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Category Archive for 'learning theory'

I want to continue my journey to understand learning dynamic using the methodology of the research project Footprints of emergence and connecting my experiences during edcmooc, E-Learning and Digital Cultures. I want to continue all the areas and the factors today and then I’ll take a longer break. First the area open/structure and its seven factors, then interactive environment which includes seven factors. These areas are the part of the emergence circle.


Open/structure means the creative tension between openness and structure. Some structure is needed in every course. How to describe this area more accurately:

Risk means movements from risk to safe,  safe to fail and risk-taking. For experienced moocers edcmooc was a safe environment. There was little to fail at, only many interesting opportunities to prove new and learn. Light area = sweet emergence.

Liminal space varies from conservative, traditional, fixed to the opposite = strange transformations and metamorphoses. The course edcmooc was in the hands of experienced participants leading to many unexpected experiences. Darker outer= sharp emergence, challenging learning.

Ambiguity means closely defined meaning at one end of the dimension and open to several simultaneous meanings at the other end. High level of diversity (participants and their products, resources) led to several simultaneous meanings from across the globe. The participants lived in all continents and there was many language groups in use (not for Finnish people, we use English). Is this darker outer zone again?

Unpredictable outcomes from fixed, micro-managed outcome to surprising, serendipitous, unpredictable outcomes. Edcmooc tempted toward the latter and I was not the only one who loved unpredictable products and thoughts. I learned more than I expected to, and it was nice and full of joy, not uncomfortable at all. Sweet zone or darker outer?

Disruption varies from comfort and familiarity to unsettling, inverting and challenging. It was mostly comfortable to study, listen the videos and take part in the discussions. I used Prezi in my final work for the first time, but I had ideas to use it earlier. There was recommendations to use more difficult devices, but I was free to choose what I wanted. Sweet zone perhaps?

Self-correction. Hierarchical control or self-correcting system? We used the Coursera platform but experienced students offered more choices. What could be self-corrective in Coursera? The facilitators reflected and listened but the original curriculum was not changed, only some extra was taken there. What is the zone? Stable or sweet?

Multipath: only one way or multiple options? In the recommended resources there was much optional and we used Twitter, Google+, Facebook group etc. Many blogs we in use and comments received there. A course could not be more multipath, I think. Which zone means the full marks?

Then to the other area, on the right in Footprints circle. Interactive environment is the heading and it means the way openness vs. structure is realised in practice. I notice that I described that already above, I had problems with separating the curriculum from real events.

Diversity from few, standardised resources to large range of resources and people. Edcmooc offered high level of diversity, thousands of students from every continent, young and old. OK, not from Antartica. It was really open, how to mark that?

Experiential from objective, abstract to embodied, immersed, practice-based. A lot of practice-based experiences were shared and the final work. digital artefact was practice to everyone. Sweet learning, really and challenging sometimes.

Adaptive from fixed to responsive, innovative, creative. The facilitators responded to participants concerns. I don’t remember any changes made to curriculum, but it is possible. Sweet area?

Co-evolution from fixed, hierarchical relationships to mutual adaptation and growth: the latter was true in edcmooc. Feedback and assessments were mutual and the facilitators wrote a blog as a team and reflected transparently  all the time. Lots of evidence of mutual growth was promoted by the atmosphere and facilitators’ expertise. I want to give full marks.

Frequent inter-action and networking from bounded learning space with walls to open, diverse networking learning. Edcmooc had Coursera platform and you had to sign in, but it is not a problem I suppose. It is good the have a place for interactions. And there was a lot of places for interaction outside the platform, more than anyone could use. You had to choice. Full marks.

Trust from competitive self-interest to mutual respect, support and growth. This is the most important question about the course culture, I think. This factor must always be in assessment boxes. Edcmooc lived in the mutual respect and support side and it was a great experience. Experienced participants begun this culture and the facilitators continued with us, mutually.  Full points.

Theory of mind means either interaction with objects or interactions with other subjects minds. The latter seems very demanding, but because of all described in this post, I could claim that we had interaction between our minds.

