PressED is a twitter conference (#pressedconf18/#pressedconf19) looking into how WordPress is used in teaching, pedagogy and research. #pressEDconf19 is happening on April 18th.

This is how it looked like last year. Using video and links to blog posts, lots of content can be discussed even while using a short-form medium such as Twitter.

For the last week of Learning 3.0 (#el30) we had a conversation with Silvia Baldiri, who works with the Fundación Universitaria Tecnológico Comfenalco (Colombia) and Universidad Internacional de la Rioja (Spain), and Jutta Treviranus, Director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) and professor at OCAD University in Toronto.

The conversation was about diversity and projects for young people with very different learning contexts and needs, such as the Social Justice Repair Kit. 

There is the common data capture in education but often this does not capture the complexity and the differences of the situations of different youth groups. A qualitative approach is needed, for instance allowing for storytelling. This is necessary since data show us what happened in the past and there is a risk that, when decisions are just based on these historical data, injustices from the past will be perpetuated.

We also discussed the three dimensions of “inclusive design”: take into account the fact that everybody is unique (“one size fits one”), use inclusive, open and transparant processes, realize that you are designing in a complex adaptive system. One of the benefits of implicating the most vulnerable groups is that these people are like the canaries in the coal mine: what happens to them is often a precursor to what happens to the society as a whole.

In case you wonder what all this has to do with decentralized tools, let me conclude with a long quote from the course:


McLuhan said that technology is a projection of ourselves into the community, so we need to consider how human capacities are advanced and amplified in a distributed and interconnected learning environment. Our senses are amplified by virtual and augmented reality, our cognitive capacities extended by machine vision and artificial intelligence, and our economic and social agency is represented by our bots and agents.

We are the content – the content is us. This includes all aspects of us. How do we ensure that what we project to the world is what we want to project, both as teachers and learners? As content and media become more sophisticated and more autonomous, how do we bind these to our personal cultural and ethical frameworks we want to preserve and protect?

These are tied to four key elements of the new technological framework: security, identity, voice and opportunity. What we learn, and what makes learning successful, depends on why we learn. These in turn are determined by these four elements, and these four elements are in turn the elements that consensus-based decentralized communities are designed to augment.

Learning therefore demands more than just the transmission or creation of knowledge – it requires the development of a capacity to define and instantiate each of these four elements for ourselves. Our tools for learning will need to emphasize and promote individual agency as much as they need to develop the tools and capacities needed to support social, ;political and economic development.

In our effort of forming a community with the participants of E-learning 3.0 (#el30) we wrote blog posts reflecting on our learning experiences. Kevin Hodgson made a visualization of the posts, using the tool thinglink. 

Our esteemed course organizer, Stephen Downes, invited us for a video hangout – for some weird reason I was the only one to actually enter the hangout but some others intervened in text chat. This is the video: 

Stephen Downes questioned whether asking participants to post about their learning experience in this course was a good strategy to establish “community”. Why not just suggest to post a hashtag such as #el30community? By asking to post about our experiences, participants who for whatever reason would not do so, could end up feeling alienated. It reminded me of discussions we had in other communities about lurkers – are they part of the community? The consensus was they were part of it – lurking can be valuable. Still I’m glad I suggested to write a post – it generated new ideas and interactions. 

But how could the blockchain help to establish consensus in a trustless environment? There are theories and experiments involving Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO), I hope to find out more about that in the coming days and weeks.

We also briefly mentioned the possibility of having a Community of Practice (CoP) on a more permanent basis. There is so much to explore: how to use various distributed technologies, how to use Docker and Jupyter Notebooks, which methodologies and pedagogies are best for various peer-to-peer learning contexts. One participant asked whether a central hub would be useful for such a CoP – in my opinion some hybrid model of a hub and a distributed environment would be interesting.

This is a nice example of using virtualization to enhance learning: Repl.it Multiplayer. The site enables you to “code with friends in the same editor, execute programs in the same interpreter, interact with the same terminal, chat in the IDE, edit files and share the same system resources, and ship applications from the same interface.”

You can also find programming courses on the platform. It illustrates the virtues of virtualization: “You can create a workspace in any number of languages, where you are given a container on a virtual machine where your code can run, sandboxed.”

Why would I use it? I have not the time nor the inclination to become a programmer. However, I’m very interested in cyber culture, and programming is part of that. Read some cyberpunk stories and chances are that you’ll encounter coders. These coders tend to be close to the machine, they are rather into C language than into high level languages such as Python. That alone makes me want to learn some basic C. I could use Multiplayer for that (even though you can also experiment with Python on the platform). 

I love to repurpose Moocs such as C Programming: getting started on the edX platform. Not because I will use it for my day job, but because it brings me a bit closer to cyberpunk literature. The same applies for the course Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies on that same platform: I’m not really interested to learn how to trade crypto stuff, I’m attracted by the fact the course will also explore topics such as the Cypherpunk Movement. 

So what I would like to do is to find people interested into internet culture/ cyber culture/ digital humanities, repurpose existing learning materials to fit into a  cyber culture course of our own. We could use platforms such as Multiplayer to play with code, maybe even try out to build data driven art using virtualization technology ourselves (there is a beautiful handbook Teaching and Learning with Jupyter on Github).

It would be a connectivist Mooc for people interested in useless stuff such as philosophy and art, different from the endless offerings of business and job-oriented courses on the mainstream online platforms. 

Hat tip to Stephen Downes, organizer of the Mooc E-learning 3.0, who discussed Repl.it and the Jupyter-course in his newsletter OLDaily.

