E-Learning 1 and 2 Conversation with George Siemens – A Different Take

I had a very different take on Downes’s and Siemen’s Conversation than Roland Legrand’s elearn30 blog post “What and How to learn and teach in times of Artificial Intelligence?”  I think they actually answered the question and I would like to take their insight a bit further.

To start off here are the three salient questions that come out of their conversation –

1. What’s unique for humanity in terms of what computers can’t do?

This question was answered with this next question asking for unique domains for a human.

2. What is or are the final unique domain (s) of human control?

For Siemens, it is “Beingness” or as he says later on “contemplative processes of the ethical life. For Downes, it is “kindness and compassion”.

3. What does learning look like for humans when computers learn better and faster than we can?

Stephens reply is that in the future –

“The capacity to choose the capacity to make decisions to define what’s important that’s the role we will be playing in the future and that’s sort of skill and support that which we should be providing student, beginning now”.

So, in a world where AI/ machine learning robots are smarter and learn faster than we do, Downes suggest a coexistence state between robots and humans, with the idea that we are the “ghost in the machine, a reference to Issac Asimov’s I, Robot. Downes suggests that we will experience things from a different view than the machine and that we are the voice in the computer’s “head” that says I see it differently.

But what are the things we would see differently than we would define as an important choice than what an AI machine/robot would choose?

If you accept Downes unique human domain as “kindness and compassion” those tasks requiring empathy, “kindness and compassion”, come to my mind.

As an example, a machine learning diagnostic robot that has a 100% accuracy rate in its diagnosis and prognosis of a patient with terminal stage 4 cancer is a great aid to medicine and the doctor. But from the patient’s point of view, the delivery of that prognosis may be better delivered by a doctor instead of the machine who has the capacity to choose the circumstances and make the decision on the right manner to tell her patient the diagnostic results with empathy, “kindness and compassion”. That human “bedside manner” I think is an example of a unique domain skill over a machine and our capacity to choose and make decisions as the “ghost in the machine”

Here are two question and a challenge to the E-Learning 3.0 cohort readers of this post.

What are other fields of study that require empathy, “kindness and compassion”? Fields of study that require interaction with people come to mind like social services, healthcare, spiritual counseling, emergency management.

What are the skills, talents, and education required for the “ghost in the machine” that provides that alternative view? The field of computer science comes to mind with an emphasis on the ethics of AI and machine learning algorithms. Or the talent not to rely on Amazon’s “Alexi” for the degree of cooking successfully a 5 lb pork butt besides telling  “Alexi”  to “set my Hotpoint Oven at 325 degrees at  4:30 PM to cook the  5 lb pork butt for a time of 3 hours”.  The “ghost” may make the choice to extend or curtail the cooking time based on its idea of  “doneness” of the pork butt based on the reported internal temperature of the pork butt and a sense of how the oven maintains the cooking temperature or its own subjective view of “doneness” in its opinion of what “Alexi” is suggesting for “doneness”.


Here timesis my challenge to all the E-Learning 3.0 cohort and a task associated with course module E-Learning 1 and 2 Conversation with George Siemens. Please comment on what fields, skills, talents, and education that you think are unique domains of humans like Stephen’s “kindness and compassion” and the skills, talents, and education required for the “ghost in the machine” that provides that alternative view.

In closing, the cynical ”ghost” inside of me says the world is and will continue to be dangerous as long as there are the inequalities, the haves, and have-nots and that the flipside of kindness and goodness – unkindness and badness – will also be part of that final domain of ours. Dealing with that flipside is also our unique task as humans.

Thanks, Frank

P.S. For Stephen Downes – This blog post also meets the 1st task for week 2 “use the course OPML file to subscribe to the course feeds which led me to Roland Legrand”s elearn30 blog post “What and How to learn and teach in times of Artificial Intelligence?”  Which I have commented on in this blog post. I also hope that I will meet week 2’s second task with my challenge task to the E-Learning 3.0 cohort on requesting comments on what fields, skills, talents, and education that they think are unique domains of humans like Stephen’s “kindness and compassion”.



E-Learning 3.0 – Conversation with Shelly Blake-Plock

“Technology is easy, Culture is a bitch” Col. Bob Reddy DARPA Program Manager.

From my distant past efforts in implementing new technologies into training, education products, Bob’s words echoed into the present as I reflected on Stephen’s and Shelly’s conversation.

In the year plus that I have interacted with Shelly with his IEEE LTSC xAPI WG and ICICLE effort to define what a learning engineer is, I have found him to be consistently thoughtful and pragmatic. His leadership and energy were a great part of successfully leading 100 odd folks in the development of the “xAPI: A Guide for Technical Implementers” document.

