Tuesday, October 28, 2008

CCK08 My Cmap

After many hours, a thousand clicks and lots of fun, I came up with my Cmap.

I uploaded it as an image. I exported it as a Scheme but I could not make sense of it as text, it looks like waves, it must be my tired eyes.
We have covered many concepts, I trimmed it and left the more relevant ones for me.
I did not read my email nor logged in to Twitter to concentrate better, I´m paying the price though, I feel lonely but I have many things to do at the office... I'll send a tweet.

Now I just have to find out how to share it and someone to share it with.
Intriguing how each of us makes sense in a different way. I confirm again that color is clarifying for me.

Tommorrow is connecting day, I'll start at Elluminate with CCK08 participants, then with my mum at Yahoo, later in SL with Dolores to end up at Elluminate. Gonzalo usually laughs when I tell him it's my resting day, I don't see patients on Wednesday mornings. :-)

Monday, October 27, 2008

How do we deal with emotions in a network?

Ed Webb, Sara Stewart and Francis’s comments in my post “Design. Following my hearth, prompted me to write this post. The tone of my previous post has also influenced my decision, my emotions are somewhat obstructing the way.

Edd comments: “But I was most struck by your personal note at the end, about your 'core network' and the emotional impact of the course. This, too, is learning, and I think we should be open to sharing and discussing our emotional insights and reactions as well as our more cerebral ones. Those are also important elements of connection and something we need to consider as educators as we design connectivity into our teaching and learning. Does your core have hard boundaries, do you think, or is it more a question of degrees of connectedness, of a more fuzzy notion?”

As usual I see an example of the importance of Context. One member of my core network passed away recently, I am still in mourning. He was 85 years old and left me as legacy the custody of his Templars books to share them with others; he left me clear indications about how to do it.

My core network does not have hard boundaries, as Ed mentions is more a question of degrees of connectedness, it’s also emergent. Sometimes I am connected with part of the network depending of the issue at hand and the rest becomes kind of dormant. Sometimes it shifts in a day to day basis and sometimes it takes weeks to shift. There are even times when it shifts several times the same day. I feel I have been blessed with the core network I have, that feeling and my resent loss brought about the tears.

Sara mentions “Thanks you Ed and Maru for starting a thread on the emotional aspects of connectivism. How would you do that with your students, in a way that keeps both you and your student’s safe?”

I believe that if you communicate frequently with your students, deliver prompt feedback and keep a netiquette code in your course, you and your students would be safer than if you leave them wandering around on their own. To do that you will need a bunch of trained moderators. Sometimes it’s not possible because there is no money to pay them but you can have willing connections within your network that will do the job on voluntary basis. It’s easier said than done, you need to have a strong tie with your moderators and be sure that if they need to abandon they will place at least someone to cover their position.

While Sia Vogel writes about her feelings in Being there and suddenly very lonely. I think that if CCK08 course had spared a week for introductions, as again my dear Webheads usually do in their EVO workshops (sorry for being so redundant), we could have acquired a sense of belonging and then move to the content itself with more ease and a sense of recognition. I see clearly that my views regarding online learning and teaching may be biased, I believe that if you set a friendly and warm tone with participants it’s easier to get them focused on the content.emotions

Regarding emotions, as a private email points out and Frances comments: The emotional aspects are important but can be difficult to discuss 'in public'. I noticed that Stephen D had praised someone sharing their grade as 'living the spirit of connectivism'. What is the place of private discussion in networks? Important to me.”

While I a agree with Ed, on that “we should be open to sharing and discussing our emotional insights”

I am finding that it’s complicated to do it in public as Frances comments, it may also be risky. I would like to find out more about this issue because it may have deep implications, I think that if by sharing your feelings you are bringing something valuable to the network it will be appropriate to do so.

In the case of my last post the valuable thing for me was to bring emotions to the table but… Will others consider it valuable?, Are we willing to discuss our emotions openly?, Does dealing openly with participant’s emotions really promotes learning? The netiquette suggest to deal with flame messages by private email, is this the only way?, If we do it in private how will the rest learn about it? Emotions are important for connections but how and where do we deal with them in a network?. I bet some research been done on this, could any of you share links on the subject?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My comments to paper 1 feedback

I am sharing the comments and mark given by G. Siemens as some other participants have done. If you want to read the file sent to me an hour ago please feel free to do so here.

