Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Having Reasons

Semantics is the study of meaning, truth, purpose or goal in communication. It can be thought of loosely as an examination of what elements in communication 'stand for'.

Because human communication is so wonderfully varied and expressive, a study of semantics can very quickly become complex and obscure.

This is especially the case when we allow that meanings can be based not only in what the speaker intended, but what the listener understood, what the analyst finds, what the reasonable person expects, and what the words suggest.

In formal logic, semantics is the study of the conditions under which a proposition can be true. This can be based on states of affairs in the world, the meanings of the terms, such as we find in a truth table, or can be based on a model or representation of the world or some part of it.

In computer science, there are well-established methods of constructing models. These models form the basis for representations of data on which operations will be formed, and from which views will be generated.

David Chandler explains why this study is important. "The study of signs is the study of the construction and maintenance of reality. To decline such a study is to leave to others the control of the world of meanings."

When you allow other people to define what the words mean and to state what makes them true, you are surrendering to them significant ground in a conversation or argument.These constitute what Lakoff calls a "frame".

"Every word is defined relative to a conceptual framework. If you have something like 'revolt,' that implies a population that is being ruled unfairly, or assumes it is being ruled unfairly, and that they are throwing off their rulers, which would be considered a good thing. That's a frame."

It's easy and tempting to leave the task of defining meanings and truth conditions to others. Everyone tires of playing "semantical games" at some time or another. Yet understanding the tools and techniques of semantics gives a person tools to more deeply understand the world and to more clearly express him or her self.

Let me offer one simple example to make this point.

We often hear people express propositions as probabilities. Sometimes these are very precisely expressed, as in the form "there is a 40 percent probability of rain." Other times they are vague. "He probably eats lettuce for lunch." And other times, probabilities are expressed as 'odds'. "He has a one in three chance of winning."

The calculation or probability can be daunting. Probability can become complex in a hurry. Understanding probability can require understanding a probability calculus. And there is an endless supply of related concepts, such as Bayes Theorem of prior probability.

But when we consider the semantics of probability, we are asking the question, "on what are all of these calculations based?" Because there's no simple answer to the question, "what makes a statement about probabilities true?" There is no such thing in the world that corresponds to a "40 percent chance" - it's either raining, or it's not raining.

A semantics of probability depends on an interpretation of probability theory. And there are some major interpretations you can choose from, including:

1. The logical interpretation of probability. Described most fully in Rudolf Carnap's Logical Foundations of Probability, the idea at its heart is quite simple. Create 'state descriptions' consisting of all possible states of affairs in the world. These state descriptions are conjunctions of atomic sentences or their negations. The probability that one of these state sentences is 'true' is the percentage of state descriptions in which it is asserted. What is the possibility that a dice roll will be 'three'? There are six possible states, and 'three' occurs in one of them, therefore the probability is 1 in 6, or 16.6 percent.


2. The frequentist interpretation of probability. Articulated by Hans Reichenbach, the idea is that all frequencies are subsets of larger frequencies. "Reichenbach attempts to provide a foundation for probability claims in terms of properties of sequences." This is the basis for inductive interence. What we have seen in the world in the past is part of a larger picture that will continue into the future. If you roll the dice enough times and observe the results, what you will discover (in fair dice) that the number 'three' appears 16.6 percent of the time. This is good grounds for expecting the dice to roll 'three' at that same percentage in the future.

3. The subjectivist interpretation of probability. Articulated by Frank Ramsay, "The subjectivist theory analyses probability in terms of degrees of belief. A crude version would simply identify the statement that something is probable with the statement that the speaker is more inclined to believe it than to disbelieve it." What is the probability that the dice will roll 'three'? Well, what would we bet on it? Observers of these dice, and of dice in general, would bet one dollar to win six. Thus, the probability is 16.6 percent.

Each of these interpretations has its strengths and weaknesses. And each could be expanded into more and more detail. What counts, for example, as a 'property' in a state description? Or, what are we to make of irrational gamblers in the subjectivist interpretation?

But the main lesson to be drawn is two-fold:

- first, when somebody offers a statement about probabilities, there are different ways of looking at it, different ways it could be true, different meanings we could assign to it.

- and second, when such a statement has been offered, the person offering the statement may well be assuming one of these interpretations, and expects that you will too, even in cases where the interpretation may not be warranted.

What's important here is not so much a knowledge of the details of the different interpretations - first of all, you probability couldn't learn all the details in a lifetime, and second, most people who make probability assertions do so without any knowledge of these details. What is important to know is simply that they exist, that there are different foundations of probability, and that any of them could come into play at any time.

What's more, these interpretations will come into play not only when you make statements about the probability of something happening, but when you make statements generally. What is the foundation of your belief?

How should we interpret what you've said? Is it based on your own analytical knowledge, your own experience of states of affairs, or of the degree of certainty that you hold? Each of these is a reasonable option, and knowing which of these motivates you will help you undertsand your own beliefs and how to argue for them.

