#CritLit2010 A short reflection on Connectivism

What an interesting discussion here with Heli and Ken!  Heli, Your English is fine, and I understand where you are coming from.  I came from a non-English speaking background, and so I share many of the feelings you have, when exposed to a global learning environment, here in blogosphere, in particular.
You both have interesting points here about Connectivism, especially about this paper on Connectivism by Rita and Adrian, and though we have reported our findings through our papers, there are many ideas about Connectivism for me to reflect upon, before I could further share my views.
It’s a bit difficult to “speculate” on what each of us are thinking, unless it is through anonymous interviews, survey or research (even narrative research), where our voices could be “heard” and recorded. However, we may be changing our views in the future, or we might have shifted our way of thinking as we share more perspectives with others in different spaces or media.  So, would we also need to take into account of the influence due to some rhetoric persuasion and debates, and the introduction of new and emerging technologies that might cause such shifting of “thinking”.
Furthermore, there are many factors which could be considered as “constraints” when learning with online learning, whether within an institutional education or social networking.  So openness and autonomy under an educational setting could be totally different from that in social networked learning, or in a non-institutional learning space or media.  Although there are still protocols, rules or norms expected in different informal or non-formal Communities (i.e. Community of Practices, Church Communities, Charity communities etc.), we are often not judged upon individually with performance criteria as such in an institutional setting, where qualifications are awarded based on those criteria. Would most people like to establish a positive personal identity on the Web or social media (the persona)?  Who would like to be viewed or perceived as a troll or irritant to others in the media (at least for educated and learnt people)? So would assessment criteria and personal identification in a course be critical in determining  whether openness and autonomy is important or not?  Would people who have their personal identify known behave appropriately when they are under the scrutiny of the public?  I don’t mean that we should have the big brothers watching over us, whether it is in a formal course or just an informal media. However, would most of us like to have “freedom of speech” sort of autonomy, “freedom to choose between transparent or opaque” and free to follow the rules or not when networking in the open space or media (irrespective of whether this is allowed in case of institutional education or not)?  How about those who would like to learn more independently in the social space or in a formal course (like the distance learners who have been around for decades)?  Would openness be important for them?  Would autonomy be critical for their self-dependency?

Relating to the research, we have also noted the biasing of “research” as we can never use an experiment on education with human based on a control and experimented group at the same time.  Even research from the neuroscience could be “colored”, once the researcher investigates on the “one to be studied”, as there could be “changes in behavior” in response to being examined in an experiment.  I think we all learnt from the Hawthorn experiment on the impact of observation on people, and the causal relationship between what is observed and what is in reality could still be “different”.  This is especially difficult in any open learning complex environment.
1. Referring to this Educational significance of Social Media What are the merits and demerits of using informal learning/social media in education?
2. What are the issues, challenges and opportunities relating to the use of Complexity Theory (which is pretty close to Connectivism) in Education?
3. Are lots of educators implementing Connectivism in their teaching within their institutions?  What have they found? This paper on Networked Learning by Wendy provided valuable insights into the application of Connectivism in higher grades of K-12 students
4. Is MOOC or OOC another alternative way of educating our students?  To what extent is it better than the traditional methods of education (especially in Higher and Further Education)?
5. So, is connectivism a learning theory?  Is it a new learning theory? And what are the implications if it becomes a new learning theory?
I will surely explore these in the coming posts and papers.
This blog on Research on Connectivism could provide some information on research for our community

Facebook and its impact on social networking and education

Steve Wheeler posted in his blog.  He asks: Should we try to use social networking services such as Facebook and Myspace as serious educational tools, or should they remain the domain of informal chat and backstage antics?  Great question.

Here is a research paper on Facebook.

With these themes in mind, the paper concludes that rather than necessarily enhancing or eroding students’ ‘front-stage’ engagement with their formal studies, Facebook use must be seen as being situated within the ‘identity politics’ of being a student. In particular, Facebook appears to provide a ready space where the ‘role conflict’ that students often experience in their relationships with university work, teaching staff, academic conventions and expectations can be worked through in a relatively closed ‘backstage’ area.

I think it could be a huge challenge for educators to use social networking service such as Facebook as a serious educational tool or a formal education media.

First, as reported in past papers, learners won’t find it comfortable to learn with their teachers over their shoulders, too much “control” as the learners might sense.  Besides, this could be perceived as an “intrusion” of the learners’ private space.  Learner autonomy always comes first, especially in online learning in higher education.

Second, people go to Facebook for totally different reasons from formal education.  People (with learners alike) like socialising, sharing of feelings and emotions, or sharing of some interesting sites or links on Youtube, personal likes and dislikes, or articles.   Some may even prefer online dating, or just chatting with friends in an informal manner.

Third, educators could be more readily able to exploit Facebook when sharing with other educators, but would find it difficult to interact with learners.  For educators in Facebook, when it comes to communicating and interacting with peers or closed friends, there could be many taboos, as no one wants to be “gossiping” around other educators’ back – that is just not professional.  Besides, this could be viewed by students and other colleagues, and thus creating tensions.  Even counselling or mentoring might better be done in private, via messaging, rather than in an open public space.

Finally, Facebook is designed more on a private “family” sharing basis – with photos, short messages, links to great sites like Ted.com or YouTubes, blogs, or news etc.   So a light tone of socialising and networking would be more appropriate in the interaction and communication amongst friends.  Education with fun, or exciting news would be welcomed by the friends and family members.  And that may be the boundary that most people would draw IMHO.

Here is “Viewing American class division through Facebook and My Space” by Danah Boyd.

Facebook has 250 million users, amazing!  It has now got more than 500 million users (as at 28 Oct 10)

How do you use Facebook?

Postscript: More information from this 10 ways Universities Share Information Using Social Media.

This paper on Facebook provides a useful summary. Facebook usage was found to interact with measures of psychological well-being, suggesting that it might provide greater benefits for users experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction.  That sounds good for people who want to socialize but may be too shy to do so in a face-to-face manners.  Also, this may help in boosting life satisfaction, by sharing views and experience with friends or classmates over FB.

Regression analyses conducted on results from a survey of undergraduate students (N = 286) suggest a strong association between use of Facebook and the three types of social capital, with the strongest relationship being to bridging social capital.  In addition, Facebook usage was found to interact with measures of psychological well-being, suggesting that it might provide greater benefits for users experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction.

Postscript: This post provides a good overview about How much Facebook knows about your life.

A post on Why do people use Facebook on 17 Feb 2012.