It is time to summarise my footprints but a break is needed. Perhaps on Monday, let’s see what my mind says :)



In this post I’ll handle the agency quadrant of the Footprints, which I am studying in order to understand better learner dynamics. The entity which I want to describe, is the course E-learning and Digital cultures (edcmooc, see my previous post).

Learning dynamics, visualisation of learning events without absolute good and bad statements is the idea. This is qualitative research without quantified scores. I began to fill the Footprints circle from a part that is easiest to me. My education pushes me to observe and assess individuals psychologically. Agency is the heading of the quadrant and it means Developing your capability on your own terms. First I changed that to ‘my capability and my own terms, but it was not working. I thought the participants as a crowd. Here comes my image, look at the right side only.

tulos1krThere are six factors for illustrating agency. Identity varies from complying fixed roles to creating and developing your own roles, affordances and capabilities.

In edcmooc it was obvious that we = participants could determine our roles from active engagement to observer. Anonymity was allowed in the discussions and sometimes it was in use. Many participants took on the role of supporting other participants. There were thousands people participating and even experienced ones needed support. Following the given description I gave my point to darker outer zone, because it means more challenging learning. I chose a drop to be my point.

Negotiated outcomes is the following factor. It varies from externally determined success factors to mutually determined ones. We had an assignment to do, digital artefact, but it could be almost anything. We received feedback from three students and of course we had to give feedback too. The outcomes were not externally determined. My drop falls on the challenging learning area again, because there was great variability of outcomes.

Autonomy means in this context the dimension of working with others agendas to creating your own agenda and goals. During edcmooc we had to choose our own goals.  I have problems with translating agenda here, it is broader than goals? How could a course influence or change participants’ agenda?  We were allowed to act as autonomously as we could in our life general. The drop follows others to the dark blue, sharp emergence area.

Self-organisation varies from hierarchical fixed processes to creative self-organisation and self-motivation. The topic of edcmooc, digital cultures in the future is open to many directions. I had never thought that it could be hierarchical, but of course some parts of the course could be constrained to selected gurus. This was not the case, or I did not see it. Now I read the guides again and remember that I should describe self-organisation in this factor, not the curriculum. To put it shortly: we could engage or not as we chose. An example of self-organisation could be the digital artefact of one participant. He chose to build a fake account for a facilitator to Twitter  and published it. The facilitators was pleased, not angry, it was a good joke and demo of how easy it was to do. The students were adults so this was possible. My drop falls in the same line, even on a little bit darker blue because of full freedom.

Open affordances varies from compliance with predetermined outcomes to creative innovative engagement. Now I have a feeling that I have already dealt with this topic. What could I add any more? The given  advice to peer grading were general nature and allowed freedom. Here is my blog post about this topic. My peer learners understood my ideas better that I could expect. I was lucky perhaps, but I was interested in all kind of feedback, not only positive. The drop goes to the same line again.

Cross-modal and multi-modal dimension is not easy to follow to me.  Mono-modal, abstract interaction is the other end of the dimension and synaesthesic, embodied, holistic interaction the other end. Interaction during edcmooc was very multi-modal and cross-modal, even trans-modal because of the topic. I have never experienced so great diversity of expressions and interactions. So the drop falls again to the same zone of challenging emergent learning.

Now I’ll take a break, my brain has worked enough. Why all my descriptions are so alike, like each other? Do I miss something, is this halo-effect with memory distortions? I’ll continue with the other lower quadrant named presence after the break.





I want to continue with the theme open participation. I read the slideshare of Doug Clow and want to show one of his slides :

dougclowThe registration is the first step to participate, you can be a lurker without it. The activity finds many ways and the funnel becomes narrower from week to week. Those who are active, develop and progress.

This is not a power law, claims Clow. This is a usual story anyway: steep drop off from one stage to the next. Highly unequal participation pattern can be recognized.

Clow says that we should think less about total dropout and more about why participation reduces at each stage and try to find the patterns of participation. It is possible to widen the funnel if …. what?

I found my old blog post from Nov 23th 2010: Designing for commitment in online communities. There are many good ideas for helping newbies and working with co-learners. Kraut has found two basic ways of commitment: identity-based and bond-based. The first is deep and long lasting motivation, bond-based means social bonds, which last short or longer times.