The comments I sent by email are the following:

Hi George and Steven!

I just received your email with your mark and comments on my first paper, thanks.

To answer your comments I will quote you first to address them later.

“Some statements – such as “engage or enrage” aren’t cited or supported. I believe it’s a Prensky quote, but I don’t understand what it means.”

I thought that by posting in my paper the video itself, that would do as citation for the phrase "I strive to engage my students, not to enrage them."  You are right, it’s from Prensky. Here is the citation and link to the video: "Prensky, M. (2004) What Can You Learn From A Cell Phone?". With all due respect, to get the meaning please watch the video.  As your connectivist model states, I could go on with a series of explanations but if you don’t recognize the pattern it would be of little use.

“The focus of this paper was for you to state your position on connectivism – strengths/weaknesses, etc. You provide a series of personal reflections rather than stating clearly your view of connectivism. If you provided the latter, then you can use your reflections to strengthen your overall argument.”

In my paper I stated that my position was ambivalent, it was too early for me to view the strengths/weaknesses, etc. Even now, it’s difficult to explain clearly with words my views about something that cannot be defined but rather lived to grasp it.

If you read my blog and follow the links to my activities you will see that online and offline I work and relate to others in a “connectivist” way. I experienced connectivism before I met the term, it’s a way of living and working that I started since 1993. I had to leave teaching institutions to accomplish that, formal education is still traditional and curriculum centred.

Online I experienced it with the EVO sessions. The difference between your course and those workshops is the frequent feedback, encouragement and warm, free atmosphere. In a sense, I'm immersed in connectivism; my actions define my position. Sorry if I cannot clarify it more that this.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Design. Following my heart.

I understand that many people don’t agree with the way I do things, online and offline. I learn by doing. I saw a learning opportunity that could be shared and beneficial... I followed my heart. In this post I will describe the background story behind the creation of BaeL project and the instructional design issues that, with my interactions on the CCK08 course, I see now.

My contact with Andy Pincon from Digital Workforce Education Society or Digibridge was triggered by a final comment I posted at BaW07. He contacted me by email, I told him that it was an incredible coincidence that he saw me because I had been learning with Mercedes (the voice in the video) about his long distance Chicago project with immigrants . As part of Mercedes’ workshop I trained for free a digitally illiterate adult to learn basic computer skills like turning on the PC, use of mouse, use of keyboard, etc., using Alado as virtual classroom. The student was in another place of town with a moderator by his side listening to me and following tutorials. By the way, the Mexican organization linked to Digibridge is Innovative Soft.

The following year, at BaW08, I mentioned in the mailing list that I wanted to practice what I had learned, I did not want to spend another year away from online teaching and that I would get a group of students to do so. Sharon Betts suggested me to connect my students to hers at TLG, Andy Pincon suggested me to contact Unete and to consider LearnFree programs. Bernice La Lucerne, Jose Antonio Da Silva, Ronaldo Lima, Nergiz Kern and Dennis Oliver’s generous ideas and questions about the issues I was considering, helped me to decide how to go about it.

For me the process described above shows that, as George Siemens mentions again in this Instructional Design week, all learning starts with a connection and that attributes of connections influence knowledge. By talking, visiting sites, exploring web 2.0 platforms, asking questions, interacting with them and their experiences I decided to leave BaeL at 21st Classes inactive, to create BaeL at Ning as virtual support community and designed a short four weeks online workshop using AprendeLibre computer tutorials as content material, Yahoo Messenger as live sessions site and BaeL-PC Yahoo Group as forum and mailing list. The workshop was launched the 24th of March 2008.

According to Renata Phelps’ paper, I designed a complex non linear learning environment. If I had read George’s Learning Development Cycle or watched his presentation on Instructional Design and Connectivism maybe I would have done things differently. I say “maybe” because the Context, Readiness, Tools, Equipment Available and Resources were the Impacting Factors to plan the design of the workshop.

design aspects

It was a free activity, not related to school in any way. My students and I were working from Cyber Places which created difficulties due to the “strange” sites I required access to. The target group age range was 14 to 18 years old, some of them worked and studied, some went to school in the morning while others went in the afternoon, non of them spoke English, the older ones used the computer to chat, the e-mail to send PPP presentations and had Metroflogs to post images. Some of us did not know how to use a computer properly. The sites are still active, the last member is a young single mum who wants to learn to use computer programs to get a job as a secretary or receptionist. I am glad to help and continue learning with her participation.

