Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Annoyed with Pinterest! CCK12

True confession - I'm mad at the saintly Pinterest ( Now don't get me wrong, I love social media and was an early adopter of it, and I know Pinterest is great, amazing, fantastic, don't know how I lived without it, blah, blah, blah. I already had an account and I thought it was fine, but certainly not life altering.

BUT, how come life as I knew it was great until about 3 weeks ago when everyone I know started pushing Pinterest on me - as though not being an active user of Pinterest was a major social faux pas - akin with not having Facebook or something REALLY awful. As well, on my organization's Facebook page (which I manage), almost every single nonprofit organization I know is posting about and singing the praises of Pinterest, sharing "how to" tutorials, asking why you aren't using Pinterest and why you really need to immediately join the band wagon, and carrying on like each and every respectable nonprofit simple cannot function with this technology.

It feels like "group think" to me and way too much pressure. Why the sudden popularity of this one technology? I find it very odd. Are people getting bored with the "old" standbys of Twitter, blogs and Facebook? Why do groups suddenly en mass decide something is right and good? Why do people persistently push the latest fad on you?

I do realise I sound cranky and uncooperative - but I'm actually not, I'm just really, really tired of hearing about Pinterest!


p.s. I did once find the most adorable picture of two pigs swimming in a pool on Pinterest. Those pigs remind me of us in the nonprofit sector, working so diligently to do our missions! Pinterest definitely does have some good features!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Groups: Love and hate – Week 5 Posting – CCK12

Stephen Downes in his article “The Group Feeling ( ) so powerfully articulates some of the benefits and perils of groups.
Here is an example of why I hate groups. My grade 9 son has awesome bright, long red hair that he loves. It’s his trademark and even his identity. On this past weekend a group of cool kids dared him to shave his head bald to fit in with their group – and he did it. As Stephen mentioned in the above article, many people will risk a lot to belong to a group, and there is a price (and sometimes a high one) to be paid for joining.
However, I also love groups and am personally involved in a fairly unique experience. A group of close friends from our church and I are trying to replicate a wee bit of the community created by first century Christians, in a 21st century urban dweller fashion. We try to create an informal community by doing some group activities together and helping one another out. So, we meet one evening per week to talk, learn and pray together, and we take on community projects – serving at a soup kitchen, cleaning up a park together. We also hang out socially a couple of times per year (bowling, cards, hiking, or whatever) and go camping once per year. And, we help each other as best we can when bad situations occur in our lives.  It is quite informal; and people get involved with some, all or none of the activities and come and go as they like and suits their needs. We have a lot of fun. A lot of the people in our group are not connected in community otherwise and love being in a group that cares about them. When something bad happens, these friends are some of the first people I’d call. It doesn't really have a leader, we are just friends walking together. This group has been a blessing not a burden (I like that terminology from Stephen's article).
I agree with Stephen’s assessment that “groups are based on passion while networks are based on reason”. And that you’ve got to carefully watch the dividing line between healthy and unhealthy groups. 

Friday, 24 February 2012


Several classmates (is that still the word in a MOOC?) have posted on our Diigo group regarding e-books. Though I'm the daughter of a librarian and grew up with my nose in a book, and to this day I love the look and feel of books... I must admit, I LOVE e-books!
My primary job at a work is to research and write (hurrah!) but I had never written a e-book. This fall and winter I taught myself how to write, develop and produce e-books on Amazon's Kindle. It was a huge learning curve for sure!

Here are my two e-books, one just for me and one for work.

"Christmas Sauna Traditions"

And, one that I just posted on Kindle today: “Guide to Effective Technologies for Providing Online
I know that I definately used networked learning to get these produced, as this is such a new field and I had to learn from many different people using e-mail, webinars, book, e-books, websites, printed based resources and even one face-to-face connection! Not mention trying to learn how to use Amazon's amazing network...!
Now for a nice winter sauna after a busy week...

Monday, 20 February 2012

Adult Literacy and Learning Theories #CCK12 - Week 4

I work in the field of adult literacy, which overall, is highly influenced by the constructivist theory of learning. Adult learners have typically not succeeded in standard educational institutions and yet they have important and diverse life and work experiences – not to mention incredible coping skills. For our sector, constructivism tends to be a highly valued theory because it values and builds on people’s previous life experiences.

