#Change11 Engagement, Sharing and Learning in Times of Abundance – Learner Autonomy Part 3

How about the claim for traditional education, back to the future?  Everyone wants a quick answer.  In this post Maths teacher still believes in old school calculations. “Even though students have changed through the years — “They want a quick answer” — and rely heavily on electronics, the good ones still understand they must comprehend what they’re learning, he says.”  It seems to work out with his school, and his school students.  So, no computer, no mobile phones in class.

However, would this sort of traditional school teaching work in distance education and informal learning?  I don’t think it is easy.  In this Khan Academy, it seems to work.  What have we prepared students with?  Quick answers, in response to questions?

I am still not sure on the effectiveness of teaching based on Khan Academy, though there seems to be lots of potential in leveraging videos in teaching and learning.  However, I am not convinced on the use of badge in “awarding” or “rewarding” children in learning as that may hinder their learning, where learning is more than the mere mastery of skills, but development of critical thinking skills, and metacognition, so as to become autonomous and independent and inter-dependent learners.

How about learner autonomy, when learning in an online environment?  Though this paper was written long time ago, I reckon learner autonomy is the most important element in successful online learning.

In this learner autonomy:

“On a general note, the term autonomy has come to be used in at least five ways (see Benson & Voller, 1997: 2):

  • for situations in which learners study entirely on their own;
  • for a set of skills which can be learned and applied in self-directed learning;
  • for an inborn capacity which is suppressed by institutional education;
  • for the exercise of learners’ responsibility for their own learning;
  • for the right of learners to determine the direction of their own learning.

It is noteworthy that autonomy can be thought of in terms of a departure from education as a social process, as well as in terms of redistribution of power attending the construction of knowledge and the roles of the participants in the learning process.”

I  think one size doesn’t suit all, and though we might have different teaching and learning strategies in dealing with these challenges in education, it all depends on how we apply those strategies based on context, and the type of students we have.

Though I tend to agree with most principles here,  I am starting to wonder if online course is the best way to approach online learning. I am yet to learn a course which fulfils all the nine principles and is excellent. Again, what are the assumptions behind the principles underpinning the pedagogy?

The reasons I raised these questions of assumptions are that educators would likely consider the pedagogies from “teachers and course perspectives” and thus would put high priorities in achieving course outcomes, best “teaching” practices, etc. What may be equally important, or even critical in online learning is the learner. What are the assumptions about the learners in the open learning environment, and their perspectives in a student-directed or self-organised learning environment. How do they think those pedagogy would be like? Are they based on an instructivist, constructivist, social constructivist, COPs, situated learning or connectivist approaches? Why would they prefer a particular pedagogy or a combination of pedagogies? Would that provide a more holistic picture? Are the principles based on a reductionist or deterministic approach? I think we share that the principles are “sound”, only that most researches done belong to the past, and thus it’s time to understand how they could be applied in novel and changing learning environment, where new learning experience would require a “joint” approach in developing those best-practice principles. May be there would need to incorporate principles that relate to chaos, complexity theory. How about the emergence and self-organising principles and those related to Swarm Theory?

#Change11 Engagement, Sharing and Learning in Times of Abundance – Social Media Part 2

Relating to engagement in Part 1, I think engagement is the start of the whole design process in learning, as shared in Future of Education, where I wrote:

“The role of the institution would be platform providers, with the provision of educators and professors to facilitate or guide on the side along with the learners as they pursue their life long and life wide learning journey.

Such mission would allow the educators and learners to collaborate in the design and re-design of the curriculum, the media platform, the tools, and the content.  This would involve the curate, search and design, re-mix of the content and creation of knowledge to further enrich the learning experience of both educators and learners.”

I also find it interesting in the findings about distance education.

“This is possibly explained by the fact that young people use social media for social and entertainment purposes and do not necessarily see them as tools for learning. This seems to be particularly true for social networking, which a fairly large number of experienced users are not interested in using for learning purposes. On the other hand, older students are typically the ones who have more experience in distance learning but are also the ones who are registered in the institutions’ programs rather than visiting students. They seem to understand the potential that these tools offer or, at least, are more interested in using them for learning.”

As argued in my previous posts, the use of social media seems to be different for young and old students.  Young students tend to use social media for social and entertainment purposes, while old students (or educators) would use them for informal learning and virtual networking.  I have shared how this sort of social networking is used in Facebook here.

#Change11 Engagement, Sharing and Learning in Times of Abundance Part 1

I will be posting a series in three Parts – on Engagement, Sharing and learning in Times of Abundance.

How to engage with students, both millennial and adult students?

Here is an interesting post on The Five R’s of Engaging Millennial Students.