The trip to my hometown was… different! I lost the 10 AM bus, took the next at 2:00 PM, trying to fix SLExperiments wiki. The movie I saw on the bus was “The Count of Montecristo” I ate my lunch and drank my soda… different. The last scene of the movie shows the hero’s core network; in my mind I saw a picture of my core network and started crying softly. This course is having deep emotional impact on me.  But that’s another story.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Peace During Chaos Week?

I commented in Jenny's post about Complexity-Chaos:

"as soon as I placed my wall out there in my week 5 post it became real and I could start tearing it down. I expected more uncertainty this week just from the subject “Chaos and Complexity” and I found instead, to my surprise, peace".

"In this experiment we were plunged in to chaos in order to live connectivism , there is no other way to understand it, we have to live it."

I won't try to explain how I got from chaos to peace. I saw so many  patterns this week that it would be messy.

My post was featured in the Daily in a very clever way. That fact itself triggered something that took me back to my reaction to the first of Jenny's posts I read. The comments left in my blog opened doors, the October 15th  morning live session had a deep impact on me, I kept listening and typing my ideas. I copied the entire chat and spend hours  in a notepad file I called "provoking comments" (copy/paste), making more sense moving reactions along  until I saw a distinct pattern.  Then, if I remember well, I left comments in Iamar's post and Gina's post among others that right now I don't recall but with each visit the wall started to crumble. My reactions  flowed easily in the comments area.

It became clear for me that my reaction to finding Jenny as a person that I resonate with was crucial. In my first comment to her I told her: "When I joined the course I wanted to learn about Connectivism, it seems that I am living it, that’s what this experiment is about." 

Then I saw that indeed, there is a vicarious reinforcement pattern in the lack of comments and that somehow Gina was perceiving it too, she touched the same feeling of being ushered to behave in certain ways in order to have access to information and she called that "FILTERS".  I also realized that there is nothing wrong with that.  On Friday's live Ustream session almost everything fell into place. As Stephen mentioned


I saw clearly how clever both are designing an experiment that would lead you to live connectivism. You live it in such a way that the concept cannot be described with words.

Moreover, today at our SLExperiments Weekly meeting an non expected of event happened.  I had two new members lost in-world, one contacting me on Twhirl and we did not know her SL name and another one with SL IMs who missed the teleports sent. Cris pidiendo ayuda

As soon as I told the group I saw a fantastic display of resources from all the members, email, twitter, SIM, wikipages, IMs, Google Groups, etc.  As Dave White explains in his video about Multivisual Environments for Online Distance learning (Second Life for example),  Aspects of Community.  There were some shades of Confusion, Performance, Drama, Frustration and Celebration. We thought each other, there was a feeling of belonging, the lost members felt cared for, there was a natural engagement, high level of trust and persistence to complete the task at hand.
That is a true learning community, I am very proud to belong to it and I celebrate myself for having started those meetings. I wonder if we will celebrate 10 years as Webheads did.

Reading Collectives, Networks and Groups in Social Software for E-Learning I saw that what I have done so far at Becoming an e-Learner site, considering my lack of experience, it's not so bad, with time practice and connective participation it will become better.  It's plain chaos.

The rigid but reliable BaeL Yahoo Group appealed to teachers but not to the teenagers.  Also, they are used to MSN chat, the moving icons tug at them in a fantastic way but as I had seen that that environment does not hold more than 70 people using voice and I wanted them to speak I choose YH Messenger: Huge mistake.  After exploring several venues, mainly opening sites and showing them to the kids of the block I chose Ning.  It appealed to them, so I started my long boring still unfinished task of translating the platform which is still in Spanglish.  Well, it is bilingual! LOL

In conclusion, I have found that human contact, affection and caring are very important to develop a learning network. I am eager to know how these guys sort out the point of assessment, evaluation or whatever you wan to call it.

By the way, I have not seen, received and email, a tweet or something to tell me about the grading of my first paper.  

