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Mark van Harmelen :: Blog :: Concerning multiple-channels, personalisation, individualism and (our) choices

July 04, 2007

I liked Nicola van den Berg’s post about personalisation, particularly "there is also great importance in group learning, in interacting with other people, every conversation can be a learning point, therefore other people are very important, and to not care about them, would ultimately isolate yourself and be detrimental to your overall learning."

Elsewhere, well documented, so I’ll not link to them, there has been some concern about personalisation, especially where it interconnects with selfish individualism, and indeed a link to ‘personal’ use of multiple online communication channels as a spoiler for some n the online event.

So back to the chat issue in the on-line event, myself sometimes as chat and drawing active (I shy away from the use of guilty) as anyone else. Was that all bad, or all good, or somewhere in-between? I felt a bit for our main speaker, because his slides got drawn on a LOT, and I felt that was not all good. But hey, I also felt that the community * was finding its feet with a new medium and new communications channels. At a different later time, I was a momentarily embarrassed facilitator who had to suddenly find his feet on finding an extemporaneous chat conversation was un-replicable at question time. But that was cool, what is a facilitator for but to react in real-time to potentially difficult situations?

[ [ Passingly, not really part of this post: And there was a real point to that moment of discovery of un-replicability, the observation of transient phenomena that had meaning for the chat users in the context of the stream of the presentation, and that clearly added to the chat users' learning experience. Now, as not all presentation particpants wanted to be exposed to the chat perhaps the user interface to the chat system might have had a turn-off chat visibility, to enable a more personalised experience, but that is another story with its own ramifications. ] ]

Now, what I did notice was that by the end of the online sessions the over-the-top drawing had disappeared, and there was a generally more focussed purpose. Someone (ahem) kept on posting evocative images to counterpoint the final session, other people kept on drawing hearts. I feel we live in a multi-channel world, and what we ended with were good things in a multi-channel world. We need to get used to all this stuff; multiple choices are not a trivialisation unless the choice is a reduction of the richness of human experience to consumerism.  Personalisation of education is not the same as the individualism that plagues UK society (individualism as discussed by Chris Hall in a previous and very interesting post).

Regarding multiplicity of channels and sources of information, and degree of personalisation, what I want to say is:

You haven’t seen anything yet!

Some questions that I seem to be coming back to again are: We are educators (or even meta-educators), we have some influence; we are designing things for the future. How can we help make a better world? How can we capture design choices in our products that  encourage students to care for each other, to see the value of community, to help each other, to take community learning experiences into the world as a way of  being?


Thanks to George for starting me off on this post (mini-rant?) with a post over at the VLE.


* Did I really make a Freudian slip and refer to us as a community?  That's what I typed without thinking. Interesting, I wouldn't have called us a community a few weeks ago.

Overview for Keywords: choices, community, individualism, learning, personalisation, PLE, PLEs

Blogs with Keywords: choices, community, individualism, learning, personalisation, PLE, PLEs

Posted by Mark van Harmelen


  1. Completely agree, you ain't seen nothing yet ;-) And yet, in a way we have seen it all before. I reply over here.

    George RobertsGeorge Roberts on Thursday, 05 July 2007, 08:43 BST # |

  2. Thanks for this post.

    I must confess I found the graffiti bit quite interesting. It proved that people were starting to be more spontaneous within the group and feeling more comfortable in the interaction process…to the amazement of the guest speaker.  

    Did you also noticed that after the 3 days online active period people started to post more and be more interactive with each other? That is really neat.

    The voice component might have helped here… I think that connecting through voice adds a great value to the maintenance of a group, even if only unconsciously. We are growing more coherent all the time, I suppose. It takes time for individuals to find themselves in the group and feel they belong to it. It is in this kind of informal, unplanned, but natural situations that the community’s cohesion increases. I am enjoying the process!

    As for your question: “How we make the world a better world? And how we encourage students to care for each other, to see the value of community, to help each other, to take community learning experiences into the world as a way of being?”

    The only answer I can think of is: try to care for them as well; be active, make them realise you are there to help them find their path and connect them to the world, by engaging them in learning opportunities they can relate to in a more meaningful, and fun way. Educators; like any leader, have to set the example. Don’t expect people to follow you just out of the blue. What this world of ours needs are passionate people who are able to inspire and lead the way! It’s a lot of hard work, but very rewarding too.

    (It sounds a little bit vague, but what I mean is that I see little enthusiasm by many professional people – and this happens in many areas, not only in education – and fewer and fewer people that care for/about others. In the end that is what we want, isn’t it? … a little bit more of humanware!)  

    Cristina CostaCristina Costa on Thursday, 05 July 2007, 11:28 BST # |

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