Skip to content

MultiMOOC 2.014 and Rhizo14: What was that about?

This post precedes an article being prepared for the On the Internet column in the Feb 2014 issue of TESL-EJ, The title of that article will be The Elephant in the Fire Hose

This derives from a presentation given by MultliMOOC co-moderator Jim Buckingham and I on Feb 23, 2014, Our third co-moderator Ali Bostangioglu was not able to attend.

The presentation was a part of Moodle MOOC 3

as well as doubling as a weekly Learning2gether event,

and a serving as a late wrapup of our participation in the EVO #MultiMOOC session as well as the Rhizomatic Learning MOOC, #Rhizo14 course.

The Elephant in the Fire Hose

I always say that nothing focuses like a good deadline. That’s why at the Rolling Stones concert in Abu Dhabi last night I was focusing through familiar yet magically hyper-rejuvenated melodies on what I would say in my presentation at Moodle MOOC 3 tomorrow. As the Stones went through their set I had the Satisfaction of being inspired by excellent performers who had been practicing their calling for decades and who in so doing had touched a huge percentage of the world’s population. I felt privileged to have been sharing a space with them for a brief span of my lifelong journey.


It occurred to me then that the Stones might serve as a parable for star performer teachers. Like both young and aging rock musicians these star teachers are either up and coming in their field as the Stones once were, or experienced and slick practitioners as the Stones have become. They are clearly passionate about what they do, and what they do is mostly second nature. Like musicians around the world, they touch hearts and minds and enable change in young and old among the world’s population. The stars, and even the most humble among them, are appreciated by all who encounter their work face to face, in writing, or online.

It used to be that we had to go long distances to attend conferences in order to have encounters with star performer educators. After talks given by such researchers and educators, a lucky few had an opportunity to ask questions in the short time available between one talk and the next one, and after a popular presentation, a crowd would often gather around the podium, most supplicants awaiting their turn for a moment with the celebrity, sometimes impatiently, late for the next presentation, until the star presenter would beg off on pretext of another presenter needing to set up in that space. And that was it for the attendees who would have to wait until another conference for a chance to interact personally with other star performer educators.

Things are different today (I hear every colleague say). Time with star performer educators is today abundant, not scarce. There are now exponentially increasing opportunities for teachers all around the world to connect with acknowledged star performers on an almost daily basis if they wish. Perhaps next year, we will be able to say with similar accuracy, that this opportunity occurs on an almost hourly basis.

And the really interesting thing is that star performer educators are in turn discovered in this ecosystem. Star performer educators were always present in the crowd around the podium at the end of the conference presentation by the sage on the stage, but the interaction was almost always top down. Online nowadays the stars tend to be more like guides on the side, encouraging voices from throughout the mix of those present. It’s much easier for people sharing passions to connect and hear each other, and continue interacting through their personal learning networks after an online event, so that participants can more easily become familiar to those with more established credibility, balancing out the appreciation for one another’s work.

Some teacher performers have taken to encouraging open mic events, where conferences or seminars are announced online, and there is a means for those wishing to present to nominate their own presentations at these events.  For example, the annual Global Education Conference (GEC) organized by Steve Hargadon and Lucy Grey have a Ning where anyone can join and make a proposal in a forum post. If the post is acceptable (most, but not all, are), it’s promoted to the official program. TESOL’s Electronic Village Online holds annual sessions where anyone wishing to moderate one can propose a session (and then go through training designed to help them develop their course with feedback from coordinaors).  Nellie Deutsch holds numerous conferences (e.g. Moodle MOOC and Connecting Online) where she outlines a schedule on a Google Doc and then opens it to anyone to write in their event in the available time slots, and the results are never disappointing.  Webheads in Action hosted three Online Convergences in 2005, 2007, and 2009 (WiAOC), and by the last one we realized we were just making work for ourselves by carrying out a vetting process, since no one proposes to speak at such an event without having done significant work or having something interesting to say. As in most social networks, people tend to deliver on their promises since such networks have become a significant part of their identity. In 2010, WiAOC morphed into Learning2gether, which works from a wiki where again, anyone can write in their own event. All of these encourage participants to simply sign themselves up, and give emerging star performers their own podium.

These events are but a part of what is commonly visualized as a fire hose of information gushing all around us.  The trick to benefiting from this growing plethora of resources is to work out strategies for sipping from the fire hose without being bowled over by all the water flowing past.  Nowadays there is so much going on in the fire hose that it’s devilishly difficult to describe what you take from it let alone the composition of the stream as it gushes past and all around; it would be like trying to describe what’s on TV.  So for example, if you are participating in a MOOC or two, and trying to attend occasional online sessions, while being distracted by work and life in general, your  characterization of what is going on online is likely to be quite different from another person’s.  Yet many are stuck on just that, what is going on online? How can we make sense of what is essentially chaotic?

Stephen Downes points out that all around you, everything you see is chaos ( This is the conundrum for teachers. How do we prepare students to leave the safety of their secure learning environments and step then into chaos? Dave Snowden’s Cynefin model of addressing problems with varying degrees of complexity explains that when we go from simple problems into chaotic ones, we step off a cliff, as can be seen in the boundary between the two in the diagram below (from


This seems to be a characteristic of connectivist online experiences (where participants learn from each other, as opposed to following a program set out by a course designer). When reflecting on one’s experience in MOOC learning, and in connectivist learning online generally, the metaphor comes to mind of the proverbial blind men seeking to understand an elephant by each touching one of its parts. In connectivist learning your perspective on that experience, and hence on the content of the course, will be unique to you. In a MOOC with hundreds or even thousands of prolific participants, so much happens in the course that it’s impossible to follow it all.  Most people dip in where they can; many feel overwhelmed and drop out. Much participation in the course will be in blogging or posting on Google+ Communities or Facebook, and reading other participants’ posts, commenting,and responding to comments.  It’s impossible to follow it all for the typical duration of such a course.

You can visualize this by zooming out and envisioning the fire hoses arrayed all around you as threads in a distributed network, and then zoom in to catch snippets of the content in the streaming hoses.  The content in the hoses might appear as elephant parts, comprising perhaps a whole, but revealed only in as much as one is able to glimpse before having to move on to something else.


