#PLENK2010 Academic Achievement, Personalization of Education and Learning

Academic achievements have become the headlines in many blogs and news. Here  on New York Times Education

The results also appeared to reflect the culture of education there, including greater emphasis on teacher training and more time spent on studying rather than extracurricular activities like sports.

Mr. Finn, who has visited schools all across China, said, “I’ve seen how relentless the Chinese are at accomplishing goals, and if they can do this in Shanghai in 2009, they can do it in 10 cities in 2019, and in 50 cities by 2029.”

Does this surprise you?

Here in Interpreting international comparisons in academic achievement, Tony says:

My view is that Asian students are probably pushed harder by both parents and the school system than many students in Western countries. They do better because they work harder at what the school requires them to do. What PISA does not attempt to measure is breadth of learning, or whether students who score very highly on standardized tests have the range of other skills such as sport, social and artistic, that are not measured by the OECD.

Could we measure other skills such as sport, social and artistic in an objective way? May be for the same group of students of the same school, based on similar curriculum.  Are the schools in Asian countries teaching with the same or similar curriculum in sport, social and arts in Western countries? Also, there are students having different talents and skills, and so students who score very highly on standardized tests (or those who perform with excellence in academic subjects) don’t necessarily have the same range of other skills such as sport, social and artistic.

I think there are some truths about some Asian students working hard at school. Do they do better because they work harder at what the school requires them to do?  In this high test score, low ability, there are concerns about students working hard to achieve high test score, but have low ability.

Students, parents, teachers, school leaders and even local government officials all work together to get good scores. From a very young age, children are relieved of any other burden or deprived of opportunity to do anything else so they can focus on getting good scores.

The result is that Chinese college graduates often have high scores but low ability. Those who are good at taking tests go to college, which also emphasizes book knowledge.

So, what can “we” do to lift up the standards of education and learning, for learners to achieve high score and high ability?

Steve Wheeler shares in his post on personal or universal education the importance of personalization of education and creativity.

Heppell points out that creativity could be encouraged and personal learning achieved through the use of handheld technologies such as mobile phones. When they use these tools, he says, children are in their element. When they walk into the classroom, they are told to switch off all devices, and in doing so, the school switches off the child too.

I agree with the personalization of education and think that is especially important for Higher and Adult Education.  Also,  creativity is important in learning, and I have shared that understanding in my previous posts.

I would like to respond to Steve’s post with mine here where I commented:

Under an institutional learning environment, mandatory grading (i.e. part of the outcome of learning) in most educational systems diminishes the prospect of a risk free environment (Anderson, 2008). Thus a student would likely learn through the teachers’ recommended resources and information provided through the lectures or tutorials, as it is likely that any assessments are derived from such sources of information. Thus, when the teacher provides information, the teacher will then be exercising power and control over the student. The premise, then, that education can be neutral and non-value laden with a knowledgeable teacher, becomes a paradox. Personal learning, on the other hand could mean that the learner now is empowered to assume part of the role of the educator, where s/he takes up all the responsibility of learning, using PLE/N to sensemake and wayfind independently or interdependently with others in networks. I had experienced such journey after finishing formal university education, where I conceptualised that “authentic and pragmatic education” started with the social university (i.e. the community and networks) that I am immersed in, supported with numerous artifacts and resources that is all under my control, enabling me to become a truly autonomous learner.

To me, it is never easy to have a fully personalized education based on a mass education model, unless the education system is re-structured to cater and accommodate for the personal learning network/environment into education and learning.

So, how about mobile learning?  In this towards a theory of mobile learning

To be of value, a theory of learning must be based on contemporary accounts of practices that enable successful learning. The US National Research Council produced a synthesis of research into educational effectiveness across ages and subject areas (National Research Council, 1999). It concluded that effective learning is:

− learner centred: It builds on the skills and knowledge of students, enabling them to reason from their own experience;

− knowledge centred: The curriculum is built from sound foundation of validated knowledge, taught efficiently and with inventive use of concepts and methods;

− assessment centred: Assessment is matched to the ability of the learners, offering diagnosis and formative guidance that builds on success;

− community centred: Successful learners form a mutually promotive community, sharing knowledge and supporting less able students.

In A Theory of learning for the mobile age the authors continue:

These findings broadly match a social-constructivist approach, which views learning as an active process of building knowledge and skills through practice within a supportive group or community (for an overview, see Kim, 2000). Learning involves not only a process of continual personal development and enrichment, but also the possibility of rapid and radical conceptual change (see Davis, 2001).

