Thursday 26 November 2015

Free 86 page book on Visible Learning via Routledge #visibleLearning

From time to time Routledge offers curated books for free download. In this case the book is on Visible learning to celebrate the upcoming new book of John Hattie. This free book is called: Know Thy Impact: Visible Learning in theory and practice, and you can get it here.

In order to get a free copy of this curated book (it takes small samples of previous books by J. Hattie, plus a a part from his upcoming book), you do need to provide your name and email address to Routledge, together with a specification of what you are interested in as a field. I wonder why? Anyway, the ebook is sent immediately to the provided email address, and it opens as a pdf.

Visible Learning
The term visible learning (launched by John Hattie) is still gaining momentum and although its main focus is on classroom settings, with some adjustments you can use it across the educational board, including some online learning options. When you think about learning, being able to understand the impact of learning on the student or learner is pivotal, as it allows you (as a teacher/trainer) to adjust your learning or at least know what its results are. Visible learning is just that, making the impact of learning visible. The term is easy enough, making it happen is much more difficult as we all know. It uses evidence-based statistics, has links to learning analytics, and visualizes different teacher-student learning options.

In this 86 page book a synopsis of prior books on Visible learning is given:
a history of how the term and books about Visible Learning came about (with links to those books, it is a promotional stunt these types of freebooks, but to me worthwhile reading as they do capture some of the core ideas behind the concept).
Some guidelines on why teachers are powerful supporters for the learning process, and how they can enhance the learning process for learners
How the teacher as activator and facilitator has an impact on learning, as such teaching leads to higher levels of learning, autonomy, and self-regulation on behalf of the learner (whether student or teacher)

A nice, brief overview on visible learning, just enough to make you decide whether to search for additional information (or not). 

Wednesday 25 November 2015

@AaronESilvers on the Vocabulary of xAPI and Implementation

To me xAPI stays one of the most exiting bits of Tech for understanding the learning experience of both individual and groups of learners (prior blogposts). The difficulty is to understand xAPI's mechanics, potential and reach. In come Aaron Silvers (the visionary behind xAPI) and Megan Bowe (the xAPI monger) with a nice set of slides that describe the vocabulary of xAPI, which are a set of simple words, but which definitions can be interpreted in different ways.
And after that set of words and wisdom, Aaron shared a slidedeck of 59 slides, illustrating what it takes to implement xAPI within industry or technological partners (questions for the team/tech partners, data alignment, todays adoption challenges...).

At the end of the industry/tech partner slidedeck Aaron also refers to the launch of the 2016 Data Interoperability Standards Consortium (DISC) with certification, workstreams, and a potential roadmap to implement xAPI. 

Here are the links to both xAPI slidedecks:

Friday 20 November 2015

Historical #EdTech perspective for all researchers @sharplm

This is a great, brief set of slides (33 slides) which allows us aspiring/experienced researchers to quickly anchor our own EdTech research or ideas into a historical EdTech perspective (mine: phenomenology, MOOC, social learning).

While I was taking a break from data/writing (PhD) and trying not to think about finding a job (Wild cards welcomed), I saw a new slidedeck from Mike Sharples come in with an introduction into Educational Technology. Mike Sharples is one of those people who have experience in various EdTech fields from the start of his academic career, which makes him a great curator for the topic.

In just 33 slides he guides the viewer through some EdTech highlights (e.g. logo programming, mobile learning) all the while linking to inspirational EdTech people who changed the journey of many EdTech researchers (e.g. Papert, Dewey), and looking at emerging themes through history (e.g. self-paced learning, learning design). Admittedly, there is a focus on UK/OU projects.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Five wonderful Open Access journals to read and write for

Getting published has multiple benefits: you reflect while writing, you get feedback from peers on the paper/research that you are writing, and your novel opinion/idea/research/insight can be picked up by hundreds if not thousands of your peers. At the same time reading up on wonderfully rich and open access journals or magazines makes my day. Especially when I have a day of data crunching behind me and I am looking for some food for thought that might ignite my online learning mind. 

These are 5 of my favorite resources that I love to read and are always happy to submit an article for (no logical order, simply listing them as they come to mind):

IRRODL or the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning: a Canadian based journal, but with a clear willingness and action to include global research. It is peer reviewed and each one of its published issues is packed with interesting articles (I do review articles for them, always a pleasure). 