The five Rs are

1. Research-based methods

2. Relevance

3. Rationale

4. Relaxed

5. Rapport

How far are these 5 Rs useful in the instructional design?  I reckon that there are huge assumptions here, and so the context and cultural backgrounds of millennial students would need to be taken into consideration.  On the other hand, if I were to re-word the opposite of the 5 Rs, then most likely they would be the “failure factors” in the instructional design and implementation of a course.

1. Methods not  based on research methods.  The methods could include a traditional text book search for “factual information”, without critically examining what has been written by the author, and the context where the content was written.   Worse still, every students would be expected to rote learn the content, and regurgitate what has been “learnt” in the examination questions.  Would this sort of instructional design and course delivery be effective? You could judge it.

How about story telling in online instruction?  Do they need to be based on research?  There are a lot of fictitious stories, based on creativity and imagination, and so they could go far beyond what traditional teaching could do.  Virtual learning in Second Life is a typical example.  Though there are researches done appraising the usefulness of Second Life, do we know enough if the learning there are based on “factual information” or are actually based on academic discourse?

2. Irrelevant content.   How about having a course of content which is as diverse as possible from the course content?  Do the students really need relevant content all the time?  Why?  They could just Google the topic, and learn what they want, that is RELEVANT to them, but not necessarily relevant to the course.  So, how to ensure that the content is relevant to the learners’ needs?  Is the content relevant to the current needs of business, or society?

3. Irrational – Are human rational?  Yes, we need to make human rational, in order to have a civic society.  Critical thinking is the key, and every learning must be logically, structurally set up.  But, is learning chaotic, complex and thus irrational when surfing along the web?  Take a look at the hyperlinks, where would they lead learners to?  Are the millennial students having a long attention span, and a focus on a problem or project all the time?  No?  If that is the case, then try something creative, stimulating that would align with their curiosity to learn, guide and support them to become independent critical thinkers and creative learners.

4. Tense learning – learning should be based on assessment, right? Test, test, and test.  Isn’t that the purpose of education?  No!

5. Failure in building rapport – Use machine learning, artificial intelligence to replace human learning.  So, why border to have human teaching human.  Is rapport still important, if a student could sit in front of a computer and learn all what is needed for the tasks himself.  The students may build up rapport with the machine, artificial networks. Why/Why not?  Students are relational.  But some students would prefer to learn more independently, or in solitude.  See this post relating to machine learning, and how Khan Academy has addressed machine learning and assessment (David Hu).

The above are just some of the seemingly counter-arguments of engaging, but aren’t they the real issues and challenges when engaging with millennial students.  There are lots of myths here, where research in engagement could offer a glimpse of what keeps students engaged.

There is another dimension relating to sharing or not sharing, where Jenny mentions in her post on the tyranny of sharing.

“Erik Duval this week in his presentation to ChangeMOOC   on Learning in Times of Abundance

Erik’s described how his students are required to comment on each other’s blogs – to be ‘open’, ‘to share’.  His approach is – ‘if you can’t /won’t  agree to this, then don’t sign up for my course. Evidently, this is what learning in times of abundance means. But not for me :-)

Should one share and to be open?  In my previous post on openness, I said: “It is a personal choice, and although I am in favor of openness, I could understand that openness is not viewed as a nominal practice for many professions. This is especially so, for certain professions like medical profession, where duty of care, professional accountability and responsibility comes before any disclosure of incidents or experience that relate to patients or medical care. ”

I think I would share and be open in a public space in a way that suits me, first, in terms of personal learning.  I don’t think I would submit to sharing and being open by “coercion”, or imposition by authority or power, as I don’t see such sharing and openness is really “genuine sharing” or ” genuine open”.

To me, that sounds like manipulation, and although I would not mind manipulating objects, but I don’t think it is within my integrity to manipulate human, unless it is performed under a psychological experiment.  But is it ethical?

I also write from my hearts and mind about what really matters to me in my learning through blogs and posting, rather than sharing my thoughts in order to comply with others’ requirements (especially in my blog here), or to patronise in order to attract readers to read my blog.  I share because I think, therefore I am.  I also enjoy the butterfly dream.  I consider these as the philosophy of learning and education.

Photo: Google

To this end, what is the purpose of education?

“Change may appear to be unnecessarily risky, but universities need to maintain a certain anxiety or uneasiness regarding whether or not their programs are continuing to meet their responsibilities in education and scholarship.”

Education is not the filling of a vessel, but the kindling of a flame – Socrates.

The purpose of engaging and sharing is then to kindle a flame, not to fill a vessel. However, one must also understand that openness in education is still a huge challenge to educators and learners, and that not everyone is ready to be that “open” – to sharing, to engage with others in the virtual networks.