IN-BOX – how interwebs will tear us apart in #edcmooc


I decided to be lazy today and use my EDC MOOC brain to process the homework. At least some of it. OK – just one tiny little movie. Inbox.

It seems to have made the most impression on the collective – trending today on discussion forums at least. It is perhaps not surprising, as it focuses on an ever popular theme – a love story – as mediated by a ‘magical’ communication device – a red paper bag. Superficially, it has an uplifting tone – at least compared to the other course offerings in this week’s mini-film fest (Thursday, Bendito Machine III, New Media).

The course materials intimated that its message about the technology can be read as utopian or distopian. This ambivalence is what attracted my attention – I tend to think that it is all rather complicated and we should not commit to a single position in our view of technology’s impact/interplay with society or with learning. It all depends on our own, always changing, personal context.

Here are some awesome insights from my #etmooc pals…(mostly via discussion forum – there are vast amounts there so just a few threads collected).

Angela Towndrow’s blogpost sees the communication technology embodied by the red bag, as an enabler of initiation of social interaction when faced with barriers in f2f communication. She sees the nature of the interaction itself as not changed by the technology though – it is analogous to rituals of the past when pen-and-paper notes were passed between the potential lovers in the courtship period. And the serendipity/fate in human interactions is not entirely technology-dependent (the couple meets in the end despite the tech malfunction).

Others on discussion forums see the technology as instrumental in making interactions easier once we choose to move our relationships offline:

At the end the two parties met and seemed to have not problem interacting because they had experienced each other via the medium that allowed them to communicate. (Mark Ashford)

I heard a very convincing story about facilitative aspect of web2.0 interaction on collaborative relationships in K12 context when George Couros spoke about the connected principals movement last night for ETMOOC. The talk is archived here. So although I see Angela’s point, I also think that medium such as twitter or facebook, through putting restrictions on the length of message and their inherent dynamics, allow for development of a light touch and prevalent presence and signal our openness to interactions with others. This enhances the chances of serendipitous encounters, and allows for relationships to develop and be maintained at a distance to an extent not possible via emails or letter writing of the olden days (as a particularly poor epistolarian myself I do appreciate the brevity of these new forms of communication).

But ultimately the technology may not be enough to sustain human relationships/take them to another level:

that the bags allowed them to start to get to know each other but there is still a need for direct human contact. (Celia Popovic)

What really intrigued me is that quite a few people noted that the communication medium did impact how the couple ‘talked’ to each other f2f – and how this mirrored the impact that mobile technology seems to have on human interaction at present:

What I found interesting is they were still communicating with some sort of technology (post-it notes) when they were right in front of each other instead of speaking. It reminds me of what I see around me…two people sitting in a restaurant and texting instead of connecting with each other. An interesting type of progress… (Michael D Lawrence)

Angela, optimistically, sees the nature of human interactions unchanged in the film and in the learning context, even though the format may be different:

technology itself will be neutral in the social interactions required for social constructivist or connectivist pedagogy. The film suggests that the tool is immaterial.

But she can also see the dystopia – as the film presents the communication technology in prominently displayed consumerist/capitalist context (it is an incidental purchase at a shop). She goes on to say:

[…] when the technology “fails” and the lines of communication are cut, we are presented with another powerful image of the man returning to the closed apparel store. I interpret this as meaning that technology will only be available when there is money to be made from it. No shop, no technology and dystopically, no relationship.

This resonates with how fast the technology is changing, and the fact that ultimately the boom in new social communication tools relies on the enterprise making a profit to ‘stay open’. Ultimately, technology will be a driver for the most economically beneficial model in education (something here aligns with “if you are not a customer you are a product” motto). I would take it further and say that perhaps the tech impermanence and susceptibility to breakdowns should make us even more cautious about the committing ourselves to ‘tech solutions’ instead of pedagogical ones.

But will we be able to resist the seduction of the ‘magic’ of new communication technologies, or are we slaves to our own susceptibility to seek novelty, just like the female protagonist in the film:

She closes Facebook,bored of the same interaction. She wanted something different and the trick of the bag was what called their attention (Valia Andrea Carrasco Parra)

Especially if they are pushed at us incessantly, sneakily disguised as seemingly inconsequential accompaniment to our daily consumption.

