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Ann Otoole

If I see jargon and lots of words that end in "ly" then I know it is from a bullshit artist con man. Too bad idiots swoon to the trill of nebulous shmuck and will pay to listen to it's uselessness in person.

Fox Stirling

This line kinda jumped out at me and I've been scratching me head over it a bit as I read through the rest of your post..

'She told me that criticism was ok but that I couldn't get "all flamey". See, that's what I mean. That's why these things amount not to "learning" but "indoctrination".'

So its indoctrination and not learning because she doesn't want someone being disruptive? Doesn't sound like anything out of the norm to me. Even if it was to take place in real life, live, with a bunch of other people who were interested in what the teacher/professor/whomever was speaking about, and someone was being disruptive and not adding to the topic, they'd be asked to leave too. By disruptive, or as she put it "flamey", I don't mean heated discussion, or even debating, but persistent interruption, going off topic, etc., you get the point.

So tell me please how this request she made makes this "indoctrination" and not "learning"? Last time I checked, being disruptive or "flamey" was unacceptable for any type of learning activity.


Prokofy Neva

No, Fox, that's not it at all. Criticism isn't disruption. In fact, what people in these little conformist e-groups (like Metanomics) want is to just have one or two "leaders" who guide the ideology and everybody else as enthusiastic cheerleaders. They don't want people questioning or even just using reason and common sense. They want everyone to be in a constant state of wooting and self-adulation and self-referentiality with regard to the project and the group.

I don't go "off topic," I criticize people and concepts that need criticizing. Often, for the group that is in worshop-mode, this is "off topic" because they expect only indoctrination.

"Flamey" is one of those perjorative ideas that comes from these heavily geeked up controlled forums that only have cheerleaders and amen-corners. People "out of step" are heavily and tribally discouraged. The concept has completely lost its legitimacy in a setting like SL where Lindens can bark crap at you like, "No philosophizing about how the world will be affected by interoperability".

In a setting where people are arbitrarily banned if they don't suck up to the devs or resmods, "flaming" has no meaning. It's a very capacious and often misused term.

In a real classroom, you would not likely find such adulatory zealous idiots because people tend to get very giddy online, and follow leaders much more slavishly and fear dissent much more, it's interesting to see.

I think that a course that is forcing you to adopt an ideology about how courses themselves should be taught online, instead of saying "let's discuss and debate and explore this" is "indoctrination". Whenever I see a wiki, I also can smell indoctrination because wikis are always run only by a few people who enforce homogenous thinking and conformism. It is very hard to edit a wiki outside the groupthink -- wikis, far from leading to genuine scientific collaboration, often dump down thinking and force people to imbibe whatever doctrine is laid out by those few with the time and the obsessiveness to fill up the wiki.

Education is not a software project. And yet once again, we aer seeing people apply the narrow concepts of their open-source extremism on how software should be made to every other human enterprise. Code writers are now experts on education, too, like everything else *cough*.

Fleep Tuque

A couple of points:

1) There's being critical during a discussion, and then there's being a jerk during a discussion. Most people know the difference (re: "flamey").

2) I mentioned it to you specifically because I thought you would bring a different and critical perspective to the conversation. If I weren't genuinely interested in constructive criticism, I wouldn't have mentioned it. I'm not some drooling fan-girl, I think some of the ideas have merit and some don't really resonate and I personally want to take the class to learn more about it.

3) This course is a) absolutely free b) set up explicitly as an experiment and exploration of the topic (not as if the model chosen is gospel) and c) taught by tenured faculty who hold academic appointments and who are credentialed and have written scholarly books. In fact, if you want academic credit for the course, you can register and pay for it.

For anyone else who might be interested, I personally think it's an interesting concept and one of the first attempts to define a learning theory that accounts for the existence of the internet - i.e. the fact that _so much_ information is now available so rapidly, and increasingly from anywhere (if you have access/resources, admittedly.)

I've posted about it at my blog (http://fleeptuque.com) and invite anyone else who may be interested to participate as well, either as part of the Second Life cohort I'm organizing or through some of the other means.

And for the record, the theory is called Connectivism. See http://www.connectivism.ca/about.html for the bullet point description.

Fox Stirling

She did say that criticism was ok, but I suppose the line between constructive criticism and disruptive, "flamey" criticism (there is a difference) can be subjective depending on the target's opinion of the two.

Either way, I'm off the main topic here, so I'll leave it at that.

Prokofy Neva


1. You said criticism was welcome, and you invited me to come because you thought I'd add something, but then you doubled back and admonished me and said "Don't be flamey". Sorry, but that's no good. If you think my criticism is flaming, then don't ask me to be in something. Don't give me little lectures like Beyers on Metanomics. That's bullshit, and you know full well that people heckle me in a group like that in the most outrageous and nasty ways, with no intervention, not only because of the colour-blindness and moral blindness of the mods and owners, but because my views are dissident views on the PC stuff like open source religious doctrine.

