Sunday, September 28, 2008

CCK08 + Gravitational Community

I think David Pollard should go for a google prize by teaching the rest of us how to create gravitational communities. I've built my google reader randomly through web surfing and google discoveries and it's making me even more of a dilettante. I'm plucking daisys because I cannot psychologically process the blank cheque given after 9/11 to build a culture of fear and suspension of reason. Listening to crowds of people chanting mindless slogans reminds me too much of the evils of world history.

I stumbled across Stephen Downes and David Pollard's blogs but that is going to be increasingly difficult as cyberspace fills up with my type of blog. What spurred me to create a blog was The University of Western Ontario was publishing a new alumni directory and I wanted to be findable by old friends. In the directory women are cross-referenced under both their maiden and married name and that doesn't happen often in life. If anyone wanted to know whatever had happened to Ruth Stewart, I wanted to include a blog address in the directory.

I want to transfer my general interest blog addresses to google notebooks and
use google reader for key people who have great blogs on a particular topic with a classification system for finding other inspirational bloggers on the topic. So how do you find the master librarians of web information? Who cares enough about a particular topic to sort through the massive amount of information out there on any topic and provide some guideposts for the rest of us?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CCK08 Valdis Krebs on Networks
This is a very easy to read, concise overview of various types of networks. I thought analyzing the networks on The Simpsons was a brilliant idea because there is no escaping that show. In 1990 there was a guy in one of my kid's classes who had videotaped every episode and had a record of every line Bart had ever written on the blackboard. You could create a spread of contagion map on the number of people who got hooked on the Simpsons through contact with that one mega fan.

I'm not convinced about the book networks and musical style networks. When it comes to the arts, the whole point is to not fall into a rut. Book clubs and reading lists are all about broadening beyond what you'd choose on your own. And how is it possible to not develop some form of appreciation for the favourite style of music of your first and second level family/friends. The requests played at weddings I go to are extremely ecclectic - the party can flow from the funky chicken to a polka to a country and western line dance to beach party music to Irish Rover drinking songs to WWII love ballads to blue grass to current top hits.

Personally I can't wait to go check out the cow at the trough network. Not only does this community have an agricultural college, I also have lots of friends and family in the cattle business. What a novel conversation starter for those annual Christmas gatherings which can get stuck at the cost of production and market price level!

The entertainment industry knows that the suspense of tracking virus outbreaks and terrorist networks creates a suspense-filled production. I think Valdis Krebs network talk is so interesting because we inherently like using networks to make sense of what would otherwise be random and unsolvable threats.

If I were to network my learning style it would be read a blog, go to Wiki for any reference I'm not sure of, go to youtube to check out any music or film mentioned, go to google books to find out about any book I'm unfamiliar with, type the subject into google and pick a link that represents a different opinion and if I think the subject is worth it, I create a heading on google reader for blogs to follow and create a google alert.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

CCK08 Movie About Connections

I'll save you the time of watching the movie because it falls into the category "Movies I bought and love with a plot so painfully slow and lacking in action that I am permanently banned from choosing movies for family viewing".

In One True Thing, Ellen (Renee Zellweger) is a young, ambitious New York Journalist. Her father (William Hurt) is a university professor in the process of writing a book who expects his busy important daughter to interrupt her life so he doesn't have to deal with his stay-at-home wife's (Meryl Streep) cancer. Renee is her father's daughter committed to the importance of writing books and articles and gaining tenure and recognition but slowly (and I mean slowly) is taught by mom and her gal pals that a life of doing silly looking things like throwing theme parties and decorating community Christmas trees and cheering up people going through tough times isn't totally shabby. George has his ambition and his affair of the semester but the solid connections were weaved by Katharine.

