo! Where’ve you been? – they’ve gotten very low since the bottom fell out of the edumarket but unless you’re near one you probably won’t get there because of the carb tax – up again this year! You oldsters have a lot to answer for! Where are you from anyway? – I can’t see a profile.
DB: Umm …. what do you do for a living and how did you become qualified?
W: Hey Biffo!! – Winnie here!!
B: I’m an electronic engineer mainly …….. Yeah Winnie hang on a sec – I got this Boss oldster from somewhere fishy.
DB: “mainly” ?? You have more than one job then?
B: Who doesn’t? – like today I walk the dog, sort out a fault on my auto and do a meal for Jane before I get to the lab in the evening – and then there’s Quadratic Equations of course …..
DB: I meant work – how do you earn a living and so on ….. and what’s quadratic equations got to do with it?
B: Dude – they’re all jobs! And it’s all work though not all for credits and cash ….. but Quadratic Equations sure is – hah!
DB: You’re not making much sense. I’m trying to find out about your education and how you earn your living.
B: I’m trying to tell you. I got into Quadratic Equations when I first joined the electronics COP. For you, COP means “Community of Practice”.
DB: I know about Communities of Practice – so you joined one for electronics.
B: I joined the ElecCOP when I was about 12 and worked my way up, just messing around with the other kids to begin with – we’d all sorts of crazy ideas for bots and stuff that mostly didn’t work but it was good fun and I learned a lot, especially from some Japanese and Indian kids. By the time I finished High School I’d quite a few credits mainly because I’d the patience to write things up and help the younger ones. And I earned some cash even then from the ElecCOP managers. So I really got interested in electronics and worked on the documentation for one or two big projects – a grind it was too but it did get me noticed!

W: I can’t wait Biffo, this 9 yo genius is spreading stuff around about me!
B: OK, OK – what’s he done now?
W: He worked out the formula all by himself – checked it out for the right roots but he thinks he’s not getting enough credit!
B: Wow! He deserves good credits for that.
W: He got the best for the level but he wants a Nobel Prize! – lolcats! – he thinks he’s the first to come up with the formula and now he says I don’t like him and he’s telling everybody I’ve stolen it from him!!!
B: OK, OK Winnie, so right now I’ve suspended half the credits until his school looks into it. Hmmm – don’t say anything yet but put him onto the examples with complex solutions – imaginary numbers should fox him for a bit eh? Go ahead Boss, whoever you are!
DB: So then you enrolled in a formal course on electronics and won a certificate from an accredited institution?
B: Are you kidding? At that time the unis and colleges really were expensive. They’d make you buy old paper books written by their own professors and sit through boring lectures like little kids used to do in these classroom places.
DB: But how did you become a practicing engineer then? You’d need core subjects like maths and physics at college level before tackling real projects.
B: Yeah OK – some real projects do need a bit of calculus for circuit theory and so on but I picked up most of that through ElecCOP’s game projects – got some really good credits!
DB: Games!! ….. ? Who assessed you anyway?
B: Project games are great fun and you can learn lots – though some of the new holographic ones are so good now it’s difficult to drag yourself away from them and the socializing and move on to the higher levels. As for assessment, ElecCOP knows what games you’ve done and the credits – for that matter so does anyone else I want to impress if I’m trying for a contract or something.
DB: But don’t tell me you can get through formal maths or science topics with nothing but a little help from your friends!
B: Why not? There’s all sorts of stuff just waiting for you to use and always somebody there to help, especially if you’ve a reputation for helping the others. OK I know what you mean though – you have to crawl before you can walk sometimes – like in maths I’m lazy. I move on to the more interesting stuff after getting stuck on the boring bits but now I’ve learned to study by myself. I just cut off everything except the visualizer, close my eyes and go through the same stuff again and again until it sticks. Half the time people think I’m asleep – I’ve missed train stops and I walk into lamposts! If I’m really really stuck, like I need info really quickly for a contract or something, then I’ll pay a consultant. There’s plenty of them around now – retired professors, researchers or even students at the real unis and colleges, all making some bucks from knowing a lot about a little – they’re not all that expensive.