The conversation with Stephen did a great job on presenting a xAPI 101 tutorial with Stephen as the straight man in the duo asking leading questions and getting at the xAPI “so what”. In the “xAPI: A Guide for Technical Implementers” you can take a deeper dive in how folks from K-12, HE and Industry are implementing the technology in the Case Study section of the guide. I am sure after reading that section, you will walk away intrigued with the idea of collecting a variety of experiential data besides course completion that can potentially provide you the course designer or you the student with some idea on how effective the material or activity was and how you are progressing. Because of the breadth and variety of experiences that can be instrumented it is easy to imagine capturing all of those lifelong learning experiences from K-HE and your work career to include the context of those experiences.

I wasn’t surprised to hear Shelly’s response to Stephen’s line of questions on how you might roll up experience data from multiple application data and from multiple LRSs (26:40 min) when he said it was “more of a policy question than a technology question”

He goes on to say in the example of data coming from a Higher Education institution and employer that the issue is one of their policies that allows them to work together. From the corporations’ point of view, “the training may contain intellectual property rights or trade secrets and methods”. Not openly sharing that traning data becomes a policy issue for them of protecting their competitive advantage.

I get that but…… isn’t it my data? Not so much is the answer.

The issue for me is open transportability of our longitudinal training, education, and performance data.

A bit of a digression to a previous blog post of mine “What, Why and How“, which was a reflection on Dexter Fletcher who I consider to be the godfather for  Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL). and the man behind SCORM’s Phil Dodd.

In 2005  Fletcher publishes “The Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL)Vision and Getting From Here To There”, that essentially repeats the 1997 ADL vision with updates on new and maturing methods and technologies e.g Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS), Semantic Web, Web Services, Personalized System of Instruction (PSI, and adaptive learning

One of the more salient points in his comment on structural and organizational changes when he says –

“With or without ADL, fully accessible, anytime, anywhere education, training, and performance aiding seem inevitable. They are likely to require structural and organizational changes in current procedures and practices. Sooner or later, existing organizations must deal with this evolution and its emerging processes, capabilities, and opportunities. It may be time to begin addressing the procedural and administrative opportunities and issues presented by ADL technical capabilities.”

Leaving out the references to ADL and substituting Corporation X or Institution Y for ADL, Dexter’s insight applies to today and the issue of free and open transportability of our longitudinal training, education, and performance data. The conversation with Shelly and Stephen on this issue of policy highlights and reminds me of the need for all of us to identify structural and organizational changes in current procedures and practices. Privacy and data governance are the top policy issues on my list if we are to leverage the possibilities of an instructional tutoring system or machine learning in the areas of training and education but also because I believe I have a right to share and access my data.

Maybe my “right to share and access my data” also lies with Tim Berners Lee’s SOLID project combined with my attempt to reclaim by internet identity with Tim Owens and Jim Groom’s Domain of One’s Own

Thanks Frank


A year later

A year agon was my last reflective posting and we are on the eve of my sisters first visit and three and half years ago since her husband passed away. Our relationship started when she called to ask me to down to Peach Tree City and help her with her husband’s funeral arrangements. It was really out of the blue given the twenty-year difference in our age and outside of a few visits over the last fifty year, not really any contact or correspondence. I did tell her on her wedding day that if she ever needed any help she just needed to call. I told her it was the same commitment I made to our two brothers. I did relate to her the story that I did receive such a call from Mike to send him some bail money and to make sure Mom and Dad did not find out. By the way, we are not a close family and a visit to my parents every 10 years or so works for us as well as the calls on birthdays and Christmas well as attending weddings. It works.

So over the last three years, I have shepherded two widows through their transition. With my sister, it was frequent emails mostly stories about events in my past or antidotes of my daily life and surroundings with phone calls in between. I would say we have become as close as possible given the gap in years and little contact but drawn together none the less with our consistent dialogue and my desire to help her find herself through her profound grief. Much less today but still there are reminders and there always will be. It is on that note that I am very much looking forward to her visit.

This post is also a bit of reflection on the last year. Two complete knee replacements one in Sept and the other in March. I am back on a routine exercise program and I am able to somewhat get down on to the rowing machine and back up with some grace. Throughout the year I have stayed active with county stormwater issues and after four years of attending the Stormwater Program Advisor Committee meetings as a citizen, I applied and was accepted as a member of the county’s Stormwater Program Advisor Committee. I will attend my first meeting as a member this July.

