Archive for April, 2012

There is lots of talk about de-commodifying education. I would like to talk about de-committifiying education. Or at least, giving a new terms of reference to committees. Perhaps the standard Yes Ministeresque response to this post, would be to set up a committee to study the proposal to de-committify, but I am hoping someone will listen.

With all this time, money and effort being spent in constituting and executing committees that produce voluminous and sometimes erudite reports on education, the time is perhaps ripe to argue for a more transparent, open and accountable system of committees. This starts from the point where the need for a committee arises, and does not stop past the report of the committee.

What would good committees look like? And how would they really help Indian Education?

Firstly, committees should be sparingly conceived of. There could be a cumulative body of work that exists that could be leveraged or there could be efficient use of relevant existing resources to answer questions (e.g. leverage crowdsourcing, national level databases etc). There is going to be fantastic national network of more than 30,000 colleges and over 600 universities (500 more universities and 30,000 colleges more will spring up soon), connected through the National Knowledge Network, which I am sure can be leveraged beautifully at very little, if any, cost for most of the work of a regular committee in background research, data collection and fact-finding. They should also be conceived sparingly because they entail cost and time of expensive resources (our experts), which could perhaps be spent much better elsewhere.

Secondly, committees must have members that have proven their credentials at making committees work, apart from their regular expertise. If Valdis Krebs was to do a social network analysis of the members who constituted committees in India over the past 20 years, I am pretty sure it would emerge to a be a densely packed network with very few outliers, indicating that neither do new people get in to committee work, nor is it representative in the face of a growing external network of stakeholders. There must be a way to engage with newer and diverse ideas, otherwise each committee ends up reproducing their un-knowledge for years at a stretch.

Thirdly, committees must execute their tasks with details on:

  1. How much my (taxpayer) money was spent – honoraria, travel costs, administrative etc.?
  2. How was the committee work planned and organized?
  3. How much time was spent by each member on the committee work?
  4. Did the committee operate in a participatory manner – what did they do to engage stakeholders?
  5. Did the committee make their deliberations open?
  6. Did the committee members record differences of opinion? Were there reasons recorded for not publishing an opinion or point of view in the final report?

Fourthly, the final report should have gone through a formal quality assurance process as well. A minor side-effect of these reports is that people like me read what they produce and actually spend endless hours analyzing them. Was the report concise? Did it address the brief/mission? Did it provide practical suggestions or accurate analyses? Are the recommendations feasible to implement? Was the report made public for opinion to be accepted from reviewers?

Fifthly, if it is an action oriented report, were the actions and recommendations carried through by the initiating body? If not, why not? If it is a research and information oriented report, did its data make its way a publicly accessible database?

Sixthly, what did the committee do to validate the report on an annual or periodic basis? Data changes and so do other things that affect the content of a report from the time of its issue.

If I was the government, I would perhaps suggest setting up a Committee to Review Committees that would result in the formation of a National Mission for Reviewing and Managing Education Committees. Or suggest that a new breed of committees be created that will cure the ills of the existing ones. But, I am assuredly not. My only point is that committees, task forces, focus groups et al are important. They are required. Time and money should be spent on them.

However, if we do not make them accountable, open and transparent, they are at best instruments of the state or predilections of the educationist voyeur. That is a cross that the Indian Education system should not be made to wear.

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MOOCs and Content Stores

Every instant someone is learning, or trying to learn the same thing as you are. Every moment, someone apart from you is solving the same problem. Every moment, someone is searching for the same thing that you are.

There is an immediacy in learning, in the learning at that instant, that has awesome proportions and purports for scale. MOOCs as environments with techniques for sense-making and connection-making, provide the ideal melting pot for that immediacy.

There is also the flip side.

Every instant of your learning someone has encountered before. Every problem that you solve, someone apart from you has solved before. Every thing you search for, in all probability someone has searched for the same thing. At least, in general, more or less.