2. Having credentials and tenure doesn't impress me. I'm sorry. But there is an awful lot of dreck out there, especially in education, the last refuge of scoundrels.

3. I may join it ANYWAY and see how free something like this really is to accept criticism, as I suspect it will serve as a magnet to many PC types goggling avidly at the new collectivism.

Dirk Talamasca

There are portions of this episode of Frontline that deal with the way some teachers are dealing with students familiarity and appetite for the Internet as a source of information. I wish they had expounded more upon this particular area. It is still interesting watching.


Yumi Murakami

Prok, I found this discussion very interesting. Many of the "employed academics" you mention are finding themselves pulled in the opposite direction; they, more and more, do have students who see their learning as a business investment that increases their value as people in the job market.

Unfortunately, this gives them huge problems, which usually come down to having to choose between failing people and thus failing to satisfy their "customers", or passing everyone and destroying the value of their product. This is also combined with the fact that a downturn in the employment market in a particular field can reduce student numbers and cost the academics involved their jobs - but the academics can do nothing about it.

So if learning-for-the-sake-of-learning is making a comeback via social networking then this is probably a very good thing. You are, however, right that this needs to be allowed for economically somehow.

Fleep Tuque

I didn't mention tenure/credentials to impress you, but rather to address the comments in the 3rd paragraph of your post: "What are learning leaders and thought leaders? They aren't people recognized in a field in some old-fashioned way, by holding a position on a university faculty or having published a book of serious scholarship.."

Re-reading, I see that I may have taken that out of context, I thought that was a criticism of this particular course, but I think now maybe you meant that more generally about thought leaders.

As for the SL cohort, I'm hoping there will be a good mix of in world veterans and people who have not experienced Second Life before. In either case, I'll be facilitating the weekly discussions and will not tolerate anyone being abusive to you (or indeed to anyone else!), I'm hoping for a good conversation around the themes of the course.

Of course, if you participate via one of the other forums besides SL, I hope you post about your experience. I doubt I'll have time to check out all the options myself and I don't know if using SL will ultimately be of benefit or not. Guess we'll see!

Prokofy Neva

Fleep, I see "learning leaders" and "thought leaders" as jargon on every advertised seminar from here to breakfast. Everywhere. And the "leaders" are sometimes credentialed in some conventional way, but sometimes not, famous for being famous, for having published a book that is largely sold at seminars, all recursive.

Perhaps these Canadians are leaders in their field, but perhaps, as Yumi says, they are merely scrambling like all professors to be relevant to people who feel that for $40,000, they should be buying something is fairly automatic.

I'm tired of SL groups, Fleep. The people in them are insular, insecure, neuralgic, close-minded, and usually not very bright. I seldom find any smart people; I just find a lot of smart asses.

Gerrit Eicker

Prokofy: "Unfortunately, rather than learning from the failures of the past decades' various collectivist and constructivist and child-centric theories to restore some basics, the new "learning leaders" merely want to dress these up in cyber clothing."

True. I'm afraid of this, too: There's a lot of obsolete ideology on its way in Metaverses (and the Net at all) regarding eLearning. - Where empirical data and assured knowledge is missing, obsolete or even obscure ideas rise.

Smile! Gerrit - We speak Online.

PS: I know Fleep as an open-minded, critical discussion partner. I'm interested to see her conclusions of the experiment.

Robert Bloomfield/ Beyers Sellers

“…we merely have a wand waved in front of our faces with assurances that this might be so, or could be so, or will be so. Show me the money!

I agree. Most of the guests in our Metanomics Archives (http://metanomics.net/archivesbydate) are seeing what is possible, and are willing to make the investment, but haven't turned a profit yet (or, if they are a non-profit, they haven’t found a way to achieve their mission more effectively in virtual worlds than in the real world). We are still in the experimental--and money-burning stage--of the metaverse. I am not sure I see a big problem with this. As an exec at virtual world developer Forterra told me back in the Fall, "we said we could start turning a significant profit, but our investors said "if you start making money now, you are doing it wrong." Their investors though it was time to be developing product and losing money, not making a profit. Profits come later.

However, next week we have a for-profit educator that seems poised to be profitable pretty quickly. Language Lab teaches English as a second language, and charges $24.95-$79.95 per student per month—in Second Life, mostly to people who have never heard of Second Life before, and came in entirely for the language instruction. I think their business concept is a winner, and I don’t say that simply because they are a sponsor. They use a staff of instructors and actor to immerse people in a foreign land, where they must use the native tongue in homes, restaurants, dance halls, job interviews and even airports.

