Sometimes, the reputable university press wins out

Interesting. George Siemens, together with Bonnie Stewart and Dave Cormier have agreed (and been contracted) to write for Johns Hopkins University Press. George Siemens launched the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in 2008 (with Stephen Downes). His book, about the scope and nature of higher education (HE) change, will not be open. So how does a believer in open education such as Siemens deal with this? Easy: by publishing the field notes on a blog (http://www.xedbook.com/). In the discussion about the publication decisions the ‘admin’ answers to objections:

We made a tradeoff between openness/impact and reputable press. Based on who we are hoping to impact with this book, the reputable university press won out. It may well be a non-sensical decision.

(hat tip to Stephen Downes for mentioning this development on his blog/newsletter).
This being said, Siemens together with Rory McGreal facilitates a real MOOC about Openness in Education. It started on September 10 and runs for 12 weeks. The MOOC ‘will explore openness in education – its roots, its growing influence, and economic and systemic impact.’ There is still time to register.
Still confused about what a MOOC actually is? There is a page about MOOCs in the peeragogy.org handbook, and here is a video conversation between Howard Rheingold and George Siemens. A nice quote about that memorable first MOOC in 2008 (which also had a cohort in Second Life): ‘It’s the internet. People did what they wanted to do.’

Gamification becomes ‘hot’

Okay, gamification – using elements and design principles from games in non-game contexts – is already pretty hot. But now the real money could get involved. Ryan Kim at GigaOm sees gamification startups as the next big enterprise target:

Gamification is thought of as a hyped buzzword by skeptics, but it’s increasingly being used by corporations to incentivize consumers and motivate employees. As enterprise adoption of gamification grows, that could make gamification startups the next hot acquisition target in the coming years.

So I better continue the Gamification course at Coursera!

(Learn)streaming

I wrote a column for my newspaper about media streams and how also education should happen in streams (it’s in Dutch, and no, it seems that translating is not something which can be automated easily). Examples I used are the videostream at The Wall Street Journal, Worldstream, and Howard Rheingold’s video about crap detection:

The message of the column is simple: the stream-format is becoming ubiquitous on the web and there are quite a few mainstream media embedding streams such as liveblogs and twitter streams. Also in education streams are being used, for instance students are required to use blogs and twitter and learn how to filter information using social media dashboards. However, there are still far too many educational projects which ignore the possibilities of ‘the streams’.

In the meantime (and not included in the column) I learned about this journalism education project, called Stories and Streams: teaching collaborative journalism with peer to peer learning (via Online Journalism Blog). Something I will look into the next few days.

Think-Know tools in a Webbrain…

There is this idea that Facebook is just for entertainment, friends and family contacts. Robert Scoble already demonstrated that in fact Facebook can be used to create great lists, even more so than Twitter. Of course you can find interesting groups about any subject on Facebook, or follow media. I am aware of the privacy discussions and I don’t want to suggest Facebook is the ideal network, far from it. But it’s like a huge city, and while one can object to the policies of the city, huge cities remain places for innovation and creativity.

Anyway, what I really wanted to tell: Howard Rheingold shared via Facebook a Webbrain-version of his upcoming course Think-Know Tools.

Build your own course

I’m looking at Course Builder – as it is explained on https://code.google.com/p/course-builder/ it packages the software and technology used to build the Power Searching with Google online course.

The guys at Google say:

We hope you will use it to create your own online courses, whether they’re for 10 students or 100,000 students. You might want to create anything from an entire high school or university offering to a short how-to course on your favorite topic.

Some familiarity with html and JavaScript is needed, but it seems the wiki is very informative and well-structured.

I plan to give it a try and include my experiences in the peeragogy.org handbook.

Think-Know Tools with Howard Rheingold

I’m pretty excited to learn that Howard Rheingold is offering a new course. I participated in his earlier courses about Introduction to Mind Amplifiers and Toward a Literacy of Cooperation, and of course there is the ongoing Peeragogy Handbook project.

The new course runs for six weeks using asynchronous forums, blogs, wikis, mindmaps, social bookmarks, concept maps, Personal Brain,  and synchronous audio, video, chat, and Twitter.

