The shifting basis of certainty has been a critical focus during week 5-8. Through readings and discussions, we have focused on complexity, chaos theory, instructional design, power and control, and the changing roles for educators. For your second paper, select your point of emphasis as that of the instructional designer or educator. Explore changing roles for your selected field. Do you agree their roles are changing? If so, what are appropriate responses? What are impediments to change? If not, how can current trends be best utilized to serve in the traditional role of educator or designer? In your paper, focus on creative conceptualizations of different roles (or different approaches to serve new needs in existing roles) played by educators. Consider metaphors that capture your views. Times of change permit reformulations of existing viewpoints. Take this opportunity to enjoy a creative stroll in rethinking “what could be”.

Note: Apologize for the length of this one!

For me, the educator and the instructional designer roles are intricately linked in many ways. In fact I think it is a mistake to think about them in isolation. In most universities that I know of, at least in India, the pre-requisite for getting a teaching job is a degree in the specific domain without considering if the candidate has any understanding of how to teach, which is so wrong. The only difference there could be is that some people could be playing one role more actively than the other. 

That there needs to be a change or that we need to adapt innovatively is obvious given the various factors of changing technology, new forms of media, new architectures of participation, increasing exposure to & diversification of knowledge & information and social collaboration that are representative of the new digital age.

A few key factors will influence this change dramatically. In my opinion, these are:

  1. awareness of a changed context and the major aspects of that change
  2. the ability to adapt learning experiences, cope with changing learner profiles, evolve institutional structures and create innovative learning designs based on the impact on each of the fundamental components that comprise a learning experience
  3. a structured, well-researched and well-informed adoption of these changes
  4. the capacity to evolve and adapt as new changes sweep the landscape upsetting some of the things we consider important today

It is important also to consider the context within which educators and instructional designers are expected to operate in a connective world. The five major aspects (Learning 2.0 Formal Methodologies, Viplav Baxi,) common to any learning experience are:

  • Global/specific outcomes desired / end-goals – participative, self driven, contextual; outcomes could also be unintentional/serendipitous but there is an overall end that the educator is trying to achieve both in terms of building connective capability and in terms of establishing that the student has been able to connectively negotiate the process of sense making to a desired degree
  • Time – a set amount of time allocated by the learner in the context of the end-goal and the institutional/program objectives, explicitly or implicitly, to achieve a desired level of proficiency (or demonstrable ability)
  • Measures – some personal/network way of establishing/confirming achievement that could include some form of social network based assessment (like soft peer reviews)
  • Improvement – continuous innovation through diversity of views; lifelong learning – essentially a measure and demonstration of the ability of the learner to form connections and make sense
  • Knowledge – diverse forms of media, contribution and interaction (cooperative and collaborative) generated learning based on the network need to be leveraged

There could be more, but I think these are core to any educational design opportunity. This is not an attempt to set constraints on the educator/instructional designer or the learner, but to provide an overall framework of constraints/opportunities within which she can establish a connective learning experience.

Structured, well-researched and well-informed adoption of these changes are key to successful implementations. While espousing constructivist principles, advocating the ideas of “telecollaboration” and “global classrooms”, educators and policy makers have assumed that certain activities will automatically occur once schools are connected to the network infrastructure. (Burniske and Monke, 2001, p.11).

Burniske (like Giambattista Vico who said “the true is precisely what is made” (verum esse ipsum factum) and Create the truth that you wish to know; and I, in knowing the truth that you have proposed to me, will make it in such a way that there will be no possibility of my doubting it, since I am the very one who has made it.) invokes Aesop’s Lion to state …Educators have experienced enough reform movements to know that today’s technological panacea may become tomorrow’s placebo. (quoted in Burniske and Monke, 2001, p. 9).

Connectivism Impacts

For an instructional designer, the challenges are multiple. She needs to:

  1. understand the theory, identify frameworks for implementation
  2. adjust to and enhance learner autonomy
  3. understand the impact of complexity, self-organization, information overload and chaos on learning
  4. utilize all available resources and learn to apply and adapt existing techniques that have been used and discard ones that do not fit the new genre
  5. negotiate fast moving technology and new and evolving knowledge & interaction channels

Additionally, the instructional designer cannot be immune to the impact on related areas of visualization (usability, graphics design, HCI, programmable visual design, navigation frameworks, more pervasive use of graphics tools), of subject matter expertise, learning management and design of learning solutions.(CCK08-Connectivism Impacts, Viplav Baxi).

