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#CCK11 Ode to the Troll – Epode

Oh poor Troll, you downtrodden beast

Your assaultive ways, your sultry vibes

Lead some to a desire to feast

On your bones, those wanton scribes

That cannot see value in thee

But we that will, invite unto you

The courage to prolong your act

Question, confront, in power of see

Shed not those things that you do

We, the other, slay ubiquitous tact.


#CCK11 Ode to the Troll – Anti-strophe

Avast ye troll, and off with thine head!

There is nothing with virtue in thee

Your flaming tones, they need not be read

All questions, to the contrary, don’t see.

And what to do, with your assaults on all

They can’t have a purpose at sway

For if they did, would we just not agree

That something of good comes of gall?

If it were thus, what would we say

How could we save ourselves from thee?

#CCK11 An Ode to the Troll – Strophe

Well, I’ve kinda had it with the Troll discussion that erupts at least once during a Connectivist course. I’m willing to grant that foul language, direct character assaults and the like can provide an uncomfortable atmosphere for some, but I find it comical that this behaviour would be seized upon as the reason for people leaving a forum, or a disruption in conversation, or a limiting of the conversation. Surely people have more courage than that, and are able to deal with a troll or ignore the troll and move on.  Or maybe there is a lack of courage, and the troll exposes this? 

Not much of a poet am I

For ’tis not much easy on me

To make words on the page so to fly

Would rather place alms to the see

Of questions, to the purpose of light

Where exposure turns lips onto stone

Greeting with nary a sound

To deny the power of right

Not like the woman of chrone

Life tends to the figure of round.

#CCK11 Things that Irk-me

I think it is important for me to clear my mind of irk-ful things. Perhaps in doing so my thoughts on Connectivism will be more objective? I will start with a couple things that irk-me, and any and all are invited to list their irks too. All I ask is that a brief description be provided of why the irk-ful thing is considered irk-some, in order that I might understand (and perhaps empathize) too.  We are not likely irk-ed by the same irks.

These things Irk me:

  1. The term MOOC – this has bothered me since its first use, as I saw it as a shameless attempt at self-promotion.  It also sounds goofy.  Is there not a better term?  I am irk-ed at the thought that this term is now part of our vocabulary.  Yuck!
  2. When Grasshoppers fail – Yesterday I tried to comment in the grasshopper discussion thing on a colleagues blog post.  I signed on, and it was indicated that I was successful in signing on and also that I hadn’t signed on yet, so I couldn’t comment.  A conflicting message. I found this extremely irk-some, retrieved my password via e-mail, tried to sign on again, got the same conflicting messages, gave up.  Today, it seems to work. 


That’s enough Irks for today.  I must finish on a positive note!  I was happy to see Siemens provide a definition of Connectivism here, at the 7:20 mark of the video.  He defines Connectivism as “A Social Connected Pedagogical Model”.  I was un-irked to hear this definition, as I have wondered all along whether Connectivism is less of a theory and more of a pedagogy. It seems to me that Connectivism might better be described as a practice of teaching that finds its base in other theories such as connectionism, rather than a standalone learning theory.  It appears that Siemens is adopting this approach to it now. 

I would describe the Connectivist pedagogical model as the use of the connections afforded through digital technology to put learners and facilitators/subject matter experts in contact with each other for the purpose of advancing their learning and knowledge.  Then ideas such as constructed learning, self-directed learning, complexity, chaos, cognition etc. can still belong to their respective theoretical frameworks, and Connectivism can stop insisting on subsuming them under its umbrella.  I would be less irk-ed if this were the case. 

btw. I think that any followers of the theory ‘Con-Irk-tivism’ can now safely self-identify as ‘Irk-ites’.  Have no fear.

#CCK11 Con-Irk-tivism – Movement #1

In my previous post a new theory emerged. It is stated as:

“Connection (or re-connection) is contingent on the absence (or removal) of irk”

I have dubbed this Con-Irk-tivism as an interim, working title (abb. CI). CI theory addresses the issue of mental states such as desire, fear, passion, anger, hope, love, faith etc. through its predictive component. CI theory is a first movement beyond Connectivism, a theoretical framework that acknowledges an empirical perspective regarding learning while providing an explanation of agency as emergent from mental states summarized in the example given by the state of Irk.  The explanation of agency as emergent from Irk emerges itself from observations of the propensities of nodes to connect (and re-connect) in complex adaptive manners, and the self-reporting by nodes that the connecting propensities were directly proportional to the amount of Irk present in the nodes involved.

