Posted by: Brynna Kaulback | June 22, 2012

Communities and Open Space

Communities and Open Space

Margo Okazawa-Rey, interim dean at Fielding Graduate University, spoke at our Fielding cluster meeting in New York City last week about cluster meetings as gatherings of the Fielding scholarly community. Fielding operates as a distributed learning university, and students meet regularly in geographic clusters around the globe, in addition to national meetings several times a year. At our meeting with Margo, one of the participants mentioned that she hoped that the agenda for the upcoming year would include certain components, as she would only come for those that were relevant to her doctoral work at the moment. Margo pointed out that clusters can be more than a place to come to take away learning and that people might come because they want to be part of the scholarly community, to contribute as well as to take. She offered that one might “get something” out of any meeting of the Fielding scholarly community, no matter what the topic, even if weren’t directly related to one’s immediate goal.

This sounds to me very much like an issue at the heart of my own dissertation – how communities shape our participation in online and blended learning or how our learning is shaped by this participation. Do we engage in learning as part of a community, building meaning through dialogue or in a personal network driven by personal learning goals? Does it suffice to step in and out of online groups, in the fashion of the learner in a MOOC (massive, online, open course), gathering for as long the group is contributing to the advancement of our own learning goals and moving on when it does not? This latter view is the one espoused in the Open Space principle that Harrison Owen calls “The Law of Two Feet.” In Open Space (which, in my view shares many of the characteristics of cyberspace), the idea is to join a group that is engaged in a topic related to one’s current interests and then, when it no longer serves one’s purposes or holds one’s interest, to move on. Owen compares this movement from group to group as the movement of bumble bees, cross-fertilizing groups. The perspective is that of the learner on a trajectory through space, moving in and out of communities as interest demands, a view described by Etienne Wenger at a Networked Learning Conference in 2010.

This morning a colleague sent me the link to an interview with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach which illustrated the difference between networks and communities that is the focus of my research. Nussbaum-Beach was describing how, when she wanted to build an online community of practice, she brought in some people who she knew as great online networkers. They were not successful at building the CoP. She describes her realization this way:

And that’s when it really hit me that networks are different from communities. Networks are about me, they’re about my learning, my mentors, my passions, my ideas. So really, while our participants were certainly benefiting from the thinking and commentary of the networking experts we hired at the outset, the conversations really revolved around the leader himself or herself. The job of the community leader is to promote conversation about what other people are interested in.

Do we lose learning opportunities when we are solely focused on what we came for and we are not, in another of Owen’s Open Space terms,  “prepared to be surprised” by what we find?

Posted by: Brynna Kaulback | June 20, 2012

Creating Foundations: Learning Theory and Design

David Jonassen co-authored Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments with Susan Land, one of the books on my “favorites” bookshelf. I discovered this week another book that he edited which is a book on the foundations of learning design: Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology. The one that I am reading is an older version, published in 1996, but it is available online and the newer version costs $52.00, used. When I decided to order a hard copy, I ordered the 1996 edition for around $5.00. I like reading older editions of books when I am trying to understand the history of a subject. It gives me more of a flavor of the perspective of that time in a way that the more recent editions don’t.

So this is my week to indulge in the wealth of the past. I finished writing a concept paper for my dissertation last week. My current research question is: How do designers of online or blended learning experiences understand or make sense of the connections between learners and how do these concepts inform their designs?

As I explain in the concept paper, one of the areas of literature that I intend to review is the literature on learning theory, but as it relates to learning design, and this is exactly what Jonassen’s book focuses on. Lucky find, and I am indebted to a student named Madeline Ortiz-Rodríguez, a graduate student at the University of Florida, who posted her notes from a 2002 class on her website for pointing me to it. Can’t remember how I found her website!

So, yesterday I tackled Behaviorist influences and started Constructivism. Come to think of it, I might need to get the newest edition of Jonassen’s book to see if there is a section on Connectivism!