I did a rough sketch of the activity on Moodle forums of fslt13. This seems to tell the same story which is known from open courses.

viewsThe Arrival Lounge, where everyone tells about her/himself, it has most views. It is a place where you have to return if you want to check the background of a certain participant.

  1. From week 0 I used both reflective statement and supporting learning – discussion, it is the sum.
  2. Week 1 = views about reflective practice discussion
  3. Week 2= teaching groups discussion
  4. Week 3= lecturing discussion.

These numbers are only part of all activity. It would be better to summarize all doings during the week, but I cannot get those numbers directly. The administrators offer better diagrams, this is a rough sketch as I said.

There is activity, thousands views of 149 participants. Participation reduces at each stage, but it turns to the assignments which cannot be seen in this diagram. I leave that part without comments, I have been lazy myself and followed lightly what others do. It is not the best way as Eloise said in a discussion in Twitter #fslt13:

“I feel I’m missing a dimension of #fslt13 bc I’m not doing the assignments – getting a lot out of discussions + webinars.”

If we want to measure or assess the effectiveness of open courses, a proper question could be: Do they ever come to the end? Many of my open courses are still going on and the learning platforms are open. Discussions continue in Facebook Groups, Diigo groups or Twitterchat happenings. Isn’t this a real effectiveness? Drop out numbers seem to be high during courses but new people are coming in afterwards. What is this? Building a global learning community?

Did I say something new? Not sure but I had a need to write this out :)

Human learning has been my favorite topic in this blog from the  beginning. Now I meet this topic on edcmooc, which recommends a lecture of Campbell Gardner: Ecologies of Yearning. I studied psychology at a university since 1964- and know the learning theories, first behaviorism and then its critics. In the 1970′ies we Finnish university students learned to know Bateson and his levels of action/consciousness. We wanted be revolutionary and change the old frames and build up something new, our own perspectives. So does every generation and believes that it is the very first time. That’s life and so it must be, I suppose.

It was nice to meet Bateson again. The challenge is the same and the goal to think differently, is it nearer now? In my eyes, it was most convincing that the lecturer spoke at his edges, he was after something new, he was teaching himself via the many text slides. I loved the sayings: we don’t see things how they are – we see them how we are. Human learning is very limited without self- awareness. I do not like the way how Bateson’s double binds are transferred to education in a simple way. People were laughing at paranoids and other fool people, oh no. If a child meets these impossible double bind situations, its is not a right place to laugh at. It could be better to speak about stacked loops only: how many levels of one’s learning the student is aware.

The next phase in this way is in 1980′ies reflection-in-action and on-action (Schön). Kitchener and King built a Reflective Judgement Model, which opened my eyes again. They used concepts as Quasi-reflective reasoning and reflective reasoning. They described the continuous development from one frame to another, from narrow to broad, from concrete to abstract and so on.

What is the learning that is going on during this edcmooc? is not a question which can be easily answered. Many people have been thinking about it since the first moocs and I participated in a research meeting in autumn 2009 for the first time. One of the best research articles, I think;  are written by Roy Williams and Jenny Mackness. They are developing a dynamic description about learning and I was happy to meet Roy in one of our edcmooc discussion forums ‘metaphors for opening education’. I put one image here, this describes learning in CCK08 and I can recognize some parts of it.

The dimensions are explained in their publications in IRRODL (March 2011 and October 2012). Trust and Risk can be seen here, also Campbell Gardner spoke about ‘feeling homely enough’. Both are needed, fear and safety.

I have printed the articles of Roy and Jenny in order to read them well, but the moment has not yet come. Actually. it is not a lack of time, it is lack of my understanding – how on earth do they build up this map of learning landscapes?

I am sure that during edcmooc many great descriptions about learning will appear and become published in different ways. This course has the right atmosphere, climate for supporting creativity. I am surprised how well this course is working. We have people enough so that diversity does not turn to like-mindedness. We can listen to each other and be curious about the differences we have. It is great to participate on this course.

At last I want to refer to one of my older posts: Dreaming about deeper learning, Apr 22nd 2012. There is a seven minutes video where Otto Scharmer says the words which I wrote to the heading of this post: Learning from the future as it emerges. Stop downloading the same stuff, observe, explore the future by doing something. Open mind, open heart, open will – a road less traveled. Please listen to Otto Scharmer.