A faster way to get the message is to think about what we are doing on the connectivity course and compare it to the following webpage with all its 95 links to lists of people's favourite things about autumn Searching for autumn quotes for the calligraphy group, I stumbled across all this inspiration for not letting the joys of autumn slip passed unnoticed by yourself or your friends. Lots of the inexpensive or free ideas would be even more fun with friends included. There are head connections and heart connections and life requires both.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Home Library/Office Designs

Interior Design Advice for Home Office and Library Designs
I like to cocoon so I like the office that has the little bed built into the wall that can be hidden by a curtain. Again for the same reason I like the last picture of the reading space created in the bookshelf but I would prefer a portable enclosure.
I think I would make my whole world small and on wheels. I should have been Edwardian - wearing safari clothing and setting up little England wherever I stop for a few moments - the picnic with the linen and china; the office in a leather suitcase that can be set up instantly atop a folding stand.
So far I haven't overcome the fear of the evil drink instilled by my Baptist mom but if I could get comfortable with having a drink in the house, I certainly could see putting the wine cabinet in the study. Why waste wine on the meal when I need something to relax and lower my blood pressure while sifting through the endless reams of paperwork on the off chance that any of it is important.

CCK08 Connectivism & Economic Crisis

While the government is busy stabilizing the banking, insurance, stock market systems, everyone has to figure out how to come out of this situation as stronger and more capable human beings. If we pull together, we could create a much more civil society with the young and the old working together with the youth providing energy and daring and the old providing the collective wisdom of the forefathers and a deep understanding of human needs.

Even the tiniest of Canadian communities has an under-utilized senior's center. Most of those seniors lived through the Great Depression and know the skill sets that got them through it. They also know the community as a whole and how to rally its members.

I know it can work because the Yukon Indians model it every day and they have survived some extremely hard times.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

CCK08 - Monique Bégin

I have no way of judging whether Connectivism is a learning theory or not but I suspect that George Siemens and Stephen Downes are beneficiaries of an attitude Monique Begin has fought for over the decades - that we all gain when the doors of possibility widen. Perhaps George and Stephen will only get a moment in the sun but it is a moment with potential to create a further widening in the door. I suspect some people need a map to find Manitoba and may find that alone a hurdle as compared to an idea springing from Oxford or Princeton.

Monique Bégin has worked tirelessly to improve the educational and health possibilities for Canadians who otherwise would have marginalized and streamed into a life of limited possibilities. Before the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, women were either ignored in Canadian textbooks or they were consumers not originators of ideas or they were helpers not leaders. The Royal Commision on Learning confirmed what poor mothers knew all along - that two children of identical intellectual ability were being streamed differently based on the economic status of their parents. A child from a poor family was subtly encouraged to get job skills in high school whereas a better-dressed, more affluent child was more likely to be encouraged to not limit their choices by pursuing less academic courses.

Does anyone know where I can find a collection of Begin's speeches and writings? Search her name on Wiki or try using google search to find a website devoted to her writings. The most obscure performer has a longer writeup. How can someone so outstanding be so obscure? How can someone who has effectively done so much to improve the lives of so many not be more widely known? Her work totally changed my perceptions of myself and totally changed my children's perceptions of their potential as well.

If you don't know who she is, here's the writeup from the World Health Organization.

Dr Monique Bégin is from School of Management, University of Ottawa, Canada. A sociologist, Dr Bégin was the first woman from Québec elected to the House of Commons. Re-elected three times, she was twice appointed Minister of National Health and Welfare. She remains best known for the Canada Health Act 1984. An academic since she left politics, Dr Bégin taught in Women's Studies at Ottawa and Carleton Universities.
Monique Bégin co-chaired the Royal Commission on Learning of Ontario and served on the International Independent Commission on Population and Quality of Life. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, she received several honorary doctorates in recognition of her contribution to human rights and to public policies. In 1998, she was invested as Officer of the Order of Canada.

Friday, September 19, 2008

CCK08 Theory & Professional Agenda

My knowledge of educational theories is purely at the textbook level. The theories that I've actually lived are in the nursing field. I suspect that Connectivism will only be accepted as an educational theory if it is in alignment with the direction the educators have decided is best for the profession. For what it's worth, here's a short history of nursing in Ontario since 1970.

