5 Things I’ve Learned
Rhonda Jessen threw down the gauntlet. . . post 5 things you have learned in 2013.
Only 5? 2013 was a year of massive learning for me. I took
the plunge, and returned to university, enrolling in a Master of Arts in Communication Technology
at the University
. So far . . .
has been great! So it is a major challenge to winnow my list down to five
things I have learned this year. Here are 5 of my key learnings from 2013.
- The Internet is a new language
- Twitter is powerful as a professional platform
- Qualitative inquiry is a respected academic
- cMOOCs fit my pedagogical values
- The 3 Cs: comments, creativity and credit are
1. The Internet is a
Under the guidance of Howard Rheingold
, and with an
international cohort of colleagues, I had the privilege of exploring the
history, ideas and practicalities involved with intellectual augmentation and
knowledge management. Howard introduced me to the work of Robert Logan
physicist and communications scholar at the University of Toronto. Logan maintains that the Internet
constitutes the sixth major human language in an evolutionary chain of
languages. The language of the Internet has five characteristic
- two way communication [I claim this
should be multi-way communication]
- ease of access of information
- continuous learning
- alignment and integration
multi-directional nature of accessing information via the Internet leads to the
corollary that accessing Internet information is very different from accessing
print information. The language of the Internet is not bound by linear
sequencing, either when it is being composed or when it is being consumed.
Hyperlinks disrupt top to bottom, left to right, first this then that
orientation. The way in which we understand, converse and communicate via the
Internet is altering the way in which we know what we know (our epistemology).
I have simply dipped my toes into this ocean but it continues to fascinate me
as it unfolds. The implication and ramifications of all this are challenging,
still unfolding, paradigm shifting and will have a major impact on education,
business and pretty much all aspects of society. Whoah – who wouldn’t be
fascinated to learn more! This little appetizer version of 1/5th of the things
I’ve learned does not do justice to the whole field or in anyway represent how
huge all of this is for me. I have continued to explore aspects of the Internet
as Language within the three grad courses I took this fall. Fellow graduate
student, Sean A. Jones and I wrote a paper, Zombie Lingo, that provides a
further look at some of the aspects of the Internet as a mega-language. Thanks Sean. My
thanks also go out to Mark Wolfe who created and taught a great course on using and
managing communication technology and introduced me to the work of Michael Heim
and Brian Winston.
2. Twitter is powerful as a professional
If the Internet
is a language characterized by the ease of accessing information, then how we access information is critical.
Conservative estimates indicate that the sum total of information available to
the world is doubling every eighteen months. Part of parleying Internet (as in
coming to a truce with the challenges of the Internet) is figuring out how to
effectively filter forward and how to flow. I mistakenly thought Twitter was
primarily about broadcasting personal missives on one’s whereabouts, likes,
dislikes and activities. What I discovered this year is that Twitter is an
incredibly rich, flexible way of custom tailoring information inflow and having
trusted colleagues and sources tag and share information points of interest! I
learned that Twitter is a river and that I get to influence both the flow rate
of information coming to me and the rate and frequency of my participation.
Flow is what happens when your content and your data
becomes unmanageable. Flow is what happens when all you can do is watch it as
it goes by - it is too massive to store, it is too detailed to comprehend. Flow
is when we cease to think of things like contents and communications and even
people and environments as things and start thinking of them as (for lack of a
better word) media - like the water in a river, like the electricity in our pipes,
like the air in the sky. –Stephen Downes
directed learning has been heavily influenced by Twitter, Twitter hashtags
(best way to attend a conference on the budget of a grad student), and Twitter
lists! Twitter has also assisted me in my efforts to share the information I
curate. Twitter has been a key platform to assist me in creating, caring for
and expanding my personal learning network (PLN).
3. Qualitative inquiry is a respected academic
This is absolutely enormous for me. I am the daughter of a
scientist. My professor father was chairman of a Chemistry Department, Chairman
of Computing Science and Dean of Science at a various times in his career. I
have an undergraduate degree in industrial design. My quantitative pedigree is
full on. One of many reasons that I waited so long to attend graduate school
was that I was unaware of the legitimate role qualitative inquiry plays in academia. Discovering
qualitative inquiry has been like coming home to me. It reassures me that I
could, can, and will be able to appropriately participate as a scholar without
compromising my integrity. It allows me to look at environments and situations
as ecologies not simply Petri dishes. My colleague, who works as an IBM analyst
and was skeptical about even taking a qualitative inquiry course, voiced my own
sentiments when she commented on the qualitative inquiry course we took
together this fall by saying, “This course has changed my life!”.