Because, in the end, semantics isn't  about what some communication 'stands for'. It is about, most precisely, what you believe words to mean, what you believe creates truth and falsehood, what makes a principle worth defending or an action worth carrying out.

It is what separates you from automatons or animals operating on instinct. It is the basis behind having reasons at all. It is what allows for the possibility of having reasons, and what allows you to regard your point of view, and that of others, from the perspective of those reasons, even if they are not clearly articulated or identified.

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The whole concept of 'having reasons' is probably the deepest challenge there is for connectivism, or for any theory of learning. We don't want people to simply to react instinctively to events, we want them to react on a reasonable (and hopefully rational) basis. At the same time, we are hoping to develop a degree of expertise so natural and effortless that it seems intuitive.

Connectivist theory is essentially the idea that if we expose a network to appropriate stimuli, and have it interact with that stimuli, the result will be that the network is trained to react appropriately to that stimuli. The model suggests that exposure to stimuli - the conversation and practices of the discipline of chemistry, say - will result in the creation of a distributed representation of the knowledge embodied in that discipline, that we will literally become a chemist, having internalized what it is to be a chemist.

But the need to 'have reasons' suggests that there is more to becoming a chemist than simply developing the instincts of a chemist. Underlying that, and underlying that of any domain of knowledge, is the idea of being an epistemic agent, a knowing knower who knows, and not a mere perceiver, reactor, or doer. The having of reasons implies what Dennett calls the intentional stance - an interpretation of physical systems or designs from the point of view or perspective of reasons, belief and knowledge.

We could discuss the details of having and giving reasons until the cows come home (or until the cows follow their pre-programmed instinct to follow paths leading to sources of food to a place designated by an external agent as 'home'). From the point of view of the learner, through, probably the most important point to stress is that they can have reasons, they do have reasons, and they should be reflective and consider the source of those reasons.

Owning your own reasons is probably the most critical starting point, and ending point, in personal learning and personal empowerment. To undertake personal learning is to undertake learning for your own reasons, whatever they may be, and the outcome is, ultimately, your being able to articulate, examine, and define those reasons.

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Interesting discussion here. My response:

Let me take a slightly different tack. I don’t endorse all the concepts here, but use of them may make my intent clearer.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that ‘to have learned’ something is to come to ‘know something’.

Well, what is it to ‘know something’. A widely held characterization is that knowledge is ‘justified true belief’. There has been a lot of criticism of this characterization, but it will do for the present purposes.

So what is ‘justified true belief’? We can roughly characterize it as follows:

- ‘belief’ means that there is a mental state (or a brain state) that amounts to the agreement that some proposition, P, is the case.

- ‘true’ means that P is, in fact, the case.

- ‘justified’ means that the belief that P and the fact that P are related through some reliable or dependable belief-forming process.

OK, like I say, there are all kinds of arguments surrounding these definitions that I need not get into. But the concept of ‘having reasons’ is related to the idea of justification.

Now – the great advantage (and disadvantage) of connectivism is that it suggests a set of mechanisms that enables the belief that P to be justified.

Specifically:

- we have perceptions of the world through our interactions with it.

- these perceptions, through definable principles of association, create a neural network.

- this neural network reliably reflects or mirrors (or ‘encodes’, if you’re a cognitivist) states of affairs in the world

- hence, a mental state (the reflection or encoding) has been created – a belief. This belief is ‘true’, and it is ‘true’ precisely because there is a state of affairs (whatever caused the original perception) that reliably (through principles of association) creates the belief.

All very good. But of this is the total picture of belief-formation, then there is nothing in principle distinct from simple behaviourism. A stimulus (the perception) produces an effect (a brain state) that we would ultimately say is responsible for behaviour (such as a statement of belief).

But this picture is an inadequate picture of learning. Yes, it characterizes what might be thought of as rote training, but it seems that there is more to learning than this.

And what is that? The *having* of reasons. It’s not just that the belief is justified. It’s that we know it is justified. It’s being able to say ‘this belief is caused by these perceptions’.

(This is why I say that learning is both ‘practice’ and ‘reflection’ – we can become training through practice along, but learning requires reflection – so that we know why we have come to have the knowledge that we have).

Learning that ‘the sky is blue’, for example, combines both of these elements.

On the one hand, we have perceptions of the sky which lead to mental states that enable us to, when prompted, say that “the sky is blue.”

At the same time, we would not be said to have ‘learned’ that the sky is blue unless we also had some (reasonable) story about how we have come to know that the sky is blue.

What I am after is an articulation of how we would come to be able to make such statements in a connectivist envrionment. How connectivism moves beyond being a ‘mere’ forming of associations, and allows for a having, and articulation, of reasons.