Standing on the shoilders of Giants

Three centuries after Newton popularized his famous “standing on the shoulders of giants” metaphor, Einstein writes:

“How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving. I am strongly drawn to a frugal life and am often oppressively aware that I am engrossing an undue amount of the labor of my fellow-men. I regard class distinctions as unjustified and, in the last resort, based on force. I also believe that a simple and unassuming life is good for everybody, physically and mentally.”

Fact Checking “Much of county spending misdirected”

After reading “Much of county spending misdirected” in Wednesday (May 3 issue of the Gazette) I questioned the accuracy of the assertion made by the author. The editorial page like the Last Word is the writer’s opinions not necessarily based on fact. Here is what I discovered while fact checking “Much of county spending misdirected”

1.”Recent projections included in WJCC’s strategic plan show student populations declining in 2027 and beyond so the drumbeat for more and expanded schools should be short-lived.”

Fact: “Following is the most likely ten-year projected enrollment. According to this projection, enrollment would increase 1,160 students in grades K–12 from the current 2016-17 enrollment of 11,431 to the 2026-27 projected enrollment of 12,591, an increase of approximately 10% percent.” Page 20 Future Think Enrollment Projections Update November 10, 2016. https://wjccschools.org/departments/finance/enrollment-reports/

2 “JCC is also no longer a high-growth community, according to the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, falling out of Virginia’s top 10 fastest growing localities”

Fact: Yes But…Though the county fell out of the top ten but not by much. Of the 133 counties/cities in the Commonwealth JCC was # 13 highest in population growth listed by the Weldon Cooper Center Estimates July 1 (2016 estimates released Jan 30, 2017). This was a 9.9% increase for JCC over the 2010 census. Counties in the 7th through 14th rankings had growth rates from 9.7% to 11.5%. Weldon Cooper’s long-range forecast of population growth is based on a methodology that looks at by right development of homes. Within the county’s, Public Service Area it has 15,000 by right parcels which are why Weldon has estimated JCC’s 2030 population at 109,000, a 30,000 plus increase from today’s county population of 71,000. Increases to services e.g. Williamsburg-James City County Schools, storm water, roads and emergency services, aging county infrastructure are being driven by current and future population growth. (http://demographics.coopercenter.org/virginia-population-estimates/).

3. “JCC continues to spend ridiculous sums on storm water, averaging $2.6 million per year on projects, plus another $1.1 million on staff and operations. JCC has already met the 2018 standards and is well on its way toward meeting 2024 goals, “

Fact: As a result of the county’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL Action Plan MS4 First Permit Cycle enacted June 2015, James City far exceeds its 5% reduction goal for pollutants (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment by 2018 (first cycle) and is well within reach of the current reduction requirements in 2023 and 2028 (the remaining 35% and 60%).  The county did this by consistently funding where possible storm water projects, stricter development standards and county sponsored programs (rain gardens and turf love). The recently approved Storm Water CIP FY18-22 program at $2.6 million per year enables the county to meet the remaining 90% of its MS4 TMDL requirement by 2028.

4. “The Trump administration has already begun to rein in an out-of-control EPA by repealing the Headwaters of the U.S. Act, which placed roadside ditches under federal purview. Richmond has, likewise, taken responsible action to address arbitrary nutrient loading limits (HB 1597).”

Fact:  There is no Headwaters of the U.S. Act. The president’s executive order directed the EPA and the Army’s Corp of Engineers to review the Clean Water Rule. The rule is part of the Clean Water Act of 1972 which seeks ‘‘to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.’’ 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq. The Clean Water Rule “Focuses on streams, not ditches. The rule limits protection to ditches that are constructed out of streams or function like streams and can carry pollution downstream. So, ditches that are not constructed in streams and that flow only when it rains are not covered.https://www.epa.gov/cleanwaterrule/what-clean-water-rule-does

Fact: HB1597 does not “address arbitrary nutrient loading limits” instead it is an amendment to § 15.2-2114, Regulation of storm water Code of Virginias and applies to a “Storm water management utility, local; waiver of charges when storm water retained on site. Requires any locality establishing a storm water management utility to provide a full or partial waiver of charges for a person whose approved storm water management plan indicates that the storm water produced by his property is retained and treated on site.”

5. “The General Assembly passed legislation this year forbidding such abuses by municipalities operating storm water utilities (HB 1774).”

Fact: HB 1597 addressed municipalities operating storm water utilities not HB 1774 (see above). HB 1774 establishes a “Storm water management; work group to examine ways to improve Storm water and erosion control; work group; storm water laws. Directs the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency (the Center) to convene a workgroup to consider alternative methods of storm water management in rural Tidewater localities.”

