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Following up from my earlier post on Native Collaboration Techniques, let me elaborate on the concept using an example situation for collaboration. Let us take a scenario where the technology platform is a Virtual Classroom where learners dial-in using a phone line or VoIP.  They connect to the virtual collaboration platform component which allows things like application sharing, presentations, surveys, quizzes, breakout rooms etc. At the end of the class, records for attendance and quiz results are stored for future analysis. The network level access is brought about by one-to-one or one-to-many chat sessions or back channels that learners can initiate while the class is going on.

Let us assume a content/domain of collaboration, say, sales training. Let us take the simple example of a topic that focuses on (say) requirements capture or needs analysis from a customer and the offer of the correct product to the customer.

The context in this scenario could be the need to shorten the ramp up time for training new hires on the company’s basic process for sales so that they can become productive quicker than usual. From the new hire perspective, the state of world is that they have to use their prior experience, skills learnt and practice in the classroom to make sure that they not only understand the products, but also the customers and the sales process.

Let us assume that the company has invested in building  a simulation that models the products, best practices and customer profiles in their business and provides a real-life immersive activity for the learner to learn and practice on skills.

Now, in the class, the basic process is explained with a couple of examples. The instructor then starts the collaborative activity. This activity is really the simulation they have developed but with one major difference. The difference is that instead of the learners playing them outside the context of the collaboration platform (like a LAB situation), the simulation provides the instructor a way to see how each individual learner (or groups that she may have created in the class) are performing. That means. the instructor can literally view the sales process executing in the hands of the learners and can intervene at any point if a select indicator for a specific step in the process shows an alert for a user.

It could also be that the learners co-execute a simulation. This could be made possible if the instructor creates teams and configures them to use various channels (closed user groups) for collaboration so that they could combine efforts to execute the sales process on the simulator.

In this situation, the simulation and the virtual platform operate seamlessly together to bring the right results from the collaborative activity. Not only are the basic elements of the classroom (instructor, learners’ roster, help materials etc) available to the simulator, but also the simulator provides its own integration points (interrupt a process, view collaboration activities in a group, trace key decision points etc) to the virtual platform.

In this sense, this is an example where the best collaboration practices and expertise in the domain can be brought together to augment the learning experience. This is something that could be standardized and built into frameworks much like the way SCORM has evolved, as well as take current collaboration platforms to the next level.


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!


Starting with mind maps as a central way of modeling thoughts, the tool is quite like CMap. Allows tagged links and resources from delicious and other tools to be used and attached to each concept or thought node. It also allows “souping” knowledge using a centralized repository on the web that you can host with permission. However, this tool goes beyond in terms of usability and features. First, it is Web 2.0 based. Second it allows fragments or entire concept maps to be “imported” from one user to another. They call these concept maps journeys that can be shared and embedded.

Interesting concept because our project group in CCK08 was trying to get our maps together but could not do so because of disconnected terminology – no way to map nodes and compare because of language or representation (two different terms meaning the same, even typos, inconsistent use of mapping rules etc) problems. IMINDI does not address those problems.

They also have something called a Mindex or mind index which is really putting together the different journeys starting from a single keyword. So they take a keyword/concept term and check their database for all first level associations and so on. The results are pretty powerful at first glance. When quizzed on the business model, the CEO of IMINDI remarked that unlike Google that has to write a search engine to collect thoughts (read “nodes”), they are getting their users to pubish and voluntarily make the connections with what they want to know, some kind of reverse search (if there is such a thing).

The reviewers thought this was, well, a little far fetched and could not relate it to how people would even want to invest time upfront to create a mental map in the first place. They  thought the company would do better to focus on the enterprise as a testing ground.

This is an example of a good thought, but no clear articulation of value for the effort.

I read George’s post and reference to CISCO’s beliefs with great interest. There are systemic barriers to change almost anywhere change occurs. But John Chambers suggests that changing the structure of the organization is key to making innovation work somewhat like C K Prahalad and M S Krishnan outline in their book, The New Age of Innovation. They talk about co-created experiences and access (rather than ownership) of global resources as two fundamental pillars of a organizational structure. 

The locus of value is seen to be shifting from products and services to experiences that are personalizable at a large scale, yet being affordable and high quality. N=1 involves a new approach to access and use of resources. The authors term this R=G. The necessity is that no one firm can even attempt to own/access all the different resources that it would need for creating new experiences for the customer in an N=1 world.

