My #edcmooc «statement of intent»

A key part of our pedagogic method at the Norwegian Film School is the «statement of intent» (in Norwegian: hensiktserklæring). Every time the students are given a film assignment they have to write one of these, both individually and as a team, and at the end of the exercise, when the final result is screened, their success or failure is measured solely against this statement of intent.

I seems only fair that I write one of these for myself as I enter into a learning process of my own.

On the surface, the statment of intent is simple. There are only two questions to be answered in it:

  1. What do I want to learn / achieve / develop through this process?
  2. What (specific) steps will I take to ensure that I learn / achieve / develop the way I’ve planned?

So. What is my statement of intent (SOI) for #edcmooc?

To figure that out, I must go to the «assignment». Every good SOI refers to the assignment and takes into account the constraints and possibilities inherent in the assignment.

In this case, the assignment, as it appears now before the course starts, is:

E-learning and Digital Cultures is aimed at teachers, learning technologists, and people with a general interest in education who want to deepen their understanding of what it means to teach and learn in the digital age. The course is about how digital cultures intersect with learning cultures online, and how our ideas about online education are shaped through “narratives”, or big stories, about the relationship between people and technology.

In a follow-up email, this is further elaborated:

First we will look at ‘utopias and dystopias’ and second, we will focus on ‘being human’ in a digital age. Throughout, we will be discussing how these broad themes relate to the ways in which we think about online education. Please note that the focus of the course will not be on practical guidance for creating e-learning courses or materials, but is rather an opportunity to consider how wider cultural ideas impact upon the way we think about technology and education.

That last sentence could be a bit of an issue, given my declared ambition (previous blog post) is to learn from this course some of the things I need in order to create an online course of my own (funding agency willing)… But, issues are made to be solved, are they not?

So, back to the statement of intent. This will be a draft, as I am sure it will develop through the first few weeks of the course.

What do I hope to achieve?

It is my intent that, after completing this course, I have an increased understanding of how online interactions can differ from face-to-face interactions. Using my previous experience with MOOCs (like #etmooc, #moocmooc, #oole13, #smartlæring) as a springboard, I want to gain a deeper insight into how to use digital media and communications tools to their full advantage. I also want to be able to introduce others, especially those who are less comfortable with digital tools, to these advantages.

How will I work to achieve this?

Aye, there’s the rub. Learning machines do not exist (thank goodness!) and learning requires work. And so: I will need to comit to participating in the various scheduled chats, hangouts, whatever else there are of sychronous event (with two caveats: participation in the local curling league comes first, and I will not use Facebook for this course). I will blog. Repeat: I will blog! And comment on other peoples blogs.

And I will make and hand in the final «digital artifact».

Ok. There it is. My comitment to myself; and when this is all over I will measure my success against my statement of intent (surely modified by then).

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Anticipating #edcmooc

Third time lucky?

This is the third year the University of Edinburgh is running #edcmooc  The first year I saw it, but did not sign up. Looking around my PLN, that appeared to be a mistake.

The second year I signed up. Period. I think I followed it for about a week, but did not do a heck of a lot, in part due to an insanely busy semester at the Norwegian Film School that left me with little energy for participating in a MOOC.

So…here we go again.

This time will (may) be different.

How can I tell? Well, for starters, I’ve written this blog entry. That is an improvement in and of itself…

Also, while work is still pretty insanely busy, I have an increased motivation. Yesterday I submitted a funding proposal here in Norway to design and run an online course for training film school teachers – and I think participating in #edcmooc will give me some inspiration towards that end.

I’ll give it a shot, anyway.

On Creativity

I read Stephen Downes’ blog regularly; I always find it thought-provoking and interesting. Today was no exception.

Today’s entry, entitled No Paradox Here (go read it at the source) inspired me to think about my own work at The Norwegian Film School, where creativity is our bread and butter…

Specifically, Downes quotes Spencer, who writes:

Creativity: It happens when students have freedom and limitations

His response is:

Creativity is possible even if there are limitations, but only if there is freedom.

Well…not exactly. And it depends on how you apply limitations and freedom.

We are a school for creative artists (filmmakers), and the entire programme is built around the conscious application of limitations in order to stimulate creativty. It’s not our own invention by any stretch, but we have over the years refined teaching methods that enable the students to both explore their own creativity and push the limits their own abilities through the imposition of limitations.

In our experience, too much freedom stifles creativity rather than encouraging it. (And yes, we do realise misguided use of limitations can also stifle creativity.) By specifiying a series of condititions for each film exercise the students are given we give them a well-defined area to explore, encouraging them to make mistakes and take chances within those limits.

There is theory for this, and we lean on Vygotski with his development of the concepts scaffolding and zone of proximal development, and also conscious of the importance of letting the students reach a state of flow. Being an arts school where all the teaching staff are practicing filmmakers, not trained educators has led us to set up weekly staff meetings where we discuss the students development, future teaching plans and the practical and theoretical aspects of this pedagogy.

So, in this case, Spencer is correct: creativity will only happen where there are both limitations and freedom — the limitations designed to encourage creativity and the freedom to explore within these limitations.

But Downes is also correct: this is no paradox. Rather, it is a necessary condition for creativity.

Biosphere 2013: a play

Back in 1992, while I was active at The Union Theatre, I co-created a weekly, dystopian science fiction serial called Biosphere. The title was inspired by Ed Bass’ Biosphere 2 project (which I did not know was still active!) and the content by a conviction that the world was increasingly controlled by corporate entities more than by any democratic institutions.