JOLT or the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching: it is a peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication that aims to promote scholarship in the use of the Internet and web-based multimedia resources in higher education. The first issue appeared online in July 2005 and included a number of invited papers from various disciplines. The journal is now published quarterly in March, June, September, and December.

Learning Solutions Magazine: a wonderful  publication of The eLearning Guild since 2002, it is the eLearning industry’s oldest and trusted source for practical information on the strategies, tools, technologies, services, and best practices for the management, design, development, and implementation of enterprise-wide eLearning programs. Learning Solutions Magazine offers feature articles, case studies, reviews, interviews, spotlights, columns, snippets, tips, and news that you can use with confidence while making critical decisions to ensure your organization’s success with eLearning. 

eLearning Papers (EU): eLearning Papers looks at the exchange of information on open education, OER and ICT in education in Europe and stimulates research. As such, the articles provide views regarding the current situation and trends in different communities: schools, universities, companies, civil society and institutions. Through these articles, the journal promotes the use of Open Educational Resources and new technologies for lifelong learning in Europe. eLearning Papers issues include an editorial article, plus articles, interviews and/or reviews, and are usually published four or five times a year.

Open Praxis: is a peer-reviewed open access scholarly journal focusing on research and innovation in open, distance and flexible education. It is published by the International Council for Open and Distance Education - ICDE Open Praxis welcomes contributions which demonstrate creative and innovative research, and which highlight challenges, lessons and achievements in the practice of distance and e-learning from all over the world. An article may present research or surveys of recent work, describe original work, or discuss new technology and its possibilities, implications and/or other related issues. And the most fabulous guideline is that you need to put in at least 25% international references! Really working towards a global research community. 

#DigiWriMo #Future from humans as micro-brains to Artificial Intelligence (part 2)

In my last post which paralleled neurons with humans, and which drew a parallel between curation and giving rise to new forms of being, I ended with the question what the next step into evolution from curation could be. It seems there are some nice new realisations which might possibly look into this. Enhancing learning into the next era.
While I was looking at another episode of Through the Wormhole (clip a bit further down), on quantifying consciousness (or the math of consciousness), an interesting similarity between the discourse on connected learning or networked learning, and consciousness arose. When I also added the hive mind, or swarm theory to it… all of a sudden I thought: this is a fun parallel if you look at the evolution of learning and plug it into an evolutionary, physics/math perspective.

Community of experts parallel specialized brain regions
I am part of online educators group, and I frequently reflect on what that means. In a way it means that my direct family does not always know what I am doing, I talk, but to them it is often gibberish as they do not have similar backgrounds and interests. On the other hand, because I am a firm believer in educational freedom (and Star Trek Society), I am also only part of that type of online learners. Although I can enter into conversation with people who are more of the powerful
This also means my endeavors and experiments are on the outskirts of the educational powerhouses. Yet, I do find that my research has been picked up by some of these powerhouses (I can see it the data stream, and sometimes in some of my reappearing content which is either attributed, or sometimes is not).

If you take the brain and zoom out, you can see areas of expertise. And within these areas you have very strong connected neurons (like the group of online educators I feel I belong too), and lesser connected neurons (eg. other areas of expertise). In between the brain regions, there are bridges and communication often moves from one region to the other, even on specialized tasks. The same happens if you look at interdisciplinary research, the field experts come together, build bridges, but at the end reinforce the new interdisciplinary knowledge that is assimilated into their own more specialized discipline.

So, looking from outer space, and visualizing the inter-connectivity of field experts, with an overlay of interdisciplinary researchers… what might you get? I would imagine a new type of consciousness will arise. The next evolutionary step. Admittedly, sometimes I feel this could be scary: if we humans are put in isolated spaces because of this (or become fertile fields that grow stem-cells for artificial beings who harvest us…. Mmm, should probably stop reading SciFi), or it feels comfortable, if we humans would be kept as ‘fun organic life’ and we humans were provided with endless leisure time in which we could learn whatever and from whoever (yes, my ideal world there).  