Never mind,  maybe in Connectivism the responsibility to hand out grades doesn't fall on the "teacher's" shoulders.  Who knows? Maybe it will arrive by regular email like my subscription.  Surely I will know any time in 2009.

Well, off to SLP.  I miss the place dearly.  Long walks on broad clean sidewalks looking at grandiose colonial houses, endless pedestrian narrow streets leading every two blocks to a plaza with a church, fountains and gardens.gonslp No rain!!  Warm weather, warm people, f2f kisses, hugs and laughter.  Great celebration among a blood group... FAMILY!!  :-)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Connected without modem?

Before going any further let me tell you that I just installed Snap Shots. I have found it handy in other blogs. Should you decide this is not for you, just click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the Snap Shot and opt-out.

Yesterday I got my modem back. It burned last Monday morning so most of week 5 I was off line, I joined two live sessions and missed my weekly meetings. However, I was not disconnected, I kept thinking about the course, tried to link more concepts and explored my wall. This is a late post, I will address here the specific questions required for this week: Have you begun to see the rudiments of a learning network forming?, Has some of the conceptual uncertainty settled?

While Lisa does not recall conceptual uncertainty she mentions the grading system. I was only aware of the 40% assigned to the papers and learned the rest from her post. You know? I am not concerned with the grades, I joined to learn, have feedback and to get my efforts documented somehow.

I saw a network forming from the beginning, a huge one with more that 2250 participants. Following Stephen's ideas on Groups vs Networks: The Class Struggle Continues,which for me are kind of rigid or don't leave much room, I could say that we have somewhat a learning network. It has the following attributes: diversity, openness, distribution, interaction, it changes and the topics are emergent. What I see in conflict is the autonomy attribute as described, we are not autonomous, we have guidelines, tasks and readings assigned, live meetings to attend and formal leaders. In fact, part of this post is "homework".

On the other hand, looking at George's Groups and Networks presentation which I find flexible and gives more room I could say that what we have is a learning network with a high level of autonomy. It is important to note that he considers, as stated in the first slide that:
"groups and networks cannot be compared, groups are a type of network, they are not something altogether different from networks so, in a sense, it's almost impossible to compare the two because they are the same".
So, taking into account the three critical elements he mentions: Agent Autonomy, Complexity and Task Specialization, the picture changes. I could say that the type of network that we have in the "course" is one that has a high level of autonomy (we have to archive a focused outcome but we can organize ourselves to do so), a high level of complexity is not required (the task can be managed loosely, they are not concerned about what the final outcome could be) and the task at hand does not require high levels of specialization (no one will be killed if we get it wrong).

We come back again to the importance of context. Being aware of the two points of view I can say that I see a learning network forming, not only the rudiments. There is huge amount of work to get this going and a lot of effort to plan this "course", design the network and set it flying. I am not overlooking that. What comes clear, from the educational point of view, is that depending on the objectives of your course you need to decide which type of environment is more suitable, a traditional group where you have more control or a network when you can afford low control.

To give a course using this learning model sounds attractive to you?, Are we willing to pay the price?, Is your student's criteria solid enough to achieve something in a network?, Is the subject fit to be learned connectivelly? Is your school or organization willing to support you on a learning network adventure?, Is your country technically equipped to use web 2.0 tools?, Are your students digitally literate to cope? There are many factors to consider.

Regarding the second question. I have had my share of conceptual uncertainty, I cannot say that the uncertainty has gone because I find more with every new subject. This is not a bad thing, I am enjoying expanding my contacts, I am learning to get ready to launch my BaeL digital literacy project as shown in this video but we need to get on board a charity organization to do so. We started in March so it has been a long road.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I have been thinking about my wall. I still laugh when I remember the image "You are not longer subscribed to anything" at Stephen's blog. Well, my wall is related to trust. George's presentation touches a bit this point.
I do not know how to relate to someone that I hardly know, to someone who interacts very little with me, I tend to doubt when facing closed people with no chance to talk to them. It may be silly but if don't place the wall out it will be harder to tear it down. I know we are not supposed to get validation or recognition, that's what my head says.
However, my emotion reacts, I am human. I have seen some behaviourism taking place in the feedback or lack of feedback given, I perceive some kind of light coercion going on, not in a direct way. It is in a vicarious way, I ignore your behavior and acknowledge the behaviour that I consider right for you to imitate.
Let me explain myself, I feel kind of forced to post in a certain way in order to receive feedback, no one has sent an email or left a comment here saying something like "your posts lack focus" or "your map is not linked" or something of the sort. I observe a distinct pattern in the posts that do receive feedback so it's kind of a behavioural pattern. Well, the wall is out. I hope this helps.