When the training was hospital-based and the hospital staff and patients set the curriculum, it was built around Virginia Henderson's 14 functions of basic nursing care. Nursing was low-paid, labour-intensive and considered similar to a religious calling. Students were paid a small stipend for their labour and had no tuition fees. They lived for free in nurses residence and ate for free in the hospital cafeteria. It was a popular choice for ambitious girls and often the only way girls from large families could get an education.

Nurses looked around and saw what tradesmen and policemen earned and decided the path to better working conditions was to transfer education from the hospital to the Community Colleges. In order to show that nursing was a real college program, Virginia Henderson was tossed out the window and the new curriculum was built around Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It took a lot of effort to get student nurses to recognize their hierarchy of needs would be better met if they studied professional development which was basically about nursing unions, professional associations, the best method of charting to protect themselves in a malpractice suite, etc. Students paid for their own books and tuitions and accommodation but with a combination of grants and loans anyone could afford to become a nurse and graduate with very little or no debt.

Now all graduating nurses are required to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and the current theorist providing the curricular framework is Bevis. The 5 tools of Nursing Practice are Problem-Solving/Decision Making, Communication, Teaching/Learning, Caring, and Management/Planned Change. Nursing is a separate but equivalent body of knowledge in the health sciences with encouragement being given to pursue a Masters and a Doctorate in Nursing with the resulting increase in pay, status and power for the profession. Canada has gone from producing a surplus of nurses to depending on immigration to fill its positions and control wages.

I suspect education is the same as nursing. Either connectivism can be used to enhance the respect and compensation levels of teachers or it just won't fly regardless of its merits or lack thereof.

Work Place Design

Every day I receive a google alert on work place design posts. Here's today's top post:

I'm so excited because I have a coffee table that I want out of the family room, a dining table I want out of a bedroom and down to the kitchen and the 2 small pieces of furniture currently holding the printer and processor in the spare room. When Peter gets home from school, there's going to be some serious furniture moving around here. Paula will be relieved because I was begging her to make my coffee table look like hers which would require learning and doing some faux marbling technique.

I've read that the sheet of stuff you use when creating a shower wall makes a super economical whiteboard. Any ideas on how to hang the thing? I'm thinking maybe I'll have to get one of my kids to make a frame. If you've tried this project, tell me if it actually does make a good whiteboard.

Papers I Want to Read

As I'm wandering around the websites of Connectivism participants, I'm coming across papers I want to read (perhaps during the course but as I got bogged down by the number of short introductions, I'm sure most of the lengthy papers will be read more carefully after the course ends.
Higher Education as Virtual
Information Overload and Filtreing

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Useful Links

Tools for viewing Flickr
Powerpoint Productivity
Free e-books on e-learning

Response to World Run by Buffs
This is a thought-provoking article on being a history buff vs being a fully developed historian and whether or not buffs have anything worthwhile to contribute to well-established academic disciplines.
Some of the bloggers I follow are Princeton theological students. I read them mainly because I can. It's amazing to me that someone in a small rural parish can have access to theological studies being conducted in Princeton. I admire their brilliance and discipline and youth. That said, I also think it's a lot of counting how many angels can dance on the head of a pin - interesting but not essential to the day-to-day survival of the church.
Canon law is a much more compelling read. Every time a Bishop in the United States is denied due process under Canon law I practically have a heart attack. The job security yardstick used to be: Was a civil law broken? Was a canon law broken? Obedience to civil and Canon law was the life jacket. k
Most of us live life in the trenches. We crawl through the mud, get shelled, suffer post traumatic stress syndrome, see our comrades fall, maybe take a hill today, be ordered to retreat tomorrow and be sent back the next day to reclaim the same minor hill. An academic researcher can give a brilliant analysis, gain a Ph.D. and become the CNN expert commentator but to truly be the expert you have to get some field experience.
Theory is elegant and practice is a bloody mess. Education does not adequately prepare anyone for life - it does give one a much wider assortment of tools and a list of standardized best practices which will have their usefulness.

Some Interesting People

Annie Vallotton - Illustrator of the Good News Bible

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

CCK08 Need How To Information

1. I would really appreciate it if I could sort out the postings by having more tagging provided. If members of the group have created a how-to video or have posted a visual analysis of data or found something particularly relevant, I want to create a google alert for those postings by using CCK08 plus a topic category. Perhaps someone is already doing this and I just haven't found the particular email that would point me to the sorted information.

