Monday, September 26, 2011

Six Ways the Rich Are Waging a Class War Against the Poor

The article is wordy and a a bit too specific, in a misleading way. But it ultimately gets at six of the ways the rich are waging a class war against the poor. Here's my clearer, more pointed (and more international) list:

1. Attacking the Vote

It's not just about depicting voter registration as "unAmerican". The vote is being undermined world-wide, not only through disenfranchisement, but also through money politics, divestment of public goods and responsibility into private hands, and the corruption of politics generally.

2. Unemployment (without benefits)

The people no longer needed to produce consumer goods are depicted as lazy and slackers, and their unemployment is blames on their lack of a desire to work. This despite the fact that they are those who have historically contributed to society, and should have earned a share of its wealth.

3. Denial of Status

Because the poor have managed to amass some quantity of essentially worthless goods, their poverty is denied recognition. This is the 'everybody has colour TV so nobody is poor' argument.

4. Paternalism

The poor are blamed for their own poverty, and therefore measures - such as food stamps - must be undertaken so they do not deepen their poverty. These measures effectively disempower the poor and prevent their use of what meagre means they have in anything other than an approved manner.

5. Distraction from Cause

To hear the rich, the causes of poverty are legion: everything from single-parent homes to poor education outcomes to inferior cultural values. Consequently, anti-poverty initiatives are directed away from the actual causes of poverty. These, in turn, rather than becoming measures to reduce poverty, become mechanisms of transferring public wealth back to the rich.

6. Taxation

The bulk of the burden of taxation falls upon those who earn the least in society, this particularly when consumption taxes are taken into account. Wealthy entities, such as the rich and large corporations, function essentially tax-free; even those who pay taxes are eligible for support and subsidy programs unimaginable to the poor.

Posted to Googple+ here: https://plus.google.com/109526159908242471749/posts

Friday, September 23, 2011

Refuting Every Point

It's not often that you get a serties of points like this just begging to be refuted:

> I don't think most of us want our dentists to be "out of the box" thinkers.

I do. I totally don't want my dentists practising the way they did when I was a kid, I appreciate the dentist who put "Where's Waldo" on the ceiling (this prompting one of my best insights about knowledge), and I think Nitrous Oxide and the iPod are the greatest boons to dentistry ever. All totally out of the box thinking.

> I don't believe that when teaching a pilot to fly 747s we encourage a "don't memorize facts, look it up" training.

Nobody wants 747 pilots to rely on memory. That's why pilots (and other staff) are given detailed checklists to follow. When new planes come on stream, or new procedures are implemented, we want the pilots to be "looking them up" instead of relying on remembering what they did when they were first trained.

> Do we really want the accountants preparing our taxes to take a constructivist route to learning new tax laws?

Yes. Tax laws change every year and there's not going to be anyone around to teach them. If they don't learn how to figure it out by themselves when they're in school, they will be hopeless as accountants - and will cost us money.

> Do we really want an engineer learning how to learn when she designs the bridge we travel over for work each day?

Yes. It's important to be alert for factors that might never have been taught in Engineering school. New materials with new strengths - and new weaknesses - are developed all the time. The engineer has to learn how to observe these new materials, to work in new environments - and to be able to pick up cues that may be very different from place to place. Not only that, engineers work for clients. They need to understand their needs and constraints. The first thing an engineer needs to do on any job is to learn how to learn everything he or she will need to complete the bridge.

> I shudder to think of a world in which hospitals were run like schools: every doctor allowed to do her own "thing" with no accountability or practices based on the best research and information available.

Doctors that simply follow procedure, no matter how "evidence-based", make the worst doctors. While there may be a great deal of similarity between one illness and the next, the reality is that every patient is different, and that the doctor has to make an evaluation based on the facts at hand.