To this end, they build a framework for innovation that organizations can leverage. This seems to be a useful approach for looking at how educational systems can be transformed by structural change in the pursuit of innovation and excellence. It also seems consonant with Connectivism as the inspiration and rational basis for the change to occur.

As I have started feeling, maybe the change should percolate from top down rather than from K-12 to adult education. But a thorough analysis of and architecture for the structural changes that may be required seems to be crucial at this moment.

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”?

This is the final project submission for CCK08. Thanks to George and Stephen for providing an extremely effective ecology for Connectivism and connective knowledge! Thanks also to all the participants who made this an enjoyable and thought provoking experience. Hoping that we will continue this dialogue onwards into the future.

YouTube video accompanying this project submission.

A special note for the musketeers – Carlos and Maru – thank you for your support!

 The questions that were asked of us and my responses are given below.

1. What is the quality of my learning networks: diversity, depth, how connected am I?

Extremely connected. Although I was unable to contribute as comments as frequently as I would like in the Moodle forum or CCK08 blogs, I think I managed to read/skim through a very large number of the forum and blog posts with the help of the subscriptions and the Daily. Maybe I need to be more involved in ideas that others propose to be able to interest others in mine!

However as far as learning goes, I think the blog posts themselves, rather than the sparse conversations through comments around most of them, served more as thought triggers. The Moodle discussions were real conversations though that provided a far greater diversity and depth. Diversity was immense though I did feel the lack of interaction with profiles similar to my own.

I think there was a lot of depth across all the weeks of discussion that the participants exhibited. This depth is really what made me understand the gaps in my own education. The biggest decisions I had to make was to balance the travails of running a company with the ambitions I had to transcend these gaps.

2. How has this course influenced my view of the process of learning (assuming, of course, that it has)?

This course, for me, actually started a few months before it did physically. I had been following up with George and Stephen’s writings and debates all over the web (started with Learning 2.0) and was very impressed and in-line with what I read and heard.

But for me, the real impact was not learning how connectivism was defined, was distinct and was impacted by a confluence of many theories/concepts, but the basic understanding that knowledge could really be connective and that learning could be the process of making connections.

I struggled with the technology bias because I usually resist that in whatever I do, despite being a technologist, but I think I am at peace now with the way George and Stephen approach it (especially from the last Friday session of the course).

This course has also exposed a number of factors to me that can influence (both engender and impede) connective learning, but has not yet gone more beyond the use of technology per se in the implementational aspect.

3. What types of questions are still outstanding?

The types of questions that are still outstanding are around:

  • Neuroscience – can the new developments really describe intelligence?
  • How would connectivism work in the strict absence of technology or language or even people?
  • What other theories are there that could impact connectivism as strongly as self organization, chaos and complexity?
  • What are *acceptable* practical ways of implementing the theory?
  • What kind of a perspective do toolmakers need to adopt when crafting PLEs or the next generation of tools?
  • What kind of open, autonomous ecologies can replace the structures of traditional classrooms – are these ecologies going to be sustainable and extensible?

Many more questions are more domain specific. I think each node in my concept map has covered an entire very large domain of research and thought that I need to explore in a structured manner.

4. How can you incorporate connectivist principles in your design and delivery of learning?

At this point, I am dealing mostly with corporate training. I can see how these could be applied, but the predominant question (and it comes from within the dominant paradigm) is how progress can be assessed and measured using designs based on connectivist principles.

With the work we (Servitium) are doing in simulations, we have taken a step away from the semantic web / RDBMS representation of knowledge to associative knowledge. We are using loosely connected “fragments” to create “patterns” of knowledge, but still need to research how the latest techniques in neurosciences (and AI) can help make these more explicit and sophisticated.

Another initiative we have taken is to make the design process itself connective through sharing and collaboration using blogs of training design in a way that is accessible by a variety of stakeholders. The results of that one are still to be obtained.

As part of my ongoing research into personalization, I realized that networked learning depends critically on the process of socialization, as much as perhaps on having the tools for networking. Indeed, the solutions here may be far more difficult to conceptualize or implement than is the case with technology. I am specifically interested in this from yet another dimension – perhaps this requires an added metaphor for educators in a connected world.

