Blimage Challenge: The Rock Arch


A new blogging challenge has emerged called blimage – a “blog image” challenge: You must use an image sent to you and “incorporate it into your blog, and write a post about learning based on it…Then pass an image of your choice on to someone else so they can do their own #blimage challenge.” Read about the original idea here.

I challenged my colleague Enoch Hale with an image of a hand holding chalk that was about to write on a blank blackboard…and he responded with this wonderful post.  Now I get to try it with the image above that he sent me and others via Twitter.

What a great image!  My wife and I just returned from a week spent on the Carolina coast, so seeing the ocean in the background really resonated with me.  But in the spirit of #blimage, let me concentrate on the rocks in the foreground.

The first obvious point for me is “balance.”  We know from the learning sciences that students (and faculty) are not only intellectual beings, but social and emotional ones as well.  In How Learning Works, Susan Ambrose states that students’ level of development interacts with the social, emotional and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning.  As one who teaches online, I strive to build relationships with my students, to understand better their unique social, emotional, and intellectual drives.  I also work to balance the passion I bring to the course with realistic and practice-based applications that student can take away from the course.

Keeping with principles from Susan Ambrose’s book, the image also suggests to me a knowledge organization.  As faculty, we work with students to help them make connections between topics and see the “big picture”.  Focusing only on the top rock…or the yellow one…misses the conceptual knowledge one can take away from the whole.

Connections also raises the methodology of connectivism as a learning process.  Learning is an active, social process that involves change in knowledge, beliefs and behaviors, done not “to” students…but done by students. The online environment supports a learning-centered approach, providing a vehicle by which interested scholars can exchange and refine ideas via discussions and/or reports. That is the premise upon which my courses are constructed, and it aligns with the evolving digital world.  A constructivist and connectivist approach can be used to guide participants on a journey of discovery, sharing of learning, and building of community. Constructivism suggests that learners create knowledge as they attempt to understand their experiences. Connectivism looks at how individual knowledge is shared in a social environment. Learning, especially learning in a fully online “course” in the digital information age can look very different from learning face-to-face in earlier days. George Siemens suggested that connectivism is relevant to online learning.

The starting point of connectivism is the individual. Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual. This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their field through the connections they have formed (Siemens, 2004).

Finally, the image brought to mind Garr Reynold’s book Presentation Zen – as he has similar stacked rocks on his cover.  Garr quotes Leonardo DaVinci:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

A lot to pull from one image – but at its core: Balance, Connections, and Simplicity.

Thanks, Enoch, for the challenge.  I’ll have another image shooting your way tomorrow!

{Graphic: Mary Roy}

30-Day Challenge – Day 23 – Trust, Leadership and Learning

Harold Jarche had an thoughtful post – really a series of quotes – today – “Move the hierarchy to the rear.”  Harold started with a quote from the Harvard Business Review:

In an environment where everyone is a leader, some other mechanism needs to be put in place to ensure that everyone can maintain and optimize the tenets of fairness, trust and transparency so the entire organization can move forward. – Harrison Monarth: HBR

Harold is focused on business leadership, and the “other mechanism” he suggests is “the wirearchy framework,” proposed by Jon Husband as a web-based alternative to the hierarchical model.

But what if we changed one word in the Monarth quote?

In an environment where everyone is a learner, some other mechanism needs to be put in place to ensure that everyone can maintain and optimize the tenets of fairness, trust and transparency so the entire organization can move forward.

For me, the wirearchy framework can work just as well in a classroom.  Jarche goes on to state:

Solving problems is what most knowledge workers are hired to do. But complex problems usually cannot be solved alone. They require the sharing of tacit knowledge, which cannot easily be put into a manual. Tacit knowledge flows best in trusted networks. Trust promotes individual autonomy and this becomes a foundation for social learning. Without trust, few are willing to share their knowledge. An effective knowledge network also cultivates the diversity and autonomy of each worker. Connected leaders foster deeper connections, developed through ongoing and meaningful conversations. They understand the importance of tacit knowledge in solving complex problems. Connected leaders know they are just a node in the network and not a position in a hierarchy.

networks and nodes - gapingvoid cartoonNow again…think classroom…

  • Solving complex problems…
  • Sharing of tacit knowledge…
  • Trusted networks…
  • Individual autonomy and social learning…
  • Deeper connections…
  • Ongoing and meaningful conversations…

“Connected leaders know they are just a node in the network and not a position in a hierarchy.”

I would submit that connected teachers likewise understand that they are a node in a learning network.  They understand trust, leadership and learning.  This aligns so well with the connectivism approach to learning!

For my 30-Day Challenge question today, I am wondering…

Day 23 – How can I lead from the rear to build trust and facilitate networked learning as a norm in my class?

In another Jarche post – Hierarchies are Obsolete – Harold noted that hierarchies may technically be networks, but they are simply branching ones, good when information flow is one-way and down.  Hierarchies do not facilitate creativity or innovation.  Some classes I have seen in higher education seem to be set up to facilitate the one-way flow of “content” without engaging the students.  In today’s rapidly evolving knowledge era, co-learning with your students seems to be more aligned with the digital world in which our students (and we) reside.

So open up, build trust, and let the learning flow (with all its messiness).  As Harold noted:

“Evolution is on the side of those who cooperate.”


{Graphic: GapingVoid}


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Teaching an eLearning class F2F

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This summer session, I am teaching an eight-week graduate course in the Adult Education graduate program on the Theory and Practice of eLearning Integration in Adult Environments (ADLT-640) for VCU.  The course was originally designed as a hybrid course, meeting once a week, but I suggested a format change to meet twice a week the first and last two weeks, and go totally online the middle four weeks.  This would give the students a more true “elearning integration” into their own learning.  We just finished up the first two weeks, meeting 3 hours Tuesday and Thursday nights.  My students are an interesting mix of corporate trainers, military trainers, medical trainers and college staff.  This would have been an interesting course to teach online, but I am finding the introductory face-to-face component enjoyable.  We have quickly bonded as a learning community, and while I think that could have occurred online, it certainly occurred much faster starting face-to-face.

We are using Terry Anderson’s (2010) book, The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, as the textbook for this course. I am supplementing the theory portion with material from Linda Harasim‘s (2012) new book, Learning Theory and Online Technologies.  I also used George Siemens‘ (2006) Knowing Knowledge for last night’s class on connectivism.

For the first time, I have completely moved to using Prezi as a tool to keep me on track and provide a more interesting alternative to the typical slide deck.  The adults in my class have enjoyed the change from past classes.  In some ways, it also allows me to keep the class more conversational and to dive out of Prezi onto the web as conversation suggests.

Some interesting take-aways the first two weeks.  Two-thirds of the class have had an online learning experience, and most characterize the experience as “Poor”.  None have taught online before but assume they will.  The energy and excitement have been high as we have looked at the evolution of eLearning and the affordances the web now provides… affordances not available a decade ago.

Here are the first two week’s worth of Prezi’s:




We now move to the online phase of the course.  It will be interesting to see if the engagement continues with as high an energy level as we have had the past two weeks!


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