#Change11 A story for you – Part II

This is Part 2 of A story for you

I have re-posted Part 1 below:

What is my story? I wasn’t as lucky as Joe, but I know that I could make up one fairy tale story, rather than a real one.  However, I have been offered voluntary redundancy once, so I understand how it feels, to lose one’s job.

Here is The situation: Wonderland-in Blogoland

One Monday evening the following conversation took place over a virtual chat room:

Paul: I don’t feel that I’m really a competent educator.  Sometimes I…

Educator: (Interrupted) You don’t feel competent? What do you mean?

Paul: As I was going to say, sometimes I feel intimidated by my friend and…

Educator: You feel intimated? What’s it? Why didn’t you try this way?.. bla bla bla… I couldn’t believe it! You fail if you are intimidated by other people. You will not be respected in future.  Bla bla bla…

Paul: I am trying to explain this to you – (Paul RAISED his VOICE) it’s because my hands and feet are tied…

Educator: Your hands and feet are tied?  I don’t understand! You mean you can’t control your emotions? May be you are not tough enough in controlling yourself when you are feeling anxious? Aren’t you?

Paul: I don’t think so. Last week, my friend agreed to work with me on a project that needed to be completed on-time, the project X with a Client.  He left work early when I specifically instructed him to finish an important task he was doing before he went home.  The task wasn’t completed, and I was left accountable for the mess he had created…

Educator: (Interrupted…) You felt angry, betrayed, and would obviously have reprimanded him. I’m sure that you would like to scream to express your anger.

Paul: No, actually, I felt disappointed in myself; I was hurt and embarrassed. I shouldn’t have left it like that…

Educator: But aren’t you really angry and just afraid of expressing it?

Paul: I said I wasn’t, and I don’t appreciate being analyzed when I come to you with..

Educator: Are you feeling uncomfortable with my judgment? I am an educator, do trust me….

Paul: I really don’t want to discuss this any more.  You just don’t listen to me!

Educator:  Oh! then…

Does this sound familiar to you? The educator was puzzled a bit on the responses from Paul and tried to figure out the reasons.

If you were the educator, what were the reasons of such poor communication in the chat room?

How would you respond instead?


After the conversation, the educator was puzzled with the responses from Paul.  This is the situation where the educator might have used an improper approach in communicating with Paul.  Based on an analysis of the conversation, the educator realized that the use of reflective listening on Paul was inappropriate. The following is an analysis of some of the possible reasons for poor communication.

1. The educator has misinterpreted some of Paul’s feelings. The educator thought that Paul was feeling angry, betrayed and that he wished to scream as a result of his friend’s behavior, whereas actually he was not feeling that way.  The educator imposed his judgement on Paul – that he was really angry with his friend. Paul was annoyed by the educator’s misinterpretation, which was reflected in his tone of voice.

2. The educator ceased to pay attention to what was being said because he was more concerned with expressing his views such as “You fail if you are intimidated by other people. You will not be respected in future.  Bla bla bla…”

3. The educator has not been empathetic in listening as he said that Paul was afraid of expressing his anger.  He also commented that Paul was not tough enough and this made Paul felt uneasy and dis-empowered.

4. The educator interrupted the conversation. He has asked too many questions at one time.  This reflected the impatience of the educator in listening to Paul.

In summary, the educator has not been effective in listening to Paul in the conversation.  He also realized that he has not been successful in helping Paul to arrive to any solution.   Paul didn’t want to discuss the issue further in the conversation.

Use of appropriate reflective listening

In order to improve the educator’s listening skills and establish a good rapport with Paul, the educator prepared himself and approached Paul again on this issue in the following Monday evening.  The following conversation took place in a private virtual chat/video room:

Educator: Paul, you told me about your work as an educator, would you like to tell me more about it?

Paul: I don’t feel that I’m really a competent educator.  Sometimes I feel intimidated by others and I really don’t have the power I need to exercise my authority.

Educator: You don’t have the power you need?

Paul: That’s right.  I talked to my supervisor once about the situation, but I really didn’t say what I meant.  I think  I was scared he’d get angry.

EducatorYou were afraid of his anger?  Huh?