That's not to say doctors are completely free-range, with no accountability whatsoever (though it certainly feels like it at times). Doctors, like teachers, are probably held more accountable than most other professionals. A doctor who loses all his or her patients will face the same sort of questions as a teacher who fails all his or her students. And actually - if doctors were as accountable as teachers,people would blame them when people become obese, develop genetic disorders, drive carelessly or drink too much alcohol.

> Every hospital does not need to be a research establishment, gathering data via "action research" related to any spurious brain-fart a teacher might have which could even remotely impact learning.

Every hospital does act as a research environment, participating in clinical trials, training interns through hands-on practise, monitoring reactions, effectiveness of procedures, and the rest. There's nothing wrong with collecting a lot of data and subjecting it to analysis, provided (a) privacy and security are protected, and (b) it's not used as a club to punish employees who had no power to control the outcome.

> Children are not rats on which educational experiments should be endlessly run. Until we have a body of evidence, hopefully gather by lab schools or non-commercial researchers, we ought to be following best practices as outlined by our professional organizations.

Children are lab rats on which endless experiments are run. Coaches try out new practice regimes, advertisers try out new commercials, toy companies test out new games, media companies experiment with new genres (and retread pop idols), clothing manufacturers try out new fabrics, and hospitals try out new treatments. There's no way to get the evidence other than by experimentation - demanding "best practices" with no experimentation is inherently self-contradictory.

> Educational technology experts may be doing both students and themselves a significant disservice by advocating a single, unproven approach to educational practices.

They would be, if that's what they were doing. But for the most part, if not entirely, education technology experts are not doing that. The things advocated by technologists - everything from serious games to social networking to online writing to immersive simulations - have been tried and tested. We know they work. We don't say 'everything should be a simulation' or 'all students must blog'. Nobody does that.

> Mr. Warlick and Mr. Richardson, I am a huge fan and appreciate the challenge. But don't discount the value and honor in learning a craft or a research-based profession and doing it very, very well.

Maybe think about how this craft was learned. Most teachers, although they went to school and university, learned much of what they know about the classroom is a slow, painstaking, hand-won fashion, from the time they were student teachers, trying things out with real students, to the time they were veterans, learning some new technology along with their students.

Every time a teacher faces a new class in September, the learning begins again. The students don't come with any 'best practice' manual (though if the teachers communicate well there might be some reports). What worked in a research environment might well fail with the current group - there's no way to know except to try.

> I want our schools so serve those who wish to be future plumbers, mechanics, and nurses as well as future politicians, bureaucrats and school administrators. Those folks who need a actual body of knowledge and skills that they can apply reliably and effectively.

There is no such thing as a "body of knowledge" that characterizes the education needed by plumbers, mechanics, nurses, politicians, bureaucrats and administrators.

If you even think about that for a moment, you see how ridiculous such a statement is. Take me, for example. I'm 50. When I would have been learning plumbing or mechanics or the rest, it was the 1970s. Back then:

- there were no PVC pipes in wide usage, aluminum wiring was just fine, asbestos was widely used for insulation and fireproofing, and building codes covered a fraction of what they do today. Even the knowledge of 'how to seal pipes' or 'proper drainage for a house' changed in that time.

- the '351 Cleveland' was the engine of choice, there were no electronics or computers in cars, ABS brakes didn't exist, and farmers used purple gas

I have written on numerous occasions that to learn how to be a plumber or a mechanic or anything else is not to memorize some 'body of knowledge' - not only would this knowledge be useful just a few years out of school, that approach to learning would render you an inflexible, and ultimately terrible, plumber or mechanic.

What the evidence tells us (if people would just look at it) is that becoming a plumber or a mechanic or whatever is to adopt, and embody, what Wittgenstein would call a form of life - a way of seeing the world, a way of looking at problems and learning solutions, a way of experimenting, communicating, imagining and thinking.

It's when we rely on an old set of 'best practices' that are anything but that we do the most damage to children and students. It's when we think we know, but do not, that we callously commit the most grievous damage.

One Bad Experience

It's funny how one bad experience can make you feel disempowered and helpless and frustrated.

