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v7.0 - moving along, a point increase at a time

Multilitteratus Incognitus

Traversing the path of the doctoral degree

La cura per l'ansia e i timori

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Una o due settimana fa ho causato un po' di ansia per i lettori di questo blog quando ho scritto sul tema della partecipazione in in MOOC. Veramente non volevo causare di ansia, ma voluto fornire alcune spunti per riflessione.

Credo che molti, non sola la mia amica Serena, quando hanno letto la mia idea per il sistema di "notificazioni" pensano a la scuola, i controlli, e le segnalazioni. Io non li colpa di essere ansiosi perché questi metodi di educazione e di docimologia sono metodi di educazione molto strutturati, senza immaginazione, e molte volte la docimologia è punitiva.

Nello stesso tempo, quando qualcuno parla della partecipazione, molti pensano a la discussione, o forse un blog post, o qualche cosa visibile a molti come qualcosa scritta a twitter. È vero che questi sono topi di partecipazione ma io credo che la partecipazione ad un corso MOOC deve essere ripensata perché un MOOC non è come altri corsi, allora la docimologia, e allora che voglio dire "partecipazione"' non funziona funziona allo stesso modo.

Come persone che lavorano in educazione, come pedagogisti, deve che noi rompiamo le vecchie strutture che non funzionano più in questa nuova forma di pedagogia; deve che noi problematizziamo le definizioni che esistono; e deve che noi ripensiamo il nostro ruolo e cosa facciamo nel mondo della pedagogia MOOC e non-MOOC. E finalmente, spero che, l'apprendimento sarà divertente e attraente, e non abbiamo più questa ansia che viene dalla pedagogia punitiva :-)

Spero che questo post è comprensibile, non ho scritto qualcosa in Italiano per dieci anni (wow!)
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On selfish blogging and form & function

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Yesterday while taking the train back home from work I was catching up with Change11 related blogs.  Two of them caught my eye and sparked my imagination (or perhaps cognitive process is a better word...in any case it got me thinking). First I read Tony Bates' initial summary of the week he facilitated, and then Jenny's response to him on selfish blogging.

Tony writes (and this is not the only thing he writes so read his entire post):

There could be all kinds of reasons for the shortage of comments on this week’s topic, but I was more struck by the form in which they occurred. Participants did not comment directly to my post for this week, but within their own blogs. I call this the syndrome of the selfish blogger. We all do this. If we have something interesting to say, we’d rather say it on our own web site than someone else’s (it would be nice though if the post was also copied to the site that originated the topic). I had to go and cull all the comments from the #Change 11 newsletter and from pingbacks to get them into one place, so I could comment on them as a whole.
I have to say in MOOCs where an LMS (example: LAK11) or a Google Group (example: MobiMOOC, eduMOOC) were used and there were discussion forums, I really did find it obnoxious when people created (or responded to) a discussion post with something like this:
Oh, I wrote something about this very thing in my blog the yesterday day with regard to insert-MOOC-name. Check it out here: http://wwww.myfabulousblog.com/myfaculousMOOCpost.
As a matter of practice I did not bother going to those people's blogs. There was enough content in the discussion forums to keep me occupied without having to sidetrack.  What I did find very considerate was when people copied and pasted their blog content into the discussion forum with an attribution link.  I think this is the best of both worlds, because as Jenny states, she post on her blogs because those are her reflections on a topic (and reading between the lines here:) not something that is necessarily a response to some discussion somewhere. If we have something that is our reflection on something BUT at the same time fits into a discussion, then the considerate thing to do, as far as I am concerned, is to copy and paste the entire post in the discussion IF it fits in.

Personally, I didn't take offense to Tony's selfish blogger  comment. I think the key theme posed by Tony "Can change come from within, or do we need to re-invent new forms of higher education that are de-institutionalized?" is what drove me, and others this week.  I did post twice on the subject, once in English and once in Greek, with different content in each. Of course I don't expect Tony, or others, to speak Greek, but at least something was there.