Paul: Yes, I was, but I’m beginning to realize that if I’m going to resolve my feelings of impotence,  I’ve got to confront the situation directly with him.  If I don’t, I would just keep my feelings inside and could never express it properly.

Educator: How about your colleague who didn’t complete the task as required?  Could you tell me more about it?

Paul: Oh yes, on the week before, one of my colleagues (who is also my friend) left work early when I specifically instructed him to finish a task he was doing before he went home.  The task wasn’t completed, and I was left accountable for the mess he had created.  I was reprimanded by my supervisor.  I confronted my colleague, but I don’t think I really asserted myself enough.

Educator: You must have been very upset.

Paul: I wasn’t just upset, I was also very embarrassed and disappointed in myself.  In fact, I think I could have handled the situation more effectively than I did.

Educator: I see.  Being disappointed in yourself is not a good feeling.

Paul: No, surely not.  I was not quite sure about how to handle the situation; I really felt incompetent.  If a situation like that occurs again next time, I’m going to let people know how I honestly feel instead of avoiding my responsibility.  It’s not easy to do, I understand… I feel better about understanding what I was really feeling, and I’m going to confront the situation again when I return to work.

Educator:  Hmm (nodding his head).  It sounds like you’re more comfortable about it now.  I’m glad you have shared your feelings with me.

Paul: Oh! Yes. Thanks for helping me. You mentioned about assertion in our previous conversation, could you tell me a bit more about it so that I could apply it in this case.

Educator: Well, let’s see…

1.What were the improvements made by the educator in this conversation?

2. If you were the educator, what further improvements would you like to make?

3. Have you got an online experience (such as conversation) where you found you were not being listened to?  How did you feel? What would you recommend in order to improve listening?

Important: I made up this story for learning purpose only, and none of the characters mentioned are real.

Do not use this for submission to any assignments you may be required to do in a course.  If you think the concepts behind are suitable for your course in teaching, please feel free to use it as an example problem of reflective listening.

I will provide an analysis of the improvements made in a future post, if you are interested.  Again, you might have arrived with a much better response to the above case story.

There are more than one right answer to the story!

#Change11 The Lecture and New Initiatives in Online Learning

Further to my post here on New Learning Initiatives and the Future of Education and Learning, I would like to explore more about video lectures.

Here is a standard Lecture http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mathematics/18-03-differential-equations-spring-2010/video-lectures/lecture-1-the-geometrical-view-of-y-f-x-y/

There are lecture notes http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mathematics/18-03-differential-equations-spring-2010/lecture-notes/

There are merits in using lecture (video lectures), when content knowledge is required for the subject domain. This is especially the case in more advanced topics in subjects such as Mathematics, Engineering and Science.

May be the MITx would make use of these formats in delivering and transmitting knowledge and information.

Here is Game Theory available from Yale University with all the video lectures.

An exciting initiative in online learning on Game Theory available from Stanford University.

So, there would be a lot of online learning programs including MOOCs available in 2012.

#Change11 Creativity and Connected Learning

I have been thinking about this basic question: How does creativity impact on learning?

In this post on Why Creative Teaching is Essential for the Information Age? http://summify.com/story/TvhSby7XrzJFKqGg/www.good.is/post/why-creative-teaching-is-essential-for-the-information-age/ and this post on Why Making Schools Creative Requires Radical Change http://www.good.is/post/why-making-schools-creative-requires-radical-change/

“Our modern information age needs curious, humble minds—people willing to absorb new knowledge, think critically and put information into context. Abandoning a narrow, one-size-fits-all approach to curriculum standards would help students develop the curiosity they need to become the innovators of the future. That matters more than the ability to recall an answer on the test.”

To what extent is the following true?  I would like to examine the assumptions behind these.  When the dropout rate of students is high, we need to ask: Why did students drop out?

Posts on High School dropouts – here and here.


  • Didn’t like school in general or the school they were attending
  • Were failing, getting poor grades, or couldn’t keep up with school work
  • Didn’t get along with teachers and/or students
  • Had disciplinary problems, were suspended, or expelled
  • Didn’t feel safe in school
  • Got a job, had a family to support, or had trouble managing both school and work
  • Got married, got pregnant, or became a parent
  • Had a drug or alcohol problem

“While there is no single reason that students drop out, research indicates that difficult transitions to high school, deficient basic skills, and a lack of engagement serve as prominent barriers to graduation.