74 comments:

  1. >Connectivist theory is essentially the idea that if we expose a network to appropriate stimuli, and have it interact with that stimuli, the result will be that the network is trained to react appropriately to that stimuli.

    Like behaviourism?

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  2. What an insightful post. Thank you for sharing the output of your personal writing time with us all.

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  3. > Like behaviourism ?

    No. A behaviourist will say that the *only* thing we can study is observable behaviour - stimulus and response. Anything 'internal' is a black box and cannot be discussed.

    But we are discussing the internal as well as the external. We are attempting to describe the process by which stimulus - plus whatever mediating factors may be present - produces response.

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  4. How about classical conditioning then? That seems like a good fit to what you have said. Did Pavlov think the 'only' thing that can be studied is behaviour? That seems more Skinnerian.

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  5. >We are attempting to describe the process by which stimulus - plus whatever mediating factors may be present - produces response.

    I wonder if Stimulus-stimulus theory is the best fit. The mediating factors referred too are likely the concepts to which the response is made rather than a direct response to stimuli as in S-R theory. This would fit with the concept of having reasons by which to measure one's responses, i.e. the mediating factors (Stephen's term) are the reasons for the responses.

    I still wonder about the normative aspect:

    >...they should be reflective and consider the source of those reasons.

    Why SHOULD one do this?

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  6. >We don't want people to simply to react instinctively to events, we want them to react on a reasonable (and hopefully rational) basis.

    (I wonder who 'WE' is).

    Ulop, yes, 'mediating factors' means the reasons for the response. Downes wants to ensure that people know what their reasons are and wants their reasons to be rational, whatever those reasons are. His theory goes beyond mere S-R examination to an examination of internal concepts and values that contribute to the response. So yes, his examination is more like S-S theory than simple S-R theory, which is why he is now referring to his brand as 'complex' connectivism. But I don't think it rests there;

    One SHOULD examine one's reasons, as this separates humans from animals, cows from learners, in Downes' eyes.

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  7. Just trying if this comment comes through..

    You are jumping from science to another so that it is hard to follow. You read a lot and use links.
    If the aim is to reach highest level (Dreyfus model) I what to ask in which skills: connecting? making meaning? reasoning? empowering people?
    Heli

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  8. By 'expert' I mean precisely this, from the Dreyfus link:

    "At this point you are not solving problems or making conscious decisions about things, you just “do” and it works. 'Optimal performance becomes second nature.' People may ask you why you decided to do things 'that way' and you may not know how to explain to them the 10 steps necessary to get from 'A' to 'B' because to you it was really just one step. Forcing an expert to detail the steps necessary before proceeding will often cause them to fail or second-guess. Here you think of grandma getting up at 6:00am and making biscuits from scratch for many, many years. She doesn’t measure, time, or probably even think about baking – she just does it, and it works. Very few people will attain this level in a particular skill or domain. Some estimates say 10-15 years in a particular area is required.

    An Expert has experience that 'is so vast that normally each specific situation immediately dictates an intuitively appropriate action.'"

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  9. > I wonder who 'WE' is

    Teachers.

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  10. >Teachers.

    Yes, I should have guessed this might be 'teacher-driven'. If ever a group's raison d'etre is to condition for society, it must be teachers, no?

    Reacting instinctively to events, is that what an expert (in the Dreyfus view) does?

    >To undertake personal learning is to undertake learning for your own reasons, whatever they may be, and the outcome is, ultimately, your being able to articulate, examine, and define those reasons.

    And at the end of the day, I articulate my reasons in order to what, satisfy the wants of the teachers?

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  11. Hi Stephen,

    Here are some comments on my post. As I think it is too long, I would like to seek your views before posting. http://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2010/07/07/critlit2010-connectivism-as-the-journey-continues/
    Alternatively, please advise where you would like me to post them to. You are also invited to comment there.
    Many thanks for your stimulating post here.
    John

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  12. Hiya John - I've offered a bit of a response on your post, which I also attached here. No need to move the post or anything - post wherever you want.

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  13. Anonymous: you sound like you have a negative opinion of teachers. How else can we learn, if not from teachers transferring their knowledge and guiding us in pursuing more?

    Stephen says this:

    >At the same time, we would not be said to have ‘learned’ that the sky is blue unless we also had some (reasonable) story about how we have come to know that the sky is blue.

    >What I am after is an articulation of how we would come to be able to make such statements in a connectivist envrionment. How connectivism moves beyond being a ‘mere’ forming of associations, and allows for a having, and articulation, of reasons.

    Are you looking for connectivism to provide the answer to the question:

    How do we know that we know?

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  14. > Are you looking for connectivism to provide the answer to the question: How do we know that we know?

    Yes. There needs to be a story here. We need some account of this. Otherwise there's a big black box in the middle of the theory, which would make it no better than all the other theories.

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  15. ... and, maybe a bit more accurately, there is a good story here (it is the content matter of the Critical Literacies course) and what we need to be able to state is how and where this fits into learning.

