Courses as Seeds:

In places the paper seems to hint at an agenda that is more than merely pedagogical. For instance, the quote in the introduction, paragraph one, calls our schools and universities the "reproductive organs of consumer society." How does a critique of consumerism relate to this project? What are the "problems that are most pressing to our society" referred to in paragraph two? How does the failure of traditional education to create lifelong learners or impart to students a "designer mindset" contribute to these problems? What exactly is the motive for developing this new model, and why is it important?

The major difficulties encountered in implementing courses-as-seeds were "cultural in nature." That doesn't surprise me. Breaking the norms we've been trained since kindergarten to obey is difficult and requires conscious effort. Going into the course, how did the instructor understand the obstacles to full student participation and ownership? Other than providing the CIE, what strategies were used to help the students break their social conditioning and enact this new culture? How do we understand these difficulties now?
Here are some ideas along these lines. I don't know how good or practicable they are.

1. Have the students examine the way they have been socialized to act in the classroom explicitly. If possible, show them an example of the kind of collaboration they should aim for. Build culture-creation into the curriculum.
2. Use group-building activities. Social rewards such as making friends and being part of a community are very effective motivators. Activist organizations I've worked with have used group-building games to help people get to know each other and develop bonds, with good results in terms of participation and retention.
3. Undermine the normal classroom heirarchy; get rid of the relationship of active teacher to passive student. This could be done by eliminating grading or making it the students' responsibility, by sitting in a circle, by rotating meeting facilitators…

I guess my main thought is this: creating significant changes in the ways that students relate to courses won't just happen as a side effect of the technology, it will need a fair amount of directed effort. Maybe one semester isn't long enough to see a return on that investment.

ROLE Proposal:

This answered some of the questions I had after reading the Courses as Seeds paper, gave me a lot more context and helped me understand how courses-as-seeds fits into a larger picture. It also raised some new questions for me:
What is ROLE?
How does "latent semantic analysis" work? How well does it work?
What "metrics for motivation" are used?
What is an example of a boundary object?
What is the status of SPIDER?
If the short, one-semester duration of classes has been recognized as problematic, what ideas exist for dealing with that?

The URAP strikes me, happily, as one of the most interesting pieces this paper talks about. I'm excited to be part of L3D and to learn more about how it functions as a "lifelong learning community." In spite of having had better than the usual opportunities to take an active role in designing my own education both in high school and college, I am still very caught in the consumer mindset. Exploring ideas related to lifelong learning will be interesting for me on several levels.

The CIEs:

I havn't had much time to explore yet. I looked at some of the assignments on the Spring 2000, Designing the Information Society… site, which were interesting. Many other links, including the one to the discussion list are broken