To some the situation is chaotic and unfathomable (it is), and this to them is discouraging and off-putting. They feel that learning takes place best when teachers are present to call attention to what is important and make the process more efficient by relieving learners from distractions inherent in the fire hose. To others the situation is chaotic and unfathomable (it is) and this is exciting and stimulating and not a problem really because deep learning can only derive from meaningful attempts at resolving chaos. George Siemens says that for teachers to do the filtering that learners should be doing for themselves “eviscerates” the learning process (  How you stand on this might depend on what you have to teach or want to learn. Inexperienced learners will likely respond best to the former approach.  But the latter approach might be more appropriate for going beyond the basics to exploring a topic in a community of practice.

I was recently asked to come online and speak to a group of teachers at a distance who were winding up a set of workshops on meaningful learning. My talk would come at the denouement of their experience and I was asked to give them something take away from the process. The organizers said I would have limited time and therefore my presentation had to be concise. As I mulled this over, I felt there was a contradiction in what I thought I was being asked to do, come online and speak from a projected image to an audience of teachers about meaningful learning, so I began to parse my conception of the task. I found the only problem was the word ‘to’. I asked if I could speak ‘with’ the teachers, in order to model a means by which my presentation could become interactive and relate to what they were doing and be personalized for them (as they should be doing with their students; talking “to” the teachers would have modeled a role of teacher as sage on the stage; whereas meaningful learning comes from within the learner, not from the teacher). In the end, that is what I did. I created some slides to give my presentation some cohesion, but at junctures stopped to get input from the audience in the auditorium, whom I could see (and hear) via my camera-audio view.


 Speaking “with” a distant audience

This worked well, as I elicited bullet points from distant participants on characteristics of good teachers (one participant shouted that a teacher should be ‘theatrical’, a word that I had overlooked in my slide on the topic). At the end of our time together I asked the audience what difference their workshop would make in how they taught their classes, and one teacher responded with a long description of changes she had thought through and would implement the coming Monday. This was verging on meaningful learning. How meaningful is it if I tell these teachers, striving to do their best with the task and resources at hand, how I think they should do their job. Better they tell me, and in the process each other. Superstar teachers lead with a good riff but recognize the jazz musician in each student and teaching peer, and invite them to join in, to create a learning experience in concert. The best teachers understand that the learning is not about them; it’s about the participants in the experience. The participants were the superstar teaching performers in their context, not me. And my presentation sought to reinforce this mindset in their work in their classrooms.

Reflecting on the first 6 weeks of 2014, what have we learned from one another as a result of our experiences together? This is where the elephant in the fire hose comes in. The MOOC experience is geared toward learning from the fire hose by making out and piecing together in a personal process of closure the parts of the elephant as they (the elephants) stream past. It is learning in an extreme form of the berry bush metaphor. This metaphor derives from Scollon and Scollon (1982), the idea that computers encourage random access learning whereas the model up to that time was mastery learning, what the Scollons called a conduit approach. The idea is that learning via computers, or networks, is like foraging for berries in a berry patch or fishing in the ocean, you take what you want and can conveniently reach, or have the time and patience for, and leave the rest, maybe to return later, or simply complete your foraging in the supermarket or wherever greater understanding might be available to you.

The berry bush accommodates the role of lurkers in MOOCs and other participatory learning experiences. There are many bushes as well as many shops and markets and no one shops in all of them. Passersby might window shop, and perhaps learn something about the market by lurking at your shop window. They may or may not ever stop to shop, but the window should be kept informative and welcome and open to all in case they want to invest more time inside the store.

In the Rhizomatic Learning MOOC I was struck by one poster who decried lurkers who absorb knowledge from the community without paying back through overt participation, but we are all often lurkers at other people’s storefronts. Some of us maintain our own stores, and not everyone has the time that others can spend on frequent essay-length interaction (or in the case of another who postpones parental duties so she can interact prolifically, the dedication). From that last aside, the point is that we are all dedicated in something, and we have limited time to spend on our passions versus more time we must spend on our obligations (one obligation being to maintain health through proper rest). The fact that lurkers, what Wenger calls more gently, peripheral members, take the time to lurk is, in fact healthy to a community, because it connects that community with other communities in which the putative lurker is quite possibly passionately active, and might even be regarded in that community as a superstar educator.

Now we come back to the roots of connectivism, or rhizomatic learning to frame it in the context of Rhizo14, or at least as I see it from my vantage on the elephant, which is that it is a learning theory for the digital age because connectivist learning is especially capable of addressing the needs of individual learners. The theory suggests that learners forming and learning through networks have available to them knowledge that they can access as needed. That’s like having bits of knowledge in drawers all around your house, but it’s better than having to wonder which drawer you left that knowledge in when you need it because you have metadata you can search on to identify the door you should open, and also the drawers are somehow in communication with you and each other, reminding you of their contents if you have a moment to listen (or happen to see their tweets), and in any event the drawers with the most important content will make themselves known as they are referenced by other drawers on the network, so that the most important knowledge rises to the top, while the most obscure can be found through its metadata.

So to come back to what we have been doing this last 6 weeks of EVO, MultiMOOC, and Rhizomatic Learning 2014, I can’t answer that question for you, but only for me. My role as moderator of MultiMOOC and coordinator of Learning2gether, occasional presenter in CO14, MM3, and other EVO sessions, and editor of TESL-EJ On the Internet column, whose deadline looms and has in part evoked this stream of consciousness (and not to mention my roles as spouse, parent, grandparent, and full-time teacher of EFL) has precluded me from immersing myself as much as I would like to have in the MOOC fray during this time of opportunity, but I have been very impressed with the passion with which many apparently less encumbered have approached their interaction with one another (that’s me lurking, sorry), and so I have decided when these opportunities come around again, I need to clear my plate, not take on so much self-inflicted obligation, and use that space for participating much more in the day to day interaction among colleagues whose nodes would thus be strengthened in my PLN.

To try and describe what was going on in the spaces my learning journey touched in the past 6 weeks would be like trying to describe the elephants as they passed barely discernable in the fire hose spray, appearing in glimpses here and there like salmon leaping upstream. But more like salmon perhaps I did manage to catch a few, and those catches is what makes the hard work and lack of sleep worthwhile, as all of these things compete for available time. I’ll mention just a couple of these accomplishments by way of example, three things I learned in this 6 weeks that will serve to impact and change my practice in the year to come.

