Friday, August 1, 2014

...But not everybody has a smartphone

The most frequently asked question (faq - is a really good abbreviation for it) that gets put to me during any discussion on Rhizomatic learning, is "But not everybody has a smartphone?"
To which I get tempted more and more to reply, but anybody who is serious about their own learning should take the trouble and get one.  At less than R700 on prepaid it is not a bad option.
Now Arthur Goldstuck points to a "Massive increase in SA smartphone purchases".
This is hardly surprising, if one considers that Moore's law observes that computer power doubles every two years.
Goldstuck points out that this growth in purchases is driven by apps, most  noticeably WhatsApp. He continues, though, that the tendency of apps to need constant updating is bandwidth hungry and that consumers, therefore, even though they may have the phone, will be hard pressed to buy the data.  Nevertheless there is a tendency for cities to provide free wifi in selected areas. 
So, the answer to the question remains. Every student should have a smart phone.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I have just completed the Hour of Code

Eureka.
So I got the answer to the question that has been bugging me for all this time.
If the system is the one that learns, then what should we be teaching?
And as Andrew Lloyd Weber's Evita pointed out so poignantly, "The answer was there all the time":
So, to put it differently  If there's an app for everything, then what do kids still need to learn"
And the answer?  They need to learn how to put it all together.  The solution: CODING.
Victor Ngubeni stated on Facebook that he had just completed the Hour of Code.  So I thought it was a good idea and shared it on.  Then Niret Grobler commented that it was Awesome. So I thought I might try it too. And was it AWESOME.  In one hour I played "Angry Birds" and programmed a Zombi to eat a Sunflower.
I earned six "Mastery Trophies" and this beautiful certificate.  I learnt how to move, turn, repeat, use an "if" statement, and use an "If then" statement.  I intuitively understood for the first time why the "Go-to" statement is harmful, and I learnt a whole lot about my own behaviour as a learner.
In the process I interrupted myself two or three times to read WhatsApp messages from home (I am in Alaska for the #HETL14 conference) drink, coffee, etc. 
So, I learnt so much about 21st Century learning.  
I have never studied computer science.  In 1983 I did a six-hour course in programming a Commodore 64 in Basic. Yet those little bits of skill were enough to help me understand the logic behind just about every device I have ever had to interact with.  It made it easy for me to understand the concept of writing macros in Word or to create spreadsheets in Word and finally it helped me understand how to use IFTTT to navigate the maze of apps on my phone and to get them to work together.
The problem with the Rhizome, is that it is a maze. It has many many branches, most of which lead you nowhere, but many of which lead to aMAZING results.  And the point with programming, as is pointed out by the introductory video of The Hour of Code, is that it allows even a robot to navigate a maze.
So in our multilingual world and our multi-device world there is one language that we all need to learn to write - the language of code.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How to be smarter than your smart phone

QR Code for this site

The final confirmation of the conspiracy was when the trees in the Company's Garden acquired QR Codes, and the City of Cape Town, together with some partner institutions also provide free Wi-Fi access to people who wish to read these codes.  Although there was some political discussion about the extent to which the digital divide was really being addressed, there was complete silence about the fact that the users of the Wi-Fi and the OR codes were not the chief beneficiaries of this technology.  The chief beneficiaries were the providers of the codes and the access. While visitors to the Garden would acquire some information about the trees, it is the trees that are collecting information about the users - and this information is much more valuable than that Encephalartos Princeps Zameaceae have reproductive organs in the form of cones. The trees are discovering who are accessing this information. When are they accessing the information? What devices are they using to access the information? What routes are they taking through the garden? Which trees are viewed more than others? What other information are they accessing through the wireless network? To what extent is this information relevant to the trees? What patterns of use are emerging in the Garden? And you thought you were just finding out what tree it was. The moral of the story is that by acquiring a simple QR code, the trees have joined the Internet of Things, and the trees have become generators of information, rather than just providers of information.
    The stated beneficiaries of the Wi-Fi-enabled trees are, among others, school groups who will come on field trips and learn about the trees.  So here it is where it becomes interesting.  What will they be doing once they get back to the classroom. Will they be writing the traditional essay - my trip to the Company's Garden? Might they be required to produce a slideshow of the trees they had visited, or, heaven forbid, might they be given a test to give the botanical name of the Kei Cycad? Here then is the first challenge. If the information is already on my phone - I just have to point it at the tree - then why would I need to learn (read memorize) that information?
    It is not just the QR code, however, that has connected things to the Internet. All over the world Geocachers are squirreling away little boxes of trinkets and connecting them to the Internet via GPS coordinates. This map shows the caches within walking distance of the Hilton Hotel Anchorage. So, my whole world is be-speckled with little boxes that collect information about me.


