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In an earlier post, I had visited collaboration techniques and some concepts there that I had encountered and thought about. One conclusion was that:

It goes back to us, as individuals, and how we collaborate as subjects, alone or in teams or in networks. If the capability to collaborate in structured ways is learnt and becomes “native” so will adoption on a more widespread basis.

How can collaboration or the capability thereof, go native? By imparting a purpose to collaboration, I am focusing on collaboration that needs to be explicit, rather than implicit (or as a function of collectives). How can it become an essential part of our daily workflows?

One obvious component is technology of some sort – phone, Internet-based etc. and the knowledge & skills on the technology that you need to collaborate.

The other obvious component is your network and the level of access that you have to people with whom you can collaborate.

The third component is the collaboration skill itself, which is composed of not only soft skills (including social etiquette and cultural sensitivity), but also language skills (how effectively can you communicate) and knowledge of various structured and unstructured collaboration techniques (for example, collaboration could also include negotiation or mediation apart from the regular terms in which we view collaboration).

The fourth component is the content/domain of collaboration. Techniques like the Johari window  are pretty useful here to analyze the domain with respect to the collaboration participants and their level of knowledge.

An important fifth dimension, apart from technology, networks and collaboration skill, also emerges – context. It is really important to understand state of the world before, during and after the collaboration process ends. If we are able to capture that, then we are able to do two things – one, document the process for others to learn from and two, measure the outcomes and build performance indicators.

At this time (or at any time in the past), these have always existed in some form or the other. Online/digital technology scores because of its capability to bring diverse geographically distributed people together on a collaborative platform, but leaves much to be desired in terms of facilitating the use of formal techniques for collaboration.

In our experience, we have more or less learnt to collaborate by experience (I would say this would be a fairly acceptable generalization) and by making mistakes. But also a lot by how we see our peers and seniors collaborate. We take these complex skills involving social interaction, emotional control,  tact, courtesy and so many other dimensions to produce the results we so desire. There are also a large number of successful models that people have developed over the years. In fact Stephen Covey’s Sixth Habit is Principles of Creative Cooperation.

It is so difficult for formal models to be built in a highly subjective and individualized area. I quote Yes Minister where Hacker reveals the three varieties of Civil Service silence – Discreet, Stubborn and Courageous silence.

… He also warned me of the ‘Three Varieties of Civil Service Silence’, which would be Humphrey’s last resort if completely cornered: 1 The silence when they do not want to tell you the facts: Discreet Silence. 2 The silence when they do not intend to take any action: Stubborn Silence. 3 The silence when you catch them out and they haven’t a leg to stand on. They imply that they could vindicate themselves completely if only they were free to tell all, but they are too honourable to do so: Courageous Silence. (The Complete Yes Minister, pp. 93-4)

How does one depict or infer Courageous Silence online on a Chat or Social network discussion?

However, there is value that exists if we do use/adapt somebody’s well thought out or experimented mechanism or recipe for collaboration. After all that is where a lot of people make money in training because they can interpret and adapt to the individual’s context when suggesting a recipe or building capability on a specific technique.

To really be useful and pervasive, we must find ways to enable these dimensions on an Internet scale, in our applications. We must make these tools & techniques and the  knowledge thereof easy to grasp and implement. And this process will continue to evolve and benefit from multiple related developments in technology and technique.

While researching structured collaboration techniques, I came across some interesting work people are doing. Mindquarry, for example, provides a model of collaboration patterns based on 4 elements – people, productivity software, collaborative software and methods. I had earlier referred to Mindtools, who provide a rich set of structured collaboration techniques, like for example starbusting, which is a form of brainstorming. Also, Value based management offers a host of techniques, models and theories.