Thank you EDCMOOC brain – I could not have done it without you!


Rhizomatic growth – learners as weeds or explorers and survivors?

Bamboo by MotleyOcklahoman on Flickr
Bamboo by MotleyOcklahoman on Flickr

Bamboo makes me uneasy.

When David Cromier was explaining his rhizomatic learning concept in last night’s #etmooc seminar (my notes here, recording archived here), it was not sitting quite right with me.

I loved the idea of exploratory learning within communities – with your ‘rhizomes’ or ideas spreading in unconstrained way through the community and intermingling with those of others. I loved the idea forcing students to determine their own directions and outcomes in learning in preparation for the uncertainty of our futures. I loved the emphasis on diversity of purposes of learning. I loved the acknowledgment of unpredictability of learning and the need to harness this more explicitly in the more formal learning settings. I respected the acknowledgment of the limitations of the approach – or its particular advantage for learning to deal with complex problems.Having had a history of designing highly ‘controlled’ online courses myself (largely due to context but I cannot blame it all on that;) – this sounds like an excellent reason to start learning to let go.

But the mention of rhizomes triggered a silent alarm in my botanical soul. So I woke up this morning with these, much louder, thoughts.

Bamboo and other rhizomatic plants are great at spread, survival and colonisation of new territories. But as ecologists and gardeners know, if unchecked they become weeds and can dominate and suppress a plant community or a garden instead of enriching it. They are also clones – the rhizomes produce exact copies of the ‘mother’ plant.

So instead of free exploration and exchange of ideas leading to rich and unpredictable learning – the story of rhizomatic learning can equally be a story of domination and monoculture, with rarer and more delicate ‘flowers’ getting pushed out, suppressed – not able to grow.

The ‘weedy rhizome’ may be a problem especially in relatively small and enclosed classrooms in the formal learning settings (even of 100s of students) – there will always be those who may have their own agendas which end up marginalised in a ‘community curriculum’, and who cannot find connections or reasons for engagement with others. The same goes for professional settings – how many of us cannot find others interested in teaching or talking of teaching in our immediate professional circles? It is hard to envision your community as your curriculum then (yes you can still learn something but it is hardly inspiring, engaging and motivating enough to take you somewhere interesting fast). Would it be different in an artificially constructed learning space such as a classroom?

Sure, students should be able to define their own learning goals, but they should also be able to define their own community (i.e. curriculum) – i.e. they should be able to make connections OUTSIDE the restricted pool of interest represented by their classmates/teacher. So the question would be – how do we make sure that the courses are open enough to enable this? What happens then to our ability to measure the engagement as a substitute for assessment of learning, as David suggests – if we allow students to define their own communities can we restrict this measurement to communities that are visible to us as teachers/assessors or other course participants?

Of course, I can see that the concept has a much easier breathing space out there on the interwebs with its moocing inhabitants – where the long tail and serendipitous discovery makes i more likely that even those with niche interests find their community curriculum to engage with. Can we breed a successful hybrid between the two creatures – the formal classroom garden and the internet wilds?

As usual more questions than answers! Looking forward to exploring this some more with etmoocers out there:)

Rhizomatic learning – notes from Dave Cromier #etmooc presentation 28 Jan 2013

I took some notes while Dave was speaking last night – I thought I would share in case you cannot make it to today’s repeat session:) Just jotting things down so not a perfectly flowing narrative but some interesting messages there.

Here it goes:

Dave’s summary post trying to define rhizomatic learning in 300 words.

Dave has spent 7 years with rhizomatic learning – still does not quite knows how it works yet. Thinking arose from his experience of learning/working online.

What is the purpose of learning? A diversity of understanding – all these things are true.

What is learning?

Learning is not always planned – there is always an uncertainty of what the future will look like.

Learning = preparation for uncertainty. What kind of uncertainty are we preparing our students for. Often said – we are preparing students for a future that does not exist. All of the learning needs to be designed to prepare stds for coping with uncertainty/sifting through masses of information (not knowledge poor at the moment!).