Andrea and I have been struggling with one doctor for several years now (no, not our family doctor, a specialist). Obtaining appointments has become an exercise in continual frustration. Today was just the latest in a long string of incidents.

We understand that the doctor is busy, and that there's a waiting list. We understand that we have to make a special effort to see the specialist. But there are unnecessary difficulties and these have made life miserable for us over the last four years.

At most places - like the dentist, the optometrist, the family doctor, the blood clinic, my CPAP specialist, the Honda dealership, and pretty much everyone else except medical specialists here in NB - you make an appointment, and then when the day arrives, you go to your appointment.

Often, the service will give you a call a day or two ahead of the appointment, as a courtesy. One of our dentists even has an automated calling service which makes the call at night, when the office is empty. We confirm the appointment and, most of the time, make it without a problem.

Not so the specialist. Instead, his secretary keeps all the information to herself. Instead of making appointments ahead of time, she calls people to tell them they have an appointment at such and such a time. Her calls can give you as much as a week of warning, or as little as a day or two.

If you are referred to this doctor, you don't set an appointment. You sit and wait. When the time comes, you receive a phone call. You cancel whatever your plans were, and show up to the appointment. You are not supposed to call them and ask - you get increasingly terse responses telling you to be patient.

When I asked the secretary about this, she said "it's more efficient." She tried setting up appointments ahead of time, she said, but people kept missing them. So she just calls them at the last minute. What about reminder calls? I asked. She doesn't have time for that, she said.

Even granted that it's more efficient (which I do not believe) it is still a very difficult system to work with, very hard on people waiting for care, and very unstable.

We waited 18 months to get the first call. 18 months after the referral, and the call never came. I went in and was told there was never a referral. Fortunately, our family doctor keeps records, and the referral was down on paper. We had simply been missed, and were never going to get a call, and just didn't know it.

Once on the list (for we were put on the list right away once we brought it to their attention) we faced a second waiting period for an actual appointment. Time passed. We were told, again, that it could be 18 months. So we waited another year an a half. When I went in we were told that we had been given some papers at the previous meeting to deliver to the hospital, and since we hadn't done so, the paperwork never came back and so no appointment was made.

No problem. We would get a call in December for an appointment for surgery in early January. Finally. Most of December came and went, and I went into the office a week before Christmas to find it in a state of disrepair. All the staff had taken the month of December off and the office was being renovated. I left the office growling about lawyers and politicians and how heads were going to roll.

When I went back in the first week of January, I was told that the hospital time had not been available and so the appointment could not be made. So they just never called. In fact, the hospital time would not be available, somehow, until March.

Now we're in follow-up mode, one ankle down and one to go. But I found out today that we were back into the "we'll never get a call" cycle. Apparently (so I'm told) we were called in August for an appointment in August, and that it had been missed, so we were off the 'to be called' list. If we hadn't inquired, we would never have heard about the scheduled follow-up.

Now I am supposed to have been the one to have taken this call. Readers will recall we were camping in Prince Edward Island for the month of August. But the secretary stared me straight in the eyes and said I had taken her call. So - I suppose it's possible. We did come home a few times to feed the cats.  But I have no recollection of such a phone call. And it's not like there's a piece of paper that says "here's your appointment" that can prove the case one way or another.

Anyhow, now we're back into the 'we will call you' cycle again, where we are told, "If the doctor wants to see you, we'll get a call next Monday." If not - we're off the list completely, and we'll never hear anything about the second ankle.

I'm quite sure we're not the only people in this situation. Maybe it's normal that the people of New Brunswick have the time to sit around and wait for a call from their specialists, but we do not. We do things - we travel, we go camping, we make commitments. So do other people, which means when they get into a situation where they need a specialist, they have to go through this phone-call roulette.

To be clear: it's not just this doctor and this secretary. I have had to see two other specialists here in the province, about other things, and they both set up appointments the same way - don't call us, we'll call you (some time).

