This course will become read-only in the near future. Tell us at if that is a problem.

W1+W2: Intro to course, and to field

In week one and two, we will get to know each other, together discuss the outline and organization of the course (including the badge structure), get familiar with the technology, and begin getting an overview of the theoretical underpinnings of the field.

Week 1 (April 25-May 1)

  • Two meetings on Big Blue Button (choose one): Friday at 9AM EST or Saturday at 5PM EST. Network members are also welcome. We will only have one weekly meeting in the future, but want to make sure everyone get a chance to meet during week 1. LINK (watch this video about how BBB works)
  • Week 1 video
  • Readings:

Joe suggested a reading called From communities of practice to mycorrhizae

We had our first meeting in Big Blue Button. We started with voice (9 minute MP3 recording), but because some didn't have headphones, we went over to text chat (transcript).

Week 2 (May 2-May 8)

Task Discussion

  • Stian Haklev   June 13, 2011, 9:19 p.m.

    Here's a recording of a recent talk by Etienne Wenger. It's funny, people always refer to their old article, and you don't really think about these people still being around, giving talks etc. I wonder if there is much new from their original work.

  • Marcy Murninghan   June 13, 2011, 11:14 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Stian Haklev   June 13, 2011, 9:19 p.m.

    Thanks for posting this, I look forward to hearing him! And yes, I agree: I've noticed the same tendency of people to refer to their original work.  it's often the case that someone's 'best work' gets frozen in time, and they refer to it over and over again. I've tried to avoid that velvet trap--pushing myself to learn more, to grow, to question previous assumptions. Still, there are enduring insights, with a new twist. I'm not always successful, but it's a constant process of self-reflection and monitoring...  Meanwhile, great class on Saturday! Very intense, but rewarding.  Meanwhile, too, Bruins just won Game 6, defeating the Canucks and pushing the series to a decisive Game 7 in Vancouver... Smackdown hockey tonight--Yeee-haw!

  • Stian Haklev   June 10, 2011, 10:34 a.m.

    I was just reading a very interesting National Academy of Science report (OA) called "How People Learn", and something they wrote about constructivism was really interesting:


    A common misconception regarding “constructivist” theories of know- ing (that existing knowledge is used to build new knowledge) is that teach- ers should never tell students anything directly but, instead, should always allow them to construct knowledge for themselves. This perspective con- fuses a theory of pedagogy (teaching) with a theory of knowing. Constructivists assume that all knowledge is constructed from previous knowl- edge, irrespective of how one is taught (e.g., Cobb, 1994)—even listening to a lecture involves active attempts to construct new knowledge. Fish Is Fish (Lionni, 1970) and attempts to teach children that the earth is round (Vosniadou and Brewer, 1989) show why simply providing lectures frequently does not work. Nevertheless, there are times, usually after people have first grappled with issues on their own, that “teaching by telling” can work extremely well (e.g., Schwartz and Bransford, 1998). However, teachers still need to pay attention to students’ interpretations and provide guidance when necessary.
    (Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How people learn. DC National Academy Press Washington. - page 20)
    I really like the idea of separating between constructivism as an epistemology - how we learn, and a pedagogy - how we should be taught. 
  • Jennifer Claro   May 12, 2011, 8:41 p.m.

    You gotta see this! Monica sent me this link and it's an excellent 7-miute video of a TED talk in Toronto by Dave Meslin called "Redefining Apathy". His main point is that we are NOT apathetic, we are intelligent, caring people (yes! we are!) who are disempowered by barriers set up by governments and political parties and the whole system.

    It's an inspiring video, and I felt invigorated and empowered after watching it. But let's not stop at watching a video. Let's pull down the barriers!! Make it happen!!

    Check it out at Redefining Apathy.

  • Jennifer Claro   May 10, 2011, 4:44 p.m.

    New post on my blog at Yes, it's an ode to Piaget and a reminder of the importance of cognitive constructivism. We seem to be drowning in social constructivism these days! I argue that they are two sides of the same coin; the individual in society. You cannot take the individual out of society, and you can't take learning out of the head of the individual. 

  • Monica Resendes   May 6, 2011, 6:22 p.m.

    Hi all...

    here's the LINK for the BBB meeting on Sat.

    e-see you all then,

  • Jennifer Claro   May 5, 2011, 4:56 p.m.