Educators or instructional designers must realize that their own learning is connective in nature. This has a major impact on the design process because no longer are we applying traditional methodologies in the same way. Take, for example, the process of developing content. In a connective world, that process becomes a part of the bigger picture viz. developing a learnscape (Jay Cross, Learnscapes).

Not only that, they have to realize that connective experiences will lead to emergent concepts and individual & network phenomena that they have to continuously cultivate into their designs. This is a major impact on the way educators shall learn to negotiate new designs and technologies and weave them into the learning experience.

Two initiatives that attempt to put together a collection of resources around possible new network pedagogies are worth mentioning here as well. The first is the Network Pedagogies Portal at Athabasca University, Canadaand the other is Cloudworks, a portal that facilitates social networking for learning design (Grainne Conole, Cloudworks, social networking for learning design). Resources such as these could become part of the connective evolution of learning design itself.

Learning Ecologies

Jay Cross’s learnscape architecture is an exciting formalized way of looking at how IDs/educators can look at engendering a connectivist experience of learning. Jay Cross writes “The learnscape architect strives to create a learning environment that increases the organization’s longevity and health and the individual learner’s happiness and well-being…..I am developing a pattern language of learning archetypes to make it easier for organizations to assemble optimal learnscapes.” (Learnscape Architecture, Jay Cross).

George Siemens also provides a list of similar approaches in his post, Networks, Ecologies, and Curatorial Teaching.

Power and Governance

The notions of autonomy, power, rights and governance need to be also placed into this context. Power and distributed power need to be defined in the discussion (Stephen Downes, Elluminate Discussion, Week 8 of CCK08). Also, is there good power and bad power? Sharon Peters makes some compelling remarks:

Once we have established that relationship of trust and accountability, control and power can slowly be given over to the learners.Let’s not forget the element of humanity and what it is to be human as we explore the issues of power, control, validity and authority.

And then there is the whole notion of identity and self in relation to power. How do we perceive the self in relation to others? Who is “powerful”? In contrast, who is “powerless”(Jenny MacKness)? How does negotiation and transfer of power occur between the self and the other/network? What happens when someone who is powerful loses power and vice versa. How do entrenched users in the network treat new opinions and socialize with newcomers?

Fritjof Capra writes “…The boundaries of living networks, then, are not boundaries of separation but boundaries of identity.”(Living Networks, Fritjof Capra)

Lisa Lane provides some insights into the discussion around rights, and personal power and around the importance of personality in control. Bradley Shoebottom makes an important point that what may work in one ecology may not work in another because there are different users and different tools being used. Catherine Fitzpatrick makes a forceful point “…as long as there are grades, there will be power, authority and control”. Wendy Drexler differentiates between individual, group and network power, both perceived and actual. It is important to note Wenger’s contribution (CoP: Best Practices, Etienne Wenger) in the context of the post by Wendy and her reference to Pau Skidmore. Dolores Capdet also references Bochenski’s epistemological and ethical categories of authority.

These are important concepts that educators and instructional designers have to experiment with in their connectivist design and implementation practices.

Other Major impacts

Related and important in their own right are the concepts around emotion, motivation and the socialization process itself that need to be considered. Suifai John Mak and others have also raised the role of legislation and how it would impact education and learning programs.

I would like to also mention two other references here. The first is the JISC Technology and Standards Watch, 2007 article by Paul Anderson in which he talks about collection and preservation of the web (Section 5.4 Libraries, repositories and archiving). I firmly believe that there must be concerted attempts and cognizance of this important task for educators and instructional designers.

The second reference I want to make is to Valdis Kreb’s product, inFlow, that is used as a tool for Social Network Analysis (Valdis Krebs, Emergent Networks – referenced & summarized at, something I believe will evolve into a necessary tool for learning solution designers.

Some Metaphors

Based on these, several metaphors (quoted from Learning and Knowing in Networks: Changing roles for Educators and Designers, presentation to ITFORUM, George Siemens) for the educator can emerge. There are many that George Siemens has suggested – master artist or atelier model of learning [John Seely Brown, 2006], Network Administrator [Clarence Fisher], Concierge[Curtis Bonk], Curator [George Siemens]. I would like to propose some more.

