#CritLit2010 Semiotics, Semantics, Syntax and Pragmatics

In this Semiotics A primer for designers:

““Semiotics is important for designers as it allows us to understand the relationships between signs, what they stand for, and the people who must interpret them — the people we design for.” ”

Semiotics and the branch of linguistics known as Semantics have a common concern with the meaning of signs. Semantics focuses on what words mean while semiotics is concerned with how signs mean. Semiotics embraces semantics, along with the other traditional branches of linguistics as follows:

  • Semantics: the relationship of signs to what they stand for.
  • Syntactics (or syntax): the formal or structural relations between signs.
  • Pragmatics: the relation of signs to interpreters.

I found the above summary useful when designing, delivering and evaluating resources for courses.

Throughout the Course CritLit2010, I have been trying to read each post of other participants or networkers basing on those concepts, by relating to the words used by the blogger, the structural relations between those signs (pictures, videos) and words used, and how I would interpret such relations of different pictures,  videos and words.


#CritLit2010 Is leadership all about relationships and emotions?

While I was pondering about what to write in my Power of Story Part 2, I was stimulated by this post of matters of the heart referred by Stephen Downes in his OLDaily

I pulled these from Fullan’s new book, Motion Leadership (2010).

1. We must recognize the politics of emotions that energize behaviors.

2. The change strategy cannot create victims.

3. The problem must be named and confronted.

4. Leaders must exemplify the expected standards of behavior.

5. We must engage emotionally with students in their world.

6. Teachers and principals themselves are sometimes actors.

7. The environment must accommodate risk. (Jansen, 2009b, p.189)

I would like to know the basis behind these “principles of leadership”, and here I am posting my comments and questions:

1. What are the politics of emotions?  What are those emotions that energize behaviors? What is the relationship between leadership and behaviorism?

2. The change strategy cannot create victims.  Is this an oxymoron? Every change strategy creates winners, in accordance to leadership.  Otherwise, who would follow?  But who are the victims, who are the losers?  The strategy CANNOT create victims, but it CAN create winners and victims.  History tells us that there is no guarantee of no victims created out of any change strategy.  But great leaders do change the world

Were those leaders crazy? REALLY? Who changed the world? They were the great leaders, the real leaders who walk the talk.

3. Why must the problem be named and confronted? Are problems well-defined?  In whose names are those problems named? Who name the problems? In a leadership situation, is the leader the first to name the problem? Or the last?

4. Leaders must exemplify the expected standards of behavior – wow, that is the tribal approach, sure! The tribal leader would determine what standards of behavior would be praised, rewarded, amplified, or show as an exemplary to all followers, or would declare such behaviors as the heroic action in the tribal manifestation.  Magnificent motto!

5. We must engage emotionally with students in their world – wow! Are leaders emotional counselors or “manipulators” of their students?  Of course students are emotional humans, just like their teachers.  So what is the role of the teacher in their students’ emotional journey?

6. Teachers and principals themselves are sometimes actors.  What sort of actors?  Why? How to act?

7. The environment must accommodate risk. What sort of risks should be accommodated?  How about internet safety?

This one?

or this?

and this one?

Are we (both educators and students) safe in a virtual online environment?

I then read on about this site on distance educator where Saba would separate facts from fiction

My question: Really? How?

This stimulated me to reflect back on the Critical Thinking Skills needed, this time on leadership.

Is leadership all about relationship and emotions? How about critical thinking in leadership? No?

#CritLit2010 The Challenge of Connectivity

I resonate with Sherry’s views in her post Digital Demands: The Challenge of Constant Connectivity: that we are forgetting the intellectual and emotional value of solitude. As Benjamin Franklin once said:”Joy is not in things; joy is in us” We will lose our balance and our perspective with too much connectivity, and might even become slave to technology, if we rely too much on its affordance. I also found it worthwhile to meditate and pray, as a
Catholic, in order to maintain my spiritual growth and faith. So, moments of solitude could help me to concentrate without too much distractions. I think our own inner dialogue is also an important key to success, when we could think critically and reflect thoroughly before we take any action or make any important decision.

