#edcmooc Networked learning: on Mooc ‘s, supernodes and tribes.

Due to the internet social networking and networked learning is increasing by the minute. The increase of social networks over the last few years is enormously. This post  gives a nice overview.

With the  emergence of Moocs social learning becomes more organized in the sense of being together in sort of a “school”, that is a course.  Of course there are already  interest groups like on LinkedIn which are based on topics of similar interest but a Mooc is different: you sign up for a certain amount of time, go through content together , share and comment and do certain “tasks” in order to complete a course.

Within the Mooc  social media is used as a way to do all these things. So if we call a Mooc a system, then within this system another one evolves, defined by its users.

The users could be viewed as nodes in that system. Kind of like dots in a web. A node is, according to Wikipeda  :  a connection point, either a redistribution point or a communication endpoint .

One of the participants of the Mooc I joined enjoys making graphics of the groups interactions, here is one of the Facebook interactions. ( click to enlarge)


                                                                                                                                                                        By Anando Purutama-2013

So all of these dots or nodes represent people and their interactions. If you zoom in ( you cannot do that here you need the real thing)  you can see their names and whom they were connecting with.  By doing so they form subgroups which is shown by the same colours. Some are more in the middle    ( = more active) some are more to the sides ( = less active) . So some, using the node analogy  could be regarded  as “supernodes” , defined, again by Wikipedia: ..in peer-to-peer networking, a supernode is any node that also serves as one of that network’s relayers and proxy servers, handling data flow and connections for other users.

Of course this picture is not a static one, it changes from day to day and week to week.

To use another analogy : it resembles a living organism or a “brain” one might say where connections are made by neurons in a biological neural network. The system that permits them to do so is called the synapsis coming from the Greek word “syn” which stands for “together”. So if you would transfer that to a Mooc,  it could stand for a neural network with Facebook as one of the synapses.

Okay,  explaining my thoughts to you  let me come to my point: we learn a  lot by observing and  copying . Another participant of our Mooc, Krustel Kram wrote an excellent blog on that, called : What is Plagiarism When Everything is a Remix?      So, between things stored or copied in our brain, we make new connections and  transform it and bring it up to the next level. By doing so we make again new connections, transform them again and so on. In the Mooc we mimic this system partially: we connect, interact and form new connections, “discover ” new knowledge or understanding and transform it into our own artefacts.  So from  personal, micro level to a broader level of Mooc =  meso  level and then…this really intrigued me maybe to a maso level! At least, that is suggested by some researchers who claim a recent finding that the Universe is kind of  a “giant brain ”!                                                              In this study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports   it is suggested that “natural growth dynamics” – the way that systems evolve – are the same for different kinds of networks – whether it is the internet, the human brain or the universe as a whole.

So that would mean we are a system in a system in a system…..and so on and probably all those systems are connected. Then , thinking about the “butterfly effect”…wow.. how does that come together?

Boy, that really got me. When I was a young girl I sometimes lay awake at night and gazed at the window in my room. I clearly remember that sometimes it seemed that the window was in a window which was in a window and so on. It always made me a little dizzy and I remember  blinking my eyes or shaking my head to get rid of the image. Probably it is why I am still fascinated by the so called “Trompe-ol’œil” an optical illusion which gives a two dimensional picture the illusion of three dimensional.


Escaping Criticism, 1874, by Pere Borrell del Caso, oil on canvas, Collection Banco de España, Madrid via Wikimedia Commons.

Thinking about these things my  brain starts “ creaking and squeaking” and I do not really know how to proceed, I want to leave it and at the same time it grabs me and I want to know more. Maybe that is what learning is about! And maybe that is what Sir Ken Robinson means in his book “The Element” by finding  your passion and be in “the zone” with your  “tribe” which is definitely how I would call my Mooc at the moment.

I am not a neuroscientist, neither an astronomer or a physicists, as you probably already noticed 😉  I am a human who happens to like learning and education and thinking about stuff.

I came to the conclusion that learning is not an individual activity and that acting like a node in a network is enhancing it. And since everything is already said before ..here’s a quote from Benjamin Franklin which describes it nicely: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

I would like to add:

Make me part of a Mooc and I’ll learn even more!



Over ilonkahebels

I teach communication skills and journalism at a University of applied sciences in the northern part of The Netherlands. I am doing research in the field of collaborative learning in web-based environments and am interested in technology in education; how can we apply it trying to enhance learning? This is part of my Master study Educational Theory I hope to finish by fall 2013.
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