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#CCK11 Things that Irk-me

March 22, 2011

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.


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  1. Lolcats (see this weeks 1st reading) irk me!! Are they really funnier than the average YouTube cat video? What am I missing or is this really ‘What Literacy Means in teh Digital Era’? … could this Emperor Have No Clothes? Maybe my irk factor is running too high but I just don’t get it – am I to be shunned forever by connected sophisticates?

    • deadvocate permalink

      Hi Gordon. Yes, we are now required to learn the new language of lolcats. Teh Digital Era is changing the way we communicate….

    • You just have to stay off Youtube Gordon 🙂 🙂
      Initially I just accepted the term. Since reading your Irk, I’ve begun to question – “Why not loldogs?”

      Seems like someone beat me to it !

      • Now uz talkin Soosan! Some really funny ones 🙂 – my irk factor plummets as I rejoin the connekted sofistykates!!

  2. Sometimes it irks me. Sometimes not. Sometimes I am just confused, Other times I just don’t care one way or another about the fuss. Ask me later when the process of forgetting filters out what I least care about and I’ve had a chance to apply (or not) what I’ve learned (or not). I blog for myself, community network and teach online as a volunteer: get to do what I want even albeit on short resources. Independent minus the (-ly wealthy) part.

  3. PS ~ double down with you on MOOC being goofy, less shameful promotion than just another unfortunate acronym. When Grasshoppers fail… I ignore it and find another way in or something else to read… no shortage. Annoying though that grasshopper generated links don’t work in my rss reader (rss envy or what?). Less annoying than pipes breaking in a hard freeze.

    • deadvocate permalink

      Hi Vanessa, yes, broken pipes in a hard freeze sure tops mal-functioning digital pipes! I think it was Rose that mentioned the course requirement of blogging, stating that not everyone wants to blog and may rather participate in a discussion forum. I find it interesting that CCK11 forces people to blog in order to be best connected. If everyone refused to blog, what would happen to the course? I don’t normally blog a lot myself, and I admire those that do.

  4. Hi Ken; A thought on your positive note:
    I don’t think there is a theory that adequately describes learning and ventures far outside of pedagogy. Constructivism is sort of metaphoric and pedagogically descripted. Vygotsky inspired social cultural and activity theory specifically took mediated activity as the unit of analysis. That is sort of pedagogic. No theory has yet come close to adequately describing the physical correlates of behavioral change, so the natural fall back is to pedagogy. But effective pedagogy is no small thing.
    Here is why I think something new is needed. Hagel’s “pull” model of learning says that the pace of change is such that we can’t predict what we’ll need to know in advance, so we need to be embedded in knowledge flows and draw what is needed when it is needed. Sort of like commnities of practice on steroids. I think that is going to require substantial pedagogical change. So . . . If you’re not focused on behavioral prediction and control, isn’t
    the main role for learning theory to provide a guide for pedagogy?
    P.S. My true apologies if this ramble has raised the irksome nature of your day:)

    • deadvocate permalink

      Hi Howard, no problem, no irk-someness raised! I think you may have clarified a couple of things I was wondering about, or at least have started me thinking in a different way about them. The issue of theory has been discussed to some length by a few participants throughout CCK11. The scientific folk seem to want a prescriptive, predictive theory. Maybe, as I think you are suggesting, a learning theory is not for that purpose, maybe it is more for pedagogical purposes. The usefulness of a pedagogy, and by implication the validity of the learning theory behind it, is often determined by measuring and evaluating the results (from testing of students) after the pedagogy is used. But there are problems with evaluation and with validation as well.

      I think there is no one absolute way of explaining the world, and no one absolute way of explaining the mechanisms of learning. I guess you are right, the role of learning theory is to guide the pedagogy.

  5. Absolutely Ken; measuring and validating pedagogical science is a critical part of improving education, but, there is no one specified way. Because it’s a human science, it always bumps up against some limits. Here’s one. Because we can’t really see the brain doing it’s thing (and in fact, it is probably multiple brains and other environmental variable interacting that we would need to observe), all psychology has to fall back in some way to human action as it’s unit of analysis. Your response took me back to Edmund Sullivan’s 1984 book A Critical Psychology (Plenum Press):
    “(T)he meaning of human action must be understood as a limited field of possible interpretations or actions. . . the demand for final, absolute, unrevisable truth cannot be satisfied. As a text never has one interpretation, so also human action is open to multiple interpretations” (p.143). . . . “If one looks at Skinner, one gets the impression that freedom has failed: “Now let’s try some systematic control” (p.175).
    Skinner thought that freedom was an illusion, but I don’t see evidence for that conclusion. Most philosophers have moved from a positivist stance to this hermeneutic stance. A major reason to believe in freedom is that we live and act in hermeneutic fields and we have the freedom to interpret, to reinterpret, and to negotiate our lives together amid these fine fields.

    • Howard, Is a hermeneutic stance as simple as being interpreted as “it’s all about perspectives” or is that too simplistic ?

  6. deadvocate permalink

    Thanks Howard. I am just reading a work from Jean Lave (1991) on situated learning that also suggests the hermeneutic stance. Do you think that S. Downes has moved towards this approach? I get the feeling that his stance is more of a positivist one.

  7. Hey there K.A
    Many come to mind but I’ll stick to two for now in the interests of positivity.
    1. Sycophants irk me – I won’t stain your blog by using the colloquial term generally employed by my fellow Aussies. People who moan and gripe behind the scenes about practices in the workplace and then when I raise the issue at a meeting in an endeavour to promote change(or at least discussion), suddenly they run for cover and I’m left swinging in the breeze looking like the solitary dissident
    2. The loss of the forum irks me because I seem to be allergic to the gRSShopper format. Top points to Stephen for experimenting with the forma, however links lead back to links e.g when I tried to respond to your MOONing versus MOOCing comment I ended up at my own blog. For the record, I acquired the term from Sean Fitzgerald. He used the acronym, I activated it. Can’t see it becoming widely accepted for a number of reasons, however in these Massive Open Online ‘whatevers’ the participants are expected to show their hand (so to speak). The visual image prompts me to consider another variation on Gordon’s diagram. I’d best stop here. 🙂

    • It also irks me that I couldn’t edit the typo above- that should read ‘format’ not ‘forma’ of course.

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