Invitation to join Connectivism Education Learning on Facebook

I think our Connectivism on Ning is “drawing near to an end”, likely in the coming months (may be in July), as we are very unlikely be able to meet the payment requirement by Ning.

So, we will have to move to other social media like Facebook and Twitter for further sharing and learning.

Here is the new Group Connectivismeducationlearning on Facebook

You are welcomed to join the group, and it is fully opened to anyone who are interested in the sharing of views and experience in education, learning and research.

We haven’t organised any sessions as yet, but will do so once more people have joined the group.

Jenny Mackness, Roy Williams and I are planning a research sharing session that relates to Connectivism and MOOC (CCK08) – The Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC with George Siemens and Stephen Downes. It would be held in early July 2010. We will announce the details on the event soon.

Any one who would like to organise an event are also welcomed, here on Facebook.

You will also find me on Twitter.


Photo credit: Rebirth from Flickr

How could technology, media and network support learning?

This is my response to Cristina on Integrating technology into research training.
How can this enhance PhD experience? “What, I think, we still struggle with – and that is just my opinion, of course – is with the facilitation of a collaborative environment.” Yes, I think that is the major challenge in conducting advanced research, where collaboration amongst PhD students is never easy, when independent thinking and research is often expected and encouraged. This was also my feeling whilst conducting research sometime ago.

About Community
I like your question: Are they a community yet? My question is: Have I/we understood the needs and expectations of myself and others within the community? What are the motivations in learning within a community? What would help in supporting each other within the community/network, especially those doing a PhD?
To me, it’s the process of development within the community/network that is critical: where each networker would take on a “role” as he/she feels like or comfortable in his/her learning journey, the self-directed and organised learning that makes and identifies him/her as part of the community/network.
I also see new lights emerging from new opportunities afforded by the media -like Facebook and Twitter, which mediated the conversation in a more adaptive and customised (fast response & one on one) manner. So, would we need to re-define what it means to be a community or community of practice under a technology mediated ecology?
To me: It is not one COP/network that succeeds with a few practitioners who achieve or win as leaders, it is one (a hybrid of network/COP) which could adapt its “shape & process” to cater for the networkers, and make the learning valuable, significant and sustainable that win. Within such a framework, everyone becomes a learning leader, taking charge of his/her learning and inspiring and influencing others to achieve excellence with a mutually supportive spirit. Blogging and reflective sharing in virtual/face to face workshop or conference, as you mentioned are also strategic discourse to live out the social networking spirit as scholars. Would such connections and interactions (with PLE/N) be able to transform educational and learning practice amongst PhD and other HE students? Would that be the social networking leadership that we all aspire to?

Still thinking… How would you see the emergence of social networks in PhD studies? Though I am not doing one..

Is persistence a pre-requisite of success?

The importance of persistence in order to achieve is reinforced by this Video on Failure: The Secret to Success

One of the by-products of experience is failure.  This would also apply to the route to education, where failures in education is the part of any educators’ journey towards success, and it’s through the persistence of educators and learners that would help the institution, the community to achieve success.

Is the future a race between education and catastrophe?

What does our society value most?

In this Work Shift by Harold, Emotional Intelligence, imagination and creativity are highly valued by society.

Harold writes:

This should have been a wake-up call to our training and education institutions in 2003. Notice that even the requirement for analytic reasoning is declining in the workplace. As the authors note:

In today’s world, companies and workers face the challenge of ascending the hierarchy of human talents. Workers are increasingly using those traits that make us truly human. Some jobs require imagination and creativity, including the ability to design, innovate and entertain. Other jobs rely on such social skills as conflict resolution, cooperation and even humor. Work is more likely to put a premium on the ability to inspire and motivate, a capacity social scientists call emotional intelligence.

Update: via the Creative Class Blog: Creativity ranks as the number one most important leadership quality for business success, according to a new study by IBM.

Analytic reasoning, and critical thinking skills, on the other hand have been perceived differently.  Here on wikipedia:

Research suggests a widespread skepticism about universities’ effectiveness in fostering critical thinking. For example, in a three year study of 68 public and private colleges in California,[which?] though the overwhelming majority (89%) claimed critical thinking to be a primary objective of their instruction, only a small minority (19%) could give a clear explanation of what critical thinking is. Furthermore, although the overwhelming majority (78%) claimed that their students lacked appropriate intellectual standards (to use in assessing their thinking), and 73% considered that students learning to assess their own work was of primary importance, only a very small minority (8%) could enumerate any intellectual criteria or standards they required of students or could give an intelligible explanation of what those criteria and standards were.[citation needed]

