#CCK11 Power, Accountability underpinning Networked Learning

Here is a post relating to Power Law or the Pareto Principle of 80-20.

Clay Shirky – The Pareto Principle – “unfairness” is a law.

You see the pattern everywhere: the top 1% of the population control 35% of the wealth. On Twitter, the top 2% of users send 60% of the messages. In the health care system, the treatment for the most expensive fifth of patients create four-fifths of the overall cost…The Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto undertook a study of market economies a century ago, and discovered that no matter what the country, the richest quintile of the population controlled most of the wealth. The effects of this Pareto Distribution go by many names — the 80/20 Rule, Zipfs Law, the Power Law distribution, Winner-Take-All — but the basic shape of the underlying distribution is always the same: the richest or busiest or most connected participants in a system will account for much much more wealth, or activity, or connectedness than average…this pattern is recursive.

Power Laws reveals the long tail pattern in many ways.  Is it typical in case of Social Networks, where a small number of “leaders” are followed by large number of “followers”?  Or no!  It doesn’t work that way, there are different sorts of social networks where the number of leaders and followers are equally distributed.

Photos: From Downes’ Elluminate Presentation

So, what would you say about power and freedom in networks?

Autonomy and accountability might be viewed differently by different people, especially when it comes to responsibility.   What is accountability in a network? What do participants have to be accountable for?  In the case of a blogger, the accountability could be varied in the case of a course like MOOC.

As a blogger, I would be held responsible to write my blog post based on data and information that I have aggregated.  Whether my post would be re-mixed and re-purposed by others for their own purposes could be outside my control, and thus my responsibility.   So, I wouldn’t be responsible for any “mis-representation” of views or perceptions not under my control.  Would I then be accountable for what I have written then?   Would it depend on the situation?  If I deliberately spread any “false” ideas and information in my post, then I could be held accountable for what I have done, since this could lead to mis-understanding and mis-interpretation of the information by others in the networks or community, based on what I have written.  But who should I be accountable for? My network?  My Community of Practice? Would that be a myth in networks or community of practice?

Lindsay Jordan shares her views about oppression, freedom and control in networks, in particular referencing to Tony’s post and how it relates to her PG Certificate course and this CCK11,

Offers of choice and freedom don’t generally go down well with my PG Cert students – an experience echoed in Tony’s quote from Guri-Rosenblit and Gros (2011):

“Most students…are unable and unwilling to control fully or largely their studies.”

This mismatch between the learning preferences shared by my personal learning network, and the dominant preferences of my own students, brings me back to the question of the design of the CCK11 course being particularly – and perhaps solely – appropriate to those interested in MOOCs and connectivism. Would a MOOC in applied general pedagogic theory work? Would it appeal? Probably not.

Here is the problem: in networks, some love teachers, some love teaching, BUT some do not like “teaching”, some do not like to be taught, and  some may not have a good impression of teachers or teaching at all.

Why?  Would it be? Partly because of their past experiences, their previous interaction with teachers or learners in the course,  or the teachers using a particular pedagogy or the design of the course.

However, can we assume that most networkers in online learning love learning? Would many teachers love teaching to their learners?  Would learners love learning themselves, but not necessarily through teaching through the course?

Photo: Flickr

Here we have many assumptions, and none of them could be true in all circumstances. That is the challenge!

As shared in this on discourse and networks, the pattern seems to be prevalent in different networks.

If power is shared and distributed throughout the networks, then would this 80-20 be realized in the pattern as shown on the post.

What complicates this power law?  The typical classroom phenomena where everyone moves along within the same learning space, same keys of learning, and the same learning outcomes.  That is the production model typically used in manufacturing or servicing industries, and in many institutions, where standards must be adhered to, and procedures  must be followed.   That’s fine if everyone learns exactly as they are required to be, as defined in education, and expected by educators.

Would people argue that, with the use of Moodle, at least everyone would be required to focus and learn in a single space, like a classroom, with groups of learners coming together, regularly, and having discourse to the standards required?

Easier said than done.  Why?