The value of Geo-caching for education is clear. Numerous sites of historical or geographical importance have already been cached, and the planters of the caches usually take some trouble with providing relevant information - more often than not copied directly from Wikipedia. Teachers use these caches as way-point on field trips, they hide their own caches for students to find, or even encourage students to plan their own caches!
     But it is not just things that are getting permanently connected to the Internet. So are people. In your pocket you carry roughly a million times more capacity than the first IBM PC of 1981, and that XT computer had eight times more capacity than the Apollo 11 Guidance Computer. And most of the time the computer in your pocket is connected to the Internet, and sending back information about what you are doing. Then we use it to send text messages.
    More importantly, though, is that the phone in your pocket has unlimited capacity when it is connected to the cloud, Most of us enter the cloud through the Chrome gates of Google
        This is more than just a blog. It is also the text of my Keynote at the Social Media in Higher Education conference, Johannesburg  8, 9 May 2014.  In this talk I am trying to use a "Flipped Classroom" approach, using cell phones as response devices.  So here is the first exercise.  
Follow this link and list what you consider the "Trends in 21st Century Learning"
Here's a word cloud or the responses till 2014-06-02
You cannot use your Android phone without it, and you'd be silly to use any other smartphone without it. Once you have logged into Google Chrome on all your devices, they start discussing your movements among one another. When your phone alarm wakes you, Google Now will gives you a weather update and tells you how long it will take to drive to work.  It will even remember where you parked your car.  If you search for a place with Google Chrome on your desktop, Google Now will alert you on your phone to say how long it will take to get there.  If you drive there using Waze as a GPS navigator, not only will it let you bypass heavy traffic, it will allow you to see which of your friends are travelling, and even let them send you pic-up requests so that you can collect them on your way. If you run with the phone in your pocket, fitness trackers such as Endomondo will trace your route on a map, report on your progress every kilometer, tell you if you are ahead or behind your target, and even tell you which of your friends are running. And if running alone does not make you thin, a calorie counter such as Myfitnesspal will calculate how many calories you need to eat per day to achieve your target weight, and allow you to record every morsel you consume, either by entering the data manually, or by scanning the bar-code on the box of the product you eat or drink; and it will even communicate with Endomondo to give you credit for any calories you burnt on your run! Many of these apps connect with one another, and of course all of them with Google and Facebook. So, once again, while you think you are the one who benefits, actually, think of all the lovely data you are generating... When all this has you dead tired, then just put the phone on the mattress next to your pillow, and it will graph your sleep cycles, and ensure your alarm adjusts to wake you at the optimal level of your sleep cycle. Of course, all the information that all the apps collect, goes into the cloud, and that is where they get aggregated and disaggregated.
   Now here's where it gets interesting for me as a professional student of the learning process.  It takes us back to my post of July 5 2013, where the question is, if I can now navigate with friends, see traffic jams 10 kilometers ahead, and avoid them, really lose weight and keep it off, achieve a personal best with the assistance of a coach, then I have learnt. But what did I learn, how to launch an app? And, as I said previously, the answer is, no, it is not I who learnt, it is the system, the Rhizome, that has learnt, and it is all of us who benefit.
   Then there are two new questions: What should we be teaching in a world where everything is learning? How should we be teaching it?e
   I answer to the first question many Universities are developing a set of "Graduate Attributes" that they believe should characterize their graduates.  The move towards attributes rather than knowledge resonates with the well-established tacit knowledge we all have that "Good programmers teach themselves to code", or, for that matter, good writers teach themselves to write, etc. So our jobs seem to be to teach our graduates how to achieve those attributes. Samantha Thomas (2014) talks of the "Semantic Web and Personalization". She identifies two identities created by students working in a Web 3.0 environment: a personal and a narrative identity.  The personal identity is built upon sharing, openness and collaboration, while the narrative identity is one of personalization and automation, as we adapt to our ever-changing personal ecology. Then, of course, there are any number of websites that tell us of the characteristics of 21st Century learners, such as these 21 Characteristics of 21st Century learners from Dr Susan Elaine Eaton, and these from the DCS literacy framework.
   Closer to the answer to the second question may be Terry Heick's (2014) teachthrought on the eight things that students may learn in the future. These are Literacy, Patterns, Systems, Design, Citizenship, Data, Research and Philosophy.
   I believe that the answer to the second question, "How should we be teaching 21st Century Skills" lies in Project-based learning  (PBL), as described by the Buck Institute (BIE), who define PBL as "a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge". BIE identify eight essential elements: Significant content, 21st Century competencies, In-depth enquiry, a Driving question, the Need to know, Voice and choice, Critique and revision, and a Public audience.
    Once such a problem has been defined and the problem-based learning brief is being developed, one must consider the channels of delivery. It is here that the concept of blended learning comes into its own.  But what has to be blended? Terry Hick identifies Six channels of 21st Century learning: Community interaction, Absraction and creativity, Media literacy, Play, Self-direction and Dialogic response. So, How would you rate the various channels?
Creative Commons Licence