Essentially, structured technology aided collaboration techniques are a medium through which learning efficiencies can be increased. These techniques:

  • are contextual to domain
  • are contextual to collaboration type (say, brainstorming vs voting)
  • are open or close ended (in terms of time, scope, boundaries etc)
  • could be ad-hoc or planned
  • are quantifiable (both quantitatively and qualitatively speaking)
  • are historically referenceable (audit trails for recorded collaborations)
  • have rules of engagement
  • can be structured to the desired level (sequence of activities, organization of inputs, permissions and access roles)
  • are sensitive to scale of audience, available knowledge and other physical parameters
  • result in trackable outputs/analytics

The logical next step, from a design perspective, is to attempt to model them.  Aldo de Moor’s paper on Community Memory Activation with Collaboration patterns yields some insights on what patterns could be modelled. The abstract for the paper is:

We present a model of collaboration patterns as reusable conceptual structures capturing essential collaboration requirements. These patterns include goal patterns (what is the collaboration about?), communication patterns (how does communication to accomplish goals take place?), information patterns (what content knowledge is essential to satisfy collaborative and communicative goals?), task patterns (what particular information patterns are needed for particular action or interaction goals?), and meta-patterns (what patterns are necessary to interpret, link and assess the quality of the other collaboration patterns?). We show how these patterns can be used to activate communities of practice by improving their collective, distributed memory of communicative interactions and information. We outline an approach that structures how collaboration patterns in communities of practice can be elicited, represented, analyzed, and applied. By presenting a realistic scenario, we illustrate how community memory could be activated in practice.

The other key component is to understand what is the need to collaborate and the forces impeding the required collaboration. This is key to understanding whether collaboration techniques shall be used, substituted by informal methods or not used at all. It is important to understand if they are “over sold and under used” or are “methods seeking an application” or are really cost-effective or intuitive. We have seen that in software engineering too and this may require change management to implement in enterprises.

In other words, the challenge is not quite really all about the technology or process, but is perhaps more about the individual mindset and the overall objectives with which structured collaboration techniques are to be implemented (basically saying that a great process or tool does not automatically ensure collaboration that follows the process or uses the tool or format).

It goes back to us, as individuals, and how we collaborate as subjects, alone or in teams or in networks. If the capability to collaborate in structured ways is learnt and becomes “native” so will adoption on a more widespread basis. On the other hand, organizations or learning delivery modalities can include, as mandatory components, such patterns, tools or processes as part of the workflow.

Janet Clarey sparked off some serious thinking in my head about, really, what we are measuring in terms of RoI on training initiatives. The post in question was Rob Wilkins’ Why do we sacrifice? and you can find our conversation in the comments (and hopefully contribute your thoughts too!). George raises some relevant ideas too in his post On the value of assessments.

I am really intrigued. How can we create metrics (and data collection parameters) so that we can derive RoI from the activities in a learning network?

Almost directly related is the question of how LMS providers, as reviewed in Janet’s series LMSs that kick ass, can contribute to this activity. Outstart believes the LMS and the Social Network are separate platforms, the former controls, tracks and reports on formal training initiatives while the latter enable rather than control informal learning. As Janet reports, Jeff Whitney from Outstart comments:

We developed our social media platform separate from our LMS as many informal learning initiatives do not require the formal reporting and tracking features of an LMS. But we also integrated the solution with our LMS to support activities like the invaluable, ad hoc student-to-student and student-to-instructor knowledge sharing that surround formal learning initiatives.

Charles Coy from Cornerstone makes an interesting comment:

Incorporating multiple modalities of learning is not the challenging part. We can build communities of practice into business workflows and develop social media environments. The challenges, in Cornerstone’s view, revolve around engagement and tracking. Getting people to contribute and then assessing the value of this 80% social learning element for the organization.

John Stearns from Generation21 has this to say:

Gen21’s product focus is on its core product functionality. To that end, core collaborative features in the LMS cover the key aspects of social media – collaborative authoring, wiki’s, messaging, message boards, interactive web environments, content rating, library, etc. Imaginative use of these functions achieves a reasonable level of “social” interaction

…….For Gen21, social media is simply another analogous function that clients may choose to use in their learning toolkit. The elements of social media in our LMS are those that related most directly to our mission to enable learning.