Posted by: Brynna Kaulback | December 6, 2011

MOOC: Connections without Community

MOOC: Connections without Community

The excellent article by Kop, Fournier, and Mak (A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support in Massive Open Online Courses) in the most recent issue of IRRODL provides a great insight into MOOCs for those of us for whom #Change11 is the first time around. It is really helpful as a newcomer to have some idea of the history and to see some of the changes that have already come to pass.

Some of the data about past MOOCs in the article surprised me: the high percentage of participants who were in the upper age range, for example. (All right, I am Galileo’s grandmother, so you know I was paying attention to that!) This seems to be evidence that networked learning isn’t only for the digital natives. One item that didn’t surprise me was the gender bias of females toward wanting more community, but I couldn’t tell if females who were less community-oriented were as likely to show up in the study. Perhaps, as likely as males; maybe not. If those results came from the study of Lurkers, females’ more task-oriented behavior would probably be included.

One conclusion from the study, however, left me pondering. The article concludes that “(t)he research showed the importance of making connections between learners and fellow learners and between learners and facilitators”. The importance of connections seems straightforward enough, but I hesitated when I read further into the conclusion and found:

The type of support structure that would engage learners in critical learning on an open network should be based on the creation of a place or community where people feel comfortable, trusted, and valued, and where people can access and interact with resources and each other.

I had in mind a comment from John Seeley Brown. In A New Culture of Learning, JSB offers this view, “A collective is very different from an ordinary community … In communities, people learn in order to belong. In a collective, people belong in order to learn. Communities derive their strength from creating a sense of belonging, while collectives derive theirs from participation” (p. 52). The connections in MOOCs are those of the collective. While a morphing into group life still seems possible in MOOCS (see earlier blog), the group/community brings with it more than the support and trust envisioned in the concluding statement of the article. In a Durkheimian sense, the collective consciousness that provides social solidarity through attracting people to group life also controls them through expectations to conform.

The second part of that concluding statement in the Kop, Fournier and Mak article speaks to connections between learners and facilitators. If participants do want connection with facilitators, might it be a passing phenomenon? Might learners adapt to the more open environment with time and see that reliance on a facilitator is no more necessary than reliance on the teacher at the front of the class? And, likewise, is the desire for a centralized structure, a common meeting place, as with the Moodled MOOC, also a passing fancy?  Those who experienced a “lack of coherent and centralized structure” and missed a summary of the learning were mostly novices, the article reports. Once learners acclimatize to the openness, will they find the RSS feed more conducive to their learning than the Moodle forum? It seems like it is difficult to confirm at this point in the development of MOOCs if the issues identified are not just part of a growing process as learners become familiar with the MOOC experience.

Thanks to the authors for helping to put the current experience of #Change11 MOOC in perspective. Doubtless the evolution of the design and the growing experience of participants will continue. I just want here to add a caution against jumping too soon into an assumption of community.

Posted by: Brynna Kaulback | November 27, 2011

Share in Groups; Contribute in Nets

Much of the discussion in both the #Change11 MOOC and the NLC HotSeats this week  related to my still-evolving dissertation research question. Anderson and Dron’s characterization of the different forms of “the Many” (groups, nets, and sets) provides a way for thinking a little more deeply about how people congregate in an open networked learning environment. I realize that I have been dichotomizing my thinking into communities and non-communities. (Anderson and Dron use the term groups when speaking of what I call communities.) In groups, the membership is closed, the members collaborate on achieving a common purpose, there is typically a facilitator, guide or teacher who creates the structure and there is “a hierarchy of control.” From my point of view, groups also have the potential for a cloying togetherness, a tendency toward conformity and a desire to please the teacher or facilitator. The Ferreday and Hodgson article, which Jenny Mackness has also referred to in her blog, describes the dark side of such participation.