1. I learned that Google+ communities was a pretty cool tool. I got this lesson from rock star performer educator Shelly Terrell’s modeling of her community for the EVO Session, Crafting the ePerfect Textbook, at I liked the way the eBookEVO team consolidated group functionality within the one portal, using the ‘About this Community’ sidebar to incorporate links to other web 2.0 tools, in particular Listly to create a panoply of links to course content,

2. I learned from Dave Cormier what it takes to be a MOOC superstar, as he marshaled his Rhizo14 community from his webcam on Prince Edward Island, in a series of videos that introduced each of 6 week’s provocative topics, and I followed his YouTube channel to the Hangout recording that each produced. I watched bemusedly as Dave learned how NOT to record breakout rooms with large silences in the middle of the recording, and enjoyed Stephen Downes’s comments ( on how his letting the class get away from him on the topic of “Is books making us stupid?” was refreshing, again because only by embracing the chaos do we break things and then learn only afterwards how to fix them, in what Jenny Mackness called a Pedagogy of Risk This was my kind of learning. I loved the topics and how the community engaged around them (and I did participate now and then :-):

  • Week 1 Cheating as learning
  • Week 2 Enforcing independence
  • Week 3 Embracing uncertainty
  • Week 4 Is books making us stupid?
  • Week 5 Community as curriculum
  • Week 6 Planned obsolescence

For a glimpse of a piece of the elephant’s brain as it spurts by, some interesting reflections by the most die-hard of the participants can be found here

3. I learned how to do something difficult yet practical: make network maps from Twitter hashtags from a tool provided by Martin Hawksey on Rhizo14, and I documented the process here:

4. I learned about Badges from Jim Buckingham, at which point I handed off to my co-presenter.


Scollon, Suzanne & Ron Scollon. 1982. RUN TRILOGY: Can Tommy Read? Paper presented at the symposium Children’s response to a literate environment: literacy before schooling, University of Victoria, October 9, 1982.

Declaring my goals for MultiMOOC and #Rhizo14

This post is intended as a model for what others in the EVO session MultiMOOC 2.014,, should have done by now, what I intend to do next week (Week 3 of EVO) when we go headlong into networking, and where I might end up at the end of the five week EVO sessions, with an ePortfolio of some kind  pointing to my accomplishments.

George Siemens said at 18:30 minutes into the above video which I scooped here,, that if he were a college professor embarking on a new semester with a fresh batch of students …

“here’s what I would do … I would trash all of my course materials … I would tell my students, sign up at Coursera, take their course, we’ll spend our time interacting around those content elements, I will mark and evaluate what you are doing, but trust me, their content is better than what I can produce within my university budget.”

This is the approach taken in this MultiMOOC 2.104 ‘session’ (not a ‘course’) which also is not a MOOC (too few people). However, there are some EVO sessions which have reached that status. Three have surpassed the 200 mark in participants, in addition to being open, meaning that anyone can browse their materials and access their online events without registration. These are:

Meanwhile, there are many MOOCs (promoting themselves as such) going on now, some of which are listed here:

Choose a course whose content you would like to explore

One of these, Rhizomatic Learning, is being facilitated by Dave Cormier, who coined the term MOOC in 2008:

This is my choice of courses that if I were running a college-level course on MOOCs I would tell my students to enroll in and we would spend time discussing it, how it works, and what its outcomes are.

The course is subtitled ‘the community is the curriculum’, and this is what distinguishes it from xMOOCs like Coursera, mentioned in the quote by Siemens. What Siemens proposes however is to use the content, or curriculum, from Coursera and to make his class into a community based on that content (the content in this hypothetical case being dictated by a degree program which requires its students to study that topic).

Rhizomatic Learning

MultiMOOC 2.014 proposes to derive its content from a free and open existing online course as well. Entering and interacting in such a course will become the focus of week 3 here, which is on networking (in the Cormier scheme for coping with MOOCs: orient in week 1, declare in week 2 as I am modeling here, network in week 3, and followed by cluster and focus in the last two weeks).

Here, Dave says in 6 minutes how you should embark on his, or our, cMOOC

Participants could network in any MOOC they choose, including in any other EVO course (all would have some elements of MOOC to them). However, Dave’s course a.k.a. Rhizo14, is the quintessential model for what I feel a proper cMOOC should be. It is completely individualized, as indicated in its tag line, the community is the curriculum.  As with MultiMOOC, there is no hard-fast curriculum, only some basis for cohesion. For example, in Rhizo14, Dave started out on the notion of Cheating as Learning,, and in the second week (in both Rhizo14 and MultiMOOC, as both started at about the same time) on the non-sequitur concept of Enforcing Independence,

In his second brief 6 min. intro to Week 2, Dave expands on his, our, approach to MOOCs

Week 3 in Dave’s course is on Declaring your Work, which I notice when I pull down its URL just now,, is empty. I relate to that; I haven’t updated MultiMOOC week 3 yet either. The reason I haven’t done so is that I had no idea when I started MultiMOOC 2.014 where the community would be driving the curriculum this far into the session (ours is a session, remember?). In the past, I’ve set out a syllabus and found that by Week 3 it had become irrelevant because the community had moved in another direction. So I was holding off doing that, and I am pleased to see now that Dave apparently has been biding his time as well.

Dave’s course is 6 weeks; our session is 5, so we are pulling Declaration week forward a bit, and this is what I am trying to illustrate in this post.  At the moment, I’m declaring my intention in this course to be to immerse myself as much as I can in Rhizo14 while reporting back, mainly through Twitter and Facebook, and through blog posts here, what I find along the way.  As I learn and convey what I am learning to others (which will help me to translate that learning into something concrete that I can use in presentations and writings I am committed to through the month of March) I will tweet my posts using these three tags: #evomlit, #multimooc, and #rhizo14.

I have made a very interesting discovery of a tool called TagsExplorer which I described at the end of my last post here,, and I think that this tool might help us all to visualize how (and if) our learning community (those who are tagging on #evomlit and/or #multimooc) develops over the 3 weeks remaining in this session.

