Is George Siemens a MOOC-choir conductor?

Debbie has done a phenomenal job with the CCK11 final project video: I had goose bumps watching it. The message of the video is extremely powerful: technology enhances connections wherever we are. In her blog Debbie says that Eric Whitacre’s virtual choir “is the ultimate metaphor (and reality) of what can happen in the today’s networked world. The idea of people from all over the world collaborating with their voices to make stunning music…”

My question is: What does a choir have to do with a MOOC?

A choir is where everyone sings in tune the same tune under a direction of one person=1 conductor.  All eyes are looking in one direction, the conductor’s direction. One can’t be off-tune, can’t make a mistake, can’t be slower or have no musicality. All bodies must connect at the same nanosecond.

A MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is where everyone sings a different tune under one’s own direction=multiple conductors. Participants are all different, have different voices and bring different experiences and perspectives; to learn we do not need to sing in tune with everyone else. The idea of a MOOC is that every individual takes responsibility for and ownership of their own tune: takes and gives so others can reformulate and sing their own tunes. They can learn at their own pace, be very active or just lurk.

My answer is: Not much really. The choir resembles a teacher-directed classroom, not a MOOC.

In my view both concepts are at the opposite ends of a spectrum. George Siemens is not a conductor. MOOC and unstructured learning have nothing to do with a choir per se.

Nonetheless, both concepts are great and accommodate diverse learners’ needs. Some learners need to have the total control of a teacher; others love the freedom of being able to decide how, where and when the learning happens for them. Both concepts are a celebration of learning and the music of the virtual choir instantly increases a listener’s motivation to act and be a part of this massive movement of XXI century digital learning.

I really like how Debbie has combined it all in her video to show how technology makes the global community connective; I will play it in my presentation next week at the TESL 2011 national conference in Halifax. My presentation is on networked EAL/ESL learning and the video fits in perfectly. Thanks Debbie!

CCK11 Final Project

Here it is, my creative outburst of zooming-out thoughts.

As I was watching Hubble 3D this morning, I was reflecting on human race in the universe and our connectedness as a whole. This inspired me to do some zooming out as connectivism, I feel, requires a lot of it. Some people are flexible to constantly stretch their mindsets and see beyond what is within their reach; other are not.

And just like the universe is streatching non-stop, learning does too. So here’s my final project that is supposed to show how connected I am and how connectivism will change my design and delivery of learning.

I created a very short presentation in prezi, which links to a mindmap in TheBrain.

Just in case the link in prezi doesn’t work, here’s the link to TheBrain map of how connected I am

Changing Role of Educators

In light of the speed of information growth and change today, educators must let technology and networked learning enter their lives and classrooms: books are no longer sufficient sources of knowledge. As Edgar Morin said: “The major responsibility of education is to arm every single person for the vital combat for lucidity” (Siemens, virtual class) Guiding and facilitating the growth of learners’ networked learning is the most important role of an educator in the twenty-first century.

Here is an example of a situation that greatly affected me: “John’s English skills were tested in May 2009. He did not join any classroom-based courses because of family and work commitments. However, he was motivated to improve his language skills and learned on his own. In May 2010 he wanted to begin to study at a university but the testing center refused to test him because he had not taken any classes in the meantime. They assumed that he had not improved his language skills at all. They disregarded the value of personal learning on a daily basis. John was devastated and forced to take classes, delaying the achievement of his professional goals and success in Canada. ”

This story shows that educators need to change, quickly.  Learning does not happen in a classroom; it happens in the brain, which swims in a vast ocean of knowledge across networks. Personal learning enabled by making connections with people and content daily must be recognized and acknowledged. Ideally, the assessors would have made a judgment call and assessed him on his actual language artifacts instead of using a bureaucratic standard to measure progress.

What are appropriate responses?

To keep up with the speed of information change and avoid credentialism, today’s educators should:

–          Exercise less control and focus on listening. Educators need to help learners have more control over their learning paths, by updating their systems as in the above example, so they work for the learner/client and not the other way round. Education is not an assembly line; listen and adjust to the learners’ needs.

–          Promote the use of portfolios for personal learning assessments. Learners must maintain the portfolios. Educators should spend more time facilitating the process of ‘growing’ portfolios; regularly teach meta-cognitive skills needed for learning.

–          Teach how to learn on the go. Learning also happens outside the classroom hence the changed role for educators. Educators need to help learners draw knowledge quickly from a variety of sources and share their knowledge and experiences with their peers. It is critical for educators to provide information literacy training; again, less control, more guidance.

–          Create more open resources, e.g.  It’s a phenomenal place where you can take any course you want and get a diploma. You can also join a group and get the same diploma with an educational institution. CCK11 works similarly: the course is open to anyone in the world but you can do it for credit through the University of Manitoba.

