Sunday, September 28, 2008

Out of Blackboard and into networked learning CCK08

In September of 2004, Blackboard and I began a long journey into elearning (4 years of Blackboard seems long to me despite its upgrades that allow for blogging, wiki, and conferencing capabilities). As an instructional designer, contracting with a state agency, for online professional development for Ohio teachers, I was excited to be working with an organization that valued constructivist beliefs and the importance of engaging conversations for learning. In the last year, those values seem to have changed and/or I’ve come to be more reflective upon the design team process and the resulting learning experiences that have been developed. There has been far more talk of content itself as opposed to process and far less recognition of the power of engaged conversations and their importance in learning. It’s fair to say that I’ve entered a summer of discontent, unable to articulate clearly and persuasively possible alternatives to “learning segments” and discussions which ask “what was interesting” or to suggest reasons (that others would see as viable) for not “keeping participants within the BB environment”.

And now, with this opportunity to immerse in connected learning, to participate in networks that share resources new to me, I’m moving into a winter of discontent – one of this week’s resources really resonated with me and has helped me to grow (I hope) to a better understanding and consequent ability to begin a conversation of the opportunities arising if a networked belief in learning underpinned subsequent course design and development.

Stephen Downes' Learning Networks: Theory and Practice has been instrumental in my making these connections. It was this text in the presentation that provided the initial “aha” moment, if you will.
“E-Learning has been based on centralized systems
But these centralized systems, such as the LMS, are like a dysfunctional crutch…
There’s so much going on out there… you have to leave the cocoon and experience the web..
Stop trying to do online what you do in the classroom… it’s a different world online…”

If I were to make a case now (novice as it might be) with folks at the agency for connected learning that would dramatically alter the current design principles and development, I wonder if the following questions might be a good place to begin the discussion? Although these questions are based on an elementary understanding, I anticipate my understanding may become more expert as this course progresses.(This content is directly from Stephen Downes’ presentation—quoted and paraphrased.)

What if design was based on connected learning --resource based, not content based with open access--

What if content was not packaged but aggregated and not so restrictive--

What if the goal was learning as engagement and conversation--

What if we viewed learning as a process of connecting entities with the ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts as a core skill where the capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known--

What if we came to “recognize explicitly that what we ‘know’ is embedded in our network of connections to each other, to resources, to the world”-- George Siemens

How could we nurture and maintain connections needed to facilitate continual learning--

How might these design principles offer an advantage to learning for all participants:
Network entities reside in different physical locations which reduces risk of network failure and the need for major infrastructure, such as powerful servers, large bandwidth, massive storage
Examples: Content syndication networks, such as RSS, Emphasis is on sharing, not copying

Where possible, provide direct access with the purpose of mediation to manage flow, not information, reducing the volume of information, not the type of

Units of content should be as small as possible and should not be ‘bundled’
Organization, structure created by receiver which allows integration of new information with old

Entities in a network are autonomous and should have the freedom to negotiate connections and to send and receive information where diversity is an asset

A network is a fluid, changing entity in which the creation of connections is a core function
In other words: knowledge is shared understanding (and not copied understanding)”

What if this agency adopted the CCK08 course as a model? What might occur with elearning in this state?

Are these the right questions to help us out of our cocoon and into connected learning?

Hopefully I’ll be capable of suggesting some specific, persuasive answers as I continue to immerse myself in CCK08 in the coming weeks!

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