More about the course:

Think-know Tools dives into both the theoretical-historical background of intellect augmentation and the practical skills of personal knowledge management. Now that we have access to powerful mind-amplifying devices and self-evolving collective intelligence networks, we can benefit ourselves and improve the commons by learning how knowledge technologies work and how to work them:

Modules on Roots & Visions of Augmentation and The Extended Mind establish a basis for understanding and discussing both the origin and future of tools specifically devised to magnify thinking capabilities and group problem-solving capacity.
Modules on Social Bookmarking, Concept Mapping, and Personal Knowledge Management introduce tools and practices for finding, storing, refining, sharing, exploring knowledge.
Learning activities include group bookmarking as focused collective intelligence, concept map-making for understanding systems, construction of knowledge-plexes with Personal Brain.

I do like mindmapping (I use MindMeister) but I’m not familiar with Personal Brain, which seems to be very promising (‘it may be the closest thing to an extra brain’, PCWorld says). We’ll also use Cmap for concept maps and VUE, which I guess is a ‘a flexible visual environment for structuring, presenting, and sharing digital information.’ Other crucial tools are about social bookmarks (Delicious, Diigo…).

However, Howard does not limit the course to some practical tools, but we’ll discuss the first visionaries who initiated the creation of intellect-augmenting technologies (think Engelbart, Licklider, Bush… see also the New Media Reader book) and we’ll look at mind-amplification in a broader and future-looking context.

This course is not free. In contrast to courses at Coursera and Udacity for instance, this kind of course has a limited number of participants, and there’s a lot of direct interaction with the facilitator (Howard). More information about the course (which runs from October 17 till November 30) can be found at the social media classroom.

Here you see Howard during a Massive Open Online Course-session, talking about Net Smart:

Howard Rheingold on 'Net Smart' for Change11 MOOC

We’re back, with learnstreaming!

I recently discovered the blog Learnstreaming where Dennis Callahan demonstrates the practice of learning based lifestreaming.

I find this really interesting as I learn quite a few things these days: I’m still working on the peeragogy.org handbook, I participate on forums at The WELL and brainstorms.rheingold.com, not to mention my Google+, Facebook and Twitter-activities. Oh yes, there are also my social bookmarks at Diigo and Delicious. And of course I learn a lot in my newsroom, experimenting with new media and participating in our newspaper community.

I could also mention Tumblr and Quora, and many other services (some of which I might have forgotten about).

A lot of those services can be considered as part of my personal learning network. I’ve been wondering how to stream at least part of the learning which is going on there. I considered platforms such as Tumblr or Posterous, Google+ and Facebook. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I think I prefer good old WordPress.

I somehow trust WordPress more than some commercial company which will inevitably merge, disappear or change essential policies in function of considerations which are not necessarily in the interest of its users. I also want to avoid walled gardens – in fact, I want to publish some of my thoughts and experiences which I discussed previously behind closed virtual doors.

Just to warn you that this blog will become far more active. I’ll post about online education, the interaction between digital and physical environments, games (more specifically gamification and serious games), near-future science fiction and other crazy stuff. Watch this space!

Help us write the Peeragogy Handbook!

Suppose you want to learn everything about medieval sword-fighting. Or about Python programming in some specific context. Or about alternative currencies – maybe there’s nobody to join or help you in your town or village, but somewhere on the web there’ll be others who want to collaborate in your learning-effort.

We call this peer2peer learning, and just as we have pedagogy (how to teach children) and androgogy (how to teach adults) we have peeragogy (how to teach each other). The word has been coined by Howard Rheingold, who also gave us the expression “virtual community”.

Howard also facilitates the project “The Peeragogy Handbook”. A few dozen people contribute in this project and it’s a pretty amazing experience. Most of us never met each other, and yet, from all over the world, people discuss in our forum, contribute on wikis and  social bookmark services, meet up during synchronous sessions and post on a WordPress-blog.

The link to the handbook is http://www.peeragogy.org. Be warned: this project is very much in beta. As it is explained in the introduction:

(…) you want to learn how to fix a pipe, solve a partial differential equation, write software, you are seconds away from know-how via YouTube, Wikipedia and search engines. Access to technology and access to knowledge, however, isn’t enough. Learning is a social, active, and ongoing process. What would a motivated group of self-learners need to know to agree on a subject or skill, find and qualify the best learning resources about that topic, select and use appropriate communication media to co-learn it? Beyond technology, what do they need to know about learning and putting learning programs together? What does a group of people need to know to use today’s digital resources to co-learn a subject? This handbook is intended to answer that last question and provide a toolbox for co-learners.