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  16. Ok, I think I understand now what you meant by you being more likely uncertain about clear concepts while characterizing George as perhaps more certain of unclear concepts: http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=257

    Perhaps the subjects of the course (cognition, change, pragmatics etc.) are environmental qualities that provide affordances for the human actor. The actions include learning (internal and social), communication, (propagation?)....

    Are you suggesting that the the course subjects (context, cognition, change, etc.) are the mediating factors between stimulus and response?

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  17. @Ulop

    I think that is what he is suggesting. Unfortunately for the connectivists, it won't be enough to seal the deal. So the debate will return to the demo of fancy on-line tools to prove their theory. CritLit2010 was not very successful, definitely not a MOOC, more like a TOOC (tiny online open course).

    As far as teachers, yes, I have had some very bad experiences with their attempts to condition me. As have many other groups located at the boundaries of the societies that are imposed upon them. As far as who else can we learn from? For starters, try Tribal Elders.

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  18. That's not a bad characterization Ulop though I wouldn't state it quite so unambiguously. Because these terms - 'cognition', 'change'. etc - themselves need describing. We need to know how people acquire them, what they entail, what impact they have on reasoning and perception.

    The anonymous comment immediately above doesn't merit comment, it being more fiction than anything else.

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  19. That hurts Stephen! Is there not a place for a little humour in connectivism? And is there not a place for fiction in the learning process?

    After all, aren't TOOCs popular in Canada? I wear one all winter....

    But seriously, there is a lot of work yet to be done on describing the mediating factors, as you have noted, and is there not a significant portion of the connectivist following that is more interested in the tools and socializing than the hard sledding of theory?

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  20. Well if you think I've simply been focused on tools, and not the hard sledding of theory, then you haven't been following my work. Why do you think we took this path, with a difficult course in in critical literacies, instead of a simple networking or how-to course?

    I don't mind the TOOC name - but I think it's unfair to call Critical Literacies a failure. Size is not the objective - openness and interesting learning are the objectives, and we accomplished these.

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  21. Oh, I didn't make myself clear. I am suggesting some of the connectivist following has a greater interest in the tools, not you. It seems that your greater interest is in the theory, and I applaud you for this. As I re-read one of your earlier works (October 2006 - Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge) I surmise that you tested some of those ideas in CritLit2010. Good work.

    However, your two objectives: openness and interesting learning.

    Openness must be fairly easy to achieve given the affordances of the web. Interesting learning, how do you determine whether that has occurred?

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  22. There was an error in my question, it should be:

    If the aim is to reach highest level (Dreyfus model) I want to ask in which skills: connecting? making meaning? reasoning? empowering people?

    want, not what!

    Sorry, I should read before sending

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  23. @maferarenas
    arenastudies.wordpress.com

    Stephen,

    I find your post interesting because of the connections you made on topics and blog´s conversations that let me know the way you understand interpretation process regarding "having reasons".

    It is good to read the differences of ideas you post on the blog. I can deduce from this that Ulop´s comments let you rethink the issues and argue about them, to expand your meanings and trying to understand the reasons of this, his state of thinking. I think he questions your pretense of objectivity in search of validating hypotheses from "Connectivism".

    Regards. María Fernanda

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  24. > If the aim is to reach highest level (Dreyfus model) I want to ask in which skills: connecting? making meaning? reasoning? empowering people?

    In this particular instance (ie., the context of 'having reasons') the aim is to achieve expert status in the various literacies described in this course, and in the case of semantics particularly, in evaluating and assessing for truth, value, motive, or objective.

    For example: a person reads a newspaper article. In that article are various statements of fact and various inferences.

    A person who is unskilled would be unable to distinguish facts from inferences, would be unable to assess the veracity or reliability of them, would be unable to form complusions independently of what was presented.

    A person at the mid-level would be able to go through evaluative processes, such as testing for validity, assessing the reliability of evidence-claims, questioning the motives of speakers, etc.

    An expert would read the article and just 'see' whether it is reliable and trustworthy, through a complex understanding of analysis and assessment that has been internalized.

    The four things you identify - "connecting? making meaning? reasoning? empowering people?" might be thought of as lesser included skills. For example, in order to assess a statement of fact, you need to be able to connect it with a wider set of descriptions, resolve the statement into some sort of proposition, engage in the inferences necessary to assess the claim, and have the capacity to express and act on the assessment.

    The four things are shorthand for complex processes. These processes work with other processes to create the higher level skills. These higher level skills are what I have tried to express under the six headings - syntax, semantics, cognition, etc.

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  25. > I think he questions your pretense of objectivity in search of validating hypotheses from "Connectivism".

