#Change11 Human Learning

I am interested in this Human Child Learning, in 2 parts.

Sounds simple.  Children learn through observation, imitation, and would follow steps or instructions to complete a simple task. But what is involved here? Imitation and copying accurately are a huge part of our learning development as  a human – that is also the way how we learn language and how we interact with objects, through observation, copying, and practicing in education and learning.

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.  Here Maferarenas illustrates how she learns with the Personal learning Environment.

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 experimental 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.

To what extent are these assumptions applicable in today’s adults’ learning?

Here I am re-posting my previous post on Reflection of Theory and Practice of Learning:

I am interested in reading Heli’s post on Learning Theories: Recent discussion.
She made me smile, when sharing her background, as I also realised that I came from a different background – engineering,  education, and logistics, but found connected to her and Jenny too like an “everyday chat” in the blogosphere.

I learnt English whilst I was young, but still it wasn’t my mother language, so I would like to say to Heli: you are not alone in your expression of thoughts in a language other than your own 🙂  I reckon I just need to strive hard to share in English in my blog, or twitter/FB.  I think I understand how Heli feels, especially when it comes to the vocabulary for use in composing blog posts, and those critical literacies – syntax, pragmatics, semantics etc required when searching for information, and reflecting on experiences and observations.  Are those critical literacies also important in her mother tongue – Finnish?

About learning theories, I did find it interesting to explore the trends after my learning in a number of teacher training courses for decades.   I remembered my “old days” of teaching where as a teacher, I had to prepare a lesson plan for every lesson, and had to respond to every surprise visit by the inspector in charge during my In Service Course of Technical Teachers’ Training.  The one that I found most interesting at the time was cognitivism, where teachers were expected to develop teaching strategies throughout the curriculum and lesson planning.  So, an understanding of the learning theories was required in the teacher training and examination, but I reckon that it was the application of them in our daily teaching and learning that made the difference.  Moreover, it was the reflection of what worked and what didn’t that stimulated me to rethink about the significance of a particular learning theory in practice.  The students were also expected to learn both independently and collectively, through individual assignments, and group projects.  So students had to learn their critical thinking skills through individual thinking and reflection, and collaborative inquiry.

So is a learning theory useful for a particular learning context?  How would it help me and the learner in learning the content?  How about the process of learning involved?  These are the realities of teaching and learning even at this digital age.

It seems good to focus on one or two particular learning theories – like behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism or connectivism and see how they would make a difference to my teaching and learning.

Behaviorism could make a difference in teaching and learning when we use it wisely. Here are some of my learnings (adapted from ideas in various readings):

When you want to change people’s behavior, use warmth and kindness instead of push and pull, and openness and cooperation will be your reward, especially in teaching and learning online or networks.  Why? We respond more cooperatively when approached with a smile and a handshake, or an appreciation than when subjected to indifference, frowns and put downs, sarcasm, or destructive comments and criticisms.  If we as teachers or learners don’t treat others (teachers,  our learners or co-learners) with warmth and respect in the networks or online, they’ll go elsewhere, or just won’t be connected with us.  So inability to relate positively to teachers, other colleagues and learners could be a severe cultural handicap when teaching or learning online.  This may be a challenge for teachers and learners who may have been educated under the authoritarian school of thoughts, where discipline and disciplinary controls are strongly emphasized.

I think positive reinforcement would still be important in supporting adult learners in their learning journey,  as most adults would consider positive and constructive feedback a motivating factor for them to compose blog posts and reflect upon.  This also explains why many bloggers would like to receive comments from their readers or bloggers, as these comments could be perceived as good incentives for them to continue their blogging and learning with others.

Cognitivism could be used in various settings, including the classroom structured learning and informal online learning. Here individual, independent learning could be achieved through PLE/N based on reflective journals on blogs, and through the acquisition of metacognition skills, learners could achieve higher levels of deep learning through the practice and reflection process.

Constructivism seems to provide a useful framework when knowledge is co-constructed with others through the  mediation of technology or networks.  This may involve the use of tools of Web 2.0 or Learning Management Systems (LMS) in teaching and learning.  Here individuals would be encouraged and supported to share ideas and participate in the forums or blog visits and comments.  My recent experience with its use have been the Moodle forum discussion, where I could post resources in the Moodle, and allow students to be engaged in forum discussion.  There have been favorable responses from students on the use of Moodle as a teaching and learning resource and discussion platform.