It's very hard not to think that there's something funny going on here. It's very hard to think that what in most jurisdictions would normally be a waiting list, where people make appointments and wait their turn, here there's a different sort of pecking order at work, where decisions are made behind the scenes about which patients get seen first and which must wait.

And when you're an immigrant to New Brunswick, with no relatives and no connections in the health care sector, and when you always find yourself waiting the maximum period, or shuffled off the list altogether, you really begin to wonder.

At the very least, we seem to be facing some sort of systemic incompetence. I'm even willing to admit that it might me our incompetence - it's not like I have a lot of experience dealing with health care systems and doctors. But the problem is, when there's nothing you can do but sit and wait for a phone call that might never come, there's nothing you can do to fix things, nothing you can do to make plans, nothing you can do to ensure that you are seen in a timely manner.

There's no excuse for not making appointments. There's no excuse for not making some commitment about the time it will take to see a specialist. There's no excuse for a process that makes it impossible to make any plans or do anything that takes you away from your home for more than a day or two. People who are in the medical system ought to have rights: the right to transparency about the process, and the right to fair treatment.

Right now, neither is the case in New Brunswick. I imagine most people here are too cowed and scared by the specialists and their secretaries that they don't do anything. But we're to the point where there's nothing to lose, where even if we complain we can't get worse service, because that's where we're at now.

So I'm muttering about lawyers and politicians and waiting for Monday, when I expect that the promised phone call will not come at all, again.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Feedback on Big Blue Button

Feedback sent by request to Big Blue Button application authors after our #change11 experience:


Our installation is managed by Stephen Dame, who has set up a dedicated server for it. I have copied him on this email. He can provide you with details of the server configuration.

You are correct, we were running 0.8-beta. We were set at maxParticipants = -1 (unlimited) and the server crashed at 63 attendees. Specifically, we crashed as I attempted to mute participants.

Specific issues encountered in crowd management were:
- as attendees arrived, they had to be told to click on the headphones in order to hear anything - when they clicked on the headphone, however, they defaulted to 'unmute', even when the audience default was set to mute - there should be an option to set new arrivals to 'mute' or 'unmute' by default - and all new arrivals should default to 'earphones on'
- as more unmuted participants arrived, the sound degraded, even if they weren't saying anything - the presence of a silent unmuted participant definitely degraded the audio of speaking participants
- the arrival and departure tones when people clicked their headphones on and off became a cacophony - I understand there's a server setting that turns this off - this should be available as a control in the environment, or off by default

Except for the audio issues, and the crashing, the installation worked fine. If I were a developer I would really be focusing on audio, pretty much to the exclusion of all else. The audio really needs to be improved, even with small numbers of participants. I think Flash compresses the input too much - you get a lot of squeaking and squonking, much like audio compressed to 32bps. And mixing of separate audio streams is very poor. This sort of problem is not unique to BBB - I find the same issues with Adope Connect, which is why I blame Flash.

I've authored a full Perl interface to the API - it's pretty integrated into gRSShopper, but I'll write a stand-alone version people can use (there's a Perl BBB module, but the module is not stand-alone (it also has to be integrated into some application) and the documentation is awful). I'll post it on git and sent you the links when it's done.

Update - Blogger refuses to accept this as a comment, even from me, so I'm posting this comment here:

Hi Stephen,

Thanks again for sharing your experiences with BigBlueButton.  I posted the following reply to your blog (it's probably awaiting moderation)

Regards,... Fred
BigBlueButton Developer

(Note - there's no comment moderation on new posts - but Google has some weird anti-spam feature totally outside my control -- SD)
-----------------
As one of the developers of BigBlueButton, thank you for posting your
experiences! My responses are inline.


> We were set at maxParticipants = -1 (unlimited) and the server crashed at 63 attendees.

> Specifically, we crashed as I attempted to mute participants.