    Oh, I have no pretense of objectivity. I think I'm right. The 'objective' phase of my work ended a number of years ago. Now I am trying to develop and defend (or, more accurately, explain) a specific perspective. That does not mean I am not influenced by the evidence, or that I will never change my views when confronted with conflicting data. But I will regard such data from the perspective of my views.

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  26. > I can deduce from this that Ulop´s comments let you rethink the issues and argue about them, to expand your meanings and trying to understand the reasons of this, his state of thinking.

    I will say, I find this process to be exceptionally valuable. What I developed in 1995 was the broad strokes of a theory. The discussion and analysis have been invaluable in refining the perspective, making meanings clear, correcting errors, and drawing out evidence.

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  27. > Interesting learning, how do you determine whether that has occurred?

    I've discussed this before ( here: http://www.downes.ca/presentation/251 slide 23 ). In a nutshell, we established whether learning has occurred by observing the totality of the learners activities in a network.

    We could (I'm thinking aloud here) probably identify some metrics describing this activity that might give us an assessment profile:

    - participation gap - the degree to which a person participates in the activity of the network, as opposed to merely observing it; participation would be measured not only as numbers of contributions but also engagement or response rate

    - dissonance - the degree to which a person uses works, phrases, etc., in a manner that does not create a lack of comprehension ('dissonance') on the part of other members of the network

    - resolution - the number of positive contributions to the network - problems solved, disputes adjudicated, etc.

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  28. Why haven't you developed metrics?

    Here, and in your slide 23, you suggest that the determination of 'interesting learning' is made by 'observing the totality of the learners activities in a network'. That's it? You haven't taken it any further? How can you conclude then that 'interesting learning' has occurred? And what does interesting mean? And who is interested in it? How are these observations made? How are they interpreted? Who makes the observations and the interpretations? Who makes the conclusions?

    Let me express my doubts in the form of a (short) story:

    Begging the Question - The Story of Connected Learning

    Once upon a time a course was created and presented through the medium of the internet network. Participants spanned many regions of the earth, and communicated over great distances and time zones through this network.

    The course was created to show that individual learning occurred when individuals participated in the network. This learning was measured by "established whether learning has occurred by observing the totality of the learners activities in a network".

    So the conclusion is, learning occurred in individuals who were using the network to connect. How interesting is that?

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  29. >Oh, I have no pretense of objectivity. I think I'm right.

    Are you certain that you are right? In the post I mentioned earlier, it seemed that you were uncertain:

    http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=257

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  30. I have never claimed, and never will claim, to be certain. That would be foolishness.

    But not being certain is not grounds for not believing that I am right. No?

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  31. > Why haven't you developed metrics?

    Creating metrics doesn't make the uncertain any more certain . It just allows us to posture a false precision, to draw out a meaningless abstraction and to make that stand for whatever it is that we're actually trying to achieve. Metrics don't interest me because they so often stand in as a substitute for what is being sought, and in so many minds, replace what is being sought.

    If you're willing to go along with me and allow that what we seek is *not* some sort of pseudo-mathematical precision, then I am willing to adduce to some dimensions of the achievement being sought, some signs, if you will for the personal learning you think I treat so slightly. A lower participation gap, lower dissonance, greater resolutioon - these are all ways a person can contribute to a network, and are all surface indicators of the deeper learning that has taken place.

    But the deeper learning is, precisely, the newly developed neural structures, the new pattern of connectivity, that has grown in the brain. It would be absurd to say that there is one best instantiation of this, that there is a 'perfect' neural network against which individual achievement can be measured as a percentage. *Any* metric is arbitrary and unfair. At most we get an *indication*, and in the end, the person who determines whether the effort has been worthwhile is the learner.

    You can puff that that's a petitio principii all you wish, but I think we both know it isn't.

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  32. Have you changed from thinking you are right to believing you are right? Is your belief a justified, true belief? Is your belief knowledge? Do you still think Connectivism is a non-intentional theory of learning and knowledge?

    http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/moodle/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=910&parent=5123

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  33. >and in the end, the person who determines whether the effort has been worthwhile is the learner.

    I was wondering when you might get around to acknowledging the learner in this. Earlier, you stated that 'we' had established that interesting learning had taken place. Was this use of 'we' a reference to teachers again?

    But at any rate, you have concluded that 'interesting learning' has occurred without actually examining it, haven't you? You just assumed that it has occurred, because your theory says so.

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  34. I have empathy with you on the merits of metrics; however they are not the circular reasoning I was getting at. This is what I think you are claiming:

    1. the neural network functions the same as the social network
    2. learners participate in the social network
    3. participation in the social network is demonstrative of learning

    ergo

    a) the participation in the social network shows learning in the neural network
    b) because the neural network functions the same as the social network

    What is missing is proof of the first premise. Is this what you hope critical literacies will do, help prove that premise? (I am calling the learning network a social network to distinguish it from the neural network)

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  35. > you have concluded that 'interesting learning' has occurred without actually examining it, haven't you?

