#Change11 A response on the attack of the killer rhizomes

Here is my response to the post of attack of the killer rhizomes by Martin Weller.

Hi Martin,
Very interesting post. Relating to expertise in chess, I think it really requires lots and lots of practice to become experts, not just having a good memory, or recognising the patterns. I played Chinese chess instead, and I challenged university students even when I was in high school. I don’t claim to be expert, but I do think chess is a mind game where you plan ahead, and recognize the good and bad moves through repeated games, and learn to win once you picked up the “right moves”. I found this concept equally applicable to the learning and up-skilling in other sports, or even driving. However, when it comes to blogging, I think it involves another sets of intellectual capacity. I don’t know if the rules relating to blogging really helps or not, but I do find that I am more creative and productive by not following those rigid rules or guidelines in blogging. Once I had attended formal course on blogging and Web 2.0. However, it was until I actually found a need in engagement with others that I fully appreciated the use of blogs as a tool in learning and communication. This prompted me to further research in the blogs and forums in learning and communication in MOOC. Back to the rhizomatic learning, I am not sure if it is based on the social constructivism, but I do think it has its roots based on social interaction. So, when Dave mentioned that:” A rhizomatic plant has no center and no defined boundary; rather, it is made up of a number of semi-independent nodes, each of which is capable of growing and spreading on its own, bounded only by the limits of its habitat (Cormier 2008).” May be that is where learning on the networks would show up as described. Whether this would lead to fruitful outcomes would really be dependent on how one would value the sporadic growth. To me, I think the learning takes its roots when I understand the patterns that arise with the interaction and engagement, rather than the prescriptive or normative rules. Does it help in creating artificial game rules? I think we have already created rules about these “blogging”: There are no set rules, and learning goes beyond those rigid rules. What do you think?

#Change11 #CCK12 What problems are we facing with the use of social media and technology in classroom setting?

I read Josh response here with interests, and would like to respond based on my understanding and experience with wicked problems.

I am particularly impressed with the comments here:

” let’s continue to opt our kids out of the 21st century and submit them to disruption-free technologies designed to reinforce and support 19th-century teaching practice in ways that are entirely irrelevant to our learners’ future and are intended to prevent their autonomy.”

Graham further pointed out the seemingly benefits of using interactive whiteboards, student response systems, virtual learning environments and other technologies where we congratulate ourselves on digitising their learning experiences, and that we could maintain our role of the teacher as factory worker rather than liberating them to practise the art of teaching.

What is the problem here? Is it a wicked problem?

We don’t seem to have the answers to these questions and challenges.  I don’t think we have quite understood the fundamental causes of each of those issues yet, mainly because they are all paradoxically inter-related, where the factors causing the problems are not linearly related, but super-imposed upon each others – the wicked problems.

The wicked problems and social complexity provides some clues.

Here I think the problem lies with the assumptions that technology provides solutions to wicked problems – like huge loss of interests in education, drop-outs etc.

Let’s teach kids how to consume computing in the form of ICT. After all, they’ll never get a job if all they know is how to shoot and edit a video, upload to YouTube and then virally distribute it around their social networks. Heaven forbid that they won’t know how to craft a letter if all they know how to do is to write and publish a blog. Having all those facts you’re expected to memorise and regurgitate at your fingertips will make you lazy and distracted. And while we want them to collaborate with their fellow learners, never – repeat, never – should they be allowed to do it in an examination room or anywhere we can’t see it.

Here in the pros and cons of using social media in the classroom:

The pros include: Educational Tool, Enhance Student Engagement, Improve Communication Among Students and Teachers, Preparing Students for Successful Employment

The cons include: Social Media can be a Distraction, Cyberbullying, Discouraging Face-to-Face Communication.

If we are to reflect on the above pros and cons, it seems that social media could both be an affordance and hindrance to learning and education, when applied in a classroom setting.

Relating to Josh comments:

Technological Understanding of the Teachers – There are differences in understanding of technology as I have shared here.  Teachers would need to gain a better understanding of the changes happening around their education and learning environment through conversation and interaction with other colleagues or educators in the networks and communities.  If teachers are scared that there would be retributions, they can share anonymously – otherwise there is an impression of problems that can’t be solved which may be false, as suggested by Nicola.

Faced with the challenges and difficulties at this uncertain time, what are the options to embrace those changes?

1. Experiment and try innovative and novel approaches, like

(a) what Sebastian Thrun and Salman Khan are doing?

(b) what George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier are working on – the MOOCs such as The Change11 and the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge CCK12?  Or what Alec Couros and David Wiley have been teaching with their influential courses?

(c) what others have been working on in networked learning such as Cloudworksnew initiatives in the future of education and online learning?

Ability to filter out the decent content online – Josh says: “The amount of useless videos online is astounding, and if we enable ICT in all schools, we can have that issue as well.” Would we need to learn how to curate and source valuable educational resources? Here George shares his views in the conversation (second video) on the challenges in dealing with information overload:

1. Start to reduce intake of information.

2. Start to make better use of information filter, through the Twitter, technology and learning networks, etc.

3. Acceptance that information overload is an issue and start to reflect on how one should tackle these challenges in our schools.