To summarise, we suggest that a theory of mobile learning must be tested against the following criteria:

• is it significantly different from current theories of classroom, workplace or lifelong learning?

• does it account for the mobility of learners?

• does it cover both formal and informal learning?

• does it theorise learning as a constructive and social process?

• does it analyse learning as a personal and situated activity mediated by technology?

The authors suggest: learning as conversation under such a theory.

“The teacher is no longer merely the one-who-knows, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow. (Freire, 1996, p. 61)”

To what extent is this applicable in education – K-12 and Higher and Adult Education? Yes, learning can be achieved through conversation, but how about its impact on the academic achievement of students?  Does higher learning lead to higher academic achievement?  In theory, yes, in a networked environment, but how about that in a school environment?

The elearning 2.0 below summarises some of the trends and merits of online and networked learning.  So would academic performance be perceived and measured under a social and networked learning environment?  Not yet!  These sort of learning environment is gaining momentum in Higher and Adult Education, but still at a very early stage when it comes to K-12 education. Why?

The networked learning model as discussed here by Wendy Drexler provides some good examples on how some of the high schools students could be “taught” in the use of Web2.0 tools.  However this way of networked “formal” learning is still under experimentation.

So what is personalized education?

Stephen in his post here on Open education says:

That our role, as a wider society, ought not to be to shower free resources upon people, in the hope of somehow lifting them up and may be enlightening them, and certainty of creating lifelong customers, but rather in the fostering of a social, legal and cultural climate where people are empowered and encouraged to create and share artifacts of their own learning.

So, personalized education could mean education empowerment, where individual learners are encouraged and supported to create and share artifacts which help themselves in learning, rather than being spoon fed by teachers or by the OER (Open Education Resources) in learning.   This could be a fundamental shift from teaching to learning.

The challenge to this way of open personalized education and learning is:

Are the learners

– equipped with the skills and literacy to create artifacts?

– motivated to create and share artifacts?

– assessed based on the creation and sharing of artifacts under a formal education system?

– encouraged to use different forms of elearning including mobile learning?

My questions are:

– What is the purpose of education at this digital age?

– Are we aiming for public mass education or personalized education and learning in our institutions?

– What assumptions have we made about learners in personalized education?

– What are their motivations towards personalized education?

– What are the expectations of the employers on these personalized learners (as a result of personalized education)?

Postscript: Enjoy this post on Web 2.0 and the future of K-12 education.

#PLENK2010 What tools have you used in PLENK2010?

Thanks Chris for the http://grou.ps/globalcollaboration link in the PLENK Forum of Research Survey into the Design and Delivery of MOOC PLENK2010.  Some interesting discussion there too.

Where there is a problem, there will be an opportunity, and possibly a solution smile

We don’t have gRSShopper, but surely it depends on your needs of further connection and interaction after this PLENK.

I use email, FB, Twitter, blog, Google, Google Scholar, Delicious, Wikispaces, this Forum, Youtube, Slideshare, and RSS as the central platform for my PLE/N in PLENK.  There are many other tools/social media that I use as mentioned here https://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/plenk2010-plepln/ and https://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/plenk2010-tools-of-use-in-online-learning-plepln/

Here are the research references http://connectivismeducationlearning.wikispaces.com/Research+References

What do you use? Any other platforms or tools that you have created, used that you would like to invite us to join?

This surely relates to the research into MOOC PLENK2010.

How to keep up with the conversation and interaction? What are the tools suited to your needs? What sort of PLN would be most helpful and valuable to your personal learning?

Photo credit: from other blog post…

#PLENK2010 Tools of use in online learning – PLE/PLN

Tools (to provide the basic means for manipulating information)

* Processing tools ( to support learners cognitive processing)

  • Seeking tools (to locate and filter needed resources) – Slideshare, RSS, Google Reader, Delicious, Google, iGoogle, Netvibes, Amplify, Twitter, Youtube,
  • Collecting tools (to gather resources) – Slideshare, Delicious, Google, iGoogle, Netvibes, Amplify, Twitter, Blogs, wikis, Email, Linked in
  • Organizing tools (to represent relationships among ideas) – CMap, Bubbl.us, Brain, Google Reader,
  • Integrating tools (to link new with existing knowledge) – RSS, Google Reader, Delicious, Google, iGoogle, Netvibes, Amplify, Twitter, FB, Moodle, Blogs, wikis
  • Generating tools (to create new things or artifacts to think with) – Podcasting, Digital Story, Media, Webcam, Blogs, wikis, CMap, Bubbl.us, Brain,

* Manipulation tools (to test the validity of, or to explore, beliefs and theories) – Blogs, wikis, Twitter, FB