   

Friday, July 5, 2013

Rhizonomy - My new favourite word

For some time now I have been wondering what sort of learning we are obtaining through social software. To be sure, when I do Geocaching I learn a little bit more about my environment, but it is nothing that I would not have learnt if there were a notice board next to the feature where the cache was buried.
At the same time, what am I learning when I use Waze to navigate? If one defines learning as "to be able to do something afterwards that you could not do before" then owning a GPS device means that I can now reach a destination, which I could not do before. I cannot read a map. I never could. Besides, reading a map while driving is dangerous.  Now, with a GPS, I can reach a destination safely without having to read the map.  So, I learnt to navigate without having to navigate.  HOWEVER, with a social application such as Waze, other users also input data into the system, and now I can avoid congestion on roads that I cannot see.  Waze knows where the congestion is because other road users have reported it. At the same time, when I report congestion (or by simply driving with Waze open) other Wazers can also avoid congestion.  But here's the question - ok so now I can do something that I have never been able to do before - I have almost developed a sixth sense - but what have I learnt.  And then I read Steve Wheeler's post and I realized it's not what have I learnt. It is what have we learnt.  And the "we" are three entities. It's me, it's other road users, and it is Waze itself.  Here's where Learning 3.0 becomes clever.  Learning is now integrated in to the whole system - it's not just the teachers and the learners who are learning, it is also the supporting technologies that are learning.
Google knows what I am searching for before I have even finished typing the search string - because it knows what I searched for before, and it knows what other people around me are searching, and so it can predict.  And on my phone Google even knows where I am and predicts where I want to go next.  And so the learning becomes a "cloud" of learning, or as Steve puts it, a "hive" of learning that includes the technology.