Let me say outright that we (the BigBlueButton developers) strongly recommend you use BigBlueButton for sessions of 25 users or less.  You can provision a server for higher capacity, but as we have no control over what users install BigBlueButton, we tend to give a conservative number.

For more reasons why, see

 http://code.google.com/p/bigbluebutton/wiki/FAQ#How_many_simultaneous_users_can_a_BigBlueButton_server_support?

The number of 25 is arbitrary.  With proper provisioning a server can support more; however, every server is different.  I would recommend you work with Stephen to do some stress testing on your server, find out the number of users at which the audio starts to degrade (it will be when the CPU hits about 80%) and then cap the server at that number.

Specifically, in your landing page, poll the number of users on the server and then, when a user tries to join, the # of concurrent users
exceeds the maximum, don’t let them join. Instead, print out a message saying that no more users can join.  Living within the limits of the server will ensure those that are in the session have a good experience.

If the maximum number of users for a server is too low, then we recommend talking with Stephen and getting a more powerful server. The key bottleneck in the server will be the CPU (again, see the above link for more information as to why this is the bottleneck).

> Specific issues encountered in crowd management were:
- as attendees arrived, they had to be told to click on the headphones in
> order to hear anything - when they clicked on the headphone, however,
> they defaulted to 'unmute', even when the audience default was set to mute

If you as a moderator have ‘mute all’ set, then newcomers should come in as unmated.  If that didn’t happen, it’s a bug and we want to
reproduce and fix.  You can first try using

   http://demo.bigbluebutton.org/

to see if the bug is there.  That’s a dedicated server we make available to the community to test the latest version of BigBlueButton.  If you've found a bug, and you can take a moment to
report it

   http://code.google.com/p/bigbluebutton/wiki/IssuesInstructions?tm=3

we are *very* appreicative as we can work on fixing it.


> - there should be an option to set new arrivals to 'mute' or 'unmute' by
> default - and all new arrivals should default to 'earphones on'

When you click ‘mute all’, it will (a) mute all current participants and (b) automatically mute new participants as well.  Again, if it's
not, that's a bug .


> - as more unmuted participants arrived, the sound degraded, even if
> they weren't saying anything - the presence of a silent unmuted
> participant definitely degraded the audio of speaking participants

This is a function of BigBlueButton’s design.  We optimized the experience for small to medium (25 or less) groups where *everyone* can be talking at one time.

In contrast, compare this to a conference server designed for webinar mode, there is no concept of everyone talking, rather, there is only one person talking and everyone else listens.

You can see there is a very conscious design choice behind BigBlueButton.  The two options: (a) high quality collaboration for small groups, or (b) scalability to large groups.  We choose (a) because the market is much larger.   In other words, our focus is to keep working on BigBlueButton until it does (a) really, really well (i.e. please a good chunk of the distance education market) before moving to (b).


> - the arrival and departure tones when people clicked their headphones on and off became a cacophony

These can be turned off on the server.  Stephen can do this for you.

> - I understand there's a server setting that turns this off - this should be available as a control in the environment, or off by default

Agreed.

> If I were a developer I would really be focusing on audio, pretty much to the exclusion of all else.

It’s been over a year and a half development on the audio portion of BigBlueButton, and during that time we learned a lot about how to do
VoIP properly.

So much is dependent on the server.  If you try the audio a http://demo.bigbluebutton.org/, you should be able to experience good quality VoIP.  Again, its dedicated server (dedicated hardware) and you should have a good experience with small goups.

> I'll post it on git and sent you the links when it's done.

Much appreciated! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How to Participate in the MOOC - 2

Today it's all about setting up your social web.

Remember from yesterday that if you want to engage more actively in the course, the best way is to create your own contributions online. You are not required to do this, but you may well find yourself more engaged in the process if you do.

Here's what the social web involves in this course:
  • Your own personal information and email
  • Your social network identities
  • Your blog and other RSS feeds
  • Your newsletter subscription
  • OpenID

Logging In

Before dealing with any of these on the change.mooc.ca website, it is necessary to log in. You created a login ID and a password when you first signed up for the course. You might even still be logged in! If you have not yet signed up for the course, you'll need to register. This will also log you in.