Will Hipwell from Geolearning makes a strong assertion that I would love to see in action:

GeoLearning’s GeoEngage module facilitates Communities of Practice (CoPs), enables social networking, and provides access to Web 2.0 technologies like Chat, instant messaging, email, file sharing and uploading, resource library, blogging, wikis, discussion groups and RSS feeds. These are all integrated with our LMS platform so that informal learning can still be tracked, managed and measured as easily as more formal training programs. (emphasis added)

And this one from Dave Wilkins at Mzinga got me really intrigued:

Alternately, for companies ready to move beyond a course- and LMS-centric view of social learning, Mzinga can provide a Community strategy where social networking and social media are more prominently featured and formal learning elements take on supporting roles. In this model, Mzinga “hides” the LMS, but still exposes certifications, compliance, curriculum, virtual classroom, and courses through deep, direct links. (emphasis added)

There are others that Janet talked with such as ElementK and Meridian that are interesting reads. It seems to be clear that LMS providers have integrated social media functions to a large degree, in one way or the other. And that some seem to have some tracking and reporting linkages as well, though I don’t know to what level of detail or with what specific approach in mind.

Would love to hear from the community what they feel!

I found this interesting review by Landy M of the book Knowing Knowledge by George Siemens (which I confess I still need to read). I wanted to reproduce some striking comments:

If Siemens is correct in asserting that the skills of ‘know where’ and ‘know who’ are now more important than the ‘what’ and ‘how’, we must ask: what then are the implications of this position for the role the teacher, and the place of content/curriculum in education today?

To put it another way: what is the nature of the relationship between learning about things – the bodies of knowledge – and learning how to learn about those things? Perhaps the relationship between content and the learning process has always been a problematic one, but it does seem that the impact of the digital technologies in education is bringing this issue into the foreground like never before.

On the one hand, I agree with his observations about the changing nature of the world, the significance of networks, and so on, but I also feel rather uneasy about his point that the ‘know where’ and the ‘know who’ are more important today than the ‘what’ and the ‘how’.

For example, might we find lurking in the Siemens’ position a tendency to over emphasise the technical wherewithal required to work with and manipulate digital technologies and data, at the expense of a learner acquiring a deep knowing about the world and his/her place in it?

Obviously, becoming digitally savvy is a vital skill for all to learn, but I also believe we need an informed citizenry that can also understand the world at a deep critical – interpretive level.
(emphasis added)

This really is my understanding too. The emphasis of technology is important, but so is the imperative for citizenry to be informed and understand the world at a deep critical – interpretive level. Stephen has made that point many times too.

Landy also evokes similarities with Manuel Castells, a social science thinker and sociologist, and I quote from Landy’s review, a quote from Castells’ 2001 book, The Internet Galaxy, Reflections on the Internet, Business and Society, Oxford University Press, New York: 

A network is a series of interconnected nodes. Networks are very old forms of human practice, but they have taken on a new life in our time by becoming information networks, powered by the internet. Networks have extraordinary advantages as organising tools as because of their inherent flexibility and adaptability, critical features in order to survive in a fast-changing environment. This is why networks are proliferating in all domains of the economy and society, out competing and outperforming vertically organised corporations and centralised bureaucracies…

Networks were primarily the preserve of private life; centralised hierarchies were the fiefdoms of power and production. Now, however, the introduction of computer-based information and communication technologies, and particularly the Internet, enables networks to employ their flexibility and adaptability.

Landy also looks at Section 2 of Knowing Knowledge where George talks about an implementation model. I have a great interest here in evolving an implementation model and applying it to different situations relevant today as I believe, has George.