2. Before the course, going through google reader was my favourite computer activity. There must be a way to only have the Connectivism bloggers separated from my general interest bloggers similar to the explanation for separating the connectivism gmail from the regular gmail box. Would someone please direct me to the post explaining how to do this with the blogs entered into google reader? At the moment, I have a header for "Connectivism" and one for "Course Work" but it would be better to have them separated from the other 25 topics of importance to me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

CCK08 Progress Report

Finding Balance was a huge issue.

a. Stephen, Peter and I had to spend part of Saturday getting the house back to its normal chaotic state from the total disaster state it fell into. My youngest son and his wife came from Windsor to celebrate her birthday on Saturday and my daughter and her boyfriend came from London on Sunday for supper so we had both an ok looking home and delicious homecooked meals.

b. I was spending so much time at the computer that I decided it was probably as dangerous as sitting through a transcontinental flight. On Friday, I went back to line dancing classes and I'm also restarting t'ai chi. Stephen found a great walking trail. He does a speed walk to Tim Horton's for coffee (about 2 miles) and then picks up the dog and me for a more leisurely trail walk.

c. I'm splitting my computer time between this course and the things I enjoyed before - my google alerts and the blogs I follow on google reader. I'm also spending a bit of time every day looking at pictures on flickr.

Useful Things I've Learned and What I Need to Learn Soon
1. Following the video on how to get all the introductory messages out of the google inbox by setting up a label for CC08 took away that feeling of being overwhelmed by the volume of introductory emails. However, once the label was applied, I only pull the introductions up once a day and I don't read nearly the same proportion of them.
2. I am really, really grateful that I can go to Delicious and find the blog addresses provided in the introductions.
3. Finally I've gotten around to creating an igoogle homepage that truly reflects my needs and increases my productivity.
4. I want to create a Wordle which I will then re-create using Calligraphy for the March page of a calendar the Calligraphy group is producing. Our date night here is Calligraphy classes. In the Windsor area, it was years of Choral Singing lessons.
5. I also want to explore my family communication options as this month the phone bill was $250 and it was mainly our kids phoning home and Stephen calling his dad and aunt. We don't want to limit the calls - just reduce the expense.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Good Enough

If you become an amazingly successful adult, don't whine to me about your crazy mother or your ill-educated teachers. People give what they can and if you are outstanding what you were given was enough. It's really hard to tell what is more motivating - wanting to be like a parent or vowing to never be like a parent. Print and video are forever. Don't abuse the power.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reflections on Participatory Culture article

Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture (.pdf)
This article assumes that kids should start off running in the 21st Century in order to be on track for creating excellent web input and maybe having that multi-million dollar great idea by 14. So now I'm going to lose all credibility by telling you why I'm not totally convinced.

Our family has received 4 phone calls from Bishops in our lives saying something like, "We've prayed to the Holy Spirt and we believe that God is calling you to go to __________ and we go. I believe God has a special place in his heart for clergy kids and when we are called to go somewhere, I believe that the move is part of God's developmental plan for my children.

God has never called us to the Silicon Valley. It would appear that the plan was to take the kids through the history of civilization. We live in rectories so with all the moves we lived in the older section of the community with the church being the closest building to our house

Our first posting was to a small (pop 450) village in the Yukon where the dominant culture was Southern Tutchone. We left when the oldest was in Grade 2 but he had already learned through school how to jig for salmon, snare a rabbit, ride a horse, ride in a dog sled, recognize animal tracks, etc., etc.

Our second posting was to a small town where the dominate culture was Scottish Presbyterian (almost identical to my birth community). There my kids learned frugality, that adults make the rules, that someone sees whatever you are doing and out of love and friendship will phone your mom because character matters. It was during this period that our oldest turned 12 and began sea cadets resulting in all of our children going through either sea or army cadets. The military data base recognizes our names and CSIS has checked us out.