Check any page on the change.mooc.ca website and look to the upper right - there you will find the login dialog, right below the navigation. It will either say "You are not logged in" or it will say "You are logged in as so-and-so." If you are not logged in, you'll have to click the login link and log in.

Don't panic if you've forgotten your UserID and your password. Almost everybody forgets them. It's not just you. To recover your login details, you can go to the password recovery page and enter your information, usually your email address. The system will email you your login information.

NOTE: this login only works on the change.mooc.ca website - don't expect it to work on other social networks, groups, online conferences, or anything else.

Your Options

Once you are logged in, you will see the Options link in the upper right hand corner. Clicking on this takes you to your options page, where you can manage your online presence in change.mooc.ca

At the top of the options page you'll see your personal information - name, location, email address, and the like. Don't worry, we're not showing this to anyone else - there's a link that allows you to see your public profile (at the moment, very minimal). There's a link that allows you to edit your personal details. Use this page to change your password or email address.

It would be really nice if you added your name and a short personal description we can show publicly; we'd like to have personal pages people can view if they follow your name (we'll do this instead of the ubiquitous 1500-entry long 'welcome' thread you see in other courses). Don't add information you don't want to share. No website is invulnerable. Even if you opt not to display some information, if may become public one day.

Your Social Network Identities

This is something new for these courses - we are asking participants to contribute their social network identities. You will find a screen where you can edit social network information. Use the drop-down to select a social network name, and then put your member name in the next colum. Check the box if you want this identity shared, or not if you don't.

Do not enter your social network password. We will never ask you for your password, whether it's your Twitter password, Facebook password, or whatever.

What will we use this information for? Well, we're not totally sure, but we have some ideas:

- it would be nice to include your @twitter name with your comments. This will allow us to do that.

- we'd like to be able to allow you to publish on your social network site from this website. Then, for example, you could comment on a comment here, and tweet the URL from your account, or post a copy of your comment in Tumblr, or whatever. Now none of this exists yet, but we're hopeful.

- we'd like to be able to compare networks before and after the course. If we know (say) your Twitter name, we can use your list of followers - and those of other people signed up in the course - to create a 'graph' of the course.

There's probably a lot more we could do - we'll be open to ideas for the entire year. If you want to take part, add your information here. If not, no problem, you can still enjoy all aspects of the course.

Your blog or RSS Feeds

As mentioned yesterday, we'd like you to add your blog URL and RSS feed to the feed list. We will aggregate the posts you write over the year, and if you use the #change11 tag in the title, body or category of your post, we'll be able to link to it in the course newsletter and make it available in the content viewer.

You can see a lit of your feeds in your Options page, with a little coloured dot to indicate its status. Orange means it's pending approval - we review all feeds to make sure the URL is correct and that their contents are not full of unwanted material. Green means that it has been approved and is being harvested - and you should be able to see what content we are displaying by clicking on the 'view' link.

To submit your feed, click on the Add a New Feed link. This will take you to a form where you can add your feed information.

While many of you may have created blogs and found feeds, this may be new to many of you. If you need more detailed instructions, you can view one of the videos we've produced describing the process for other courses:
- Here it is for the PLENK course
- Here it is for the Critical Literacies course
The only difference between this course and the other courses is in (a) where to add a new feed, and (b) the course tag.

Once you start seeing articles from other blogs appear in the newsletter, you'll see how powerful this form of interaction can be. We know you'll enjoy it a lot more than just another threaded course discussion forum.

Your Newsletter Subscription

If you're reading this, you've probably already subscribed to the newsletter. This section lets you manage that subscription. 

You receive your email every weekday at the email address specified in your personal information. At the bottom of that newsletter is an unsubscribe link. Click the link, and you're unsubscribed. No questions, no logins, nothing else at all!

