Topic 3: Connectivism and online collaborative learning

A few years ago I participated in a conference in Stockholm. As I registered for the event, the instructions also said to follow the hashtag of the conference. I remember being sucked in to the discussions that went on in the “digital backstage” on Twitter as presentations where given. Much of the content was related to the topic, but from different perspectives, and even with somewhat differing opinions, than the people presenting on stage. The discussions also clarified some of the concepts discussed or presented. In a way, it worked as an “online crowd source tutor” (if that is even a word), and in that way made the learning experience broader. This of course was strengthened by the large amount of participants gathered around a topic that all shared a similar interest in. This was an experience that was very different from all previous conferences, as I felt I got a much broader perspective on the topics. In addition to this, the networking effect was much more present online, in the back drop of the conference.

This type of learning is similar to connectivism, a new theory proposed by Siemens (2005), who argues that in the age of digital information technology, learning is reliant on the connected learning that occurs through interaction with various sources of knowledge and participation in communities of common interest or social networks (Brindley, Blaschke and Walti, 2009). In Siemens connectivism, collaboration and collaborative learning is crucial, as learning happens when individuals connect with each other and with technology, and collaboratively create knowledge. Having experienced this first hand, I must to some degree concur that the power of connecting with others, in this case strangers with similar interests, through technology can have a positive impact on learning. However, it needs to be pointed out, that connectivism, with all its online connecting and collaborating can get at bit overwhelming, and cause information overload, or difficulties in concentrating. But by careful planning and perhaps facilitating, this can be alleviated.

I have some times wondered if (and secretly hoped that) similar discussions are ongoing somewhere (for instance whatsapp) in more normal classroom settings, at universities. Similar to comparing lecture notes in the 80’s and 90’s, I hope that students nowadays conduct similar peer-learning, as the tools for this are quite more advanced then back in the analogue days. And as Brindley, Blaschke and Walti (2009) point out, education should be about more than just access to content, and providing a rich learning environment with peer-support, peer-learning, interaction and connectedness an important part of education today.

Nowadays I find Twitter somewhat uninspiring. I rarely engage in any discussions or topics, and have in some way fallen out of love with it. Maybe my twitter peak, from a collaborative learning perspective, is already reached. Or maybe I haven’t found the right topic or hashtag to engage with. However, other online collaboration tools have emerged, and similar connectivism has occurred, on platforms like Slack and Teams.

References

Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. M., & Walti, C. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in open and distributed Learning, 10(3).

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Topic 2: Going open

Openness is everywhere today, as exemplified by all the free content on different social media platforms. Openness is also supposed to be something obvious in educational settings. Openness has a long history, as classical teaching in the physical room is open, at least at our university. But in a digital setting, this openness is not as self-evident, and in fact quite multi-layered. We are, and have for quite some time already been, surrounded by MOOCs, Open Access movements, and Open Educational Resources (OERs). But for the individual teacher, all this, not only all abbreviations, can be quite confusing, as not all MOOCs are actually open (especially from a licensing perspective), Open Access still has some limitations, and the creation of OERs can be limited by policies.

From a personal perspective, even the first steps for going open are somewhat confusing. Publishing articles that are open access is of course a “no brainer”, as it is usually set before publishing or as tick in a box procedure. But when it comes to opening up courses, or even parts of a course, the questions marks start to pile up. As I see it, the problem is not that I wouldn’t understand the principles of creating OERs, which is easy once you read the definition of what an OER is:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, adaptation and redistribution by others. https://en.unesco.org/themes/building-knowledge-societies/oer

For me, the problem lies in bridging the gap from the praise of openness to the reality of everyday. One of the most important parts of going open is the support for doing this. And not only the support from your university, but also from the funding instances. A lot of focus has been placed on publishing open access, but less on actually creating and measuring the amount of OER material. So as long as the incentive to go open is not that high, I fear this well be reflected in the amount of OERs, even if going open has more potential than remaining closed.

References:
Weller, M. and Anderson, T., 2013. Digital resilience in higher education. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning16(1).
Weller, M. (2014). Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press.

Reflections of week 1

Concluding all the discussions and reflections our group engaged in during the first topic on online participation and digital literacies would result in a short novel. Therefore, I have decided to only reflect upon the categorization of individuals in visitors/residents, or even natives/immigrants. In our group we discussed and reflected that labeling is in this case quite difficult, as individuals might not perceive themselves as falling into a category. But the main difficulty is that individuals have a tendency to, as White and Le Cornu (2011) propose, move from and between resident to visitor, on a continuum, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Visitor – Resident continuum (White & Le Cornu, 2011).

This continuum, where individuals slide from one end to the other makes labelling difficult, and maybe even unnecessary. And do we actually need labels, or categories such as these? For whom are they beneficial? This is also interesting from a personal point of view. How would I label myself, as I feel that I fit in both categories, or labels? For instance, I feel that I have an online presence (even if I have started to cut down on these), even if I log off, but I still do much of my thinking off-line, and feel as if online tools as just that, tools for accomplishing a task. So for some parts, I’m leaning towards a resident, while other parts of me feel like a visitor. But do I/we actually need to label myself/ourselves? And what is the point?

References:

White, D.S. and Le Cornu, A., 2011. Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First monday, 16(9).

My thoughts on digital – less is more

I’m a digital visitor, with early experience of the use of digital tools. My first memory of a computer was when I visited a friends fathers workplace at Helsinki University, and we got to see the computer they had there. This was maybe 1985(ish), when I was 6(ish). Later on as computers became more common, I also got my own stationary, in ca 1990-91, as I remember that one of the first games I had was Ski or Die, which came out in 1990. From thereon I have been what some people call early adopters, as I have started using different technological advances at quite an early stage, from mobile phones (Nokia 2110), smartphones (iPhone 1) and tablets (iPad 1) to social media (IRC) and wearables (fitbit). So the journey early on was head on. But since about 4 years ago this changed. I started to contemplate on why I do this, and what is the point. So I decided to go cold turkey.

My phone is now a “dumb”phone without any possibilities to use apps or smart functions, I have limited social media presence, and I try and use modern tech only when it actually is needed. I’m not at all against digital development, quite the contrary. Some tech innovations are wonderful and even save lives, but for me, the line between normal use and too much is too easy to cross, so I have decide to live with less tech, and for me, it has done wonders. I, as also others that limit social media, feel as if I’m more present at home and at work, and feel less stressed (Hunt et al., 2018). And knowing I’m unaware of what everybody does is quite nice (no fomo), even if my social life is a bit limited, cause let’s face it, who calls anymore…

So far the ONL journey has been rather confusing. I find that everything is very unclear, and even feel that there is a bit of information overload. But from chaos might rise order. At least I hope so.

References:

Hunt, M. G., Marx, R., Lipson, C., & Young, J. (2018). No more FOMO: Limiting social media decreases loneliness and depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 37(10), 751-768.