    Hi Everybody,

    I wanted to thank Joe for the article by Engestrom (see Week 1 above). His mycorrhizae analogy is a self-organizing system (SOS), which I am doing research on. I’m very interested in how SOS distribute control across all members and thus have no centralized control. SOS are more adaptable, more robust, and are likely to form networks with other SOS, making knowledge production ever more accessible and productive in an interdisciplinary way.

    I also find the SOS nature of activist groups to be very encouraging and may be the way in which we will be able to defeat corporations (as Linux has done/is doing, described in Engestrom) and governments (e.g. the overthrowing of Estrada in the Philippines, p. 7 of Engestrom). SOS are very powerful, which is why corporations are emulating them. Corporations will fail in this effort, because SOS are by nature self-organizing, and corporations are hierarchical. As noted in Engestrom, SOS are unpredictable and uncontrollable, and corporations want control. You can’t have both.

    So I’m vey happy to see more and more scientists and knowledge workers in many disciplines taking note of SOS and their anarchic (“no ruler”) structure. This very organic way of organizing is the way of the future, as I see it.

    Thanks Joe, for a very interesting article.



  • Joe Corneli   May 5, 2011, 9:02 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   May 5, 2011, 4:56 p.m.

    Hi Jennifer:

    I dig the Engestrom stuff, but to expand on a question I wrote on your blog: how do you reconcile your preference for egalitarian, nonhierarchical, existence with things like the "80/20 rule" (where 80% of the people do 20% of the work, and vice versa)?  Don't these power law type structures form something resembling "natural hierarchies"?  For a related point, there's this: "Near decomposability and complexity" by Herbert Simon.  (I also added it to Zotero.)

    This of course doesn't mean I'm endorsing abuses of power (at least I hope not; that would be quite a jump!).  I am saying: it's very nice to know that systems self-organize, but that doesn't absolve humans of something like "responsibility" or "agency".

    A similar step back is what makes me appreciate Miranda Joseph's skepticism about "community".  For instance, if joining a given community means sacrificing one's personal identity, then this "community" is just as hierarchical as any corporation (with "the community" on top and all of its members on the bottom).

    I don't think it would be a particularly novel conclusion to suggest that in order to be a good member of a community (and, on the large scale, in order to build a healthy community or a viable commons or whatever word we want to use) that we should be well-individuated... individuals.  I added a paper by Hayles to Zotero that deals with something along these lines, especially in its first section.  Foucault's Technologies of the Self is related.

    I mention all of these things as someone who studies "online communities".  I just wish I had a vocabulary to talk about them that I felt more comfortable with!


  • Jennifer Claro   May 5, 2011, 11:27 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Joe Corneli   May 5, 2011, 9:02 p.m.


    Hi Joe,

    Foucault is amazing (the Panopticon is fascinating to me) and I haven’t read enough of him yet. I haven’t read the other papers you cited, but I will when I have time.

    Without having read them, I’d say who cares if 20% do most of the work? For example, you have x number of hard workers at Z community. There is y amount of work to be done. Would having x+1 or x+20 get y+1 or y+20 work done? Articles written by a small group of people seem to work well, but I’ve never seen a paper written by more than say 7 people, and even that is rare. In any group, there will always be a continuum from those who work very hard to those who do nothing, but maybe those who don’t have good reasons (like less time, less ability, etc.). Even if they don’t, I can’t see the reasoning for requiring someone to contribute if there is no need for them to.

    In contrast, in a group paper, if one person was seriously slacking off, I’d be cranky and we’d likely have to do something about it, but this is because that person is claiming to be doing something by adding his/her name to the list of authors. In an online community, the 80% who are doing 20% of the work are doing more of the consuming and less of the producing. As long as this does not adversely affect the group, who cares? Knowledge is free. It’s a renewable resource; there is no scarcity of the stuff. And I don’t see the 80/20 rule making a “natural hierarchy” because it is all volunteer. Anyone can start doing more work anytime. No one has a title saying Head of This or Chief of That, it’s all fluid. There are power struggles in all groups; I think it’s human nature. But it’s also human nature to try to rise above our hormones and work for the good of the group, whatever group that may be.