6. “JCC is operating a de facto utility yet claims to be exempt.”

Fact: JCC does not operate a Storm Water utility as Adam Kinsman, County Attorney, clarified to the Board of Supervisors on 11 April after Mr. Henderson’s comment during the public comment section that JCC is operating a storm water utility citing HB1597.

7. “The responsible solution is to partner with Newport News Waterworks, which already serves a third of the county, including Anheuser-Busch, and get out of the water business entirely.”

Fact: JCSA’s rate for Water 5000’gallons a month (average household usage) is $14.76. The Newport News rate for the same household usage rate is $36.14 a month. Adopting this “responsible solution” would mean a 41% increase to the two-thirds of the county in addition to the $16 million to $18 million in infrastructure improvements.

It is easy and simple to mislead citizens by throwing out “facts” and mislabeling actions and offering a generalized attack. What is difficult is to address perceived problems with rational and thought provoking alternatives.

The JCC budget process was a thorough and while it may not have made everyone happy, it provided an open forum, clear answers to problems and an agenda to keep the county moving forward. Sometimes it is valuable for various “mandates” to be met, not because of a state or federal rule, but because they simply make good sense and are affordable.

What, Why, and How

I want to take a step back in time to 1997 and talk about how ADL got started.  I always think of Dexter Fletcher as ADL’s godfather and his continued interest in trying to attain a 2 sigma increase in learning outcomes through computer-based learning. He has championed research in intelligent tutors from the beginning and its enabling technologies and infrastructure. I think if you peel back and examine the current set of ADL research projects, CASS, PAL, TLA, etc. they are traceable back to the idea that “traditional instructor-centered approaches must be replaced with more active instruction involving learner interaction”.

“Researchers further specify the types of interactions that can occur in distributed learning environments e.g interactions to increase willingness to engage in learning to enhance elaboration and retention. A feature of effective interactions is that they must result in a transfer of knowledge or a change in intrinsic motivation. ADL can accommodate all of this interactivity in a manner that improves efficiency and reduced cost.

The vision had three components

  • a global information infrastructure with registered repositories populated by reusable instructional objects
  • a server which discovers. locates and then assembles instructional objects into education,training, and/or performance aiding material tailored to user needs
  • devices that serve as personal learning associates on which the materials are presented”

Bob Wisher and Dexter Fletcher 1997 The Case for Advanced Distributed Learning

In 2005  Fletcher publishes “The Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL)Vision and Getting From Here To There”, that essentially repeats the 1997 ADL vision with updates on new and maturing methods and technologies e.g Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS), Sematic Web, Web Services, Personalized System of Instruction (PSI, and adaptive learning.

Fletcher strikes a note of inevitability and optimism that these enabling technologies will bring about instructional tutoring capabilities and infrastructure fulfilling the “ADL Vision of fully accessible, anytime, anywhere education, training, and performance aiding”.

One of the more salient points is his comment on structural and organizational changes when he says –

“With or without ADL, fully accessible, anytime, anywhere education, training, and performance aiding seem inevitable. They are likely to require structural and organizational changes in current procedures and practices. Sooner or later, existing organizations must deal with this evolution and its emerging processes, capabilities, and opportunities. It may be time to begin addressing the procedural and administrative opportunities and issues presented by ADL technical capabilities.”

“Technology is easy, Culture is a bitch” Col. Bob Reddy DARPA program Manager

In Oct 2008 LETSI hosted its Pensacola SCORM 2.0 Workshop that sought to examine what the next generation of SCORM might look like. Barr publishes “Assumptions Document SCORM 2.0 Project Report LETSI Technical Roadmap”, based on the 100 plus white papers submitted by the learning and training community on future SCOM requirements. He argued for a broader open learning architecture taking advantage of WEB 2.0 (Service -Oriented Architecture, open APIs, etc.)

Barr proposed partitioning SCORM 2.0 into four distinct integrated service domains of people, competencies, resources and learning activities intended to support, blended learning, KM and formal learning integration, Learner data collection, collaborative learning and assessment, adaptive instruction, adaptive assessment, and integration with simulation/games. The feel of this effort contains some of the same elements of Fletcher’s ADL piece except the context is a bit broader and more inclusive of an ecosystem broader than DoD that encompassed K-12, Higher Ed, KM, and Corporate Learning/Training. From a technical point of view, they share the same research agenda but a bit more focused based on the 100 plus paper submitted at the time.

It would be interesting to see if you could, in fact, get that same level of technical response that the LETSI 2008 call for white paper generated in 2016 from the learning, training, and education community. Such an effort could well instantiate ADL’s current research program. In addition, hearing from ADLs customers about what they think their requirements are.