Most dropouts are already on the path to failure in the middle grades and engage in behaviors that strongly correlate to dropping out in high school. Various researchers have identified specific risk factors, such as low attendance or a failing grade, which can identify future dropouts—in some cases as early as sixth grade.

Ninth grade serves as a bottleneck for many students who begin their freshman year only to find that their academic skills are insufficient for high school-level work. Up to 40 percent of ninth grade students in cities with the highest dropout rates repeat ninth grade; only 10 to 15 percent of those repeaters go on to graduate.

Academic success in ninth grade course work is highly predictive of eventual graduation; it is even more telling than demographic characteristics or prior academic achievement.

Unfortunately, many students are not given the extra support they need to successfully make the transition to high school. As a result, over one third of all dropouts are lost in ninth grade.

The six million secondary students who comprise the lowest 25 percent of achievement are twenty times more likely to drop out of high school than students in the top-performing quartile.

Both academic and social engagement are integral components of successfully navigating the education pipeline. Research shows that a lack of student engagement is predictive of dropping out, even after controlling for academic achievement and student background.”

In response to these, what might be the options and possible solutions?

For poorly motivated kids or school dropouts, surely the school environment may not be the best community for them to learn.  However, there are lots of potential for these kids to be connected to others via the community, both inside  and outside school, so they could develop themselves into adult lives.  So why not leveraging the potential of community as part of their classroom activity to re-boost their interests of learning and socializing?

Here in this video:

I re-post part of the transcript as shown on Youtube here:

“We can debate outcomes of engagement all we want, but the thing that’s really important, I think, to have on the public agenda is really the question of ‘Who is getting access to the kinds of experiences that are productive and engaging, and who is not?’ And what are the factors contributing to that?” (3:30)

“I think there’s still a persistent perception among parents and teachers that activities like gaming and social media use are a waste of time and a distraction from learning, rather than something that is inherently a support for productive forms of learning.” (6:25)

“It’s often profoundly uncool to care deeply about something […] kids have mechanisms for hiding these kinds of identities[…] Now, the online world suddenly offers an opportunity for kids to affiliate and connect with others who share these passionate interests in a way that’s not bound by the social status hierarchies of high school.” (12:46)

“Now what was extremely interesting about Clarissa that made her different from […] almost all of the kids who we talked to as part of our study was she was able to take the work she did in the role-playing world and make it visible and consequential, in a positive way, to the adult-facing world.” (15:33)

“We’re doing work right now in trying to develop some alternative assessments, ways of thinking about dispositions, metacognitive capacities, preparation for future learning […] that can really enable us to make an argument why it’s not domain-specific knowledge that we should be looking at as much as an underlying disposition for learning and capacity for future learning that’s the most important outcome.” (22:27)

“Our theory of change, it’s really centered on the fact that–in the best circumstances–new technology can really lower the barriers of access to connected learning experiences. That it can help really connect the dots between these diverse spheres of learning that young people navigate through in their everyday lives.” (27:09)

The connected learning mentioned by Mimi are based on:

-Friendship, Community

-Interests, Affinity

-Reputation, Achievement

She also mentioned about a Theory of Change that is based on the use of technology, with technology affordance, media and community that would:

– lower the barriers towards connection with community and others,

– recognize their achievement of competencies,

– connect the dots, via community,

– navigate the networks, community and webs,

–  negotiate with others, and

– voice their views and opinions.

Further research is required to explore how such connected learning based on informal learning outside school setting be integrated with the school education and learning.

In reflection, this connected learning relates to Connectivism and Connective Knowledge significantly.  Also the concepts of Conversation as part of the pedagogy in Community and Online Learning (see here and here) are not only valid for adult and community learning, but also crucial to K-12 learning, though the degree and depth of conversation among learners may vary, depending on the maturity of the learners, and the context of conversation and discourse.

I reckon creativity is related to connected and connective learning.  If we could help and support our fellow learners and educators in creating a learning environment and ecology via technology and media, then they would feel more comfortable and easy in connecting, conversing, cooperating and collaborating with each others, and be able to exercise their creativity and talents in the engagement, production and sharing of artifacts.  Surely that would lead to networks and communities of learning that could fulfill their life-long and life-wide learning aspirations.

