Do you question Assumptions?

I quite enjoyed this video presentation by Professor Goldberg

My main take away are:





I will focus on assumptions in this first reflective post.

This is resonating as I have been reflecting on the assumptions of all Learning and Education Theories based on Assumptions Theory, and some related posts reflecting on the assumptions behind.

Such assumptions are best illustrated through an examination of the rhetoric and reality.

Siemens et. al. in his Handbook of emerging technologies for learning discusses the growing points of tension along:

1. Education/business

2. Accreditation/reputation

3. Transformation/utility

4. Research/responding

5. Formal/informal

6. Open/closed

7. Expert/Amateur

8. Hierarchy/Network and Command/Foster

9. Pace/Depth

10. Epistemology/Ontology

That is a very useful critique on what the challenges we are facing.  The questions that could emerge from such critique are the assumptions behind each of the tension points.

What questions would we need to raise to unfold the dichotomy of each of these assumptions or findings?

What assumptions have we made relating to the learning from technology?

Are adults naturally self-directed learners? Part 2

Interesting and reflective thoughts by Ken. I used to think teaching and learning being two sides of the same coin (the Yin and Yang), with media and technology (or the coin as the tool) being periphery joining them together.

Yes in a socially-constructed Learning environment, most if not all are didactic in nature. The conversation, engagement, interaction, which may be part of the cooperation and collaboration embedded in a convoluted way (or rhizomatic manner, if we like to describe it organically).

If we are to describe learning and Learning in a way that may co-exist, then learning as a natural growth of networks in our brain, and that of the growth of the forests, plants, trees, grass etc. are natural parts of the ecology. On the other hand, the development of social media, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), road and transport system, buildings, logistics systems, organizations, education systems, groups and networks of people are all artificial parts of the ecology. So, you need both in order to develop the whole ecology, and what learning and Learning is situated might be viewed from a “microscopic” or “macroscopic” lens of learning, and interpreted accordingly.

I have also conceived that learning (individually) could be the most satisfying for human (as individuals), as that could be revealed from the reports of gurus, thinkers, philosophers, and scientists etc. Learning could however be the corner-stone for nurturing learning, and may lead to group collaborative performance and thus the basis of civilization and socialization and enculturation. Without self-motivation and direction in both learning and Learning, I reckon human’s creativity would be stalled, leading to stagnation in human progress.

So, I agree that learning happens elsewhere, especially if Learning is still under the thumb of teaching only. Is self-directed learning significant in learning and Learning? What and how would education be developed given that human are all natural learners?

We also need disruptive discovery to overcome the crisis and to develop a better future.

How about power of networks?  How would social networks influence self-directed learning?


Are adults naturally self-directed learners?

This is an intriguing question that I have been pondering for years.

Stephen Brookfield in this paper on self-directed learning concludes:

A view of learning which regards human beings as self-contained, volitional beings scurrying around in individual projects, is one that works against cooperative and collective impulses. Citing self-direction, people can deny the importance of collective action, common interests and their basic human interdependence in favor of an obsessive focus on the self.

The notion of self-direction is to a great extent related to autonomy for learners, where autonomy is posited as one of the essential elements in fostering the most volitional and high quality forms of motivation and engagement for activities under self determination theory (SDT), a theory of motivation.

Stephen says:

“Ironically, as Boshier (1983) has pointed out, policy makers can also use the concept of self-direction to reduce public spending on adult education. After all, they can argue, if adult educators tell us that adults are naturally self-directed learners (in contrast to authority-dependent children) then why bother making provision for their education ? Won’t they self-directedly take their own initiatives in learning anyway ? But atomistic, divisive interpretations of self-directed learning need not be end of the story concerning the contributions of this concept to adult education theory and practice. ”

I could understand that self-directed learning have been a major concern for distance education in the 80s – 90s, where a lot of learners might drop out of the course due to the isolated feelings of learning.   It would likely be true that only those who were more “capable” and motivated would succeed in learning in the distance education mode.  Besides, adult educators had been under the pressure to provide better education with limited resources at the time of 80s and 90s.