As John Q. Johnston writes:

While the mission statements and policy documents of schools generally, reflect a view of education as an open-ended, dynamic and life-long process and pledge commitment to an eclectic approach to teaching and learning which takes account of individual needs, the fact is that practice sometimes falls short of such ideals. Indeed,according to Gammage (1986, p 82) the reality is often shown to be one of modestly child-centred and individual approaches, mixed with a large core of class teaching and recognisably planned and sequenced teacher direction.

John’s study, that uses the Learning Combination Inventory, talks about different types of learners characterised by specific learning preference profiles (sequential, precise, technical and confluent processing). Similar work has been done elsewhere – for example, Learning Styles Inventory and the Learning Orientations model.

In fact, the former describes the “social (interpersonal) learning style” as:

If you have a strong social style, you communicate well with people, both verbally and non-verbally. People listen to you or come to you for advice, and you are sensitive to their motivations, feelings or moods. You listen well and understand other’s views. You may enjoy mentoring or counseling others.

You typically prefer learning in groups or classes, or you like to spend much one-on-one time with a teacher or an instructor. You heighten your learning by bouncing your thoughts off other people and listening to how they respond. You prefer to work through issues, ideas and problems with a group. You thoroughly enjoy working with a “clicking” or synergistic group of people.

You prefer to stay around after class and talk with others. You prefer social activities, rather than doing your own thing. You typically like games that involve other people, such as card games and board games. The same applies to team sports such as football or soccer, basketball, baseball, volleyball, baseball and hockey.

Rupert Wegerif talks about research (I could only access the abstract) where it was found that:

…individual success or failure on the course depended upon the extent to which students were able to cross a threshold from feeling like outsiders to feeling like insiders. Factors affecting the construction of a sense of community are drawn out from interviews with students. The significance of these findings is discussed in relation to a situated model of learning as induction into a community of practice. Finally recommendations are made for the support of community building in the design of courses.

This last quote, is perhaps why I suggested that the existing metaphors of educators need to be extended. I believe that educators and instructional designers should also take on roles that help them incorporate strategies for enabling students to “cross thresholds” and recognize that barriers to socialization need to be overcome if connectivist learning is to occur at all.

As always, would love to hear from you all and voraciously read any references you may care to provide!


This started out as an email, but transformed into a blog post (probably for the better), when I found I had very few email addresses 🙂

It’s been a great experience reading through all your posts and being part of the CCK08 experience. I have benefited greatly from the contributions made by the participants and for me, it has really brought home the immense diversity that the network brings.

As I was thinking about what I should try and do for the final project submission, I thought that a real way of assessing the nature, diversity and strength of my network was to reach out to my peers in the experience and request them to review one of my papers. I believe this will be useful from a variety of perspectives. Not only will I be able to receive honest and blunt critique of my contribution, but it will be a good way of evaluating how a peer review process would really work in a network of this kind.

I would really appreciate it if you could spare sometime providing a peer review for my Paper 2 : Changing Roles.

I know it is short notice and may be too much to ask given your own schedule and priorities or that you may not be interested. Do please feel free to not participate in this peer review. Let me know in any case.

If you do decide to participate in the peer review, here are some details:


Assignment: Paper 2

Learner: Viplav Baxi

Marker: <Your name here>

Date: <Review Date here>

Marking Criteria:



Arguments presented in the paper are supported with appropriate and relevant citations


Citations should include both course discussion (blogs, Moodle forums, live discussions in elluminate and Ustream) and course readings.


Synthesis and integration of various concepts discussed during the course


Creativity and originality of ideas presented



Grade: <A+/A/A-, B+/B/B-, C>


Looking forward to hearing from you all!

This final paper is less formal and can be seen as a free roaming thought piece. Reflect on the opportunities and resistance found in society and organizations in adopting different approaches to teaching and learning. Why is it so difficult to change the practice of education? What kinds of opportunities can we embrace if we are able to make fundamental and systemic changes? What can we learn from voices of resistance? Can our current world of weak ties and easy connections produce the depth of learning required to meet the complex challenges facing our future?

Ray Kurzweil, in his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, talks about his Law of Time and Chaos. The law is stated as:

In a process, the time interval between salient events (that is, events that change the nature of the process, or significantly affect the future of the process) expands or contracts along with the amount of chaos.

As the level of entropy decreases, that is, an increase in orderliness becomes apparent, the interval between salient events decreases. By implication, he provides a sublaw, the Law of Increasing Chaos, stated:

As chaos exponentially increases, time exponentially slows down (that is, the time interval between salient events grows longer as time passes).