We learn at increasing speed
Each of us who loves learning has the potential to learn at bigger speed than ever before (Internet, MOOC, the shoulders of giants and peers). This results in stronger and more paths to more knowledge. Each one of us that has an interest and a cognitive capacity to use and add to the area of robotics can now do this (mentioned in a previous blogpost) which means the chances of someone in that group of practitioners being able to lift that field into a much higher level of expertise also becomes a reality. 
Then at what level does the next spark of consciousness appear? What level of information must be distributed across a network before it leaps out of the network to become the next level of consciousness?

Calculating Consciousness
When Integrated Information Theory came along (Integrated Information theory, all of a sudden the mechanisms of consciousness were being quantified (article From the Phenomenology to the Mechanisms of Consciousness: Integrated Information Theory 3.0
), Phi (consciousness) became a formula, and all life on earth could be calculated for its amount of consciousness. A thrilling bit of research. The University of Wisconsin has done some pioneering work in that area (to that extend that I had a look at their job applications). In the series of Through the Wormhole,Season 5 Episode 8, they look into making consciousness quantifiable

Moving beyond the human brain
The way each of us evolves throughout life feels natural to us. We know we start out as babies, we then learn the basic human actions throughout our childhood, and eventually – if all goes well – we become adult with a place in society. In a way we know the path of raised consciousness each one of us passes throughout life. But this feeling of knowing how consciousness evolves is of course – up to now – not been reproduced in an artificial setting. We do make impressive progress, but none of us humans knows when the next leap in consciousness, the next leap in cognition will happen with artificial intelligence. We just move forward, and once it does happen we will observe this birth of autonomous artificial intelligence.

Referring to A network of artificial neurons learns to use human language
An interesting step along this way towards autonomous artificial intelligence was recently described in research from the University of Sassari (Italy) and the University of Plymouth (UK) who have developed a cognitive model, made up of two million interconnected artificial neurons, able to learn to communicate using human language starting from a state of 'tabula rasa', only through communication with a human interlocutor. Taking some info from an article in the NeuroscientistNews: The ANNABELL (Artificial Neural Network with Adaptive Behaviour Exploited for Language Learning) and it is described in an article published in PLOS ONE and described in this article.
ANNABELL does not have pre-coded language knowledge; it learns only through communication with a human interlocutor, thanks to two fundamental mechanisms, which are also present in the biological brain: synaptic plasticity and neural gating. Synaptic plasticity is the ability of the connection between two neurons to increase its efficiency when the two neurons are often active simultaneously, or nearly simultaneously. This mechanism is essential for learning and for long-term memory. Neural gating mechanisms are based on the properties of certain neurons (called bistable neurons) to behave as switches that can be turned 'on' or 'off' by a control signal coming from other neurons. When turned on, the bistable neurons transmit the signal from a part of the brain to another, otherwise they block it. The model is able to learn, due to synaptic plasticity, to control the signals that open and close the neural gates, so as to control the flow of information among different areas

How many humans does it take to spark AI?
It could be the start of a future joke, but at present it is something which interests me. Because if the brain sends out electric currents between interconnected neurons, then what happens if humans – working on the same field – connect using the electric currents of the Internet? Something to look forward to. 

(Image credit Bruno Golosio)

Tuesday 17 November 2015

#DigiWriMo Curation and Consciousness #Future AI, neurons and humans (part 1)

One afternoon while letting my mind flow freely, it came to me that it is easy to see a parallel between the way humans seem to group together, and the way synapses strengthen each other while creating specialized regions in the brain. A fun analogy. In this blogpost I explore how to move from stem-cells to curated humans, to artificial neurons becoming conscious. Using references to Information Integration Theory, a selection of Through the Wormhole (mathematics of consciousness), and free creative thinking. And always stepping from micro, meta to macro-levels. Warning: this post is longer than usual. And although this week is Working Out Loud week, I am WOL fairly throughout the year, so I thought it would be fun to share Think Out Loud for this DigiWriMo-post.

Stem-cells and learning individualsIt is still amazing to think that we – as humans – come from stem-cells. Cells that can become anything (within the human body). At the start these cells seem similar, at the end they are differentiated, embedded in a web of equals, with bridges and communications to other groups of neurons. This reminds me of how humans evolve within their lifetime evolve from being fairly similar at birth, to being highly specialized depending on their surroundings, context, capacities… and at the end to fade away ready to be replaced with the next best thing (slightly adapted).