Now, as far as forums, blogs and comments go - for me at least, these are three different cognitive processes.  If a MOOC has all three (like MobiMOOC, eduMOOC and LAK11) I tend to stick to the forums for most things, and to blogs for personal reflections.  If a MOOC has gRSShopper, like CCK11 and Change11, where all your content is harvested into a daily newsletter, then longer pieces (like this one) where more time and thought go into it and/or I am referencing more than one source go into a blog.  If I see something interesting on a blog, and I want to add a quick reply, thought or comment then I do indeed post to that blog and comment.  I don't see comments as a venue for discussion, even though threaded comments have become the norm these days, the form is still limiting for longer posts like this one. Mini-discussions are achievable if you keep it to 2 paragraphs or fewer per comment.

Why not use the gRSShopper system for blog comments?  I did try that with CCK11, but I found that
  1. I wanted to maintain "authorship" of my comments, and many blogs have disqus, which allows me to do that
  2. comments on gRSShopper, for me, are disconnected a bit from the blog content.
I don't have any suggestions on how to fix the system. Perhaps a way to harvest and collate comments automatically from blogs?  I don't know how technically difficult that is :-)

Finally Tony asks:

  1. Could I have done something that would have resulted in more comments, more discussion and more integration of the discussion in this MOOC?
  2. Or is the topic itself the problem – just not of interest to most people in this MOOC?
  3. Or are people just too busy to go beyond the webinar and a short response?

OK, to answer these in sequence 
  1.  I don't think so. I think you are limited by the distributed nature of this MOOC. It's neither space bound not time bound. Much of the content is all over the net AND the MOOC-fathers have already setup an expectation that there aren't forums on here, so it's hard to break apart (I think) from an distributed expectation and try to corale people into a forum for a week. It's also a fact that some people are a week, or two behind, or some people skip a week in MOOCs. This type of freedom makes it a bit difficult for facilitators.
  2. For me the topic wasn't a problem, but then again I work in academia, in IT, so I know the issues. Perhaps other participants may have had a harder time getting started with this theme because they didn't have the required social capital to tackle it right from the gate.
  3. Some people will be too busy, for sure.  I am pretty sure that most people are not. I think a lot of MOOC participants take time to read many (if not all?) the facilitator provided materials and do respond via their blogs with their thoughts on the subjects...and then comment back to others via comments (for short comments) or longer expository blog posts (for longer "comments"). I know that there are many people who are on here whose native language is not English. I really like reading blogs from people like this (like Serena for example in Italian and Jaap when he posts in Dutch) because it adds another dimension to the MOOC. If English isn't your native language this takes time, and if a MOOC has been established to not be as strictly time bound as traditional courses, then it will take people more than the "allotted time" to get their thoughts and comments out :-)

For what it's worth, I enjoyed the topic, and thought that Tony did a good job, but he was limited by the existing MOOC setup. I think that the "weekly guest" is really a misnomer because people only get "revved up" that week for that topic, but the topic tends to persist for a week or so after the official "end" of the topic.


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mLearn 2011 conference proceedings now available!

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I was reading Micheal's blog the other night and I realized that the Conference Proceedings for mLearn 2011 are now up!  You can download them from the Conference website, or you can read them on Scribd (see bellow)

In other news, it seems like the MobiMOOC research team is big in China :-) We were contacted yesterday by PhD students (under the direction of their advisor) to see if we would consent to have our mLearn paper translated into Chinese for publication in a core Chinese academic journal - this is both a great honor and über cool!

mLearn 2011 (BeiJing) Conference Proceedings
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OCW και Ελληνικά Πανεπιστήμια

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Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο Change11 MOOC, το θέμα είναι το OCW ή OpenCourseWare. Όπως μάλλον γνωρίζετε το OCW  άρχισε εδώ στα λημέρια μου στο γνωστό MIT και από εκεί επεκτάθηκε σε άλλα πανεπιστήμια, και ένα από αυτά είναι και το δικό μου. Συγκριτικά το δικό μου πανεπιστήμιο δεν είναι στην ίδια κατηγορία όσον αφορά το μέγεθος των πόρων που έχουμε στο δικό μας OCW.