* Communication tools (to communicate among learners, teachers and experts)

  • Synchronous communication tools (to support real time interaction) – Elluminate, Skype, FB chat, Twitter, UStream, Dimdim, Plurk
  • Asynchronous communication tools (to support time-shifted communication) – Moodle, Blogs, wikis, FB, Amplify it

* Scaffolds (to guide and support learning efforts)

  • Domain – specific versus generic scaffolds – Asynchronous sessions (Moodle Forum discussion)
  • Conceptual scaffolding (guidance on what to consider) – CMaps, Brain
  • Metacognitive scaffolding (guidance on how to utilize resources and tools) – Synchronous session (Elluminate), Asynchronous sessions (Moodle Forum discussion),
  • Strategic scaffolding/guidance on approaches to solving the problem – Wikis – artifacts, selected readings, Synchronous session (Elluminate), Asynchronous sessions (Moodle Forum discussion), Blogs

An alternative way to classify the Social Networking Tools:

Social sites: My Space, Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Amplify, Google Wave

Photosharing: Flickr, PhotoBucket

Videosharing: Youtube, Blip.tv, Vimeo, Teachers’ Tube

Professional networking sites: LinkedIn, Ning

Blogs: Blogger.com, WordPress, Posterous,

Wikis: Wetpaint, Pbwiki, Wikispace

Content tagging: MERLOT, SLoog, Delicious, Diigo

RSS Aggregator: RSS feeds, Google Reader

Virtual worlds: SecondLife, Active Worlds, Club Penguin

Slideshare: Slideshare.net

Aggregators: iGoogle, Google, Netvibes, Delicious, Symbaloo

Others: Voicethreads, Digital Story

Ref to Steve Wheeler’s Slides here on Communities Spaces and Pedagogies for the Digital Age

My ten top Web 2.0 tools (slide 28)

Blog – Blogger; WordPress

Wiki – Wetpaint; PB wiki

Podcasting – Audacity; Podbean

Slide sharing – Slideshare

Photo sharing – Flickr; Picassa

Social Tagging – Delicious; Diigo

Video sharing – Youtube; Vimeo

URL Shortening – bit.ly; ow.ly

Aggregator – iGoogle; Pageflakes

Microblog – Twitter; Tumblr

#PLENK2010 Research survey into the Design and Delivery of MOOC PLENK2010

PLENK2010 participants are invited to fill out a short survey on the Research into the Design and Delivery of MOOC – PLENK2010. This survey is anonymous and voluntary and should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. Sui Fai John Mak, a participant of PLENK2010 would like to thank you in advance for your time and contribution to the research. The survey can be accessed here http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/K3JDXD3 for two weeks and will close on November 26th 2010 at 12:00 AM Pacific Standard Time.

Sui Fai John Mak

Here is the posting on research wikispaces

#PLENK2010 Why are people staying away from the forum?

Thanks for sharing from Ken.  I may have enough of “forum” now, so better to spend time researching & blogging.

I notice a trend in the MOOC in that many “experts” and knowledgeable others are moving away from forum, for reasons that have been shared by many in their postings – with George and Stephen in particular, where reflective learning could be perceived as more valuable, especially when they are using the blogs.  I do think this trend is obvious for many scholars and academic experts now, and that may impact on the use LMS and online Moodle forum in educational institutions, especially when novice & experts are both staying away from the LMS after a brief stay……

So, what might be the reasons for people sharing in the forum at the start?

Here is my experience & findings from previous research:

The reasons why people like to use the forum include:

(a) sharing and filtering of ideas, artifacts and having debates in forum (discourse)

(b) having a central place for discussion, and an aggregation of ideas, artifacts

(c) fostering of group formation and collaborative learning through inquiry

(d) lurking (legitimate peripheral learning) or self-directed learning

(e) understanding of other learners’ views and perspectives through posting of questions or responses

(f) developing relationship with others through engagement, interaction and communication

There are however, many barriers that have hindered the forum discussion

So, why are people staying away from the forum in PLENK?  Would these include?

(a) perceived power and control amongst participants.  Would this be perceived as an arena for “Socratic questioning”?

(b) strong or cynical (perceived negative) views, posts, comments or responses that may be perceived by participants.  Would this lead to uncomfortable feelings for others to respond?

(c) language barriers amongst participants

(d) topics or posts not relevant to participants interests

(e) overwhelming information and difficulties in comprehending the discussion threads, which could cause the “forum fatigue syndrome”

(f) a loss of interests in the discussion

(g) participants perception of discussion being a very serious academic discourse

(h) lack of fun

(i) What is in it for me (WIIIFM) in the discussion, debates or discourse

And the list goes on….

