I was recently reading the most recent issue of the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL), only partially because an article I co-authored is in it, and was intrigued by the following. To see the article on IRRODL, click the title. Otherwise, I have included it below in this post.
- Ihanainen, Pekka, & John Moravec. “Pointillist, cyclical, and overlapping: Multidimensional facets of time in online education.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning [Online], 12.7 (2011): 27-39. Web. 27 Nov. 2011
I appreciated the presentation of online education as a shift in the paradigm of education, that is from a “linear, sequential time conception” to online and physical education (equated with contemporary education) that stresses, or at least allows for a non-linear approach to interaction and learning. Ihanainen and Moravec present the notion of learning events in contemporary education as having these elements:
- pointilist:discontinuous, separate acts that participants can return to
- cyclical: illustrated by clusters of events in which intensive interactions occur for a period of time, and then cyclically reemerge as bursts of activity in the same or different forums after a certain amount of time has passed
- overlapping: the two above being not mutually exclusive sometimes overlap
Online education allows for these three quite readily and therefore diverges from “temponormative” pedagogy, that linear, Cartesian line of thinking that we are all familiar with (if you remember what was life was like before the Internet). Seeing online education as divergent from linear education (traditional education) is quite helpful in making the larger argument that pedagogies for modern education need to reflect that divergence. The pointilist, cyclical, and overlapping types serve to answer the question “but how is it divergent?”. I fully support these distinctions for learning activities in regards to time and am curious what, if any, optimal balance exists for online learning. That is not really the point of the article, but it has me thinking in those terms.
If we establish that pointlist acts, discrete and separate, add value, especially in conjunction with cyclical events, which are also value adds, then does it seem logical to begin to classify online activities in any particular course or program as one of these three and use these classifications to begin to visualize time as an active agent in organizing learning? Can we, for example, graph a ‘return’ to any one learning act (pointilist?), monitor the number of these ‘returns’, and determine impact accordingly? Further, if the nature of cyclical learning is communicative (dialogue) and that underpins the concepts of constructivism, connectivism to some degree, etc. might we use this other facets (overlapping and pointilist) to ‘balance’ a preponderance towards dialogue based learning? I should probably use the author’s own words rather than just subject you to a stream of consciousness question and answer session with my own mind.
A pointillist activity requires the learner to have spatial and temporal independence in the different contexts of (virtual) responses and events. This capacity also creates sensitivity to hectic communication processes and fragmented content items. Within these situations of cognitive uncertainty and obscurity, the question of emotional certainty and trust emerges for the learner. Pointillist learning is, on one hand, learning in separatenesses (separate interactions and content items), and, on the other hand, it is emergent, forming a gestalt of separatenesses based on the learner’s personal interests. Pointillist learning is also tacit, but can acutely and situationally become explicit, only to change again into a tacit form. The pointillist emergent gestalt has both an unexpected and intuitive character: It takes place on its own. Pointillist learning pays attention to culture and activity, and Twitter emerges as a powerful example of this. The attention space or horizon maintains the individual’s attunement to learning, producing her own reciprocal or separate awarenesses. Learning is facilitated by this state of attunement and the attention-producing activity.
Linking this description to a tangible example (Twitter) was helpful so many thanks to the authors. Since pointilist learning emphasizes serendipity (again, Twitter works here) and seems independent in nature (based on the learner’s personal interests rather than a linear curriculum), I see this as a good attachment to lifelong learning, or however one wants to classify empowered learning outside of formal structures. Since it cannot be taught (and is a de-pedagogy-the de, re, and en pedagogical structures could have been a paper in itself), it can only be facilitated, supported (through tool or network creation). Still greatly intriguing to imagine and monitor.
En-pedagogy: Mashups and MOOCs
I am intrigued by the notion put forth in the paper of en-pedagogic examples of MOOCs and mashups as appropriations for creative effect, especially this new (to me) concept of chaordic learning.
Chaordic learning is an en-pedagogy, attending to the chaordic systems of overlapping cyclical, pointillist, and temponormative learning. Chaordic environments balance chaos (elements that cannot be controlled) and order (such as temponormative pedagogies) within a system (Amidon, 2003), and “mold chaos and order for their design serendipities” (Harkins & Moravec, 2011, p. 132). Examples of chaordic learning include videoconferencing with remote experts (pointillist) to overlap a series of lectures (temponormative) or mashups of learning environments with ambient computing. The learning facilitator, however, needs to focus on the interaction between the various elements because they can lead to learning outcomes that may deviate from what he or she formerly planned.
A chaordic approach can maximize the horizontality of relationships between facilitators and learners and engage all actors in the construction of new knowledge. As Moravec (2006) postulates, intelligent applications of information and communication technologies may be best leveraged to facilitate such chaordic learning. As artificial intelligence technologies improve, we can expect the ecology of chaordic learning options to expand and diversify. We believe massive open online courses (MOOCs), originally organized by Steven Downes and George Siemens (Downes, 2008; Mackness, 2010), are examples of en-pedagogy.
Besides being a lovely phrase, “mold chaos and order for their design serendipities” actually is the ethos of learning design when faced with non-linear elements. Establishing limited authoritative control (almost none), allowing a rhizomic exploration of learning as dictated by the learner (as opposed to the instructor) while still adhering to a temponormative pedagy (order). A good exploration of the role of chaos in learning, incidentally, and therefore well suited to the MOOC approach. Using chaos towards pedagogical effect, maximizing serendipity through design (however loose).
This is an article I will need to revisit a few dozen times to extrapolate the full impact. However, I am intrigued enough to want to try and apply this in the next MOOC I participate or administer. Also curious to see how these time based elements of non-linearity affect spatial perceptions of online learning. I (and some of my colleagues) am convinced that space becomes differently important, not less so, in online education and I think exploring how time itself effects this orientation might be a good application of some of these principles. Well done. Certainly considerable food for thought.