At the conclusion of the series, Kate Story and I wrote a play based on the serial. I provided the structure and and feedback, while Kate wrote most of the dialogue and actions. The result was performed at The Union in April, 1993.

None of us consider it great literature, but it was a good show. So here it is, warts and all (and lighting cues, in case you were wondering what those marks are).

(It’s out there with CC BY-SA 3.0 license, so feel free to adapt and perform – but do let us know!)

edit 25.10.2013 In light of the NSA scandal that’s been unfolding the past few months, topped with the recent revelations that the NSA has in fact (most likely) been wiretapping heads of state, the future we were painting a picture of seems more like reality than a dystopian vision… Of course, the panopticon is not a new idea – but none of us could truly have imagined the way in which governments and corporations would collude to keep track of citizens…

Kjære Bjørnar Moxnes

I Klassekampen varser Rødts leder Bjørnar Moxnes en fornyelse av partiet. Dette er en nyhet som jeg, og sikkert andre på venstresiden av norsk politikk, hilser velkommen.

I den anledning har jeg, helt uoppfordret og kanskje uønsket, lyst til å komme med noen råd, i en ganske tilfeldig rekkefølge…

  1. Vær tydelig på at partiet representerer et anti-kapitalistisk prosjekt. Venstesiden, både i Norge og resten av den vestlige verden, har bommet grovt på dette etter finanskrisen, og har i stedet overlatt premissene for diskusjonen til kapitalistene. Dette må endres.

  2. Ikke vær redd for fra alle etter evne, til alle etter behov. Det sosialdemokratiske likhetsprosjektet er nå, og har alltid vært, dødfødt. Vi er ikke like, hverken i evner eller behov, og et rettferdig samfunn tar hensyn til dette. Og hele poenget med sosialisme er, tross alt, rettferdighet.

  3. Dette er veien det kapitalistiske samfunnet går. Ikke la folk eller medier glemme det.

  4. Folk er opptatt av individuell frihet, og i dagens vestlige land har høyresiden kuppet eierskap til dette. Samtidig vet både du og jeg at det er sosialisme som til slutt vil lede til reell frihet og ikke den illusoriske frihet kapitalismen lover. Rødt må gjenerobre frihetsbegrepet. Snakk om den frihet som kommer i et samfunn som ikke er basert på profitt og materialisme.

  5. Hvis du anklages for naivitet og utopi er svaret "og hva er galt med det?" Hvis mennesker ikke hadde turt å drømme om å skape en bedre fremtid hadde vi fremdeles sittet i huler. I dag sitter vi i en meget behagelig hule, men vi må tørre å drømme om å skape noe bedre.

  6. På verdensbasis er Norge priviligert og rikt. Vi nyter meget godt av kapitalismens goder, og vil nødig gi dem fra oss. Snakk om dette, og inviter til diskurs om hvordan vi – som er en del av problemet – kan være med på å skape løsningen. Ikke bare for oss selv men for alle.

  7. Uansett hva du gjør kommer folk til å forsøke å koble et moderne sosialistisk prosjekt med sovjet-diktaturene. Le av dem. Rist på hodet. Uttal deg om hvordan det er leit dine politiske motstandere sitter fast i holdninger fra 80-tallet.

  8. Vær prinsippfast men konstruktiv og samarbeidsvillig.

  9. "Sosialist" og "venstreradikal" er hedersbetegnelser. Bruk dem selv, høyt og ofte, så mister andre muligheten til å bruke dem som skjellsord.

Der. 9 korte råd. Ta dem for det de er verdt…

I solidaritet,
Fredrik Graver

Impotent fury

Most of you have probably caught all or some of this http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data

Everything we write on Facebook, search on Google, say on Skype, etc. can potentially be spied on by the US government. This is not a surprise, really. We’ve slowly been moving towards the panopticon society for a while now, but it’s a rude awakening having it thrown in your face like this.

I have to admit this conjures up conflicting feelings of fury and apathy in me. Fury since this is just an unacceptable way of constructing a society. We are all being criminalized and our freedoms are being stolen. Apathy since my life, like so many others, is wrapped up in digital connections and I don’t know how to disconnect without losing much that I value and am not willing to give up.

Gramsci was absolutely right. There is a ruling hegemony that finds cohesion in the need to keep the great mass of us docile and compliant and preoccupied with other things than tearing down the system.

Jeg ble ledet til denne bloggen via en av mine medstudenter i #etmooc, en online utforskelse av utdanning, teknologi og media. (www.etmooc.org). Akkurat nå handler det om “the open movement”. Samtidig har jeg nylig leste en del av det som er skrevet om Google Glass, og hvordan det kan påvirke oss når vi plutselig vet at alt vi gjør og sier kan bli tatt opp og lagret.

Det er mange år siden jeg leste Foucault, men han virker mer relevant nå enn da jeg leste ham på 80-tallet.

Philosophy for change

This is the first instalment in a three-part series.

Part 2. I tweet, therefore I become
Part 3. The call of the crowd

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You start the day bleary-eyed and anxious. You stayed up late last night working on a post for your blog, gathering facts and memes from about the web and weaving them into an incisive whole. Has it produced a spike in the stats? You sign in on your iPhone as you brew the coffee. But it’s too early to slip into the professional headspace – you decide that you don’t want to know. Someone has messaged you on Facebook, so you check that instead. Japanese manga mashup! Killer breaks off the cost of Lombok. Lady Gaga is a man and we have photoshopped evidence to prove it! A friend will appreciate that one, so you share it with her directly. Perhaps not something that you’d want…

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