I will continue to explore this in the coming posts.

#Change11 What are those Learning Theories?

This video on Theory of Learning sounds interesting.

I then watched this:

I was however, rather surprised by the missing out of Connectivism in both vidoes as a Learning Theory, as I would have expected the creator of the video might have known about it.  Or would it be that it was left out due to certain reasons?

I am also amazed by how constructivism is described here: Mind as a Rhizome. Learning is building knowledge by doing.  If that is the case, I am wondering if the Rhizomatic Learning that Dave Cormier highlighted falls under Constructivism, or Social Constructivism.  I just don’t think that is exactly what Dave was referring to, though I hope Dave could point it out.  Here George also commented on Rhizomatic Learning.

Based on my understanding, I don’t see learning is as simple as learning in building knowledge by doing only.  There’s more to it, as it relates not only to the minds of the learner, but to the three levels as described by George and Stephen on Connectivism. George explains here:

“My network view of knowledge is simple: entities (broadly defined as well, anything: people, a chemical substance, information, etc) have attributes. When entities are connected to other entities, different attributes will be activated based on the structure of those connections and the nature of other entities that are being connected. This fluidity of attribute activation appears to be subjective, but in reality, is the contextual activation of the attributes of entities based on how they are related to other entities. Knowledge then is literally the connections that occur between entities.”

Stephen defines it slightly differently here:

“At its heart, connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks.

It shares with some other theories a core proposition, that knowledge is not acquired, as though it were a thing. Hence people see a relation between connectivism and constructivism or active learning (to name a couple).

In connectivism, a phrase like ‘constructing meaning’ makes no sense. Connections form naturally, through a process of association, and are not ‘constructed’ through some sort of intentional action. And ‘meaning’ is a property of language and logic, connoting referential and representational properties of physical symbol systems. Such systems are epiphenomena of (some) networks, and not descriptive of or essential to these networks.

Hence, in connectivism, there is no real concept of transferring knowledge, making knowledge, or building knowledge. Rather, the activities we undertake when we conduct practices in order to learn are more like growing or developing ourselves and our society in certain (connected) ways.

This implies a pedagogy that (a) seeks to describe ‘successful’ networks (as identified by their properties, which I have characterized as diversity, autonomy, openness, and connectivity) and (b) seeks to describe the practices that lead to such networks, both in the individual and in society (which I have characterized as modeling and demonstration (on the part of a teacher) and practice and reflection (on the part of a learner)).”

I am however, still not satisfied with the definition of Connectivism here on wikipedia, as it seems to lack the flavor that George and Stephen have included in their perspective.

Challenge 1. Not everyone is perceiving learning in the same way, and so it is quite challenging to realize and appreciate the principles and application of the various Learning Theories at this digital age.  This post on Connectivism surely tells another story by Claude where she concludes:

“Connective learning is the main way humans have always been learning so it cannot be challenged. However, connective learning in a digital world that hugely increases the number of possible connections does pose several challenges to learners, teachers, and educational institutions. These challenges must be met because learners are availing themselves of this digital connectivity anyway (and at times any way). Ignoring this fact won’t make it disappear.”

Challenge 2. What are the similarities and differences between Connectivism and Constructivism?

Based on my understanding about the similarities and differences between Connectivism and Constructivism in previous posts here and here.

How would a connectivist approach work? Yes, you still require the deconstruction of the student’s existing thinking, but not just based on the teacher’s input.  Rather, you would suggest the students to be immersed in networks, based on navigating activities and the using of appropriate tools or media (i.e. media and technology affordance), in exploring about the “right” and “wrong” concepts, and discerning those right from wrong through navigation tools and reflective thinking.  This is similar to what I have suggested here:

The concepts that are crystallised through such networked learning may be based on the ability of the learner to recognise and interpret the pattern (i.e. principally on the navigation and exploration, with or without the teachers), rather than the demonstration of the teacher and explanation of the concepts via “Constructivism or Social Constructivism”.  This means that the concept development under Connectivism is far more reaching than the typical “classroom” or social networks environment, but would also include technological and media enhancement for its nourishment.

See this video here on other interpretation of Constructivism and Connectivism.