I’ll talk more about what makes Rhizo14 tick over so enthusiastically in a post for Week 3, and that will entail showing evidence of how the community is driving itself (despite Dave’s best efforts to accommodate that 🙂 Hopefully more participants in MultiMOOC will join me in reporting through (even one) tweet(s) and blog post(s) their impressions of other MOOCs and EVO sessions they are participating in.

Our opportunity:

George Siemens has often made the point that his ideas on connectivism stemmed from a realization that each of his students was unique with unique reasons for taking his courses (as Ken Robinson says, in The Element, there are 8 billion unique “intelligences” in the world). MOOCs give us a framework, or an opportunity, to throw off others’ expectations of what we should be doing in a course. We take time to interact with one another, or read deeply, or dip in and get out, whatever, for ourselves, and for no one else. MOOCs make it OK to do that.

Revisiting the question of tagging

We are starting Week 2 of the 2014 EVO session MultiMOOC 2.014. As usual we are following Dave Cormier’s 5 steps for successfully coping with MOOC in the 5 weeks of the course: orient, declare, network, cluster, focus. Our EVO session is not a course in so far as TESOL can control our speech, though we’re not using Newspeak, so they can’t keep us from thinking of our sessions as COURSEs, but whatever, it’s not a MOOC. There are not enough people. We are an EVO session that studies MOOCs, and thanks to our era of abundance, there’s no shortage of those, so while we are in the session we can participate in them if we like. We’ve listed them some possibilities here:

Our first week, as in most online courses, was given over to Orientation.  Everyone in the course was supposed to have attempted at least a few of the 16 suggestions in the Week 1 task list here: These tasks asked people to fill out a form (a dozen did so). They pointed participants to where the resources were and where they could read about the framework for the session. It asked them to scoop or tweet their reactions.  You can see the results here:

So, a few people did a few of the tasks, no one asked any questions about them, and now we are in Week 2 where we DECLARE our intentions in the course. The course is structured (in so far as structure is compatible with the MOOC model, where participants are supposed to structure their learning according to their nuanced goals) on participants saying what they want to accomplish, then setting out to accomplish what they say they wanted, and in the end reporting back on what they did. It’s that simple. Facilitators in cMOOCs do not create hoops through which participants must pass (the opposite as for xMOOCs, a distinction participants should have discovered in their reading during ORIENTATION week).  Any hoops are challenges set by participants in the course of improving themselves.  And the goalposts are placed by participants individually according to their perceived needs, and estimates of what they can achieve for themselves, factoring in what they should learn from others accompanying them on this stage of their learning journey.

So, how do we declare what we are going to do?  By the end of Week 1, Orientation, participants should have been giving some thought to a space where they might keep their ePortfolios.  Mine, as a model, is at  This is not a space I created just for this course. But it is a space where I have to revisit periodically to make sure it’s pointing to my most current spaces. You should have a space like this, one that points to what you are proud of.  It can be one you start now or one you maintain. It should point us to what you are doing in this session (or course). So to declare what you are doing in this session, this space should have a post saying that you are embarking on a 5-week journey and you plan to arrive on Feb 16 at such and such a place.

You can post it and forget about it for a while, but you must tag it.  This means you must place metadata there that will associate this posting with any that others are creating for this session.  The tags we use for this purpose at evomlit and multimooc.

You can tag your posts on Facebook, for example. You can search on tags as shown below, or initiate that search by clicking on a tag in a FB post, as you can also do in Twitter:


Once you write the post, you should Tweet it and maybe even tag it on Facebook.  That is you should announce to the world that you have created a post for this course.  Again, in your tweet, you should include these two tags: #evomlit and #multimooc. Once you have done that, your post will appear in our aggregation here: so we can find it.

When you check that link you’ll find mostly my face there, but some tweets of others like Maria Colussa, Benjamin Stewart, Anne Fox, Vanessa Vaile, and so on.  The idea is for MANY faces to populate that space.

To see how it works in a real MOOC with hundreds of participants, check the results for Rhizo14


From this example, you can see one way that aggregation of content in a MOOC works.  You see many faces there. You also see that the content is not being driven top down, as in this session, but it is percolating bottom up.  With critical mass, a MOOC is able to have one node in a network stimulate another.

So, what are you supposed to be doing here?  You should have done some of the tasks listed for week 1

And this week you should do as many of the tasks you feel are valuable to you here:

And finally, I’m tracking our work with badges here

And one more thing, our next live session is my talk with YLTSIG EVO on Sunday, Jan 26

And you can find MANY upcoming events, including the above and our MultiMOOC sessions the following week, on our burgeoning events calendar here

Sure, the abundance is overwhelming, but the opportunities for learning are there on the berry bush. Choose wisely, and enjoy the tastiest morsels. And please communicate with us, in posts to our lists and groups, or through the tagging methods suggested in Week 2.

Incidentally, I got a kick from learning that I was actually on the Rhizo14 leader-board (had used #rhizo14 4 times and this was significant early in the game).   This is what happens in a MOOC, everyone gets a kick from the slightest attention 🙂  And Rhizo14 will be our focus for Week 3, when the theme is networking (if I’m still driving; sometimes participants steer).


and here’s the slight attention 🙂


How’s it work? It has something to do with this and the instructions:

And here’s how I found out that much


I finally cracked it.



This story never ends.  After posting my success through the #rhizo14 network, I awoke this morning to find this in my twitter stream


Maha’s post (you asked for it 🙂 points me to the Hawksey Twitter map for all of Rhizo14.

Compare …


This, by the way, is an example of “cluster” (week 4 in MultiMOOC). Having oriented in Rhizo14 and declared who I am and why I am here, I have networked with a small group of people, forming a cluster of folks with the same interests as mine.

This illustrates how in a MOOC, the fact that there is an overwhelming abundance of content flying around that you cannot possibly hope to grasp is totally irrelevant. The fact that you grasp something that would not have come your way had you not put yourself in a context where the information is flying around is everything. It’s like fishing. You don’t worry about all the fish you didn’t catch. The point is to come away from the experience with the satisfaction of having feasted.  And this is an example of that.