MOOCs have the potential to operate as massively linked content and artifact stores. The amount of knowledge, information and analysis that I have seen in the MOOCs so far, are crying out for someone to figure the semantics for (rather than Instagrok-ing or Wolfram-ing our world).

The challenge is in the nature of the MOOC, an initial unwillingness to stereotype either content or interaction in terms that we have known before (Learning Objects, DITA, SCORM and so on) – which is both good and bad. Good because it does not enforce standards (which are anyways antithetical) and bad because, seriously, this has massive potential.

In fact, I think a measure of the success of MOOCs should perhaps be the quality of connections and sense-making experiences that the MOOC has engendered. Did the MOOC help learners in their sense-making and does it allow them to make connections to people and resources in a way that aids the learning experience (whatever that may be).

To measure that, MOOCs would need to have underlying principles that allow this measurement. For example, learning analytics attempts to capture data about visible elements of the learners’ experience (in fact, as I write this, I am listening to George’s audio recording at Change11, and he is talking about how information elements gets lost in the mass of learners!). One of the underlying principles is, as George says, the principle that there is an adaptive, changing structure that is influenced by the participants of the MOOC.

My own sense is that a certain “understanding” or “framework” can be usefully constructed at two levels. In ways, as Stephen metaphorically said, we are drawing our lines in the sand rather than wondering what the sand really is. Here is my interpretation of the sand.

  1. One, at the level of net pedagogy, there are conversation capture mechanisms (I call these native collaboration) that can be created or become more intelligent without imposing on the open and distributed nature of participation. We already have audio recording, elluminate recording, individual and course blogs and a variety of other social media tools among other platforms as part of the MOOC environments. I think it is time that the structure, connections and content behind the learning experience are studied to devise a shared understanding.
  2. Two, at the level of technology, there must be ways to allow that kind of capture, to consolidate learning experiences, to even connect one MOOC with another on several dimensions (people, content, experiences and other patterns) of the network. George makes the important connection – learners have evidenced their preference for creating their own personal spaces (and identity) on the MOOC. In a way, this ties in with a load of conversation around Personal Learning Environments.

Further, I don’t feel that these are necessarily unique to MOOCs, but that these elements of pedagogy and technology, could in fact be used seamlessly in other systems as well.

Building environments for MOOCs to anchor themselves to, and to enable connections between MOOCs that can benefit from shared experiences, connections and content, can (IMHO) have a transformative impact, if balanced with an open architecture that allows autonomy, extensibility and simplicity. It will be important to provide core technology services that will enable capture, sharing and analytics among other things to enable an entire generation of teachers, facilitators and learners to adopting the MOOC style.

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I read with interest Audrey Watters’ commentary on Scaling College Composition. Some of the work I did in this area (I call it Connectivist Metrics) and the recent discussions I had with Stephen Downes in New Delhi during the EDGEX conference around intelligent environments for assessment, as well as all the great work that is happening in Learning Analytics by George Siemens and others, leads me to a few key thoughts and ideas.

It seems like the right time to take a critical look at the notion of assessment. The context of the traditional education system, and of most new age systems that leverage the online medium, suggests a dominant way of thinking about assessments.

Assessments are performed by somebody (the instructor, board, the learner or system) on someone (the learner). The purpose of the assessment depends upon the intended use of the assessment (the why) while the subject of the assessment (the what) defines the boundaries of what may be assessed. The where, when and the how questions demand answers for the modality of the assessment and the which question demands answers on aspects such as the level or complexity of the assessment.

The order that permeates the thinking on assessment precludes emergence and chaos. What would emergent assessments look like? They would be assessments that are not pre-designed, but may result in the some of the same competencies being demonstrated as in the traditional “designed” assessments or in outcomes that provide alternate manifestations of competencies. They would be governed more by the same principles that underly complex systems design.