#Change11 Have I told the story before? Says Clay Christensen

In this compelling presentation by Clay referred by Steve in his post, Clay tells an extraordinary story and experience about steel and milk shake, and many other great insights about how technology and strategies have caused company’s growth and demise.

Steve says:

“Firms need to be evaluating future investments strategically in terms of how they will affect their capacity to go on delighting their customers for a sustained period in the future.

For managers trained in traditional business school thinking, the idea that pursuit of profit is the problem, rather than the solution to the economy’s problems, may come as a shock. For business school professors who have spent their lives teaching the focus on profits and the use of IRR and RONA to measure profits, the coming change may be even more disturbing.

Like all new ideas, in the first instance it will be rejected. Then it will be ridiculed. Finally it will be self-evident and no one will be able to remember why anyone ever thought otherwise.”

Clay asks twice: Have I told the story before? He also re-tells the stories of successes and failures that were learnt from history, which seems to reflect similar patterns of disruption due to technology followed by successes for the copied producers and competitors in the niche market – who know how to copy the products and technology and leverage the value proposition offered to the giants, and killing the giants progressively and successfully.  That is a great lesson for everyone in the business and education to learn.

In reflection, this has happened to big education business, and even prominent education providers, including lots of HE and VET institutions, where their core competencies have been gradually shaken off by the other niche and “smart” providers in the education “market”, causing lots of disruption to their main areas of expertise.  As Clay has mentioned, this has impacted on how education been delivered, and how small and more “aggressive” and customized education providers have been able to penetrate into the online learning market, and succeeded in taking a significant market share in the education and training business.

Why was this phenomena in disruption of technology also happening in the education (HE and VET) in particular?  May be Clay could elaborate on this pattern using his model developed too.  There are still lots of gaps in our understanding of the disruptive force due to technology on our education, learning and ecology.

Innovation in education and learning via networks, technology, media and its affordance

This may also be the case with MOOC, when it has been perceived as a way to innovate and “revolutionise” the way education and learning has been delivered in individual formal institutions.  This was based on the premises that existing education system is mostly silo based, with individual faculties, and specialized  courses and walled gardens, based on standardized curriculum as the only acceptable education for accreditation.

What MOOCs have now offered, say with the MOOCs, Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) courses and the latest MIT’s MITx initiative are viewed as new and wonderful experiments, packed with lots of growth opportunities.

“President Hockfield called this “a transformative initiative for MIT and for online learning worldwide. On our residential campus, the heart of MIT, students and faculty are already integrating on-campus and online learning, but the MITx initiative will greatly accelerate that effort. It will also bring new energy to our longstanding effort to educate millions of able learners across the United States and around the world. And in offering an open-source technological platform to other educational institutions everywhere, we hope that teachers and students the world over will together create learning opportunities that break barriers to education everywhere.”” MITx initiative.

Do these mark out the strategic move to overcome the “disruptive education coupled with technology” in the education market?

Value proposition as offered through open-sourced education and free-of-charge participation and engagement is quite fitting into the notion mentioned by Clay: “Whereas products are easy to copy, integration around a job creates defensible differentiation”.

So, my take away from this reflection is:   Product (such as education, and MOOC) is simple enough to copy, especially in Higher Education, experience is however difficult to be repeated, solely by the copying of the product alone.  As mentioned in my past posts, no two stories (MOOCs or online learning experiences) are the same, due to complexities of learning, education, ecology and state of technologies.

Have I told the story before? As mentioned by Clay.  We might have told these stories repetitively, and some people still believe in looking at few aspects of the equation – to improve learning and education, that is improve teachers’ performance, introduce more technology into the curriculum, or improve the curriculum.  We might need to know and understand what makes a valuable learning experience and what drives customers (learners) to “buy” (learn) the products instead.

However, if we are just thinking about what the customers (learners) want, then I think we have missed lots of opportunities, as they may only believe in learning with certain educators, experts, and not through the affordance of technologies, or the stories, just as Clay has mentioned, which are worthy of our reflection.  We just need to be careful in reflecting on what these stories mean for our learning, and not what we are being told by others, or by writers of books, or the mere reading of books or posts.

#Change11 Education system, Education Stories and the Digital Generation

What are some of the education stories around the world?