The application of Social Constructivism and Situation Learning Theory (i.e. Community of Practice) provides exciting platforms for learning to happen in communities where learners could participate as legitimate peripheral learners or active core learners depending on their comfort levels, interests and capability.  I have participated in some COPs and found that there were both great rewards and challenges when involved in COP.

Great rewards include the sharing of common purpose, and development of capabilities together with other members of the community.  My learning and participation as a Committee Member of the Logistics Association of Australia further helped me in appreciating the importance of community work and how the practice as professional logisticians would make a difference to the community.  My involvement in CCK community and networks  (the course, FB, twitter etc.) also broadens my perspectives and learning extensively throughout the last two years.

Above photos: from Flickr

Great challenges in COPs however include the inactive participation of community members, and the lack of cohesion with the community.  This may likely be due to the divergent interests of community members, rendering it rather difficult to have any “consensus” views in the vision and mission for a community throughout the lifespan of the community.  Also, the autonomy of the community members may be “sacrificed” if the goals of community go against to that of some of the individual community members. The tensions amongst members of a community also arise when power relationships develop, leading to indecision and confusion in implementing actions within a community.

So, what is unique with Connectivism? Connectivism seems to work best when learning in a networked learning environment, where the goals of the teacher and learners may be to navigate, co-construct and grow the learning networks so as to facilitate and support learning with the learners.  Here PLE/N provides the tools and media for learner, experts of diverse background to be connected to various information sources, and to filter the information which are relevant to the teachers, experts and learners.  My experience in blogging and forum discussion reinforces its use in tackling complex problems and projects, where cooperation and collaboration with others are important in the learning process.  It could also be used in play as illustrated here by Carmen.

I have already used the metaphors of elephant in sharing the differences amongst instructivism, constructivism and connectivism here.

At the end, it is the learner (me inclusive) who would provide us with the feedback of the values each theory and application could add to his/her learning.

So much for the meandering.

I have further shared my views on the similarities and differences between Connectivism and Constructivism here (part 1) and here (part 2).



#Change11 A story for you

This is a time for Change11, to tell a story.

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…

Do 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?

The above was a case that I designed and responded to it myself more than 15 years ago.  Is that authentic learning?

Take it as a funny story.  I could share my analysis and response in later posts, if that is your wish.  But you could make up your story to continue with this conversation, with an improved version, thus helping the educator to improve his communication skills.

How about your story?



#Change11 New Learning Initiative with MIT and Future of Education and Learning

This new initiative with MIT sounds exciting:

“MIT will make the MITx open learning software available free of cost, so that others — whether other universities or different educational institutions, such as K-12 school systems — can leverage the same software for their online education offerings.

“Creating an open learning infrastructure will enable other communities of developers to contribute to it, thereby making it self-sustaining,” said Anant Agarwal, an MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “An open infrastructure will facilitate research on learning technologies and also enable learning content to be easily portable to other educational platforms that will develop. In this way the infrastructure will improve continuously as it is used and adapted.” Agarwal is leading the development of the open platform.

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.””

This is really good news, and together with Stanford’s and Khan’s initiatives here and here in reinventing education – where Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig of Stanford University and Salman Khan of Khan Academy shared their experiences, would benefit many learners around the world.

I am still reflecting on what these mean to learners – from novices to veteran learners, and educators, and how these would impact on the education and learning around school system, informal learning, social networks, and social media.

As George mentioned here, he was pleased to see these new initiative but was disappointed with the lack of mention of MOOC.

“It’s encouraging to see educators and trainers exploring the scaling capacity of learning through the use of technology. I enjoyed listening to the reflections of Sal, Sebastian, and Peter. They are excited, as many of us teaching open online courses are, about the capacity for accessible learning opportunities to increase student control and empowerment. Many of their proclamations (decoupling assessment from teaching, the creativity of learners when they don’t face organizational barriers, the power of the online experience) will be familiar to many who have followed our open courses. Interestingly, Thrun stated that online learners did better (by a factor of 2 with those making top grades) than in class learners.

It’s good to have growing diversity in researchers and educators offering alternative course models. As more people experiment with open online course, new tools will be developed and recognition of the value of open learning will also (hopefully) increase.”

MOOC is well in advance of the current education system, and so as Jenny has mentioned in her post:

I notice that Heli (who I met in CCK08) is also thinking about this. What is interesting for me, is that in my ‘day job’, i.e. the job that earns the money – only a few have so far been interested in MOOC pedagogy as Heli calls it. But I sense that this is changing. I remember talking about CCK08 to a group of academics in 2009 and being met by a wall of blank faces. That group is now hoping to design a course on MOOC principles. Exciting times!

What I 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.