English Corner

Open courses, certificates and accreditation

This article by Jeffrey Young started a quite large discussion about open courses, more or less hacked certificates, accreditation of informal learning etc.

I feel so much implicated, since Jeff specifically mentioned me πŸ™‚ as a case of a person who, after having attended the almost famous (or should I say notorious? ;-)) OpenEd2007 course, received a home-made certificate from the instructor (with some doubt, as Jeff says, also on the legitimacy of this act…), put it in his/her CV and/or used  it as credit for his/her  official education curriculum.

Yes, I did exactly as described. I, and my PhD supervisor agreed, attended that great course, made all assignments and gained that certificate.

Now I see many people wondering if it was legal, if it was ethical, if it is sustainable as a model for open learning.

But I think they are missing the point.

It seems the problem is in that somehow “unauthorized certificate”. They say “how orrible! People are using informal learning for credit in formal learning paths!!”. The certificate become an evidence of this sacrilegious contamination between two worlds, formal and informal. It seems that everybody is in favour of informal learning, provided that it doesn’t disturb the more important, more recognized formal learning!

So, if the problem is the certificate, I can well give up to it! Because, and this is the point, the real value of that open courses (and other ones, such as the current CCK08, to wchich I’m participating without any form of accreditation…) is NOT the certificate!

I learned a lot from OpenEd 2007, and all my connections, blog posts, comments, collective works, presentations, articles related to that experience, are still out there as tangible proofs of this learning. So I could equally put the OpenEd course in my CV and could ask to my supervisor to evaluate all that activity for credit in my PhD, also without that piece of paper!

Maybe informal learning accreditation could not be an insourmantable barrier, if only we don’t petrify on bureaucratic details.

CCK08 – Week 2 – Schools and rizhomes

Reading the Cormier’s article I was struck by the vision of rhizomatic model of education as a sort of chaotic, completely guideless learning (Cormier says “curriculum is not driven by predefined inputs from experts”, ) that seems incompatible with the very notion of course and school (for example, is this course a rhizomatic experience?).

And what about the experts? I still advocate the need of experts! In my previous post about “ordinary connectivism” I presented an example in which experts were “special nodes” in our daily knowledge network.

Neverthless, the point is that anyone could be expert in something. This could seem trivial, but I guess this is a big point in which our schooling system seems unsuitable.

Schools are grounded on the idea that only teachers are experts, while students are usually semi-empty brains to be filled with notions. Students with peculiar abilities are rarely appreciated at school, if they are not aligned with the mainstream of the (mostly fixed) curriculum.

This way, schools encourage a very low level of epistemic belief in their students: the absolute knowing, in which “knowledge is always certain and it is obtained from authorities” (Jonassen, Marra & Palmer, 2004).

Unfortunately, this dramatically unfits with the multiplicity and flowing nature of knowledge (“knowledge is not static”, G.Siemens), nowadays!

Even if I’m not for de-schooling our society and I don’t (yet?) realize how “community can act as curriculum”, I’m as much convinced that schools must change, if they want to keep up with our changing society, maybe including some forms of rhizomes inside them…

CCK08 – Week 1 – A day of ordinary connectivism

I have to admit: I don’t like theoretical discussions and definitions.  I love stories, indeed and I think that often most concepts, even if difficult, may be better explained through storytelling.

So, this is a story about connectivism: even though it’s only a small log of my starting of today’s workday, I apologize for its lenght. I reflected on that event and found that it was possible to map this activity with some properties of connectivism.

Here’s the story.

This morning, around 7.30, I turned on my PC and checked my e-mail. Among others, there was a message from Maria, a colleague of mine at LTE. She said she received a request from Gianna, a teacher (maybe one of the participants of our teacher training courses…) who wanted to know how to work with her pupils on a cartoon video from YouTube. Gianna wanted to subtitle or add balloons to that video. I suppose Gianna was asking to Maria because she knows her and hoped she could help her, since Maria is part of Gianna’s personal network

Well, Maria in turn thought to ask to me. Why? Maybe because she knows that I’m quite more expert than her on those Web 2.0 stuff… and of course, I’m part of Maria’s network (not of the Gianna’s one, though, I don’t know Gianna at all)

Actually, I realized that I only roughly knew how to make the requested work. Anyway, I decided that I was able to give an answer.

First of all, I remembered that YouTube has recently added an annotation feature, maybe I read it in a post from my GoogleReader feeds (i.e.: part of my knowledge network supported by technology). So I started my reply for Maria with this first info, that came directly from my internal network (my brain).