It’s worth point out that this is an extremely traditional form of learning, except that they use Second Life. No “nonlinear dynamics of disruptive ecosystems” here. Just a simple story about being able to travel virtually to a foreign land to practice language skills virtually face-to-face with native speakers, but with no travel costs.

Finally, I wonder if Tony O’Driscoll and other connectivists are confusing education and learning with productivity. Virtual worlds allow virtual collaboration, and collaboration can be a great input to productivity (used wisely). But true learning is so often one person, alone with reading material. The traditional rule of thumb here at Cornell is three or four hours of study per contact hour in class. I don’t think reversing the ratio to allow more collaboration actually leads to better education. There is just too much to read and study and think about—alone—before you have something to say.

California Condor

It is the function of those of us in the Information Technology departments at universities and colleges to investigate, present and even propose the suitable tools for use in education. The institutions we are employed by are the ones who pay the bills. Our reputations are on the line about what technologies we recommend. Therefore, it is essential that we see through the hype.

Prokofy Neva

Oh, I find that a load of crap, "If you are making money now, you are doing it wrong." Um, maybe you're just early at making the profit that is supposed to be down the road for everybody *cough*?

First of all, there *are* some projects that in fact *do* turn a profit, and find ways to do so (NMC for example). And obviously a non-profit isn't going to make a profit, but it can be monetarizing in some way to pay costs. It can be measuring the value -- and so far, it's mainly hype.

Language Lab strikes me not so much as "education" in the sense of the university, but a service, a business that provides a service needed in the marketplace, like computer operation. It has to turn a profit or it can't pay teachers. So it charges for the service.

So a combination of that business-like approach is needed, plus more of a frank commodificatino of education. It's the non-profit politically-correct squeamishness about doing that which both leaves the way open for a zillion cheap and dubious spammers to fill the attention space, and the failure to figure out how to measure and credential education outside of the ivy-covered walls. Sure, it's great to sit around and read Dostoevsky -- I did that. But at some point, if you wish to learn Russian and read Dostoevsky, there isn't any getting around the steps you have to go through one by one to master the language. In that sense, I think it's great that Language Lab is sticking to the simple story, which nobody has been able to improve upon much over the ages -- to learn a language, you have to simulate life situations and talk to natives. What better place than Second Life? But why can't chemistry be done this way, or law? (Of course, if it were, that would ruin the prestige of all the pompous lawyers running around SL trying to credential themselves online as "international lawyers forging the New Age).

Sure it's hard to take something like "Shakespeare" or "Comparative Religion" and box it up in such a fashion, and yet, schools will be forced to do this, because somebody else will if they don't.

Michel Labour


You bring up some interesting points. Thank you for your insights even if many of the points raised were a trite hackneyed, for an old hack like me.

It is a pity you are so long-winded. A summary of your points would be most apropos methinks.

For someone who claims to espouse old-fashioned values, you seem to have missed the lessons on concision and cogency. This is a pity. May I suggest you take a class in old-fashioned rhetoric? It would help you to communicate in a cogently old-fashioned way.

May I venture a piece of advice? Adopting a holier-than-thou tone, as you seem to do in your missive, is more likely to get the reader to scoff at your ideas rather than cogitate on them. Personally, though, I find that your energy, and an apparent need for provocation, has a certain charm.

Oh dear, it seems that I am being a holier-than-thou prig at your expense. As an old-fashioned advocate that should please you, should it not?

Prokofy Neva

Um, I've taken classes in old-fashioned rhetoric in college years ago. So? I'm not going to be changing anything about the way I do things. You can skim.

In fact, you may have been affected more than you think by the truncating and dumbing down of texts online.

Yes, I'm happy to validate that yes, you are a prig.

Do you imagine you are the first to tell me to write shorter, and not to take a forceful stance with my opinions? and you won't be the last. I won't be changing anything about my "tone". In fact, it works quite well in countering the holier-than-thou tone of these e-learning e-vangelists whom you never bothered to counter yourself, now, did you? They are insufferable.

I wonder when people like you make these little hortatory interventions what they imagine the results to be. "Gosh, I never realized that, guess I will completely change course, truncate all my writings and bow and scrape and feign humility with the rest of them" lol. Seriously, that's ridiculous. I'll be doing no such thing.

John Lopez

A thing unmeasured is also uncontrolled and potentially of negative value. That is why people who really care about productivity in their corporations not only have trainings (which may be home grown or may include such seminars), but also measure as much as possible the prior/post training differences.

It turns out that such measurements show that there is a short term boost to productivity no matter *what* methodology you use for team building or trainings. The reason is simply a placebo effect created from the fact that you did *something*.

