Roots of Connectivism – Siemens

George Siemens presented “Roots of Connectivism” to our EC&I 831 group on September 29, 2009. George provided a basic understanding of various theories of knowledge & learning (e.g., behaviorism, cognitivism, social constructivism, constructionism, neuroscience) as he led us toward a theory of connectivism. I warned my students beforehand that the presentation would be theoretically heavy, and our presenter (no surprise) provided us with the challenge of (re)thinking of our assumptions on learning.

As an aside, a tweet from one of the participants summed up what I have noticed about George’s presentation style. Great session by @gsiemens underway at . GS is attentive and handles an online audience with unusual dexterity.

Greater detail of the presentation within the context of the course can be found at the EC&I 831 wiki. The presentation was facilitated via Elluminate and the recording of that session, including the chat, can be found at this location. Slidedeck and audio-only version (MP3) are available below. Enjoy!

A Communications Primer

Something about this 1953 instructional video on communications theory gives me warm fuzzies. I love this stuff, and the way it was presented makes me long for instructional videos produced this way.

(Embed no longer working for this video, click here.)

“A Communications Primer” is an instructional film created in 1953 for IBM by Ray & Charles Eames with music by Elmer Bernstein. (via Laughing Squid)

History of Educational Technology (pre-computer) by Schwier & Wilson

Dr. Richard Schwier and Dr. Jay Wilson were our guests in EC&I 831 on the night of January 13, 2009. They gave a wonderfully entertaining and informative presentation on the history of educational technology before the introduction of the computer. Below is the captured video of the presentation, taken from Elluminate. The full Elluminate session is also available here.

A couple of my favourite insights voiced in the comments during this presentation were (a) where did teachers get the time to do things this way?, and (b) the idea that teachers often hoarded the resources they created. The first point is quite interesting as I find it still the most frequent complaint from teachers using technology today. The second point interests me as I feel that the hoarding mentality may have been necessary at an earlier time in history, but I am not sure education in general has really adjusted to this perceived “age of abundance” in relation to resources and information. Or, perhaps I am just being naive.

Also related, do check out Dr. Schwier’s presentation from last year on the history of educational technology where he takes a different approach, and focuses on the people of educational technology vs. the tools.

Rick & Jay - History of Edtech

Speak Up 2007 – Selected National Findings

Project Tomorrow has released its “Selected National Findings“, an analysis of data from online surveys, focus groups and interviews of parents, teachers, school leaders and students in the US. Project Tomorrow touts itself as “the nation’s leading education nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that today’s students are well prepared to be tomorrow’s innovators, leaders and engaged citizens of the world.”

These findings were particularly interesting to me.

Re: Filters (both technical and human) –

Students’ frustration with school filters and firewalls has grown since 2003, with 45% of middle and high school students saying now that these tools meant to protect them inhibit their learning. And since 2004 we have heard repeatedly and more strongly each year, students’ discontent with school rules that limit their access to technology at school and rules that prohibit them from using at school the very technology tools and devices that they use constantly outside of school (cell phones, email, IM, Text messaging) in all aspects of their lives. That discontent factor has grown by 46% over the past four years. The other major obstacle today is the teacher – over 40% of students in grades 6-12 cite their teacher as an obstacle since it is the teacher who increasingly is limiting the “when and where” of using technology at school.

Re: Personal Learning –

When asked how their school could make it easier for them to work electronically, almost 2/3rds of middle and high school students said “let me use my own laptop, cell phone or other mobile device at school.” 50% would like to be able to access their school work related software applications and projects from any computer in the school network and have unlimited Internet access on campus. Students also would like tools to help them communicate with their classmates (45%), their teachers (34%) and to organize their schoolwork (42%).

Re: Emerging Technologies –

Over 50% of students in grades 3-12 would like to see more educational gaming in their 21st century school; only 16% of teachers, 15% of administrators, and 19% of parents endorse that concept. While 53% of middle and high school students are excited about using mobile devices within learning, only 15% of school leaders support that idea. Less than half as many parents as students see a place for online
learning in the 21st century school. And even fewer teacher, parents and school leaders want students to have access to emails and IM accounts from school.

Re: Student-Directed Change –

As one high school student in a recent focus
group told us, his vision for the ultimate school is a school where the teachers and the principal actively seek and regularly include the ideas of students in discussions and planning for all aspects of education, not just about technology. As the student so eloquently said, “This is about our future after all. Our ideas should count, too.”

There are many familiar themes here, yet the same barriers exist. While it is great to see another report supporting much of what is written daily in my corner of the edublogosphere, I am looking forward to reading a report that describes the results of a project in an educational context where many of these barriers have already been addressed.