I added one more info that I know very well: it’s also possibile to use DotSub for subtitling videos. However, this implies to be able to first download a video from YouTube and next upload it in DotSub. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to download a video from YouTube, but equally wanted to provide a complete reply.

It was time to activate my own external network: I was almost sure that Alberto, a blogger whose feed I subscribed, often blogs about YouTube, videos and similar stuff. Normally, I didn’t care so much about these posts but I was pretty sure that a quick query in my Google Reader had helped. I made a search in that specific feed but I found no resources about how to download from YouTube.  However I found another resource I didn’t have notice first: there is a web site where you can directly add bubble to any video, without need of download-upload anything! It’s named bubbleply, I quickly tried it, found good and I added this notice to my response. This is clearly an example of serendipity, caused by the mix of personal and resource network I looked at.

The end? No, of course I still wanted to complete with info about downloading from YouTube. So, if it’s true that “learning can reside in non-human appliances”  πŸ˜‰ I thought I could have find some info through Google. I searched simply “YouTube download” (actually, in Italian). One of the first results was an article from a blog authored by Salvo, an italian guy that I know for his reputation as an expert (again my personal network at work, this time useful for the reliability of the information). He suggested to use the keepvid.com web site for this task. Quick navigation to keepvid, and I was able to complete my reply for Maria.

At 8.02 I sent my reply message and I guess she forwarded it to Gianna as soon as she read it.

Bored by this story? I can realize that πŸ™‚

Neverthless I argue it’s a good example of the very connective nature of the work of most of us. Work or learning or …existence? Actually, in this case, for those of us who live in the net, where is the difference?

Another question: where do the knowledge I produced during that half hour resided? It appears clear that it aggregated from a network, made by:

  1. my internal memory (about new YouTube feature and DotSub),
  2. my contacts in the net, a mix of human and resource network (bubbleply, I never was been able to discover it without my connection with Alberto),
  3. the networked resources offered by the Web (how to download from YouTube).

The role of technology in enabling this network is very evident, too.

Finally, think a bit to the Maria’s role in this story: we must point out that she was only a node, she acted as a router, a knowledge router. She actually didn’t know the answer, nor she was able to add any content, but her “existence” was absolutely essential in order to pipe that piece of knwoledge from me to Gianna. Neverthless, Maria had a peculiar skill: simply (simply?) “to know the right person to whom relay this question”. I argue it’s not so easy to find so efficient human routers… πŸ™‚

Well, was it an “early morning connectivism” example?

CCK08 – Week 1 – Too much connected?

My very first impressions from the course: I feel a little uncomfortable with the variety of connection places that, in theory, we should manage.

This is causing me some anxiety: is it preferable to post here, in my blog, or is it better to discuss in the Moodle forum? Or should I post here and then put a link to the post in the forum, or in the Facebook group? And how will we struggle with the overwhelming quantity of information that will be arriving from our mates?

I started to read the papers for the week but I’m not already able to make a relevant post on content.

For now, I’m jumping from the course blog to the wiki to the Moodle forums to the Google Map, and following the links, and looking at the Italian community (yes… one more space), and… only a look to Facebook and.. I’ve not yet tried to play with CMap.

Maybe I’m just more connected than yesterday, but (for now) I haven’t learnt anything…

CCK08: kicking off!


Just a kickoff post to start my new CCK08 blog category. It will be the main space for my reflections and (I hope) discussions about the CCK08 course  topics.

For now, I’m trying to orient myself in the heterogeneous environments mounted for the course and decide what to use and what to discard: for example, I don’t think I’ll be using Second Life…

image This is the RSS feed for these posts.

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image Researchers have often to do with surveys, questionnaires and other inquiries. Deploying a survey can be easier than expected with LimeSurvey (formerly PhPSurveyor).

LimeSurvey is a PHP web application (PHP & MySQL are needed for installation) for publishing online multi-question and multi-lingual surveys. It comes with a lot of great features (one of the most useful: conditional questions i.e. questions that appear only if the user give a specific answer to a previous question).

Basic statistical analysis and graphs are avalaible, as well as multiple formats export of survey results.

I’ve already used it in a couple of situations, with complete satisfaction.

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Attentive attendees?

Attentive attendees...

Wolfgang has posted two reflections about presence and attention, especially during meetings. This picture seems rather explicative of the concept…

At the winter school I twittered during a session on the same topic, observing round 40 people, each in front of their PCs… What were they doing??

Wait:  “I twittered“… So: and me? Did I really pay attention to that keynote? πŸ™‚

Furthermore, last Friday I also twittered in real-time about the Scott’s presentation. Well, in seconds, one colleague of mine asked me if the slides were available because she would have liked to take a look, since she was preparing a keynote on the same topic…

Could this be a (little) example of answer to Wolfgang’s question about uses of these instant stuff in education?