In my self-directed learning post:

Could we use social networks for informal education and learning?

How web 2.0 will transform learning in higher education

Is access to learning resources still a problem?

I think more adult learners could access open education resources and information more readily via the internet at this digital age as compared to the 90s.  Although there are still many articles and artifacts locked inside the library or publishers website, where fee for service or reading is required, however, adult learners could still exercise their learning options with the aid of various information web sites, social media and networks.

Are adults naturally self-directed learners?  I don’t know the answer to this important question.  I think many adults would prefer to be self-directed, when they are self-motivated, and are given an option to learn, with when, where, how and what they like, especially at this digital era with the affordance of technology (mobile and computer technology), abundant information and ubiquitous networks and social media.   Confidence, motivation, information technology and communication skills, and experience would likely determine whether learners would take their own initiatives in learning, especially in social media and networked learning.

As I have argued here in my previous post: “I still believe that learning is a personal and private “business”, especially in blogging.  Autonomy is most important, for those self-paced, self-organised learners.  I am one of them, as I did “distance education” all by myself, in the past, even in the pre-internet era, and I still enjoyed it.”  It is through blogging where I could fully reflect personally on what is and what is not relevant to my life and work experience.  It also provides plenty of opportunities for others to provide critical comments to my open and public posts, which serves as sounding board for me to engage into more in-depth conversations and reflection.  This is also where I could form part of the blogosphere, and be connected to the networks and communities at large.   Would this also add to the social capital, when collective inquiry through blogging is achieved?

In conclusion, self-directed learning has become a way of learning for lots of adults at this era, especially in the developed world where technology is readily available.  Should we still provide education if adult learners are self-directed?  The answers to this question would be dependent on the context and the type of adult learners that we are dealing with.  As illustrated in the above case study of MOOC (Kop & Fournier, 2011), adult learners would need additional critical literacies when learning through the web and internet.  Adult learners who are highly motivated and confident in the use of new and emergent technology would more likely become independent, autonomous and self-directed learners.

The Art of War

Have you ever heard about the Art of War?  You could enjoy reading the whole e-book online.

I would recommend that this is a must watch for those who wish to “win” every war.  Though the strategies were referred mainly to the military operations, you might find a lot of interesting underpinning principles which are based on personal and group psychology.

Don’t take my words, as your doubts would surely cast the shadow on your  mind, when you reflect on why people lose both the battles and wars, without serious considerations of the tactics or strategies used in those war scenarios.

How would the art of war be applied in business?  Here Ed Newman  quotes:

“How do you break the enemy’s resistance without a messy fight? It is only with knowledge:

Sun Tzu said: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but know not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.  If you know not the enemy or yourself, you will succumb in every battle””

How about the Art of War in Education?

In this Art of War post, David McLachlan explains:

“Sun Tzu believed that battles should ideally be won off the battlefield, before they even need to be fought. He outlined Five Fundamentals for strategic assessments to avoid the costly miscalculations that lead to war. These are: (1) The Way (moral influence), (2) Heaven (change), (3) Earth (terrain and resources), (4) Command (leadership), and (5) Discipline (logistics). He added:

Every commander is aware of these Five Fundamentals. He who grasps them wins; he who fails to grasp them loses (pp. 3 . 4).”

“The Way causes men to be of one mind with their rulers, to live or die with them, and never to waiver. Sun Tzu (p. 4)

The Way makes me truly realize that I’m entrusted with a great responsibility: preparing my students for their future. But do we share the same path? If my students do not agree with what is being taught, and how it is being taught, then my educational mission is pointless. (Diary excerpt)”

This could be challenging for educators and learners,  especially in an environment where each student may have different needs, learning styles and learning capability and experiences, and so there could be significant differences in between what is being taught, and how it is being taught, in the process of education.  May be it’s time to reflect more about the “way” education should be designed.