Here I have shared the use of networks and social media platforms as ways to share our views and learning, so we could critique on the concepts behind through critical inquiry, with PLE/PLN as filters to the information, and creation of artifacts for sharing of information and knowledge, leading to on-going discourse with Web 2.0 tools.

Student maturity – Josh says: “The internet is a dangerous place.” “All it would take for one student to mistakenly download something to ruin the whole credibility of a school policy on ICT use. Cyberbullying is a huge issue, and while ICT can be used as a benefit for students, it can also lead to disaster (the recent suicide of Victorian girl Sheniz Erkan, for example).  

I agree that this could be a huge challenge to educators to allow students to work “against” the school authority.

There has been numerous researches and posts indicating the merits and risks associated with social media used in classroom teaching.

“The positive effects of social networking sites in education are profound. According to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota on student use of social media, students who are already engaging in social networking could benefit from incorporating it into curriculum.”

Though sexual predators are often cited as the primary concern, Amanda Lenhart with the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, explained, in an article for the Houston Chronicle, that this is less of risk than it is made out to be.

“Mostly kids at risk already have a bunch of social and emotional problems in their lives. These kids are the ones who might engage in risky behaviors, seek out sex talk online and knowingly meet people who are older.”

According to the article, “Peer-to-peer harassment and bullying are much more common threats to online youngsters,” which is a concern both online and off.

Both Federal and state legislation has been proposed to curb the use of social networking in schools, which has incited controversy over the legality of such legislation. Critics believe that regulating online activity is a violation of first amendment rights.

May be it depends on the context of education and learning, the learning environment, needs of the educators AND the learners, and the instructional design.

Photo: From Zaid’s post.

Do you want LMS: spending more, closed interaction, limited conversation teacher/learners or PLE: free, open with conversation & interaction?  Is that the problem?

#Change11 #CCK12 Application of Connectivism

Since participating CCK08, I have been reflecting on the application of Connectivism. Carmen and Jenny’s recent published paper summarized it well, on Connectivism and Dimensions of Individual Experience: Tschofen, C. & Mackness, J. (2011) Connectivism and Dimensions of Individual Experience. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl.

The authors suggest that definitions of all four principles can be expanded to recognize individual and psychological diversity within connective environments. They also suggest that such expanded definitions have implications for learners’ experiences of MOOCs, recognizing that learners may vary greatly in their desire for and interpretation of connectivity, autonomy, openness, and diversity.

This relates well to fully autonomous learners, where I have shared here:

“So, there are lots of assumptions here, where responsibility could be one of the keys for learner autonomy – so the learner could take charge of learning.  Would this also require an understanding of the skills necessary to determine what a successful learning means?  This may relate to the goals and plan set by the learner in order to achieve personal learning.  Are the goals set by the learners in alignment with the education in a school or HE setting?

So, I think learning with learner autonomy could be quite distinct from the formal education pathway where educational goals are normally pre-set by the institutions rather than the learners.  Would learner autonomy be more relevant for more independent and self-directed learners who are seeking alternative learning pathways, especially when such learners are learning through social media or learning networks which are not directly linked to educational institutions?”

There seems to be a lot of doubts about the distinction between Connectivism and Social Constructivism – where in this post Suz wondered: if Connectivism is a useful framework for formal learning at all. I always associate Connectivism with informal learning.

My view is that Connectivism relates more with digital pedagogy and netagogy and pedagogy, heutagogy and life long learning, and goes far beyond informal learning.  Besides, informal learning and formal learning are now blurred in the case of life-long learning, with learners creating their own PLE in order to satisfy both their formal and informal learning needs.  This is in sharp contrast with the industrial model in educational institutions.

Lemire shared his valuable insights here on why the industrial model (based on instructivism) may not work well in formal higher education:

Hence, as a teacher, I reject the industrial model as much as I can. I believe that, in an ideal world, we would not need any teaching at all.

We still use the apprenticeship model in graduate school. But to accommodate most students, I still haven’t thought of a better model than setting up classes. But should the classes be organized like factories with the teacher acting as a middle-manager while students act as factory employees, executing tasks one after the other while we assess and time them? I think not. My teaching philosophy is simple: challenge the student, set him in motion, and provide a model. I try to be as far from the industrial model as I can, while remaining within the accepted boundaries of my job. I have two rules when it comes to teaching:

  • Focus on open-ended assignments and exams.
  • Be an authentic role model.

This leads me to wonder what changes are needed in order to align education with personalised learning, and how learning and assessment be re-structured, through the introduction of Connectivism or Social Constructivism.

One would however, wish to know the similarities and differences between Connectivism and Social Constructivism before considering the adoption of changes.

So, what are the similarities and differences between Connectivism and Social Constructivism?

I have argued here in such similarities and differences here and here.

So Connectivism would cover the emergent and novel situations where networked learning is emphasised, and where learning could be extended to those scenarios outside the institutions.

How about the application of Connectivism in an institutional environment? I have shared this in my previous post here.