So how be one community? That’s this week’s task for the course E-learning 3.0. Do we even want to be one community? Do we want to celebrate our similarities or our differences? Do we need to celebrate anything at all?
I think the best way to “solve” this task is to find a viable minimal consensus. We self-organize, establishing for that occasion something like a community, but not by doing something which involves a tremendous investment of trust and long-term commitment.
Let’s follow the example of Wikipedia. Pete Forsyth explained how there is no need for Wikipedia community members to trust each other on some deep, all-encompassing personal level. It’s enough to trust a member to do a good job by providing information backed up by references to good sources.
So what could we do to affirm ourselves to be members of a loose #el30 community – which could eventually develop as a community of practice?

Concrete proposal

I suggest we all post about our experiences in this course. It would be a short or long piece about the content, the way it’s being organized, the way the learners did or did not interact with each other or how we reacted in blog posts and on social media.
Such a post seems like a natural thing to do, there are no good or bad posts, yet it would affirm our being together in this thing – #el30.

In our course E-learning 3.0 (#el30) Stephen Downes had an interview with Pete Forsyth, Wikipedia-editor and Editor in Chief of the Signpost, a community newspaper covering Wikipedia and the Wikimedia movement. He also runs a blog about all things Wikipedia and wiki-based knowledge production. This was particularly interesting to me, since I use Wikipedia a lot and I like quoting it. The broader question here was how does Wikipedia avoid the fake news controverses and how do they arrive at consensus.

Since I’m used to quote Wikipedia, I was a bit shocked when Pete told us that people should not cite Wikipedia as such but rather the sources Wikipedia mentions to back up claims. There is no such thing as “Wikipedia”, there are people contributing articles or parts of articles, hopefully following the Wikipedia policies. It seems there are guidelines about what counts as a good source, which are similar to what journalists do when judging sources and their claims.

Still I do think it sometimes does make sense to quote Wikipedia, since it’s not just a totally decentralized platform where anything goes. There are policies, there is a Wikipedia-culture and standard practices. Especially for definitions, typically at the start of articles, it can make sense to refer simply to “Wikipedia” as often no references are available.

Of course it’s important to check the history of a Wikipedia entry and to have a look at the discussion page. The entry is an element to be judged on itself, and history, discussion and the quality and number of sources are all important elements.

In our course E-Learning 3.0 (#el30) facilitator Stephen Downes asked us to create an identity graph. We should not use a node “me”, “myself” or similar. I made a mind map using Mindmaster, but I dislike the fact that the format seems to impose a central node. I put buddhism/humanism central, since that are core values and practices which permeate my life. Part of it, of course, is aspirational. Actually it would be nice to see the nodes moving, changing positions all the time. Stephen also asks some questions about the graph:

  • What is the basis for the links in your graph: are they conceptual, physical, causal, historical, aspirational? Answer: Well, all that.
  • Is your graph unique to you? What would make it unique? What would guarantee uniqueness? Answer: The combination of interests, passions maybe rather specific, but is it unique? Why should it be unique? And if there is such a thing as ‘typically me’, I guess it somehow eludes whatever description or graph.
  • How (if at all) could your graph be physically instantiated? Is there a way for you to share your graph? To link and/or intermingle your graph with other graphs? Answer: The graph is shared here, Mindmeister gives tools to share and mix. I could have embedded the graph, but I avoid that for security reasons.
  • What’s the ‘source of truth’ for your graph? Answer: Introspection, which is always dubious.

Picture of the mind map, click to enlarge, link above.

I created this site on Reclaim Hosting, the hosting service for ‘educators and institutions’ (and, I guess, for learners in general) co-founded by Jim Groom. Jim previously gave the world the word Edupunk and he facilitated the digital storytelling course ds106.
Learning with Moocs is all about connected learning and more specifically about a number of more technical experiments.

IndieWeb

For now these experiments are being suggested in the course E-Learning 3.0 (#el30, facilitated by Stephen Downes). The course is about learning in a decentralized environment, where learners work on their own projects and own their own data. I posted about this course on my other blog, MixedRealities. In that context I got interested by the “IndieWeb”, that should be a people-focused alternative for the ‘corporate web’. My new site uses the IndieWeb plugin(s) for WordPress.

This bundle of plugins helps to send and receive comments, likes, reposts, and other kinds of post responses using your own site. I’m not sure whether these plugins play nicely with my older MixedRealities site and I’ve no idea about the security aspects, so these and other experiments will be done primarily on this new blog, Learning with Moocs.

OPML

Not visible here is a smaller intervention I did using my site aggregator Feedly. Stephen Downes suggested to use the course OPML-feed to subscribe to the course feeds. I use Feedly a lot, as it helps me to keep track of many sites in a very efficient way. It’s a pity that aggregators never got mainstream adoption. I guess it’s just too hard and too time-consuming for the average web user to get involved with these tools (same applies for social bookmark sites).

As you can see in Downes’ instructional video, finding the OPML-import button in Feedly was not totally self-evident. Stuff like that makes it obvious why adoption of these technology is limited to a niche audience of information professionals and geeks. Anyway, OPML is a useful thing.

gRSShopper

I’ll use Learning with Moocs also for installing Downes’ gRSShopper, “a personal web environment that combines resource aggregation, a personal dataspace, and personal publishing.” I’ll report more extensively about that experiment, as soon as I manage implementing it.

PS – If you have a look at the comments section, you’ll see some IndieWeb-magic taking place there, with me talking on my own site to Matthias who talks on his own site.