With the past experiences in CCK, there were “threats” of trolls, “dominating voices” and un-equal number of sharing and contribution to the Moodle Forum, causing many conflicts which were difficult to resolve.  Besides, there were power issues often associated with the interactions between different parties, facilitators, learners, experts, knowledgeable others.  Were those conflicts and power struggles due to differences in cultural perspectives?


Photo: From Susan’s post on Forum in PLENK2010

Would cultural differences make it hard for the connections in networks where democratization is needed?

My observations and hypothesis in CCKs:  There are significant differences in attitudes towards teaching and learning amongst people of different cultures.  I tried to avoid stereotyping, as that is simply over-generalizing teaching and learning in different cultures.  However, would learners of a certain culture remain as lurkers for a longer time?  So some people (a typical 80-90% of the course like CCK) would remain as legitimate peripheral learners in a typical online course of MOOC.

Aren’t these evident in the multicultural “pot” in CCK11?  There are a few enthusiastic educators actively contributing and engaging in the course, and there are many other peripheral learners and observers, who may be “self-organised learners”, expert or experienced learners, experienced educators or scholars, instructors and administrators or learning technologists.

My questions:

For the active contributors and learners: Where are they coming from?  What are their backgrounds? Aren’t they mostly located in specific countries?  Are they all having certain passions in teaching and learning? Do they adopt certain cultures in teaching and learning?

Similarly for the legitimate peripheral or self-organised educators or learners: Where are they coming from?  What are their backgrounds? Aren’t they mostly located in specific countries?  Are they all having certain passions in teaching and learning? Do they adopt certain cultures in teaching and learning?

If these enthusiasts relate to the 1% – 10% of the network, then should they be encouraged to distribute their “voices” or learning amongst different networks, or should they continue to contribute within their networks?  How would an amplification of their voices influence the whole network?  Is it desirable?  What are the merits and demerits with such amplification?  Remember the CCK08 experiment of making everyone subscribed to the course, what would happen with such power and control exercised in the network?

What would you suggest for those enthusiasts and contributors  who have followed through the practice of Aggregate, Re-mix, Re-purpose, FeedForward? They are the good learners.  Do they need to comply with the notion of remaining as a node in a mesh networks, so others have their voices heard too? May be they are spreading the good news, and they are more passionate or knowledgeable, who are sharing their Personal Learning Network.

How about the legitimate peripheral learners who don’t seem to have much to say, regarding their choice of media.  Are they merely interested in the consuming of resources and artefacts?  They are equally valuable and important to the networks.

May be we are expecting more such learners to join the networks, rather than staying in the periphery as observers only.  Would this converge to the mesh networks as envisaged?  And that there won’t be any damaging effect as any “virus” or memes due to trolls would be contained or controlled.

How about the principles of networking as mentioned by Stephen here:

principles of networking – we favour networks in which the entities are autonomous; we promote networks of diverse entities; we prefer networks that are open and undefined; and we prefer networks that produce knowledge as an emergent property, rather than mere repetition of some property or state of an individual entity. These principles align with connective knowledge.

That marks the difference between learning in a typical classroom from that of the networks – where knowledge as an emergent property, rather than mere repetition of some property or state of an individual entity

Would this be familiar in a certain networked learning environment?  Mobile learning.

May be we need to think about the power of the Community of Practice.  What will we find?  A Happy Network as illustrated by Jaap? Or the one below?


5 thoughts on “#CCK11 Power, Accountability underpinning Networked Learning

  1. Just read the comments by Ken here in Lindsay Jordon’s post http://lindsayjordan.edublogs.org/2011/03/13/cck11-oppression-freedom-and-control-of-the-learning-experience/
    Moodle, gRSShopper, or Facebook, or other forum postings, which is a better one for “aggregating” the discussions as compared with Blogs, or Group Blogs? For some, Moodle, for others, gRSShopper, and still for many others, Blogs could be their safe havens to voice their views without being criticized in front of the public “arena”. Why? Bloggers could moderate the comments and criticisms posted by others. They could even defend their views without “loosing face” as they are having total control in their blogs. However, would this be possible in Forum such as Moodle, or gRSShopper? May be if one is the owner of gRSShopper, in case of Stephen, then one could have complete control over the “discussion platform” Even the FACEBOOK is not easily under the control if it is not under our PROFILE. Does it explain why many participants are still hesitant to post on the public FACEBOOK?
    May be Twitter is different, as you could control it by moderating the posts to some extent. However, you simply can’t post a blog post there, as it is designed mainly for short interaction, or broadcasting.
    How about Amplify? This may be a good alternative, but running with the problem of its popularity.
    The Quora may be a good option for posting a question, thus generating some discussions about a certain hot topic. But it is still at an infant stage, and may not be that suitable for discussing about particular topic of interests, which require linking of ideas together in a cohesive manner.