You name it…..

The  above are just my re-collection of some of the past experiences in Forum discussions (including social networking, and MOOC).

Does it mean that PLE/N is now winning over LMS in this round of PLENK?  I think many PLENKERS are now drivers on the PLENK….

How about your experiences and views?

#PLENK2010 Assessment and Evaluation

I just managed to watch & listen to Elluminate Recording of Wednesday. I read Jenny’s post on evaluation and assessment, and would like to respond and reflect on it.

For me, assessment is relating to a collection of evidence which could be in form of portfolios, blogs & blog posts, forum postings, twitter postings, action projects, videos, podcasts, wikis, research projects, research papers, artifacts, etc. or in typical classroom/workplace learning – assignments, tests, examination, observation, questioning, tasks, projects, assessment activities etc.

Evaluation, however could be relating more to a product, service or process. Evaluation of a product or process – like an evaluation of the assessment tasks, courses, curriculum, through surveys, reviews, discourse, and in the case of PLENK, it could mean the evaluation of tools against set criteria by the learners, or the community in their effectiveness in achieving the learning goals set. Evaluation of support or service  could include that of evaluating the facilitation, teaching, moderation, and evaluation of the supporting service or tools could include that of evaluating the LMS, Moodle, RSS, Facebook, Twitter, blogging providers, wikis providers, connections, aggregators, ICT support etc.

So, evaluation of the effectiveness of the tools, service and support is quite different from the assessment of the learners (which is based on the collection of evidence).

We could recognize ones previous learning (i.e. recognition of prior learning) based on assessment – collection of evidence that prove ones achievement of the learning outcomes, and meeting of performance criteria as stipulated in the units of competency.

We could evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the recognition and or assessment process based on certain evaluation criteria – such as the auditing of the assessment process (based on checklists, how evidences are collected, how judgment is arrived, the appeal process, etc.), assessment validation meetings (between assessors), and the overall assessment reviews.

In the case of PLENK, the evaluation process could include whether the assessment process (for instance certain assessment tasks which relate to the creation of blogs and setting up of blog posts by participants, the comments made, the participation in blogs discussion, the participation in various media etc. as set forth or negotiated by participants, and the action learning and reflection which are evidenced in the blog posts.  These could also relate to the critical literacies which include syntax, semantics, pragmatic, and critical thinking as revealed in blog posts) have been achieved as “planned” either by the facilitators or by the participants, and that may take the form of a combination of self and or peer evaluation of the assessment process, and the review of the effectiveness of such learning tools in learning.


#PLENK2010 On Networks and PLENK

I hope I could contribute more in this PLENK course, by sharing what I have learnt from George, Stephen in particular in the CCK courses.  I hope there would be more success stories with MOOC, as shared in past posts.

I would like to reflect this mind changing post by Stephen Downes on Groups versus Networks.

Stephen says:

Why networks? Three major reasons.

First of all, the nature of the knower. Human beings resemble ecosystems more than they resemble lumps of metal.

Secondly and very importantly, the quality of the knowledge. Because the knowledge comes from the authority, from the center, even if there’s consultation and all of that, the knowledge of groups is limited by the capacity of the leader to know things.

And then finally, the nature of the knowledge itself – the knowledge in a group replicates the knowledge in the individuals and it’s passed on simple in a transmission communication kind of way.

Those of you who are into learning theory think more about transaction theory, of communication theory. It goes from here to here to here to here. And consequently, that limits the type of knowledge that can be created and communicated.

But in a network, the knowledge is emergent. The knowledge is not in any given individual, but it’s a property of the network as a whole. Consequently, it’s a knowledge that cannot, does not, exist in any individual, but only in the network as a whole. It’s emergent. It’s more complex in the sense that it is able to capture and describe phenomena that are not simple like cause and effect, but complex like the nature of societies or the nature of the weather. That’s a very loose characterization about it.

I must admit that Stephen’s ideas have greatly influenced how I perceive groups versus networks since I read his post, and I have then better understood some of the fundamentals of networks through subsequent interaction with him on numerous occasions, throughout the courses of CCK08, 09, CritLit2010, and especially when I met him whilst he presented a session in the University of Wollongong.

Upon deeper reflection, I could see the merits of learning and knowledge growth with networks over groups, in particular when it comes to learning as a person within a community or institution, and the “personal” and “social” knowledge that are important in ones learning.  What is important is the identity of self within the learning ecosystem.

The distributed knowledge concept is especially critical for even the most self-paced and independent learner as mentioned by Terry here .