However, when an adult has extremely low levels of literacy, we must sometimes begin with a behaviourist approach, i.e., drilling and practicing basic spelling and reading skills. Without gaining basic conventions of spelling and reading through a skill and drill approach, it can be difficult to learn and progress.
Seldom do adult literacy learners favour a humanist approach to learning. They typically are not upgrading their literacy skills for reasons of self-actualization and self-development; often their reasons for learning are more basic and profound than that. They need improved literacy skills for critically important goals such as furthering their education, gaining employment, or reading a banking agreement, apartment lease or a child’s report card.
Literacy educators might use cognitivism as a means of organizing how the course is designed and delivered, rather than as a learning theory.
In family literacy, we would be more likely to use a social constructivist theory, since family literacy involves the whole family (immediate, extended and sometimes the community) learning together. We definitely recognize, given the strong co-relation between a parent’s literacy level and a child’s, that social constructivism is an important learning theory in family literacy.
Connectivism would be a new learning theory to most literacy educators and adult literacy learners. Many of the concepts within connectivism would be however be familiar to us. For example, the concept that knowledge can be gained through social interaction and that people learn through connection with others would be commonly accepted principles. As well, the concept that knowledge is distributed across a network and that learning is supported by navigating these connections would also be accepted in literacy.

In terms of social interaction and connections, adult literacy learners often benefit from social and peer-based learning and from sharing stories and resources of how to cope with low literacy levels in a highly literate world. Therefore, often in adult literacy we encourage peer support and peer tutoring. Knowing the value of this social and interactive learning, and its ability to support others, we also encourage adult learners (based on individual comfortable levels) to share their stories, via literacy agency blogs, newsletters, videos, podcasts, speaking engagements, and books). Who can better relate to the struggles and needs of adult learners better than people sharing the same journey?

In literacy, we also seek to build connections of adult literacy educators and adult learners via networks, both in person and digital. We do this using incredibly diverse methods, including via provincial learner conferences and via a wide variety of online tools such as those mentioned above (blogs, stories of the week, online videos, webinars, newsletters, etc.). For some, networks help them to learn; for others, they create a lifeline!

To illustrate, here is a powerful video produced by People, Words and Change, (a community-based literacy agency in Ottawa) that shares the stories of six adult learners:

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Network Joy!

Joy, yes joy! 

Yesterday, the Huntington’s Society of Canada ( announced the first-ever research breakthrough for a potential treatment for Huntington’s disease (HD).

HD is a devastating genetic neurological disease that is incurable, untreatable and which each child of a person with this disease has a 50% chance of inheriting this terrible and terrifying disease. Some describe it as a cross between Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. My family is directly impacted by HD.

So what’s the link to networks?

Networks play an incredibly important role in such medical breakthroughs. And there are many players in this network who have roles both large and small. These would be just a few of the many network players (most who will never meet each other but who all share a passion for finding a cure):

- Researchers at the University of Alberta
- Past researchers for HD all over the world
- Researchers who mapped out the human genome
- Researchers who found the defective HD gene markers
- Government funding for HD research (very, very, very limited compared to other diseases)
- Researchers for other diseases that have relation to HD – Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.
- Online tools and technologies that allow researchers to share information easily
- Huntington Societies around the world which provide such awesome support to families and which advocate for the disease and fund research
- People affected by HD who take part in clinical trials and various tests
- People who let researchers use their computers to compile and crunch data regarding various diseases including HD under the Folding@Home project
 Donors who give to research (including one anonymous donor who gave 5 million to HD!) 
Families affected by HD who raises funds for research by walkathons, bake-a-thons, selling flowers, begging and pleading and grovelling for money, etc. etc. 
 My son who helped me bake pies to raise money for research!

AND, most importantly, those who suffer from HD who have held on to hope in the face of despair brought on by this devastating and incurable disease!

This is not a cure, but perhaps the beginning of a cure. And a day I never thought I’d see. A big HURRAH for networks! THANK YOU! It's a day for joy! 

I'm not sure whether to put the course tag for this post, it feels a bit weird, but I'm so happy, so here goes: CCK12 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Rhizomes and Canons – Week 3 – CCK12

Yes to:

·         Learning without borders – people learning and growing and sharing in ways that interest them and meet their needs and abilities

·         Networking to share and construct knowledge with others

·         Negotiating with others in the learning process

·         Agreeing that experts do not know everything and new ideas and new technologies result in paradigm shifts in learning

·         Accessing information, resources and people in new ways due to the massive shift in technology

·         Decentralizing who is an expert and who controls access to knowledge

·         Considering new ideas!