So, thank you Steve Wheeler for introducing me to your new word, rhizonomy:
Learning 3.0 will be user and machine generated, and will in all respects be represented in what I will call  'rhizonomies'. The rhizonomic organisation of content will emerge from chaotic, multi-dimensional and multi-nodal organisation of content, giving rise to an infinite number of possibilities and choices for learners. As learners choose their own self determined routes through the content, so context will change and new nodes and connections will be created in what will become a massive, dynamic, synthetic 'hive mind'. Here I do not refer to any strong artificial intelligence model of computation, but rather a description of the manner in which networked, intelligent systems respond to the needs of individual learners within vast, ever expanding communities of practice. Each learner will become a nexus of knowledge, and a node of content production. Extending the rhizome metaphor further, learners will act as the reproduction mechanisms that sustain the growth of the semantic web, but will also in turn be nurtured by it. Learning 3.0 will be a facet of an ongoing, limitless symbiotic relationship between human and machine. (Wheeler, 2012) 
So now, back to the Geocaching example.  Through Geocaching I am learning more about the area where the cache is.  But, actually, the area is learning more about me too.  While visiting Bloemfontein last month I woke up to the roar of lions.  Yes, I thought, this is Africa, but lions in the middle of town?  Or was I just imagining things.  Then I opened my Geocaching app and realized that I was right next to Bloemfontein Zoo. And, very close to the Lion's cage, there is a cache.  So I paid my R27 entrance fee, and found two caches.
So, my learning is obvious.  But wait, there's more.  The owner of the cache learnt about me, and the Geocaching community learnt about my caching behaviour, and the zoo learnt that having caches inside could potentially earn them R27 per enthusiastic geocacher.
And that is the mind boggling thing about Learning 3.0 - the integration of machine learning and human learning. STUPENDOUS.
Steve Wheeler's Learning Grid

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Oom Frans

Tomorrow we will bid a last farewell to my late Dad's elder brother, Oom Frans.  After my dad and my brother passed away, he was my most closest and most senior paternal relative, and our Pater Familias.
I last saw him at Oom Chris's 75th birthday, when he congratulated him on having grown up nicely, and having married the right wife.  I last spoke to him just before Christmas when he gave me some useful information and telephone numbers of the "Fish" relatives in Cape Town.
To me Oom Frans was the "GLS" model of my dad.  Essentially the same, but with electric windows, leather seats and air conditioning.  And I don't use the motor car metaphor lightly. My earliest memory of him is of his family driving away in a grey "Up and Down" Citroen - a car that so fascinated me that I bought an old one for my own son at the beginning of this year.  When they returned from their UK posting in the early seventies, they brought along an Austin 11/55 just like ours, but theirs had "inertia reel" seatbelts, and a heated rear window...  When they returned from Germany, he had a BMW like my grandfather's, but it had metallic paint. When they returned from Greece, they had a small Mercedes 190 - the only one in Pretoria.  Then things went really pear-shaped and he bought a Chrysler Neon, but he redeemed himself by finally getting a Subaru with a bigger racing fin at the back than any other car I'd seen.
From the beginning there was something fascinating about him and his family.  Their house in Berea Street had push-button light switches, not levers like ours. They had a dome clock with a pendulum that went round and round, and a rocking horse that you wouldn't believe...
And then they went away.  For six years - my whole primary school life, he and his family were a newspaper cutting in Ouma Bunty's flat at Talisman 116.

My fondest memories of Oom Frans and his family are from two or three amazing junior highschool years when I visited them every Saturday. When "Nefie" and I cycled through Brooklyn on the Moulton and the Chopper, when Frans Junior (then Frannie) sang all sorts of songs like "Have you ever gone past an Aston Martin when it's standing still? You will probably find it's talking to a Mini, grill to grill."  And Carel had a toy model of Lady Penelope's pink Rolls Royce!
Then there were the in-between years when they were away in Germany and Greece. But we reconnected when they returned and they were guests of honour at just about every house party we had at 146 Hugh street.
 After my father passed away, I really got to appreciate the time he gave me in discussing the old days.  Here in Cape Town he took us to Bantry Bay and showed us where Grandfather Fish's house was, and showed us where they swam in the sea and tried to warm it up with boiling water!!!
I re-read Grandfater Fish's "Autobiography of a Counterjumper" after seeing his painting in the City Hall; and then I came across the lovely little piece "An evening with my grandson" The baby in that story is the man who passed away - what a sense of continuity.
He was also the driver behind the "Familiebrief" in which the five siblings, (and later the four siblings and my Mom) shared their weekly doings, thus keeping such a strong connection despite their huge geographic dispersion.
And now he's gone, and so is a significant link to my past. But he will stay in my memory.
An in automotive spirit I salute him like Renault saluted the Citi Golf:
Respect.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Fast Forward to Leadership in Higher Education