My favorite example from school is of a fellow student who had enough time in his exams to provide three different ways of solving the same math problem, one of which was really the “expected” method. For those of us who have had fun in marking automagically some of the open ended assessments types (like essays and multi-step tasks based items), this chaos is challenging – and this is at a micro scale – at the scale of the individual learner.

The corresponding thought around content runs deeper into curricula and how they are planned. In my estimates, school students spend less than an hour each year on a single topic of instruction on average (or something close). There is simply no way in which there can be any learning chaos at a systemic level within the traditional system.

So systems that want to assess at scale range from the adaptive testing systems at the single learner level, to systems that utilize the power of the network (peer reviews, ratings), automated graders and of learning analytics (dashboards, mining).

But I am not sure the scaling of assessments reduces to development of systems for authoring items & exams, compiling and evaluating scores. Somehow, we must put the focus on systems, particularly in the MOOC, that recognize evidence of competency. To do this, we must allow an educator to define what is meant by that competency in a manner that is open and expressive.

Can we look at defining a language of assessments like that which goes beyond the traditional elements of measurement (the multiple choice, the essay) and allows educators to pick on a constellation of recognizable evidences sequenced and stitched together in a particular way? Systems could then be based on more objectively mark-able and error-free mechanisms.

Such a language would have interesting implications. Just like we would build software to do tasks, we could engage with a community of developers to solve smaller problems – like figuring out if the student interacted with the community or if she used a specific technique to solve a problem. Each smaller problem would then be associated with competencies and evaluation would be a mix of possibilities (yes/no, subrange, enumeration types).

Over time, and with an engaged community, there could be thousands of competencies that could be assessed in this manner and thousands of patterns of assessments that could be created and shared. These patterns could include an ever-expanding list of criteria/behaviors. Perhaps these assessment patterns could themselves be aggregated meaningfully to derive more complex patterns and intelligence.

This would also solve a critical need for the assessment types and tools to evolve. In effect, this could pave the way for unifying learning and assessment. It would allow us to scale downwards to the individual learner and upwards to a MOOC environment. It would focus attention on what constitutes competence or proficiency by analysis of patterns that educators use for assessments (and in that sense, open up hitherto esoteric assessment mechanisms). Perhaps it could also work well with learners who want to express competence in a manner that others understand.

It would then be the task of systems to understand and react to such assessment patterns. That itself, would be the basis for understanding how MOOCs could be responsive to learning needs.

When such systems, based on open thinking, languages and architecture, permeate education, will there be transformation. Perhaps until then, we would mutter under our breath, like George Siemens did:

The concepts that I use to orient myself and validate my actions were non-existent on summit panels: research, learner-focus, teacher skills, social pedagogy, learner-autonomy, creativity, integration of social and technical system, and complexity and network theory. Summit attendees are building something that will impact education. I’m worried that this something may be damaging to learners and society while rewarding for investors and entrepreneurs.

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One of my favorite rants is that “you cannot educate teachers using the same methods you use to educate your students“. Teachers are going through no different a process than their students. The National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education document states (quoting the National Curriculum Framework 2005 document):

Experiences in the practice of teacher education indicate that knowledge is treated as ‘given’, embedded in the curriculum and accepted without question; there is no engagement with the curriculum. Curriculum, syllabi and textbooks are never critically examined by the student teacher or the regular teacher.

The NCF 2005 document also calls for:

Reformulated teacher education programmes that place thrust on the active involvement of learners in the process of knowledge construction, shared context of learning, teacher as a facilitator of knowledge construction, multidisciplinary nature of knowledge of teacher education, integration theory and practice dimensions, and engagement with issues and concerns of contemporary Indian society from a critical perspective.

According to this press release, the NCF2005 document was built by the following process.