In this Exams in South Korea- The one-shot society, the author says

“As more and more students cram into universities, the returns to higher education are falling. Because all Korean parents want their children to go to university, most do. An incredible 63% of Koreans aged 25-34 are college graduates—the highest rate in the OECD. Since 1995 there has been a staggering 30 percentage-point increase in the proportion of Koreans who enter university to pursue academic degrees, to 71% in 2009.

This sounds great, but it is unlikely that such a high proportion of young Koreans will actually benefit from chasing an academic degree, as opposed to a vocational qualification. A survey in August found that, four months after leaving university, 40% of graduates had not yet found jobs.

Unemployment represents a poor return on what for most families is a huge financial sacrifice. Not only is college itself expensive; so is getting in. Parents will do anything to help their children pass the college entrance exam. Many send them to private crammers, known as hagwon, after school. Families in Seoul spend a whopping 16% of their income on private tuition.”

In this story about education in Finland:

“Finland’s only real rivals are the Asian education powerhouses South Korea and Singapore, whose drill-heavy teaching methods often recall those of the old Soviet-bloc Olympic-medal programs. Indeed, a recent manifesto by Chinese-American mother Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, chides American parents for shrinking from the pitiless discipline she argues is necessary to turn out great students. Her book has led many to wonder whether the cure is worse than the disease.”

“Finland is a society based on equity,” says Laukkanen. “Japan and Korea are highly competitive societies — if you’re not better than your neighbor, your parents pay to send you to night school. In Finland, outperforming your neighbor isn’t very important. Everybody is average, but you want that average to be very high.”(See 20 back-to-school gadgets.)

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2062465,00.html#ixzz1hb46r2FK

Here is the top 10 Education Stories in 2011.

1. Hacking Education

2. Open Source

3. Free versions of industry software

4. Data Portability

5. Flipping the classroom

6. Talent + Money + Innovation

7. Google vs Apple vs Amazon

8. Personal learning Networks

9. Gamification

10. Schema.org

Which of the above 10 education stories would appear on the top agenda in our education system in 2012?

How would these stories impact on how we learn and educate in the coming future?  What would be the trend and pattern of learning in a digital landscape?

As shared in my previous post, we are moving towards an education and learning ecology with more conversation, engagement and participation among its global “citizens” – with the visitors and residents in particular both in formal education and informal learning.

What is amazing is that we have a “digital generation” coming along, but they would be educated based on an existing education system.  Here people are starting to challenge the assumptions behind the paradigm of acquisition of knowledge within the education system, where learners are expected to learn by the mere consumption of information via reading and watching, and then being assessed on how much they could remember, and how much they could apply in responding to the quizzes, test and examination system.

We are also having a digital divide issue that challenges us to think about our existing education system and how one nation could provide the education that would be valuable and relevant to its citizens.  “In our digital era, the stuff finding has to become a core digital skill for all teachers.  This is all the paramount, when you juxtapose information seeking skills and knowledge creation strategies with digital footprint/digital citizenship and the power of positive digital interactions for professional learning.” (Heyjude in the digital divide – what can go wrong).

Here Ian explains the importance of neuro-plasticity and how it has impacted on  our coming digital generation and has changed in the way of thinking and learning, as a result of digital and emerging technology.

Postscript: Some useful references on Digital Divide by Danica.



#Change11 Can Online Conversation be the focus of a pedagogy?

Thanks Larry for this very interesting post. I could see different schools of philosophy, education and learning each highlighting their own school of thoughts, with their merits and applications, with instructivism versus cognitivism, then cognitivism versus constructivism, and then followed by constructivism versus connectivism. I have posted here relating to the assumptions of each of the theories, and the challenges relating to each of those schools of thoughts.  I think this is a healthy discourse, and we should be encouraging and supporting such conversation and engagement from all education and learning stakeholders, educators, scholars, researchers, administrators, parents, and most importantly, the learners.

Larry says:”They require that a teacher or expert be set up to help, in a way that does not correspond to the more egalitarian modes of interaction online. Moreover, except in some fields that are highly interpretive such as literature or philosophy, the relevant information cannot be arrived at via reflection on what they know–because most children are quite ignorant and much in need of education. To be able to reflect, they need input. They need content. They need food for thought. They need training and modeling. They need correction. We adults don’t have these problem when we are surfing away. We’re mostly done learning the concepts, vocabulary, and facts that we need to make sense of conversation in the forums that interest us. This is very importantly not true of children.” This depends on the type of students or learners we are referring to. For novices, it seems that more guided instructions would help them learn more effectively and efficiently. But what are the assumptions behind these “novices”?