    But I have. I've observed the discussions, aggregated blog posts, had discussions in the synchronous forum. So I've seen that personally.

    In addition, we (NRC) are conducting surveys of the course participants. So we will have additional evidence of learning.

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  36. > a) the participation in the social network shows learning in the neural network
    b) because the neural network functions the same as the social network

    No, that's not the inference.

    The inference is a lot simpler. It's basically, "In order to function as a physicist (eg. by participation in a social network) you have to have the knowledge of a physicist."

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  37. > Have you changed from thinking you are right to believing you are right?

    I've desc4ribed what I think knowledge is on numerous occasions. I clearly said the 'justified true belief' was simply the employment of an expression to make a point. You shouldn't try to suggest that this is now my epistemology, not after I specifically said it wasn't.

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  38. Do you still think Connectivism is a non-intentional theory of learning and knowledge?

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  39. >In addition, we (NRC) are conducting surveys of the course participants. So we will have additional evidence of learning.

    Well, one can hope there is additional evidence of learning. So maybe we shall wait on the NRC before we conclude that 'interesting learning' has occurred? I hope the NRC asks me what I learned. Not much so far, only some insights into your thinking. If the NRC wants to follow up, my name is really Anon y Moose, (spanish-canadian?) and I reside in the swamp-land.

    But seriously, how do I acquire the knowledge of a physicist, in order to participate as one in the social network? Another example of your circular reasoning?

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  40. >You shouldn't try to suggest that this is now my epistemology, not after I specifically said it wasn't.

    Not trying to suggest anything, just wanted to ensure I understood you correctly. You used the word belief where before you used the word think and I was wondering about your precision in the use of the language.

    But it does seem that you are conflicted over the terms belief and knowledge (justified true belief): you are willing to use them to make a point, but seem to be suggesting you don't 'believe' in them. What is with that?

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  41. > But seriously, how do I acquire the knowledge of a physicist, in order to participate as one in the social network?

    I've discussed this at length elsewhere, I'm not going to reprise it in a comment area.

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  42. > Do you still think Connectivism is a non-intentional theory of learning and knowledge?

    Yes.

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  43. > you are conflicted over the terms belief and knowledge (justified true belief): you are willing to use them to make a point, but seem to be suggesting you don't 'believe' in them.

    So? There's nothing wrong with that. It's like using terminology like 'the Sun rising' in order to describe when something happened. We know the Sun doesn't actually rise - it is the Earth turning, not the Sun moving - but the terminology is convenient.

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  44. >We know the Sun doesn't actually rise - it is the Earth turning, not the Sun moving - but the terminology is convenient.

    Actually, from at least one perspective, the sun does in fact rise. The terminology is descriptive, not merely convenient. Where would your theory be without the language of representation to describe it?

    The following statement is from your post at:

    http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/moodle/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=910&parent=5123

    >What this means is that, in connectivism, learning is not about content. It is not about entering a certain representational state with respect to the world.

    I disagree with this statement. I suggest that learning is in fact the opposite: we are born into a representational state, a consciousness that is a product of the culture that went before us.

    So when you say:

    >Oh, I have no pretense of objectivity. I think I'm right.

    I say: I think that you are wrong.

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  45. Ulop, you are free to disagree with me if you wish. Note, however, you are now to the point of defending your position by saying (a) the Sun moves around the Earth, and (b) we are born with a pre-existing consciousness of culture. I wish you the best of luck defending these positions; I do not intend to offer further argument regarding them.

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  46. Don't be silly and twist my words around. That smacks of helpless resignation on your part. I am not defending either of the two positions that you suggest I am, and in fact you are misstating at least one of them. I merely point out other perspectives in opposition to your certainty of the strength of yours:

    1. From the eastern seaboard of North America, for example, the sun does appear to rise over the ocean as day approaches

    2. A culture holds a collective consciousness that pre-exists the birth of any one of its members

    It is good to see you retreat from further argument. I take this as you conceding the field. As you have said before about connectivism:

    >It allows - indeed, encourages - the idea that people may have different, and individual, accounts of the external world.

    My perspective encourages different accounts as well. Yours seems contradictory, however, in the sense that while you say you encourage different accounts you also know that yours is the right one. Note that I am not so certain, I only 'think' that you are wrong, I am not sure I 'believe' it yet.

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  47. hmmm....

    At the end of the day, connectivism is like all other theories, a representation in language of what occurs during learning. And I thought it denied representational states?

    Are you now adopting Dennett's intentional stance to support your beliefs?

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  48. Stephen's brand is different from George's

    from here:

    http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/04/vagueness-of-george-siemens.html

    >I don't think this is true. Siemens, Snowden and Weinberger may all be talking about "more diverse ways of knowing" - but I am not talking about their 'diverse ways of knowing' but rather - as I have been consistently and for decades - on how networks learn things, know things, and do things.