DB: So are Open Educational Resources easy to find?
B: Eh? Where have you been Boss? If it’s Education it’s Open. It’s worthless in cash terms when there’s so much of it around and you can get it for free anywhere, any time or from just about anybody. Hey! – last week in the park trying to get my head round a video when the very professor on the video happened to be walking HIS dog in HIS park in Wellington, NZ so – no problem and we had a good chat! OK, that’s unusual but it stands to reason that someone, somewhere on the planet is either grappling with the same problem as you are right now or has done in the past – so how can you fail to find what you want?
DB: But do you always get the right answers?
B: Lolcats! There’s not often one right answer but I’ve lots of friends and I know (OK edunet knows!) what they’re good for. Some jerks out there still peddle nonsense but with ID security really good now we don’t see them so often and anyway, at least in the COPs, there’s not much you can do with little or no credit except listen to others! Talking of that, you don’t seem to have a profile anywhere? Hmmm – I think I know where you’ve been all these years!!
DB: So tell me how good OERs are identified and made available to a user. What about RSS feeds and metadata?
B: Never heard of them! All I know is that the best lecturing academics were somehow prodded into spending hours in the late 2010s, recording and refining their stuff so now it’s all out there for the asking – in any language and complete with transcripts. Then plenty of others came along and mashed it around for other purposes – different age groups or professions and for all sorts of project games and simulations of course.
DB: But if there’s so much material how can you exploit it properly it for any serious purpose? – you don’t become a brain surgeon just by asking your friends!
B: I’d have to join a medic COP first! – but everyone in a COP is a friend so you’re not stuck for choice but I know what you mean. The old edupunks thought education was mainly a matter of swilling around with your peers in a COP and you’d soon know it all but it doesn’t work quite like that. Any hacker with a credit or two can annoy people by messing around in a project that’s above their heads but not in real projects! I know some medics who sit at home all day doing remote diagnoses or operations but mostly they’re simulations and the first time they ever get near a real person for something critical, there’s a senior fac on secure connect keeping tabs on the whole thing – even taking over if there’s a mess up!

DB: Now tell me about the Quadratic Equations – how do they fit in?
B: Oh yeah, QE – well I hope Winnie sorts things out with that kid. She should let the school take care of it – he needs a good talking to and they’ll know how to do it – otherwise he could be disadvantaged if he’s not careful – that would be a pity because he’s such a bright spark.
DB: You’ve lost me again.
B: Sorry! Winnie’s one of my people in QE who worries too much when the pressure’s on. I don’t know what else she does – hmm … sings in Durban I think and knows lots about trees. Sometimes she gets through more than 100 queries a day – more than I ever did! I got into it some years ago. I’m no mathematician but quadratic equations just clicked with me so everybody I knew in ElecCOP who couldn’t do them was at me – even after I’d moved up several levels.
DB: And you’re still involved!
B: Not at the cliff face now – but yes I was for several years after edunet hired me for it. It’s mainly kids from all over getting through school maths projects or people needing maths for real projects and not knowing where to start but you get oldsters too and plenty of others doing maths just for fun. So there’s a lot of variety and it can be interesting on a personal level – that’s how I met Jane but there’s another story! You have to get your answers out quick or people get discouraged and how you deal with a kid can be very different from an oldster – maybe less than you’d think! Anyway, now I look after QE’s group of about 20 facs, including Winnie. A lot of the kids’ stuff gets dealt with by their school facs so we get less jobs than some groups but it’s interesting and fits in well with my other things – and a nice little earner! Look, it’s not rocket science, and I ‘m not saying we’re up for it like LDE or Matrices but every QE query from anywhere on the planet that needs a human response goes through us and that’s quite a thought!
DB: Well … um .. thanks a lot Biffo – I can’t say I understood everything but it’s certainly been very interesting.
B: OK Boss – Look, I’ll say it, you really do need an education – I guess you’re just out of prison?
DB: Excuse me?
Sysop terminate: INVALID PROFILE ALERT!: 176467890078: 14th Nov 2033 &^”))* fq$ %*+” –