This study mirrors a meta-analysis of the literature on teaching effectiveness in higher education.[12] According to the study, critical reports by authorities on higher education, political leaders and business people have claimed that higher education is failing to respond to the needs of students, and that many of our graduates’ knowledge and skills do not meet society’s requirements for well-educated citizens. Thus the meta-analysis focused on the question: How valid are these claims? Researchers concluded:

  • “Faculty aspire to develop students’ thinking skills, but research consistently shows that in practice we tend to aim at facts and concepts in the disciplines, at the lowest cognitive levels, rather than development of intellect or values.”
  • “Faculty agree almost universally that the development of students’ higher-order intellectual or cognitive abilities is the most important educational task of colleges and universities.”
  • “These abilities underpin our students’ perceptions of the world and the consequent decisions they make.”
  • “Specifically, critical thinking – the capacity to evaluate skillfully and fairly the quality of evidence and detect error, hypocrisy, manipulation, dissembling, and bias – is central to both personal success and national needs.”
  • A 1972 study of 40,000 faculty members by the American Council on Education found that 97 percent of the respondents indicated the most important goal of undergraduate education is to foster students’ ability to think critically.
  • Process-oriented instructional orientations “have long been more successful than conventional instruction in fostering effective movement from concrete to formal reasoning. Such programs emphasize students’ active involvement in learning and cooperative work with other students and de-emphasize lectures…”
  • “Numerous studies of college classrooms reveal that, rather than actively involving our students in learning, we lecture, even though lectures are not nearly as effective as other means for developing cognitive skills.”
  • “In addition, students may be attending to lectures only about one-half of their time in class, and retention from lectures is low.”
  • “Studies suggest our methods often fail to dislodge students’ misconceptions and ensure learning of complex, abstract concepts. Capacity for problem solving is limited by our use of inappropriately simple practice exercises.”
  • “Classroom tests often set the standard for students’ learning. As with instruction, however, we tend to emphasize recall of memorized factual information rather than intellectual challenge.”
  • “Taken together with our preference for lecturing, our tests may be reinforcing our students’ commonly fact-oriented memory learning, of limited value to either them or society.”

So, would critical thinking still be important in learning in an institution? I would argue that it is still relevant, and should be reinforced throughout the curriculum in Higher Education.  This is an important foundation skill for any profession, especially that we should be focusing on values which are important to individuals, business and society. This would ensure graduates have a sound understanding of the complexity nature of business and relationships, and challenge their abilities to adapt to new working environment through sensemaking.  Moreover, an understanding of emotional intelligence, and the application imagination and creativity via learning projects and problems-based learning would prepare students in facing challenges and tackling new problems and relations when they join the workforce.

I have discussed critical thinking and emotional intelligence in my previous posts.

What do you think our society would value most?

Cooperative Online Education

In this Transparency in cooperative online education, Christian and Morten argue the importance of transparency and awareness in online learning, with particular emphasis on cooperative learning in the networks.

They conclude that:

From the perspective of the theory of cooperative freedom, however, the special kind of communication and interaction afforded by social networking sites is interesting and has pedagogical potential. From this point of view, social networking should be considered as a supplement to other tools. The potential of social networking lies within transparency and the ability to create awareness among students.

I agree in principle to what Christian and Morten have found.

There are, however, a few challenges which remained unresolved in online education, when social networking is used as a supplement to other tools:

1. It is acknowledged that some learners would prefer or wish to become independent learners, despite their setting up of blogs as a personal learning network.  Such learners often would prefer to use blogs as a personal space for reflection, thinking aloud, and a repository of resources that they could easily refer to or retrieve for later use.   So, the contribution of such bloggers to social networks could be significant as their artifacts could add value to the social capital.  However, their intention is based on conceptual connections with other bloggers’ thoughts or the ideas or findings of those artifacts rather than the mere personal connections.  Learning is still perceived by the learner as a solitary experience, especially if such independent learners value more highly on “reading” the artifacts, posts and reflect by himself.

(a) Does this fit nicely with the social constructivist principles of learning?  Or would this be a novel example of “connectivist” principle of learning where connection is more important than the content itself?

(b) Would this mode of learning be classified as cooperative learning?  May be, but would this also be based on a cognitive approach towards learning by the learner, merely leveraging the social networks as an affordance rather than “participating” in the conversations or interaction?

(c) Would learning be confined to the needs of the learners, rather than the needs of the “networks” or “community”?  Are the needs of networks or community (i.e. other co-learners or group) important ?

