[iDC] iCollege

MARTIN E ROSENBERG mer19 at psu.edu
Mon Jun 21 14:37:54 UTC 2010

Dear Folks:
I too have been enjoying this discussion, and perhaps my own experiences might
shed some light on the issues at stake withcollaborative learning environments.
 I had been involved in the Alliance for Computers and Writing since 1989, and
developedwith Thomas I. Ellis The RHIZOME Project, which modeled creative and
analytic invention heuristics for writing both fictionand arguments.  While
this has been in development at various points for translation to the WWW
(written originally in hypercard), I had gone on to teaching in local area
network conferencing software developed by my friends at Daedelus Inc. of
Austin TX, and then wide area networks and internet relay chat environments
(IRC).  In 1996, I organized the first cross institution, expanded graduate
seminar, between Eastern Kentucky University and Texas Tech. University (with
Bruce Clarke), entitled "What Is Human About Intelligence in Science Fiction
and Film"-- meant to uncover the science behind science fiction with respect to
models of human cognition.  We linked our graduate seminars with websites that
contained syllabii, primary and secondary reading lists with book reviews by
students eventually attached, posted seminar papers at the end, and a large web
library of links for resources on the topics addressed.  In addition, I had
designed a cluster of virtual classrooms with multiple functionality at the
Media Lab Moo (more on that perhaps another time), as both classes met, in
computer classrooms large enough to accomodate every student at a terminal on
Monday evenings from 6-9pm, which meant, despite the time zone difference, two
hours overlapping.  A number of times during the semester, authors of secondary
works were able to meet us at the Media Lab MOO to interact with our students,
who, at regional universities, would otherwise never have the opportunity to
interact with internationally known scholars (such as William R. Paulson, David
Porush, and Manuel Delanda).  What made this course so successful, in my
opinion, was the fact that we linked online in real time only for one of those
two hours, after we had met in the classroom and began exfoliating the topics
for discussion ahead of time.  SO, we designed the interactive nature of the
class to take advantage of both real and virtual classrooms.  I tried this
approach a few more times, opening it once to professors and students
subscribed to H-NET, which was less successful because of sporadic and
inconsistent attendance, and once for a technical communication course (after I
had moved) between Kettering University and James Madison University.  A number
of issues emerged from this: 1. the timing of the linked courses had to be
exquisite; 2. the syllabii for the two courses had to be extremely close if not
identical; 3. it was difficult to get permission for linking up through those
bean counter folks responsible for evaluating FTE efficiency; 4. I don't think
that any purely online course could ever offer the depth, as well as breadth of
discussion and concentrated effort, than hybrid linked courses with two
committed professors offering face-to-face guidance not only on helping
students master the learning curve with respect to the technological features,
but also in thinking through the specific pedagogical tactics that would
contribute rather than detract from the novel learning environment; 5.
elaborating on those tactics, we consciously tried to balance top-down and
bottom-up learning modalities as much as we could, because we discovered that
significant guidance was needed to ensure that the distributed, bottom-up,
collaborative projects stayed focused.  This was years before Blackboard and
other store-bought virtual classroom management software, and the use of the
MOO, with all its functionality, remains superior to that available through
these store-bought systems.
Now I gave a lecture on successes and difficulties of this model to the School
of the Future, Universidade de Sao Paolo, and they immediately adopted, and
then transformed this model to enable the linkage of high schools in every
region of Brazil, from the Barrios of Sao Paolo and Rio to far flung Amazon
Basin communities.  This seems to continue, although the balance between real
and virtual classrooms remains an issue.
This year, with Jondi Keane of Griffith University, Brisbane AU, we transformed
this model for a graduate seminar, accounting for new developments (since
1996!), and applied it to a two week tradisciplinary academic conference on the
avant-garde visionary architects Arakawa and Gins.  The conference ran from
March 12-26, 2010.  Here we coordinated a number of online elements that proved
quite successful, we feel: a website, containing both a place not only
documents, but 5 keynote video lectures (and introductions); 7 disciplinary
topic stream video lectures (and introductions); some sixty academic papers;
some forty creative textual and multimedia responses to Arakawa and Gins'
philosophy and works; video documentary/interviews with both Arakawa and
Madeline Gins; as well as the cumulative work of a graduate seminar at the
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology run by Russell Hughes and his
supervisor Pia Edni Brown, which generated 3D navigable models of Arakawa and
Gins' architecture and landscapes.  This was entirely online, and while we
expected between 1-200 registered users, the total exceeded 370, and what was
most important, the quality of the work was remarkably high.  We did have
concluding celebrations at Barnard College in NYC, and they proved
extraordiarily rich in amplifying the sense of community established by the
online conference (thought to be fair I should point out that this was the
third such international conference on these architects).  But, the real time
events in NYC were not necessary to the ultimate success of the conference. 
One factor that could have been applied to this online conference from the
graduate seminar attempted some 14 years earlier, was the use of the multiple
functionality of MOOs versus simple chats, but if one reads the transcripts of
the chats from the conference, they worked just fine, and sections are indeed
worthy of separate publication as exemplars of collaborative invention.  I
would be happy to speak in greater detail about the difference in functionality
of MOOs versus Chats, but in any case, Jondi and I are still pondering the
successes and challenges of this project, and would welcome any feedback with
respect to design features, or with respect to content and "pedagogy."  You can
find this online conference at: http://ag3.griffith.edu.au  and enter through
the links to videos, papers and chats; or to the creative contents.
Best wishes.......mer