That was 1997 and in 2016 the ADL’s BAA says –

“The ADL Initiative has the mission to develop and advance the state of the art in education and training through the use of technology and innovative learning methodologies which highly leverage artificial intelligence, networking, data warehousing and recall technologies for the Department of Defense and across the Federal Government. The goal of this initiative is to provide a persistent capability by which learners have access to effective, personalized learning content and/or job performance aids that can be presented to the user in a transparent and ubiquitous manner and can be accessed from multiple devices/platforms through a Personal Assistant for Learning (PAL). PAL defined as a – a persistent capability, by which learners have access to effective, personalized learning content and/or job performance aids that can be presented to the user in a transparent and ubiquitous manner in a format suitable for their preferences and can be accessed from multiple devices/platforms.”

What has changed and why after almost 20 years, do we seem to be no further along that path to attain that 1997 capability of “more active instruction involving learner interaction”?

From my point of view, we got lost in the mechanics of technology and did not create “more active instruction involving learner interaction”.  I think you have to ask yourself why and question some of those 1997 assumptions. I would submit that the following assumptions about reusable content objects, a registry of discoverable content objects and the ability assemble them in real time, on demand outputs that would promote interactions, that in increased a willingness to engage in learning is suspect. Is there widespread reuse of learning objects today? Is the para data from DoE’s Learning Registry a viable tool for teachers to discover content objects? Do we see engaging content that results in a 2 sigma increase in learning?

If you now come forward to 2016 and examine the ADL’s BAA – CASS, TLA and PAL – research initiatives, we are still trying to cobble an architecture of Reusable Content Repositories and Registries to deliver assembled engaging content in real-time anytime and anywhere.

I think without saying it we have focused on the technology of developing an engaging distributed learning environments and assumed the efficacy of the content as if reusable objects and adaptive learning infrastructure would are the solution to engaging content.

“While today’s students live online and instinctively go to Google to find new knowledge, their actual experience of formal e-learning is boring – think online traffic school. As a result, there has been the precious little adoption of the thousands of local innovations by content creators, publishers, teachers, trainers, schools, and researchers.”. Avron Barr 2010, “Beyond Content Portability: Shifting Gears in E-learning Innovation”

We ought to face up to this issue and realize that adoption of technical innovations is dependent on the engaging qualities of that content/activities, not the delivery mechanism. We ought to recognize that the social nature of learning has a definite role for a human teacher and will for some time.  We ought to acknowledge that Education, Training, and Performance Support have unique and separate audiences/requirements and yes there are elements common to all. We ought to find ways to promote and encourage the require structural and organizational changes in our current procedures and practices at the same time we are developing the technical side.

If we intend a wide adoption of innovative educational technologies, we will need to work all aspect of the problem in an integrated manner somewhat along the lines that Barr proposed in his 2009 paper.

There are aspects of ADL’s xAPI project that are worth considering from a learning architectural perspective that views the educational technology as a tool – an affordance mechanism and therefore a potential learning research developmental model.

From a technical view lets us assume –

  • xAPI instruments content /activities in and outside of an LMS and recognizes that learning is more than online courses in an LMS. This aspect affords a wider set of design options for engaging content and activities
  • You can instrument content/activities beyond the five things that SCORM can track and therefore instrument for learner engagement, enhanced elaboration, and retention through summative and formative rubrics.
  • The LRS essentially un-silos learner data from proprietary LMS systems that may provide targeted affordance for the innovative discovery of engaging content/activities in registries and repositories.

From the research model perspective, we ought to test these above assertions concurrently. The ADL xAPI Cohorts and Megan Torrence’s xAPI Cohort program are instantiations of this model that takes a tool that instruments engagement and increases outcomes.

The question is now adoption to scale, which has always been the issue for any research project – transferring it from the lab to the real world which is a different problem that requires a bit of thought.

In ADL’s case, adoption to scale is to its DoD audience. For SCORM there was a DoD directive. For xAPI’s LRS component a DoD directive is being considered. As a first step, we ought to consider prototyping that directive, maybe with a several DISA cloud instantiation of  LRSs with plumbing connecting the LRSs with integrated dashboards to demonstrated engagement and outcomes from engaging content.