#CCK11 Moving beyond Connectivism

Is it time to move beyond connectivism?  Has this term outlived its usefulness? 

Connectivism seems to incite strong feeling, and it seems to create misunderstandings as to what it represents.  And represent it does – much to the chagrin I suppose of its ‘founders’, connectivism is a concept that represents a picture or perspective of a reality, in this case, the reality seen and desired by those very founders.

So what reality is it that they desire?  I think it is best expressed in this post:

This post summarizes the position of Stephen Downes in regards to network distribution. His position is that this phenomenon is of low value: 

cascade phenomena are generally better represented as the likelihood of the majority of entities in a network entering into a certain state

This ‘certain state’ is likened to an epidemic, an apparent appeal to the emotions to consider cascading as having only a negative effect. In order to reduce this effect, and circumvent the ‘power law’, the suggested remedy is to ‘drown out’ influential voices by increasing the connections in the network, as expressed in this statement:

Cascade phenomena occur, if you will, in a “sweet spot” where there is enough connectivity to permit influence and the propagation of an idea, but not enough connectivity to provide the stabilizing influence of dissenting opinions.

The result of increased connections is:

Communication from other people in the network overwhelms the information that a person might rely upon on his or her own, and that information therefore never informs the group as a whole.

By overwhelming the influential information that a person might rely on, and prohibiting it from reaching a group, we are left with the potential that not all the information reaches the group, due to the ‘drowning out’ of influential voices.  The internet needs drowning too:

Thus, while the connected nature of the web demonstrates a lesser tendency to cascade phenomena than the centralized model of mass media, the power law ultimately prevails even in this environment.

The cause of cascade phenomena:

Cascade phenomena, therefore, are caused not simply because a network of connections exists, but because the network that exists is not connected enough.

The goal then, is to create a network that is connected enough so that it ‘drowns out’ influential voices. Maybe this is achievable, but is it desirable?  Do the influential voices, that Stephen Downes wants to ‘drown out’, have something of value to convey?  One might want to entertain what they have to say, I would think.

Moving beyond connectivism might free up our thinking to find values in the very areas that connectivism would have us discount as influential and therefore undesirable. The connection of influential = undesirable, a connection that is at the root of connectivist ideology, is blinding the work on understanding distributed/distributive networks, and I maintain that we need to remove and move past these blinders.  As is well known, most ‘isms are prone to causing schisms, and is it the latter that we desire more of?

CCK11 Groups vs. Networks

I posted the following here:  (at the bottom of a long thread)

I’m still obsessing over this groups vs. networks thing, and this seems like a nice safe place to put my thoughts, no teacher figure about to slap my hands….

Ok, at 56:00 of the Feb 18 Elluminate session Stephen Downes presents his flip chart on Groups vs. Networks, arguing that the characteristics of each type of network are polar opposites, binaries. A group is closed, and a network is open, in his argument, for example. His analysis serves to divide networks into two camps, groups vs. networks, ineffective vs. effective, however, he does indicate that he has not empirically studied the matter, and hopes to do so.

The CCK11 FB group offers the opportunity for empirical study. This group exists within the centralized and coordinating structure of FB.  It has a property of distributiveness – there is a one-to-one link between a member and FB.  As such, transmission of information is rapid, cascading rapidly through the network members.  The group is also open – anyone can join (provisos – must have a FB account, must not be in countries that ban FB).  It is also diverse, members from around the world, operating in an autonomous fashion.  It is also connective, being democratic in that there is no central authority (other than the FB environment itself); every member is an administrator.  No one teacher exercises authority in the group, everyone is both teacher and learner, sharing what they know, engaging in unhindered discourse, participating as they choose to. It all seems to work very well, having a unity in learning about connectivism and other concepts.

It seems on initial study that the CCK11 FB group has all the qualities that Stephen Downes argues belong only to either a group or a network.  Is the FB group a special case of a network?

CCK11 The law of re-distribution

The power law operating in networks is an observation that autonomous, diverse social networks tend towards uneven distributions.  This observation can be colloquially expressed as:

Shirky’s Law:   Freedom of Choice Makes Stars Inevitable

The re-distribution law is an observation that the distribution in social networks is not static and is affected by the natality effect.  This observation can be colloquially expressed as:

Ken’s Law:     Stars die, and new ones are born

CCK11 Introducing the law of re-distribution

From the ongoing discussion here:

Hi Jennie and Al.  I think these are very good subjects for debate.  Should we push learning in a direction that is not natural, force learning to take place in a way that goes against its biological, economic or socio-mechanical proclivities, IF there is a natural tendency or power law at work?