Αυτό που αναρωτιόμουν είναι αν στην Ελλάδα, που  πολύ εκπαιδευτική ύλη φαίνεται να είναι public domain. Αν δεν κάνω λάθος τα βιβλία του ΟΕΔΒ είναι δωρεάν στους φοιτητές και είναι public domain, έτσι; Η Ελλάδα θα ήταν καλό περιβάλλον για μια ακαδημαϊκή αναγέννηση, με κάθε ΤΕΙ και ΑΕΙ να έχει κάποιο OCW, και τα βιβλία να διανέμονται δωρεάν και σε μορφή ePub, καθώς φυσικά και άλλα δεδομένα όπως ασκήσεις, σημειώσεις, παρουσιάσεις και άλλα σχετικά.

Δεν ξέρω, μπορεί να είμαι πολύ αλτρουιστής και να μου πει κανείς «εδώ η Ελλάδα καίγεται, ο κόσμος άστεγος και πεινασμένος και εσύ μου μιλάς για OCW;» Εντάξει, η Ελλάδα έχει κάποια μεγάλα προβλήματα, αλλά αυτό δεν σημαίνει πώς δεν πρέπει να συζητάμε άλλα θέματα, γιατί στο κάτω κάτω, πάντα κάτι «άλλο» θα είναι στο νου μας που θα πρέπει να πάρει πρώτη θέση.  Ποια είναι λοιπόν τα μεγάλα εμπόδια για την επέκταση του OCW στα ιδρύματα ανώτατης παιδείας στην Ελλάδα;
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Synchronicity in MOOCs

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I was reading a blog post from inlearning titled Is Demanding Synchronous Bliss Missing the Point of Change? Quite an interesting blog post to read so head on over there after reading this post ;-)  It's interesting how different people have different preferences.  I for example dislike synchronous online meetings, and  I have never attended a synchronous MOOC meeting as long as I have participated in MOOCs. Instead I download the MP3 later on, put it on my iPod and listen to it while commuting to work. I know other people feel differently about the topic, but I fit it curious.

If the point of change (change in education in general, not just Change MOOC) is to get away from the sage on the stage and seek out our own peer learning groups, aren't Massive synchronous sessions antithetical to that?  Why would I want to attend a Massive synchronous voice chat (where only one person can speak at a time)?  My voice would be drowned and I wouldn't have an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation and learn something.  As Tim Owens argues, it becomes (or actually is ) a broadcast, so why not take pre-recorded questions for the experts and have them do a radio show?

As anyone has observed in massive gatherings, people tend to cluster together. They move from group to group until they find a suitable topic for them to explore with others.  Instead of one Massive synchronous sessions, it would be better to develop smaller SIGs, throughout the week and then MOOC participants can elect to attend (or not attend) any SIG they want.  The Massive in MOOC works because it is distributed throughout the time frame of a week (it also works because previous weeks become OER, so people can access them whenever they want event after the cohort has moved on). Massive in synchronous does not work because it is time and place bound. :-)

Update: I know that I used the term experts above. Expert is really a loaded word, with certain connotations of putting someone on a pedestal and pointing to them as the authority. I have problems with that word - especially when people call me an "expert" because I simply don't know everything - but it's also a problem in MOOCs because most MOOCs that I have been part of seem to go with a Freirean approach to education which doesn't privilege anyone in particular. Perhaps "guests" would have been a better term, but that also doesn't really get to why one "guest" gets picked to broadcast over others. More to discuss later I guess :-)
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Allergic to assessment or measurement?