Jenny brought up the tyranny of sharing in referring to Eric Duval’s presentation last week on “Learning in Times of Abundance.” Eric commented that in his classes, he mandates that students post on each others’ blogs. Jenny questioned the practice and expressed her belief in the value of learner autonomy. I feel some ambivalence around the issue of whether a teacher should mandate sharing. I have learned an incredible amount in this #Change11 MOOC and yet I can’t say that I have shared very much. There were several reasons for my lack of sharing.

While I have contributed periodically to the Global Skills for College Completion blog and the Knowledge in the Public Interest blog, I have never had a blog of my own. More of my time in the early MOOC was devoted to the technology than to the writing of the blog. It prevented me from participating more during some of the early weeks. I tried to figure out how to contribute my blogs with the hashtag to the RSS feed, but I don’t think it ever worked, so even what I did write never made it to the rest of the people in the MOOC.

There were other challenges to my more actively participating, probably the usual challenges that one encounters in joining their first MOOC, but, nevertheless, I was extremely engaged, reading, thinking, doing some of my own writing, and discussing the issues from the MOOC with colleagues. On the basis of my own experience, therefore, I hesitate to draw the conclusion that people who aren’t showing up as sharing in the MOOC are learning less. Perhaps there is a distinction between participation and engagement. I was extremely engaged, even though it may have looked like I wasn’t participating.

But, back to Jenny’s question about the ethics of mandating sharing. I believe also in learner autonomy. I wonder, though, if membership in a group (as opposed to a net) has an expectation of meeting group standards, or of communicating in ways that the group culture has established. In a network, on the other hand, I don’t get the sense that I am sharing as much as publishing or contributing. Sharing, to me, has a reciprocal expectation. Without the boundaries of a community or group, my accountability to the group is displaced. I may have just as engaged as others around the issues, but not in the same circles that others in the MOOC inhabit. Jon Dron’s class was based in a group situation (the class), as I understand it, with an open door to the wider world. As a doctoral student, I think about joining the scholarly conversation around areas that are of interest to my research. In order to be a part of those conversations, one must publish. The teacher’s mandate that his students should post/publish on each others’ blogs may be a way of preparing the students for that scholarly world in the same way as class papers or dissertations. Group mores may have more of a place there. To the extent that the culture of the group is influenced by the teacher, the institution, and the wider academic community, those may come into play as well.

In a totally open networked learning environment, is there a commitment to post or share? Perhaps contribute is the better word here, rather than share. Posting and commenting on blogs is a way of contributing to a larger world – and carries more of a sense of choice and less accountability.

On the other hand, perhaps, groups form in nets. There is the sense of a group or community that has formed at the core of the MOOC. People not present are often referred to by their first names. If you are part of the core group, of course you know who these people are. This may be the question that Terry Anderson was asking when he asked for people to share examples of one form of the Many morphing into another. Is it a natural process that the MOOC evolves into nodes of groups or communities? Is the Nomad (to use Dave Cormier’s term) just looking for a home? And, once the Nomad has found the home, will he or she submit to the tyranny of sharing?

Posted by: Brynna Kaulback | November 10, 2011

Assessment and Accreditation

Posted Oct 27, 2011

After writing about David Wiley’s presentation (Oct 13) in which he said that assessment is the one area related to open access where not much work has been done, I have been inundated with people speaking and writing on the issue of assessment. In the Online Teaching and Learning Conference last week (Sponsored by Fielding Graduate University, Jossey-Bass, and LearningTimes, I participated (heard) a webinar on accreditation of online learning (not exactly emergent, open, but related). Another webinar by Rena Palloff and Keith Pratt on assessment included information about authentic assessment which asks students to perform in real life situations about which they are learning and usually includes rubrics. And I came across several articles as well, which I didn’t track, since it isn’t a subject I am overly interested in. But when Rory McGreal presented this week on Assessment and Accreditaton, I couldn’t help but notice how much attention is being paid to this topic in general, contrary to what David Wiley had noted (although Wiley was particularly speaking about open education, so maybe it is more true in that context.