Spring has sprung in Tidewater


It’s Spring. The redbuds have peaked along with the daffodils, the cherry trees are in full bloom and the dogwoods are next. There is that opaque new spring green color throughout the tree tops of the poplars and birch like a transparent fine gauze where you can still see clearly the complex structure of their extended frames reaching towards the sky. And then there is that definite sign of spring – that pale yellow film of pollen that covers everything

Holly our 7-year-old Westy has a habit when she goes out to look up into the sky and into the tree canopy to see what is going on. It always triggers a thought in my mind as to what she is either looking for or at and why. She is small but at 22lbs I don’t think she is in any danger from some predator from the sky. Maybe it’s to get a sniff of what is in the air – an incoming weather front (unlikely) or just to verify that all is well in the neighborhood (maybe). There are the other possibilities. Having chased her share of squirrels up the many trees of her yard she is just checking to see if any intruders are in her domain (likely).

I found myself on the front porch at sunset looking up into a golden hue splashed across the top canopy with that new spring green up against a blue sky with the lower half of the trees in a contrasting shadow. A movement caught my eye as it scampered from the very top weaving its way from one limb to another, then to a connecting tree limb, then a leap of faith to a further branch, then scampering along it to the main trunk, then a downward spiral along the upper tree trunk, into the shadows and nestled in safety into a leafy nest. I often see the neighborhood squirrels under the feeder or two of them playing tag scampering through the backyard and up and around the trees, or chased up a tree by Holly or dashing and pausing and then a quick change of direction to safety as I drive out of the neighborhood (this car breaks for squirrels) but I rarely ever see one surreptitiously finding their way to their nest as I did that evening.

A Learning Stack Activity

Learning activities copy

Crispi Weston convinced me years ago about the importance of an activity in the learning process – by doing we learn. Over the years I have clipped and saved theme variations on activity and learning from John Dewey (1), Jim Paul Gee (2), Crispin Weston (3), and Stephen Downes (4) which you can read below this piece as notes. I recently came across a blog post by Tim Klapdor Embedding Activity in Online Learning

I have added his theme variation on activity to my collection.

Klapdor’s activity is how learning really happens. Using that content – putting it through a synthesizing process, applying it, remembering it, building on it – that’s how we learn.”

Like Dewey and Gee, his variation includes the idea of discourse coupled with learning and the lack of it in current online learning content –

“A real discussion, conversation or interaction is facilitated. It is premised around certain activities and work to be done and it’s managed and maintained, but those functions haven’t followed online.”

So what caught my attention is what are our assumptions and definition of an online activity and what is an interactive and immersive activity and what is our own taxonomy in a Learning Stack/ADB when he says –

“We seem to slip back into calling things interactive or immersive yet those terms are so loosely defined. Interactive can mean that users get to click on a button. Beautifully rendered 3D environments are called Immersive even if there’s nothing to do in them to sustain interest for more than five minutes. There’s a missing taxonomy around what’s actually taking place – what are the actions and activities that are really going on. Instead, we keep using these container words that do little to describe the reality of what’s going on.”

Klapdor introduces the idea of “linkage” as a primary function for learning resources.

“The ability for the student to create links allows students to embed content it into their learning, into their practices and into their own environments is how learning occurs. This calls into question the idea of creating the resource to be consumed as opposed to resources to be explored. Resources that can be linked, discovered and pulled apart. The same thing can be said about teachers where a good tool can be immersed into almost any discipline area, and that with mild adaptions can be used across a whole range of different applications.”

He goes on to say that

“For me interaction is a feedback and conversational dialogue facility. That’s what “real interaction” actually looks like – having a dialogue or a conversation within an environment. Clicking a button is not that, it’s just a basic transaction.”

“Things like Real-Time technologies that enable face-to-face chat and messaging. The ability to actually do things together – to collaborate and cooperate in order to create, build and share…..and to push the kinds of interactions that are possible.”

As an example, Klapdor, “looked at using chat as an interface for the learning environment. Modeled on Slack we explored the ways that chat and real-time communications could improve the learning significantly and provide students with a voice and a way of participating in the learning rather than being passive recipients of it.”

I am still thinking about all of this and its implications but so far I agree that as we describe what a Learning Stack/ADB (for a definition please see the note below 6) is and the affordances we provide for a learning activity we need that taxonomy around what’s actually taking place – “what are the actions and activities that are really going on”.

His idea of “linkage” is one candidate for our taxonomy/Learning Stack affordances and it is that “ability for the student to create links allows students to embed content it into their learning, into their practices and into their own environments is how learning occurs. I think that affordance is embedding an annotation capability into the “Learning Stack” and linking to an e-portfolio or series of cloud base applications so that the “Learning Stack’ contains a number of these type applicationsIt The affordances for a student view “resources to be explored” and “resources that can be linked, discovered and pulled apart” is supported by both the nonlinear and linear functions of a learning the “Stack” wich affords a variety of self-directed sequencing schemes as displayed in Crispin Weston’s infographic “Design model for effective ed-tech”

So let me try these same set of ideas on linkage by saying the same thing but a bit differently that an e-book, book, textbook, codex or scroll have one on thing in common. That commonality is the linear presentation of the content. The web page changed all of that when it introduced the idea of hyperlinks and APIs that afforded a non-linear approach to assessment, viewing and consuming content along with linear viewing by scrolling or swiping backward or forward. That duel mode of navigating through content now becomes more of a design and pedagogical issue that you can see in Crispin’s infographic “Design model for effective ed-tech”.


