Network thinking…

I came across this blogpost today, written by Harold Jarche and mentioned by Wilfred Rubens. He explains a summary by Curtis Ogden of the differences between network-centric and hierarchy-centric thinking, called “Network Thinking”. Based upon 5 ideas, this theory is a refreshing view on how we should organize:

  1. Adaptability instead of control
  2. Emergence instead of predictability
  3. Resilience and redundancy
  4. Contributions before credentials
  5. Diversity and divergence

I believe schools work the same way. Imagine a school build upon these principles! It would create a very open ecosystem, as Harold calls it. A school should be an ecosystem. Not a place where knowledge is poured into the heads of the students (hierarchy thinking), but instead a collaboration of thoughts created by a network.

Letting go of control and embracing emergence of unpredictable new outcomes is a second item. This is a very important characteristic in our schools today. I have always wondered why we are so hooked on control? Why do we insist on knowing everything, every outcome, every answer, etc. when the world is made up of far more than any one person can hold, control. Why do we need to know in advance everything our students do or will do? The ecosystem described above is one where goals can be set, but the way or the means to achieve them should not be uniform.

Also there should be made available the time and space needed to achieve certain goals. Not by stipulating a path in advance, but giving the learners the freedom to “wrestle” with the information, so they can interpret it the way they need to, in order to “get it”. It’s this wrestling that enables higher learning. Learning about something is done not only by reading 1 source, 1 book, but instead give students access to multiple views on the subject. Give them the means to compare notes with each other, but also other experts! It is by this way, our students will be able to be flexible and able to adapt to the circumstances at hand. This is one of the most common items of the “21st century skills”-list. This diversity in which we live, enriches our environment. Using it instead of standardizing everything to “one-size-fits-all” will enable more creativity and ingenuity.

Interesting, this Network Thinking!


Mobile Learning

Interesting infograph (by StudyBlue) about how students use/learn with their smartphones. The way we learn is definitely changing. Smartphones will be a part of it, I think. I just don’t know how exactly. Some time ago I lurked the MobiMOOC for a while and listened to Zoraini Wati Abas as part of the Change11 MOOC. It gave me an idea of how smartphones could be used. Things I gathered were:

  • sending students reminders/tips/encouragements as texts
  • engage with students on the go during an excursion/school trip/…
  • letting students take and share photos taken with their smartphone camera
  • letting them create little videos of their project
  • creating little portfolio posts while working with others
These are just a few of the possibilities. Again, I’m not quite sure how to effectively integrate a device like a smartphone in an environment of 12 – 18 year olds, but I’m feeling a buzz in the air when contemplating the opportunity.

How would you use a smartphone in class?

Mobile Studying & Online Flashcards on Smartphones [Infographic]


I came across Jaap’s article today, referring to the Mozilla Open Badges program and I must say I liked the idea of expressing your skills, your attendance to an online course, etc. Maybe badges aren’t the “definitive” way of assessment, but they could help figuring out new ways of evaluation.

However, the real question is “Do we really need some formative evaluation?” I don’t know. In the current system we probably do. There still are people who tell other people if they are “good enough” or not. And is some cases this is a good way of making sure the necessary skills are accomplished. But in others, one could argue the need of a supervising entity, telling us what we learn is the right information.

So, I think badges could be a useful tool of indicating a level of accomplishment. Will they be the assessment revolution lots of people are waiting for? Probably not, but let’s stick with “a useful tool”.

What do you think about Open Badges?

An overview:



Rhizomatic Learning

Enlightening. This theory is as fun as it is chaotic. Never thought I would say this, but I’m beginning to like chaos…

Dave Cormier is teaching “Rhizomatic Learning” this week in Change11. This theory finds its origins in a plant. Rhizomes are plants that, when given the chance, will take over your entire garden! They are very aggressive, chaotic and resilient, Dave says. Learning can be so too! It’s becoming a networked experience. It used to be something you did with a book that contained knowledge that is “true”, which you learned. Not anymore, you don’t have to listen to the smartest person in the room, you can listen to 50 different sources and create your own knowledge! I liked that approach to learning. Dave also spoke of a garden, in a classroom you need to have guidelines, restrictions… otherwise everything will go out of control. You have to build the garden, to work within these guidelines, inside of this structure you can do what you want. Interesting insights!

Why do we teach?

Our education system dates back to the industrial revolution. It was designed to produce people who were ready to work in factories. They were not required to think or reflect on a subject, instead they just had to replicate! Society has changed since then and evolved into a society of knowledge. Living in a world of abundance, it is key to find information sources and being able to deduct something useful out of it for your situation. To learn from each other and create something new. Dave called these people “nomads”, people who are taking off in different directions, they want to connect with others and create things.

So in order to “prepare” our students for tomorrows world, we have to develop a system where creativity is rewarded. We have to find ways to encourage children to think, to reflect and NOT simply absorb what we tell them.

Just like the plant, our students must reach out to all directions, finding new connections, ideas to think about, learning how to cope with chaos and information overload.

Digital scholarship

Week 3 and I’m already falling behind… Not so good, but I’ll try not to worry and carry on!

Martin Weller talked about digital scholarship this week. A subject open to a lot of debate, because it changes the classical view people have on scholarship. A scholarship used to be about learning something at some kind of university, taking courses thought by teachers and professors who had “all” the knowledge about a subject and would distribute that knowledge to their students. Some of them got the chance to do research on a particular topic of the course and get published, “sharing” their outcomes of the research. Maybe there is nothing wrong with this picture, but does it stand the sands of time? Is this model of learning/sharing “the way” of interacting with knowledge in 2011?