Posted by: Brynna Kaulback | November 10, 2011

David Wiley

Posted Oct 14, 2011

Just listened to both the webinar on #Change11 and the keynote that someone else posted that he gave at Penn State. He summarizes many interesting points, most of which aren’t new, but I like the way that he puts them together. I didn’t know about him before, so I am glad to hear from him. The webinar left me feeling like this was a conversation for insiders, so I was happier with the keynote, where he spoke to the general public.

As an aside  to the comment about the webinar being for insiders, perhaps it makes sense that he would speak to an audience of insiders, but it is really annoying to be part of a conversation where people speak about “Jeff” and “Bill” as if you knew everyone in the world that they knew. Like, I am so important, of course you track who my friends are. And, when I thought about that, I thought about how most of the insiders in this world are white males of privilege. It is just so tiresome! I wish that Lisa and Doris and I could get a conversation going in a node and sort some of this out.

Otherwise, I liked how Wiley divided the open access issues into:

  • content (as MIT provides here)
  • someone to provide support and guidance(google scholar, ChaCha)
  • assessment (he says, this is a desert area, and not much is being done here)
  • certification (Open University and Western Governors University)

Then, when speaking in the keynote, he itemized the six changes that needed to happen as

  1. analog to digital
  2. tethered to mobile
  3. isolated to connected
  4. generic to personal
  5. consuming to creating
  6. closed to open

and specified that e-learning had only addressed the first two of these. I think our learning (Fielding and GSCC) also addresses most of the rest. Maybe not closed to open. In both, learners communicate in online forums and both are personalized to the immediate context. The content is not specified ahead of time, which makes both learning experiences creative rather than consuming. This echoes Engestrom’s expansive learning.

So, I guess Wiley is speaking to more traditional e-learning situations and in that sense does not address issues of immediate concern to my situations – things I am thinking about such as to what extent can the first two of the four itemized issues be addressed through peer situations. Is this a lonely trip through learning? Does learning like company? I think I need to go back and read/  listen to last week’s conversation which seemed to be on collective learning.

Posted by: Brynna Kaulback | November 10, 2011

Webinar Day

Posted Sept. 28, 2011

Spent a good part of my day watching webinars. Watched the Martin Weller one and then Sherry Turkle. I wish I had gotten the information in other ways. There is no way to tell before the event whether something is going to be worth the time I give to it, and that is annoying.

I really liked Weller’s book. I spent some time before the webinar reading parts of it and want to go back and read more. I sent recommendations to my faculty mentor and the technology person at Fielding to read it. But the webinar, well, I could have done something more fruitful. The webinar was organized by the #change2011 MOOC people and they didn’t have their act together. First, it didn’t start until about 20 minutes after it was supposed to. Weller hadn’t even uploaded his slides ahead of time!!!!  Come on  – I understand technical difficulties and am generally forgiving about them, but this one seemed like it could have been prevented if the organizers had spent a few minutes trying things out ahead of time. I will think twice before I listen in real time again.

The Turkle one was OK, but I found a youtube video in which she said basically the same thing only more succinctly. Also, I don’t really agree with her. Well, I agree that time is needed for reflection and that we are learning to communicate at a more superficial level, but I wanted a more balanced view. Well, I guess some people have to take an extreme stance for people to get the point. But she doesn’t tell the whole story about how digital technologies are changing the way we communicate and think, she just tells the down side.

Jeremy (my faculty mentor) sent me info on a webinar that is happening on October 11. I may register and see if I can check it out after the fact, in light of today’s experience. Here is the info:

Many institutions of higher learning are confronted with the challenge of understanding the role of evolving social web paradigms to expand informal learning models, enable academic collaboration and enhance academic engagement. Those institutions will benefit greatly from this webinar moderated by Mark Walston and featuring a discussion between Eli Lesser, Director of Summer Sessions at the College of Liberal and Professional Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and Jon Corshen, CEO of GoingOn Networks. Mr. Lesser and Mr. Corshen will discuss the benefits, challenges and lessons learned over the last two years and also share their vision for tomorrow’s virtual campus and the development of an Academic Engagement Network.