On Mon, Jun 21, 2010 04:53 AM, Ian Condry <condry at MIT.EDU> wrote:
Hello All,
>I'm Ian Condry, a cultural anthropologist at MIT who works in  
>Comparatie Media Studies, and I've been enjoying this discussion as a  
>lurker.  I wanted to comment on this:
>> To succeed, however, the university will need to up its game and  
>> make its boundaries more porous by meaningfully integrating emerging
>> ways of knowing and new social media (2).
>I agree.  The frustration many of us feel around classroom learning,  
>and the related issue of stultifying conferences (e.g, in Asian  
>studies, where I've spent some time), demands reform around the  
>processes of learning, something that many people have commented on  
>here with a variety of great ideas.
>Collaborative learning is a keyword these days, and for me, this  
>suggests thinking of learning less as one-to-one relationship in a  
>group space (teacher to student in a classroom) and more as a  
>networked process of discovery and action.  I'm quite taken by  
>Christakis and Fowler's book "Connected" and the idea that
>degrees of separation" tend to define our spheres of influence.    
>Following from that insight, we can view the "porous boundaries" of  
>the classroom not simply as a general call to "act in the world"
>noble but too-big goal), and rather to encourage us to ask, as  
>students and teachers, "who among our networks of people that we know  
>can help us solve the problem(s) at hand?"
>It's vague in my mind, but I feel like there is something to be gained  
>from thinking in a more nuanced way beyond "individual/group/world"  
>towards three-degree social networks, and a kind of "pass along the  
>question" approach to problem-solving that uses classrooms as an  
>epicenter for activating larger social networks.  For example, I  
>always viewed  the Milgram experiment around 6-degrees of separation  
>as evidence that "the world is small."  But the more important lesson
>is that unsolvable problems (e.g., get this letter to someone you  
>don't know) can be tackled by passing along pieces of the problem to  
>people in our networks.
>I think this goes beyond using social media, and hinges instead on  
>rethinking the way information is meaningful and valuable.  What  
>matters are the social networks in which information is actionable.
>Yet here too, I ask with Trebor, what are the best examples of showing  
>how this works?  I think Wikipedia is only one among a multitude of  
>possible models . . .
>All the best,
>Ian Condry
>Associate Director, Comparative Media Studies
>Assoc. Professor, Foreign Languages and Literatures
>Room 14N-314
>Cambridge, MA 02139
>On Jun 21, 2010, at 11:18 AM, Trebor Scholz wrote:
>> Education, caught up in a cost spiral, is in crisis. Tuition is on the
>> rise and in the foreseeable future, higher education will be as
>> unaffordable as a Prada bag. Anya Kamenetz' DIY U frames that well.
>> The future lies neither solely in distance education nor in informal
>> personal learning networks but rather in hybrid approaches. What we  
>> are
>> witnessing now are dress rehearsals where "e.learning" is trying
>> the
>> role of the cash cow that can deliver it all and DIY universities
>> sometimes make it sound as if they are the panacea. The reality is
>> somewhere in between. In the years to come, the university will lose
>> some of its centrality to informal learning projects (1) and  
>> variants of
>> profit-driven courseware. Let's stop pretending that this is not
>> happening. To succeed, however, the university will need to up its  
>> game
>> and make its boundaries more porous by meaningfully integrating  
>> emerging
>> ways of knowing and new social media (2).
>> (1) Please send more examples of informal learning projects.
>> The Public School (http://nyc.thepublicschool.org/)
>> University of the People (http://www.uopeople.org/)
>> University of Openess (http://uo.twenteenthcentury.com/)
>> Copenhagen Free University
>> (http://www.copenhagenfreeuniversity.dk/index.html)
>> Manoa Free University (http://manoafreeuniversity.org/)
>> EduFactory (http://www.edu-factory.org/)
>> Radical Education Collective (http://radical.temp.si/)
>> Free Slow University of Warsaw
>> )
>> Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry (http://www.tsci.ca/)
>> (2) I suggest some implementations of social media in the
>classroom in
>> this slideshow: http://tinyurl.com/c2l6wy
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Martin E. Rosenberg
mer19 at psu.edu

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