Friday, March 23, 2012

Vox populi, vox Dei (#CCK12)

The Commission of Election of the Republic of the Philippines has a curious motto, "Vox populi, vox Dei." It seems that they are requiring or even demanding for the populace to respect the results of any conducted elections as the voice of the people and seemingly by an obscure transitive property, the voice of God. In short, the motto is claiming that the power of the crowd is a divine manifestation. Where lies power and authority in this connected world?

This motto is actually an old proverb, the origins of which are contentious. But by the by, it seems that it is taking on newer meaning and even more modern definition. "The voice of the people is the voice of God" If this were true, then the internet, and the myriad of unfettered and uncensored connection worldwide, can really express the voice of the people (which by the proverb, is the voiceof God). My interest in the proverb lies not in discovering what God wants, but what the crowd wants and how the internet is giving a quick and loud voice to the people.

There are people who seems subscribed to the wisdom of the crowd, whereas others are wary of the crowd. In a seeming warning about people who use the word of the people as reference to what God wants (or what is seemingly right), the English scholar and ecclesiastic, Alcuin (798 AD) wrote a in a letter to Charlemagne that "And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness."

Vox Populi, a paper by Sir Francis Galton in Nature, in 1907, using a "one vote, one value" system when estimating a weight of a cattle when it is slaughtered and dressed, came up to a fantastic result. "It appears then, in this particular instance, that the vox populi is correct to within 1 per cent. of the real value..." and that "This result is, I think, more creditable to the trustworthiness of a democratic judgement than might have been expected." 

Sir Francis Galton seems to be amazed at the accurate estimation by the cattle enthusiasts who paid 6 pence to provide an accurate estimate of the results. My first question now lies in who the voters are. In Sir Francis Galton's case, I believe that there is a filtering that happened. Not any unknowing bystander will vote and pay 6 p for the chance to guess. The event happened in a cattle show for God's sake. Only those with a background and interest in cattle will be there to begin with.

In this age of unprecendented connectiveness, when everyone seems to be expressing an opinion about anything and everything, how do we determine which voice is valid? Is it a true "one vote one value" system, or is it more like Sir Francis's vote where only the votes of those educated and interested in the topic matter?

In the current connective state, many things happen in a blink of an eye...the American Idol (or whatever country's version of the Idol is) is decided on sms and infocomm technology; twitter and the millions of followers can disseminate information (whether it is correct or not is another issue; the facebook likes can determine marketing success or failures; and posting in social media can create the Arab Spring. I remember that the second EDSA uprising in the Philippines was disseminated through text messaging. I do not mean voting for the Miss Photogenic in the Miss Universe contest, as everyone has a standard of beauty. But harking back to the biblical times, remember how a crowd of people voted to release Barabbas and condemn Jesus? There are many things in the world where the correct answer is not by popularity contest - justice being one of them. 

In politics of democratic states, one person is one vote; in corporations, one share is one vote...but however it is, the participants are stakeholders (just like Sir Francis' contestants, where all are preselected to interested in cattle, by virtue of the venue-the cattle show). 

But in the internet, in our myriad of connections, should one person's comment/like/sms/etc... be equal to the rest? In  reality many of them do not even care or are not even stakeholders to the decision at hand, why should we trust their votes? People now get to vote on who is the better person to remain in a camp of artificially stranded people. Where will this lead to. 

[In my next blog, I shall be discussing the issue of access and how it can distort the voting process and the democratization of knowledge.]


Galton F. Vox Populi. Nature. 1907. p450. As seen on: on 22 March 2012. 

Wikipedia. Article on Vox Populi. As seen on: on 22 March 2012.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Personal Learning Network (PLNs) are not simple graphical representations of connections that exists between an individual and his learning environment. Rather, ideally, PLNs are an articulated and much-analyzed interaction between the learner and his environment. It should spell out in simplified form, the elements of his environment that contributes to his development, presumably not just where he gets his information but also what affects his opinions, his point-of-view, and his critical thought.

Trying to map out a PLN is an important learning tool as it forces the individual to spell out, maybe not entirely and exhaustively, but it is a significant step for active learners to identify each contributor to his learning space and to recognize the contribution in both material content and intensity of these elements.

In this particular PLN that I tried to make for myself, I certainly recognize that the internet, and independently of it, news, are very important in shaping my opinions and my learning. Significant elements of the internet are Google, my first stop to learning about my environment, Wikipedia, and my most favorite social media tool currently, Facebook. As this PLN shows, I connect to friends and family mainly though facebook, through the phone (sms or voice) or through the computer (again either email, internet telephony or instant messengers).

I have also began to realize, with the help of this PLN, that my blog and comments made on them (despite being very few) are helpful feedback, either as an encouragement or as a check & balance from assenting and dissenting voices. Either way, comments help me learn.