  • Prof. Yashpal managed a steering committee of 35 members “including scholars from different discipline, principals and teachers, CBSE Chairman, representatives of well known NGOs and members of the NCERT faculty”.
  • 21 National Focus Groups, chaired by renowned scholars and practitioners, built position papers on areas of curricular concern, areas for system reform, and national concerns. (Published here).
  • “Each National Focus Group has had several consultations in which they have interacted with other scholars and classroom practioners in different parts of the country. In addition to the above NCERT has had consultations with (a)  Rural Teachers, (b) Education Secretaries and Directors of NCERTs, (c) principals of Delhi-based private schools and KVS Schools. Regional Seminars were also held at NCERTs Regional Institutes of Education in Ajmer, Bhopal, Bhuvaneshwar, Mysore and Shillong.  Advertisements were placed in 28 national and regional dailies to invite suggestions from parents and other concerned members of the public. More than 1500 responses were received.”

Of special interest in the position paper of the National Focus Group on Educational Technology. Members of this focus group include Kiran Karnik, Prof. MM Pant, Ashok Jhunjhunwala, Vasudha Kamat among others and invitees included Sugata Mitra.

In reading this paper and correlating it with what finally transpired as the NCF 2005, it seems that a pattern was repeating itself – that committees have not done a good job of representing the work done by sub-committees and taking some major recommendations into the policy documents. Perhaps it is more driven by individual proclivities than the mission itself. For example, the word Internet is used superficially in the NCF 2005 (you may not find more than a few occurrences of the term itself in that document!).

This focus group looked at Educational Technology (and much has happened since 2005 in ET) and states:

The Internet can be a sound investment for continuous on-demand teacher training and support, research and content repositories, value-added distance education, and online campuses aimed at increasing the access, equity, and quality of education.

It came to some important conclusions.

  • Firstly, we must look at revitalizing what we already have. We should take our existing resources and network them into a potent driving force in education. This scale that we have can be brought to bear on the challenges that we have, if we have the intention to invest in capability building.
  • Secondly, the Focus Group exhorts us to encourage system reform. It asks us to “(C)ounter the tendency to centralise; promote plurality and diversity” and “Ensure opportunities for autonomous content generation by diverse communities.”
  • Thirdly, we must look at ways of creating a system of lifelong professional development and support, especially for education leaders, as a focus in in-service training.
  • Fourthly, for pre-service training, it demands that we “introduce teachers to flexible models of reaching curriculum goals”. It demands that we “(I)ntroduce use of media and technology-enabled methods of learning, making them inherent and embedded in the teaching-learning process of teachers.”
  • Fifthly, in K12, we must “(M)ove from a predetermined set of outcomes and skill sets to one that enables students to develop explanatory reasoning and other higher-order skills.” and “(P)romote flexible models of curriculum transaction.”
  • Sixthly, in research, focus on adaptive learning, mobile learning and building capabilities for core research.

The position paper is worth a read. And it is useful to see how much of it really translated into the NCF2005. My sense so far, and I could be inaccurate here, is that for the NCF2005 committee, the position paper could be summarized as an “appropriate use of ICT in education”. It would be useful to get inputs from the Focus Group members on how their recommendations were amalgamated into the NCF2005. Alas, there is no online forum where they are visibly present where I could raise this.

What would a position paper look like in 2012? And what would it look like if we future-casted it to 2020 and beyond? And is it at all useful to create such position papers if their recommendations do not see the light of day?

In my opinion, this should be an annual participatory affair. Each year, experts and interested stakeholders should come online and generate an open (un)consensus on what Educational Theory, Research and Technology augurs for our mission to democratize education. If not anything else, the network of interested people can be built, with potential future impacts on the way education systems progress. Interested?

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The following is a brief summary of the Madhava Menon report on ODL in India titled “Report of the Committee to Suggest Measures to Regulate the Standards of Education Being Imparted through Distance Mode“. The report was released in 2010 it seems.

The report defines Open Distance Learning (ODL) as a term that encompasses the “open” and “distance”. “Open” means to the committee:

  • the removal of constraints of face to face conventional classroom method
  • flexibility for students who need an alternative to the conventional system
  • scale with equality

The term “Distance” means to the committee:

  • teacher and student have a space and time division/distance
  • “also involves e-learning, open learning, flexible learning, on-line learning, resource-based learning, technology-mediated learning etc.”

