At the End of Week Two

Posted to the CCK08 Blog on September 20, 2008.

So the second week has ended. George has returned from England and the course has begun to find its stride.

Week two begun with admonitions by both George and myself for people to focus their readings. The course opened with a flourish – and not a little chaos – with a lot of content from all over the place. People were quickly overwhelmed. The main message in the first few days of week 2 was to encourage people to be selective.

I began the week by writing a script for a video. I never did shoot the video, preferring to simply post the text. I had intended to do more of these, but I began to feel that simply adding more reading wouldn't make the reading clearer. People didn't really like the coal analogy.

What this made me realize (and I should have been clear about this all along) was that people, especially those who are educated, are going to view these things from their own perspective. I could say the analogy was about ‘knowledge' as much as I wanted, but people still took it as a (poor) analogy about learning.

The general sentiment this week was that people didn't want to hear about knowledge. We heard that a lot (even George said it a few times). It is odd for me to think that educators don't want to learn about knowledge. But educators are about process. They are about doing. They are outgoing, not introspective. I read about a year or so ago of a survey showing that something like 85 percent of educators are ‘extroverts' according to Myers-Brigg testing.

But that said, we nonetheless had some good discussions about knowledge. The blogs, especially, began to make themselves heard. I also thought we had three very good audio sessions – the two sessions on Wednesday and the UStream conversation on Friday. I think George and I laid the foundation for more in depth discussions in later weeks. I personally think of connectivism as a theory of knowledge, while I think George emphasizes the teaching more. For more, internal consistency of theory is more important. I think George is more pragmatic. And George definitely communicates in a way that is more likely to draw on, and from, what people already believe.

I think the actual distinction became most evident in Friday's discussion. George is much more heavily influenced by social constructionist theories than I am, I think. As I said in the conversation, I don't think that knowledge from friends and contacts is privileged; any sensory input produces knowledge. I think George sees knowledge as that which is obtained from one's network, while I see it as produced by a network. Just as we wouldn't say that neurons in the brain get knowledge from each other, nor either do I see such a process working in society.

The text I posted at the beginning of the week was intended to be a first step in making this clear, but it became clear to me that I would not be able to advance, at this point, beyond those statements. Meanwhile, the discussion of connective knowledge was complicated by the inclusion of the discussion of rhizomatic knowledge, is is yet a third perspective.

With ten weeks to go, there remains a lot of time to explore these issues.

The most striking thing about week 2 has been the way the discussion on the blogs and on the Moodle forum has completely diverged. The Moodle forum is not dominated by bitter, spiteful, even hateful discussion. Some people are making a game effort to keep the discussion moving, but as statistics released part way through the week show, a few people have completely dominated the discussion.

The pattern is familiar to anyone who has ever used a discussion forum. Basically one or two people dominate discussion and crap on anyone who dares disagree (or dares make any point that does not cater to their particular interests). In the gaming community, such people are known as griefers: "they seek to harass other players, causing grief. In particular, they may use tools such as stalking, hurling insults, and exploiting unintended game mechanics." In the world of online discussions, they are known as trolls.

Discussion lists are particularly vulnerable to trolls because of the way they are constructed. Although the standard response is, "Do not feed the trolls," in a discussion list, since everybody sees the same content, any post anywhere on the discussion board is food for the troll. Consequently, the only response is typically to either ban the troll, or shut down the discussion board. Perversely, this is exactly what the troll wants.

The structure of blogs works differently, and we can see that in evidence in this course. In a blog network, each person controls his or her own blog. So it is not possible for a troll to dump on everyone. As a result, what we see then we look at the collected blog posts, we see a very different discussion. Were we to read only the discussion board, it would appear as though the whole world absolutely despises this course, its authors, and connectivism in general. In the unharassed world of blogging, the opposite is true.

Consequently, for this week, is was a priority for me to get the blog network working. I god the harvester running properly and installed as a cron job, so it harvests from blogs automatically (one blog every minute). The blog bosts page was set up, and should be updating on its own as well.

Still, technical difficulties plagued the week. I forgot to send out the week 2 overview with Monday's issue of the Daily. The University of Manitoba website went down Thursday, and then Friday morning I sent out the wrong newsletter.

I'm hoping for better next week. I'll be on the road in San Jose and will bridge that Brandon Hall conference with this course in some as yet unknown way.

But for now, time to rest.

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