Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Reflections on CCK09 week 2 - networks

Had an interesting week looking at network properties as part of Week 2 of CCK09.

Building my own network (nature vs. nuture)

Read Imreli Aro's introduction of herself to the course and in particular her 10 rules of becoming a social mediator. Asking questions seems such an obvious way to start networking and I've found it particularly useful during this week. Have built contacts and even met one for lunch who introduced me to a new restaurant on our campus (thanks Anne-Marie)! There are a number of health professionals on CCK09 and hope to connect with them some more.

I wonder what the balance should be between actively seeking to make a network and allowing a network to develop by serendipity. Which is the more effective in terms of time and effort, efficacy of learning, complexity of knowledge etc.? It must be a balance but remembering the qualities of others in your network is something I find quite a challenge especially when the initial contacts are very brief. In 'the real world' it would take several meetings to build up a rapport and this connectivism network building feels a little like ruthless speed-dating at times. I think time and discovered shared interests will be the best means for me.

Have initiated a lot of networking outside the CCK09 course as well and will build on my role as 'broker' between different networks and communities. Found the facebook tool to map my own personal network of friends very interesting. It allowed me to visualise hubs (my sister) and brokers (a friend who introduced us to a charity we are now involved with) in my own personal network.

An interesting point has appeared when looking at the discussions of two people in my network both doctors talking about patients who read medical information on the internet and form fantastic disease-specific communities such as 'survive the journey' for Cushing's disease. You would think that doctors would be useful people in those online communities but they are not. The strength of the connections between the members of the community is much stronger than that of any doctor with the community.

Network complexity / analysis

I had read about scale-free networks previously but this week has allowed me to bring several of my own nerdy interests together. Fractals, Mandelbrot's (mis)behaviour of markets that suggests the complexity of market forces could be explained by its 'scale-free' nature, how the brain works, small-group teaching techniques, and specialist communities. This has been connection making at a conceptual level and has allowed me to look at learning with a different perspective. most interesting. Whether this is 'connectivism' or just being inspired by reading other people's opinions and challenges is the big question ... for my CCK09 thoughts. Added a lot about network properties and Downe's design principles to my concept map of connectivism.

Reading Barabasi's Scale-Free Networks: A Decade and Beyond raised a question about how common scale-free networks are. Scale-free networks are a feature of many but not all networks in nature. In particular we do not know if the central nervous system does behave like this as we have no map of its connexions (the connectome) or any way of generating an accurate model. I wrote about it in response to a thread called 'the connection' started by Ken Anderson where I said,

"The key part of this which I am not clear on is how can we be certain that network properties that exist in one system can be extrapolated to another. Not all networks are best explained by a power law for example. How can our understanding of complex networks (WWW, society, models of scale-free networks on a computer or in a maths expression) help us explain the characteristics of networks which we don't understand very well - like the CNS for example. Likewise, in the other direction, how can our insight into human cognitive processes be extrapolated to explain the dynamics of personal learning networks.

Hmm. Best leave it there with a big question mark and hope someone else pitches in to dig me out of my hole. ?"


  1. Dean, its great to learn vicariously through your experience of cck09 - you explorations and shared learning are an inspiration. I hope siemens & downes can get the mp3s together so I can pick up on the verbal conversations.

  2. Cheers James and I feel likewise from your regular tweets, moodles and comments.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Dean! Very interesting. I get your point about the patient communities better now.

    Applying ideas about networks to various parts of health care has a huge potential I think. It's time for creativity :)

    And we need good ambassadors like you to sell the ideas into our conservative institutions-

  4. Hello Dean
    I've just came across this post. It was great to meet up with you too (hopefully again soon!)

    The links formed through the shared experience of being a patient are very strong. I've experience as a patient and as a doctor, and I think the strength of these communities comes from the absence of 'others', be they carers, spouses or health professionals.

    Anyway, I'm glad that the link was useful.


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