5 things I think I think:

1. The best learning prepares ppl for dealing with uncertainty

Education process which forces you to make decisions all the time

Creativity – making sure that stds have to make decisions about their own outcomes (do not take the decisionmaking away from them)

2. The community can be the curriculum – learning when there is no answer

1991 community of practice invented – have been talking about it since. The process of talking about practice = learning not necessarily going in predetermined direction.

Cromier inspired to start talking about ‘open’ by Courosa

Inspired to bring the community into the classroom (his own context 20 university students per class). You cannot control the community and tell them what they will learn – they will scatter and keep doing their own thing. Very different to how things are normally done in a classroom.

3. Rhizomatic learning. is a model for learning for uncertainty.

Rhizomes spread away from the main plant, and can be separated and grow their own plants.

French philosophers [need names here] – using rhizome ‘analogy’:

  • they can map in any direction for many starting points
  • they grow and spread via experimentation within a context
  • they grow and spread regardless of breakage

‘lateral spread’. not necessarily in a predefined direction.

Lack of depth?

Way more complex. Does not work with having to teach ppl specific things, that they cannot forget.

4. Rhizomatic learning works best in complex situations.


Snowden explaining the Cynefin framework

  • Simple – best practice – not useful to approach it via rhizomatic learning
  • Complicated – should I get an apple or a pc? You cannot teach somebody to answer questions like this – you need 1000s hours of study/experience as per a degree
  • Chaotic – no information available decision needs to be made e.g. I am drowning – need to do something/evaluate it and regroup.
  • Complex – no right answer e.g. ethics inside medicine – it all depends on belief, who you are, money etc. This is the best situation to address via rhizomatic learning.


5. We need to make students responsible for their own learning (and the learning of others).

Open syllabus – things that you are going to learn are things that are defined by you.

Social contract – they decide what they are going to learn (David does not start to teach until they agree on this). Need a goal to get there to make it a course and not just community (open to emergence but need some sense what you want to learn).

Not suitable for all contexts – e.g. not academic writing as too many little things you have to make ppl believe.

MOOCs – perfect for rhizomatic learning.

5 steps to succeed in a mooc (see David’s video)

  • orient
  • declare – ppl need to know about you
  • network – find others similar
  • cluster
  • focus – pick a place where you want to get (defined personally)

“you can’t collaborate alone” – mooc/gathering places needed to bring ppl together

MOOC as a (networked) textbook?


people don’t scale incl MIT profs – only their content

Ownership- “you lose your love when you say word mine” – NY

Openness is not about it being free – it is about SHARING!

If teacher takes all the power in the relationship, defining what needs to be learned at each step, what happens when the student leaves and has to deal with this lack of direction.

We need to measure LEARNING => the fact that you need it doesn’t make it possible. Stop measuring learning!

Measure effort, engagement and connection. Allow learners to be responsible for – and measure their own-  learning journey. Let the robots count what they can.

If we make the community the curriculum, membership becomes how we scale.

Being an effective member of the community = means you can speak the language….etc.

How does other faculty perceive it – crazy? Ppl have this idea of having to finish – person in charge telling you have succeeded. They have difficulty in accepting that success can be defined/achieved as per your own definition of it.

Tools for multimedia online introductions – #etmooc video

This week we were asked to introduce ourselves online to the co-participants in #etmooc. The format was left up to us – from a simple text on the blog to a multimedia ‘presentation’.

I decided to go for a multimedia offering. I thought that:

  • images and brief text fragments will convey the message most efficiently and expressively
  • it will be fun (and useful) to try out new tools to create such presentations
  • digital storytelling is trending – important to get some skills in there!
  • with many digital storytelling tools out there which require very low tech skills, and allow for easy sharing of the product, such multimedia presentations are an excellent choice for the orientation/ice-breaking activities online (and offline) courses!
  • I believe in enabling learners’/teachers’ online DIY by using low-threshold technology – this was a chance to test some out!