Without having drawn this simple PLN, I would not have recognized many interactions in my life, both for social learning and academic learning, and I can say that at this age, social learning accounts heavier, and that it knows into another. The school is my world, because the world is my school!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

PLEs and Adult Learning #CCK12

In my previous blog on PLE, I posit that PLEs require a certain level of maturity and discernment in order to be useful. PLEs will only be a web of information sources in the hands of a novice. A more discerning individual can, on his/her own, recognize that connections are not the end-all, but rather, there are levels and layers to these connections; that some are more useful than others, and some are more prominent than others.

In Adult Learning, the audience is usually more mature, but at the same time, they lack the tool to understand the learning landscape, particularly those involving the internet (unlike that of the digital natives). This is when PLEs become a very important tool for them to map their resources of learning - be they virtual resources or physical ones.

I suppose that my argument here is that teaching Adult Learners (and in most cases, discerning young ones too) to reflect on their learning landscape through imaging their own individual PLE and writing it down is a very powerful tool for learning. It empowers the adult learner as they begin to navigate all the available learning resources at their disposal.

Friday, March 9, 2012

PLEs and the necessary construct to learn using PLEs #CCK12

Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) is part of the natural evolution of learning resources that is being thrust upon us with the rapid development of the internet.

No longer is it necessary to store all the information in one physical location (the libraries) and go to temples of wisdom to hear the priests that spout unquestioned Bible-truths (universities and their lecturers). The internet has democratized information and brought tremendous (and way-too-much) of it in the hands of learners. It is with this premise that the centers of learning have lost control on the way information travels (from teachers to students) and put those controls on the hands of the learners themselves. 

PLEs, as the name suggests, are highly individualized and do not subscribe to a specific dogmatic definition. It also does not have a specific framework, despite attempts of academics to put structure into it (as they always are wont to do). 

Students are now more liberated than ever, and if we are to direct their learning, it is not through controlling the traffic of information that we need to help them. Academic institutions can no longer claim to be the providers of information, the internet has usurped that role successfully. The centers of teaching need not teach information, but rather how to locate them in the pool of information (information search) and how to separate the good ones from the bad (information literacy). 

Digital natives are good at finding information in the net, they were after all born and bred there. They can access the net and search information. The big danger to this is, digital natives equate successful information search as learning. It has been a common experience for me as a teacher to receive a submission of hodge-podge and mish-mash of information from everywhere put together pretending to be a paper from a student who believes that more information is better.

Information literacy is one of the biggest skill that the academia has to impart to students of the present, as transmitting information is to the past. It involves the ability of the learner to discern the which information is more reliable than others, which one is more trustworthy and which one is more useful to the argument at hand.

For PLEs to be effective platforms of individual learning, the 21st century learner has to be imparted a construct of the necessary skills, one that the academia can help the students with to become more effective learners and contributors to the greater community:

1. Locating data - effective data searches, knowing pertinent key words
2. Information literacy - evaluating data and sources for reliability 
3. Reframing information - ability to find data that is suitable and to process raw information to suit the argument (not to be mistaken for tampering with data)
4. Reflecting on the learning and the process of arguing an opinion
5. Disseminating that learning in a confident manner, a confidence that is rooted on discerned reflection.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Collectives vs Connectives [#CCK12]

Networks and connections have progressed to such an amazing degree, that at present time, there are very few people with no connection to somebody else. The time of monkhood and solitude is all but extinct. Networks are, for all intents and purposes, all-encompassing.

But within the Network (with capital "N") is a broad range of diverse relationships. It could be formed in a one-to-one-communication (such as an email), or a one-to-many (such as twitter) or many-to-many (such as wikis). But also within this framework is a gradient of privacy and boundaries, from a totally connected and permeable unit that the world can peek trhough (remember the curious case of Mr and ex-Mrs Ashton Kutcher?) where all happiness and unhappiness that springs forth is completely visible to the world; to the almost disconnected individual, whose appearance in the grid is probably through an email or two. And what about the masses of individuals in countries where censorship of the internet is the norm or maybe insidious that they do not even know that they are being censored? How do we classify their connection? In Facebook alone, there are many ways to determine one's level of privacy and permeability of information.

Whatever the level of connections within the network, all these people belong to the Network, and as such the Network is present with Diversity, variable openness and privacy, on one hand the fully collective (sort of posse, groupie kind) to the connective (connected yet with individual opinion; think of blogs).

There is a certain parallelism to a real-world phenomenon of migration, wherein the recipient countries (and cultures) have variable policies; from one of pure assimilation and integration to one of multi-culturalism and preservation ethnic diversity. The individual families and the society determines which level of openness and acceptance are acceptable. [more on this on my blog article on "The Great Migration" 23 Jan 2012]

To me, there is very little need for debate about groups and networks because in the greater scheme of things, the collectives and the connectives all exist within the very inclusive walls of the Network. it is up to the individual as the learning unit, to determine his level of openness ideas and disclosure of his opinions to the world.