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TENCompetence Winter School 2008… in English


I had the pleasure of participating at the TENCompetence Winter School 2008.

I spent 5 days at the Grillhof, a wonderful resort in the forest nearby Innsbruck. We were around 40 people, teachers, PhD students, experts and consultants, young and …less young :-), from Europa, including Russia, and USA.

The programme was intensive and rich of useful hints for my work and research. Most of them should be worth posting separately.

I am now reflecting more generally on the event and here are some freewheeling thoughts:

  • the organization of the event was excellent (thanks first to Milos and Christian). All was OK, from our comfortable and (really very) tiny rooms, to food, meetings rooms and equipment, until sport, leisure and social activities. Only the unavailability of the wireless connection into the rooms prevented from attaining the perfection!
  • Participants familiarized very quickly and easily. Sure, the social event on Monday evening, with free drinks, guitars and songs, had some importance for creating a warm and friendly environment :-).
  • Speakers (nearly all) proposed relation with high interaction: group works, Q&A, Socratic lessons, hands-on. There were no opportunities for boring. I should remember this lesson…
  • The program was partly open. Some attendees had the opportunity to propose specific themes and organize dedicated sessions. I myself contributed to the Social Software in Education session (thanks to Martin), in which I presented the LTEver experience with a zoom (as a case study) on the role of the community during the Intro OpenEd course.
  • It was a unique chance for sharing and discuss ideas, works, projects, personal situations, institutional realities with people from a wide range of countries. I’m sure I learnt more chatting during a lunch, in the breaks or at pub in the night, than from the lessons, although they were really interesting. Of course, it was a valuable occasion for broading our networks!
  • It may be trivial but, since some of us (me included…) are often very Internet-addicted, it’s worth reminding that the power of the presence for initiating relations is irreplaceable. I argue that I could have somehow met most of my new friends through the net, but it would not have been the same…. I’m pretty sure that the cohesion power of a vibrant table-tennis match is definitely higher than a couple of comments in a blog πŸ™‚ (I would like to hear from Violeta and Stefan on this…)
  • We need a common language for Europe. Obviously, I don’t wish to replace our rich and ancient national languages and cultures! Even though, if we want really realize a shared Europe, we strongly need to speak and understand each other. English seems, today, the only practical way. Then, maybe that also we mediterraneans should start to imitate the Dutch or the Scandinavians, for which English is a second mother-tongue…
  • The language issue involves blog and personal sites. I previously posted about it (in Italian). So, maybe I’m going to open a completely new blog, in English…
    For now, I decided to open a small English corner on my main blog, and this is the first post!
    Yes, I also have a category of English posts that I wrote for the Intro OpenEd course, but this is another story….

Finally, a rich photo coverage  and, thanks to Sandra, the very essentials from the school!

OpenEd week 15: that’s all, folks!

Well, we’re at the conclusion.

It has been a great experience.

For this week work, I joined the rest of the Italian group and participated to the collaborative final presentation.

Many thanks to David Wiley, for this unique opportunity, and to all those who participated, whose blogs will continue to be hosted in my Google Reader.

A special thank to all those who spent some of their precious time commenting my posts πŸ™‚

Ciao a tutti!

OpenEd: week 14 – Commenting on the future of Open Education

Here are my comments for this week:

  • Rob (on the timing of changes: seven years are a very little time for changing educational institutions..). In addition, I want to compliment Rob for having done his own predictions. He was really fearless in doing that πŸ™‚
  • Catia (with a small joke about bureaucracy..)
  • Stian (on learning networks and competence-based Universities)
  • Karen (on the usefulness of OER for informal learning and the possible convergence of informal and formal learning)
  • Andreas (on his academic course. This year he realized it in a very “open” way, by using blogs, outside the “walls” of an LMS. It is a working example of OER, isn’t it?)
  • Elisa (about the possible “silent” introduction of “fair use” in the Italian copyright law)
  • Jessie, who is constantly providing us a very interesting point of view from China (on the relation between democracy and OER and some digital divide issues)
  • Emanuela (agreeing on her “painting” of the Italian school system)
  • Jennifer, with her multimedia post in which she’s correctly remembering that education is different from content…
  • Erik (who offered me the chance of having ..different opinions!)

Finally, a “comment on the comments”: I’m definitely persuaded that these weeks devoted to cross-blogging have been a very important resource and a key for the success of this course. Furthermore, I guess the comment-on-each-blog way is the more effective, better than writing a summary post. So, I’ve learned this, too. πŸ™‚

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