Our third posting was to a community near the Windsor/Detroit border. We lived across the street from a Sikh temple, the Macedonian Orthodox Church and down the road from the Muslim school. It was here that the boys all got jobs working on a beef farm and studied either auto body or auto mechanics and bought an assortment of vehicles older than themselves to fix. It's also a place of home do-it-yourselfers so now two of my kids have bought a house this year and a third is looking for his fixer-upper first house.

Our fourth posting was to a small community with an agricultural college and a declining population and economy. Because of the economic situation, my husband works in 6 churches in 6 communities. The move emptied the nest and gave the kids time and space to make their own good decisions about the direction they would like to take in life. Eventually one son returned and discovered that there are opportunites here and he has been mentored and befriended by the men in the community. If he hadn't moved here, he never would have discovered that he likes studying accounting at least as much as writing screenplays.

While the article could be right about starting off running in 21st Century culture, it's not a bad thing to have a wide range of survival skills just in case the world gets unplugged or fortunes fall in the computer industry.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Elizabeth May

When Elizabeth May hit the news today, I said, "Oh my gosh, I know her" Well not exactly know her but I could have identified her picture in a "name that person" contest. No I did not know that she was an environmental lawyer and leader of the Green Party. I had to check out her biography on Wiki to discover that. Here is what made Elizabeth memorable for me - her Ottawa parties. When I was thinking that maybe one day I might possibly host a gathering for my friends, I subscribed to a blog that posted pictures of the social life of Ottawa. I wanted to know what people in Ottawa wore at their gatherings and more importantly what foods did the caterers pass around as they mingled. Of all the parties I studied, Elizabeth May threw the ones I most wanted to attend. There was something warm and down-home and unpretentious about her style of entertaining.

So I think the controversy over whether or not she can participate in the national debates isn't personal. I think it is that mysterious attitude in North American culture that makes Palin a hottie and a political celebrity and Clinton and her sisterhood of the travelling pantsuits remind men of their first wives. There is some magical age when a woman turns from an object that men lust after to an object that they are afraid to debate. Even stranger is that most women feel most grounded, most confident, most their own person after that certain age.

So to Elizabeth all I can say is, "You go girl!" And to the Ottawa establishment, I say chill out. With such a short campaign period, we deserve a bit of entertainment - a really good debate.

Blogging Strategy for Connectivism

So what does someone like me, an emptying nest mom, blog about connectivism - a course with 1900 students - many of who have Ph.D.'s and many articles published on various aspects of educational design? Obviously what I have to say is pretty useless to the other members of this course who are way out of my league. So here is what I decided. I'm going to post about the things I am learning that a woman over 50 in rural or small town Ontario might find useful or adaptable to her lifestyle.

Digital Ethnography Watch the video of the two little boys - it's the beginning of a video about digital ethnography.
I love youtube. Mostly I've used it to check out music. If I'm reading a blog and it refers to a song or a form of dance that I am unfamiliar with, I do a search of youtube. When I was asked to do a lip sync performance of an entertainer, I decided to do Bette Midler singing "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" and I studied the moves in every youtube video of Bette and her imitators performing. And of course, when I'm following blogs, I watch embedded videos. Before my son's wedding, I hunted for videos of mother/son wedding dances and listened over and over again to the song my daughter-in-law had chosen "A Song for Mama" by Boyz II Men. When I was taking line dancing and wanted to learn some new moves, I discovered the prisoner line dancers. In my google notebook, I have links to youtube videos of choirs and prayers that have inspired me during times when I am having a quiet time with God.

Until I found the blog on Digital Ethnography, I didn't think about there being a youtube community creating interesting videos for a wide range of reasons. I certainly didn't know that studying youtube fell under anthropology. I've never checked out any of the videos just because they rates high on a youtube rating scale. I hadn't even considered how a video achieved its ratings. Even now, I can't see myself actually producing a video as it's the kind of thing I think I'd need a human being to help me get started. However, I am thinking about having fun pretending that I'm one of young people having a good time dancing and singing in front of their camrecorders. Looks like a great way to get a bit of exercise while online. And maybe I'll write a word, an important word on my hand and maybe I'll say a prayer for people using their camrecorders as a way to heal life's hurts - a way to continue being in the world - a way to bring joy back into their lives.

