When is a graph not a ‘graph’?

I’m sure I’m not alone in hearing the word ‘graph’ and thinking about high school maths or statistics. But, in the context of this week’s topic on the eLearning 3.0 MOOC, the meaning is totally different. In this context, when we refer to graph, we really mean ‘network’. Or at least, that’s my interpretation.

I admit, I find it confusing to refer to a network as a graph, but these quotes from Stephen’s article helped me make sense of it:

“In connectivism we have explored the idea of thinking of knowledge as a graph, and of learning as the growth and manipulation of a graph. A core proposition is that this state of affairs contained in the graph or network constitutes knowledge, and that learning is therefore the creation, development and traversal of the network that constitutes that knowledge. Yet the question can still be asked, what makes it knowledge?”

“A graph – and hence, knowledge – is not merely a representational system, but is rather a perceptual system, where the graph is not merely the repository, but a growing and dynamic entity shaped by – and shaping – the environment around itself.”

I won’t go back over the detailed information on graphs and graph theory – it’s all on the elearning 3.0 website – but rather, I’ll present my take on the activity set for this week which was,

  1. Create a model graph of some aspect of the E-Learning 3.0 course.
  2. In your model, consider how the states of the entities in that graph might vary.
  3. In your model, consider how knowledge about the changes in states in the graph might be used.

I decided to create a graph to map put the potential influences the content of eLearning 3.0 MOOC could have on my work as a manager of a small team whose role is digital learning design. So, here’s the graph:


  1. In short, my interaction (learning) with eL3.0 should be a 2-way street – I acquire new knowledge and my assimilation and interpretation of of this new knowledge, fed back into the eL3.0 ‘community’ may add to that emerging body of knowledge.
  2. I also cascade what I’m learning to the people in my team. We have a strong culture of sharing and discussing what we each learn and look for ways to apply that learning to our projects.
  3. This is turn will see this learning manifest itself in new learning resources and potentially as updates to our learning services (eg our Open Badge platform).
  4. The remainder of the graph shows the impact of that learning in the sector we serve. So the nodes (or vertices) are learners, employers (circa 3,000 in our sector + employers in neighbouring sectors), further and higher education, strategic partners (eg other NDPBs or NGOs for folks outside the UK) and, policy makers. So the links (or ‘edges’)  and mostly bi-directional to demonstrate the dialogue between my team and I and our stakeholders as we seek to influence uptake, change and/or improvement in digital learning in our sector and neighbouring sectors.
  5. Thus, hopefully the learning from eL3.0 may have the scope to travel far beyond my immediate contacts and find expression in the work of others.

This was quite an interesting activity complete as displaying the connectivity and spread of ideas and learning from one learning experiences was valuable in making me think about the connections my team and I have and the potential for these connections to effect change in a large complex system.

Of course the real trick is in how you package that change and inspire others to grasp it.

eLearning 3.0 and Web 3.0

Of course, the context of this MOOC is in the developing Web 3.0.

“Web3 ultimately represents a dissatisfaction with that solution [the use of platforms], a (well-founded) distrust of platforms, and a desire for individual autonomy and accountability. The solution proposed by Web3 (or various versions of Web3) incorporates elements of identity, immutability and community.”

This week’s speaker, Ben Werdmuller had an interesting take on Web 3.0. In short, his view was that everyone should be able to ‘own’ their own website even down to owning the server which hosts that site (perhaps the ultimate smart home device?). The challenge, from my point of view, is how do we move people from starting out on blogging on commercially owned services (like WordPress), to creating their own website? Not only does the hardware component to this need to be as simple to set up as a modern TV, so do the tools to create and update your personal website.

Having said that Ben did emphasise usability/UX and the need to reach and engage the majority who have very limited skills in using technology and, given his track record in proviso projects like ELGG, we can only hope he is in a position to support the creation of tools to make his vision a reality.

I suppose the danger in packaging up his ideas into products which people with limited technical skills leads us back down the path which lead to the platforms we are dealing with today. So, I’m finishing with a question – How do we achieve this vision without losing the ethical position which Ben describes as informing it?