By this interpretation, ODL in India should be:

  • Asynchronous (time separation)
  • Either correspondence (print) based or self paced learning, but no blend with physical face to face modes
  • At par or better quality than conventional learning
  • Automatically equally accessible

The definition conflicts with reality (we are employing synchronous learning, we do contact mode blends, quality of eLearning and correspondence is questionable, infrastructure and other constraints come in the way of accessibility) and I think more of an emphasis should be placed on what these terms mean. In fact, the report goes on later to state that conventional and distance modes should be blended.

In this report, it seems that their conception is that the Distance Education model has evolved from the stage of “print material oriented correspondence education” to “the stage of self-instructional packages with an integrated multi-media approach, and incorporation of interactive communication technologies, leading towards building of virtual learning”.

The failure to appreciate the nuances of open-ness and “distance”, especially in a networked, digital world, show downstream in almost all of our policy documents and vision statements. In fact, the term “social media” or the term “Web 2.0” fails to find a mention in the report.

The report starts with a statistical picture of Higher Ed in India including stats on ODL from 2009. The statistics show:

  • Amazing growth in numbers (quoting the UGC [University Grants Commission] Annual Report 2008-09) since Independence
  • 3.6 mn learners in ODL, as compared to 13.6 mn in traditional HE; Technical and professional courses account for about 10%; About a half in undergraduate programmes, a third in certificate programs
  • About twice the percentage of students enrolled in post-graduate programs in ODL as compared to traditional HE
  • Apparently, the decision to allow Open Universities to enrol M.Phil/Ph.D. registrations was only taken in July 2011 subject to an 11-point criteria list (which I have not been able to locate yet).
  • We will need USD 200 bn to ramp up capacity in traditional infrastructure if we are to meet demand in the conventional manner – also a cogent argument for ODLs [there are about 200 ODL institutions in India today (intake 2 mn students) and 13 State Open Universities (SOU, intake 1.62mn students) apart from the largest one – Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)]

The statistics are updated in the UGC Approach Paper for the 12th Five Year Plan.

The committee report also goes into some level of detail on:

  • Guidelines for student registration (Sec 4.6), Learner Support Services (Sec 4.7) and Assessment creation (Sec 4.8)
  • ICT use through radio, television, telephone, computer, Internet and satellite (Sec 4.8) [basically limited to an ancient understanding of today’s digital world]

In Technical/Professional Education in areas like Engineering, Pharmacy and Medicine, the estimated capacity is about 2 mn students. The report details the role and structure of AICTE and other bodies and outlines initiatives focused on the technical education domain.

Section 6 details the recommendations.

  1. Given the huge cost of setting up physical infrastructure for conventional HE, the committee recommends more effective utilization of resources (physical resources to be made available to ODL community in multipple “shifts”)
  2. Removal of barriers and institutional (AICTE, DEC and UGC) that exist today for more ODLIs to spring up, serving many more domains, is going to be critical. DEC could take the lead in specifying a clear and unambigous high quality approach and regulatory framework, but it is not a statutory body. Therfore, a new statutory body called the Distance Education Council of India, which would be an “independent and effective Regulatory Authority on Distance Education”, should be created. All authority should be devolved to this new body. “It will be the duty of the proposed DECI to ensure that the nomenclature of the degrees proposed to be awarded through such programmes are approved by the UGC, the institute has the requisite recognition from the respective regulatory authorities, viz AICTE, MCI, DCI, etc. for the regular course in conventional mode, it is affiliated to a university, it has developed the self learning material of desired standards, it has a credible system of counseling, evaluation of assignments and examination, it has the necessary infrastructure including laboratories, library, class rooms, etc. and qualified counselors as per the relevant norms.”
  3. Sec 6.14 (ODL in Conventional Universities) did not make sense. It attempts to restrict ODL departments in conventional universities from offering any program not offered conventionally, to stay geographically within their governing Act’s jurisdiction adn to not franchise learning centres to “private unorganized colleges or organizations” – the last perhaps would a death knell for organizations such as Sikkim Manipal University, as this would apply to State Universities as well.
  4. While talking about Open PhDs, the committee states, perhaps very impactfully since UGC reversed it in 2011, “UGC’s decision not to permit Ph.D programme through distance education mode may be reviewed in the light of the National Policy on Education”.
  5. The DECI will not territorially limit programs that are totally online
  6. Perhaps the most interesting recommendation is on the equivalence of degree (albeit with a qualifying suffix – “through distance mode”) between conventional and ODL.
  7. The DECI is conceived of as being managed by the UGC and later subsumed into whatever overarching body the (proposed) NCHER bill brings in.