Siemens gets straight to the point in this section by posing the following question:

 How can an organisation adopt ecologies when their goal is to drive out chaos and messiness, not embrace it? (2006:90)

 It’s a good question, especially pertinent for those of us that work in bureaucracies and education systems, and he responds with a rather conventional solution – and onethat’s hard to disagree with: change the organisational mindset and re-frame the organisational structures around networks. His call for organisational flexibility and adaptability and the creation of a work environment that is conducive to learning, is a refrain that will be familiar to anyone who has kept pace with the literature on Knowledge Management and/or organisational change, for example, Peter Senge is one amongst many who have written about this.

…An implementation schema provides the holistic overview, and then the five domains are unpacked and explained in sequence. The schema is useful, but I’m not sure how comprehensively the discussion in this section resolves the tension between entrenched organisational rigidity and the need to create adaptive and flexible work environments.

An interesting and provocative read. Thanks, Landy!

I am investigating the connections between Informal Learning, Communities of Practice, Network of Practice and Connectivism. Found an interesting conversation between Jay Cross, George Siemens, Dave Cormier and (on chat) Stephen Downes on EdTechTalk#23, Nov 3, 2005.

Found also Wenger’s interview and lecture at a KnowledgeLabs e-portfolio Konference where he talks about learning as meaning/sense making.

What inherently constitutes a connectivist learning ecology? What specifically differentiates it from a collaborative, Web 2.0 or informal learning enabled learning environment? Was the CCK08 course representative of the Connectivist learning ecology?

Lisa Lane wrote a list of recommendations on the CCK08 experience. Bradley Shoebottom has devised his own structure. I proposed the concept of Network Based Training. There are many others.

George Siemens writes:

I like the idea of thinning our classroom walls and allowing connections to be formed between concepts from other subject areas. But that responsibility shouldn’t rest on the educator. “Getting on the same page” (author’s words) seems a bit at odds with opening up class rooms. We need to all get on our own page, form our own connections, our own understanding of different fields. It seems that the desire still runs high for educators to apply increased organization when problems become intractable. What is really needed is a complete letting go of our organization schemes and open concepts up to the self/participatory/chaotic sensemaking processes that flourish in online environments.

Monty Paul ties in connectivism into social constructivism.

The idea of connectivism (Drexler, 2008 ) ties in well with social constructivism, demonstrating how new generation learners use the power of our networked world to tap into remote sources of knowledge, including experts in various fields. These learners work in a world without boundaries from a technological point of view. They are adept at finding, storing, managing and sharing information using new web-based applications. More importantly, they are involved in knowledge creation, using blogs, wikis and other on-line applications to mash and developing new ways of looking at and using information. These students bring fresh challenges for learning institutions across the educational spectrum, given their need for a fast moving, game oriented learning (Pensky, 2001) which traditional learning environments are hard pressed to provide.

But I want to discuss the difference between the creation of an ecological blueprint (if there could be one) that “allows” connective learning and what would constitute an ecological blueprint that “is” inherently a connective learning design/blueprint. For example, the difference between saying “the hotel lounge is Wifi-enabled” is different than saying that “I can check my email in the hotel lounge”. After all, it’s the conversation rather than the blogging tool that’s more important, right?

George Siemens contrasts behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism and connectivism in the light of Ertmer’s and Newby’s five definitive questions to distinguish different learning theories. For connectivism, he states:

  1. How does learning occur? – Distributed within a network, social, technologically enhanced, recognizing and interpreting patterns
  2. What factors influence learning? – Diversity of network, strength of ties
  3. What is the role of memory? – Adaptive patterns, representative of current state, existing in networks
  4. How does transfer occur? – Connecting to (adding) nodes
  5. What types of learning are best explained by this theory? – Complex learning, rapid changing core, diverse knowledge sources.