Considering the Cloud

So, I know this is late, but hey, the day job sometimes takes over, so now I’m playing catch up. So here goes – impressions and take aways from “Cloud Week” …


I’ll admit, I find the whole Jupyter Notebook/Docker/Docker hub area a bit sterile for me. I provokes the same reaction in me as being shown my car engine by a mechanic and being given an explanation of what’s going on when it’s running – a profound sense of disinterest. Don’t get me wrong, I can see the potential of this and the utility of these technologies if you are either teaching programmers/computer science, or are building applications etc. But, for someone not involved in those areas it feels like the ‘wiring’ has been exposed to the end user and she/he is being expected to understand and value it.

For me, the real power in the application of cloud technologies and services is that they can hide the wiring and create a learning ecosystem for the hardware and software you use to deliver or support your learning and/or the learning of others. In other words you can create complex arrangements where devices are interoperable, sharing information across multiple devices and make the whole experience seamless for the end user. For example, I started writing this post on my iPad over my breakfast coffee this morning (yeah, I know – deeply sad!) and I’m now finishing it on my laptop.

As a Mac OS and iOS user, the system integration Apple has been able to create using Cloud computing as the ‘glue’ to connect it’s various platforms and software offerings, is probably the slickest example I’ve seen of the potential of cloud services in everyday life.

For me it’s this potential to create engaging learning experiences which exploit the power of cloud computing, whilst hiding the complexity of the inner workings of how it’s being done, which is compelling. The majority of the leaners I serve, simply don’t want to see the wiring – and most of the time, neither do I.

And we’re off …

eLearning 3.0 kicked off this week with an interesting overview from Stephen of the issues and topics which will be covered in the mooc. I must confess, I try to avoid using the term “eLearning” due to the negative connotations this can have for learners. In my experience, the using that term with learners, it conjures up images of PowerPoint-like ‘click next + quiz experiences. So thought my posts on the mooc, I’ll use either online learning or digital learning instead as I feel they are less weighed down by these interpretations and are more inclusive of a range of learning experiences.

AdobeStock_99469984As Stephen observed in his presentation, Some of the concepts and technologies will take some time to wrap your mind round, but ultimately I was left thinking that this ‘challenge’ would be well worth the effort as I do agree with him about the fundamental shift in how our online life could change as a result of the mass adopting of the technologies he described.

I was particularly intrigued by this description of the essence of this shift being the move from the semantic web (which is our current Web 2.0) model) to the cryptographic web (Web 3.0) and the use of layers of encrypted ‘data’ (ie information/content etc) – it’s worth viewing his presentation and focusing on the section where he describes the use of Merkle Graphs and Directed Acyclic Graphs (DAGs) used to create collections of related data items) to create distributed, encrypted, cloud based systems (like GitHub. This is the essence of what is envisaged as the foundation of web 3.0 and eLearning 3.0.

Fundamentally, it’s about moving away from platforms where user data is the commodity to a situation where the user is the sole owner of their data and controls access to that data and the sharing of that data ( eg. see Tim Berners-Lee’s SOLID project as an example of this).

In terms of online learning or digital learning, I was interested in the potential of  content addressable networking and the concept of Content Addressable Resources for Education (CARE), which Stephen described as “the new OER” as the potential foundations of a new delivery/access system for digital learning in the web 3.0 world.

It will be interesting to explore each of the topics for the mooc in the coming weeks and I’m particularly interested in how the digital learning world responds to all of this. Will we be able to develop the applications which make the very complex concepts and technologies accessible to leaners and the rest of the non-techie population?

And, how will the educational and business world respond when they can no longer benefit from trading the data they accumulate from us?

Hands up who really understands blockchain …

Getting ready for eLearning 3.0

When I saw that Stephen Downes was about to launch a new Mooc, “eLearning 3.0“, I thought it was time to dust off this blog which I set up years ago, but never quite got the time to use in earnest. So, here goes …

eL30 will give me a focus and a purpose for use this blog and I intend to share all of my work on the Mooc via this page.