And there’s more, I just now found this (sheepishly 😉

The MultiMOOC Twitter Listly

I’m trying to get the gallery layout for our Twitter List on Listly to embed at but the wiki is refusing to accept the code, so I’m trying it here:


View more lists from Vance Stevens
Same thing?? It doesn’t work here either.  There is a plugin for WordPress.  Maybe I’ll try that later.  I guess I’ll see if I can slap it on our Google community page first.
Also, if you want your own Twitter list, you have only days to act
Another thing I’m trying to do here is embed a Twitter widget in my blog.  The code looks something like this (which the post editor has played with, allowing it to display and not embed, which is what I want here)

<a class=”twitter-timeline” href=”; data-widget-id=”422911298590875648″>Tweets about “evomlit OR multimooc -collaborative -DontGetHairy”</a>
<script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’https’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+”://”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”);</script>

But the embed doesn’t appear (even if keyed into text view), so one is forced to browse WordPress help, where one finds this document
on reading of which one insert’s the following short code into one’s blog posting

Down to the wire: MultiMOOC 2.014 starts Monday

I hope to keep this blog ticking over, as well as my one at, during the EVO sessions January 13 to February 16, 2014.  At this writing we are just two days short of our start date.  In this post I hope to preview what we expect might happen over the next 5 weeks in the MultiMOOC session.

EVO Kickoff

There is an online kickoff event this Sunday from 1400 to 1600 GMT in Blackboard Collaborate / Elluminate. You can attend in person or catch the live stream at There is more information at

Starting MultiMOOC

We don’t start officially until Monday after the kickoff but at that time we will be asking anyone who plans to interact with us to post introductions on our Google+ community at You’ll want to join that community (it might ask you if you want to activate Google Plus, if you haven’t already). You might want to activate notifications there as well if you want to be alerted when someone posts there. This may or may not bloat your inbox, depending on how much traffic we have, but it will keep you in the loop, or you can simply visit the community from time to time and see what new faces have posted there.

We have two co-moderators for this session.  One of them, Ali Bostancioglu, is in Turkey for family matters at present but when he returns to his studies in UK he intends to be more active and help us focus on openness in learning. The other co-moderator is Jim Buckingham, whom I have known for some time as a colleague in UAE. He has developed an abiding interest in badges lately and taken at least one MOOC on the topic. Earlier today we met in Google+ Hangout to discuss how we might introduce badges in MultiMOOC (and he also explained how to activate, or deactivate, if you are getting overloaded, email notifications in Google+ communities)

MultiMOOC sessions go for 5 weeks. The first week starting Monday Jan 13 is orientation, where we re-iterate the points we are making here and give newcomers a chance to absorb the culture of connectivist self-directed learning.  The second week is for declaring, which means figuring out what you want from this session (which might mean choose a MOOC you want to pursue) and tell us why you made that choice. The third week is for networking, which could entail getting involved in other MOOC networks and reporting back.  By then our syllabus (chock full of readings and videos you can enjoy or ignore) has usually gone out the window as people cluster in Week 4 on whatever opportunities and tangents have arisen by then, and the last week is for focus and denouement, which would ideally entail your compiling a small ePortfolio of what you have accomplished in the session, and show us how you have met your expectations. Along the way we have some interesting speakers and live sessions.  For more on that, see the program here:

Not all the events listed are strictly MultiMOOC ones, but those ones are indicated (if you read my recent draft book chapter you’ll have a better idea of the relationship of Learning2gether to MultiMOOC).

Engaging the MOOC in MultiMOOC

As we are an EVO session that explores MOOCs (not a MOOC per se) we will learn best by participating in MOOCs and reporting back what we find.  For example, a MOOC on Digital Curation has just started and I have given my initial impressions here:
Two networks I have my eye on at the moment are the Crafting the ePerfect Textbook EVO session (already gone into MOOC status with 350 in its Google+ Community, than number increasing daily) and Dave Cormier’s MOOC on Rhizomatic Learning, which I personally intend to connect with as a part of our session (if we’re not in MOOC status then we’ll hitch to one).
There’s a link at the latter URL to the keynote Dave gave in Suva, Fiji in 2013
It’s a good encapsulation of what Dave has been saying over the years, how he (and George Siemens) try to respond to the incredibly diverse needs of students they encounter by moving away from training focused on simple and complicated concepts to preparing them for dealing with chaotic and complex ones – and ending on how his building on rhizomatic learning has become a springboard with him in an era characterized by abundance of opportunities to learn and connect with other learners.

What you can be doing now and this first week

More on that as we get going.  If you’re wondering what you can be doing now, you can read the message I posted today to our Multilit Yahoo! Group: To join the conversation there, you can join that group at But if for any reason you don’t wish to get a Yahoo ID or even join the group you can also access the messages through other options, explained here:
I’ve also recently prepared two documents you can explore when you have time

  1. I’ve prepared what I hope is a concise explanation of what the course is about this year
  2. I mentioned above my draft book chapter on the relationship between EVO, Webheads, Webheads in Action Online Convergences, Learning2gether, MultiMOOC, SMALL (Social Media Assisted Language Learning), and the role of chaos in learning, which you can read at the end of:
  3. You can also fill in our Google form at
    This is mainly to get some evidence that people are here (as well as to give us all some knowledge of who we are).
This is a session where you set your goals and strategize how to achieve them through the interesting and game-changing world of MOOCs and connectivist learning. I look forward to sharing that learning journey with you for the next five weeks, and has sometimes happens, beyond. Welcome.

The only known detractor of EVO

A note on updates to this post: The purpose of this post is to document the antics of a known troll seeking to disrupt learning in various EVO-related groups by spamming their hash tags. I have been keeping records of more recent postings by James O’Reilly and what appear to be his alter ego accounts. If interested in seeing updated material, look here:

Howard Rheingold was giving a course at Stanford in 2013 where he was asking on Facebook about people’s using alternative identities on the web. I thought to send him information on James O’Reilly, who has been an online gadfly for certain EVO groups associated with European initiatives, since he sometimes assumes alternative identities, but Howard was looking for positive examples, and I was busy at the time.