In prep for the post I have combed through a number of other etmooc introductions (hello everybody!) – and picked up a great list of tools which can be used for introductory activities – I compiled a public list on Diigo with some very brief annotations. Thanks everybody for sharing (special thanks to Erin Luong, Lyn Hilt, Joanna Sanders, Monika, Glenn Hervieux, Shira Leibowitz whose posts directly contributed to my list). I am sure there is much more out there and the list will grow in the future.

It was hard to pick but I went with Animoto because:

  • I have never used it before
  • It is an online tool so I did not need to download and install anything and worry about PC/Mac compatibility
  • I liked that it looked ‘professional’ and polished, yet fun whether used by complete beginners or more experienced users
  • It allowed for combination of video, text, audio and images + had some quite decent musical tracks to choose from (you can upload your own if you wish – NB copyright!)
  • The free version allows only for 30 sec videos and v. limited text – this forces a wonderful brevity and distillation of message so important in the online world, suffering from a chronic attention deficit (I tend to ramble so a fantastic way to improve my own skills here;)
  • It allowed publication to YouTube – important for me as a Word Press user as WP does not allow embedding of Animoto videos but works for YouTube (for security reasons).

How I did it.

I decided to include video I took with my phone alongside some CC licensed images from Flickr. This turned out to be quite a distraction (mainly due to the fact that Animoto video editing itself is very limited and only allows for clipping the ends and muting of soundtrack)  – but a productive one!

As using Animoto itself is very intuitive and including images very simple, I will talk about the editing of video itself, before I included it in my production.

I needed to clip, flip and crop my .3gb video.

My computer is running Windows XP which unfortunately does not have an inbuilt video editor. I did not want to download and install anything on it – it’s been running slowly so I want to avoid cluttering it up any further. And certainly did not want to pay for anything or such a small project. I also wanted to avoid using YouTube’s own editing suite (I do not like putting all my eggs in one basket).

I looked for a simple free online video editing tool and found this very useful compilation of some recent offerings from makeuseof blogs. I was most impressed with the ones which allow for collaborative editing and creation of social networks – definitely something to keep in mind for later use (assuming they survive – the turnaround is very rapid in these start ups) !

Unfortunately, I did not manage to find anything which would do all three things for me.

First, I used Pixorial to rotate and cut the video to size I wanted (the tool has some other ). Then, I took the output (Pixorial converts your video to .mp4 so if you do not want to lose quality it may not be an optimal option) and used Video Tool Box to crop it to focus on the part of the video I wanted (Video Tool Box preserves the video format – and gives you an option of converting it if you wish).

Both of the tools have size limits on the files you can upload in their free versions (Pixorial is more generous), and require a decent speed internet connection for download/upload so not really suitable for larger video processing but ideal for these snippets from your phone’s camera.

Overall, I think I will go back to both Animoto as well as Pixorial and Video Tool Box. I would also like to try my hand at WeVideo and FileLab Video Editor and try out their more complex editing options and effects. They are both much more sophisticated than YouTube editing options!

Introducing ETMOOC trust exercises – falling in the right direction?

As in any ‘class’ ETMOOC has asked us to introduce ourselves to our peers in the orientation week.

In his welcome chat, our ‘chief conspirator’, Alec Couros, has emphasized that connected/networked learning, typical of cMOOCs such as these, simply does not work without TRUST. We need to trust each other for the peeragogy to work its magic! And the best way to start building the TRUST is to REVEAL something of yourself to others.

The difference is – when we do so in this, open, online classroom, we also introduce ourselves to the whole online world!

This is a BIG step. Some might even say a leap;) Alec Couros encourages us all to overcome our fear of putting ourselves out there (or here;) – and promises an exhilaration and a sense of achievement – using the analogy of this girl taking her first ski-jump.

I am inspired by this imagery, and do recognize in it my own “yipeee! moment” when I got a first like and a comment on my own blog a month or so ago. This online audience attention does wonders to motivate me to continue to ‘reflect’ in more depth and more publicly than I would normally do!


I have also seen the video doing the rounds on twitter about how trust exercises can go wrong – you would have seen it at the start of this post.

So you will understand if I tell you that this enthusiastic call to simply jump and see what happens also feels a little bit like being cheered on to streak down a busy the street with a megaphone! (to clarify – *the video does NOT contain nudity* – it’s just my head’s nightmare scenarios;).