I have to add here a link to another digital viking, Asbjörn. I have a feeling that his blog Digimatik deals with same questions as I try tto handle here. Actually, we schould explore how Bateson and Scharmer connect with digital viking lifestyle or mindset?


Dreaming about deeper learning

One of my basic dreams is to understand human learning. I am not sure if I have to define learning in digital environment as a separate form of learning. That way leads to listing tools (blogs, tweets, RSS etc) and seeing PLE only as a collection of devices. I am tired to use that way, I have tried it here too many times. It is better to speak about learning in human systems. People are communicating with each other and computers help to do it.

I needed the words of Otto Scharmer at the beginning of the video I embed here: there are two sources of learning but most theories are interested only in that part which has already happened, experiental learning, how we organize and use our knowledge. The other source of learning is to focus on the future as it emerges just now. I suppose I have lived this moment many times but now I went deeper. I had to stop to ponder about it. Is it possible to stop downloading the old stuff and observe, live in this moment? Scharmer described the psychological inner voices that limit us: fear, cynisicm and judgment. Open mind, open heart and open will are only dreams. We have lost our ability to live in the presence, only children can do it (if they live in safe conditions). I like the simple way Scharmer presents these basic phenomena. I recognize it to be true but so what? What is the next step, my step to real emergent learning? Time will tell and networks help..



I didn’t participate the Digital Storytelling course - ds106 but I followed it via Twitter. I love this blog post in which the facilitators describe the process during that open online course. I can feel the inspiring spirit during studies, how participants appreciate each other. They loved the assignments and wanted to comment and develop further, build and mash up. The participants opened new ways (web radio, web TV). The facilitators ate own dog food = did the same assignments as everyone and that made them understand the studies deeply. I can feel the enthusiasm while listening to the video.

Another interesting blog post came from Rita Kop. She has continued the research about the PLENK course with Helene Fournier. I am eager to follow how they capture our learning. I participated myself and have blogged about my experiences earlier here – and followed their first presentation in LAK11. The background factors about PLENk are still the same, of course. We participants were adults, 27% over 55 and 10% in age group 49-54. I like those numbers. Activity in the basic tools remained low (Moodle, Elluminate),  but blogs were written and Twitter was most popular. It is easy to show beautiful images about tweet networks but I believe that they were only information about what was happening. Tweets remind everything, no need to plan or remember.Everything muts bee easy to us nowadays :)

What can be said about learning during the PLENK studies, it is interesting. Active participation is important, of course. It made students to reflect, involved them in a creative process and it was fun. Participants wanted to give something back to each other. We produced blogs and what ever (see the slides 31-32). But why some people chose to lurk? They were tactical lurkers who wanted to pick up what they wanted or they had always been self-directive learners and didn’t want to share their experiences.  It is not easy to describe learning in open studies.  Some participants assessed that active participation is not at all important (20%!) and 10% said it was somewhat important. How this should be understood? I do not know.

The motivational issues were easy to understand: we wanted to learn something new, to find a real gem of information, others recommended something really interesting,  to get  involved in an online community, see something amazing done by others, to produce something that can be proud of.

I am wondering if anything new about learning is found here. Learning is true in open online courses but some diversity can be seen, lurking is normal as well as active participation and learning with others. Finding something new and co-working increase motivation. These principles are the oldest ones found in learning theories, I think. The research continues and opens new ways in the future I hope. Until this, we have got only new tools for our global online interaction and learning new applications is the main product – is it so? Only new tools or should I say amazing tools? I don’t know.

I noticed some discussion in Elluminate about cliches: someone asked if there are more cliches in open courses than institutional courses. Could it be so? Rita wanted to describe open courses as learning events. Temporary center around the course content, said someone.

Here comes the slide presentation of Rita and Helene, so you can see what they really said. My intention was to draw my own description but I need more time to do it. Don’t know what I am thinking today..