I couldn’t agree more and much of the
credit belongs to our skilled professor, Maria Mayan. I was so excited that I
started a qualitative inquiry blog
4. cMOOCs fit my pedagogical values
I have to admit that this whole post is really tough to
write because I think I have enough material for a full length book, or
multi-media website associated with each one of my 5 items. It is hard to keep
each point fairly short.
My career has centred around alternative educational
programs that exemplify connectivism
and rhizomatic learning
. I just didn’t
know the terms and had not connected with the scholars associated with theories
of emergent learning. Finally, I have found colleagues, theories and a whole
new lexicon which reflect, challenge and assist me in extending and expanding
my view of education. cMOOCs are a practical application of much of the theory.
In 2013 I not only learned the
difference between a cMOOC and an xMOOC but I participated in both varieties.
MOOC is an acronym for Massive Open Online Course. cMOOC is the term used for a
connectivist MOOC that is characterized by a network or decentralized structure
where the participants both locate and provide the content. The initiators act
as host/facilitators of the process, providing feedback and encouragement as
well as a “mechanism for linking participants and resources to each other”
(Downes, 2013) A cMOOC is designed as an outline rather than a package and is
built by participants creating a network of links to material. Resources are
developed through reflexive practices and/or interaction with each other.
Reference material is identified and accessed via hyperlinks. cMOOCs use an
immersion model of instruction. The work I did with Howard Rheingold was based
on a connectivist/constructionist model, as was Northwestern’s University open
online seminar: Exploring Personal Learning Networks
, moderated by Kimberly
Scott and Jeff Merrell. I blogged about my involvement and ideas associated
with Exploring PLNs at xplrpln.blogspot.ca
. Thanks Howard, Jeff and Kimberly!
For the record, the MOOCs that
have tended to make the news lately are xMOOCs which are delivered by
organizations such as Udacity and Coursera (eg. The University of Alberta’s
Dino 101). They use a more traditional course format and are designed as a
centralized, content heavy broadcast. I did participate and complete a
Coursera, xMOOC hosted by Vanderbilt University called, Leading Strategic Change
Innovation in Organizations.
5. The 3 Cs: Comments, Creativity and Credit
are critically important
and Rhonda Jessen have both modeled and reinforced
the 3C’s for me.
I consider Tanya to be an important member of my PLN. While
she is in Australia and I am in Canada, we have nevertheless had numerous good
exchanges and influenced each other’s thinking. Tanya does an absolutely
amazing job of constructively and insightfully commenting on other people’s
posts. Thanks to Tanya I am making a concerted effort to provide more and
better feedback and encouragement to others. Tanya has shared resources and
flagged a number of key articles that will likely be part of my thesis lit
review. I responded to one of Tanya’s posts by sharing a poem I had written.
She embraced the poem and her response was so positive that it has encouraged
me to risk responding creatively more often. Thanks Tanya!
Rhonda, Terry Godwaldt (another amazing educator who is the
co-odinator of the Centre for Global Education
) and I meet early Tuesday
mornings for tea and ed talk. Rhonda introduced me to cMOOCs, to Twitter vs. Zombies
and to a host of other connected education ideas and educators. Rhonda
is a facilitator at heart and she too has shown me the power of comments and
creativity. Thanks Terry and Rhonda.
The final C is credit and it too has been an important part
of my learning this year. Credit, credit, credit, cite, cite, cite. So thanks to Howard Rheingold and Jeff Merrell’s for responding to my emails
and pushing my thinking and my scholarship along. Thanks to my thesis advisor,
Thomas Barker who has been very supportive of all my social media explorations
and my PLN forays that have provided me with global interactions. Thanks also
to Gordon Gow. Thanks to my MACT13 cohort, to my family, friends, my CoP Ginger
Group and work colleagues.
. . . and yes, by having 3 C’s I did, in the end, squeeze in
more than 5 things.