(George’s responses in italics)

George and Stephen also talk of the impact of chaos theory, self organization and complexity on the learning process. They also refer to the impact of this way of learning on traditional notions of power, control, validity and authority (among others). So what would constitute the learning ecology that is connective? It should be one that inherently:

  1. Enables us to recognize and interpret patterns that exist (way finding, sense making) ; indeed, generate our own new patterns
  2. Helps us build adaptively on and capture existing patterns given a rapid changing core and diverse knowledge sources
  3. Provides a distributed environment (both for knowledge and people)
  4. Provides avenues for social collaboration
  5. Is technologically enhanced to deal with diverse processes/circumstances such as negotiating information overload, self organization, determining order within chaos etc.
  6. Enables us to leverage and expand on a network that is diverse
  7. Helps us build ties at varying strengths that in turn may determine the efficacy/effectiveness of our learning
  8. Enables us to negotiate complex learning needs

Replace “what would constitute a connective learning ecology?” with “what kind of educator would suit or engender a connective learning ecology?” and it becomes easier to think about the problem instantly.

That is, the answer that the educator should “model” and “demonstrate” his connective learning process/ability/efficiency while the learner should “practice” and “reflect” (I think “observation” and “experimentation” are equally critical skills), makes sense because the ability to do all of the above needs to be learnt by the learner. The objective is perhaps that the learner be empowered with the learning skills and ecologies of the educator (as George Siemens says “…A curator is an expert learner”).

What if there was no educator or formal role for one? What happens in that truly open, autonomous, distributed, uncontrolled network? Is there an ecology for the solitary learner; for the ones that are faced with unequal access; those who have technological/social barriers or limitations?

In a sense then, perhaps we should look at the design and metrics of a connectivist ecology from a different lens altogether – where the ecology contains components that inherently propel the learner to become a curator.

Instead of providing a chat tool and a structured interaction and participation schedule, it should provide (for lack of a better technologically unchallenged term) a “default” mechanism for learning that propels the learner to make connections, practice and reflect, observe & build & recognize distributed knowledge patterns.

It is here that the discussion around types of networks becomes really important. At the neural level, it is really immersion into the environment (“increased awareness?”); at the conceptual level it is the ability for the ecology to provide some ways of exploring and building concept patterns and at the social level, the learning network of people (and devices) itself in a given context. It is here also that we should perhaps attack the concerns around motivation and participation.

Perhaps when the three (and there may be more) types of networks come together in some way, they become really powerful for learning. For example, experiencing rain-drops, recognizing the dark cloud visual and listening to the thunderclap, associating it with concepts of cloud formation and effects of rainfall, and, warning your friend not to venture out, may be an example of learning could manifest itself given this three way association (there could be self spiraling associations within a network type itself).

Where would the metrics then come in and how would they be designed? In another corporate context, I once read a powerful article by John R. Hauser and Gerald M. Katz titled “Metrics: You are what you measure!”. In my mind and as they state, successful metrics are good if the actions and decisions which improve the metrics also improve the firm’s (read “learner’s”) desired long term outcomes (read “learning ability” or “expertise”). They list seven pitfalls of metric design and how these can completely subvert the metric design exercise. They also list an equal number of steps to design good metrics such as “Listen to the customer” and “Understand the inter-relationships” all of which I think are useful ways to think about what to avoid and what to follow.

The main point is that we need to understand if score, time elapsed, distance between two nodes (a.k.a. social network analysis), e-portfolio submission & ratings et al are good metrics in this connectivist ecology. Instead, wouldn’t we ask questions relating to or perform investigation into how well the learner is able to learn using the “default” mechanism I referred to earlier? For example, speed of learning could be perhaps (or maybe I am being too simplistic) the rate of change of new patterns, network connections, conversations; or the measure of expertise would be the number, qualitative rating, network perception or rate of interaction between you and the resources in your network?

As always, would love to be corrected and to know your thoughts!

I have an occasion to do a little research on the Montessori method. Named after Dr. Maria Montessori, who, in 1896, was the first woman in Italy to graduate out of medical school, the Montessori method seems to have rich similarities with Connectivism.