But I decided to post my thoughts here as I think it is a legitimate multiliteracies concern, and because the head coordinator of EVO the year I originally wrote this asked me to post to the moderators list what I had posted to the coordinators Yahoo! Group earlier on this topic, as some had already been affected, so I thought I’d just blog it and anyone who wants background on this subject can link to a URL, and perhaps comment here if they have their own instances to report.

I met James O’Reilly online in 2009 at the Webheads in Action Online Convergence that year. He seemed polite and even deferential, I expressed interest in his work, and he showed me some complex diagrams on social networking and virtual worlds, which I didn’t actually understand, so I suggested he should make us a presentation one day to explain more fully.

He must have come across to others as being normal as we headed into EVO 2010 when he joined a group facilitated by Heike Philp and Graham Stanley which met in Second Life, but his narrow agendas soon surfaced in a barrage of unexplained links of no apparent interest to others in the group, and he was eventually banned from the group Ning after repeated requests to stop spamming the group with persistent off-topic postings.

In his mind he associated Webheads with EVO as Webheads had organized the WiAOC and many participants in Webheads are also active in EVO, so he appealed to me to exercise control over the EVO session that banned him on the basis that it was connected with Euro projects but wasn’t meeting certain ISO standards.  There followed a slew of missives on standards, and complaints about how EVO was not meeting them, and though I tried to explain how I had nothing to do with it, eventually in a Skype conversation he showed me where he had been spamming the hash tags of the group he’d been ostracized from in an effort to spoil their use of Twitter as a meaningful aggregator of their learning content.

This shocked me and put me on my guard, but I took no further action until James started creating tension in Webheads. Though I avoided becoming involved, his postings were starting to elicit complaints from those who had encountered him previously, in a group which has been at all other times harmonious. So, though I have never done this to any member before or since, I eventually had to remove him from that group to give us all some peace, and this put me on his list of targets.

I kept some Skype records from long conversations with James.
A sample from Oct 2010 is viewable here


One way he has tried to foul our learning experience was to to set up an ersatz Webheads Facebook page called the New Webheads, with the figure above as its original background graphic,, in which he explained that the difference between old and new Webheads was that old webheads were “crybabies”. He managed to decoy several real (i.e. old) Webheads into the group and they invited others to join, thinking it was the genuine Webheads Facebook page. I had not long prior to that created a Webheads group in Facebook, but I had not pushed it on people, so the people who were decoyed had not been aware of the one I had set up, and assumed it was mine.

I became aware of this only when one of those who had been duped into joining the “new” group added me. I remained a member because I wanted to see what was going on there, and so I can send messages to people whom I think have been ‘honeytrapped’ one of James’s frequent buzzwords, into landing there.  That is, if a known Webhead posts there, I send them a private message to inform them of the situation and ask them if the group they are looking for is this one here
It used to be if you scrolled thru the posts at New Webheads, you’d notice that James was the predominant poster there. The sad thing is that it was an interesting collection of posts, but it doesn’t cohere into a message, and that’s always the problem with James. He sends repeated messages and links that distract your group from its current discussion, and once he has your hash tag in his list of targets, then he uses his twitter accounts to robo-spam you so his posts clutter and drown out your legitimate efforts. There are screen shots of some of these posts, now removed, further down in this blog post.
James has since cleaned up the New Webheads Facebook page from the one whose banner appears in the graphic above. He has given it a much milder, respectable appearance. He has removed ALL his posts, so that those that remain are from people who have thought that this was the recognized Webheads group, which, sans screed, invites other posts. It’s not a bad place to visit at this revision (Nov 2015) but the problem is, it’s purpose was to deceive members of our community into believing it to be the ‘official’ group and to thus place yet another disruptive wedge in the’old’ Webheads community.
If you want to know if the FB group you are in is the real thing or not, examine the descriptions of each group.  One description starts out friendly but devolves into a rant into links to James’s pet peeves and interests; e.g. groupthink, cyberbullying etc. The other description explains that this is the page of the group that formed as an EVO session in 2002 and ends with a request not to post on topics that are not in the group’s interests, a caveat which was put there due to our experience with James.
One of his Twitter accounts is called Collaborative, Be sure and vist that link to see how James is posting to this day on tags he is clearly spamming, It should be clear that no thought goes into these posts which are obviously meant to clutter the searches on victim hash tags.  Users of the dozens of tags affected have on occasion mounted campaigns to report that account for spam, a clear violation of Twitter’s terms of service (but the account appears to still be posting; if you wish to remove it from your view of Twitter, you can block him from your experience,, but he’ll still appear in unblocked aggregations, such as
Shortly after James was banned from Webheads, he created an O’Brian Twitter account with a simpleton avatar and used it to dialog with his more menacing Eurominuteman (searching Twitter, I don’t see either of these accounts; perhaps Twitter have finally caught on :-). On a similar note, colleagues of Graham Davies managed to track down his IP address and have it blocked on Wikipedia because he was going in and trashing Eurocall’s articles there.
My wife did some research and found that James had also become involved in a couple of Minecraft groups and was sparking predictable dynamics, with some miners lobbying to get rid of him and others counseling that he had a right to be there and they should give him a chance.  I have no idea how it came out.
I think this all makes a fascinating story.  There are two ways of looking at it. One is to become frustrated and discouraged by such inimical behavior, especially when it is directed at you or at entities you support that are trying to improve the lot of humanity, but that leads nowhere.  Another way is to take it in stride as one of the many downsides of an interconnected world.  Fortunately there are more than enough upsides in that world, many happy and serendipitous affordances that make the occasional hiccup worthwhile.
So if James O’Reilly interferes with your learning, take it as a hiccup, don’t get upset, block him where you can, report him if possible.  And be flattered; he goes after the best educators in the world, so to get on his radar you must be doing something right.