From each of our conception we are stem-cells, from their our bodies are formed. Once we are becoming more conscious, we start to filter information and people: we learn from our environment, our parents and peers, and from the guidelines embedded in our culture and the food which we have access to strengthens our physical being. All the while our mind expands, it becomes part of a group of people which we tend to ‘like’ and move towards, or ‘dislike’ and move away from. There is an active movement of us, as individuals to become part of a group which (seems) to fit the idea of where we belong to.

Curation in micro, meta and macro towards consciousnessThis situating of the self within a society (whichever society) can be seen as a curation. I wrote about curation in a previous post on how all of society and learning seems to be the result of some curation. But after having written that post, I got some comments (Laura Gibbs, Geoff Stead) and those comments triggered further reflection. Curation happens on several levels, but it can be simplified to be happening on three levels: micro, meta, and macro-level.
Micro-level: individual selection of each person screening information they come across. E.g. Stephen Downes, with his self-developed (written software) and self-sustained OlDaily/OlWeekly. This newsletter provides insightful information on a variety of open learning related topics (including magazines, individual bloggers, institutional interviews…. Another wonderful individual curation initiative is the selection of books covered and described by Maria Popova in her brain pickings, again solely possible thanks to people supporting her in her writing/blogging endeavors.
Meta-level: social curation (a topic covered to great extent by Julian Stodd) where networks of people in their connected world select information from the group and for the group. A bit like conferences and journals (from formal options), and knowledge clouds created inside of organisations or fields of experts. There are people who manage to deliver a course build upon content that is chosen and organised by learners/participants. I feel that is also part of meta-level curation. Dave Cormier manages to do this with his Rhizo-MOOC, which I guess is one of the most influential MOOCs out there (possibly together with DS106 and one of the MOOC that started the concept: CKK). What Dave manages to achieve is to start from a blank canvas, the MOOC is nothing. The topic will be chosen by the participants, then get populated with information from theses participants, and suddenly the dialogues move towards creating more knowledge within each of the participants, including Dave himself. Why do I feel this is one of the most influencial MOOCs? Because, looking at the vast outputs of that MOOC, the high level of expertise of participants gathered in those yearly MOOCs (with multiple influencial bloggers), it is hard to underestimate the impact of that MOOC on online educators across the world.
Macro-level: this level is being impacted the most by the society in which it is created and institutional symbolic capital, together with its gatekeepers, and accepted cultural norms. Where the micro- and meta-level still have some autonomous freedom, on the macro-level that freedom is becoming increasingly pressured by those in power. In a way each one of us individually adds to this power bastion, due to money being part of the sustainability of the macro-level (eg. Leading research institutes, leading magazines…). Whereas on the micro- and meta-level some autonomy can be kept no matter which societal philosophy is guiding or allowing the Way Forward.

A bit like Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic capital. Eg. Where people mention an experts/artists name as a way to heighten their own importance (yes, mentioning Bourdieu would be part of that :D But on a macro-level this means that the symbolic capital is also pushed by the gatekeepers (those who are keeping in eye out for maintaining and reproducing power). This means at that level the government and recognized (or established) institutes make the selection of information that will be disseminated.

How does this translate from humans into neurons?As individual neurons, it does not seem to matter at first with whom we connect, but once a communication is set up, those neurons with multiple communications throughout time are being reinforced. A preference of communication is happening, and that repetition is creating stronger bridges between the neurons. On a meta-level, the groups of neurons are specializing, becoming more important for specific tasks (eye sight, feelings, deductions…). Impulses from contexts are influencing the strengths of these connections. (eg. Western society pushing linear thinking, Eastern society emphasizing horizontal thinking).
On a macro-level the full human is becoming apparent. It is no longer the connections of the neurons, but the result of these connections as drivers of the bigger neuron temple: the body and externalized mind of that particular human. The body and mind of us humans is the macro-level of neuron activity, just like our institutions seem to be the drivers of our society.