Moving Beyond the Course to the Virtual Campus:
Perspectives on the Evolution of Social Web Modalities in Education

Tuesday, October 11th at 2:00pm Eastern

Information that will be covered:

  • University of Pennsylvania’s social classroom environment and experience
  • New models of social collaboration and online community building
  • Strategies for building a “virtual commons”
  • Models for applying social technologies to distance learning and continuing education
  • Best practices for building an institution-wide network of online communities
  • Evolving trends in the uses of social modalities to enrich the academic life experience

This free Webinar is presented by GoingOn Networks and hosted by The Chronicle of Higher Education. All content presented during the event is provided by GoingOn Networks.
You are receiving this e-mail message because The Chronicle of Higher Education believes that you,

Posted by: Brynna Kaulback | November 10, 2011

Taking Off

Posted Sept. 15, 2011

It seems that now that I have found this landing space, I am ready to take off. I have often said in other contexts how important it is to have a landing page, which I used to “quaintly” call a home space. When several students at Fielding Graduate University, where I am a doctoral student, started a project to explore various technologies in the context of learning spaces, we were having trouble remembering where all the places were that we had created groups and started conversations and agreed early on to have one place where we at least kept all the links to the various tools we were trying out. In a sense those could have been called landing pages as well, since we landed on them. Now that I think about it, I like my term “home space” better because the connotation is that one stays there more permanently and “lands” in other places. I suppose in this new world, there is so little sense of permanency that a landing is as good as it gets. No roots.

I am glad that Doris set up a spot for Lisa and she and I to connect.Although I have been thinking of this blog as my PLE, I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t make myself a google page as Doris has done. Again, I will see.

The number of people who are asking to join the facebook group (Change 11)  is growing pretty fast. There were 55 people asking to join when I signed into fb this morning. I guess I will go and post an introduction there. I haven’t figured out yet how to decide which groups to join. I think the norm must be that one joins whatever looks like an option and then later sorts out which ones one wants to stay with. At least that will be my strategy.

George Siemens suggested identifying which tools I will use. I made a page and kept a list of what I have joined already: twitter feed, fb, Doris’ Diigo group, and I think I joined another diigo group as well. Oh dear, losing track already, before I have even begun.

I am going on the road today (literally) and will take my notebook with me so that I can track. Interesting. Why am I still writing things in my paper and pencil notebook? After a week without power and the Internet, I guess one reason is that one can’t always depend on technology.

Off I go.

Posted by: Brynna Kaulback | November 10, 2011

Landing Somewhere

Posted Sept. 15, 2011

Boy, I wish I could figure this wordpress thing out. I want to use it for the Change MOOC I am enrolled in. This could be my blog page, if I could just figure it out. I have no patience for reading directions, so that doesn’t help. I have to try things out. Not that they give directions for anything in this MOOC #change11 ; they assume that you know how to blog and tweet and have landing pages.

I think the value of this might be that I could find a way to manage and organize my learning, which would be great. Right now, my stuff is in so many places, I lose track. I think everyone should have a home page, but home pages don’t seem to be in fashion. Maybe that is what a landing page is. I see that George Siemens has a landing page and when I googled it, after countless pages of restaurants named THE LANDING, I see that the landing page is connected to this word press program. Now if I could just find it.

Posted by: Brynna Kaulback | November 10, 2011

Hello world!

Welcome to After you read this, you should delete and write your own post, with a new title above. Or hit Add New on the left (of the admin dashboard) to start a fresh post.

Here are some suggestions for your first post.

  1. You can find new ideas for what to blog about by reading the Daily Post.
  2. Add PressThis to your browser. It creates a new blog post for you about any interesting  page you read on the web.
  3. Make some changes to this page, and then hit preview on the right. You can always preview any post or edit it before you share it to the world.

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