My concept map is still very similar to the first I posted, I have the elements, the concepts, disconnected except in some parts. As soon as I see some sense in it I will post it. The YH Group for credit learners is picking up slowly, not all the credit learners have joined. The survey to get information to plan live meetings has even fewer quorum. We are all fighting to get time to do things, I know that people with very limited time prefer to hang at Moodle and be visible there.

As I luckily can manage my time, I can afford to have live meetings several times in the week. Today I was at the SL CCK08 group for the first time, the meeting ended quickly and I stayed around with Louise for a nice cosy chat. It's a pity that they do not use voice in order to document the meetings; I find it sad, like a waste of resources, I connect better with voice and get tired of typing :-)

Talking to her I saw that I have now a network at Twitter, before I followed just my friends and now I am following people I hardly know.

Later on I invited Dolores to my launchroom. We were talking about the course, our questions and the way we are engaging, I will meet her again at Conenctivitas tomorrow at 13:00 SLT 20:00 GMT.

I am glad my modem is back!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Diving board and an empty pool. Week 5.

I thought I had started the week on the right foot. I did the readings and audio files for the week on Sunday, I also prepared the images and links for this posts which was planned to be released on Monday afternoon. I printed “That Group Feeling”, read some blogs, left comments, started answering at Moodle and WOA! The no break started making unusual fast beeps in the middle of a message to Carlos! I had barely time to post my answer to him, sorry Carlos I did not say goodbye, and turn off the PC. Unfortunately, the modem ended up fried due to the high variations on voltage and the telephone company promised to come to check it today or tomorrow.

Nevertheless, I am posting my diving board for week 5 at a cyber place and hope to use it from here because the Internet pool at home is empty. I decided not to reply to comments in my blog, I will go the owner of the comment's mblog and reply there, in that way I will learn more and probably connect better. I may be able to come on Friday for the live session. I will reflect on dry land :-)

To leave a comment at Stephen’s post “Groups vs Networks: The class struggle continues.” I was prompted to subscribe, which I did. The following image showed up and I started laughing. I though this was Stephen’s doing, a way to say that there are not walls at his site, but later I understood that probably I had done something wrong.

My comment there was:
Hi Stephen!
It took me a long time to stop laughing after I registered, it took a screenshot of the image, I thought it was your doing but maybe it isn't, I'll post the screenshot in my blog.
Well, I enjoyed your rambling. I believe I understood what you mean, I will see the
presentation as well just to kick the wall. I guess there is a wall that's preventing me from understanding your concepts, I suspect what is it, I want to work it out. While I know very well which are my groups I am not sure which is my network or if I have one. As you mention, the two concepts are fused in my mind, rather, the concept of a network is new for me. I sense I am developing one right now with the connections of CCK08. Some of the people I contacted during the 1st week have a period of more than 15 of without logging in at Moodle, some have posted in their blogs and some appears to have vanished, that network is evolving; few people of my groups have joined the course but we don`t talk about it in our gatherings which comes as a break because I have been spending too many hours engaged in it.
See you around. Love: Maru

I found that placing the items to read and assimilate in my blog helps me a lot, so here it is this week's slideshow

In the following video you can see Stephen in action explaining this chart:

Sunday, October 05, 2008

My Position in Connectivism

Week four is coming to an end. After four weeks of being exposed for the first time to Connectivism philosophical concepts as well as to the inherent confusion of the practice as a student, mi position is somewhat ambivalent. From my two standpoints, context is important, I see drawbacks and incongruence while at the same time my innate dreamer nature feels attracted by the holistic, democratic or ideal principles of it.

Before going any further, bear in mind that my views are permeated by pre-conceptions and very limited, knowledge is not yet growing in me in a noticeable way as I mentioned to Jenny in the comment area.