So, sometimes people unsubscribe by accident. Or for some reason they can't read the unsubscribe link. So then you go to your Manage Subscriptions page - you'll see a list of the newsletters in the course (currently there's only one). Check the box to subscribe, uncheck it to unsubscribe.

You can use this as often as you want. Uncheck to take a break from the course, and when you're ready, come back, check the box, and pick up right where you left off.

OpenID

OpenID is currently broken. We don't know why. We're working on it.


Web-Based Activities
 
We want to encourage all course participants to create whatever sort of interesting activity, interaction, content or service you want. This is your course as much as it is ours!

Let me provide some examples of the things that have been done so far:

- someone has set up a Change11 Facebook group
- another person is planning a weekly teleconference

etc.

We would like you to tell us what you are doing - we can advertise the activity or event in the newsletter, and we'll list all the off-site contributions in the Web-based Activities page.

If you are a participant in the course, we encourage you to check out these activities. They won't all be for you - again, you have to pick and choose - but some of them may suit you a lot better than the activities we're hosting here. Again, what you take part in is up to you. Create your own custom experience of the course.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How to Participate in the MOOC

This short post is intended to help you participate in the Massive Open Online Course, of MOOC. It won't cover everything, but it should be enough to get you started. Note that how don't have to participate this way; it's just recommended as a good place to start.

1. Read the Newsletters

Every weekday, another newsletter will arrive in your email inbox. The best way to start participating in the course is to read these newsletters. Each newsletter will have the following common sections:

- announcements from the course administrators - these will include links to resources, announcements of online events, and other important information

- highlighted posts - these will be posts selected by the administrators that we have either written ourselves or for some reason really want to highlight

- your contributions - these will include your comments, blog posts, Twitter tweets, and related content; there can be quite a lot of this content

NOTE: if you miss the daily newsletter or do not want to receive it by email, no problem. You can read today's newsletter on the website, and you can read previous newsletters in the newsletter archive.

2. Pick and Choose

You will notice quickly that there is far too much information being posted in the course for any one person to consume. We tried to start slowly with just a few resources, but it quickly turns into a deluge.

You will be provided with summaries and links to dozens, maybe hundreds, maybe even thousands of web posts, articles from journals and magazines, videos and lectures, audio recordings, live online sessions, discussion groups, and more. Very quickly, you may feel overwhelmed.

Don't let it intimidate you. Think of it as being like a grocery store or marketplace. Nobody is expected to sample and try everything. Rather, the purpose is to provide a wide selection to allow you to pick and choose what's of interest to you.

This is an important part of the connectivist model being used in this course. The idea is that there is no one central curriculum that every person follows. The learning takes place through the interaction with resources and course participants, not through memorizing content. By selecting your own materials, you create your own unique perspective on the subject matter.

It is the interaction between these unique perspectives that makes a connectivist course interesting. Each person brings something new to the conversation. So you learn by interacting rather than by mertely consuming.

3. Comment

If you want to review the contributions of course participants in a leisurely manner, you can view them in the course Viewer. Access the viewer here. This will be the same contents you find in the newsletter, but in a format much more accessible for browsing.

At the beginning of the course the Viewer will look pretty empty. This will change rapidly as new content starts to pour into the course.

The Viewer has very simple commands. You can move 'up' or 'down' through the list of posts - 'up' will take you to newer or more recent posts, while 'down' will take you to older posts. Use the 'up' and 'down' arrow controls at the top left and right corners of the Viewer.

If you see something that moves you to respond, you can add a comment by clicking on the 'comment' button at the top of the page. This will take you to a simple comment editing screen where you can submit and edit your comment.

The first person to comment on a post seen in the viewer (or seen in the Newsletter) creates a new Thread. The thread consists of the post, and all comments on the post. Note that commenting on a post is the only way to create a thread. This means that all threads are about some blog post or another that has been displayed in the newsletter or the Viewer. It's our way of linking things together.