(d) How would learners be motivated to join and participate in the “networks” and “community” when their perceived personal needs are different from that of the “networks” or “community”?

2. The asymmetrical nature of blogging could however lead to pontificating and echo chamber effect, as the blogger could moderate the comments and thus limit any criticism which may come from other learning partners or networkers.  So, such learners may often miss in identifying their blind spots in their blog posts, as they might have missed out the feedback from their tutors or co-learners, or other readers and networkers.  Ideally,  cooperative learning would provide maximum individual flexibility and greater affinity to learning community, in reality, learners who value more highly on individual and independent learning would prefer leveraging the tools and community to affinity to community, as “community” to them may be affordance rather than a permanent “node”.  There would therefore be a lack of sense of community as perceived by many independent bloggers.

From paper Transparency in cooperative online education

3. The use of an infrastructure has been used and proposed to bolster the personal connections with the system, course, course materials, teacher, and learning partner systems, so as to enhance learning in a networked learning environment.

It seems that majority of students under the survey were satisfied to very satisfied with such a system, except the learning partner system, where only slightly more than half (53.1%) of the participants were satisfied to very satisfied.

(a) Did participants value highly with the learning partner system?

(b) Why was learning partner system so difficult to establish and sustain?

(c) How would such learning partner system help in students’ learning?

(d) What are the implications in having such learning partner system in place in an online social networking environment?

4.  Many learners would still wish to protect their own work  as they view their work as “intellectual property”, and this is still evident when students don’t like their work to be assessed openly and publicly.  This is especially important in an institutional environment where students have a right to choose between having work only available to their class group or open to public.

(a) Could cooperative learning be assessed and measured in an online education environment?

(b) How would e-portfolio (blogs and personal artifacts or social tagging) be used in such cooperative learning?


The Future Education Course

Here is my response to Future of Education Course led by George Siemens and Dave Cormier.

I have followed part of the conversation.
Using a course to discuss about education futures do require some consensus on the process to adopt. This is quite a challenge as some participants might have a “best practice” approach or experience in such education future research, whilst others might be figuring about how such “wisdom of the crowds” approach could work. The various suggestions of using Delphi, Drupal, etc. are examples of tools and techniques. However, would this way of discussion be confined to a networking approach where the discourse stays at the “theoretical level” if no consensus are made? It would be very difficult to form into groups to actually implement those suggested drupal research.

A course which is decentralised is great for brainstorming ideas, generating possible senarios of education, and sharing and debating different ideas and models, but could be difficult to come up with a pattern of education future which is reflective and evaluative, unless there are concrete adaptive evaluation tools which could be developed or emerged out of the network.

As every participant has his/her own views, perceptions, and experience about education, so such evaluations may only make sense if individuals are to formulate their visions of future. This could be achieved by individuals sharing such visions in their blogs, followed by further conversations in the forum to share and reflect on, so as to arrive to some common themes and pattern that networkers could recognise.

About the course:
I think it depends on what individuals want to achieve through such a course, based on negotiations amongst the participants, rather than the pre-determined outcomes of the course, which are highlighted as what is expected from the course, if the course designer and facilitator wishes to achieve an optimum outcome which is based on network principles. However, if you want to discuss the education future using a formal or “traditional” approach of defining the objectives first, then certain levels of facilitation and structure would be needed, in order to guide the participants through a Delphi or Drupal approach towards “best practice”. One could also relate to the Horizon Report which provides some framework on how technology enhanced education could be envisioned.

Would participants view these “framework” or “suggested best practice” as constraints or too limited in the sharing of views? Or would they value the suggestions as “expert” views towards best practice? We are aware that education future is both complicated and complex in nature due to the uncertainty future. Without considering the cultures, contexts, and local needs, it wouldn’t be easy to come up with any concrete ideas about what may be best about our education system. This is both a challenge and opportunity for participants and facilitator to share their “international perspectives” based on global network.

So, would it be important to reconsider what is important in the design of a course using a network structure first? This would enable each of us (facilitator and participants) to rethink what it means when discussing an important, though complex subject.

What are the needs and expectations of participants when engaged in such an open network structure? What motivate them to explore about education future? What are their utopian view of education future? Have they already got such visions? What are the context of such visions? What are the implications?

In summary, I don’t see it easy to share an open and complex topic on education future based on a network/course hybrid approach.
Further discussion and sharing may be based on (a) what an open course could offer in the discussion of education future, (b) how such discussion could be consolidated, and researched with the possibility of group research and research community, (c) the merits and demerits of using such approach in tackling complicated and complex topics.

I have written a post on future education.