    Would dialogues amongst nodes be more important to teachers’ presentation? If that is the case, then we have to ask if the dialogues would actually produce knowledge as emergent property, rather than just reading from the resources or artefacts. I suppose dialogues could both be internal (via internal thinking, reflection – the basis of critical thinking) and external validation, rather than mere “conversation”.

    On Conversation:

    Joining a conversation in blogs and forums also requires substantial skills – social, interpersonal, communication and emotional control skills, such as listening, comprehending and understanding (semantics), questioning, critical thinking, reflecting, evaluating, responding, and synthesizing.

    Blog versus Forum:
    Jenny has raised the question about his blog being used as a “market place”, rather the front porch which is typically perceived by bloggers. Why?
    May be if people couldn’t find the right place of sharing and discussion, especially when Moodle is absent, and that the topic may be too sensitive, then blog could be a wonderful place to “bake” the “half-baked ideas”. Is that a shift in the way where conversation would occur? That is the result of interactions of the agents in the network.
    My conversation has now moved inwards to myself – like what Lindsay has mentioned.
    However, I don’t think learners are not ready of the control of their learning. Many (adult) learners are capable of learning with their own autonomy, but it may be a challenge for them to learn within a complex network where the learning environment is totally open and new to them. Isn’t this the same as like participating in a party, where you don’t know who is the host, and who the others are, and what their interests may be. You will not need to know everybody to enjoy the party, you just need to know some of them, and enjoy yourself, and this is the beauty of joining networks like CCK11.

  2. Here is my comment left on Jenny’s post http://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/autonomy-and-accountability:

    Hi Jenny,
    Love what you said here. My response http://wp.me/pkZnI-2mB I don’t think you are accountable for what others have posted on your blog. Whether accountability is distributed is interesting. Would it be more applicable to the facilitators (in a formal online course) than the learners? Facilitators normally would be remunerated and thus vested with the responsibility of developing the course and supporting the learners in a OOC. For a MOOC, that may be different, as facilitators are all volunteers (as George and Stephen mentioned), and so whether they would need to be accountable to any formal authority could only be answerable by them. Also where is the boundary of accountability?

  3. Worth considering what makes an ecology vs network? Rheingold writes this of Twitter:
    Twitter is not a community, but it’s an ecology in which communities can emerge. That’s where the banal chit-chat comes in: idle talk about news, weather, and sports is a kind of social glue that can adhere the networks of trust and norms of reciprocity from which community and social capital can grow.
    Without social-glue, engagement, participation, respect, acknowledgement, can web 2.0 ways of learning be successful?
    ( Knowbel and Lanksheare also write of these values associated with digital literacies)

  4. Hi Ailsa,
    Is Twitter a community? Twitter could be the ecology where communities can emerge. Yes, I agree. I can see some networks and communities emerging from such an ecology time to time, in a mixture of forms, or morphing along to other media, and linking here and there – to blogs, forums, conference, facebook etc. I do find some of these communities emerged out of Twitters, based on the more formal educational institutions – under “classes in HE, or Universities” with hashtags of courses, or conferences, with others created in an adhoc manner (like the CCK09, CritLit2010, or CCK11), and with an “just in time or a pull” heuristics, or social movements (the mob, the celebrities), or game players. Some of these may be based on social glues, engagement, participation, respect amongst those members in the course or networks etc. Whether such communities would be sustainable is still yet to be seen, as these are just new communities as “old” as the Twitter.
    Thanks Ailsa for your valuable insights.

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