What are impediments to change?

Change will not happen on its own. All stakeholders – educators, learners, institutions – must be willing to change. The following issues are potential obstacles:

–          Adult learner context – The mindset of adult learners could constitute an impediment, even if educators change. Learners who experienced a full education cycle in a country with a high power distance index will find it difficult to shift the focus from the teacher as the centre of their personal learning environment to themselves.

–          Access to technology – Educators/Learners living in remote regions in Manitoba, have little or no access to the Internet. Information Communication Technology (ICT) skills vary widely from one person to another. Successful networked learning requires good ICT skills and an open mind to try new things in real time.

To sum up, this quote from Tom Whitby nicely explains how world-wide networks can help us learn faster, “Before Twitter teachers were limited to interacting with teachers they knew in their building or district. Now, they are limited to whatever range they have with Twitter. With the proper strategies, that can create a huge jump in numbers of opinions and a bigger step toward relevance for the teacher.” Let’s not limit the learners to what they learn in a classroom; let’s get them ready for the lucidity race of the twenty-first century. But in doing so, we must acknowledge their efforts and give them credit for their self-directed learning.

My position on Connectivism

Three quotes have inspired me in my life:

–      “We cannot teach people anything; we can only help discover it within themselves” Galileo Galilei 

–      “Instruction ends in the classroom, but education ends only with life” F.W. Robertson

–      “I’m always ready to learn although I don’t always like to be taught” Winston Churchill

They support the facilitative and mentoring role of teachers, while the learner leads the discovery process. Learning happens in the brain, not in a school. We never stop learning.

I see connectivism as a personal learning theory that puts learners in the centre of their Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and gives them the magic wand of autonomous learning.

I completely agree with what George Siemens said about the speed of change and how we need to learn to quickly unlearn (Ally 2008). Additionally, Redding (2003) discusses an interesting graph that compares how much of the total amount of knowledge a man knew 10 000 years ago and how much a man knows now. We cannot keep up with today’s developments if we just depend on schools. We must learn and unlearn at a much faster rate. What is true today may no longer be true tomorrow, Siemens says.

In connectivism, Stephen Downes says, “There is a definite shift in approach from ‘we will accommodate your needs’ to ‘you create your learning environment yourself,’ which I think is a brilliant approach. He further states on the CCK11 MOOC site “A connectivist approach entails that individuals manage their own learning. There are many reasons for this, but one is that it is neither reasonable nor feasible to design for the needs of every single individual.” I believe this is the best need-accommodating approach. The only problem is how much learners really know about their needs. As educators we should develop tools and ways for learners to find out their needs. Then we could help learners develop PLEs and NOT give everything to them on a plate.

I encourage learners to think outside the box, to find real-world ways of practicing English and not depend on their facilitator.  This is challenging for two reasons:

–      not every adult learner is ready to be self-directed when they start (Four Stages of Self-Directedness – Grow in Mackeracher 2004, p 48)

–      the cultural backgrounds of learners who view teachers as authority (

However, I will not give up. Our program has minimal structure and no time limits. Just like this MOOC, we provide learning resources, and learners find creative ways to practise/apply new skills in their daily lives. Our program is what learners make of it for themselves. We created a learning space and facilitate their language explorations. It is a different way of learning; therefore connectivism has a valid claim to be recognized as a new theory.

Connectivism resonates with my own learning experiences. Since I was 7, I was encouraged to find answers before I asked questions. Nobody talked about PLEs then, but I recall having one on my journey to master English. I like to grow my knowledge and believe that every piece of information holds an important place in my knowledge base, even if it is indirectly related to my needs. I link and nurture the connections I form. I like drawing information from various sources, hence my fascination with MOOCs. I agree that knowledge is distributed and learning is a process of making sense of what is in my PLE.

The greatest strength of the CCK11 course is its distributed nature that pushes the stretching of the mind and its frames. Another strength is that it defies credentialism. This course can be taken by anyone who wishes to learn. I hope that in the future, people will be rewarded for PLEs more than for the certificates they hold.

The theoretical discussion in the course is slightly overwhelming for me at this stage but I enjoy lurking on it. I do have any outstanding questions at this point.


Ally, M. (2008). The Theory and Practice of Online Learning.

In Anderson, T. (Ed.), Towards a Theory of Online Learning (15-44). Edmonton: AU Press, Athabasca University.

Downes, S. (2011). Retrieved from

Geer Hofstede TM Cultural Dimensions. (n.d). Retrieved from 

Mackeracher, D. (2004). Making sense of adult learning. Toronto:

University of Toronto Press.

Redding, T.R. (2003). Preparing Your Learners for My e-Learning.

In Piskurich, G. (Ed.), Preparing Learners for e-Learning (155-168). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Siemens, G. (n.d.). Retrieved from