Written by Gordon Lockhart

October 19, 2011 at 11:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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#Change11 : MOOCs in Higher Education

with 6 comments

Much has been written about networked learning in general theoretical terms but much less on its applicability to specific learning situations in the real education world. Doubtless there are fundamental principles at work in all types of learning situations but current learning theory does not provide much in the way of detailed guides for all the vastly different types of education at all stages and in all topics and disciplines. Even within Higher Education there are significant differences in approach, for example in humanities-based courses as opposed to science and engineering.

Concerning MOOCs, Vanessa Vaile writes (in a comment on ‘#CCK11 Any Questions? (part 1)‘, “I think – hope – there’s a place for the mooc model and would also like to see less navel gazing and more trial runs in subject and discipline specific courses.” These are important points and led me to consider the problems of matching the MOOC model, or something like it, to typical university or college courses. For example, would a student on a humanities-based course, practised in writing essays and expressing a clear point of view in tutorials perform more satisfactorily in a MOOC than, say, an engineering student used to writing lab reports and participating in ‘example classes’? Or could all these students somehow be immersed together in one glorious joint MOOC reaping great benefit from multi-disciplinary contact? I have little idea but the issues thrown up do seem to go right to the heart of what Higher Education is about.

MOOCS! – A Disruptive Force in Higher Education ?

MOOCs - a disruptive force in Higher Education ?

Based on ‘la vaca de los sinvaca’ by José Bogado and ‘Maths Tower 2’ by Phil Carlton

To return to the specific, some time ago (pre-web 2.0 days), I was involved in a very successful Group Design Project for engineering students at masters level where small groups of students acted as they would in an industrial setting, designing something from an initial spec with the aim of developing a fully working prototype and ending with a formal group report and presentation to a departmental audience of academic staff and peers. All the project planning, allocation of human and material resources, budgeting etc, was done by the students themselves with very little intervention on the part of staff who simply attended progress meetings, acting as consultants if requested. The students greatly enjoyed working in this way and learned a lot from the experience. Opening up such a project for networked learning, perhaps with national or international co-operation between a group of universities, would also be likely to work well. It also touches on the MOOC model with the shift from teacher to learner, collaboration through the network as an important part of learning and self-directed students finding their own roles and areas of expertise within a group.

What further benefits might be gained by moving further towards the ‘classical’ MOOC but without compromising the essential purpose of the project? Learning objectives could certainly not be abandoned in favor of completely self-directed learning as the project’s purpose is to simulate aspects of an industrial engineering design project with given specifications and firm deadlines. Could this become a ‘free’ project? Again no, at least not in the financial sense. Somebody has to pay for project materials, communications, lab facilities, staff time and the usual overheads. ‘Free’ in the sense of open to all might be a viable option and there may be interesting and innovative ways in which the project could be opened up to the public. But when all is said and done the project itself is designed by academic staff, aimed at mature, competent, well-motivated students at masters level and, unlike a MOOC, the drop-out rate is expected to be very low.

I have deliberately chosen to examine the type of learning situation I thought would be particularly amenable to MOOC influence in its design and, to some extent, this seems to be the case. The application of the MOOC model in many other learning situations (apart, perhaps, from the ‘orientation’ type of activity I’ve previously discussed) may be much less straightforward due to a lack of human or other resources or, perhaps more likely, fundamental conflicts between the MOOC ethos and institutional aims and objectives. Innovation such as networked learning certainly has a potential for disruption, good and bad, but in Higher Education with the careers and life prospects of individual students at stake, changes need to be carefully rolled out over a period of time as reliable evidence of the benefits grow.

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Written by Gordon Lockhart

September 30, 2011 at 10:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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