This conversation was held on Facebook with Irmeli, Steve and Donald and here is my response:

I have also shared that connectivity is like 2 sides of the coins in my blog post on my response to Nicola, where if there are too many coins stacked together, they would just topple. So, for me, I could only manage limited connections. May be some people could manage hundred or thousand connections, but I would like to learn if such learning be also based on the Pareto Rule: 80% learning coming from 20% connections, meaning that quality connections with fewer than the 100’s is better than having thousand of connections which are not adding learning values in the connections. This is just my experience and may need more debates to verify. But I resonate with the slow blogging concept, as once upon, I didn’t blog at all, but I wrote up lots of papers instead in the 90s and this decade, but have never published them. Did I learn?
I would like to test the theory of Pareto rule (or Power Laws) in networked learning myself? Does it ring a bell to each of you – Irmeli, Steve, and Donald?

This Social Media Science Experiments provide some insights into social networks and an understanding of who is talking to whom, and why?

As explained by George in his post on Social Media Experiments

Watts suggests that small-scale strategies, targeting individuals instead of large systems

See this Influentials, Networks, and Public Opinion Formation

The presentation is a really interesting look at much of the actual research, development and science that goes into monitoring social networks, with the goal of having a better understanding about how these systems work so that those tools and networks can be improved.

Would it be worthwhile to consider similar learning strategies for individuals – i.e. consider small-scale strategies in learning via the social networks.

I have yet to respond to Donald’s interesting post on leadership here.

Advice network


#CritLit2010 Connectivism as the journey continues

Ulop has got it spot on here.

Connectivism = (Network + Stimuli + Interaction) = Trained Reaction

Is this a form of behaviourism (operant conditioning)?

I think I have to leave Stephen to respond to this.

I have to re-think the approach taken by Stephen in his having reasons – by looking at the network, its association with the environment and actors, and the associated changes in response to stimuli, the original patterns (knowledge as recognition of pattern) and the emergent patterns, whereas George has been focusing learning as connection of nodes in the network, and the primacy is on the connection, not on the networks.  This sounds interesting.

In Stephen’s post of having reasons, I found it amazing to apply the Semantics Theory in various areas – concepts of truth, epistemology, and science.  What I could conclude is: there are “truths” under each lens of theory, and claims and evidence that would be proven to be true under certain context and time.  However, what we could observe and true to our senses may sometimes be based on intuition rather than reasons, despite our claim of reasons in arriving to certain conclusions. Take for example, the reasons for: the sky is blue.

Photos: From Flickr

Here is the explanation of us seeing a blue sky based on wikipedia:

The sunlit sky appears blue because air scatters short-wavelength light more than longer wavelengths. Since blue light is at the short wavelength end of the visible spectrum, it is more strongly scattered in the atmosphere than long wavelength red light. The result is that the human eye perceives blue when looking toward parts of the sky other than the sun.[1]

Can the sky look red?  Why on some days when we see a red sky, especially at sunrise and sunset?

Near sunrise and sunset, most of the light we see comes in nearly tangent to the Earth’s surface, so that the light’s path through the atmosphere is so long that much of the blue and even green light is scattered out, leaving the sun rays and the clouds it illuminates red. Therefore, when looking at the sunset and sunrise, you will see the color red more than any of the other colors.

If I were to base my reasoning on the above explanation, would I be convinced?  Would I think this is the truth? Or would this be my perception of the truth, as explained in wikipedia?  What is my “trust” level on wikipedia?  What is my trust on the fact that “blue light is at the short wavelength end of the visible spectrum, it is more strongly scattered in the atmosphere than long wavelength red light”.

If 100% of the people see the sky as blue, does it mean that the sky is blue?  How about those who are “color blinded”?  Do they see the same “blue” color as those who are not?  Do we all see the same color spectrum?  Are we born with vision seeing the light in “same” or “similar” ways?

So, how would I interpret these in Connectivism.  Would we be looking at connections as learning or at patterns similar to looking at the way we interpret why the sky is blue?