    I think that the fact that a certain number of people contribute fiercely to something means that they choose to do so of their own free will and that they derive satisfaction from it. That 80% do 20% of the work may mean that this is what they are capable of doing, or that the work that is getting done is already being covered, etc. I don’t see the 80% as slacking off, or ignoring their collective responsibility or something. They are perhaps legitimate peripheral participants, who would jump in if needed, say if a few of the 20% members doing the 80% of the work left.

    As well, there is collective (cognitive) responsibility (Marlene Scardamalia, perhaps we’ll discuss it in our Knowledge Building week) that is a part of any self-organizing community. Having no centralized control means that the control must be distributed across the members. Those who post more and do more work tend to get respect and appreciation, so there is some kind of reward for hard work, but do they get more control? It's possible, but I’d have to see studies done on this. But basically I think that a group of people who come together for a common goal (characteristic of most self-organizing group) will care more about reaching the goal than about who isn’t doing their x% of the work.

    Thank you so much Joe for the references and for your ideas – it’s very good to discuss things like this. As I wrote on the group etherpad, one of my goals is to situate SOS within the larger community infrastructure. So please do point out anything you think is of note, it is helping my understanding of this to evolve. I want cognitive conflict.

    One final point - I am not at all in favour of sacrificing personal identity, and I do not think one has to suppress individual needs in order to serve group needs. I would leave a group if I thought that there was some kind of group-think mentality that I had to pledge to. It’s the self-organizing principle that I am so interested in, and this would, in my mind, preserve and defend everyone’s independent identity. As I see them, self-organizing systems are all about freedom, not suppression.

    Thanks again,


  • Joe Corneli   May 6, 2011, 8:13 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   May 5, 2011, 11:27 p.m.

    Hi Jennifer:

    All-volunteer doesn't imply decentralized control.  And just because something is fairly decentralized doesn't mean it's all volunteer.  Consider Debian as an example: "Franchised Debian developers have exclusive rights to submit and remove packages of code from the Debian archives. Anyone can make code available for Debian, but, developer's decide on submissions, and make the actual uploads to the archive." (from Katheryn Sutter (CivicSense), a participant in last quarter's P2PU course on Open Governance and Learning, at  Linux might be self-organizing, but "Torvalds now has a team of lieutenants, nearly all of them employed by tech companies, that oversees development of top-priority projects" (from

    So with Debian, GNU/Linux, etc., there are hierarchies within the extant system, even if everything is in principle forkable.  Control here is very different from the power of compulsion, but it still exists.  People are free to fork (and on Github they're encouaged to do so, which I think is a nice terminological choice) -- but they can't just do whatever they like with the "consensus" resource created by the community.  It's the same on Wikipedia: if you don't adhere to some fairly strict norms, you can't edit the site.

    I think its norms like this that make (self-, or any) organization possible.  Without them its just chaos.  I'm not so sure that control is what's at stake in your earlier comments about corporations: I think it's a matter of what kinds of norms we like or don't like living with.  There are norms embodied in technologies and behaviours of all sorts.


  • Jennifer Claro   May 6, 2011, 4:32 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Joe Corneli   May 6, 2011, 8:13 a.m.


    Hi Joe,

    I didn’t say I was into chaos :) (chaos theory yes.) I don’t think that people should be able to do whatever they want to in learning communities, and I don’t think that volunteering implies decentralized control. I don’t think that most learning organizations really are self-organizing. And sometimes they start out as an SOS and then become hierarchical (some habits die hard :). My theory is that they will lose many of the advantages of being an SOS if hierarchies develop.

    It’s the self-organizing truly distributed ones I’m interested in. In an SOS, there may be some members who do more work and get more respect and may therefore carry more weight in the community. But as long as it’s flexible, and any member could take any position, it’s still decentralized, distributed control, and yes, this is what I am really interested in. Norms are fine! As long as anyone can contribute an idea anytime and it will be given consideration.

    Thanks for the Debina, Torvald etc. info.



  • Joe Corneli   May 6, 2011, 5:09 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   May 6, 2011, 4:32 p.m.

    It seems like we're narrowing in on a consensus view (which was there all along but from different perspectives, which is natural).  I wonder if any of this seems useful to other people in the course?

  • Jennifer Claro   May 7, 2011, 5:02 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Joe Corneli   May 6, 2011, 5:09 p.m.

    I don't know if anyone is interested in our discussion, but I bet anyone would find this video interesting (I did!) 

    RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

    It's related to what we have been discussing. Why would people spend oodles of their free time volunteering on systems like Linus, Apache, and Wikipedia? But that's not all... All kinds of interesting info packed in here.

    It's almost 11 minutes and well worth it. I found it because of a video Monica recommended called "The Empathic Civilization" (also interesting) and I can't wait to watch one called "The Internet in Society: Empowering or Censoring Citizens?" as this is a topic I am also very interested in. These videos are all on the same page as the above link.

    Check them out; they are really cool!



  • Joe Corneli   May 7, 2011, 7:45 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jennifer Claro   May 7, 2011, 5:02 a.m.

    I like that video a lot!  And in fact I'm pretty sure the images of employees being told "Go ahead, do something creative" went through my mind when reading your notes :).  Here's another one from the same series that I might like even better, but the two are really great in combination:

    RSA Animate - First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

    "Why is charity a basic constituent of our economy?"  Maybe it's not just that people feel guilty and so wish to do things like consume Fair Trade coffee.  Maybe a portion of "charity" is actually a donation of volunteer time to do something creative.  The concluding point of the video would still remain similar: if we just do isolated creative acts, that doesn't change the context much.

    But phrased this way, Zizek's point seems more contentious.  To bring Dan Pink's example of the person learning guitar back into it: maybe practicing guitar makes that person happier even when they're not playing guitar.  Maybe it translates into a job skill, or at least a way for them to entertain their friends.

    I think it is realistic that people are bringing together e.g. creativity and work in a lot of cases.  (Not everywhere, and that's good to keep in mind.)  Zizek seems to say "it's not enough" - but I'm less clear on what he thinks is enough.  It would be a good reading question for looking at the book with the same name as the talk.

    But anyway this seems to have diverged a lot from the theme of the course.

  • Monica Resendes   May 9, 2011, 6:41 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Joe Corneli   May 6, 2011, 8:13 a.m.

    The article about Linux you mentioned ended with the idea that Linux Inc. serves as a model for a new mode of collaboration for developing software that embodies an open-source motto "Give a little, take a lot" -- this quote made me think of a TedTalk presentation made by Matt Ridley called "when ideas have sex" where he talks about the history of trade and trade relationships (going waaaaaaay back) and where the same principle "give a little, take a lot" is equally applicable.

  • Monica Resendes   April 25, 2011, 5:04 p.m.


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    Some prompts/questions for Wk 1. Feel free to respond to these, or, better yet, post your own! To tie this into the assessment framework, we could create another "Questioner" Badge, for those who would like to pose general quesitons to the community...

    The questions below are posed with specific relation to our own course:

    #1. Wenger writes that "participation 'refers not just to local events of engagement in certain activities with certain people, but to a more encompassing process of being active participants in the practices of social communities and constructing identities in relation to these communities'" (1998: 4).  
    - What types of established practices are we either explicitly or implicitly relying upon in order to create an #introcscl learning community? How do we begin to talk about identity in the context of an 8 week, online course?

    #2 . Can we consider ourselves (the #introcscl core group + followers) a community of practice?

    #3. In his book, Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age, Bereiter argues that "situated cognition theory falls short when it comes to handling the status of knowledge once it is pried loose from practice" (57). In other words, the ideas of 'situated cognition' and 'communities of practice' have helped to conceptualize and articulate how knowledge is constituted in social relations and cultural tools (particularly with respect to slowly evolving and traditional communities or groups); however, they do not deal adequately with the abstract knowledge - the "less situated" type (as Bereiter describes, "knowledge there for the taking, by anyone who has access to it and who can make something of it")  (55). These ideas are also cannot be applied adequately to contemporary contexts that are characterized by rapid change and fluctuation.
    - Is the model of a 'community of practice' relevant or useful when describing or defining a P2P "study group" like this one? What components can be useful to draw from when considering course design or assessment strategies? What concepts might be need to build or even abandon?



    Bereiter, C. (2002) Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age. Mahwah, NJ: Routledge.

    Wenger, Etienne (1998) 'Communities of Practice. Learning as a social system', Systems Thinker, Accessed April 25, 2011.

  • Stian Haklev   April 26, 2011, 9:33 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Monica Resendes   April 25, 2011, 5:04 p.m.

    The Bereiter book that Monica linked to is a great read. We won't get to Knowledge Building until later in this course, but if you cannot wait, here is an online version of the whole book (missing chapter 10, curiously enough).