You can view all of the discussion threads to see the comments make by other people (the comments will also appear in the viewer, below the original blog post). You can view the Thread list here.

4. Create Your Own Contributions

You will may find that commenting on posts isn't really the best way to participate. Sure, the comments will show up in the newsletter and in the Viewer, but they're not as visible as the posts. And you can't start a new topic by commenting, you can only react to comments other people have posted.

If you want to engage more actively in the course, the best way is to create your own contributions online. You are not required to do this, but you may well find yourself more engaged in the process if you do.

The simplest and easiest way to create your own content online is to create your own blog or use a blog you have already created. You can use Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr, or any other service you want. What you write about and how you phrase it are completely up to you! We recommend you link to other resources and other blogs, but again, that's up to you.

Another way to create your own online content is to have conversations on Twitter. You should feel free to comment about the course or its contents with anyone else online. Alternatively, you may use any online service, such as Delicious bookmarks, Flickr photos, or YouTube videos.Or you could create a Facebook, or join one - like this #change11 Facebook group - that someone else has created.

So how do we know one of your blog posts or videos is intended for this course? Easy. You should use the #change11 tag somewhere in the title or body of your content, or use it as a category. To use the tag, type the string #change11 somewhere in the content. We will look at all your content, and if we see anything tagged #change11, we will take that content and link to it in the newsletter and show it in the viewer. Then other people will be able to read and comment on your contribution.

In another post, we will cover how you can create a content site and tell us where to look for content. So don't worry about that just yet. For now, though, begin thinking about where you might want to create your contributions, and what sort of contributions they might be.

NOTE on contributing feeds: we will cover that in another post. If you have already submitted your feed and haven't seen it yet, don't worry. All feeds are reviewed before they are displayed in the course. This is to ensure we've got the right URLs and to keep out unwanted advertising. It also takes some time for posts to be aggregated. Aggregation does not start until feeds have been approved, and then are staggered, to reduce the load on the server.

5. Follow Course Content on the Internet

You may be used to other courses, where all the action happens inside the learning management system. While our course website may be an interesting place, we do not want it to be the only place this course happens.

Because participants are using a course tag, #change11, you do not need to depend on us to find content. You can do it yourself by searching for the tag. Here are some sample searches:

- #change11 Twitter search

- #change11 Google search

- #change11 search on Delicious

Notice that you can just bookmark these links and be able to search for new content whenever you want with the click of a button. You can also create alerts, such as a Google Alert, which will sent new content to you by email. Later, we will also show you how to subscribe to all the course blogs, you you can read them directly in a feed reader.

The idea of this course is that we are not creating one single point of contact on the web, but rather, are creating a cluster of related websites, joined together by common links facilitated by the use of a tag like #change11. It is not necessary to use the http://change.mooc.ca website at all!

Just remember - we don't control content on the internet. There are no 'official' #change11 Facebook groups, Google Groups, Second Life islands, or whatever - these are all created by course participants, who own them. We couldn't control it even if we wanted to - it always belongs to someone else, typically whomever authored the content. The good side of that is that you can write or say whatever you want about the course, or anything else. But you may have to accept the possibility of unwanted content on the open internet. That's why we provide the alternative of the http://change.mooc.ca website.

6. Join Us in the Online Sessions

Every week, we will have at least one online conference or course session. Very often, we will be talking with the featured author for the week. Sometimes, we will be talking among ourselves.

We will send out advance notice of these sessions in the Daily Newsletter. Be sure to check the posted time against your own time zone (we always include a link to a time zone calculator). You may need to support Flash to attend the session, and you will have to have speakers or audio enabled.

We will also broadcast these sessions on web radio (here) and save archives, so you can always play the online session back, just like any resource, should you happen to miss it. But it's usually more fun to join the live event, chat with other participants, and perhaps even join us in the live discussion yourself.

OK, that's all for today. Here's my tag: #change11

Enjoy. :)