First, our conclusion that the sky is blue is based on our daily observation that the sky has ALWAYS been blue, and we are trying to explain such phenomenon using a scientific approach – that is based on “blue light is at the short wavelength end of the visible spectrum, it is more strongly scattered in the atmosphere than long wavelength red light” and that we have seen this nearly 100% of the time by majority of people (this needs qualification).  We have been taught by the “books” that sky is blue is a fact and cannot be disputed.  This is the theory part.

Second, our reasoning of the sky is blue could be validated if we are to construct an artificial sky within a laboratory, where we could simulate the light condition and see if we could see the light within such an artificial condition.  So, our conclusions are arrived based on actual data and evidence.  This is the experiment, and the experimental data.  Or the empirical results coming out of the experiment.

Third, we would need to replicate the observation and see if this is always true under all CIRCUMSTANCES in different parts of the world, and at different times.  This refers to further validation with more evidences. This also requires us to predict what will happen in future. Does this sky always blue hold true in all parts of the world, for the future, despite that it was observed in the past and present to be true?  Would most of us be saying an astounding yes?  May be this is the question.  How do we know that light is always having such properties (or spectrum)?  Have we checked whether the light properties have changed over time?  Think about relativity and you might like to ask whether we are so certain in answering that the spectrum of light hasn’t changed for the whole of human history.

I don’t know the answer, but I would like to know the answer.

So, what I would like to reflect is: If we were to use this the Sky is blue as a metaphor in looking into a learning theory or learning itself, are we looking at learning in a similar way to looking into the sky is blue in some respects?

I will pause at this stage to reflect on what it means when it is applied to Connectivism.

Are we looking at the connections (as learning), and the patterns (the knowledge as pattern recognition) in an ongoing basis? Can we “prove” our notions of knowledge using our senses, our scientific judgment or our intuition?  Are we looking and perceiving the theory using different senses (may be sensemaking, if we can claim), and way finding (based on scientists pointing out the way, other people telling us that it is true, or for us actually experimenting, reasoning and sharing and conversing with others before we make our conclusion, though we may need to follow the ways using different approaches)

This is an exciting journey for me, and I would like to continue with this.

Thanks to Stephen and George, and everyone in CritLit2010…

Postscript: Here in this lecture, there is an explanation of why the sky is blue.

Photo: From Flickr

#CritLit2010 Taxonomy and Connectivism

Mastery Learning is based on the most rigorous and systematic rejection of conventional beliefs concerning the reasons for variations in student performance – the work of Benjamin Bloom of the University of Chicago.  Like all major ideas, Bloom’s work builds on the efforts of others before him, and extends these into a new conceptual framework.

