Tag Archives: participation

The issue of trust in open networks #ccourses

Photo source: George Balanchine’s Apollo – David Ingram & Traci Gilchrest – photo by Peter Zay


It’s such a vast concept. Galactic even.

Unit 2 of Connected Courses raised these questions:

In the quantum learning space where interest is a key driver, how do we employ the same dynamics in our teaching? Or, how do we leverage the power of open? How do we maintain trust and a sense of security in open networks? How do we build our networks? What is social capital? How do we enable at-large learners to engage in our courses? Where should we teach our classes?

I started my pre-thinking by focusing on ‘trust’ as a general concept in my own understanding.

My reflections over the last week or so have been fuzzy, but now I think it’s time to attempt some kind of personal definition of trust in open networks, especially if I’m advocating these spaces to teachers.

Trust – we can talk about this from so many perspectives.

One of the difficulties of trusting in people you connect with online is the problem of not seeing them face to face, or not hearing what they have to say on a regular basis as we would with people we work with daily. I think we read visual clues about people without even thinking about it, even though some of our assumptions are not always based on scientific observation.

It’s also very difficult to read tone in text. You don’t always know for sure if people genuinely mean what they say, or if they are saying what you think they mean. This relates to people you know well in real life too. I go in and out of being sure that I know where people are coming from, especially online, and that’s part of the whole trust issue in open networks.

I usually stay away from self promoters while being aware that I may be coming across as one myself. I suppose I keep some sort of distance from people who don’t give back, that is, share things others have said without giving something themselves. This is not trust with a capital T: you don’t fear these people but you might not want them in your inner circle.

So, to state the obvious, to trust someone you have to know them to some degree. Trust is knowing someone well enough to make a judgement that they are someone you are willing to interact with.

Having said that, I ask a question: how do you know someone online?There is no simple answer, and I still don’t know. Maybe I rely on instinct?

Perhaps I warm to people who have similar interests? I’m in awe of people who have superior or expert knowledge, and so I trust them enough to learn from them. I think trust requires an openness, and a transparency, so that I can peek inside the person a little.

Who do I trust to be in my inner circle? (Haha, inner circle sounds very mystical and elitist). How can I trust that what they share is credible? Of course, it’s up to us to evaluate what others post online but I think that once you have a clear picture of their background and credentials, you can trust their shared knowledge. That’s why it’s important to provide a reference point for people in the form of a short biography, blog(s), Twitter handle, Google+ profile or similar.

So, turning the issue of trust around to me –

How can people trust that what I share with them is good quality and worth looking at?

This is a very important professional question for me: How can I build my trust as a teacher librarian who regularly shares online resources? Trust is at the core of everything that I do, and it’s been instrumental in the way I have developed my digital profile. I’ve made myself transparent online, which means interested people can check my bio, blogs, google+, twitter, etc.

My personal professional blog hopefully shows I’m serious about education. I’ve provided opportunities for people to contact me if they want dialogue through email and comments in many of my networks. When I share educational resources, I’m open to talk to teachers if they have any queries.

Why do we want to be trusted online? Some people might think it a strange question. They might think it’s nobody’s business but their own who they are even if they have an online profile. What if people want to be on Facebook, for example, so that they can see what their friends are up to but don’t want to reveal much of themselves?

I think that what you gain from a connected community will determine how much you get from it. To be accepted and considered a valuable participant requires trust, and then a continued demonstration that you can be trusted, for example, to behave respectfully, not to take over at the expense of community balance, to listen as well as contributing, to make an effort to contribute as well as taking from others.

It’s important to be yourself, to add value to the community, to share your unique perspective. If I’m hoping to be accepted as a valuable member of a community, people should be able to trust that I won’t be lazy and just piggy-back others. That is to say, it’s okay for me to retweet and share others’ stuff because I’m in awe of it or excited about it and want to share with others, but I also need to balance that out with my own contribution – and often that just means sharing my unique perspective on things.

From my observations, the best connected networks consist of people who are not afraid to be themselves, who push past the platitudes that sometimes make sameness in online communities undesirable or boring.


Yes, I admit, I’m guilty of being lazy sometimes, of sharing of others’ resources without the value added comments, and I will try to add value each time with my own perspective, by sharing Diigo annotations, adding my perspective to retweets (although word restriction!), doing the hard work of research and deeper reading to get to the deeper observations which add to the group’s understanding.

