Prosocial connections


On most weekdays, I start my online day by reading Stephen Downes’ OLDaily.

I admire Stephen’s willingness to share openly.

I feel profoundly grateful that he does share.

Some time ago (2006), Jo-Ann Tsang defined gratitude as:

A positive emotional reaction to the receipt of a benefit that is perceived to have resulted from the good intentions of another.

Stephen’s open sharing has encouraged me to share openly too, nourished by what I hope are “good intentions” (Attila Szolnoki and Matjaz Perc, 2013).

I understand that many people are reluctant to engage in open sharing. I spend a lot of time advocating for and discussing the use of open educational resources with those who are nervous about so doing.

A paper by Patricia Lockwood and her colleagues (Matthew Apps, Vincent Valton, Essi Viding and Jonathan Roiser) published online before print (15 August, 2016) has helped me think about my arguments in favour of prosocial behaviour. They have introduced me to the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex/basal forebrain (sgACC).

Patricia and her colleagues observe that the sgACC “drives learning only when we are acting in a prosocial context”. They add:

However, there is also substantial variability in the neural and behavioral efficiency of prosocial learning, which is predicted by trait empathy. More empathic people learn more quickly when benefitting others, and their sgACC response is the most selective for prosocial learning.

Their paper explores this prosocial behaviour and considers how their findings might help us understand the behaviour of those people with “disorders of social cognition”.

In their study of altruism, Frans de Waal, Kristin Leimgruber and Amanda Greenberg (2008) reported that prosocial behaviour with a partner was a favoured option “provided their partner was a) familiar, b) visible, and c) receiving rewards of equal value”.  They added:

Prosocial tendencies increased with social closeness, being lowest toward strangers and highest toward kin.

Perhaps it is because I perceive receiving Stephen’s OLDaily as a letter from a friend that I am encouraged to share too. The literature on primates suggests that I should work much harder at understanding differences and traits … and hopefully become familiar and trusted.

Photo Credit

Mercedes Bends and Altruism Rules (Newtown Grafitti, CC BY 2.0)



130125 PLN Finds

OLDaily is a feast of delights.

This morning it brought a link to Kevin Stranack‘s post, Guerrilla Connectivism: 10 Tips for Taking Control of your Education.

In his post, Kevin observes:

We, as students, … can take control of our own education by following a few connectivist-inspired tips.

I found all tips helpful but liked points 4 and 5 in particular.

“4. Help others. Connectivist courses often start with sessions to help orient students to this new way of learning. To replicate this, offer to spend the first lunch break helping people setup a twitter account or reviewing how it works. Point them to some of the great introductory resources developed by other connectivist educators. Connectivist learning can be disorienting for those new to it, and does require a basic understanding of some of the core technologies like twitter, social bookmarking, and blogging. A bit of guidance can make a big difference to the success of the learning community.

5. Establish a Google Community. Yet another free service from Google, this allows you to quickly and easily establish a connectivist, student-run web space for the course. Remember to tell everyone where to find it. Use twitter, but also let people know face to face. Try not to be exclusionary, but instead keep all information open and accessible to everyone in the course.”

3195854520_0463455947_oKevin’s post appears at a time when I am thinking a lot about cMOOCs and supporting personal learning environments. I have been looking at a range of Google+ opportunities and am trying to learn more about connecting communities. I found Ronnie Bincer’s recorded Hangout particularly helpful.

By coincidence a lead from my Paper.Li feed to me to an excellent resource shared by Richard Millington. He has an ultimate list of resources for How To Build An Online Community. The list is remarkable and I am delighted I have found it.

On my searches this morning (courtesy of Richard Byrne) I bumped into Edcanvas and that has started me off on another path of discovery about transparent sharing.

I really enjoyed Kevin’s energy and the importance he attached to student engagement in connectivist approaches. I start my own teaching next week and hope to support Kevin’s guerrilla tactics. But does that mean they cease to be guerrilla tactics … if they are adopted by teachers?

After posting this I am off to read a New York Times article on open access and credit, a post on micro-credentials and Doug Belshaw‘s posts about his Open Badges meetings.

Photo Credit

Network Diagram (Steve Ryan, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Open for Learning

I have been thinking about open learning for some time.

The open online course CCK08 accelerated and focused my interest.

Since that course Stephen Downes’ OLDaily has nourished my thinking. (See for example his link to Jenny Mackness’s post today, The place of ‘the teacher’ in relation to open content.)

News of Sebastian Thrun’s development of Udacity (“We believe university-level education can be both high quality and low cost”) has added to my interest as did the video of his talk at DLD. (See this update.)

Matt Welsh ponders the “failings of the conventional higher education model for a minute and see where this leads us, and consider whether something like Udacity is really the solution”. Matt looks at three failings of ‘conventional’ universities: exclusivity; grades; lectures. Matt suggests that online universities bring to the table: broadening access to higher education; and leveraging technology to explore new approaches to learning. He observes that:

The real question is whether broadening access ends up reinforcing the educational caste system: if you’re not smart or rich enough to go to a “real university,” you become one of those poor, second-class students with a certificate Online U. Would employers or graduate schools ever consider such a certificate, where everyone makes an A+, equivalent to an artium baccalaureus from the Ivy League school of your choice?

I have been wondering how to offer sufficient rich experience to overcome the value laden and static nature of education credits. My aspiration is to encourage a collaborative approach to sharing and learning that personalises everyone’s learning environment and journey.

At present I am thinking about four stages in Open for Learning:

  • Invitation
  • Provocation
  • Transformation
  • Realisation

I have been wondering too about all this work being shared through Open Access, Creative Commons licensed material.

Participants in this Open for Learning model would:

  • Choose their level of entry
  • Follow any course without charge at whatever pace they wished
  • Decide whether they would like formal credit after successful completion of the course
  • Pay an affordable fee for a credit to add to their portfolio

My aspiration is for all these learning opportunities to have a fractal quality. Each learning opportunity would be scalable but would contain the principles of all other opportunities, particularly as learners moved to the realisation phase.

I see enormous benefits of using work integrated learning models for Open for Learning and I am particularly interested in the recognition of prior learning.

I liked Matt Walsh’s observation about grades:

Can someone remind me why we still have grades? I like what Sebastian says (quoting Salman Khan) about learning to ride a bicycle: It’s not as if you get a D learning to ride a bike, then you stop and move onto learning the unicycle. Shouldn’t the goal of every course be to get every student to the point of making an A+?

In my thinking getting an A+ grade is not a chronological event. It is, I believe, a kairological experience.

Just as I was completing this post I noticed this ABC post about homeschooling:

As a new school year begins, more than 50,000 Australian children will be home-schooled and in most cases, their parents are doing it illegally. It is compulsory to send children between the ages of six and 16 to school, or register them for home schooling, but more parents are opting out of the traditional school system and keeping their children at home. However, thousands of parents across the country are not registered and that means they potentially face prosecution.

I wondered what would happen if wherever we learned we were at home and overwhelmed by the interest someone took in us as a learner rather than a commodity.

Photo Credits

Primer in the Classroom

Private Wallace Tratford arrives home on leave