Here is my response to George’s posting on Connectivism Taxonomy

George, great to learn about this taxonomy.
Your taxonomy prompted me to reflect upon Bloom’s Hypothesis:
1. A normal person can learn anything that teachers can teach
2. Under favourable learning conditions the effects of individual differences will approach vanishing point, while under unfavourable learning conditions the effects of individual differences will be greatly exaggerated
3. Individual learning needs vary greatly
4. Uncorrected learning errors are responsible for most learning difficulties
Under Bloom’s model, instead of trying to bend the learner to suit the method of teaching, Bloom’s approach sees the task of educators being to tailor the teaching process to suit the learning needs of the individual.
Since I learnt the above model in 1985, I witnessed great changes in the learning approaches, and that most of the hypothesis set out by Bloom needed modification if we are to consider a similar behavioural approach in teaching in this digital age.
For instance, hypothesis 1 doesn’t fit the on-line learner, as any normal person can learn anything even without the teachers. In hypothesis 2, Bloom contends that the most important factors influencing learning in the individual child are the interactions that occur between the child and its parents on the one hand and between the child and the teaching process on the other. Again, such hypothesis is no longer true in an on-line environment where the emphasis is no longer just on the teaching process, and that the learner is not merely relying on the teaching process, rather the learner will consider his/her learning style in his learning(David Kobb’s learning style seems to be more useful in an on-line or connectivism approach).
Also an experiential approach is often preferred amongst adults in an on-line environment.
In your connectivism taxonomy – you have proposed a staged view of how learners encounter and explore learning in a networked/ecological manner (the taxonomy begins with the basic and moves to the more complex).
My comments are: As connectivism is operating in an open system model, would such a simple taxonomy approach be good enough? I am doubtful if learning could be viewed in a linear manner in a connective environment, and am unsure if one could describe a staged view of how learners and explore learning in a networked/ecological manner that reflects the reality?
Once we define such staged views of learners, we may have assumed that a learner is learning in distinct stages, and that we can measure competency in a discrete manner – i.e. there are units of competency, elements and performance criteria clearly articulated.
But if I reflect on the chaos and fuzzy dynamic environment any learner is facing nowadays, the reality is that competency of an on-line learner can no longer be based on those defined units of competency. It must include a fuzzy set of continuum variables which are attributes transcending beyond the semantics, or linguistics – this includes emotional elements (i.e. EQ – emotional control, self awareness, self confidence, motivation, social skills and interpersonal skills, social elements (social awareness, ethics, intellectual property awareness etc.) which are very difficult to define in terms of competency. Even if we can define all these emotional, social elements, there would be difficulties in drawing a map between all these dynamic factors or competencies, which could all change due to other factors such as culture, equity and learner’s access to technology.
In this respect, it would be imperative to develop hypothesis that are robust enough to take all those factors into consideration.
1. So what are the hypothesis behind this connectivism taxonomy?
2. Will such hypothesis be fluid or static? I would be interested to know if a further change in some of the technologies or learning environment would change the hypothesis.
3. Is a taxonomy good enough reflection of the staged views of learner.
4. Is such a taxonomy able to generalise under different learning circumstances?
In conclusion,
I am uncertain if a rigid taxonomy would be appropriate in building up a model on connectivism.
My suggestion:
I think a dynamic n-dimensional (or mxn matrix) model of taxonomy would be more appropriate and reflective of the reality. An adaptation of a Quality Function Deployment approach may be useful (ie. the voice of the learners on the left column and the enablers and process of learning on the row of a matrix): i.e. With a matrix of What versus How in the learning hierarchy/taxonomy. The “what” aspects would include What the learner’s needs are in a hierarchical form and the How’s aspects would include the teaching/learning process, the enablers such as the technologies (Web 2.0 etc.)the networks,and other important enablers of learning such as support, mentoring, etc.
3. This might also take the form of a network, though such network may be in the form of a mind map superimposed by the what and how aspects of learning.
I would be interested in conducting research in this area to further explore about the theory of connectivism. Please contact me if you think such an approach might be useful to you.

Looking forward to learn your views

I have since then done some searches through the web and blogs:

Here on Bloom’s Taxonomy with some suggested teaching/learning activities

Here is a post and another post on Bloom’s revised Taxonomy with diagrams

Matthias has made some very nice mind maps that help in structuring the Taxonomy of Connectivism.

Here are the figures from Matthias posting, hope he doesn’t mind me re-posting here:

From: Taxonomy of Connectivism

I have also prepared my mindmap about my learning with CCK08 knowledge of how people learn and my simple model of Critical Thinking

Steve has prepared a Taxonomy of Critical Literacies in his post here

I will see if I could come up with a mindmap on Critical Literacies & Connectivism combined Taxonomy.  But this would take me some time to conduct further research, based on summary of the findings of Critical Literacies and what Stephen has recommended.

I must admit that I still have a lot of “unknown” in this area of Critical Literacies and Connectivism.  It has taken me years (since 2008) to have just a glimpse of Connectivism, and I am still reflecting on the theory and its application.  I hope we could use some forms of collaboration in developing such mind maps on Connectivism Taxonomy.  This might be in a pbworks (wiki), Google document, or an actual mindmap site.

Though Steve has already started off with his consolidated one, I reckon it would be great to have a few models, like Matthias’ one, to consider.  Still thinking…..What do you suggest? How about an aggregation of all the works on this Connectivism and Critical Literacies Taxonomy Model?