Do you want to contribute? You’re very welcome to do so! We need people to write and edit articles, to help out with the technicalities of WordPress or to give feedback. On the wiki you find a project description and also how to contribute. New
contributors can use this guide:
http://socialmediaclassroom.com/host/peeragogy/wiki/for-newcomers-peeragogy-project-how-get-started. You can comment on the draft by asking to join
http://groups.diigo.com/group/peering-into-peeragogy.

MOOCs and their differences

I started the Computer Sciences 101 course taught by professor Nick Parlante (Stanford University) as a massive open online course (MOOC) on the Coursera platform. Nick says there are not enough people on this planet with computer skills, so he hopes that this introductory course will incite some of us to deepen their knowledge and skills.

During 6 weeks we’ll do small coding experiments in the browser (using JavaScript) to play with the nature of computers, “understanding their strengths and limitations.”

My impression is that the course is cleverly designed. The lecture videos are broken into small chunks, sometimes containing quiz questions. There are also standalone quizzes and programming assignments.

The participants meet each other in discussion forums. There are discussions about the format (which seems to be much appreciated – even though some complained this first week was too basic), the assignments, introductions… Students also organize themselves in an impressive variety of study groups along national or language lines.

Coursera provides the platform for the course – it’s a “social entrepreneurship company” that partners with top universities to offer courses online for free. In fact, Coursera has been created by Stanford professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng.

We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundres of thousands of students.

Coursera offers courses in a wide range of topics – not only programming and science but also the humanities. Right now they work with Princeton, Stanford, Michigan and Penn.

It’s interesting to experience the differences with other MOOCs such as the connectivism courses facilitated by Stephen Downes and George Siemens. In my experience those courses are more distributed – they take place on various platforms even though the blogposts, discussions, social bookmarks and synchronous sessions are being aggregated on a site and a newsletter. They also seem to be more open-ended, every participant picks the stuff she is particularly interested in and connects with people in function of her own objectives and interests. Stephen Downes was interviewed about MOOCs by the independent journalist Kevin Charles Redmon and gives an interesting overview of the MOOC-history and the success massive open courses seem to have today.

The MOOCs organized by Downes and Siemens leave it to the student to define what counts as success. This does not mean that Stephen is not interested in assessment. He explains what the two basic approaches are:

The first is the Big Data approach – instead of using a few dozen data points, which is what the testing regimen does, you track a student’s activities and construct a profile from the full spectrum of his interactions with the material and other learners. This is the work of a field called ‘Learning Analytics’ (which should be ‘discovered’ by the Stanford-MIT nexus any time now). The second, which is my own approach, is a network clustering approach – the idea is that in a network of interactions in a community, expertise constitutes a ‘cluster’ of activity, and a person’s learning can be assessed as a form of proximity to that cluster. The Learning Analytics and Network Analysis approaches are not mutually exclusive.

Ultimately it’s about empowerment:

It’s about actually empowering people to develop and create their own learning, their own education. So not only do they not depend on us for learning, but also, their learning is not subject to our value-judgements and prejudices. We (those of working in MOOCs) have also been clear about the influences of people like Ivan Illich and Paulo Freire. And it’s not just about ‘flipping’ courses. It’s about reducing and eventually eliminating the learned dependence on the expert and the elite – not as a celebration of anti-intellectualism, but as a result of widespread and equitable access to expertise.

None of this happens by magic. There isn’t some ‘invisible hand’ creating a fair and equitable education marketplace. The system needs to be built with an understanding that personal empowerment and community networks are the goal and objective.

It could very well be that participants at the Udacity and Coursera-courses discover this along the road. That some of them will return – even after having completed the program – to help out others. This will be more like a process of self-discovery – I’m sure that right now people participating at the CS101 course just want to learn about computers. But maybe they’ll end up realizing it’s actually about teaching yourself and the others.

MOOCs in Space

Over at the Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) A Virtual Worlds, Games and Education Tour people seem to have a really great time. I’m just lurking at their P2PU site, but go there too and have a look at pictures about the game EVE Online which is a a player-driven, persistent-world Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) set in a science fiction space setting.

Also have a look at the slideshow on Flickr.

Interesting stuff I noted: the MOOC uses Google+ for orientations in Second Life and MMORPGs. Google+ is also being used by the community of co-learners around Howard Rheingold and even though there are limitations (one cannot participate in a Hangout with more than 10 people), it’s really a very interesting collaboration platform, enabling audio, video, screen-sharing, text chat… for free.

Read also: Virtual Worlds, Games and Education (another MOOC!)