In search for the spark into consciousness
So I wonder, when does consciousness happen? In a way, I feel, that Rhizo-MOOC has created a higher consciousness in terms of what online education is like. All of its participants have become more than the sum of their parts (in terms of previous knowledge).
Could it be that by putting people together, you have the same effect as putting neurons together. Given a communication is actually happening. I think heightened communication does indeed result in higher consciousness. But if neurons linked together manifest life (or in the above-mentioned paragraph, result in manifesting the human), then what happens if humans are put together for a long period of time, and at such a momentum that they become more and more connected across the globe? Will this evolve into a superhuman or into an artificial intelligence which relies on humans, yet is more than all the humans put together? Maybe even to the extent that we as humans will become just another step into evolution. Redundant once a more accurate, speedy evolutionary step is reached.

In my next post I explore moving from Consciousness into Artificial Intelligence, while comparing communities of people to regions in the brain, "#DigiWriMo #Future from humans as micro-brains to Artificial Intelligence (part 2)"

(Image credit Bruno Golosio)

Tuesday 10 November 2015

#DigiWriMo on curation and MOOCs loosing individuality

It seems that there is no structure, without it being the result of curation. Looking at the world wide web, at first there was the content of scientists, the long discussion boards, and lists with scientific knowledge. Then knowledge from other individuals started to seep in, and more people started to put more information on the web. The web got populated by more people than before. I remember my father pointing me towards some compuserve mailing lists (wonderful news clip sharing the 1981 version of an electronic, dial-in newspaper). At a certain point this distributed knowledge seemed to be in need for being structured, or curated so ‘the best’ information could be found more easily. And when you look at online learning now, with the emergence of MOOCs, social media… you can see how information is curated and/or marketed to some extend to make it easier for people to find ‘the best’ (whether that best is paid for or not by algorithm pushing companies).

MOOC from freedom to norm
Whatever this best might be. The same happened with oral stories that turn into print, then into encyclopedias or specialized magazines… and now the curation is happening in the knowledge sphere. So where at first some scattered enthusiasts and experts shared their knowledge and felt free to do so, MOOCs are now sharing specialized knowledge from people related to big knowledge institutes, that have the money and partners to build and disseminate information. We are roped in by the gravity of big societies.

But if everything moves towards curation, then individualism moves towards cooperation and swarm dynamics as well. Which also means that individuals are only good in exploring new areas (not as much impact) and that – in this day and age – only big institutions can be the curation masters (impactful). True, sometimes curation ends up to be used by an individual again, e.g. the visualisation or the histography that Matan Stauber built with Wikipedia running as a feeder in the background of this visualisation

Can one be an individual?
Where does that leave us as individuals? You see, I have always been told that I should think independently (and I admit I am not that good at it, but I try to be). But maybe the idea of individuality is actually non-existent in the long run? If one of the reoccurring historical dynamics seems to be curation, humankind is much more like a bee hive or amoeba where the individuals only have freedom at the start of a new exploration, but never beyond. Individuals always get pulled back in.

Curation picking up online speed
Once a new type of product, or habit, or knowledge, or technology is formed, with which eager people (early adopters) are going to play. For instance psychology, or medicine… at first it is something some curious people play with. Some of them get good at it (witches, druids to stick with the medicine part). Then it becomes more known and some sort of structuring takes part. Curation is taking up speed. In a connected world we depend on curation, as more content is being produced by more people in parallel amount of times than ever before. As more of us know where the shoulders of giants are situated (giants being the experts in our field/s) and more people Working Out Loud to share what they do and how they do it, it becomes inevitable that more of us stand on those shoulders to reach new heights ourselves. But this increased content creation, also comes at a prize (I think, could be wrong). Suddenly that which gave some of us a sense of freedom (like first mooc being the forerunners of education for all, or internet allowing us to connect freely with all the people in the world) turns into a commodity, a mass product.

Nothing makes us free, we all get reeled back in
This is why I think Higher Education institutes, the Maker Movement, … any new type of seemingly new movement inevitably will be taken over by the curation directed by the norm. Freedom and experimentation is only there for a brief moment. Whether we like it or not, we collectively seem to want to go to a bigger movement… With this in mind, I wonder how diverse diversity can be? How different is the distance between two different people in reality? Maybe none of us can escape this cohesion of the masses?

Monday 9 November 2015

Changing the #twitterheart to X via simple coding

When twitter first changed the star into heart, I could not be bothered. Although I must admit I did follow some of the discussions (one from Kate Bowles here).