Twitter is on the case (sort of)

Someone who reported him on Twitter recently got this back in response:
The Twitter Trust & Safety team will review your report and take action if the user is found to be violating the Twitter Rules ( We may follow up with you if we need further information. What else can you do? • Do not respond to the user. We have found that responding to someone who is intentionally attempting to aggravate you or others encourages them to continue their behavior. • Block the user. You can block the user using the blocking feature described here: • Learn more about how to deal with abusive users: • Learn how to flag inappropriate media here:

A glimpse inside the echo chamber

Here are posts and comments made by the almost sole contributor to the New Webheads Facebook group as EVO was about to get started in January, 2014
And here is the text, in case you’d like to judge for yourself the relevance of links posted here to the true purposes of EVO. This also might serve to indicate what your group is in for if you allow him to join as one of your participants

Original posting by James O’Reilly on his Facebook group, January 6 at 2:09pm

To whom it may concern, EVO’s strategic and operational un-quality failures

James OReilly left a comment In its fun-running in circles on sidelines, EVO represents a core lack of Transparency, Integrity, and Accountability, thus is stubborn to comply and benchmark with Transparency International’s requirements to combat Education Corruption > Transparency International’s Global Corruption Report on Education available for order Global Corruption Report: Education (Paperback) – Routledge Corruption and poor governance are acknowledged as major impediments to realizing the right to education and to reaching the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015. Corruption not only distorts access to education, but affects… January 6 at 2:15pm · Like
James OReilly left a comment EVO is furthermore stubborn to comply with ERIC Database 5,717 results for Language Learning Outcome Accountability; ERIC – Search Results ERIC is an online library of education research and information, sponsored by th… See More January 6 at 2:16pm · Like
James OReilly left a comment EVO is furthermore stubborn to assess + include empirical and statistical raw hard data from valid sources, like those from Google Trends (Language Teaching, Language Learning, Virtual Worlds ) and EU Surveys (European Survey on Language Competences ESLC Key Findings: Outcome of foreign language learning in EU is Poor > ESCL Website > Final Report > Executive Summary ) Google Trends – Web Search interest – Worldwide, 2004 – present Explore Google Search trends with Google Trends. January 6 at 2:16pm · Like
James OReilly left a comment EVO is also stubborn to comply with EU’s Constructivistic Requirements for Outcome-based Education OBE > New EU Outcome Requirements How many Youth Jobs and Return-on-Investment is EVO really good for? How do all those bandwaggoned Inputs translate into Constructivistic Outcomes (Outputs)? EUROPA – PRESS RELEASES – Press release – Commission presents new Rethinking Education strategy Europe needs a radical rethink on how education and training systems can deliver the skills needed by the labour market. January 6 at 2:17pm · Like
James OReilly left a comment EVO is a philosophical failure to embrace Aristotle’s Causa Finalis > Causa Finalis outranks Causa Efficiens since the days of Aristotle Four causes – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Four Causes refers to an influential principle in Aristotelian thought whereby causes of change or movement are categorized into four fundamental types of answer to the question “why?”. Aristotle wrote that “we do not have knowledge of a thing until we have grasped its why, that is to say, its cause… January 6 at 2:34pm · Like
James OReilly left a comment EVO furthermore violates UNESCO’s Education Inclusion Policy Guidelines by censoring and excluding these Scientific Method approaches…/UNESCO-Education-Inclusion&#8230; Exclusion has been outlawed in international treaties since years! EVO suffers from Groupthink UNESCO Education Inclusion Policy Guidelines I’m reading Medium Raw on Scribd… UNESCO, Education, Inclusion, Policy, Guideline, groupthink #ReadScribd January 6 at 2:55pm · Like

This subject was also discussed in a Hangout on Feb 18, 2013

It has come up in one of the EVO management group lists in Nov, 2014, to which I contributed …

Both Webheads Facebook groups have almost 400 members (almost 500 each as of this writing, Nov 2015). I see that James has added a constellation of ‘webheads’ probably by manually doing so from his friends list. I have added a lot of members to the real webheads but never by selecting them from my friends list  and manually adding them. All in the real webheads group have asked to join and I have approved. If you wish, you can go to this group and join it (the real one) This is the link to James’s creation:
Before just now, I hadn’t visited there in a while. Whenever I go there I feel I am wasting my time. To me it’s an interesting study of what a troll can do to a social network, a case-study worth being aware of. I see however that no one has posted to that group since 2013
(I later added this correction in the paragraph below)
Just to keep documenting here, today March 23, 2015, I find that James was added to the normal webheads FB group by one of its members two hours ago (when I discovered this, all posts were marked two hours ago). Upon being added to our list he posted 11 posts to the Webheads group. This is clearly not an attempt to communicate with the list, but to spam it. I’ve blocked him now but checking out his New Webheads list I see that he has cleared all his own posts from that list and left in only the posts from people who have been ‘honeytrapped’ into that list. I know most of them so I could get in touch with them and find out from them why they are posting there (and I’ll follow up here so that what is posted here will remain accurate). His group now looks quite normal and now that the clutter is cleared from there, I can see there were indeed 14 posts from people other than James between Jan and Nov 2014).
Included in the removal were the posts whose screen shots are documented above (the glimpse into the echo chamber).To have a record and corroboration I have posted my view our webheads list here at the link below
or not …

More updates from March 2015 on persistent trolling from James O’Reilly

This is a screenshot from James’s attempt to intercede in learning taking place in the EVO Minecraft mOOC by disrupting its Twitter stream. These tweets appeared at
In addition one of my colleagues alerted me that she had received the following message when she logged on to Second Life just now. Apparently there is one awaiting my login. Here is the text of the email my colleague sent:
<begin quote>
Dear Vance,
I have just gone to SL, and found this message. Maybe you have it already but just in case:
Criminal Webheads Defamations
Monday,16 Mar 2015 08:15:32 GMT
#‎eltchat‬ I read about @marisa_c @vances ‪#‎webheads‬’s criminal energy & defamations without reverse burden of proof to fact-findings presented
#eltchat Criminal defamations from @Marisa_C @VanceS #webheads will face criminal & civil charges in Germany, my lawyer rubs his hands 🙂
#eltchat How about sticking your nose into deductive evidence @Marisa_C @VanceS #webheads before you drift off into criminal energy
More Criminal Defamations
Monday,16 Mar 2015 08:16:06 GMT
#eltchat Teacher thinking is not a law of nature > Especially not from false & criminal @Marisa_C @VanceS #webheads
Of course, they were sent by James O’Reily
No idea how he sent it to me when I had blocked him. <end of email text>