    Point #1. Stephen is interested in the study of networks, and how networks learn, know and do things.

    And from a comment above:

    >The inference is a lot simpler. It's basically, "In order to function as a physicist (eg. by participation in a social network) you have to have the knowledge of a physicist."

    Point #2

    Physicist knowledge must be internalized for it to be externalized.

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  49. Simple Connectivism (George) vs. Complex Connectivism (Stephen) from 'the representative student' presentation.

    Point #3

    Stephen asserts that the Complex view is from the network to the brain, i.e. nature of the world informs the nature of the mind but they are separate and non-contiguous.

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  50. The last two comments: thanks. Like you said..

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  51. (thanks, I'll keep going then...)

    But I'm stuck on non-contiguous. I find this a difficult point to get past. Seems to be a mind-matter dualism.

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  52. Yup, stuck on non-contiguity.

    The thought that the world informs the mind seems plausible, but I am leaning towards the idea that the mind in turn becomes like the world, and then redefines the world in a spiralling construction-like manner - the remixing aspect you refer to.

    I can't see how they are so separate. Perhaps I just don't understand what you mean by separate and non-contiguous.

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  53. >At the same time, we would not be said to have ‘learned’ that the sky is blue unless we also had some (reasonable) story about how we have come to know that the sky is blue.

    Too easy. My family and society taught me this. When I was young, they made continual references to the space above as sky, and the colour of it as blue, such that I was conditioned to associate what I saw as being blue sky. To this day, I still see the sky as blue. What about you? What colour do you see, and why? Do you even see sky?

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  54. >At the same time, we would not be said to have ‘learned’ that the sky is blue unless we also had some (reasonable) story about how we have come to know that the sky is blue.

    Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.

    >We are working on difficult problems that have no easy solution, and our work reflects that. And in my case at least, this comes with a concordant dislike for simple answers and easy solutions.

    Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.

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  55. The tree is a network. The river is a network. When I say the tree is non-contiguous with the river, all I'm saying is that the river isn't a part of the tree, and that the tree isn't part of the river.

    You don't need to imagine any sort of mind-body dualism here. When I say that the neural network in the brain is non-contiguous with the social network, I am simply saying they are different networks, the way a tree and a river are different.

    They are both physical. They can actually physically interact with each other. But saying they are not contiguous is the trivial observation that people in a social network are not neurons in a person's brain.

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  56. >I am simply saying they are different networks, the way a tree and a river are different.

    Good, thanks for the explanation. I was thinking of contiguous as connected, and I do tend to think that mind is connected to matter. I also tend to think that a tree and a river, although perhaps separate entities in one sense, have connections, one being through a shared usage of water. I guess this is why you also distinguish yourself from George by saying you focus on the patterns, whereas George focuses on the connections.

    >When I say the tree is non-contiguous with the river, all I'm saying is that the river isn't a part of the tree, and that the tree isn't part of the river.

    >But saying they are not contiguous is the trivial observation that people in a social network are not neurons in a person's brain.


    Point #4

    'Neurons in a person's brain' is not a metaphor for 'People in a social network'. It is an analogy, at best, and a moot point, nonetheless.

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  57. "I guess this is why you also distinguish yourself from George by saying you focus on the patterns, whereas George focuses on the connections."
    I think that marks the difference between previous learning theory from Connectivism, in that Connectivism provides an explanation on why and how the perspectives are similar or different, just like what you have highlighted here relating the different emphasis and perspectives by George, Stephen and even you, everyone else and me. The challenge to previous learning theory based on my understanding of Connectivism is that "Learning theories that were based on particular static learning principles might not be able to explain why and how certain learning has or has not occurred". We are basing lots of knowledge and learning on the behaviors (behaviorism), cognitions (cognitivism), construction of knowledge (constructivism), and though they all tell a part of the story, or tried to explain what has happened, we are not sure if such knowledge and learning could be "repeated" when learning in a different learning space or media, as these theories were not developed at this time, and so a lot of assumptions made may not be precise or accurate (see my Assumption Theory that I suggested in my post). Also, Anonymous: would you (we) be basing a theory on "debate", and "arguments on reasons only"? Have you considered the views and perspectives of others like George, and participants of CritLit2010 and CCK08/09?
    Relating to metaphor and analogy, again, I have noted that people are using it in an interchangeable manner in the internet. So, is it a metaphor about connectivism? This would be another long debate, I suppose....
    Hi Stephen: I think this conversation has stimulated me to reflect on what Connectivism means to you and Ken and Anonymous in a deeper way. Many thanks.
    I have also posted some of my views on Connectivism in my lastest blog post in response to Ulop's questions.
    John

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  58. >Also, Anonymous: would you (we) be basing a theory on "debate", and "arguments on reasons only"? Have you considered the views and perspectives of others like George, and participants of CritLit2010 and CCK08/09?