Software is always biased and represents the cultural and philosophical background of the developer/s (nice overview paper from Friedman and Nissenbaum, 1996, but also a lot articles, latest one from Gizmodo on job application software). This is also true for the symbols socmed companies use, in this case the #twitterheart. But when tweaking of those symbols becomes really simple it becomes a pleasure to change the symbols used... oh Yes.

Vicky Curtis got me on to this nice and simple Chrome/Firefox extension tweak to change the twitter heart into something you like. (tough part: finding a symbol you want to use... I went for a mobile phone.

The idea comes from Robert McNees who shared a full code via Github here. But this is a bit of work, a simplified version was offered by Adam Clark Estes from Gizmodo in an overview article, focusing on a simple addition of coded lines to a browser extension (either chrome/firefox), which only takes 6 steps to get the twitter heart replaced by an emoji (= character or symbol) of your choice. Neat!

Now, because I combined the article of Adam Clark Estes with the updated coding from Robert McNees = @McNees , I will add the steps I used in this post. Btw, at the end I also choose the "URL's that start with' option to add behind the 'applies to' option inside of the Stylish extension. So here it goes:

Step 1: Download the Stylish extension for Chrome or Firefox. (There are a host of other extensions to restyle the web, but Stylish is super easy to use.)
Step 2: Open Stylish (= click on the 'Manage installed styles' option within the Browser icon of Stylish for a new window to open, then click on 'write new style' - button)
Step 3: paste the wonderful code from Robert McNees into that new style window, find the code here at Github
Step 4: change the standard emoji, with the emoji of your preference (you can search for images of emoji and then copy paste them into the code).
Step 5: In the “Applies to:” field below the code, choose the option 'URL's that start with' (otherwise you only get the changes for and not your own tweets).
Step 6: Click Save and your twitter should be updated with your own emoji.  
My biggest difficulty was finding the right emoji... still not sure about my simple X... and there seems to be some hearts still not adjusted, but getting there. And in the meantime, chaos in symbols is adding some diversity. 

Sunday 8 November 2015

Jay Cross and the passion which guides us

Yesterday Jay Cross passed away. When Clark Quinn sent out the message, I felt hurt in my heart. Real pain, which struck me as being unexpected as Jay was an online colleague at first, but we engaged in many conversations and thus – apparently – my heart embraced him, just like Jay embraced people warmheartedly all the time. He could appeal to the authentic self so easily, by being authentic himself. 
Jay is no longer in this living world. It is as though I am missing a beacon of knowledge. At any giving moment I would know that I could go to one of his online spaces, and learn something new. 9 years ago Jay accepted me in one of his learning communities (on Ning at the time), and he entered the conversation inviting me to share more. Within days I had learned more about elearning (formal and informal), and the importance of openness, sharing, working out loud (which was not a term back then). 

We would have met again at Online Educa Berlin, he actually was finishing his latest book on real learning. He would promote the book there, Real Learning, to which I added some feedback on Jays request (a great book of his, sharing evidence-based learning techniques). How typical for people of passion to keep having ideas. When passion guides us, we radiate and inspire. We live the best of our lives, if we can find our passion and fully immerse in it. And Jay managed to pull that off with enormous ease, and ignite multiple others along the way. What a great life it is, when a person inspires others, lifts them to great heights, motivates them to reach higher levels of professionalism and insight. And what a wonderful life it is to end right in the middle of finishing yet another inspiring project. I remember that almost a year ago I was standing with Jay, discussing self-directed learning and while he was talking I could see the look (= the twinkle) in his eyes, knowing that he was on the verge of diving into a new project that he was mapping in his mind. Looking back, it reminds me of Agatha Christie, who is said to be working on a new plot right until she passed away herself. There is something in the way passion can illuminate our lives, as well as others. And those who manage to capture it are true heroes. Thank you Jay, I will miss you. Sending all of his beloved one’s lots of strength.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

#DigiWriMo technology, robotics, and a galloping horse

This is the first of my set of #DigiWriMo posts. A bit on why we replicate what exists. And whether we are curious to understand how things work, or whether we just want to be the creator/s?