This in turn makes me feel that the calls to try on the radical openness at the start of both cMOOC I have experienced so far (Hybrid Pedagogy’s MOOC MOOC in early January and now the etmooc) appear fairly uncritical. Perhaps not enough caution about the consequences of the radical cMOOC openness during the ‘orientation’? Perhaps not enough pointers to strategies for preserving at least some aspects of privacy? Even though we are all professionals used to presenting a ‘face’ to a lecture theater or our future employers/colleagues – online seems an entirely different setting with its multitude of audiences, permanence and permeability between private and professional.

So far in etmooc’s week 0 there was a passing mention of anonymity as a shady practice in relation to digital citizenship by the participants in Alec’s introductory session. Does it mean that if I don’t reveal it all I am a bad citizen?! Do I mind being a bad citizen and whose definition of a good citizen is it anyway? I was more reassured when in a blogging intro session somebody described how she keeps several separate blog identities for different audiences to ensure some privacy and separation of personal from professional. There was also a very commonsense warning from the session leader – edublogger‘s own Sue Waters (@suewaters): do not say anything online which you would not say to an f2f audience of a 1000 people.

No doubt, these issues will surface in more depth as we go over the etmooc topics and I am looking forward to examining them in more detail (especially Openness movement and Digital Citizenship in March). But as they are at the forefront of my mind right now (and no doubt of many other beginners), I would have probably wanted to be making a more informed and strategic decision before putting my dignity at risk with that blog megaphone;) So before I get too far out the door – any quick tips?

Still, I am here. And I would very much like you to know and trust me – at least a little bit. Would also like to keep experimenting with this trusting the world thing;) So here is my introduction for the fellow-etmoocers (and the world) – with some privacy reserved;)

I also putting together a more technical post on how I put the video together and some thoughts on the tool (Disclaimer: more of a aide-mémoire to myself than an expert’s opinion).

P.S. For those who read my first #etmooc post and are wondering how my OU’s course is going – I have met some very nice people via the course social forum and it feels more like a home now. And as far as the prerequisite ‘literacies’ go – I will simply address them as we go along…

Connectedness calling

Connectedness calling

Today the course website for my Open University course in Science Communication in Information Age became available. I was excited – I would find out how to connect with everybody else on the course and beyond! But the excitement was short-lived – it felt like I have walked into an empty building. Not even a hashtag in sight – not to mention a public blog! And 40-odd pages of introductory materials to go through before I am deemed ‘literate’ enough to join the course proper. And to think that this is the way I used to set up my own postgraduate offerings…Oh how the #moocmooc has changed me!

That’s it – I am joining #etmooc to detoxify!

(Image Source: Thomas Hawk on Flickr)

Invitation to a participation space

Instead of posting at you folks – I though we could simply have a chat around the readings for this week. And add some more.

So I set up a Diigo group. And shared some initial thoughts which popped into my head when I was working through the list. Should be more fun than doing yet another blog post methinks;)

If you want to join in the convo – go here:

(apologies as in a hurry I seem to have misnamed it – of course it should be peeragogy!)

You will need to set up a Diigo account but it’s a breeze and so worth it.

Go here for some quick tips for collaborative annotation from @boisebarbara.

Pls let me know if any problems with getting into the group – I think I made it public and open but might have messed something up…

MOOC MOOCing with multimedia

Felt bad for not contributing to the Monday’s project.

So I did spend some time today building my response to the Tuesday’s question: What kind of learning do you value most?

Here it is.

Used photostory (I know – oldstyle or what?). And lots of cc images – thanks for sharing folks! Here are the credits for them:

I am no expert here but the word association pattern clearly indicates that I like my learning varied. Although a bit cautious about the whole connected community interactive and collaborative thing. Poking it with stick right now. Will report the results.

How does it relate to MOOCs et al.? Well – there is a growing variety out there. There is even variety within each kind (seemingly so little acknowledged!) – just speaking of my experience with Coursera here (compare and contrast social network analysis and networked life post is in the pipeline – promise!). So I think I will fare well:)

Long day so I think I will look through what you all posted tomorrow…now to sleep!