Saturday, May 31, 2014


May 31, 2014. Cycled 55 km out to Shediac and back, via Scoudouc, and listened to the Blue Jays 12-2 rout of Kansas City. Which would all be great except for the stiff cold wind coming in off the ocean.

from Flickr

Friday, May 30, 2014


May 30, 2014. Another treat from the front garden, these tulips right up against the front wall. It must be spring - it was office cleanup day today!

from Flickr

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Jonathan Creek

May 29, 2014. This is Jonathan Creek where it crosses Horseman Road in west Moncton. I saw it first thing in the morning when I went down to Main Street to see about a trailer hook for the car, thought it would make a great photo, and so went back at lunch time to snap the shot. It was that kind of day - no meetings, so I was able to run some errands and clean up some code - in the frenzy of REL2014 gRSShopper got a bit ragged, and I need to pull it back together again.

from Flickr


May 28, 2014. A full day of meetings today, productive and useful meetings, but still, that was my day. Our new ID badges also arrived - they want us to wear them all the time, so here's mine on its clip attached to my belt over the rugged green fabric if my pants. It expires in 2019 - hey, job security! ;)

from Flickr

May Flowers

May 27, 2014. Spring at last? These trees in front of the office didn't even have leaves when I left, now they're all covered with white flowers. The weather, however, is still miserable. It would have been a good day to stay home and recover from jet lag, but an afternoon meeting took priority.

from Flickr


May 26, 2014. Travel day, back to Canada. This is a view of Nürtingen from the train window. European cities are filled with bicycles - Canadian cities could take a lesson from that.

from Flickr


May 25, 2014. It's a beautiful day in southern Germany, perfect for a bike ride up the Neckar valley to Rottenburg (and a bit beyond).

from Flickr

Sunday, May 25, 2014


May 24, 2014. Took the train to Stuttgart and spent the day wandering through downtown and climbing a hill. This is from the entrance to the 'New Palace' - according to Wikipedia, "from 1746 to 1797 and from 1805 to 1807, it served as a residence of the kings of Württemberg."

from Flickr

It's All Sunshine and Roses From Here

May 23, 2014. Finished my second talk and went for an impromptu walk to the top of the hill just east of downtown Tübingen - it's all residences and frat houses and flowers and roses.

from Flickr

Saturday, May 24, 2014


May 22, 2014. Still in Tübingen, gave a talk today, then took a short break after the talks before going back to the hotel to prepare for my second talk the next day.

from Flickr


May 21, 2014. First day of the Mass Collaboration Workshop, after the presentations, at the Casino restaurant in Tübingen. Three of the speakers - Allan Collins at left (I'll try to find the othertwo names). Really interesting people, and I enjoyed hearing their stories about (egs) Anderson and Bower, and the Pittsburgh school. A really good moment for me.

from Flickr

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Neckar River

May 20, 2014. Tübingen is located on a hill by the banks of the Neckar River, a tributary to the Rhine. As you can see I had beautiful weather for exploring - I went to the top of the bell-tower, pictured, of the the Stiftskirche (Collegiate Church).

from Flickr

Monday, May 19, 2014


May 19, 2014. Arrived in Tübingen, a " traditional university town in central Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is situated 30 km south of the state capital, Stuttgart, on a ridge between the Neckar and Ammer rivers." Wikipedia

from Flickr


May 18, 2014. Packing for Germany. As always we get lots of help from the cats (yes that's Lexi sneaking into the suitcase at the bottom).

from Flickr

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dairy Depot

May 17,. 2014. That's my bicycle in the foreground, halfway through a 53 kilometre ride to Salisbury and back. I had a waffle cone with maple butter on the top and butter pecan on the bottom. Difficult ride today, lots of wind. But I did enjoy listening to the Cards beat Atlanta 4-1.

from Flickr

Mapleton Forest

May 16, 2014. A quick stop at Mapleton Park during lunch. Sadly I had to shoot into the sun (that's why the sky is washed out) because of the construction that has ripped out a big part of the park behind me - I hope they're proud of themselves. Good day, overall. Good meetings. Good performance review. I'm happy.

from Flickr

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tree #8

May 15, 2014. Andrea and I went out to Vaughan Harvey Bvld to take part in a tree planting program with the City. Naturally our nice sunny day turned cold and rainy for the planting. We were assigned tree #8, which turned out to be a gingko.That's Andrea with our tree part way through the planting process.

from Flickr

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New Leaves

May 15, 2014. New leaves on new maple trees in the back year (I don't venture there very frequently - maybe this year I'll actually keep the grass mowed).

from Flickr

Focus on the Words

I'll return to my other flow of posts in a bit, but in the meantime Dron has responded to my last four, and there are some things worth addressing.

In particular, he complains about my focusing sometimes on single paragraphs and even sentences - "out of context," he says. But from where I sit, you can't just use words as though they have any meaning you want - or no fixed meaning at all - without getting some of this analytical treatment in response. But I'll elaborate.

The Family of Ideas

There is a very large difference between his characterization this time of the 'family of ideas' as compared to what we saw last time.