The basic Montessori concepts are pretty well known by now (Montessori in Perspective, 1966). 1 – The teacher must pay attention to the child, rather than the child paying attention to the teacher. 2 – The child proceeds at his own pace in an environment controlled to provide means of learning. 3 – Imaginative teaching materials are the heart of the process. 4 – Each of them is self-correcting, thus enabling the child to proceed at his own pace and see his own mistakes. If you were to look inside a Montessori classroom, you would get the impression of “controlled chaos” because each child would be quietly working at his private encounter with whatever learning task he or she chose (Montessori in Perspective, 1966).

(Quoted from http://www.webster.edu/~woolflm/montessori2.html, retrieved January 10, 2009)

Dr. Montessori said “I studied my children, and they taught me how to teach them.” And also her general principle – “first education of the senses, then education of the intellect”.

‘The essential thing is for the task to arouse such an interest that it engages the child’s whole personality’ (Maria Montessori – The Absorbent Mind: 206).

This connected with a further element in the Montessori programme – decentring the teacher. The teacher was the ‘keeper’ of the environment. While children got on with their activities the task was to observe and to intervene from the periphery. (Here there are a number of parallels with Dewey).

(Quoted from http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-mont.htm, retrieved January 10, 2009)

Cammy Bean, was at the same juncture as I am today. Sending my son to formal school. But my son also has had an year of so already under his belt at a Montessori pre-school. She asks:

So, the question is, can we make the Montessori Method a part of the coporate learning environment? Is that what all this informal/DIY/learning 2.0 stuff is all about?

Constance Steinkuehler in her post Digital Montessori for Big Kids, likens virtual worlds to digital environments natively conducive to the Montessori method.

The Microlearning conference 2005 proceedings“Learning and Working in New Media Environments” (June 23-24, 2005, University of Innsbruck, Austria) has an interesting paper by Gernot Tscherteu titled “The Blogosphere Map – Visualizing Microcontent Dissemination” (looks very similar to what Valdis Krebs does :)). The principles of the Montessori method are referenced in the context of microlearning:

  • the Montessori pedagogue is acting in the background, and,
  • Learning by playing in mixed groups
  • Free schedules, no collective teaching
  • Prepared environment
  • Learning materials are kind of small interactive games for real life learning experiences
  • Sensomotoric

Very similar to what I have learnt about connectivism e.g. the second is a characteristic of networks if you think about it.

Microlearning itself seems to be an interesting concept. Theo Hug summaries different dimensions together in his paper “Microlearning: A New Pedagogical Challenge” in the same Austrian conference.

There is not one precise definition which covers all the different concepts. In my view there are versions which are brought forth by different interpretations of particular dimensions such as:

  • Time: relatively short effort, operating expense, degree of time consumption, measurable time, subjective time, etc.
  • Content: small or very small units, narrow topics, rather simplex issues, etc.
  • Curriculum: part of curricular setting, parts of modules, elements of informal learning, etc.
  • Form: fragments, facets, episodes, „knowledge nuggets“, skill elements, etc.
  • Process: separate, concomitant or actual, situated or integrated activities, iterative method, attention management, awareness (getting into or being in a process), etc.
  • Mediality: face-to-face, mono-media vs. multi-media, (inter-)mediated, information objects or learning objects, symbolic value, cultural capital, etc.
  • Learning type: repetitive, activist, reflective, pragmatist, conceptionalist, constructivist, connectivist, behaviourist, learning by example, task or exercise, goal- or problem-oriented, „along the way“, action learning, classroom learning, corporate learning, conscious vs. unconscious, etc.

Interesting meanderings so far!

Is there something like that at all? In a discussion yesterday, an important point was made by a participant – we don’t want perfect environments to be created for our learners, even if we could create them.

Why is this important to discuss? Everywhere around us there are “frictional” forces that impede or obscure – could be authority, access, lack of infrastructure or others – the learning process.

The ability to learn to cope with these forces becomes equally critical as the process of sense-making or wayfinding in a connectivist paradigm.

What is this ability?  The best way to place this ability in stark contrast is to assume a limiting factor. Let us say the individual has no access to (say) Web 2.0 technology. Specifically, the ability to form online networks / inter-personal relationships and instant online collaboration does not exist for this individual.

