Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Chaos of Learning EDUC 8842 Module 3 Post

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

Eridon, C. (2012, January 3). 8 universal traits of a winning social presence. HubSpot Blog. Retrieved from

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

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

Wenger, E. (2007). Communities of practice: Learning, meanings, and identity. New York: Cambridge University Press.

technorati tags:

Where I commented on the Module 3 blog assignments:

·         Shannon’s blog
·         Luke’s blog
·         Olufemi’s blog
·         Brandi’s blog
·         Marvin’s blog
·         Daniel’s blog
·         Lauramae’s blog
·         Sue’s blog
·         Joshua’s blog


sendkathy said...

A few things come to mind. Isn't it possible that making-meaning only appears to be a productive activity? Does all meaning have intrinsic or extrinsic value to society? At what point is an online community to too insular? How can online communities receive external validation, a view of how they look, sound, act to the outside world? I have been enjoying your scholarly reflections. You have me thinking.

Durff said...

Thanks Kathy! So is ETT validated by anyone? Does that mean JL will validate my parking?

candice.jones2 said...

Hi Lisa,

You bring up the use of rubrics for assessment and I have always liked them for project based learning and I can also see how there use in an online community would be valuable. Also, thanks for sharing the link to the DuFour website, I see that #4 on her list has to do with Harold Gardner's 7 Levers for Changing Someone's Mind, I intend to research this phenomena further.

sendkathy said...

Ever the humorist, a validation of your wit!

Learning2 said...

The points that you explained in your blog were enlightening. However, one can not overlook the fact that collaborative learning has its unique challenges and opportunities for all academic levels.

Durff said...

Seane, Chevalier (2007) discusses the powerful influence that informal group norms have in the workplace. Transfer this concept into the educational arena. The influence of informal class groups over which the instructor has no control exert pressure on the formal collaborative teams, which the instructor sets up. It is challenging to guide the dynamics of both groups in order to achieve curricular objectives. Classrooms that do not include collaborative learning have traditionally been lectured based courses with assessment of the student's ability to memorize using their short term memory.
According to Etienne Wenger one of the values of communities of practice is they connect learning to action. Siemens talks extensively about his learning theory (even denying it is a theory) connectivism.
So yes, I agree there are challenges. I also believe that in order to engage the students in our classrooms, we need to move to collaborative learning. In the 1970s, Robert Slavin wrote about using cooperative grouping to increase student achievement, and he had not a computer in sight. He emphasized that successful groups had both a group goal and individual accountability. These factors still hold.

Chevalier, R. (2007). A manager's guide to improving workplace performance. New York, NY: Amacom.
Serrat, O. (2008). Building Communities of Practice. Knowledge Solutions. Manila, Philippines: ADB. Retrieved from
Slavin, R. E. (n.d). Synthesis of Research on Cooperative Learning. Educational Leadership, 38(8), 655.

-M. Fuller said...


You include Corey Eridon's blog in your post, which pertains to social presence with regard to business. Do you feel that the 8 practices are also critical to K-12 public education/university level/grad school? Some of the concepts (such as interact with people and consistent updating) seem applicable in all settings, while others I have trouble assimilating into K-12 public education. Lead generation, for example, seems pointless for K-12 public education, though has applicability at the university level. One reason I ask is that though I appreciate online education and it collaborative nature at the university level, I have trouble seeing it work the same way for K-12 public ed. I'm just trying to wrap my brain around effective online education for general K-12 students.

Durff said...

Marvin, You just generated a lead ! Check out all the elementary and secondary collaborative projects at

Luke Bilger said...


Peer ratings are valuable tools in collaborative projects. These alone, however, are not enough. I agree that our social interactions are essential to learning and making meaning out of chaos.

As a side note, I find Online collaboration much easier to assess than face-to-face.

brandi said...

Great post! Your discussion was very insightful. Keep up the good work.