George Siemens said, “Chaos is the breakdown of predictability, evidenced in complicated arrangements that initially defy order. Unlike constructivism, which states that learners attempt to foster understanding by meaning making tasks, chaos states that meaning exists – the learner's challenge is to recognize the patterns that appear to be hidden. Meaning-making and forming connections between specialized communities are important activities” (Change. MOOC, 2011).
Therefore, while chaos is involved in connecting the dots on the path to learning, our online communities affect our learning as well. Siemens echoes the thoughts of Hurst and Thomas when he discusses the importance of trust in collaborative environments. Without trusting that our collaborative team members will do their share of the teamwork, we lose that sense of trusting in their social presence online. A social presence, much like your digital footprint, defines who you are. Most currently, the term is used to refer to one’s online presence as in Corey Eridon’s blog, 8 Universal Traits of a Winning Social Presence.
Palloff and Pratt remind us that education is a social activity when they say, “who we are as social beings drives learning” (2007, p.26). This can apply online or offline and involves whether we do what we say, treat others well, or are trustworthy.
So if learning online is both chaotic and relies on the social presence of collaborative members, how is a teacher to assess the learning taking place? Sylvia Tolisano suggests using a process of reflection with 3rd grade students in order to connect to their prior learnings. This fits in with Siemens idea that, “learning is the process of creating networks” (2006, p.29).
Palloff and Pratt (2005) bring up the use of rubrics to assess online collaborative learning. They further suggest on page 48 that peers do the assessing. In using rubrics this way in K12, I found students are much harder on themselves than I would be and they encourage each other towards excellence in their collaborative tasks. If a student is reluctant, Becky DuFour suggests several things to do with professionals, which also relate to students, especially her items under #4. She lists using MI Theory, providing research on why collaborative work is relevant to a students’ future life, and using authentic learning.
As current pedagogy continues to move towards collaborative environments, Siemens reminds us,“What we know is less important than our capacity to continue to learn more.”
DuFour, B. (2008, February 14). Moving from a tradition of isolation to a culture of collaboration. AllthingsPLC. Retrieved from http://www.allthingsplc.info/wordpress/?p=58
Eridon, C. (2012, January 3). 8 universal traits of a winning social presence. HubSpot Blog. Retrieved from http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/30447/8-Universal-Traits-of-a-Winning-Social-Presence.aspx
Hurst, D. & Thomas, J. (2008). Developing team skills and accomplishing team projects online. In T. Anderson (Ed.), The theory and practice of online learning (pp.441-472). Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press.
Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2005). Collaborating online: Learning together in community. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Siemens, G. (2011, October 25). Change MOOC. Retrieved from http://change.mooc.ca/post/290
Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing knowledge. S.l: s.n..
Siemens, G. (2003, October 17). Learning ecology, communities, and networks: Extending the classroom. Elearnspace: everything elearning. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/learning_communities.htm
Wenger, E. (2007). Communities of practice: Learning, meanings, and identity. New York: Cambridge University Press.