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OK, so now I am sort of in catch up mode to respond to some interesting blog posts I've read in the past few days on Change. I was reading a blog post from Brainy smurf on being allergic to measurement where he asks:

Why does it even matter how I learned to perform as long as I can do the job well ?!”
 I think that you're not allergic to assessment (or measurement) but rather you are allergic to crappy assessment.  The easiest way to think of assessment is to gather some sort of number - clicks on a link, or amount of time spent in a discussion forum, or number of paragraphs in an essay or number of correct answers in a multiple choice test, heck the multiple choice test is itself an instrument of assessment.

Now, just because you have a hammer, not everything is a nail, and this is where crappy assessment comes in.  Numbers gathered are meaningless in a decontextualized environment - so who cares how many people have clicked on a link and "read" an article if they can't apply what they read? Multiple choice tests are equally bad outside of appropriate environments (I would say that multiple choice tests are bad the majority of the time, but that just me).

I think that if there is authentic assessment, as you mentioned "if you can perform...", then congrats, you've actually passed the test :-) ! Assessment, in my opinion, should be authentic and unobtrusive.  Once assessment becomes obtrusive it becomes a problem and many of us have an allergy to it. Why?  Because (in most cases anyway) it ceases to be authentic assessment and it becomes decontextualized "bad" assessment.

It reminds me of a time I was in a graduate class in project management.  I really loved the class, and we (looking back at it) had a lot of assessment opportunities in the class throughout the semester.  Students did case analyses (which are assessable), students performed a semester-long project management project where they planned, analyzed and presented every angle of a project that they were to manage (all that needed to be done after that was implementation) and students also lead class sessions - again all of these were assessable.

At the end of the semester what did we have?  A final exam, 3 hours, sit-down, in class, that was multiple choice and short answers.  Why? because the department required it. A blanket rule that you needed to have a final exam in all your classes, regardless of what the content of the course and what the instructional strategy was.  This is an example of bad assessment, and luckily you're not the only one allergic to crappy assessment, we all are :-)
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It's OCW week on Change

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It seems like it's OCW (open courseware) week at ChangeMOOC.  When I read the initial description (it referring to OER) I was wondering what sort of readings or thoughts would be seeding this week's discussions. In my initial post for the week I made reference to the paradox of OER (I think it was David Wiley who originally wrote about it), but I am glad that this week is about OCW.

I have to say that personally I have a love-hate relationship with OCW.  I love that OCW exists; I think it is an awesome concept because not only does it open up academia, it offer cross-pollination opportunities with other colleagues in other schools (that you don't necessarily know of), it makes courses more transparent to your current and future students, and it offers opportunities for people to self-study if they can't come to your institution or can't afford your institution.  I often look for OCW content in my own disciplines to see what other institutions are doing.  One such example is Utah State. I think it's great for universities and individual faculty to want to put their stuff out there and it's something we should encourage.

Of course, there is the "hate" aspect of OCW as well.  Well, OK, hate is a strong word to use, and I actually don't hate the OCW, just the politics, apprehension and misinterpretations about it. Let me take each one of these individually:

Misinterpretations of effectiveness of OCW content  
I did see this in the articles about MIT's OCW. The idea went as follows: if you put your material online, in OCW, you are (potentially) helping the poor get out of poverty by retooling and providing a means for an education.  Sure, that may be possible, but do the poor always have access to a computer and the internet to access OCW?  Do they always have the prerequisite literacies to be able to self-direct their studies based on OCW materials?  Are the materials that are placed on OCW free and open source (including all the readings) - in other words is it just the course outline that is open? or are the readings there as well? Look at this MIT course for example, unless you've got access to a college library to get them for free some of this material is straight out of pocket.

Don't get me wrong, OCW is great, but at the same time it's not a panacea or a catalyst for social change - it's simply one element that must work in concert with other elements to make things happen. Content without instruction and/or mentorship is not easy for everyone - it's an acquired skill.