How you navigate through content, lessons, videos, exercises, tests, activities, etc., now becomes both linear and nonlinear and can be instrumented,what can that mean? The design of content is no longer constrained with meeting the needs of a specific cohort in a single textbook but the individual through a range of levels with different layers of density and complexity for them to navigate and explore. The students interaction with the content, which is instrumented, now affords us a different set of formative assessments that aid them and the teacher to discover the possibilities of other trajectories through the subject with the analysis of that instrumented data. Add to this the act of “doing” through access to deliberate activities (instrumented simulations, remote labs, group projects, having a dialogue or a conversation within an environment.) and the ability of the student to record and distribute their accomplishments, projects, and reflections. Underlying all of this is the digital affordance of the content format that allows both student and teacher to reuse, remix, revise, redistribute and repurpose the content (6.Wiley’s 5 R’s).

More to follow but I think this is consistent with our Learning Stack/ADB vision to enable content portability, as SCORM did, but in an e-learning ecosystem that has become much more complex

1. John Dewey
To “learn from experience” is to make
a backward and forward connection
between what we do to things and
what we enjoy or suffer from things in
consequence. Under such conditions,
doing becomes a trying; an experiment with the world to find out what it is like; the undergoing becomes instruction—
the discovery of the connection of things.

John Dewey “Democracy in Education,” 1916
Learning is meaningful when it is part of valued relationships, shared practice, culture, and identity

2. Jim Paul Gee Discourse
The human mind learns through well-designed experiences. It finds patterns and associations across different experiences and—after lots of time, effort, and practice—generalizes these patterns and associations into the sorts of concepts, principles, and generalizations we humans capture in language and other symbol systems (like branches of mathematics). The mind is social because we humans can each find a wide variety of different patterns or associations in our experiences. We humans are powerful—actually over-powerful—pattern recognizers. Thus, we need help from mentors (in families, communities, groups, institutions, and cultures) we need help from people who are more advanced than we are in their experiences. We need help to appreciate what patterns and associations we should be looking for. We need help to have the experiences that will best allow us to start and stay on a good path to find the “right” patterns and associations or good approximations to them. The patterns and associations important to a family, community, group, institution, or culture are stored not just in the minds of people but in social practices that design, guide, and mentor learning. Such social practices also norm everyone, new or old, to keep to the patterns and associations that ensure the group continues to function successfully.

3. Crispin Weston’s infographic “Design model for effective ed-tech”

Design for Ed Tech
4. Stephen Downes, It’s when we do stuff that we learn, not when stuff does something for us.

5. Learning Stack/ADB Actionable Data Book.

Learning activities copy
Our vision is quite simple: enable content portability, as SCORM did, but in an e-learning ecosystem that has become much more complex:

Product categories that include the traditional products, Learning Management Systems, and content authoring tools, but also Learning Record Stores (LRS); analytics engines; teachers’ lesson planning apps and dashboards; student’s e-portfolios and calendar apps; ebook readers; job aids; competency frameworks; and publishers’ content and data platforms.
New pedagogical contexts: flipped classrooms; experiential or activity-based learning; collaborative learning; just-in-time learning; ….
New kinds of e-learning content and technologies: mobile; personalized (based on multiple cloud data sources); adaptive over time; immersive games and simulations; augmented reality for job support.
Published content that uses the functionality of the tablet (GPS, camera, mic, motion, orientation, touch, gesture, wifi, Bluetooth) in a web-connected environment possibly surrounded by IoT devices. Also, the tools for creating such content.

Crispin Westons EdTech Stack

Edtech Learning Stack

6. David Wiley’s OER and What does Open Mean


“Free plus permissions” is the meaning of open in every context in which the term is used, as I recently explained, yet again, at length. OER are a threat to publishers because, while publishers might be able to drop costs on their materials to the point that the cost of their products approaches free, publishers are structurally incapable of granting 5R permissions in their content and platforms to the general public.