Does self paced learning mean no interactionMorten Paulsen (2005), myself (Anderson et al, 2005) and a growing group of connectivist researchers are developing online learning designs that allow students to “have their cake and eat it too”. We do this by creating compelling, but not compulsory learning activities, that allow learners to engage with others within the contexts of self paced learning. Key to accomplishing this is to have students engage in sophisticated social networking contexts that allow students to discover  each other, study and interact with peers and project collaborators and as importantly to engage asynchronously with learners, by reacting to the stored comments and artifacts created by learners who have undertaken the same course of studies in earlier times

Even self-paced (self-organised or independent) learners may not entirely be alone in a networked learning environment at this digital age.  At times, such learners could be reading and interacting with books, artifacts or watching television or video programs or educational news broadcast, or others in the web, or social networks.  They may be taking a more passive role in the learning process at various times, for various personal reasons, as consumers rather than producers or creators, and their learning are still “networked” in some ways, whereas some of the learning media might have been “curated” by others rather than by them only.  They may be the legitimate peripheral learners at the border of the groups and networks, lurking through in their journey of learning, in quest of knowledge and understanding of the networks.

Have we been learning like that pre-internet age?  So, would it be surprising if some of our habits carry on even at this internet age?

So, what are my take aways from Stephen, especially when reflecting on Networks (PLENK 2010):

1. There may be a temptation for one to define the vision, learning goals, outcomes as a group exercise – which would lead to a close boundary, or closed course, admitting only someone who have certain attributes to continue with the discussion, and setting unnecessary barriers for further conversation and engagement

2. Power issues and conflicts do arise in both groups and networks.  However, in networks, the diversity of opinions do allow many conflicts to be surfaced, debated or resolved through multiple channels, or not even resolved, if found not deemed to be that important (the power law doesn’t apply that easily).  In other words, it leaves choice for the learners.  If learners don’t find one network to be particular helpful, they could consider other network sources.  Similarly, if they perceive overly unwarranted power over them in networks, they could resort to other networks or media.  So the power issue may be degenerated into a smoothing of views.  This is not that easy to resolve in the case of groups, unless one is to quit from the group.  But is the web hierarchy free too?

I particularly like Rita’s discussion of power here:

Of course we have found other ways to filter our information; knowledgeable others we trust can provide us with relevant and interesting information . Bouchard (2010) and Boyd (2010) still see problems with these as well and question the possibility of hierarchy-free peer to peer connections on the Web:

However, the notion of  ‘supernode’ predictably emerges when some contributors are recognized by a  number of others as having particular relevance to, or knowledge of a problem. There seems to be a natural tendency within the ‘perfectly’ democratic network to organize itself, over time, in a hierarchical system composed of leaders and followers.

(Bouchard, 2010, p. 3)

3. The significance of how each of us learns is important in Education, Teaching and Learning

I see individuals learning in networks do make a difference in my way of seeing the group, networks, the communities and the world.  I have to be cautious in avoiding the stereo typing of concepts mentioned in this Animal Farm: Two legs good, four legs bad, OR Two legs bad, four legs good.

So it is not as simple as that whether group is better than network or vice-versa, but how each would support one in ones learning journey.  It’s a personal judgment and for those who wish to decide the education and learning for somebody else (adults in particular), we just need to be aware of the underlying assumptions behind such teaching paradigms and their implications.

Didn’t we all experience group learning in our school (and university) days?   But how did it compare to network learning when we left schools?

So, does it leave me with the same impression about MOOC as I did in the past? No, as we once shared in my previous post.

The critical points about networks are still important to me as mentioned by George on Connectivism:

Connectivism finds its roots in the climate of abundance, rapid change, diverse information sources and perspectives, and the critical need to find a way to filter and make sense of the chaos. As such, the networked centrality of connectivism permits a scaling of both abundance and diversity.

In PLENK, we may be re-writing our own story of learning, using our own narratives, experience, but putting them into ACTION AND REFLECTION in totally new ways of connections.  That could be challenging for me.

As I once posted here:  What are you doing?

1. I’m cutting stones

2. I’m earning a living

3. I’m building a cathedral

So, hope we could enjoy the PLENK together in whatever ways.  I wish to be connected to you, though I am using blog principally in PLENK.

This reminds me of the thoughtful discussion here when learning in a course (a network or a group? Is a network better?)

And the importance of cluster and focus here by Dave to survive in Week 4.  And disaggregate power not people in Networks.

Would it be clustering in groups within networks in PLENK?  I suppose it is.

I am interested in the science of networks.