Some people might say, I don’t have anything to add that is unique, and to these people I would say:

Trust in yourself. You do have something to add that is unique, and this enables you to become someone real online. In my interaction with people through Connected Courses, I would say there are many people who exemplify this online. Maha Bali stands out for me through her open, encouraging and accepting online interaction, but there are also many others.

Lastly, I think that trust goes hand in hand with being interesting.

Everyone is interesting because there is something about all of us which is unique and which others may be interested in, but it’s important to bring that part of yourself out. I connect with people online who give a little extra detail about themselves because it enables me to picture them eg playing an instrument, cycling, getting worked up about something they care about. Sometimes photos are useful in providing a little window into ourselves. Howard Rheingold gives us many insights into his life and his interests through photos. Of course, it’s up to you how much you want to share about yourself beyond the educational context. I could trust someone online and interact for the purposes of educational exchange but they don’t become real for me until they paint a little more about themselves.

But that’s another thing to think about in another post.


Hyper-connected learning – using Diigo to share reflections on a post reflecting on another post

Photo http://realidadestatica.tumblr.com/post/21361359191/roads

So I’ve been using Diigo for quite a few years now – especially to save and annotate what I’ve found online and want to keep, and to be able to find it again later and share it easily.

What I haven’t done very much is use the annotation tool to share with others in a group. I’ve shared things with groups but – you know how it goes, you’re in and out of groups over the years, so you’re not really a part of the group in a meaningful or ongoing sense.  I admit that I try to engage in too many things on too many platforms at the same time, and recently I’m feeling the loss of a network of people I connect with in a deep way.

Since joining Connected Courses, the excitement of finding so many interesting people thinking and writing openly in blogs and on Twitter has blown my mind a little, and I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know people in this way, saving their blogs to Feedly, following them on Twitter (#ccourses) while growing a larger network, and reading their blog posts about the why of teaching.

Today, while reading Maha Bali‘s response post, Why read this, why read that, to Mimi Ito’s post, Connected learning = abundant opportunity + terror + hard attentional choices + productive tension (brilliant title, don’t you think?), I was happily disappearing  down the rabbit holes of her hyperlinks, when I stayed a bit longer in her link to the Diigo group for #ccourses, and I had a forehead slap moment. I was reading and getting excited by what I was reading, highlighting what spoke to me, and annotating my thoughts in Diigo – to myself! D’oh! How absurd was this scenario? I was part of Connected Courses, reading the same things as the very large cohort – why wasn’t I annotating to the group?

Okay, so that’s been said and I’ve added some annotations to the group for this post. And now I wait until I feel a tug on the line I’ve thrown out, bearing in mind that most participants live in a different time zone, and the interaction may not be in real time.  But potentially, Diigo is another way to feel connected in sharing ideas about a post or article – apart from Twitter, of course.

So I’m thinking that it would be very cool if we could use Diigo for something meaningful at school. Although I’ve tried a couple of times to get teachers interested in Diigo,  and nothing came of it, I might have another go following my renewed enthusiasm. And I’d also like to use Diigo for a class of students to analyse a text in small groups. That’s the kind of peer learning we need more of.

In the meantime, I thought I’d use my highlights and annotations as a way to populate this post, to share parts of Mimi Ito’s post and my thoughts as I’m reading. So what I’ve done is opened the Diigo annotations tab in my annotated version of the post, and copied the transcript of what I’ve highlighted and commented on.  A pretty easy way to throw content into your blog post if you ask me.  I think it should make sense – if you realise that I highlighted phrases and not whole sentences, and in some cases just words.

Here it is – my highlights of Maha Bali’s post about Mimi Ito’s post. This kind of reading and annotation practice is very rich even though it might seem complicated. To give a bit of background, Maha Bali is remarking on Mimi Ito’s statement that she finds reading books easier than wading through tweets and blogs. My annotated comments are in green. There are too many highlights to include all of them, so I’ll be selective. I’m going to add some thoughts as I go and these will be in red. You would probably have to read both posts for the following to make sense.

  • that she found reading books (quickly, i assume?) easier than wading through tweets and blogs; whereas I clearly did the tweets/blogs things quite comfortably but found reading books “too much”
    • I feel the same as Maha, easier to read and respond to blog posts than read a book on my own – with nobody to talk to and no way of sharing my thoughts. Claustrophobic.comment byTania Sheko
  • Anyway, it made me reflect on why I, someone who LOVES reading by all accounts, have a strong preference for reading blogs/tweets over books/academic articles in MOOCs. There are many reasons,
    • This is something I’ve been thinking about for ages but feeling like I’ve failed in that I’ve lost the enthusiasm for reading books, or maybe don’t have the focus stamina any more. Thanks for writing this out, Maha, I might do my own blog reflection.comment byTania Sheko
  • Mimi’s point that a connected learning experience “welcomes people with different dispositions and orientations to learning”,

I love this aspect of online learning – it often reveals surprising treasures from students who are too shy to have a voice in class.