Understanding networking

Today I was inspired to write this after answering Jenny Mackness’s post about attacks on connectivism. She has gathered links to various critical opinions and articles. I continue my pondering here. I don’t want to attack , it is fine to be interested in learning and try to build up theories about it. People try it in CCK-courses or is it better to say that Stephen Downes does with the help of George Siemens. I do not want to write about this, I appreciate their trying. I have worked as a teacher educator and action researcher etc and I am still interested in these questions. It is great to try to understand human learning.

Is it possible to handle a topic like ‘learning theory’ in an open course without former knowledge? I can’t see much sense in it, the theme is too challenging. Everyone has experience about learning, OK but it is not enough. And Experiental learning has already invented, no need to do it again. BUT networking could be a great topic to explore by networking and it could be enough. It is not a piece of cake either but it is more possible and useful. The final project in our first CCK course dealt with networking. It was a good assignment, an opportunity to become conscious about own doings.

My next question is about exploration, which methods we should use? How can we discuss about events in open courses? It takes time to understand basic concepts and theories. What is the level of  speaking: words, concepts, models. I said in my comment to Jenny’s post that openness is not working in CCK-courses and I meant that there is much obscure speaking. Participants are obliged to follow Stephen’s way to think, he takes a privilege to give content to words in his own way. For instance, he says what the word group means – he doesn’t care what others have said after their  research. It took time to understand this.

Now I see that connectivism is something that those two active men have developed based on their own experiences. It is their theory-in-use. This concept comes from Schön’s ideas about reflective practice (theory-on-practice). Networking is the main content, how it becomes possible with new technology. They have succeeded to implement open courses and offered the opportunity to anyone to participate. That is fine but should we focus on the method how we conceptualize and interpret and create new models. Should we re-invent science :) ? Grounded theory has already developed, no need to re-invent it either. It helps to build up models from participative practice.

Learning theories are under development in many universities and research institutes, I see no sense in passing this fact. There are communities like EARLI who have excellent networks. It is not wise to deny all knowledge that exists. Open courses and networks may do whatever – and participants can choose what they want. Everyone is happy then?

You know the book (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) La Petit Prince:  Misunderstandings always become from words.. the fox said these words to Little Prince and he was right, yeah?

The quality of connection

It is Christmas Day and – in Finland – we spend it at home thinking about the purpose of life or other important issues. In order to be in line I ponder about the quality of connection. We always speak about quantities, numbers of followers and so on and external factors of courses. There is a lot of conversation about open courses going on. Dave has made some nice videos to illustrate the difference between formal and open courses. I believe those help some people but…

What is the real question of a learner at the beginning of the studies. The learner wants to be accepted, be seen, be heard and find real connections to other people. It is difficult in massive open courses but it can happen inside formal curriculum. I have much experience about creating the atmosphere such that authentic learning becomes possible.

Developmental psychology has always known the meaning of basic trust, the enormous power of it through the life. We all know how difficult it is to live a happy life nowadays in spite of material richness. We try to be perfect, we numb emotions and only perform cognitively. We want easy and quick answers to questions which cannot be answered or solved. We have to hide our feelings of shame and fear if we want to be accepted. The quality of human connection has turned to opposite, it is continuous disconnection. I have a lot of experiences about lonely studying in open course.

We need some people to tell us how we have distorted everything. We believe in TEDX Talk, so let us listen to Brene Brown.

Is there any New Learning of this digital age? -this  has become an interesting question. Perhaps it is still open and waits for answers. The attitude towards technology has been bipolar since the 1960′s: a struggle between technophiles and technophobes. Some wait for better, more effective new learning and some are afraid of these changes. Both have grown during last decades and we have got more technological tools.

My history of working as an online facilitator began from the insight that I needed constructive, humanistic and critical didactics in adult education. It was important to understand that technology did not give any theory, I could use all my knowledge about learning theories. I appreciated a book (Matikainen & Manninen) Online education for Adults, 2001 (in Finnish only). They had five orientations to describe the possibilities between learning and online didactics: technological, cognitive, constructive, humanistic and critical. The last one was needed in transformative learning by expanding.I did not read the book first and then go and teach – I began to use our new learning platform and then noticed what I did and why. I became conscious about my pedagogical principles by answering the questions of my colleagues.