For young children who have limited experiences, what might be the challenges here? The ideal is to start from basic, checking and assessing their prior knowledge, and then proceed to teach them in a stage-by-stage sequence, until they acquire mastery, before they are allowed to proceed to the next stage of learning. What about the reality?  Are we assuming that these young children are all having similar cognitive abilities in the same class? How about the motivation to learn?  Do they share the same interest in learning the subject in class? Are we assuming that they all learn in a similar manner, in terms of their learning behaviors, learning styles, and that they all need reinforcement  based on teachers’ feedback? Are we also assuming that they would learn the same content, within the time frame?  Are we assuming that if the “teaching” is effective, then all students should achieve the same learning outcomes?  We might have put all responsibilities of learning on the teachers, not the learners, to a great extent.

What is the reality?  If we all set the learning tasks so everyone gets 100%, is that good learning?  Yes, in theory.  But in practice, how many students would get 100%?  Are mistakes or failures part of the learning too?  Also, when the students answer the questions correctly in accordance to what the teacher has taught, does it mean that these students would remember the facts that they have learnt after sometime, or after graduation?  Most probably no.   If the students learnt the subjects merely by following guided instruction, without any hands-on practice, or thorough reflection with critical thinking, then such learning may not be meaningful to the students.  Learning that is based on a change in long-term memory is not always equated to good learning (though it is argued here that learning, in turn is defined as a change in long-term memory, in direct instructional guidance).  What happens if the knowledge once acquired through the learning have gone out of date or become obsolete?  Does it mean that we have to change our long-term memory with those obsolete knowledge in order to learn new knowledge?  Yes.  So, there would be a lot of learning through unlearning wherever there is a change in the knowledge.

Relating to how human learn, I would like to relate to my previous post:

Children also learn through activities, games and projects, based on the Montessori education principles – a Constructivist or “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction (wikidpedia).

How about adult learning? Do adults learn in similar ways?   It seems that adults learn through observation and copying of actions or demonstrations, as is obvious in sports, dancing, cooking and playing games.  So those acts of imitation is still relevant, in education, with some basic cognition (reasoning) at the early stages of learning quite similar to that of children learning.  Adult learning would be more complex, as shared in my previous post here and Rita’s post here.

Under Andragogy as developed by Malcolm Knowles, there are six assumptions about adult learning:

1. The need to know. What is to be learnt and why learning is important here.

2. Self concept. The learners are responsible for their decision. The ownership of learning and self direction is important. This would be context dependent.

3. Experience. Such experience would be based on active participation, constructive activities and collaboration among the learners.

4. Readiness to learn.

5. Orientation to learn. These need to be contextualized, and experiential in basis. Adult learners would then reflect, generalize the theory and principles behind and test it in real life to see if works.

6. Motivation – extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Let me quote an example of why learning merely by rote learning of fact could be problematic.  Suppose I have learnt about some facts about a medical research, and thought that it is the truth.  What happens if such fact is based on poor research as highlighted in this research paper retraction?  Should a researcher question the source of information, and check on the validity of the research findings?

On conversation, here is a learning conversation that I prepared last year. I would argue that through a conversation, both the teacher and learner could learn together.  Often, we assume that the facts and principles relating to a theory is true.  Through this previous post, I have learnt that conversation would clarify a lot of our understanding of each others’ perspectives.  So, to me, online learning relates to conversation.

How much guidance should then be given in an online course?  In this post relating to new models of learning, it seems that we still need to provide some instructions that are essential to the course, and the content knowledge is important here.  However, if we are to reflect on the availability of the Open Educational Resources, then isn’t the content of MIT’s OER already available for the last decade?  Can we assume that remembering all the content in the OER in the long term is what constitutes learning?  If such assumption is correct, then why would MIT emphasise the importance of engagement and interaction with their professors as what constitutes a valuable learning experience in education?  In other words novices should be given the right guidance in order to learn effectively.  However, such guidance would best be offered as a choice rather than a mandate, in order for the novices to develop and grow his/her learning progressively.  The use of technology could assist the learners in achieving some of the learning goals, without much instruction by the instructors, as reported in many researches – based on mobile learning and conversation – and with peer-to-peer learning.  The use of Computer based quizzes and assessment is an example where students could achieve mastery through repeated practice.  However, this would only be true when knowledge is known, and that the students could understand and apply the knowledge acquired when tested.