Technology reinventing nature
Technology does something to humans, multiple things, but most of all we seem to use technology to enlarge what already exists. Mobile phones offer ways to talk at a distance, planes bring us somewhere faster, computers help us calculate more accurately, … and robotics mimic natural motion. So, one could wonder how innovating humans are? Can we ever outgrow our own world? Can we build things that are really different? Is it possible to create something that one cannot imagine? I always wondered about this. Is the fact that we do not see life in this universe because there is no life, or do we not see it because we cannot imagine life that expands our known spectrum of life? Whichever is the case, the urge to understand how things work or why we are here (if we are here) seems to be one of the more attractive bits of thinking and exploring. Maybe this is why the course which propelled the term MOOC into the media was in fact on Artificial Intelligence. Many of us are intrigued by the codes of life, by how things work, … by robotics.  

Muybridge’s galloping horse after reorienting himself
One of those explorers of life, motion, technology was Muybridge. As he explored the static art of photography, he started to map the route towards motion and … found it. With his pictures of a galloping horse he managed to put photographs into motion (Btw he was very productive in his 50’s). And with his motion pictures scientists could investigate in more detail what elements were part of a seemingly fluent galloping motion. Muybridge was not a photographer by trade, he simply turned himself into one. He did this by traveling, hard work, trial and error.

MOOC to reorient or train
In our time and in the Northern/Western hemisphere, it is a bit easier to retrain yourself by following MOOC, finding answers and ways of doing stuff on the internet, or simply by the old trial and error. But if you scroll through the courses that are available, I do feel there are more STEM oriented courses than socially oriented courses. Especially in the advanced area. So I wonder does this link to the fact that people want to understand their universe through a technological lens, or is it because those STEM-oriented people use technology more to send out their content?
In any case, if let’s say you would want to be a robotics scientist, you can gather up some great courses, and in doing so build yourself a network while collaborating with peers (I would think: learn, build, share in core learning network, share in larger network via conferences: e.g. ).

At the moment of writing this post, there are:
17 robotics related courses in Coursera (
FutureLearn has several courses, but I could not find the search all courses button. But this one is great ‘starting robotics’ .
In a way the above can be seen as curated courses... versus the open online courses you can build while roaming the internet.

When going through these courses, would you be able to get into one of the more specialized robot-centers? I would like to think so. There are some nice contemporary robot projects available. For example one on galloping and jumping. I guess in the not so distant future more robot pets will be living with us (no mess, they actually listen, they can help around the house or carry luggage...). I would like some fur on them though.

Getting to grips with my #DigiWriMo goal
To end this post, I want to sketch what I have in mind for this series of #DigiWriMo to share how this first post came to mind. I only know parts of my own discipline (online and technology based learning), but I do have ideas when watching or encountering ideas from other disciplines. Most of the time I shy away from writing about those less familiar fields in public. With this DigiWriMo I want to tackle this inhibition, and write down what comes to mind when thinking about the future (and technology). I plan to link to grey media (blogposts, MOOCs, documentaries…) or even nothing. Simply sharing my thoughts in whatever logical or false logical form. Why? Because I want to shift towards philosophy in my next phase in life. I want to reorient myself, and so I take this DigiWriMo as an opportunity to playfully get started with sending my thoughts out there, and not limiting those ideas to a personal notebook, nicely tucked away in my backpack.

#OEB15 Mixing audiences and discussions make great conferences

There are many conferences focused on online education. Some are more academically oriented, some are more corporate, and then there are those who offer mix of technology, corporate, practitioners (either academics, trainers, or teachers), as well as EdTech thinkers. There are two conference organisers who offer this wonderful mix, which pushes new insights and lets you see implementations of EdTech across disciplines and social philosophies (education for all, education for profit, education as an ethical instrument...). The eLearning Guild offers such conferences, and the ICWE who organises eLearning Africa and the upcoming Online Educa Berlin are such organisers.

Online Educa Berlin is an event I always look forward to, as it will give me inspiration. This inspiration can come from either meeting up with old and new acquaintances, listening and experimenting with new technologies, engaging with multiple people with different EdTech viewpoints, and of course by simply perusing through the program.

