CCK11: In the human field

It seems to me that one of the points of having a theory of learning is to be able to apply it, that is, to be able to find skillful ways to support and nurture learning. Many people in our MOOC who are teachers keep asking these kinds of questions, and I’m unclear whether we’re settling on answers.

For instance, let’s talk about proximity to those people (nodes) that keep you firing. One of the high points in CCK2011 so far has been the Elluminate sessions that I can attend “live.” It’s all virtual, of course; most of us aren’t in the same room. But because we’re in the same virtual space (that is, creating that space) at the same time, there’s an energy there that is not available to me when, well, for instance, now as I’m just typing a blog post. Last week I opened by saying I thought it was kinda neat that we all shared our weather reports: sure, I learn what weather is like all over, but there’s more of an indefinable firing of the property of “humanness” (trying to speak in connectivist terms here) that gets activated in me. We are not in the same room, but my sense that you are (you exist) is heightened. 

All this talk of energy and such is probably beyond the interests of many people in the course, but I’m interested in field theory in biology and physics. Think of an undifferentiated new cell, a stem cell. They can become anything, really, but mostly they become what the others cells around them become (an arm, an eye). Rupert Sheldrake and others posit the existence of biological “organizing fields” that “impose patterns on otherwise random or indeterminate patterns of activity” (prior link has this quote). The concept of network that connectivism relies on seems as though it could be enhanced with  some thinking around this concept. Could bring in some quantum mechanics and nonlocality, too.

It kind of harkens back to a blog post I wrote previously, about hidden nodes. In many equations, a random error or hidden variable is included to account for stuff that the rest of the equation isn’t interested in or cannot account for. (And forgive me: just a writer and editor here, not a mathematician or economist or physicist.)  Similarly, the role of the “granny clouds” (prior post)  in children’s ability to traverse networks (learn) seems to me unquantifiable but undeniably there. I’m thinking that some of this might be helpful to the learning theory of connectivism to help formulate something more satisfying to me that accounts for the humanness element of some nodes; a je ne sais quoi that contributes to the field, the context, and thus the resonance. For me as a learner, it would explain why I still value the creation of a space of learning, virtual or otherwise; for me as a teacher, it would help explain why I still value that role. But that’s just me; how would it be helpful to the theory? Could we design an experiment whereby we measure learning within a network with stronger connections (and there I’d mean, connecting on the property of humanness) versus weaker?

Why do I seem to end all of these posts with questions?


8 Responses to CCK11: In the human field

  1. Jaap says:

    I like questions, and i like your questions. A teacher of young children needs strong ties with the children. I do teach adults in very short courses, these adults know their learning goals and most do not need a personal relation with a teacher. But a personal relation helps a lot even when teaching short courses to adults. In some therapy’s this connecting socially is very important.
    In learning it is weak ties that are important to foster change and creative thinking and critical questions. Weak ties are links or bridges that allow short connections between information from different networks. These ties are not always social ties, but books, video, experiments, games or what.
    regards Jaap connectiv

  2. Jaap says:

    The picture, is it yours? its nice.

  3. Great picture and an important question(s). Our understanding of space and how it makes us feel is based on a history that very, very recently included gathering in virtual spaces on the net. What sort of place the electronic environment is would be interesting to categorize and describe both physically and emotionally / spiritually. The categories need not be invented but simply borrowed from the vocabulary of Architecture, town planning or anthropology and human geography. (Of course a new theory could get you invited to conferences, sell books…:-)

    My visits to the Elluminate site have all been after the session was over but I still feel a “presence” there. This reaction or response is personal, but measurable, and I bet the responses have commonalities. Seems to me entirely important to know how people respond to the spaces they visit on the net. Especially gathering places like discussion boards and virtual classrooms.

    Humans know how a place “feels” and feed that feeling back to how behave and maybe even how open they are to learning and interacting. Even though these spaces are new, we as humans have been in them before in other forms and should have the words to describe them. For instance: to me the Elluminate space feels lively and busy but oddly unwelcoming. A bit like a top down classroom / lecture hall where you have to speak electronically and you don’t sound like yourself. Familiarity can improve the level of comfort but it is still a classroom setting that, for me, is not somewhere I ever wanted to be.

    Have Rupert Sheldrake’s book to read at spring break so I can’t speak to how he would answer your design question. Christopher Alexander’s “A Pattern Language” talks of design for specific functions and Edward T Hall is all over how we congregate (a suggestive word).

    Some material on them:

    Edward Twitchell Hall, Jr. (May 16, 1914 – July 20, 2009) was an anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher.
    The term proxemics was introduced by anthropologist Edward T. Hall in 1966. Proxemics is the study of set measurable distances between people as they interact.[1] The effects of proxemics, according to Hall, can be summarized by the following loose rule:
    “ Like gravity, the influence of two bodies on each other is inversely proportional not only to the square of their distance but possibly even the cube of the distance between them.

    From “Activity Nodes” in A Pattern Language Town, Buildings, Construction. Christopher Alexander et al. New York, Oxford University Press, 1977

    >“One of the greatest problems in existing communities is the fact that the available public life in them is spread so thin that it has no impact on the community… Studies of pedestrian behavior make it clear that people seek out concentrations of other people, whenever they are available (for instance Jan Gehl, “Mennesker til Fods (Pedestrians),” Arkitekten, No 20, 1968).”<

    • leahgrrl says:

      Thanks for the reference; although I didn’t know the name, I knew about proxemics in a general way as the result of some reading I did for a project a few years ago. I keep thinking about that diagram of nodes, with little connecting lines between them (or not), and I wonder what else is there. Is it just truly empty space? We used to think that about the actual universe, but in reality it’s just chock full of energy.

  4. Thbeth says:

    Ola Scott, olá Jaap.
    Bom ler sobre a Proxemia aqui!
    Esta teoria da distancia permanece no presencial, em muitas relações, mas ela foi realmente diluida com o fortalecimento Online.

    Mas como seres humanos o percurso de aprender e suprir as distancia ainda terá o seu tempo, e eu espero por este tempo. Alias, estou neste tempo! 🙂

  5. Keith Hamon says:

    You speak nicely about the complex retro-interactions of individuals with their environments, exactly the kinds of thinking that Edgar Morin explores in his work. Perhaps there are “biological organizing fields that impose patterns on otherwise random or indeterminate patterns of activity,” but it’s also possible that both individual entities and ecosystems have the innate ability to mimic each other as a mechanism for fitting together for some purpose. Whatever the mechanism, the key point for me is that individual and ecosystem constantly interact with each other through countless interconnections to accommodate one another and to add value to and take value from each other. One of the great tragedies of traditional education is that the student is hardly ever seen as bringing value to the classroom—all the value comes from the teacher, or the textbook, or the curriculum. This squanders a tremendous resource that usually holds the most value for the other students.

    • leahgrrl says:

      Hi Keith, I certainly agree with you about traditional education ignoring what possibilities students bring to the classroom (the positive ones; there’s endless talk about the negative things they bring). All the humans bring something to the space, and although I would be chided for being a constructivist I still believe that we have some intentional *creating* of the space going on. Why else would we even say “hello” in the chat field and report on the weather?

      I will follow up on your reference to Edgar Morin–thanks. I always like to learn more about what conversations are out there.

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