Using the strategies as proposed in the Art of War as a basis, I reckon we should ask our educators and learners to respond to these questions:

1. What is the purpose of education?

2. How would such purpose align with those of the educators and learners?

3. How to motivate our students in education and learning?

Power of Networks

Amazing power of networks, well illustrated with animated graphics.  Earlyz expands his concepts on networks in teaching and learning. He says that: “When students discover those networked connections, they begin to see the real world value in what they learn at school. In other words, authentic learning happens in the network.”  I think networked connections need to go beyond what they learn at school, in order to fully understand how such connections relate to the community, networks, and the ecology.

I could find so much ideas in common with those I have reflected here in my  posts:

Here, here, plenk2010-plenk-network-metaphor, and here.

A New Paradigm of Knowledge?

Daniela Pscheida in her presentation on A new paradigm of knowledge? How the web transforms our comprehension of knowledge and the way of academic research  says:

Digitalization and virtual network technologies change not only the way we communicate, get informed and entertain ourselves – they also have modified the conditions under which this is done as well as the standards that are applied to these processes….. Instead of stability, objectivity and institutional authority in the digital sphere timeliness, situational availability and the readiness for active participation do count. One can assume that in the course of this process the social understanding of and approach to knowledge have started to change.

Daniela concludes that:

Fundamental changes in knowledge are taking place

– Semantic Web, Citizen Science and VREs will transform the core structures of academic work and thus probably also the principles and conventions of the understanding and management of knowledge

– Scientists will have to accept that doing e-science is not possible without changing traditional scientific roles and concepts.

Great insights from Daniela.

This research reveals the importance of participation and collaboration among not only the researchers and academics, but the embracing of a participative and collaborative culture which extends to general public and citizens of interests.  The wikipedia and Citizen projects were just some of the examples of pioneer work illustrating the importance of keeping knowledge updated with a wider authorship, with its content being “editable, though controllable or manageable”.  This requires a paradigm shift of “Community Building” and “information sharing” when creating new and emergent knowledge.

What are some of the underlying principles involved in this sort of paradigm shift?  I think the principles could be explained through ParagogyPeeragogyNetagogy, where I argued in my previous post, and the learning theory strongly supported through Connectivism here, here and here.

I have also proposed that these acts of “creating knowledge” could be based on Creatagogy. This requires a connective creativity with collective wisdom (Wisdom of the Crowd) and individual creativity and creative learning capacity connected to networks with technology affordance.

I conceive new and emerging knowledge would be created through such “Global Community and Networks” which would be based on an environment, education and learning ecology with a network of learning platforms such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), MOOCs (Massive Open Online Communities) and MOOP (Massive Open Online Projects) over different spaces, network chains.  I have discussed some of the essential features in my previous post.  This would hopefully lead to the creation of a symbiosis between the educational social community and the more open collaboration on online networks.

Images: Google

Are we at the intersection of an education revolution?

Education revolution, these are buzz words that prompted me to think about what it means, and the implications on Higher Education, K-12, and even corporate education and training.

The recent blossoming of MOOCs have sparked new waves of educational reforms, and most spectacular, education revolution – online education is now up-and-coming with its full frontal launch.  This article on Come on revolution by Thomas Friedman has attracted 370 comments.

These top-quality learning platforms could enable budget-strained community colleges in America to “flip” their classrooms. That is, download the world’s best lecturers on any subject and let their own professors concentrate on working face-to-face with students.

All sounds good. What are the reactions of the commenters?

For any course that can’t be machine tested, and that would include any course that involved critical thinking and advanced problem solving, whether in the sciences or the humanities, who exactly will review the research, the solutions or the papers? Who is present to challenge students, to moderate discussions, to give them considered feedback, to make them think for themselves?

And where is all the informal education that takes place when students live together and share ideas and experiences based upon what they are learning?

These are all good questions and there are divided responses, as to what it means   when classes are flipped when teaching online.

