Monday, September 22, 2008

CCK08 Week 3 - My small world

Week 3: Properties of Networks (September 22-28)

Well this week I got off to a good start. I have looked at 2 of the 3 weekly presentations, read The Daily and a couple of participant blogs. There appears to be a lot less readings this I may even get to do all the things I want to do and maybe even catch up with some of last weeks readings, which I missed.

Weekly presentations

Learning Networks: Theory and Practice (.ppt and audio) by Stephen Downes.
Didn't take notes as everything is written on the slides. This presentation provided me with a more "concrete" image of what Connectivism is and highlighted the differences between "traditional" learning and "networked" learning. Stephen provided 8 Network Design Principles that elearning projects can be measured against and if the project 
applies to the principles then it is moving towards the direction of networked learning. He also sited a number of resources that I am not familiar I've added them to my resource list (below) and hopefully I'll find the time to investigate them to discover which ones I think may be useful in my learning environment.

Introduction to Networks by George Siemens
Short 3min intro. Briefly reviewed concepts covered in week 1 & 2 and talked about what would be covered in week 3.
Week 1: What is Connectivism - Knowledge is distributed & learning is the process of creating those networks increasing aided through use of technology.
Week 2: Rethinking epistemology: Connective knowledge - Looked at some of the principles of knowledge that we need to consider as educators.
Week 3: Properties of networks. What is a network? Definition: "an entity connected to another entity". Different networks exhibit different structures. People from many fields are actively researching networks (maths, physics, sociology, technology) and as a result of the overlapping of different fields we see different terminiology being used to describe networks.

Some key attributes seen across multiple types of networks are:
  • Small world: when people we connect with know other people we know. These short pads of connections are also referred to as 6 degrees of separation.
  • Hubs & Power Laws: Hubs are highly connected nodes in an overall network (eg: Google). Power Laws occur when certain people have a disproportionate amount of wealth (eg: Forum: 1 person writes 100 posts, whereas many others only write 1). Also referred to as the 80/20 rule. Hubs & power laws are well linked.
  • Scale free: networks that exhibit a power laws distribution.
  • Connectors (or influencers): Individuals that have many weak ties, able to distribute information fast to many people.
  • Weak ties: not people we are well connected with but weak connections we form.
Other attributes: Cascades, Dunbars Number, Centrality, Cohesion, Density of network connections - still to be explored throught the week. A primary consideration with connectivism - to better understand learning we need to better understand networks. The model of a network for education. 

3 types of networks: 1/ Neural, 2/ Conceptual 3/ External (Social).
  • Social: how we form connections with other people or information sources, most supported by existing research. A fairly solid base of research to draw on.
  • Conceptual: currently not as well researched. The combination of concepts tends to change their meaning (eg: stars & stripes). Research in this area not very solid at this point.
  • Neural: beginning to receive additional attention. Research is still emerging and difficult to provide absolute statements.
Conclusion: Networks are an underlying structure exhibited in all aspects of our learning.
  • Are our education systems designed to appropriate take advantage of network opportunities?
    No. Far too rigid.
  • Have we structured our curriculum in too linear a fashion?
    I think so...but in my experience as an adult educator (primarily short 1 to 10 day courses) a lot of people just want you to give them the "facts" or teach them the "skills" so they can get on with the job. They don't want to waste time searching for answers.
  • Have we conceived education as too strongly a one way flow from the academic who knows to students who don't?
    Yes, I think we have. When I first started training (teaching) I was terrified that my students would know more than me or that they would ask questions that I might not know the answer too. I am VERY pleased to say, I got over that very quickly and realised I am not (and don't have to be) an "expert". I am happy to learn from my students (or any other source).
The Daily links that caught my interest...
Photo: My small world and the chaos of my garden reflected back at me!

Blogs or Wikis I read or posted comments to....
Notes: What is ANT? Actor-Network Theory: a contemporary sociological theory. "Broadly speaking, ANT is a constructivist approach in that it avoids essentialist explanations of events or innovations (e.g. explaining a successful theory by saying it is 'true' and the others are 'false'). However, it is distinguished from many other STS and sociological network theory for its distinct material-semiotic approach." (wikipedia)

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