I think the classic way described above served its purpose, but in todays world it won’t anymore. First of, the all-knowing professor simply doesn’t exist anymore. Off course you have people who are considered an authority in a certain field, because they worked with it for a long time and gathered a lot of good info, but the number of people who have something important to share is growing. So instead of an all-knowing teacher, one has to look for multiple professors/teachers/experts that will share information. The best example that I’m gonna steal from George Siemens is what he says about the SARS virus. The way the SARS virus was researched was not in 1 lab, with 1 team of specialists that took care of it. There were multiple teams and a great number of people who helped with the project. George says that this is the way future problems will be solved, not by 1 specialist, but by multiple people! It’s in the sharing of information and connecting with each other that the solutions will be found.

Digital scholarship can/should use this! The number of blogs, videos, podcasts, etc. is growing so fast, there’s bound to be some valid information to be found for everyone of us. So using digital sources in a scholarship should work too. The internet is providing us with alternatives to publishing a book, making a movie, presenting a gallery , etc. We can create tons of stuff online without anyone telling us how to do it. We can be our own masters and choose to create what we want. In doing so, we’d like our stuff to be read/watched and be liked/+1-ed/recommended to others, so even more people will engage with our work. Social networks are already entering the classrooms! I recently learned that a group of teens I teach have created a Facebook group to share their (school)work. Not only distributing homework, but also sharing information about courses, what to learn, etc. Interesting!

We have come to a point where we expect everything to be open and (especially) free. We should be able to access without the cost of giving something in return. I worked with this all week, but never seem to reach a conclusion. I think openness is fine, it creates a lot of freedom and even more possibilities to be able to do something. On the other hand, is it not “normal” to pay (maybe not always by means of currency) for something, to compensate the author of what it is you gather? Is it not normal, in order to receive, one must give away as well? I’m still puzzled with this but I think that some form of control, maybe guidance is a better word, is not always bad. Wikipedia for instance started out as something completely open and free, but in time changed/refined its view on the working structure of the online encyclopedia by installing some sort of “group of the wise” that can intervene when things get out of hand. Wikipedia is still a great product, but I think it stayed strong because it adapted to the needs of the system.

In scholarship it should be the same, I think. If you bought a book published by Oxford University, you know that you have a descent book on the subject. Oxford stands for something it is more than a university, it has almost become a brand, something that expresses value. In a way this can be a good thing. It’s a way to separate the wheat from the chaff. On the other hand, who says John Doe’s blogpost about the subject isn’t as good, or even better? Maybe we should try and join forces to create a network of “good” sources. Share what we’ve learned and pass it on! But off course, this creates the problem of control! Because, who will be in control of this? Who will decide what is “good” and what is “bad” information. Who will make a lot of money out of choosing for us, what we should read/watch. There are companies out there who will pay a lot if their source is at the top of the list… We all know this.

So how do we find middle ground, where’s the line we shouldn’t cross? How can we create, share en learn from each other without the nasty consequences off power institutions telling us what to create, share and learn? I’m not pretending I have the answer, I’m not even going to guess! I do think, that if enough people worry about this, if they will try to get their word out, learn, share with others, somehow we will find our middle ground. We shouldn’t be to hasty looking for rules and regulations that will direct our way of life, but try to embrace common sense, debate about it and share what we’ve learned.

Digital scholarship can be a wonderful way of learning. A digital book isn’t better or worse then a paper one. They should be able to co-exist. As long as we remember that the medium is not the content, I think we’re pretty safe!

Take care.

Mobile Learning

Interesting paper about a mobile learning project in Malaysia. Zoraini Wati Abas explains how the students received text messages about courses they attended. The objectives of the mobile learning project were to:

  1. enhance the blend of learning modes currently used at OUM
  2. increase the flexibility of learning
  3. encourage and support ubiquitous learning

5 categories of content were provided. Students received an SMS about:

  • Content: helping learners locate/remember important course facts
  • Forum: reminding and motivating learners to participate in discussions on the forums
  • Tips: providing hints/strategies to learners on how to do well in their studies
  • Motivation: motivating learners to persevere in the learning process
  • Course Management: providing timely announcements/reminders on tutorial dates, assessments and other aspects related to course management

I must admit I was a bit sceptic about this way of learning. I couldn’t see any way such a popular communications device as a cellphone could be used in the learning process. It seemed to me that learning through it would be very limiting, due to the limitations of the device. But, I stand corrected. Cellphones were not used in an intrusive or dominating way. They served a supporting role, guiding the students towards the course material. And not only that, but doing so in a motivating way, making the students hungry for more… Relying on intrinsic motivation rather than “forcing” them to study. The story of the carrot and the stick applies, I think. And what a lovely carrot it is!

It’s amazing what results came out of the project. Students saying they were actually motivated to go online and participate in the debate on a forum, look up some course materials, discovering new items concerning the course, etc. It strikes me how simple these solutions are to help students engage with content. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Engaging with content, not slavishly memorizing information, but to really interact with it!

Change11 – Orientation Week

Ok! Here we go again!

A new MOOC coming up, and it’s big. Huge! A 36 week endeavor that will connect us with a great number of people willing to share something about education, technology, learning, connectivism, elearning, etc. I’m really looking forward to this MOOC! George Siemens, Stephen Downes and Dave Cormier will be facilitating the course with each week a new “speaker” that will provide us with new content.

I will be providing my personal insights here and share them with all of you! Please feel free to comment!

This week is orientation week. Just received the first “Daily” from Stephen with a couple of introductory videos:

Interesting to get familiar with this format, do check them out at your convenience!

Until we meet again!