Some great reading this week; some of my students have gleaned inspiration from Friere’s work and referred to it in their assignments, but until this week I hadn’t engaged with it myself that much. Ideas on freedom and oppression arise in many strands of pedagogic theory and there was much here that I was already familiar with. However, Friere communicates these viewpoints ever so effectively in the Olsen interview.
One of my favourite bits:
“when we reach a certain state of freedom, we immediately discover we have another one to attain”
Like power, and oppression, freedom is relative. This year, the CCK11 facilitators decided to do away with the Moodle forums and move to an entirely distributed model, primarily in an attempt to prevent a small number of dominant individuals from controlling the forums. Having been liberated from this particular form of oppression, a proportion of participants felt that they were now being shoehorned into working in a more distributed way than they would have liked. Are we now grappling with Illich’s principle of counterproductivity? A critical point at which we can no longer liberate in one way without oppressing in another? Have we reached a threshold of expertise in connectivism and connectivist knowledge where what we produce begins to counter what we set out to achieve?
During Friday’s live session, Stephen posed a question on the whiteboard – something along the lines of ‘how do we avoid oppressing others/our students?’ Many participants contributed suggestions like ‘giving more choice’, ‘more freedom’, ‘more flexibility in the learning experience’, ‘negotiated assessment’, etc. I think I wrote ‘find out what makes them tick’. As I’ve mentioned previously, I teach on the postgraduate professional development courses we offer our full-time and associate teaching staff. I was relieved when Stephen posted up a link to a post from Tony Bates suggesting that more choice & freedom in the learning experience might not be so desirable. Offers of choice and freedom don’t generally go down well with my PG Cert students – an experience echoed in Tony’s quote from Guri-Rosenblit and Gros (2011):
“Most students…are unable and unwilling to control fully or largely their studies.”
This mismatch between the learning preferences shared by my personal learning network, and the dominant preferences of my own students, brings me back to the question of the design of the CCK11 course being particularly – and perhaps solely – appropriate to those interested in MOOCs and connectivism. Would a MOOC in applied general pedagogic theory work? Would it appeal? Probably not. Would it be more realistic to try and incorporate MOOC-like elements (okay, cut the M; ‘OOC’-like elements) into a general applied pedagogy course? Because I have tried – in a dabbling, non-committal kind of way. I’ve facilitated debates on the role of networked technologies in learning, provided examples and case studies, shown my groups how I use blogs and Twitter in my own learning, started group blogs, asked them to set up online research journals… yada yada yada. Some have taken the bait, but an abridged version of the exchanges I’ve had on the topic over the last two years probably looks something like this:
ME: So, having done this activity, do you think this is something you might see a use for in your own practice?
PARTICIPANTS: No. I can’t think of anything worse. This kind of thing epitomises everything I think is wrong with the world today. How on earth do people have time to do this kind of stuff, and why on earth would they want to? What’s wrong with having a proper conversation, with someone you genuinely know, in the real world?
Over time, I’ve developed the following explanation that seems to help:
Imagine a triangle. The three points represent ‘self-development’, ‘helping others’, and ‘ego’. Every interaction – online or offline – can be said to occupy a particular point within that triangle, depending on the relative contribution of these three motivating factors. With online interactions, particularly those of a one-to-many nature, we can immediately see that there is greater potential for both helping others, and boosting ego. I honestly feel that the majority of people in my own network prefer to learn in this way because they have experienced a greater degree of self-development. That’s not to say ego doesn’t come into it; similarly with altruism – either of these may also be the dominant factors, and they often are!
In my experience of trying to introduce this kind of learning to those for whom it is entirely alien, this explanation seems to go down best. I’d be interested to find out if others have had similar experiences, and how you go about introducing the uninitiated to networked learning.