Educator as a weaver – just like a weaver puts together many threads and creates a design, the same way an educator would need to weave together many networks so that her learners can appreciate and autonomously navigate a base from which a rich set of patterns can be recognized and negotiated. Unlike a weaver, though, the educator would need to leave the design unfinished, with plenty of raw ends and partial designs as well so that the learner is able to build and expand on patterns through diverse influences not even conceived at the time of creating the first design. Over time, the weaver must also enrich the design with her own and learners’ evolution in the network in a seamless way.

Educators as pattern builders – those who are able to build logical interconnections to make a field intelligible to the learner at each stage of learning. The educator must preserve the patterns in a way that can be accessed and re-harnessed for reference or for new learners. This is going to be a critical function. In the existing paradigm, lots of great learning experiences are simply lost because the people or the machines that enable these experiences exit the system. There must be a framework that can allow related patterns (Paris is the capital of France vs Paris is where Disney is), to accumulate. This accumulation also needs to have temporal and other annotations that the educator can describe.

Learning Personalization

One of the thoughts here was that there could be close pattern relationships in how two very diverse and different people learn that could prove an important asset in personalization techniques. My belief is that, by default, you teach or articulate just as the way you would learn, the way it makes sense to you.

If we could find a contributor who learns the way we do, my learning would perhaps be more effective. If we are, in the future, able to collate, compare and associate learning patterns themselves, we may just be able to greatly impact the huge problem of personalization in learning.

Evolution to NBTs and NLTs

An approach that I propose is to start thinking of what forms of content and learning experiences can educators start quantifying. Let me define Network based training (NBT) as a framework for sense making for the autonomous learner that leverages the principles of network learning and Network led training (NLT) as concerted efforts by a learning formation (defined as a range in the continuum between groups and networks or connectives & collectives) to facilitate and drive learning initiatives across the formation. These could leverage best practices of traditional WBTs and ILTs and situate them in the current context (Viplav Baxi, CCK08: Network based and Network Led Training).

In Conclusion

The biggest impediment to this change is the change itself. There is simply no system that people believe can replace the logistical capability of the current system. I have heard of experiments that started off in a diametrically opposite manner to the traditional system, but had to merge with the traditional when it came to the accepted national examination schedule.

Contrary to what others would probably feel, I think that this change should be driven from the level of the adult to the level of the child – from adult and continuing education to K12.

This is primarily to be able to experiment while preparing to build the infrastructure, processes and techniques to support the new mindset and the new learning experience. This negotiation of change has itself to be connective in nature and requires its own connective infrastructure (if I may call it that).


  1. Burniske R.W. and Monke, Lowell, Breaking down the digital walls, Learning to teach in a post-modem world, State University of New York Press, ISBN: 0-7914-4754-5, 2001
  2. Bradley Shoebottom, CCK08: Week 8: Authority,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  3. Catherine Fitzpatrick , (, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  4. Dolores Capdet , Two types of authority,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  5. Etienne Wenger, CoP: Best Practices, “Systems Thinker”, June 1998,
  6. George Siemens, Learning and Knowing in Networks: Changing roles for Educators and Designers, presentation to ITFORUM, January 27, 2008, also at , retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  7. George Siemens, Networks, Ecologies, and Curatorial Teaching,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08.
  8. Grainne Conole, Cloudworks: social networking for learning design,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  9. Jay Cross, Learnscape Architecture,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  10. Jay Cross, Learnscaping,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  11. Jenny MacKness, Thinking aloud about power, authority and control,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  12. Lisa Lane, Control by Personality,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  13. Lisa Lane, Response to Stephen: rights and power,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  14. Living Networks, Fritjof Capra, Network Logic – Who governs in an interconnected world, Ed. Helen McCarthy, Paul Miller, Paul Skidmore , Demos, 2004
  15. Net Pedagogy Portal , Evolution – Emerging Developments,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  16. Paul Anderson, What is Web 2.0?, Ideas, technologies and implications for education, 2007, also at, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  17. Sharon Peters, CCK08/Forums/Week 8: Power, Authority, Control, (, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  18. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Giambattista Vico,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  19. Suifai John Mak, How I see George and Stephen’s views in the UStream session Week8,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  20. Valdis Krebs, Emergent Networks,, referenced & summarized in, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  21. Viplav Baxi, CCK08: Network Based and Network Led Training,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  22. Viplav Baxi, CCK08-Connectivism Impacts,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  23. Viplav Baxi, Learning 2.0 Formal Methodologies,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08
  24. Wendy Drexler, CCK08 Power to the People,, retrieved on 01-Nov-08

Images courtesy various artists who have been kind enough to post on Flickr and elsewhere on the Web.