We have also prepared a mind/concept map on Connectivism based on the research, but have never posted it as yet, as the papers won’t have space for the posting.  We may consider using that mindmap for further development of a Taxonomy or Model on Connectivism.

Postscript: In this Social OS and Collective Construction of Knowledge by Stephen March 08, 2010

Technology looks like language, but behaves more like architecture, a duality that may lead us to expect more its intervention than is warranted.

Does technology exhibit properties of language? With the introduction of  Web 2.0 technology – such as blogs, various gadgets could be added (RSS, text, calendar, links to Wordle, Maps etc.) to improve the design of the blog.   “Codes” would then allow  for the “language – syntax” be displayed.  Also statistical data could be used and analysed with the various tools available with the Blogs (in WordPress).  The blogger could then be able to interpret the language of statistics with the graphical tools provided.  This would help the blogger to manage the blog to suit his/her needs.  The blogger could also use the tool to control spams, decide who to respond to, and when and how he or she would like to respond to any postings or comments. Would technology be a mediator of the language in these case examples?

Technological literacy has much in common with its logical and linguistic counterpart, critical literacy.

Stephen has clearly differentiated technological literacy (Web 2.0 technical literacy – such as blogs, wikis, FB, Twitter, Flickr, Slideshare and Youtube creation, postings, and downloading, gadgets and manipulation of the tools, which are relates to some technical knowledge, application and skills in aggregation, use of RSS, Google Readers, Delicious, tagging and social bookmarking – concepts of folksonomy, netvibes or pageflakes, Google Documents, Amplify, Diigo,  ) from the Critical literacy here in CritLit2010 (where critical literacies include Cognition, Change, Pragmatics, Syntax, Context, and Semantics)

CCK08 & CCK09:

The intent is to help people not simply to learn about the tools, but to develop a capacity to work with the tools, to build a creative capacity, and hence not just technical knowledge but rather technological literacy.

#CritLit2010 On Conversation

I would like to reflect on this video on Conversation by Stephen Downes

Stephen shares his views on conversation and critical capacity, in particular:

How to live meaningfully?

– What is your purpose of life? What are your core values?

How to value yourself?

– as important

– as worthy of developing

– to learn to live meaningfully

On Critical Capacity

– How to express?

– How to understand and comprehend?

– How to reason?

– Understanding learning, creativity, science etc. and How to form the structure of a language?

– Conversation with the world, with others, with instructors

– These involve many new syntax, grammar, semantics, pragmatics

Having these skills to pursuit, comprehend and adapt to environment, and these forming the survival skills.

What do these mean to me in our conversation?

Here is a conversation that I have with Matthias on Contiguity and outboard brain :

You have got it spot on. I noted Stephen mentioned over here on slide 14 of Pedagogical Foundations for Personal Learning:
* Social knowledge is not personal knowledge
* Personal Knowledge Management = Learning
* Social Knowledge Management = Research
I also think Stephen is relating to knowledge as pattern recognition, but that he is now referring to such knowledge as a separate “entity” with knowledge at personal level being learning, while at a social level being research.

My question is: “how to distinguish between learning from research?” Can learning and research be integrated in my mind? When I develop PLE and reflect upon the conversation we have with others, then such “social learning” would form part of my personal learning, especially when I form a “mind map” linking the concepts shared and discussed with others through the conversation, and thus make sense of meaning emerged through the discourse over social media/space.

“Discussions about connectivism seem to diverge and break into two parts: One focussing on the complexity of the internal/ neural level, and the other one focussing on the personal/ external level (which is often misunderstood and simplified down to the idea that you don’t need to know anything once you know the “pipes” connecting to persons or resources who know” I am not that sure that is the case. I think we need to know something even if we know the pipes connecting to persons or resources, only that the emphasis is now on the pipes (connections)as the content (the information or “knowledge” ) that resides on the node could change, in respond to changing environment. This requires critical capacity to re-evaluate the content, the pipe (connection), to act and decide accordingly by making adjustments to decisions, in order to adapt and respond to changes.