Last time: "about how to learn in a networked society, all of which adopt a systems view, all of which recognize the distributed nature of knowledge, all of which embrace the role of mediating artefacts, all of which recognize that more is different, all of which adopt a systems perspective, all of which describe or proscribe ways to engage in this new ecology."

This time: "family of theories aligned by a number of common themes (such as connectedness, networks, emergence, distributed intelligence, knowledge in non-human entities, etc) and sharing a common purpose (largely making sense of what that entails)"

These are very different. The first describes (as I pointed out in another post) a list of things very different from what I would consider to be connectivist. The second picks up on themes much more consistent with the concept. But I think this is incidental - for Dron, what seems to be more important is whether connectivism is one theory or a family of theories.

To me, it's an odd position to take. Dron writes, "I have no major problems with it if it (the Downes version of connectivism) is presented as one of a number of relevant theories in the family of connectivist ideas." But if I set as my target the articulation of what is actually the case in learning, and what actually works, then his position is very different.

"I have far greater problems accepting Downes's theory as a definitive account of what ‘connectivism' actually refers to," he says. Instead, he writes, "my (Dron's) intent is to keep the field open, to allow for multiple interpretations and acceptance of alternative perspectives around the central core."

My perspective is this: if Dron wants to have the freedom to assert a bunch of theories I consider wrong, then I think he is free to do that. But that's not what he wants. He wants me to present my theory in such a ways that (a) it includes his theories, whatever they are, and (b) doesn't make a judgment as to the rightness of what I am saying versus the wrongness of what he is saying.

My response to Dron is something like: why do you need this name? Why don't you go out and get your own name? Of course, he suggests that, since George coined the name, then I have no more right to it than he does. If so, then he and George can go fight it out, and leave me out of it. But from my perspective, the name George coined ten years ago described what he and I were doing at the time, which was (and is) largely the same sort of thing, and has not somehow since then become something else.

You might ask, what's in a name? But that's why we get back to precision and what words mean. In different theories words mean different things, and if he doesn't even agree with me about what words mean, it seems unreasonable for him to be saying he is proposing the same theory, or even 'more or less' the same theory.

From my perspective, it's like an advocate of intelligent design being asked to be called an evolutionist, on the basis that we talk about the same sort of thing. My response is, if it's up to me, I'm not going to call you an evolutionist, because you don't actually support evolution.

Embracing and Distorting

Dron says,  "As it has emerged in recent years, it looks as though the word 'connectivism' is acquiring a common usage that embraces but extends (and often distorts) the views of Siemens and Downes. In my opinion this is, in process terms, a good thing, though I do recognize that this is arguable and that this is fundamentally what the argument is about."

Quite so.

But the fact that (say we say) people are "distorting" the theory I originally proposed (or that George originally prposed) does not entail that I should (a) accept that those are a version of`what I originally proposed, (b) accept that they are just as true as what I originally proposed, and (c) call them by the same name as what I originally proposed.

Let's call them what they are: not similar to what was actually proposed, and in fact distortions of the meaning and intent of the term and theory.

Dron argues, " a broader, more inclusive definition means that it is easier to straddle boundaries, cross-pollinate ideas, exploit diversity, and find connection and commonality where there might otherwise be ignorance."

What to me that means is that it makes it easier for people who are not actually connectivists to claim that they are connectivists, and to assume for themselves whatever popularity and support the theory has obtained over the years.

Moreover, you don't need to call two theories by the same name in order to cross-pollinate ideas, exploit diversity, and find connection and commonality. For example, I would say that a lot of this has taken place between connectivists and constructivists. But that doesn't mean we should start calling them the same theory.

Dron makes the point, "The issues are not dissimilar to those surrounding, for example, the word ‘constructivism’, as it is used in an educational context"

Both George Siermens and I have made the point that it makes it pretty much impossible to talk about constructivism. Every time we identify something about constructivism we disagree with, someone comes along and ways "well there's this version of constructivism that doesn't do it that way."

The term "constructivism" has become so broad as to be almost meaningless. There has been no clearly defined theory toward which investigators could get close and closer. Anyone who claimed to be a constructivist was counted as such. At a certain point, there is no theory with which people can say they agree or disagree. It becomes a fuzzy political movement, not science (which is what makes it so easy for wags like Kirschner and Willingham to assail).

Dron says he "posted a rough first-try at making sense of my own understanding of connectivism last week." I applaud him for the effort. But I reserve the right to say he got it wrong. Not because I am some kind of 'arbiter of meaning'. But because I believe that the theory he asserted (whatever he calls it) is wrong.

No argument that people have 'distorted' either the name of the theory or the theory itself compells me to change my stance on that. The only thing that would would be were Dron's characterization of the theory empirically correct, and he has attempted no such defense.

Systems and Networks, Redux

To wit: his various descriptions of networks as 'systems'. Which is exactly the sort of thing I mean. It is, first, not what was ever intended by connectivism, and second, empirically wrong (ie., networks that learn are not systems).