Apprehension about putting your materials online
As a student I always wanted to know "what's next" in my curriculum.  There were two reasons: (1) I wanted to know how things I am doing now connect with future things and (2) I wanted to use my "free" time in between semesters preparing for subsequent school semesters so I could make better use of my time (and take more classes than one normally would).
I was fairly resourceful and if professors didn't give me a sample syllabus (and many did), I was able to ferret things out from fellow classmates. This preparation helped me in my studies but not everyone does this. Having asked some faculty to post materials online for future students I get a look of apprehension. They feel great about teaching the courses, but they don't want to put their materials out there ( I should point out that these faculty are tenured faculty and thus don't fall under my adjunct exception rule that I articulated in a previous post) - part of it is that they feel self-conscious about the materials - someone will discover a typo for example or will be a harsh critic of their pedagogy; Other times they feel like it's their copyright and they don't want others to have their materials.
What I really dislike is that as academics we sometimes have a duplicitous nature. We will beg/borrow/steal from other colleagues' syllabi and course outlines to enrich our own, but we don't put our stuff out there to be used (or improved upon!) by our colleagues in other institutions. Now, not everyone is like this, so don't think that I am painting with a broad brush, but there are enough people like this that it makes me wonder about academia.  We need to #changeAcademia ;-)  Perhaps one should #adoptAfacultyMember and help them get their stuff out there :-)


Politics and the new and shiny thing
Finally, from a programatic end of things, the nuts and bolts of the OCW operation.  I know that our OCW project was started with grant money when OCW was new and shiny and everyone was ooohing and aaaahing about this and everyone was saying how we should get onboard right now!  From what I understand the seed money (being seed money) is running dry and it's now up to institutions to fun the maintenance and expansion of OCW projects (like MIT is doing!)  The problem that I've come across is that people aren't necessarily really interested in OCW as an "open" tool, but rather they were interested in OCW as the "new and shiny thing" or "the new toy".  Now that this shine has worn out and grants won't pay for it, those initial OCW champions seem to be on the hunt for new grants for new and shiny things, instead of taking a stance and really fighting for keeping OCW alive and expanding on campus.


Anyway, those were my initial thoughts for this week - what are YOUR loves and hates about OCW?
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Summative Evaluations

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Last week on the MOOC Research Google Group the following post came up by Alan Selig (reproduced here with permission):


I just got around to listening to the presentation by Tony Bates. Toward the end Stephen made reference to the surveys that many institutions give to students at the point of graduation. Not surprisingly these are usually very favorable, as the respondents have self-selected according to their favorable feelings toward the school.
It made me wonder (again) how we get evaluations in a MOOC from those who only participate at certain points in the overall schedule. Especially since we want to affirm that sporadic or episodic participation is a successful approach to MOOCs, how do we get summative evaluations when the end point for an individual participant can be anywhere during the course of a MOOC, or event beyond the official end of it?

While I don't have the time right now for an immediate answer, I intend on coming back to this later on this week. I also wanted to get it out there because I think that some form of evaluation is important - both learner assessments if you are accrediting people in your course and course assessments to make sure goals were realized. I am interested in what other people think about this issue :-)
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REL pour l'apprentissage

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Cette semaine sur ChangeMOOC le thème est vers les ressources éducatives libres pour l'apprentissage. Notre hôte est Rory McGreal de l' université d' Athabasca au Canada. Le thème des RELs n'est pas nouveaux dans ce MOOC. Aujourd'hui nous n'avons pas d'aces sur les matérielles de la semaine et donc je ne sais pas quels sont les objectifs de la semaine et quoi veut Mr. McGreal communiqué à nous. Je dois admettre que le titre du module de cette semaine, pour moi, est un peu déroutant parce que la raison d'être pour les RELs est l'apprentissage, alors est il pas redondant de dire "REL pour l'apprentissage"? Ou peut être il y a des usages des RELs dehors l'apprentissage que je ne connais pas!
Pour moi, les RELs, comme une idée sont intéressants, mais (de mon expérience) c'est trop difficile trouver des RELs qu'on peut utiliser sans pain dans leur cours. La majorité des RELs sont très spécialisés ou ils sont trop général, alors on doit faire un peu de massage pour s'adapter ces RELs dans un autre cours. Je suis ravi de lire les réactions des autres participants dans ce MOOC cette semaine.
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Τεχνολογία, παιδεία και αλλαγή.