The instructivist approach with intensive short lecture videos and posting of lecture notes, powerpoints, examinations, quizzes  in those MOOCs may be pretty effective in certain information transfer, and thus allowing students to acquire knowledge and skills in technical subjects, or subjects that have known and definite answers.  That’s why true and false, multiple choices or even short answer questions would be effective and useful in checking students’ understanding of concepts.  Such activities are often used in assessment in most traditional courses, from K-12, as they could also be easily marked, and viewed as “objective and valid” tools in assessment, if properly designed.  Does it challenge students to think and reflect on what they learnt?  To what extent are they effective in checking on students’ learning?  What happens if there are no one “right” answers to the questions?  How to ensure that students are not sharing their answers when responding to the questions online?  How to ensure that learning is applied in projects, problems, or at work?

How to teach in courses that involved critical thinking and advanced problem solving?  I don’t think the traditional teaching by “lecturing” over the students would provide the solution to the learning of critical thinking and advanced problem solving.  Why? First, critical thinking requires both educators and learners to re-think about the questions that need to ask, when wearing different but parallel thinking hats.  At times, with the additional hats, this may lead to further thinking which is transformational.

Whether such MOOCs could stimulate critical thinking would be dependent on how the course is designed, how the professors would moderate and provide feedback to learners, and how the learners would reflect on their learning.  I don’t think we have enough information at this stage, though there are a glimpse of insights from the comments:

First, this is not some sort of neocon plot to destroy higher education. In fact, several upcoming courses such as “Health Care Policy and the Affordable Care Act”, taught by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel or “Introduction to Sociology”, taught by Mitchell Duneier, promise to have ample room for progressive ideas and teaching.

Second, Coursera and similar efforts are not meant to replace the traditional classroom. I am currently enrolled in a course on programming language compilers which is being taught simultaneously to Stanford undergraduate students. The instructor is using the ‘flipped’ model, where classroom time is used to dive deeper into the material and explore areas that normally would not be covered. The free online students don’t participate in this, but we are still getting the entire core syllabus as taught at Stanford.

Finally, many people have insinuated that these courses are not rigorous. This is simply not true. In the compilers course that I am currently enrolled in, I have spent well over 100 hours working on the class project so far. (comments by Nic)

That’s interesting, as such learning seems to provide ample rooms for both the instructors and learners to flip the classroom.  Engaging learners in the learning process is critical to online education, and even more so if a flipped model is to be successful.  Flipping increases student interaction.  That surely helps students in learning in a classroom environment. Is flipped classroom the solution to education?

I think assessment is also an important part of active learning, not just the teaching.

In this what the students think on MITx:

Many of those taking 6.002x already have degrees, and are using the course to sharpen skills for personal or professional reasons. Brian Ho, the owner of a software-development company in Honolulu who has a long-running interest in robotics, has an electrical engineering degree and is using the course to “refresh” his knowledge of the subject.

“We are learning to think intuitively when approaching electrical engineering — an intuition I didn’t have before,” Ho explains. As far as the discussion forums go, he adds, “I equally enjoy helping other students … in the process of helping others, you are actually helping yourself because in order to explain a concept perfectly you really need to understand the subject.”

Are these typical in the responses from the Connectivist MOOCs?

There are strong views here on Faculty responses.

“But it’s not education, and it’s not even a reliable means for credentialing people,” Nelson said. Education calls for real interaction with faculty members and a consensus through which faculty members can design, manage and evaluate degree programs, he said. “It’s fine to put lectures online, but this plan only degrades degree programs if it plans to substitute for them.”

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

Is that education? May be, it depends on the purpose of education, and its content.

Is such online education or learning inferior?  I don’t think so.  See paper by Kop et. al. here that reveals learning experiences and pedagogy when learning in MOOC.

Are we at the intersection of an education revolution?

Do not expect an overnight revolution, as much time is needed for teachers and students to understand how to utilize e-learning capabilities fully.

Identify, target and support key likely benefits of e-learning, such as saving teachers’ time, supporting individual and group student working and opening new ways to reconfigure the geography and timing of class activities.

Netagogy would then be used as a holistic pedagogy, integrating and embracing the different, and overlapping pedagogy – a pedagogy relating to Information and Communication technology,  a pedagogy of abundancedigital pedagogy, and pedagogy in transnational education – transnational pedagogy.