Reading this report leaves me fairly bewildered. I must apologise if I hurt any sentiments (as I know I will), but here goes.

First of all, we are saying that we really do not know what we are doing. With such an impressive state machinery, millions of committees and years of experience, we still do not know.

The second thing I understand is that we are not willing to learn. If one structure fails, we will create another bigger one to supersede it. Whatever happens in the world is not important, so long as we have not thought of it.

Thirdly, we will not allow others to learn. By perpetuating systems like these and holding these confabulations behind closed doors with the merry pretence of consultation with stakeholders, we will systematically eradicate the ability to learn in others. We shall perpetuate mediocrity in our thinking on education.

Fourthly, we will waste time in writing (and having others read) voluminous reports and recommendations that repeat facts figures and assertions made in numerous other reports.

My Recommendations

In order to really meet our ODL challenges in an equitable and accessible manner, my recommendations are the following:

  1. Invest in enabling infrastructure so that digital technology and communications reaches every corner of India in affordable ways.
  2. Invest in cutting edge online techniques and research that will help meet our challenges
  3. Invest in creating and aggregating Open Content and tools
  4. Invest in building talent in Education effectively (maybe an Indian Educational Services without the bureaucratic trappings)
  5. Invest in building local, national and global communities and guilds that will build up expertise, generate employability and shape research for India
  6. Invest in data and learning analytics
  7. Deregulate the entire sector with the power to audit and shut down (if required) low quality providers or by imposing severe penalties of non-performance; regulate empirically rather than by design
  8. Focus government (yours and mine) funds in areas and sectors that have inadequate or none private focus (over time build these areas and sectors so that they start becoming self-sufficient)
  9. Educate consumers and give them adequate redress mechanisms
  10. Become open – don’t just solicit opinion from the same people, but actively reach out to community stakeholders and build the network
  11. Reward innovation and community contributions

Lastly. Get serious. There is enough talent and intellectual depth in India to solve our problems. Leverage that.

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Speakers at the EDGEX Conference debated many tensions and challenges apparent in education today.

George Siemens evocatively questioned the use of the word “disruptive” and asserted that we should call for transformation instead. Given the broad societal transitions to a networked and complex ecology, he talked about how initiatives like Coursera, Udacity and the Khan Academy provided disruptions, but did not transform education.

Forces that are working to transform education have their drivers in economic change, changing perceptions of the university systems, changes in student expectations and needs, and demographic explosion in worldwide student population. In his opinion, there are some forces that may transform education – robots, new school models, cloud computing, new assessment models, new pedagogical models like the Massive Open Online Course and distributed research & discovery networks.

Putting the focus sharply on India, and its challenges of scale, equity and quality, he said that India has perhaps the chance to break from tradition and leapfrog over many of the milestones in the evolution of the traditional educational systems worldwide. That leverage of transformative educational research, was perhaps what excited many of the international and national speakers and delegates at EDGEX.