    So far, debate and arguments seem to be the predominant data set for this theory, making this a more philosophical discussion. George states that connectivism is a theory in its infancy, with few hard facts to support it. So we have mostly views and perspectives to go by (grin). In this conversation here, I am attempting to both understand and re-mix/re-state Stephen's perspective. Sometimes this attempt gets a little heated, as you noted somewhere in your blog, but hard work can involve sweat.

    Frankly, at this time I find Stephen's perspective the most interesting one. Most of the other perspectives I've seen that you refer to don't involve the depth of philosophical theorizing that Stephen offers, and I am drawn to it, for better or worse.

    Cheers,
    Anon y Moose

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  59. >Relating to metaphor and analogy, again, I have noted that people are using it in an interchangeable manner in the internet.

    Maybe this will help you understand my use of the terms. I get them mixed up all the time too, and for this discussion used this source as reference:

    http://www.copyblogger.com/metaphor-simile-and-analogy-what%E2%80%99s-the-difference/

    Now, maybe it is all wrong too in its definitions, and, is so, I would love someone to provide some better ones.

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  60. >But saying they are not contiguous is the trivial observation that people in a social network are not neurons in a person's brain.

    Question: Are neurons in a person's brain connected to the social network?

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  61. Stephen must be thinking or else away on holidays, so I will answer here:

    http://ulop.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/contiguous-networks/

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  62. > Question: Are neurons in a person's brain connected to the social network?

    Everything is connected to everything. So this question is not sufficiently precise.

    When we talk of 'a network' we typically talk about a set of similar or related entities that are connected via a certain type of connection.

    For example, the 'neural network' is the network composed of various neurons, which are connected by means of axons (ie., neural connections).

    When we say that something is not a part of the neural network, we are not saying it could never connect with it - there are certain types of neurons (sensory receptor neurons, for example) that support such connections. But these entities are not a *part* of the neural network, because (a) they are not neurons, and (b) they do not connect to neurons by means of axons.

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  63. p.s. I am on vacation so don't always expect questions to be answered quickly.

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  64. Ok, I understand you now.

    By what means does the neural network connect to the social network? or

    How is the neural network connected to the social network?

    Moose.

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  65. What is the means of connection between these networks: neural and social?

    i.e. how do they connect, by what means? If connections are supported through 'sensory receptor neurons' and other types of neurons, what is the method of connection, if not via axons?

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  66. In http://www.downes.ca/presentation/251 slide 23, the inference of learning appears to be derived from observation of behaviour in a social network. But it requires quite sophisticated observation to confirm that the behaviour is based on beliefs that are founded on good reasons as discussed in this posting. Also, there would have to be a change of behaviour (beyond that attirbutable to increasing familiarity with that specific network)in order to infer that the demonstated knowledge was newly acquired and so evidence of learning. So I must say I agree with those who are skeptical of Stephen and co's ability to provide convincing evidence that "interesting learning" has occurred (other than perhaps by direct testimony of the participants).

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  67. >What is the means of connection between these networks: neural and social?

    I think this is a good question. Stephen is saying that networks are defined by their connections and their matter i.e. a neural network is defined as a network consisting of neurons with axonal connections.

    Social networks must consist of people connected by (something). What?

    And how do neural networks connect with social networks?

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  68. Connected by both input through axons and input and output through interaxion ;-)

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  69. Are you Ulop, Jonhusband, Anonymous, Maria, Heli and me all connected to Stephen now, through this conversation? What is the means of connection between these networks: neural and social? Did you (we) think (neural networks)personally, then post our thought (these comments)in response to Stephen's post. Then we wait for Stephen to respond... I can't speak for Stephen, but I did think and write - that is my connection personally, then I connect to Stephen and your ideas through this posting, and write down what I mean (semantics)and how I have interpreted Stephen and your questions. May be I haven't gone into the neural level in the "analysis" of the neural networks, about the axons, the synapses. Do we know enough on what happens there in the connections - and learning?
    John

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  70. John:

    How are we connected? By what means, if not axonal? Digital? Language?

    btw I prefer to be called Moose, as in Anon y Moose.

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  71. Hi Moose, hope you don't mind me leaving this to Stephen to respond to you on this: how are we connected?
    John

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  72. Well John, I think it will be a cold day in hell before Stephen deigns to respond further.

    So the question stands unanswered....

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  73. Moose,

    Connected by emotion. You may be emotionally connected to the content or to a person even if only transiently.

    it's all in the peptides :-)

    Some reading on emotions and learning
    http://web.media.mit.edu/~reilly/nns/How_emotions_affect_learning.pdf

    If you have no emotional attachment to the nodes in your network they will cease to be. your connection will be broken.

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  74. @Steve

    Interesting. That would put a high priority on emotions, no? Thanks for the link.

    Moose

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I welcome your comments - I'm really sorry about the moderation, but Google's filters are basically ineffective.