Sunday, October 12, 2008

Into the kitchen— making soup CCK08

Connecting my learning to one of my passions has been extremely valuable as I strive for understanding and deeper meaning. Attempting to discern correctly the different entities under consideration this week – groups, networks, and collectives- was no different. And as I watched others use metaphors to anchor their learning:
“This can be succinctly summarized by saying, in my experience groups are like fraternities, networks are like Deadheads.” --Tech Ticker
“These two metaphors provide me with a very clear distinction between these two concepts that help to keep them apart.” (melting pot and salad) -- Virtual Breath
“Is that what Connectivism is doing, making each of us a piece of a puzzle, that when combined is greater than each of us?”
-- Where Old Meets Now
The thought that awareness of the different entities and their dynamics could be exploited in designing learning experiences took me into the kitchen, making soup.

Some ingredients this week --groups, networks, and collectives-- as explained and described by experts and colleagues:
“At this stage the discussion on groups and networks seems to come down to two views:
1. Stephen’s view “groups require unity and networks require diversity. Groups require coherence, networks require autonomy and so on” Downes (2007)
2. George’s view that groups are one type of network where the context is critical. A critical difference though is that networks encourage the autonomy of the self where groups often result in the subsuming of the self. Siemens (2008)” -- Grant Casey
“Connectivism is about networked learning. This doesn't mean that groups won't form within networks. It just means that connective learning in its most powerful sense has the characteristics (my words here from the concept map—Connections, Diversity, Autonomy, Open, Distributed, Equal. Those characteristics are what differentiate groups from networks and connectivism from other learning theories.” -- Teachweb2
“Our classification begins with the often tightly formed and usually temporally bound entity known as the group or, in many corporate settings, as the team. From here we move to discussion of the network, a more fluid form of social entity in which members join, create and remove themselves through informal and semi-formal connections. Finally we discuss the collective, the highest form of social granularity in which members participate for individual benefit, but their activities are harvested to generate the ‘wisdom of crowds’. … Collectives are aggregations, sets formed of the actions of individuals who primarily see themselves as neither a part of a group nor connected through a network. Like the Network, the shape of the collective is emergent, not designed.… the distinctive dynamic is one of aggregation, not networking and the clearest way of distinguishing the two is that collective systems do not require a commitment to the Many. Collectives offer the major benefit of collaboration for free – simply interacting with the system is often enough for structures to form. … The collective thus serves as a visible entry point whereby the usually closed and hidden doorway to more intense networks and groups becomes visible.” -- Anderson
“So individuals are in groups, and groups expect certain behavior from their members. In some cases groups obscure pathways to certain types of information. Individuals can connect to networks, but only if their information-seeking behavior is not blocked by the behavior they are expected to show to remain a member of their group.” -- Gina
“To a fair degree Network Homogeneity does not inspire rapid innovation or alterations of perspective. By nature, if everyone in a network sees things the same way; has the same experience base and perspectives on a given subject matter; and indeed agrees on everything - you don’t have much fodder for discussion or further exploration. Heterogeneity on the other hand, can be an invaluable driver for learning.” -- Tech Ticker
Now Stephen Downes’ “salad” would go well with the vegetable soup I’m proposing which to me loosely joins all the ingredients which maintain their flavors. The many pieces of each vegetable (a group?) are added at the appropriate moment determined by the cooking time required. (a reference to different dynamics?). As the vegetables simmer, they retain some of their identity yet in the process change form a bit becoming more connected, offering a “mutual exchange of value” (a network). This soup differs from one that is pureed as the broth is an additional entity as it’s served at the table. I’m wondering if in that broth, taste buds find an aggregation (collective) of flavors directly influenced by the amounts of each veggie affecting the dynamics. My recent soup pot was deeply impacted by cauliflower as opposed to an earlier one by broccoli.

I’m certain that many will feel that I’ve carried this far too far; however, it is helpful to me as I then seek to apply this to practice where this soup pot can inform planning of learning experiences for students.. Jenny so nicely put what I am thinking:
“But I think Terry captured what it’s all about right at the beginning of his Elluminate presentation, when he said that teaching and learning can be enhanced by all three - group work, networks and collectives.”
Translating to practice, in planning, after determining goals and learning outcomes for students and deciding upon how students will provide evidence of mastery, I turn to the development of activities that lead to understanding. Once those are established, I think considering the dynamics needed for learning and understanding will then help in selecting the entity in the soup best suited for situation. It appears that Jenny and Grant might concur with my thoughts when they write:
“But I think Terry captured what it’s all about right at the beginning of his Elluminate presentation, when he said that teaching and learning can be enhanced by all three - group work, networks and collectives. Although it’s easy to start each of these up, we need to think about why we use them and which tools to use for meaningful contributions to be made. PURPOSE seems to be the key.” -- Jenny
“… the structure(s) we set up for teaching and learning (a group or a network) will depend on the context and the required outcomes.” --Grant Casey

I’m not sure I currently see the need for a process “to move students forward” as suggested by these statements:
“The process of moving the students forward from a group setting to a network will be required, so will an educator familiar with both. For this process to properly occur, curriculum will need to be specifically designed and implemented, taking into account, emerging technologies and student safety within an online environment.” -- Ubiquitous
As it seems to me that they can become immersed in a group, a network, or collective depending upon the context, and age and sophistication of students would determine the appropriateness of their knowing:
“You could be in a group, and/or a network, and/or collectives at the same or different times. It depends on where you are and how you see all these.” -- Sufaijohnmak
As this week began (as when I first began cooking), I wasn’t clear on how deep awareness of specific attributes and dynamics could be of consequence to my learning (cooking). I’ve come to understand that that naivetĂ© diminished my learning and my cooking; hopefully more accomplished now as a learner and a cook, my practice and my soup will be the richer and more flavorful.

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