Further reflection:

I think the personal learning would be looking at the outside world with a personal view (i.e. focussing on the complexity of the internal/neural level).  However, if I were to better understand the world views from a macroscopic view, then I would need to rely on crowdsourcing (Google, Yahoo, or Delicious search, social learning, “networked learning through communities of practice”.  These would provide me with a better representation of the external level of learning (i.e the research as cited by Stephen).  Connectivism could provide such connections, links and conversations, if we perceive these differences at different levels.

Are these the “world views” from a “community of practice points of views”?

In this Neuroscientists can predict your behavior better than you can

“In general, they are taking simple views of how different parts of the brain work and are saying it is important to turn a particular part of the brain on when advertising, and therefore you should do more of this or that,” Lieberman said. “For instance, they will say you want to activate the amygdala because that is the brain’s emotion center. Typically they are not looking at the relationship between what happens in the brain when someone is exposed to an advertisement and what actually are the outcomes that you care about. For example, do people change their behavior? Does someone spread the message to others? Instead, they are giving generic analysis, and my guess is that the vast majority of the advice they are giving is not accurate.

“To really understand the relationship between the brain’s responses to brands and persuasive materials and desirable outcomes, you actually have to measure the outcomes that are desirable and not just say what should work,” he said. “There are many folks claiming to be neuroscientists who have read a little introductory neuroscience, and that is not enough expertise. It’s almost infinitely more complicated than that.”

How would people change their behavior in social conversation?  Should we focus on neuroscience in order to better understand about “personal learning”?

We could more easily control our own personal learning (with PLE), as any such learning is referred to our “brain”, though we are trying to explain such learning based on connections of neurons, and thus networks when thinking and reflecting.

Finally, would the key to the above be Conversation: with others and myself (through thinking and reflection)?

Postscript: Refer to this representative student on sharing of simple and complex connectivism by Stephen Downes


#CritLit2010 Importance of social presence in online learning

In this paper on Examining social presence in online courses in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction by JC Richardson, K Swan, I was struck by the following implications:

These results have several implications:

1. Students reporting higher perceived social presence scores also perceived they learned more from the course than students with low perceived social presence scores. This indicates a relationship between social presence and perceived learning.

2. Students who were most satisfied with their instructors also believed they learned more from their courses than students who were less satisfied with their instructors. This indicates a relationship between instructor satisfaction and perceived learning.

3. Students with high overall social presence scores also indicated they were highly satisfied with their instructor. This implies that students’ perceptions of social presence were related to the perceptions of their instructors as having a satisfactory online presence in terms of amount of interaction and/or quality of that interaction.

They conclude:

“interaction among participants is critical in learning and cognitive development [31, 32]. Sociocognitive theorists describe learning as an interactive group process in which learners actively construct knowledge and then build upon that knowledge through the exchange of ideas with others [11, 30]. These theories combined with the findings of this study indicate that there is a “better” model for online courses. The model should not only present the information and materials to students but also incorporate the social aspects of learning in both the design and instruction of online courses.
The immediate implications of this research extend into the realms of both research and practice.”
My questions:
1. Is the physical or “virtual” presence of the instructor & students an essential element of learning in an online course?
2. Will the learners learn more with social presence?  How will social presence affect learners’ learning?
3. If learning is an interactive group process, then how would such a group form in an online course?  How important is group learning?
4. What happens if the group is based on a community of bloggers and/or twitters?  To what extent would learners be able to “construct knowledge” and then build upon that knowledge?
5. What happens to the lurkers?  How would lurkers (legitimate peripheral participants (LPP) be able to construct knowledge and then build upon that knowledge if there is little exchange of ideas with others? What learning strategies could be recommended for lurkers or LPP in an online course?
6. How will social media impact on student’s learning?
7. What would be the impact of PLE on student’s social presence?
8. What would be the role of instructor in an online course where PLE is adopted by students?  Instructors as aggregators? As curators? As sensemaker? As wayfinder?  ………