Here's Dron's defense: "He (Downes) has a very different view of the definition of a system than the one that I hold, or the one that people who talk about weather systems, planetary systems, nervous systems and ecosystems hold."

He then attempts a positive account: "My view of systems is that they are concerned with the ways that networked entities (including other systems) interact with and affect one another, and the consequent emergent and/or designed behaviours that we can observe within them. They are concerned with connected parts that affect one or more other connected parts, be they molecules in a cloud, people in a social network, neurons, planets, stars, blood vessels or networked computers."

This is a better version but is again a very different story from the one he gave just a few days ago, using a very different vocabulary.

But there's a looseness - a sloppiness - that makes it impossible to characterize as connectivist. What does it mean to say that "systems are concerned with..."? I'm sure he doesn't mean that systems are sentient entities that have problems, thoughts and concerns. Maybe he means that the term 'system' is coextensive with the term 'networked entities that interact... (etc).' Or maybe not. We just don't know.

He says, "If that doesn't make them pretty firmly and squarely in the centre of a field concerned with how entities affect other entities in a network then it is hard to see what could."

The problem is that connectivism is not "a field concerned with how entities affect other entities in a networ." That's a terrible statement of what connectivism is. It's like saying that, because "connectivism is concerned with learning" and "fascism is concerned with learning," that "connectivism is fascism." Sorry. It's not.

Dron is today saying he wasn't proposing a systems theory of learning, yet just last week, the words, terminology and concepts were all drawn from that theory. What this tells me is that he's coming from a very different perspective. He can deny it all he wants, but his words betray him.

That's why I focus on the words.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

OT 11

May 13, 2014. Had an all-day training session today with other staff from the Portfolio, then went down to the airport for the flight home. The nice weather of yesterday has been replaced with a grey drizzle that reminds me of the Maritimes. Next stop: Moncton.

from Flickr

National Gallery

May 12, 2014. Morning meeting, then I had a little time free in the afternoon and took advantage of it in order to see the Governor General's Awards exhibit as well as to revisit the modern art gallery (I looked for Voice of Fire but I couldn't find it). I reflected: people sometimes question the value of art, especially as opposed to science and technology, while I am not sure how I could do my work in science and technology without art.

from Flickr

Monday, May 12, 2014


May 11, 2013. Back in Ottawa for meetings Monday and Tuesday. May is tulip festival time in Ottawa so I expect to find a lot of these around. These were outside my hotel.

from Flickr

Saturday, May 10, 2014


May 10, 2014. Another cold, windy and rainy day today so I spent the day indoors, except for this sort trip to a greenhouse to buy a geranium.

from Flickr

Friday, May 9, 2014

Clement Cormier

May 9, 2014. Busy day, two long meetings, some coding, a couple of blog posts. I took a short stop to photograph this statue of Father Clément Cormier, vice chancellor and founder of Université de Moncton. I see this statue every day on my way home from the office.

from Flickr

Powers Pit Road

May 9, 2014. This covered bridge spans the Petitcodiac River at Powers Pot Road, just off the Salisbury Road near Scott Road. Another artifact of my lunch-hour drives. Morning: long meeting. Afternoon: wrote a script to pull data for research into MOOC-REL and completed my annual performance review document. Another busy day.

from Flickr

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


May 7, 2014. Another photo from the front yard. After last weekend's clearning out the flowers are thriving. My back is a different story.

from Flickr

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


May 6, 2014. I went for a walk in Mapleton Park over lunch and ran across this squirrel. Less productive today, but I still got some things done, and even picked out a new office chair - after 13 years, the old one has finally given up the ghost.

from Flickr

Monday, May 5, 2014

Upper Mountain Road

May 5, 2014. I took another short drive in the country, this time to go up the himm on Homestead Road to look at Upper Mountain Road, which you see pictured. I had never traveled Upper Mountain Road or its twin, Lower Mountain Road - the two connect Homestead with Salisbury Road. Maybe one day I'll cycle them. (Oh - and I was very productive today - I did half a week's worth of work in one day - feeling pretty good about myself.)

from Flickr

Sunday, May 4, 2014


May 4, 2014. I spent a surprusingly sunny and dry afternoon clearning up the yard, collecting leaves and branches and other winter waste (in the green bags, foreground) and putting mulch around the bushes. I like giving the lawn a good scrubbing like this first thing in the spring before anything grows; it makes it much easier to tend for the rest of the year.

from Flickr

Saturday, May 3, 2014


May 3, 2014. So it was the first day resembling nice weather today, so I cycled 52 kilometers to Salisbury and back. Average speed 17 kph, which is a good clip for me.

from Flickr

Friday, May 2, 2014

Birch Trees

Mat 2, 2014. I drove up to Gunningsville Road in Riverview for these trees.

from Flickr

Thursday, May 1, 2014


May 1, 2014. I finally got my winter tires removed today. And this evening we had thunder and lightening. So I'm prepared to oficially declare winter over.

from Flickr

Made in Canada

April 30, 2014. Long day, lots of work, very tired, these are my slippers (almost forgot to do the daily photo).

from Flickr