Admittedly some of the most inspiring talks - for me - are those who align with what I like to see unfold. Inevitably this means I look forward to the talk/s of Cory Doctorow on the future (12 books on content, new tribes, the future... really wonderful and inspiring reading), Cornelia Daheim (also future of Ed oriented, but from a slightly less activist standpoint), of course Stephen Downes on his ongoing vision and lead of the Learning and Performance Support Systems (LPSS) program at the National Research Council, a multi-year effort to develop personal learning technology and learning analytics, and Jay Cross who will be presenting his new book on Real Learning. I still need to plan the concurrent sessions I will go to... ah, what a wonderful array of choices!

Sunday 1 November 2015

#DigiWriMo who am I, my alternative CV

An answer to the first DigiWriMo challenge: to create an alternative CV. It is quite a challenge to view myself through a non-professional, personal looking glass. Who is the generic me? Who is the me that people might get as a colleague, friend, peer?

I am a wanderer at midpoint in life (if life proofs to be kind to me and permits me some extra decades). As you can see in the previous sentence, if I move forward two steps, I tend to reflect on the steps taken and add question marks. Especially if I am in a state of exploration. At this point, I am exploring to find a new challenge in professional life. I am writing up a thesis on self-directed learning in FutureLearn courses, while contemplating a book on ‘a feeling of the future in the now’.

The me in words might be: typing (the motion is as soothing as the message it – sometimes – becomes), technology, exchanging knowledge, books, parenting, learning, and since birth using a feminist window to see the world … Or wait, most of all I am hoping for a more collaborative, peaceful world where everyone can be a nomad or sedentary purely based on their own preferences, not necessities. I guess I am a believer in dreams and change to attain enlightenment. This means that if I daydream, I think about the concept of time, the future, and the possible purpose of organic algorithms in the universe. I find answers to these dwellings in art, astronomy, and interactions. I know the world in its present and past state, but to me – in my wildest dreams - there is more to us humans then meets the news.  

Loving action and challenge
I need multiple actions to have the feeling that I am doing something (building mobile learning options across various expensive as well asrelatively cheap mobile devices, playing in a samba band while reviewing movies). Doing something is a state of being  I prefer best, or flipping the known to explore how far it can be stretched into other existing options (that flipped classroom of life). I always prefer doing something, but I frequently did/do nothing in a very passionate, consistent way as well.

As a more active-oriented person, I get excited by a challenge. As a kid I loved biking, most of the time leisurely, at reasonable pace, but every time I would encounter an old, rocky road/street I would turn up my speed and immediately launch bike-fighting mode - blasting off to tackle the rough road with amazing speed! *last sentence is part of an internal voice which sounds like a lion's roar*. Which probably is one of the sources for being a lifelong activist (which type is under constant debate at home, we hastle who is the mostest, I would say feminism first, LGBT second).

The same is true for finding a new professional opportunity: suddenly I will get fired up… it is only a matter of finding that point where I get ignited and decide This Is What I WILL DO, no matter what! Regular routes - either by means of getting educated or earning money - never seem to have appealed to me, it was always a sudden trigger, a gut feeling that triggered passion to come forward and which drove me forward with all the energy that is inside of me.

I love those moments of complete, focused energy. This drive pushes me out of my comfort-zone with amazing, and non-reflective ease... when this passion hits me, I mount my little pony and charge forward "to change the world for ever!" Ah, passion liberates.  

Loyal though not a frequent digital/IRL friend
My social life seems to be less conventional than most (but all comparisons rest on its starting point, so I could easily change my point of view, just by turning the looking glass). My life is half digital, half face-to-face. I have long-term friends, but I see them infrequently. I pledge allegiance to my friends (not that they know this per se, I think). If someone puts them in harm’s way, I get into protective mode immediately. I am protective to those I love, as I see them as good human beings. So what does ‘good’ mean to me? Good is being open minded, tolerating other points of view, being peaceful in physical presence towards others, not necessarily agreeing, but searching for a common ground to build upon, move forward, not withstanding the occasional brawl I guess. 

Media to contemplate self
Nothing is as revealing as watching yourself in an informal video. At this point in time I dare to say that what you see is what you get. I am me, with people, on stage, in an elevator, in or out of country, or buying stuff in a shop. A Flemish-English enthusiast who ad-libs while thinking and loves technologies, time and evolution.