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Αυτή την εβδομάδα στο ChangeMOOC ο καλεσμένος καθηγητής της εβδομάδας ήταν ο Tony Bates και το θέμα μας ήταν η αλλαγή της ανώτατης παιδείας και αν αυτή θα οδηγηθεί απο εσωτερικούς παράγοντες και ανθρώπους ή αν οι αλλαγές θα έρθουν απο έξω, εκτός που πανεπιστημίου. Έχω ήδη γράψει μια ανάρτηση στο μπλογκ στα αγγλικά για το αμερικανικό σύστημα αλλά έτσι περιληπτικά να γράψω πως το σύστημα είναι δύσκολο να αλλάξει εσωτερικά.
Υπάρχει μια άλφα τεχνοκρατία στο πανεπιστήμιο που αν δεν θέλουν όλοι (ή τουλάχιστον πολλοί) μια ριζική αλλαγή, αυτή η αλλαγή δεν γίνετε. Πιστεύω πως τα πανεπιστήμια τώρα έχουν τον χειρότερο συνδυασμό του παλιού "ακαδημαϊκού καθεστώντος" και ενός συστήματος επιχειρησιακής διοίκησης που κοιτά μόνο αριθμούς, "παραγωγικότητα" (όπως και αν μετριέται αυτή σε ένα ακαδημαϊκό περιβάλλον) και κοιτά μόνο τα έσοδα και τα έξοδα αλλά μόνο για τους "μικρούς" - τα μεγάλα κεφαλιά που πληρώνονται τα πολλά λεφτά που παίρνουν τις αποφάσεις και διοικούν τα πανεπιστήμια ως επιχείρηση δεν εξετάζουν τους δικούς τους μισθούς και της δική τους "παραγωγικότητα". Απο τη αλλη πλευρα, το παλιό ακαδημαικο καθεστως χαρακτηριζεται απο ακαδημαϊκά σιλόείναι με τον κάθενα να κοιτα μόνο την τσέπη του (ή τη φήμη του). Έτσι όπως φαίνονται τα πράγματα η εσωστρεφεις αλλαγη λίγο δύσκολη μου φαίνεται εμένα αλλα όχι αδύνατη!
Τώρα απο το ελληνικό σύστημα δηλώνω άγνοια. Έφυγα απο την Ελλάδα όταν τελειωσα το γυμνάσιο οπότε το πως είναι το Λύκειο και η ανωτάτη παιδεία στην Ελλάδα είναι ολίγον μυστήριο. Ξέρω κάτι λίγα απο φίλους αλλα αυτά είναι απο ζητήσεις με καφέ μετά τις εξετάσεις που το μυαλό ίσως να είναι λίγο θολό. Με ενδιαφέρει να μάθω παραπάνω για το ελληνικό σύστημα ανώτατης παιδείας και τι νομίζετε εσείς, εσείς που εργάζεστε σε κάποιο μέρος του ελληνικού συστήματος παιδείας ή εσείς που είστε φοιτητές. Αν είστε στη Ελλάδα τι νομίζετε; Αν πήγατε στο εξωτερικό για σπουδές γιατί; Τι δεν σας άρεσε στην Ελλάδα και τι σας έφερε στο εξωτερικό; Αν είστε στο εξωτερικό τι κριτικές έχετε για το σύστημα που είστε; Και φυσικά η μεγάλη ερώτηση: μπορεί η αλλαγη να είναι απο εσωτερικούς παράγοντες ή όχι και γιατί;
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