Then on March 16, 2015, this …

Here is the complete text:
Dear Mr. Vance Steven: I read your blog and about your false blog claims, you make flat false inventions and allegations without reverse burden of proof. May I point out that you violate my personality rights and perform defamations. Please cease and desist these actions, and delete the blog article. I reserve the right to file criminal and civil litigation. Best regards, James O’Reilly
James has been firing off spam directed at defaming innocent and altruistic educators without ‘reverse burden of proof’ for a long time now. The people he has impacted are many, and this post is simply an effort to provide reverse burden of proof and document honestly what is really the tip of an iceburg in an attempt to get the problem out where all can see it.
Here is a recent example of a flurry of spam replicated from Virtual Worlds & Language Learning, as reported on this YahooGroup thread (and this list contains extensive documentation of transgressions against a long-suffering community of educators perpetrated by someone representing himself as James O’Reilly)
Group Notice From: Virtual Worlds & Language Learning, Eurominuteman Jameson

#‎eltchat‬ I read about @marisa_c @vances ‪#‎webheads‬’s criminal energy & defamations without reverse burden of proof to fact-findings presented

#eltchat Criminal defamations from @Marisa_C @VanceS #webheads will face criminal & civil charges in Germany, my lawyer rubs his hands 🙂

#eltchat How about sticking your nose into deductive evidence @Marisa_C @VanceS #webheads before you drift off into criminal energy

Group Notice From: Virtual Worlds & Language Learning, Eurominuteman Jameson

#eltchat Teacher thinking is not a law of nature > Especially not from false & criminal @Marisa_C @VanceS #webheads

The many defamatory attacks by James O’Reilly on educators undeserving of such abuse are a matter of extensive public record. This post simply brings some of this to light. All that is written here is true, much of it supportable by evidence in the public domain, and experienced by many who would ask James to kindly desist wasting his and our time on petty vendettas. I leave it to the reader to judge.
As noted at the head of this post, if interested in seeing updated material since my last annotation of this blog post, look here:

Applying what we learned in MultiMOOC in EVO 2013 to Writingmatrix

A few years ago, Vance Stevens coordinated Nelba Quintana and Rita Zeinstejer in Argentina, Doris Molero in Venezuela, and Sasa Sirk in Slovenia in a global project to put student writers in touch with each other through blogging, by tagging their posts ‘writingmatrix’.  At the time, the students were able to locate each other’s blogs by using Technorati.  This was surprisingly effective at the time; however Technorati has since tightened what its searches will return in order to reduce clutter for whom it perceives are the most important users of its services (not casual educators). Therefore Technorati no longer works well for this purpose, but those involved in the project found results at the time to be highly satisfactory. Those involved produced numerous online artifacts, including presentations and scholarly articles, many of which are linked from our Writingmatrix project portal at: Some of the most illustrative artifacts include:

  • Stevens, Vance. (2009 July 15). Engaging Collaborative Writing through Social Networking. In Koyama, Toshiko; Noguchi, Judy; Yoshinari,Yuichiro; and Iwasaki, Akio (Eds.). Proceedings of the WorldCALL 2008 Conference. The Japan Association for Language Education and Technology (LET). ISBN: 978-4-9904807-0-7,, pp.68-71.
  • Stevens, Vance, Nelba Quintana, Rita Zeinstejer, Saša Sirk, Doris Molero & Carla Arena. (2008). Writingmatrix: Connecting Students with Blogs, Tags, and Social Networking. In Stevens, Vance & Elizabeth Hanson-Smith, Co-editors. (2008). Special Feature: Proceedings of the Webheads in Action Online Convergence, 2007. TESL-EJ, Volume 11, Number 4:
  • A delightful 5 min. trailer for our presentation at the K-12 Online Conference in 2007:

Meanwhile, one of the serendipitous outcomes of conducting the recently ended EVO MultiMOOC session was a greater understanding of how works. The results of these experiments were reported at these URLs (which will be broken when Posterous shuts down at the end of April 2013, but which will hopefully be ported elsewhere):

After we discovered that can be configured to publish results when they are tweeted with a #hashtag (such as #mmooc13 in the examples given above), it (slap forehead!) dawned on me that could replace Technorati in a revival of the Writingmatrix project.  All we would need to do would be to encourage our colleagues and their students to blog creative writing, tag it ‘writingmatrix’, and then tweet what they had done using the #writingmatrix hashtag.

So I set up a for this purpose:  I configured it to publish daily for the time being so that we can test it and see results within a day of their posting (with aggregations going to press each day at around midnight GMT). Furthermore, I  have found configuration options with that look like this:

So to be on the safe side, according to what we know about, if someone makes a post in a blog, tweets about that post, and tags the tweet  #writingmatrix, seems pretty reliable about publishing that in the next edition of, with the caveat that it must be a direct tweet ( doesn’t post secondary tweets, where you post to for example, and then tick that you want that shared on Twitter – even if you #tag that tweet, it does not appear to be picked up in if the link is to a URL containing

According to the configuration in the screenshot above, posts should appear in our if the blog post is tagged ‘writingmatrix’ (or anything that generates an RSS feed with that tag, though this remains to be tested).  Also we should see results if mention is made of writingmatrix in Twitter, Facebook or in Google+.  I’ll make posts in these places and see if I can get them to appear in the writingmatrix, and you are welcome to try as well.

Eventually we might want to encourage our students to do this.  The original idea suggests that teachers invite student writers from all over the world to post their creative writing online and then tag and tweet it in such a way that writers in other parts of the globe can find it and contribute their own, and hopefully young students might then comment on each other’s writing, and be encouraged to write for a wider audience than one restricted to the vicinity of the classroom.

Here is where you come in.  You are invited to join the experiment.  You are invited to test the system by 
  • making blog posts and tagging them ‘writingmatrix’
  • tweeting those posts with the hashtag #writingmatrix
  • tweeting a variety of other artifacts online with the hashtag #writingmatrix to help us see what will acknowledge as a valid candidate for publication
  • posting to facebook content containing the word ‘writingmatrix’
  • posting to Google+ content containing the word ‘writingmatrix’
  • encouraging your students and colleagues to do any of the above
We’ll check back after a few days and see what has come up with (note that you can pull down “archives” to see the results from each day).  We’ll analyze the outcome in a follow-up blog post later.