This week Finnish teachers had a conference about online teaching, and I could follow it at home by following a typepad notebook some participants wrote there. I refer here two expert’s lectures: Roger Säljö and Kai Hakkarainen.

All technology has been “sold” to the educational sector with unrealistic promises. Social media is not different in that regard. None of these new technologies have actually revolutionized education, said Säljö. But simultaneously:  “Technology does not improve learning – it changes learning.” For instance by building up of a social memory and new representations and documentary practises: in the stone age iconic representations were not sufficient for a versatile culture to develop – but nowadays iconic methods are taking a more central position again.  All representational tools rely on interpretive practices & interpretive communities.  Learning is in the performative recontextualization of knowledge. – I think I should read more about Säljö, has been in my mind some years. I thought he is Finnish but now I know he is Swedish :)

Kai Hakkarainen is a researcher and has written about three generations of technology-enhanced learning. The first generation focused on examining computer-supported collaborative learning from the cognitive perspective. The main focus was to examine to what extent knowledge-seeking inquiry elicited conceptual change. Problems of transferring inquiry learning culture from one country to another pushed us to examine social practices and other participatory aspects of learning that had been invisible to cognitive researchers.

The second-generation research focused on analyzing patterns of participation in computer-supported collaborative learning.  The emerging third generation research aims at overcoming the dichotomy between the cognitive (knowledge acquisition) perspective and socio-cultural (participation) perspective by means of long-standing and deliberate efforts of knowledge-creation, involving what is called objects of activity.

He recommended the dissertation of Minna Lakkala, see my earlier post. We have many new artifacts that help collaboration, for instance the etherpad was necessary to me to follow. Social media is a normal part of working if you are open-minded and have courage to prove new tools. We are living in an iterative process where individual skills become social property of the whole community and so on.

I have lived in that process about ten years – and in the same process with smaller amount of technologies many decades, but what is the quality of learning: we have called it transformative, emansipatory, empowerment .. The dear child has many names, we say in Finnish. Shared knowledge building and networked learning are enough to me just now.

It seems I’ll have to take a long journey – this time I am going to refer to some discussions in the blogosphere I remember, probably meaning they have made an influence on me.

First I take Teemu Leinonen, who has lived globally much longer than me and knows about wikipedia and -media and many international projects. His blog is named Flosse Posse and he wrote about learning theories recently. He needed  behaviorism, constructivism and social constructivism. (edited 11.10, read Teemu’s comment) I like the way he tells about these theories, he convinces me about his expertise. Then he tells about Sugata Mitra’s experiments Hole in the Wall, which we have been discussing about in PLENK2010: Learning by doing, socially, in small groups. To give affordances for poor children is the way forward.

Another source was in Pontydysqu web pages and it took a time to find. They have much knowledge there and I was not familiar with those pages, but I succeeded and here it is: Connectivism vs. constructivism by Jenny Hughes. She tells about some projects (Mitra + ..) and lists the learning theories needed for interpretation. I feel empathy when she becomes confused with theories. One new concept can be found: social connectivism (it was lacking, really :) ). We have to know the theories of Dewey, Vygotsky, Piaget, Papert, Bruner, Engeström – perhaps it is best to speak about their work and their development instead of putting them to one category of learning theories. I liked the style in comments to Jenny Hughes’ blog post, but I feel I am tired of listing theories. It does not help.

My last link goes to Jenny Mackness, her blog post after our Elluminate session yesterday. Jenny writes about the relevance of learning theories to teaching practice and reflects her own experiences as an educator. Theories matter, but not directly, they are tools which must be assessed and developed to different purposes. Jenny proceeds to George’s presentation about connectivism as networked learning.

What have I learned while summarizing my personal history, my work in the teacher education and these three discussions? Actually, I am not any more interested in this level of listing and shortly referring to main sources. What does it help? My question is: where is thinking, pondering and real discussion. I see Jenny M. gives an example of combining theories to one’s practice and professional development. But we don’t have time and interest to do it throughout in PLENK, I suppose.  I cannot grasp this theme even I know everything. How can I find my way forward? What is the level of our working, discussion, collaboration? How should I participate in order to make sense in this chaos in my mind? :(  :)

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