Why am I taking this course? As Stephen and George happily said at the October 3rd. USTREAM live session (the recording is not available yet), no one has a gun pointed at me to do it and they are willing to give a refund to anyone that asks for it.  If we, the students, were not experiencing confusion, this little experiment would not be doing its job. What attracted me was the definition of the "course".

I am not teaching online at the moment, I am acquiring the Digital Literacy required to do so because I view myself doing it in the future. Taking a course on Emerging Technologies for Learning makes perfect sense. I believe that students learn about a subject they are interested in not only from someone they consider versed in the subject but from someone they care about and feel cared by.

I strive to engage my students, not to enrage them. I do not consider myself a vessel of knowledge, I usually mention that in any class or course I give, I am a long-life learner but that does not prevent me from gently pointing my students and patients towards a place where they might find answers or from asking them about something I don’t know. I avoid dependencies as Stephen does, I don’t’ let them cling to me for answers, rather I encourage them to look for them.

However,  I make sure they know I care even if I don’t or can't give away the answers.  This caring and nurturing is something I have not seen yet in this course, keeping in mind that it is a massive course kind of softens my view but if I ever engage on giving a course with this approach I will make sure to count with a bunch of moderators to help out and to have a help wiki as the Webheads have.  Don't misread me, they also do not answer questions but provide a place to find them. Adrian Hill seems to have a similar view, he suggests the use of simpler language and more caring.

What Resonates with me.

Connectivism as a way of being, a way of seeing, a way of understanding, a way of thinking is very appealing. From Stephen as well as from George introduction video presentations the ideas that resonate with my Humanistic approach are:

  • Center the teaching on the student.
  • Knowledge is grown, not transferred.
  • No one has the whole truth.
  • You are responsible for your own learning.
  • Believe that your students will come up with the answers.
  • New and novel connections open new worlds and create knowledge.


Connectivism states that knowledge can be gained through “a set of connections formed by actions and experiences” not language, that “knowledge is distributed across networks, and learning is the skill one gains by travelling through them.” 
It  theorizes that learning happens by travelling through
our developed networks to human and non-human nodes.

I see that the suitable way to gain knowledge in a connectivist adventure is "networked individualism".  To socialize I need to develop strategies and tactics for self-advancement.  In the solidarity area I need to foster a sense of being an autonomous individual, loyalty is to myself and the network I am  developing while the commitment to network members and nodes is variable, according to the needs.

Stephen Downes on Sep 12th 2008 wrote: "I believe that this is because the theory is neither collectivist nor individualist. It doesn’t argue that people (students, whatever) should subsume themselves under some sort of general will. At the same time, it doesn’t suppose that people live their lives as lone wolves, responsible for and to only themselves. There is a middle ground between these two extremes, a half-way point between joining and not joining, which (we believe) may be found in the network. Oh, b ut to get to this point, which doesn’t come up until week 5!"

What is making noise.

I will not engage here in explaining why I consider it a model instead of a theory, I did that in an earlier post. This ideas sound very good in paper but, as I stated before,  I don't see them applied in a traditional school end even less in Mexico. In addition to have a traditional educational system which focuses in the curriculum rather than in the student, the vast majority of  teachers in Mexico at best use email to contact students.  A minority uses digital technology in their classrooms as Rocio does but she teaches parents and teachers. Moreover, she teaches in one of the most expensive schools in San Luis Potosí and not even there the students count with a computer for each one. 

George Siemens is promoting his views as a Learning Theory for the Digital Era. My questions are:  Is Mexico already in the Digital Era?, Do Mexican teachers know and use digital tools?  When not all the students have access to computers Do the PC's at the cyber places in Mexico are set to connect with web 2.0 tools?  As part of my BaeL adventure I visited several cyber places in Toluca and San Luis Potosí and when I accessed the web 2.0 sites I found that the PC's were not ready, plug inns were missing, programs were not installed, camaras and microphones did not work, etc.  Of course that SL is even more out of reach. Sounds unbelievable but I am working to change that.

In his paper George goes on saying: "Learning theories are concerned with the actual process of learning, not with the value of what is being learned". How do you sell that idea to a school?How do you manage a connectivist course and ensure that the subject is known? Are we pursuing a golden nugget? or Are we planting the seeds of knowledge?

While I have my eyes on the Connectivism nugget striving to get knowledge I am making the connections to plant the seeds of knowledge in me and then spread those in my country.