·         Creating community in new ways

·         Re-examining standard beliefs and practices

Here is a picture I took of a native Ontario wildflower called “Spring Beauty”. It is the first spring wildflower you will see in Ontario forests. It is a rhizomatic plant, spreading and growing throughout the forest floor and showing up where you least expect it – just like networked learning!
And for Hugh McKellar’s interesting insights about books in his “The changing nature of knowledge,” here is a humorous 3-minute video: Medieval Help Desk:

Despite my many “yeses” to this week’s readings, I have a big NO to there never being a canon for anything. While I know this is not a popular concept in modern society, I believe there is some knowledge that is settled and unassailable. To me, technology does not change this type of knowledge, though it can make it easier to share and connect and learn more, but the knowledge does not itself change. For me, this is my faith in God and human love and hope.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The M.O.M. Network Solution

On Thursday, George asked us to think of practical applications for networks for our CCK12 course. Here is a real life network scenario that happened to me on Friday.

The Problem:

·         My 13 year-old son accidentally leaves his cell phone at home and heads off to his Grade 9 classes

·         His orthodontist calls with an emergency appointment that afternoon

·         I need to get a hold of my son ASAP to tell him about the appointment

The M.O.M. Network Solution

1.    I enact the secret M.O.M. network

2.    I send a Tweet to Mom A (son’s best friend’s Mom) and tell her the problem but… her son (kid A) doesn’t have a cell phone. Dead-end!

3.    I send a Facebook message to Mom B and she promises to text her son (kid B)

4.    Kid B doesn’t have any courses with my son so he texts kid C who shares a gym class with my son

5.    Gym class is over by the time kid C reads the text, so it is another dead-end!

6.    Kid C then posts on his Facebook “Anyone who has a class with Charlie please tell him to call home ASAP” (though of course he posts in lol language not these long words!)

7.    Kids D, E, F, G, H  (none of whom I know) all read this Facebook post and tell my son to call me

8.    My son makes it to the emergency dental appointment!

9.    Hurrah for the M.O.M. network – with its strong and weak ties, dead-ends, false starts, known and unknown players, awesome use of social network tools and ultimate success as a network!


Thursday, 2 February 2012

Network Extravaganza - CCK12 - Week 2

I have worked for a provincial literacy network for the past 15 years so networking is dear to my heart. My network’s role is to link and share information, resources and training with 100 literacy organizations across Ontario. It is easy for me to see the great value provided by networks.  However, concepts introduced by the course, such as network optimization and analysis, have caused me to think on a deeper level about networking.  Perhaps at work we are too concerned about sheer activity and not enough about network flow, our strengths and dependencies, optimization of information, analysis and most of all patterns within the network.  Something to think about when I am not so busy with the course!

It is hard to “see the forest for the trees” as the old saying goes.  Analysing network patterns is a helpful way to see past your own assumptions and biases and obtain a different and often clearer picture. For example, I took my course blog, entered the blog content into Wordle (an application that creates word clouds based on the amount of times a word is used at:, and this is the pattern that emerged.Whew! Good to see "learning" was the biggest item!

Some examples of online networks are:

·     LinkedIn - “The World’s Largest Professional Network”.  LinkedIn not only links you with colleagues you have accepted, but in order to build your network, continually suggests other connections, based on your existing links. Recommended new connections are ranked on their relation to you (so by how many common connections your have and how many common interests). LinkedIn also searches out jobs based on your stated interests and skills.  LinkedIn is also linked with Twitter.

·    Amazon  - Amazon has developed an impressive online network. Typically, I buy books and e-books from Amazon. Amazon remembers what topics have been searched for, links that with other related topics and makes recommendations based on personal shopping preferences. They are typically very accurate in their recommendations! The more you participate in their network (for example reviewing books for them), the higher your rank is with Amazon. You can buy, sell, create a wish list and recommend items to friends. If you carefully look at Amazon's online network - you will likely either be impressed - or terrified!

Here are some network diagrams I found:

·     Flow chart diagram of various social networking technologies: 

·     Diagram of social networks from the New Testament:

·     Applications for mapping one’s LinkedIn connections:

The ability of online networks to help you to see what is going on in a total different way... now that is very powerful!