(on the other hand, there might an argument to be made that this is done all the time in the teaching of students in our current systems, in order to produce some form of conformity as is being discussed in the FB group)

I guess one approach is to determine if it is even possible to push learning in the direction Stephen Downes is arguing for, and I guess that this course is an attempt to do just that.  I guess that another aspect of this is whether the push can have a lasting effect, or if the natural tendencies would re-establish, after the push is made.  So far, it seems that the latter is holding true, at least with what I know of CCK11 and its results.

The other side of the coin is the desirability of making the push.  Al suggests that a more distributed network is more creative than a distributive network which is faster.  What do you base the first assertion upon?  How does the slowness or relative inefficiency of the distributed network affect creativity?  I wonder if there are more laws at work than just the power law, for example, if the power law tends to steer networks towards centralization/distributive properties, is there a law that shakes up the statis of the distributive network to redistribute the hubs such that, for a time at least, a more distributed network appears.  The shake-up law might be a naturally occurring phenomenon, a naturally occurring redistribution law that has yet to be ‘discovered’ or articulated properly, take your pick.

I can think of a naturally occurring re-distribution law that takes place in the social realm over a period of time. The law is that of death and natality (the latter a concept of Hannah Arendt used in her discussion of education).  Death naturally ‘shakes up’ a social network by removing nodes.  Natality, the continual birth of new humans added to the social realm, adds new nodes to the network.  Maybe the focus could be on ensuring the new arrivals and their curiosities and creativity are welcomed, rather than worrying about interfering with the network.

The efficiency of the distributive network must have some value, I think, in that it permits widespread information to reach many people quickly. If the internet is one big node or hub, I’m thinking that it may be like a distributive network.  Since it distributes info efficiently, I wonder if it has the effect of increasing creativity.  I suspect that it has done just that, for me anyway, by giving me timely access to a wealth of information.  I don’t see the internet as a closed group, but I do see it as a distributive network.

CCK11 What is missing in Connectivism?

According to Downes:

 There is no entity called a ‘soul’ and commonly understood as some sort of non-corporeal self described by or explained by the theory of connectivism.
In this connectivism is consistent with other scientific theories and domains, such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, etc.

 He has pinned connectivism to a number of philosophical positions:

The philosophical foundation for connectivism as expressed by Stephen Downes is pinned to a materialist, epiphenomalist position that borrows from eliminative materialism to explain the absence of the self, or identity (soul).


Cconnectivism has no soul.  It does not welcome the soul.


There are other viewpoints and criticisms of this type of approach to understanding the world, some examples below:

Schopenhauer wrote that “…materialism is the philosophy of the subject who forgets to take account of himself”.

In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance. As a theory, materialism is a form of physicalism and belongs to the class of monist ontology. As such, it is different from ontological theories based on dualism or pluralism. For singular explanations of the phenomenal reality, materialism would be in contrast to idealism, neutral monism and spiritualism.

It has been criticised as a spiritually empty philosophy.


In the philosophy of mind, double-aspect theory is the view that the mental and the physical are two aspects of the same substance. 


He regards the mind, soul and body as different aspects of the same underlying reality—”dual aspect monism”—writing that “there is only one stuff in the world (not two—the material and the mental) but it can occur in two contrasting states (material and mental phases, a physicist might say) which explain our perception of the difference between mind and matter.”


Polanyi claimed that absolute objectivity (objectivism) is a delusion, and therefore a false ideal, because humans are not capable of removing themselves from the universe they are observing, and because humans necessarily have biases that influence the scientific questions they seek to answer and the answers they hope to discover.[1] He also criticised the notion that any scientific method yields truth mechanically. Instead, he argued that all knowing is personal, and as such relies upon fallible commitments.

What saves his claim — that all knowledge is personal — from relativism is his belief that personal experience connects us to objective realities. Unlike relativists he criticized, Polanyi argues that objective reality exists, but that humans are merely incapable of being objective. Yet, through experience, humans are able to perceive aspects of reality, and through the process of scientific discovery improve the accuracy of personal knowledge.