#NRC01PL – Stephen’s Learning Networks

I was a bit taken back at first with Stephen’s video when he started to read his Learning Network paper from 2004, especially when you realized that this was going to go on for another 52 minutes. In fairness, he did warn us. A talking head reading a paper looked like a throwback to what I think is wrong about current online learning of xMOOC variety and not what I was expecting from a cMOOC coming from Stephen.

To be fair it was a bit of a history lesson of educational technology, IMS’s Content Packaging, SCORM, Aggregated RSS feeds, the beginnings of Stephen’s Grasshopper, etc. I appreciated his shout out to Wayne Hodgins who chaired the IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee with Eric Duval that led to a set of standards and the birth of the LMS industry, for better or for worse, which is still with us today.

But the other piece of history is to hear the beginnings of what becomes connectivism and CCK08, all of which is born out of this 2004 Learning Networks paper.

The punch line comes almost at the end when Stephen says, “we need to rethink our definitions of learning objects, to move beyond static concepts, and to start thinking about learning objects as resources generally, not just textbooks and tests. The long answer involves rethinking what it is when we think about offering to learn online. Instead of offering classes and courses, learning online ought to be structured along the model of environments, games or simulations.”

I think what we are hearing is the first glimpse of what Stephen describes as a new form of pedagogy – Networked pedagogy which becomes a bit clearer in 2006 when he says-

“Learning…occurs in communities, where the practice of learning is the participation in the community. A learning activity is, in essence, a conversation undertaken between the learner and other members of the community. This conversation, in the web 2.0 era, consists not only of words but of images, video, multimedia and more. This conversation forms a rich tapestry of resources, dynamic and interconnected, created not only by experts but by all members of the community, including learners.”

If you stuck with him for the first 50 minutes you now come to the gem – and that is to think about a learning environment as “the output layer of the learning network” and “it becomes clear that these output points may be located anywhere in the environment, whether that environment is Microsoft Word, a process control system, a grader or a fishing rod.”

A learning network for Stephen is the ecosystem-

” a collection of different entities related in a single environment that interact with each other in a complex network of affordances and dependencies, an environment where the individual entities are not joined or sequenced or packaged in any way, but rather, live, if you will, free, their nature defined as much by their interactions with each other as by any inherent property in themselves.”

The maturation of this theme later leads Siemens and Stephen to describe a networked pedagogy – connectivism – by simply saying that “learning is distributed within a network, social, technologically enhanced, recognizing and interpreting patterns” and go on to test this theory in their first MOOC, CCK08.

One of my first takeaways from CCK08 was that the act of blogging was a form of reflection, a learning activity of doing, that you shared with others that led to further discussion and reflection and that learning occurred in that network of connections.

P.S. If you are interested in seeing the text of Stephen’s Buntine Oration, delivered to the Australian College of Educators (ACE) and the Australian Council of Educational Leaders (ACEL) conference in Perth, Australia, October 9, 2004, the download of the pdf is at the International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning here.

Do-It-Yourself Geo Apps MOOC

photo-1428954376791-d9ae785dfb2d copy
I took the ESRI Do-It-Yourself Geo Apps course because I wanted to see if I could build a GIS app for either an IOS or Android. The app would be downloadable from the Apple’s App Store or Googles Play Store.
The idea that I had in mind was to tie the my James City County’s stormwater program projects with  a measurable outcome besides the reduction of pollutants. I do believe  that it is about water quality. To that end, I wanted to try and develop a water quality monitoring data entry app for an iPhone or Android.  There are really two halves to the app. There is the data gathering input app and  the display of the data on a GIS map.
I have a sample of what this could look like for you to see.
Here is the data Entry Form , which you can fill out yourself from this web page. The date is automatic, and you do have to fill out the complete form. Some fields require a number and will not let you enter letters. At the end, you confirm the GIS location of the data. You can also attach pictures or additional documents. I used the “Modified Method (Rocky Bottom) Data Entry Form as a sample to develop the form.
The data format shown on the data entry form would be a downloadable application.  For example, an Apple App downloadable from the Apple App store and then the App used as a data entry form on your iPhone or iPad. The data, when submitted from the iPhone or iPad, will then automatically populate an ARC Online GIS Map. You do not have to have  an internet connection to use the form but you will have to have one to submit the form.
Here is the-the display on a GIS Map in a slide presentation mode. There are two slides and on the second slide, it displays the data. If you scroll to the bottom, you will see two attachments a photo and a document which you can open by clicking on them. There is also a summary display GIS map here that adds the total input of each of the 40 plus fields eg total number of Mayflies etc.
If you do fill out the Data entry forum and submit it, it will automatically populate my working dummy GIS Map
I have not figured out yet how to download the data into a CSV or Excel spreadsheet.