moocs, patterns and bird formations
Inga has written a very nice (and short!) post, reflecting on Stephen Downes’ presentation at LSE yesterday.
I agree with much (most?) of what Stephen says, and I recommend this slidedeck to anyone interested in MOOCs. There are a few issues which raise some questions, so I thought I’d mention those. Stephen Downes refers to #designpatterns and Diana Laurillard ‘s Learning Designer in slide 11. Diana had explored #designpatterns in her book, and we did in ours. Together with Steven Warburton, I’m currently running a project on MOOC design patterns. The examples on slides 12 and 13 are close to proto-patterns.
I would take an issue with slide 30. Very interesting, and important argument – and very timely in relation to #MOOCs. Bird formations are designed by evolution: not the actual pattern, which is dynamical, but the simple rules of behaviour which make it possible. There’s a great analogy to #MOOCs, except that there we’re talking about artificial systems, and hence we have a responsibility to design them. Emergent behaviour will not emerge out of chaos, only out of carefully managed chaos.
As for slide 52, I have an issue with the analogy between neural networks and social networks. Neurons are governed by complex electro-chemical interactions, but have no autonomy. Humans in online social networks are governed by pathetically simplistic interaction mechanisms, but have autonomy. Both are complex, dynamic systems – but they are very, very different. Neural networks have evolved to be amazingly powerful pattern recognition machines. See Andy Clark’s work on brains and predictive coding. Online social networks are good at generating patterns, e.g. #MEMEs, not necessarily at spotting them. This is the root cause of bubbles – whether market bubbles or filter bubbles.
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