Balancing Online with Real Life Time

Most of my computer time is spent following blogs on Google Reader. Some require reading. thought and a desire to stay informed while others are pure eye candy - wedding, art, design, decorating sites spring to mind. Rather than watching the news before bed, I like to fill my head with beautiful images.
The Connectivism course has greatly increased my already over-the-top internet time. Because I am so aware that I might forget to go outside ever, I am making a greater effort to socialize. Saturday I went to a family reunion in my hometown. Sunday I gave two talks and agreed to do 3 more, went to lunch with friends and attended a fundraiser dinner in the evening. Monday I did family business downtown and went to a book club meeting at the library in the afternoon. Today I stayed in. Tomorrow I'm going to a potluck lunch and meeting. Not too shabby, eh. The other concern is whether or not I'll lose the minimal amount of cardio fitness that I have. So I've decided that I'll at least have to start doing T'ai Chi again. I don't love to drive so I walk everywhere locally and my husband picked the rectory with the longest staircase which I go up and down at least as often as the dog harrasses me to go out. So I guess I will complete the course with strong enough leg muscles to carry myself around.
It may not be perfect but I've adjusted my routine just enough that I'm not too worried about having a life to return to after CCK08 ends.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Introductory Week Thoughts

Having studied neither technology nor education, I'm looking for my niche in this course.
My plan is to create 2 weekly posts. One will be tagged CCK08 with the aim of providing data on how I'm doing for those people doing research projects on the success of this learning model. The other will be directed towards people who stumble across my blog and might be interested in what I'm doing without being interested in the commitment required when auditing a class.
Rather than rushing through the introductions, I'm going through them slowly following blog links and going to Wikipedia and making sure that I understand any terms or theories I am unsure of. I am also trying to turn this sea of names into an identifiable learning community. Being a bit on the shy side, it will potentially be easier to learn names and get a sense of the actual people in this massive online course as opposed to actually being in a large introductory course lecture hall?
Because I am starting pretty much at square one, even if I have difficulty keeping up with the actual course content, there is potential for developing a broad ground level knowledge - something similar to taking a pre-admission course or a general arts course.

Wiki Books

Up until know, my knowledge of Wiki was limited to Wikipedia and Wiki Quotes.
George Siemens recommended the Open Content Textbook "Web 2.0 and Emerging Learning Technologies". Wikibooks are a whole new experience for me. Like Wikipedia, wikibooks are in process of being created with people adding and editing content on an ongoing basis. I'm putting the link in my blog for anyone who is interested in seeing an example of an Open Content Textbook.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

U.S. Politics

The U.S. political campaign is the best entertainment on tv. Stephen and I are absolutely addicted to it. The speech writers are terrific and so is the delivery. I want to go directly from a speech to youtube for a replay - I keep forgetting it isn't hockey. I even check out the commentators on wiki. Earl and Merle - their mom should have made big bucks creating brand names for multi-national corporations. I can't wait to see who they find to be the expert on Alaskan politics. Canada is having a federal (national) election as well. The Prime Minister is planning a Sunday visit to the Governor General requesting that Parliament be dissolved in order to have an October 14th election. Just to clarify it, we're talking October 14th, 2008. It's September 4th and we're presuming that an election is being called and we will have elected a Prime Minister prior to knowing who the next President of the United States will be. As everyone is watching the big show in the States, the Canadian voters will definitely have attention deficit when it comes to making our own political decisions.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

You Tube Video Series
"Seventy Signs of Intelligent Life on You Tube"
"Smart video collections keep appearing on YouTube. But rather antithetical to the ethos of its parent company (Google), YouTube unfortunately makes these collections difficult to find. So we’ve decided to do the job for them. These enriching/educational videos come from media outlets, cultural institutions, universities and non-profits. There are about 70 collections in total, and the list will grow over time."

Wanted to share the link with you as I am a big fan of you tube. It's great if you go searching for something in particular but I am sure knowing how to link with collections will expand its usefulness.