  • In terms of learning: Is the MOOC about experiencing connecting? Or about reading about it?
  • the MOOC is about reflecting on connecting,
  • My first PhD supervisor was big on encouraging me to read diverse articles not single-authored books

It’s the diversity of the ‘chaotic’ stream of shared information and ideas in Connected Courses that excites me.

  • My second supervisor (who replaced the first) was big on me reading original works by e.g. Marx, Foucault, etc.
  • I also find reading translated works really difficult and find it a better investment of my time to first read more contemporary (or at least, more education-focused) interpretations of the “greats” works, before reading the original. It helps me read it better

Thanks so much for saying this! I always feel guilty when I don’t manage to read a challenging book list. What you do is a much more productive way of managing things.

  • I do not value the book-authors more than I value the blog-authors
  • can interact with them more regularly
  • more accessible, easier to read quickly

We should revise our separation of authoritative information especially as many authors are also bloggers.

  • 2. Attention issues
  • Philosophical approach to reading
  • This is particularly funny because I keep not finding time to read the”attention literacies” part in Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart, as I get ‘distracted’ into reading different parts of it (i’ve probably read half the book already, just not in order).
  • And that’s why I voice these things in MOOCs, because I am pretty sure that courses about connection want ppl to feel they can participate.
  • So basically, I hope to engage with these readings “my way” (so not deeply with each entire book, unless it draws me in, but with parts of it)
  • hope that blog posts by other people & the hangout will fill me in second-hand (you see what I am doing here, don’t you?)
    • Very clever. I think this method wards away the guilts and also sustains engagement in the course. The alternative would be to give up and feel defeated if you couldn’t do everything.comment byTania Sheko
  • P.S. some ppl may say that w blog posts u have no guarantee of quality vs a book recommended by the facilitators. However, there are many ways to gauge a blog’s quality, incl knowing the person, seeing it retweeted often or with many comments – and it takes v little time to skim it to decide to read deeply;

I think that evaluating blog posts is an important skill, and definitely, with all the information online, some of it from experts who also publish in peer-reviewed journals, or books, that it is important to encourage students to discover what experts and professional people post online, and evaluate these as they would anything else.

  • lovely quotes from Mimi’s post:
  • Connected Courses is a veritable cornucopia of ways of participating with no central platform.
  • colliding through a loosely orchestrated cross-network remix, immersive theater where participants are all experiencing a different narrative.
  • hybrid network, more like a constellation that looks different based on where one stands and who one is.
  • a site of productive tension that is characteristic of connected learning.

I agree with Maha; these are exquisite quotes. 

  • Connected learning is predicated on bringing together three spheres of learning that are most commonly disconnected in our lives:
  • peer sociability
  • personal interests/affinity
  • opportunities for recognition.

That is, for us in Connected Courses:

  • our personal interests and expertise
  • reciprocity and fun in the social stream
  • institutional status/reputation


Thanks Maha and Mimi for your insightful reflections. I’ve had fun thinking about things in this connected way, and hope to make headway into a more connected way of reflecting using Diigo groups.

Why blogging is a selfish activity

This image compliments of Dean Shareski

One of the things that made me pause for thought during the PLP Kickoff yesterday, was when Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach told us to participate in the NING environment just for ourselves for the time being.

I was talking to someone recently and we were discussing how blogging and participating in Web 2.0 applications is such a joy for educators because it’s feeding us. Teaching can be exhausting. Teachers are giving non-stop but not always replenishing their own supplies. The best part about learning through connected networks, Twitter, NINGs,etc. is that you get so much out of what others put out there. It’s the interconnectivity (long word for connection, I think) that is so good for you. And so much choice, you don’t know where to start. If you don’t refuel, you eventually stop.

We need to be selfish, that is, to feed ourselves as well as our students. To take time to read, think, discuss and wait before giving out. That’s not as selfish as it sounds. Fact is, when we’re bursting with ideas from meaningful interaction with others, people around us can’t fail to see this. Modelling Web 2.0 functioning is like sending sparks out.