Ok. So as is to be expected from online courses, I missed two weeks.  In all fairness, though, I did read the course outcomes and glance through the prescribed articles.  The Big Data stuff was fascinating.
I will be returning to the two missed weeks in due course, but there's no point in catching them up now. I will jump ahead and concentrate on this week's topic - Academic Leadership. I must preamble this discussion by pointing out that I find it very exposing. Here I am writing about academic leadership. By virtue of my appointment as a Dean, I am an academic leader. But am I a good one? Am I an average one? Am I a bad one? I don't know. I have no real way of knowing. What is the benchmark? I do well in my performance reviews with my line head. Much of what I suggest gets done. Some people call me a charismatic leader, others call me an autocratic leader, others call me weak. Yet as a Faculty we are progressing beyond what could be expected of us, given the constraints of sitting across five buildings after the merger, and being unable to consolidate at the speed which we would like to see.  What progress have we made, if any? How do we even know it is progress?
I will take as the starting point of my discussion the article by Paul Portney in the Washington Post entitled "The leadership vacuum in higher education" (31 Oct 2011).  Portney had been a dean for almost six years, and I am now entering the sixt year of my deanship. Written exactly a year ago the article resonates very strongly with me.
A number of elements come to mind - resistance to change, lack of leadership training, lack of succession planning, and the nature of the beast.
I really like the response given to Portney when he complained of resistance to change “Duh. You’re in a profession in which you and your colleagues celebrate graduation by putting on the same silly hats and robes that were worn a thousand years ago. What the hell did you expect?”
That and the fact that we tend to continue teaching the way we were taught, are two of the key problems.  Interestingly enough, though many of us want to change - we just don't know how.  We have to teach the way we were taught because we have not experienced any other way.  The second key driver to this inertia is fear - and particularly fear of failure.  Except, the nice word for this is "risk aversion".  So here's the thing.  We expect students to learn from their mistakes, but we penalise them for their mistakes.  So they parrot us, and they don't learn, and they do well.  So obviously we ourselves don't want to make mistakes, because, since we don't forgive our students, they won't forgive us...  And the madness continues, yet we all email one another links to the over-exposed Ted-talk by Sir Ken Robinson, "Bring on the learning revolution". But we all expect the other ones to lead the change.
On the other hand.  In the Faculty I have noticed some really cool inititatives of cross-curricular teaching, interdepartmental collaboration and even inter-institutional collaboration. What is needed now is one great push to see how we can integrate these pilot studies into the main stream.  The initiatives of the department of Applied Design to investigate ways to have a unified first-year is most encouraging.  But I believe we are not moving fast enough.  Then on Sunday I saw this amazing TED talk by Shimon Schocken: The self-organizing computer course. It is premised on the concept that academics should not be teaching. We should be creating an environment in which learners learn. This, coupled by the term I learnt in Cyprus last month, Heutagogy has my head spinning.  I want to create a landslide.  I have already identified a number of key innovators in the Faculty. I am going to call them up and we are going to start a hugely disruptive set of interventions to create not just an environment in which students can learn, but to create a culture of individually-directed learning.  So here's where popular culture comes in. I have to work according to Malcolm Gladwell's The tipping pointI already have mavens, connectors and salespeople. I just have to align them and make things happen.
So then, on to the lack of training.  I must say that I would guess that at the level of a dean or a vice Chancellor one should be selected based on leadership skills, rather than be trained for it. Nevertheless, the only training that I have had since becoming a dean was a session billed as managing performance, which ended up being a training session in labour legislation, concentrating on how to fire people.  Sad, deeply sad.  Having done half an MBA as well as a "Junior Leaders'" course in the defence force, as well as an education diploma, I would say that, at least at the level of soft skills training for leadership, I have had enough. But what I lack most in training is systems training - training in how the University works. No such training exists. I have to learn all these things by accident.  Here is a matter of immersive learning - learning from my mistakes. Of course, what makes it more difficult is that the university itself is still learning.  Many of the systems that I would like to understand have not been developed yet - or are in the process of being changed.  What has been very useful for me was to develop a series of "Faculty training days" where the whole faculty, including the dean, get briefed on the systems inside and outside of the university.  We ask the key people in administrative positions to tell us how their systems work, and then we try to follow these procedures.  Finally, I am a dedicated autodidact - I teach myself, which, after all, is why I joined this mooc.
Of course I have lack of succession planning to thank for my appointment.  As a result of the merger there was no clear successor tot he previous dean, but even more, there was a feeling that the university specifically wanted an impartial outsider to take charge.  I have, however, in the past five years identified at least four people who might well be the next dean. And I have worked closely with them to ensure that they gain institutional, national and international exposure so that they would be able to take over seamlessly from me.  But this succession planning goes further throughout the faculty. I have also begun to find shadow heads of departments to ensure smooth transisions there as well.
When I speak of the nature of the beast I refer to Fred Mulder's recent keynote at the ICEL conference in Groningen, Netherlands, where he pointed out that there are three competing forces in higher education, these are access, efficiency and quality assurance.  As you concentrate on the one, the other two necessarily miss out.  At our Institution this quandary leads to a schitzophrenic beast.  While we strongly want to be one of the most accessible institutions in the Western Cape, nevertheless we have to do so on a very strained budget, and at the same time a relentless sequence of quality assurance interventions by the Department of Higher Education is sapping our energy.  The leadership challenge in this case lies in aliging these things.  How can we streamline or processes to ensure efficiency, while at the same time improving quality so that we can increase access.  And it is here where, once again, Heutagogy becomes exciting.  We must create a multi-faceted learning environment that will enable a culture of learning so that students can take charge of their own learning.
And that will require mega change.
 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The week that wasn't

