Connectivism at the Blackboard Users Conference

Last week I spoke at the Eighth Annual Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference (metaphors on a postcard!). The theme of the event was Connectivism and suggested reading prior to the event was George Siemen’s paper ‘Connectivism: a learning theory for a digital age’. I opened with a quote from Dave Cormier’s blog:

Many of us have taken a huge leap this year from the dungeons of our physical existence up to the light and wonder of connectivism. Each of us has had the wonderful experience of having hundreds of people send us a message in a hundred ways to in some way interact with what they’re doing. Each of us has also had the awful experience of having hundreds of people send us a message in a hundred ways to in some way interact with what they’re doing. Connecting is the only way we can succeed in the world of edtech.

The conference was a good example of connectivism, there were a lot of people with the same kinds of issues and a variety of solutions, and they were connecting and sharing. I know that there will be a few people who read this blog who, perhaps, aren’t that fond of Blackboard, but that shouldn’t colour our perceptions of the people out there that are having to use it and make the best of it. And the best of it was what I think I saw at the conference. There were several good presentations/discussions around how blackboard could fit with connectivism and what that might look like, and there were several really well presented cases of Blackboard and social networking tools being used in parallel.

In my presentation I tried to contextualise the future of the VLE in an educational system that accepts Connectivism as a valid and current theory. Several key points from George’s paper stood out for me and I staged my presentation around them:

  • What is the impact on learning theories when knowledge is no longer linear?
    There is a lot of use of VLEs where we see knowledge constructed with a beginning and an end point. Even the most constructivist tutor may have beginning and end points at the back of their minds.
  • How do we stay current in a rapidly evolving information ecology?
  • I have no idea – my head hurts from trying to keep up with everything I need to know, what happens to the stuff that I should know. Connectivism seems to recognise that the ‘know where’ is at least as important, if not more so, than ‘know what’ and ‘know how’ which is an important survival strategy in this kind of information environment.
  • Connectivism recognises that the pipe is more important than the content of the pipe.
    Recognition that our capacity to learn is more important than what we already know.
  • Finally George’s paper suggests that the technology we use can shape the way we learn?
    This final one hit home with me. I didn’t use mind mapping tools until 4 years ago, and I had to force myself to use it. Now it is my preferred method of taking notes and I often jot down mind maps when I’m thinking.

And on that note, here is the mind map for the presentation.

Lawrie’s Mind Map for the Bbd conference

Blackboard and Facebook

I missed day one of the conference, but day two was fun. For me (given my role) the paper that most caught my attention was Pat Parslow’s (Patrick Parslow, Shirley Williams, Michael Evans, Karsten Øster Lundqvist, Edwin Porter-Daniels, Robert Ashton) that discussed Facebook and Blackboard in a ‘competitive’ way. The paper will be written up so keep an eye on one of my favourite quotes from the presentation was:

Learners will learn through social networking; Even in the absence of course materials.

I won’t report more on the teams findings until the full paper is written up but it should make interesting reading.
Blackboard Scholar Terms and Conditions

Previous readers will know I have a little bee in my bonnet about terms and conditions, Facebook terms were of a little concern earlier in the year and when I put those relating to content in Facebook on a slide someone from the audience suggested they were the same as Blackboard Scholar. Although I missed it, and I’m sure that some one will correct me if I’m wrong, Blackboard talked about the ‘Scholar’ product on the previous day. When I checked the terms, it could be argued that they are perhaps a little similar 🙂

4. User Content
Any Content that you upload or otherwise make available (“User Content”) as part of the Services, is and remains your sole property or the property of your licensors. By uploading or otherwise making available any User Content, you automatically grant and/or warrant that the owner has granted Blackboard, the perpetual royalty-free, non-exclusive right and license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, distribute, perform, display, and transmit the User Content to Scholar. You also permit any other user of Blackboard with access to that Services, subject to your restrictions, to access, view, store, and reproduce the User Content to the same extent permitted herein.

Once they have it, they have it forever.

Season’s Greetings to all, I’ll be back in the New Year.

One comment

  1. Hi Lawrie,

    It looks like BBs T&Cs are worse than Facebooks – the latter say “You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.” which at least means that if they have lost their backup, they no longer lay claim to the material. At least, within my interpretation of what an expired perpetual license might mean, anyway!

    Interestingly, Facebook’s agreement actually means you cannot post non-commercial creative commons content there.

    Thanks for the shout-out by the way 😉

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