Bringing another tension to the fore, Stephen Downes talked about Education as a Platform. Instead of focusing on content, Stephen believes that the connections should be given primacy. Knowledge is something that is grown rather than acquired or ingested. Outlining some of the current challenges with MOOCs, such as the size vs. connectedness or the bootstrapping challenge, Stephen felt that their MOOCs were insufficiently focused on connectedness.

Education as a platform would encompass thinking on the personal learning environment and giving fresh meaning to assessments and learning analytics in a networked ecology. Dave Cormier brought a similar tension while talking on embracing uncertainty, using rhizomatic learning in formal education. Dave talked about the shift from content as curriculum to community as curriculum, and how the notion of rhizomatic networks could be brought to bear on the traditional learning mechanisms.

In the conference summary session, we wrestled with another important underlying tension – that of spaces between networks. Typically we build links between nodes in a network by the virtue of which spaces between the nodes get obliterated and become invisible. By argument then, the network should really be a continuum, rather than a set of discrete nodes.

Jay Cross had expounded on how we need to democratize learning. He talked about how the education behind the gates is finally starting to converge with real life in this network era. He bemoaned the state of training in corporate America, stating “training is dead”. He was tremendously excited about the prospects of informal learning to attack the problem of scale with quality in India. In fact, the same concept came up for debate in the conference summary session again – the fact that democratization, which is education by, for and of the people, was talked of more in terms of “for the people” rather than “by” and “of”.

Jay remarked that there is no one solution (and school is probably not the one, in fact schools can be at times non-democratic). Learning is seen as a key enabler for democratization. Stephen said that commercializing learning is antithetical to democracy. Les Foltos brought up affordability in both Indian and US contexts – are we as democracies making the commitment to make education affordable at high quality. The only recourse, then as Stephen remarked, is to rethink the concept of school.

An important tension was that between order and chaos. Do we want order from chaos or chaos from order? Stephen argued that the order exists in the eye of the perceiver and that order is not inherent in chaos itself. As Les Foltos put it, the tension is between the current traditional system that is extremely ordered and discourages risk taking and systems that encourage risk taking and are inherently chaotic. Clark Quinn argued that chaos could be imbued with values and purpose in terms of design and then one must expect movements to and from chaotic states. Dave Cormier highlighted the challenge of fostering creativity in students in chaotic systems and moving away from the tyranny of assessments. Rhizomatic networks are inherently both ordered and chaotic.

The next tension was around technology availability specifically around the requirements or conditions in which the theory of Connectivism could operate. The main challenge in a developing and less developed world context is the availability of technology – technology that allows networks to really exist on the digital scale. Both George and Stephen felt that technology was a sufficient condition, but in terms of theory, not a completely necessary condition.

There were tensions exposed in our thinking of design. Is design (as we know it) dead? The fundamental tension here was that design, as we know it, is focused on creating ordered and deterministic outcomes. Can there be design around complex, adaptive systems that can allow for environments that are emergent, self-organizing and adaptive? Grainne Conole discussed the conception of design, in particular leveraging the network construct, can design today prove useful in creation of open, participatory spaces for learning.

There was another tension in terms of design in the context of scalability. Inherent in traditional systems of design is standardization and bureaucratization of design processes. Dave Cormier raised the question of how we can distribute design expertise in a way that can scale. Grainne talked about more participative and innovative methods where teachers and experts are able to use design tools and processes based on networked collaboration techniques in a manner that is very different from business process like mechanisms that institutions typically follow.

Martin Weller, who had talked about digital scholarship in an open, networked and digital world, talked about his experiences in teacher education where he talked about yet another dimension – problems with using social media and innovative design. Les Foltos talked about physical challenges that teachers face in terms of the support they need to be innovative and risk taking. They also need to apply techniques and experience success in their contexts in order for them to believe the grand visions. Stephen brought in another tension – that of over design – and believed that design should be used as a syntax to be interpreted by individuals, in a minimally prescriptive manner.


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