The most important element that all MOOCs have in common is their incredibly high drop-out rate.
So that's why I promised myself I would NOT drop out.
So last week I went trough the required readings on Sunday night, but pretty quickly I discovered that there were simply too many of them.
The theme of week two was: Net Pedagogies: New models for teaching and learning
However the University of Central Florida's Blended Learning Toolkit is certainly one of those sites that I will be visiting again and again.
Once again there are three prescribed learning activities:
  1. Map what you are hearing to your institutional context. What parts are relevant to your institution?
  2. What might be your role in moving your school to a new model?
  3. Write a dialog/argument you would make to sell the administration on the idea of moving to a new model
Assignment 1
In terms of the institutional context the most important lesson from this module lies in Cavenah's (2011) defensive definition of "Blended learning": "Blended courses provide much of the flexibility and convenience of an online course while retaining the benefits of the face-to-face classroom experience".

So as far as the Faculty of Informatics and Design is concerned this is really what has been happening, particularly in the work done in the Department of Architecture.  They are following two models.  Firstly they extend the studio to the students' homes by supporting them via Facebook, and secondly they take the studio into the field in their Design Build activities, and then replace the conventional classroom-based briefing and support, by communication on Facebook.
In Public Relations the traditional "current awareness" lecturing has been replaced by a Twitter feed, and in Industrial Design students make videos to replace essays on field trips.

BUT SO MUCH MORE CAN BE DONE.

Wayne Coghlan sent me this excellent link to "Colour Theory for Everyone". Now here's the thing.  With such an EXCELLENT online resource WHY are we still teaching it the old way?  All we need to do is to develop an excercise for students to develop their own artefacts based on what they learnt on the site, and that's it.
The trick with blended learning is to do it in such a way as to maximise the LEARNING of the students by giving them learning tasks (real learning tasks, as opposed to "busy work") while minimising the work of the instructor by making such tasks "self-assessing".  By self assessing I mean that once the task has been completed, we will know that the student has achieved the learning outcome, because without that outcome having been acheived the student would not have been able to do the task.