For her, sense-making would be based in a world of books & letters, local resources, chance encounters and possibly luck in tems of finding the right connections for her purpose. She would then possibly compensate for this frictional force in many other ways and an important factor here would be individual agency, apart from environmental facilitation and personal skill. She would actively seek and pursue opportunities that allow her to overcome this frictional force in a unique manner.

This ability to innovate & learn within physical world and personal constraints is equally important as the process of learning itself – maybe an inseparable aspect.

Connectivism makes the negotiation of information an important aspect of the learning ability, maybe it should include negotiation of real world constraints as well.

In a previous post, I tried to identify some of the impacts of connectivist practice on visual design. Primarily, these are:

  • Usability
  • Visual “languages”
  • HCI Design
  • Programmable patterns depicted visually
  • Shared visual patterns
  • Ease of authoring new media and media mashups

I was referred to ManyEyes through a blog post (I think it was George’s post) and found it extremely interesting, not because of what it does (because that has been experimented earlier), but because of the way they have put it together – large number of visualization types and ease of authoring.

What is especially interesting is what they call topic hubs. What this means is that anyone can go in, start a discussion topic and add visualizations and data to it.

So these are really combinations of two different ideas – mashup between data and presentation style, and, collaboration around a shared object(s).

I think these are powerful ways of visual collaboration. Within connectivism, they offer an important way of making connections thereby impacting learning. 

What would be even more interesting is if someone took two or more different media mashups and started mashing them together.

For example, a world map showing pollution levels across major cities could be drilled down (or linked to other related visualizations) into a bar chart which could then be tagged to a Technorati tag list in addition to a Twitter conversation in addition to….

For the visual designer (as well as the educator), these represent important starting points to think about the multi-dimensionality provided by connectivism.

I read a series of contributions by Stephen, George, Pontydysgu, Attwell, and reviewed PLE diagrams and Wiki entries. George makes the point that PLEs are antithetical to existing educational systems, which are really  structures of power, accountability and control based in a sociological context, not focussed on learner needs and goals.

For this reason, PLEs, which are based on learners needs/goals and concerned with individual and personal autonomy and learning, cannot move into the center of the learning process until the underlying power relationships change.

Attwell suggests that the next steps in research and development of PLEs should include

  • examining in depth how individuals are using computers for learning in different settings (especially non-educational technology) and outside the setting of formal educational programmes;
  • exploring the relationship between informal learning and formal learning in developing competence;
  • examining different forms of competence and how educational technology can support such competences;
  • examining the use of different social software applications for learning;
  • examining in depth the nature and form of computer mediated interactions between learners in different communities;
  • examining the implications of persistence of data for Personal Learning Environments;
  • examining the different ways in which learners might wish to represent learning (both formal and informal);
  • examining what materials are used for informal learning and how they are used;
  • exploring the implications of changing forms and patterns of learning for educational institutions;
  • exploring ways of representing and patterning learning activities interactions;
  • exploring ways of utilising different services – both within and between institutions and with broader communities – to support PLE-type activities;
  • exploring issues in standards and interoperability to facilitate PLE-type development;
  • exploring how PLE-type applications and services can be integrated or work alongside existing educational applications and services

These are important inclusions. For example, Attwell talks about standards, interoperability, nature and forms of computer mediated interaction and data persistence, which are all going to be important for toolmakers and designers of PLEs.

Pontydysgu talks about the inherent contradictions in capitalist societies (and the associated systematized superstructures of education systems) and the power of individual & collective agency (as a transformative agent).

It is also important to reference Lisa Lane’s strategy for change in this context:

The solution is subversive application of connectivist and other useful learning ideas within the current structure, an insurgence for the purpose of fostering emergence.

The discussion begs two questions:

  1. Apart from shifts in underlying power relations, are there any other enabling factors for the adoption of PLEs (as tool/process/concept)?
  2. Is the mode of change that is required “insurgent” or “revolutionary”?

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