Finally, can online conversation be part of the education and pedagogy at this digital age?  I argue here:

What I could see would be a pattern of education and learning with the following features:

1. Future of education and learning and Future of education. This is a transitional period where the traditional pedagogy, together with instructivism, constructivism, social constructivism will be applied in courses with a teaching and education focus, followed by a gradual movement towards more learner-centred approaches towards personalised learning, when those educators and learners fully mastered the skills and could learn more independently or inter-dependently.

MOOC seems to appeal more to experienced educators and learners (also with the older aged groups participants with the past MOOCs – CCK, PLENK2010, CRITLIT), but when the topics are more analytical and specialized like Learning Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, or elementary mathematics or high school subjects, then it seems that these courses would attract the young learners (teens, K-12, or HE undergraduates, or young graduate students).  These are based on both research and observation, and although there are many assumptions behind such assertions, I reckon the motivations behind doing the courses have always been based on a few basic ones:

(1) Learners who are of the younger aged group would need to acquire qualifications, such as a Diploma, a Degree  – Bachelor etc. and so learning within a school system is what they are looking for (or at least, what is available from a credential point of view).  This is what the potential employers are looking for, and what the learners are expecting to achieve upon graduation from the institution.

For young learners, educators who are in the K-12 and HE, the pattern of school system would still persist for another five to ten years, with basically a system which is framed under the existing pedagogical frameworks of instructivism, coupled with social constructivism, where I have elaborated here.  This is also in alignment with the zone of proximal development where novice learners would be guided by the sage on the stage or on the side.  The purpose of instruction, both formal and informal, is to stimulate growth and development. “The only good instruction received in childhood is the one that precedes and guides development” (Vygotsky, 1987, p. 48). Therefore, “good learning” would be in advance of development. Development takes place within zones of proximal development by first determining the learner’s current understanding. Next, the processes are stimulated through interactions with teachers and peers in an educational environment. Last, development leads from collaboration to independence in new understanding.

(2) Learners and/or educators who are of an older aged group, like the adults in the 30-50 age group are more likely to have by passed the normal education period, and so their needs might be the pursue of an advanced degree (graduate qualification – graduate certificate/diploma, Masters or Doctorate qualifications), and/or they might prefer to learn in an informal manner, pursuing the  life-long and life-wide learning through informal means, by learning with and through learning networks and communities, technology and medias.

(3) Learners and/or educators who are after 50s aged group would likely pursue their interests in a different manner as compared to (1) and (2).

As Heli mentioned in her post on Research about MOOC pedagogy:

“I know from myself that I want to broaden my perspective now when I am retired and I have time. I do not follow any courses any more, but I follow many interesting conferences, sessions etc. I feel free to participate, I have learned the basic skills for it. The biggest age group seem to be 55+ years, so I am not the only one. We experienced people could organize something interesting, integrating our experiences to this new online life. I am tired to hear that old people have stopped learning.”

This is an interesting trend, and I do think MOOCs which are designed with the pedagogy to support human beings are more aligned with those with an older aged group of learners, though it could equally be applicable to that of (1) & (2) if educators and learners understand why they are the agents to support and nurture the younger learners and educators so they could develop themselves in their learning journey.

In summary, MOOCs could be designed with different pedagogy, based on different target educators and learners, and would still serve their purposes.  In the long run, I would see a transitional period of pedagogy from traditional behavioural, cognitive and social constructivist moving towards a more emergent, connectivist and open sourced education ecology, with all pedagogy compensating for each others’ weaknesses, and a learner-centred approach supported by both education authorities, educators and learners coming into fruition, and community as alternative basis of education.

Refer to this for further details on MITx and post here.

So, I think online conversation is an essential part of learning and education and should be the focus of a pedagogy to support human being.

Postscript: Useful article here