Assignment 2
My role in moving the Faculty to a new model will lie in putting more pressure on innovative teaching. I was lucky in that Jolanda and Hermie decided to do their doctoral studies under my supervision, and so they are using the new pedagogies.  The problem lies in the fact that most of us teach the way we were taught. And not everyone was lucky enough to be taught by Renate Lippert at Masters' level.  So althouth many of the Faculty staff really want to change their pedagogy, and recognise the need to, they lack the knowhow and first-hand experience of how to do it.
So with our current "tablet project" I am planning to do exactly that - let them learn by experience.
We had our first tablet day a few Saturdays ago. Everyone brought their tablets along. But just about nobody could use them. Many had not learnt the interface. Nobody had set it up to work on the University Internet, and the University Firewall had not been opened to Android Applications. So it was pretty hectic.  But we learnt BY EXPERIENCE - that it may well be necessary to spend one session with students setting up their technology, and then another session teaching them how to use the technology something that we may well have omitted had we jumped straight into teaching with the new technology.
At the same time during "software week" a few weeks ago it was again brought to my attention that we spend an inordinate amount of time in a lab teaching students which buttons to press to achieve what, when we actually know that firstly good programmers teach themselves, and secondly there are Youtube videos and Queston and Answer blogs that teach the stuff much better than we can.

So next year I will be spending quite a bit of time with curriculum officers and staff generally interrogating the way we teach.  My secretary has already begun to set up meetings.

Assignment 3
This is the easy one. The administration has already bought into the idea. It is the academic staff who are lagging behind.  Nevertheless it may be a good idea to persuade administration to look at incentivising the move to new technologies and new pedagogies because, at least in the initial stages, they simply are more time consuming.  Consider the simple task of grading assignments.  If they are handed in on paper, you open them and grade them.  HOWEVER, if they are submitted through the elearning portal, a few things need to be done.  You have to log into the portal.  That means you have to find your password and hope that it has not been changed by the automated password expiry system.  Then if you are lucky and you get logged in, then you have to download each assignment into a directory.  This could take about 30 seconds per assignment.  Then you have to open each assignment and grade it using the "insert comment" feature.  Again this opening, inserting comments and saving could take a few seconds.  So, if you are teaching one or two, or even 10 students it doesn't really matter. But now when your class gets to 60, and you spend one minute downloading, opening, saving and uploading each assignment, then you spend 60 minutes doing busy work - work that has to be done by you, but that does not add any value.  So, that's an hour down the drain that you could have spent on getting your research output done, but it is an hour that was hidden inside of each of the assignments that had to be downloaded, opened, commented, saved and uploaded.
Now, even worse. If it were done on paper I could take it home and grade it while sitting on the bed.  If I don't have a laptop and a fast Internet connection at home, I have to do this at the office.
If administrtation does not see that the type of work has changed, and if admin does not compensate staff for their extra time, and for their extra bandwidth, and even for their extra equipment, then we have far to go.

Of course, the secondary objective (or maybe the primary objective) of my participation in this MOOC is to learn about them. So I have to report now on my learning so far.

What I am learning about MOOCs

The most important lesson that I have learnt from this Mooc is the same lesson that I keep on learning about online learning. It is about a mistake that I keep on making, and it is about a mistake that I keep warning my own stuents against.
The problem with learning on the Internet generally, has become one of too MUCH information, rather than too little information.
So what is making this particular course hard for me, is to decide which piece to distill for myself.
I realize that, as a constructivist and a post-modernist, I tend to do exactly what the designer of this mooc has done.  Give the learners as much information as you can, and then suggest to them that they contextualise it to their circumstances.  The advantage of that is that every learner therefore tailor makes his or her own learning.  The problem, of course, lies in deciding what is important, and in structuring it.  And maybe that is the job of the instructional designer. To help the learner navigate this world with too much information.
The analogy here would be for an instuctor to explain to a student of keyboard instruments that the note hanging from the bottom of the five staves is called D and that it corresponds with the piano key directly above the keyhole. The white key between the two black keys (as oppose to the set of three black keys on either side of the pair)  That piano key is called D. It is easy to remember because it is the D key, D for Donkey with two black ears.
Now, once you know the D key, as you go op one position, either onto the line or between the next, so you move one key up. And if you get to a "hash tag" in front of the key, you play the next black note instead.  And that's how easy it is. Now you can play anything on the piano that you like.
And that's why it is hard to learn to play the piano on your own.
And that is why it is hard to stay focused on a resource-based learning course.