There is an old piece of research where GE or some similar company (I don't have time to look up the reference) went out and changed the lighting to be brighter to help the factory workers. Productivity increased. Then they went and put the old lighting back in, claiming that (after a suitable waiting period) that the bright lighting was creating glare.

Productivity increased.

It had nothing to do with the lighting of course; it had everything to do with employees noticing that they were being paid attention to.

I have noticed similar effects myself when we institute some harebrained idea... unless the idea is actively destructive, there is a short term benefit. Sometimes you even hit upon something that "sticks": those are the things we keep and repeat.

Companies that do trainings live off of this placebo effect. It continues to work unless your people are embittered enough that they see through the charade.

Melissa Yeuxdoux

That was Western Electric, at their Hawthorne Works near Chicago, hence the name "Hawthorne Effect." No matter what the researchers tried, efficiency went up--and they eventually realized that the cause was that the subjects were treated decently.

Zana Kohime

The focus of 'connectivism' for both George and Stephen is the 2D Web.. blogs, wikis etc. Neither have indepth experience with Second Life or other virtual worlds. Fleep, I will be attending this 'course??' myself, as I did the Connectivism Conference held online in 2007. This is not new, but does require a good critical eye. There have been critiques regarding connectivism as a 'learning theory' and from an historical view from those who specialize in computer science. I myself am sitting on the fence and hesitate to use this concept until there are people who would like to seriously look at it.

George Siemens

Hi Prok,

I appreciate your comments on e-vasion. I think many of us in education are trying to make sense of what's going on. How is technology impacting society? How are different tools influencing communication? What does this do to validity of concepts/information? Obviously, anyone with web access can create content and share with others. For most people, a desire to belong to a group exceeds the desire to think critically. As such, groups of like-thinkers form and pursue a particular line of thought, creating their own mini-gods and attendant rules.

Your criticism of fluff (though you said it more colorfully) is important - we do need to question concepts and ideas...and evaluate what level/type of evidence exists to support our claims. With this "course", I'm hoping we'll have an opportunity to have meaningful conversations with others who share a desire to try and explain what's changing in society and how we ought to react in order to stay relevant. But "relevant" may mean that our education systems takes on a dramatically different feel than it has now. Illich's notion of learning webs offer possible insight.

But we don't know. We are feeling our way in the dark. Connectivism was an attempt to feel my way. Some will find it to be a useful framework. Others won't. This course is an attempt to more fully define how broader changes impact how we learn. I will consider it a success if it generates a reasonable level of discourse - for and against - and begins to form a base on which we can evaluate the gap between what we are doing and what we ought to be doing...


Prokofy Neva

Hi George, I'm glad you're taking a thoughtful and critical approach rather than the usual thin-skinned justification one constantly sees in social media especially when related to education and libraries.

You never said a truer word with the comment, "For most people, a desire to belong to a group exceeds the desire to think critically." That's SL in spades. That's SL through and through, and what makes it so loathsome, especially on activities like the JIRA.

Take a ride through the SL Jira at jira.secondlife.com if you want to see the horrors of modern technology and its affect on communication and "participatory software design". We are living inside software. I tell you, SL is the place to be to see how all these social media things actually work and influence people, as they are right there, and their feedback is right there, and you don't have to guess -- and it's all in concentrated and accelerated form. Everything about Twitter was anticipated even as far back as the Sims Online stalker button, everything that rose up as an issue on Twitter about tracking could have been seen in the SL "mute".

The early Well culture and Linuxy geeky culture has been tremendously damaging, horribly restrictive, with all its terribly limiting tribalistic notions of "troll" or "patch or GTFO" or "if you don't like it, leave" etc.

I simply don't share your idea that "we don't know" or "we are felling our way" as I feel we have been immersed in it for 8 years at least, through TSO and SL and other online virtual communities. There isn't a lot of critical writing about this genre and these experiences but there is a lot of blogging and journalism and I think that counts and it's important to keep the record for scholars to come.

I don't think you need to form exotic new theories about things oh, E.M. Forrester said with "Only connect" in the last century and have been around since the dawn of time. I think in fact you have to take a very weather eye to inclinations to simply resurrect old discredited collectivist theories and rewarm them up on the Internet.

Perhaps there are aspects like acceleration, but it seems to me with a lot of the social media, you are merely mastering a tool and its set of features and the lingo and banter on that particular site, with its particular culture. It's a language so often without any content that is about the tool itself.

I find that in the SL educational world, where the course is about...having a build in SL. Or about "digital arts" or "communications and its affect on groups" or something endlessly recursive. So in that sense, it feels precious and self-referential, and not normal and useful.

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