Attention Economy: The Game

Ulises Mejias has developed a pen-and-paper game to help students better understand the Attention Economy. The game is developed as part of the course, “Friend Request Denied: Social Networks and the Web”.

How do new bloggers gain recognition? Why are some people in MySpace or Facebook more popular than others? Why does one YouTube video get seen by thousands of people, and another by just a few? What does it mean that “on the internet, everyone is famous to 15 people”? Can the subject matter of the content we post to an online network make us more or less popular?

This game is an accelerated simulation of the process of gaining attention online (acquiring more readers, friends, hits, etc.). The goal of the game is to collect the most attention. The game tries to condense a process that can take weeks or months into about an hour. It is intended for people who are new to the study of online social networks, but anyone can play. The game can also be used to teach some basic characteristics of networks, such as the role of hubs or connectors in scale-free networks. Players are asked at the end to critically reflect on the values that drive this Attention Economy.

This looks like a great idea, and I wish I were as creative. While I feel many of these concepts are best actualized/experienced online, a game like this could help students gain a deeper understanding of their own online relationships within the greater networked context.

See also The Attention Economy by Goldhaber (1997). It is a bit older but still a very relevant read.

History of Educational Technology (Dr. Richard Schwier)

We were very fortunate to have had Dr. Richard Schwier present to the students of EC & I 831 on the History of Educational Technology. Rick is a professor of educational technology and media at the University of Saskatchewan and he’s been one of the most influential individuals in my educational life. And as far as credibility goes, you need only to look at his long list of publications and awards to realize that the man knows what he is talking about.

The session was done in Elluminate and with Rick’s permission, I have provided several pieces below. The slides have been uploaded to I attempted to synchronize audio with the slides, but Slideshare just wouldn’t take the audio. I have also included a link to the Elluminate session. Finally, I have provided a video link hosted by

Slides at Slideshare: Version:

Elluminate session and wiki page.

Regarding the Version:
I wanted a rich copy of the presentation in something other than Elluminate. Brian Lamb suggest a while back and I have been hoping for a chance to try it out. I am sure there are many easier ways of doing the same thing on a Mac, but this was the process I used to complete the version.

    1) I ran the Elluminate version, and isolated the part of the screen I wanted recorded. For some reason I wasn’t able to record the audio and video together, so:
    2) I recorded the video using Quicktime Pro (not free) pointed at Camtwist (free).
    3) I recorded the audio using Wiretap Studio (not free), a GREAT audio tool for the Mac.
    4) I combined video and audio in iMovie ’08, and exported as a (default) .m4v file.
    5) I uploaded this raw file (217MB) to It took less than 1.5 minutes to upload, and no conversion was necessary. I am incredibly impressed by this service!

If anyone runs into problems with the huge version, let me know. I am in ideal conditions, as it is after 1am and I have the University network all to myself. I’d like to see how it performs for the rest of the world, I assume not very well.

Hitting A Drum & Object-Centred Sociality

I just watched a beautiful video featuring people aged one through one-hundred hitting a drum. (via BoingBoing)

I have been thinking a lot lately about the concept of “object-centered sociality”, coined by Jyri Engeström in 2005. Engeström’s ideas helps to explain in part the success of social sharing websites like Flickr (photos), Delicious (bookmarks) and many others.

Approaching sociality as object-centered is to suggest that when it becomes easy to create digital instances of the object, the online services for networking on, through, and around that object will emerge too. Social network theory fails to recognise such real-world dynamics because its notion of sociality is limited to just people.

I think this video could act as a metaphor for this notion, the idea that people from different backgrounds, of different ages, are drawn together by an object, in this case a drum. This is a very powerful idea, yet one that may be foreign to those not familiar with networked learning. This video could be used as a tool to help clarify the concept.

What do you think? Other real-world examples?

Update: It was brought to my attention by others included Stephen that the drum is really not the centre of this community, and people are not drawn by it in any real way. After thinking about this just a little more, I have to agree. I guess I saw the video, and saw an opportunity for a metaphor but didn’t analyze it closely enough. Others did.

At the very least, enjoy the video. I did.

Paul Otlet – Tratado de Documentación

This is a short but interesting video describing excerpts from Paul Otlet’s “Tratado de Documentación”, the Book on the Book. This work seems to predict multimedia content distribution much in the way the Internet currently provides.

From Wikipedia:

Paul Otlet also aimed to extract “substance” from books much like we strive to separate content from presentation on the Web, and then cross-link this substance with other contents and automatically provide enriched combinations in ways unforeseen by the original book authors. This vision is strikingly similar to Tim Berners-Lee’s late-1990s concept of the Semantic Web.

The video on Otlet fits really well with this ad from Nokia titled “The Essay”.