He posits an inverse sublaw, the Law of Accelerating Returns, stated:

As order exponentially increases, time exponentially speeds up (that is, the time interval between salient events grows shorter as time passes).


Order is information that fits a purpose…For example, a new theory that ties together apparently disparate ideas into one broader, more coherent theory reduces complexity, but nonetheless may increase the “order for a purpose”…

How does this relate to the challenges and opportunities that we face in any area, not just education, and not just with Connectivism but different approaches to teaching and learning?

I believe that it provides one effective way to think about how change can be brought about – by moving to more orderliness.

And how can we move to more orderliness? To understand this we must look at the elements that hinder the change and the main drivers that would facilitate it – the resistance and opportunities in adopting different approaches to teaching and learning.

For many, the real barrier to change is change itself. This is perhaps more common than we care to imagine. Patterson, Purkey, and Parker (1986, p. 98) state (quoted from SEDL – School Context: Bridge or Barrier to Change) that:

Lasting fundamental change (e.g. changes in teaching practices or the decision making structure) requires understanding and, often, altering the school’s culture; cultural change is a slow process.

That technology, innovation and new ways of learning and teaching will always be encouraged in any academic institution or process is not true. Attitudes and beliefs about the way the world works or personal preferences, knowledge and infrastructural limitations, affect how a change will be perceived and embraced. As an example, let us look at the questions around openness raised by Matthias in CCK08: Week 10, Openness.

The enormity of what Connectivism asks us to do can be realized in this very context – re-evaluate the role of educators, think of the network or connectedness as the base architecture for learning and re-assess notions of identity, power, law, authority, expertise, assessment and control in the light of the new theory.

At the level of implementation, much is still not clear – maybe not so much at the level of the individual course or two, but at the collective level where logistics, the forces of demand and supply, information asymmetry, politics and culture play important and influential roles. This is where I think there will be the most barriers to change.

I submit that Connectivism is not anything less than large scale, disruptive change, and attempts to incorporate it within an existing system would be to dilute the meaning and essence of the theory itself.

But what the ongoing debate in this course does not give us at this time, is time itself! To be able to propose something new at this scale, its utility or effects have to be demonstrated and documented. And that takes time. After all, the effects of technology or any new development often do not appear immediately, but take a while to appear. For example, research that proves that use of mobile phones is harmful for children may well throw mobile learning out completely for that segment.

I think the biggest opportunity at this time is to focus on the implementation specifics of theory and allowing its refinement and further amalgamation of other related areas e.g. HCI and personalization, through practice and reflection.

But this will require some concerted effort, some orderliness. To start with, the networks that have emerged here in CCK08, should continue to only expand in future editions of this initiative, with new people and ideas continuing to expand and diversify the network.

Secondly, I think from the perspective of need (cost, time, quality of learning), the adult education space may be more suited to start with. The time is ripe for the next generation of learning formations and technology to be introduced on a wider scale and there will perhaps be the least resistance here (I may be wrong!).

Adrian Hill references the Innovation Time Off motivation technique from Google. In an article from Chief Learning Officer Magazine, Summerfield talks about how IBM has successfully applied “intelligent mentoring” in global integration. Sheila Forte-Trammell, a learning consultant and co-author of Intelligent Mentoring: How IBM Creates Value through People, Knowledge, and Relationships, says:

“With regard to integration, we’re looking at connecting every person and every process, regardless of geography, time differences and cultural differences,” she said. “That integration starts with two people, and then we extend that practice across the business. We can’t operate in an individual space anymore.”

These efforts are a tiny sample of the changes that educators are trying to bring about and will continue to. Whether the ripples will change into a stream and a stream into a flood will depend on the ability of proponents to spread awareness of and enable educators to implement new models through, justly enough, the very network that they espouse.

There will, inevitably, be counteracting forces that will offer much to learn from. These are not just forces of resistance, but also wise counsel and diverse thought that shall only serve to enrich thinking about theory and implementation.

Can this world of weak ties really help us meet the challenges of now and the future? Well, it does now and it can in many ways in the future – provided we use these ties in consonance with an overall purpose, especially in a learning context.

In summary, my call to change, as Einstein said:

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.


I put together a very abstract 10,000 ft high view of what I have been learning so far in this course. I don’t find it very useful to navigate so many inter-relationships in one large map (what a tangled web we weave).

(View the full sized image)

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