#Change11 The challenges of technology on education system and the wicked problems

Here is my response to Bonnie’s comments on my previous post.

Thanks Bonnie for your insights. Yes: “we seem both more connected and fractured, to me, at a global society level, than we know how to deal with.”

The more connected people are, the more complex the relationship becomes. The learning that emerged from connective knowledge sharing and collective knowledge from networks challenges the status quo of the prescriptive and canonical knowledge structure once hailed as the only few routes towards the development of knowledge workers and knowledge nation. This seems unforgiving to a knowledge management framework and infra-structure where knowledge is known, and problems could be solved using a linear or systematic process.  Such education system and canonized  knowledge has heavily been exploited and valued as a commodity in a commercialized world of institutions.

The education system that we once cherished has been founded on an economic funding model, based on mass education, cost effectiveness and education efficiency for the particular nation, where a centralized education system is valued and mandated, and accreditation of education would only be granted if the course and curriculum are quality assured.  The current paper on Quality Assurance in Asian Distance Education: Diverse Approaches and Common Culture well illustrates the importance of quality assurance relating to distance education in those countries.

Now these paradoxes surfaced out of the education system posted new questions and challenges relating to (a) the values of traditional testing of knowledge based on rote learning, (b) the adequacy of grouping students, subjects against fixed curriculum, (c) the impact of new technology and social media on the nature and structure of formal education – in particular Higher Education, (d) the authenticity of learning at school with a curriculum based on content knowledge, with subject structure of – language and literacy, numeracy and mathematics, science, and information technology, arts and religion etc. (e) the need for new media literacies and their application in our daily life, or that in study or at work, in response to the changing needs and expectations from all those concerned – including employers, colleagues, customers, educators and peers, (f) the development of metacognitve, critical thinking and sensemaking skills that are often required to solve complicated and complex problems, individually and collectively, with technology as an affordance.

So, what might have led to these paradoxes?  What causes the problems and challenges?

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 – the forces of fragmentation could be the forces that challenge collective intelligence, not only in groups in organisation, but also in networks.  Compare this with the typical problem solving approach as outlined here.

“Fragmentation suggests a condition in which the people involved see themselves as more separate than united, and in which information and knowledge are chaotic and scattered.  The fragmented pieces are, in essence, the perspectives, understandings, and intentions of the collaborators. Fragmentation, for example, is when the stakeholders in a project are all convinced that their version of the problem is correct.  Fragmentation can be hidden, as when stakeholders don’t even realize that there are incompatible tacit assumptions about the problem, and each believes that his or her understandings are complete and shared by all.”

The antidote to fragmentation is shared understanding and commitment. In the case of networked and collective learning, it also requires forms of curation and aggregation – both on the fragmented resources collected and conversation held all over the places, in order to make sense, and to form a more coherent response to the problem statement.  This would then be shared through further conversation, by redefining the problem, analyzing the data, developing alternative options and solutions, followed by implementation of solutions.  The use of wikis and google documents are typical examples to illustrate the crowdsourcing solutions to such problems.

“Social complexity makes wicked problems even more wicked, raising the bar of collaborative success higher than ever.

Because of social complexity, solving a wicked problem is fundamentally a social process.  Having a few brilliant people or the latest project management technology is no longer sufficient.”

I have reflected on the problems and some possible options and solutions relating to the design and implementation of MOOC here and here.

What sort of wicked problems are associated with

(a) connective knowledge and collective learning,

(b) distance education,

(c) online learning?


Wicked Problems http://www.accelinnova.com/docs/wickedproblems.pdf

Research, Wave Theory and Curiosity

I would explore and reflect on Research, Wave Theory and Curiosity in this post.


I have changed my way of doing research through my blog posts: quite a bit.  I trust that we could experiment with blog-post followed by peer & community review approach in doing research.  I have been thinking about narrative and case study researches instead of mere surveys.  This would ensure the theory model building is based on mixed research methods, and grounded on application-theory combination – grounded theory.

Wave Theory

I have been thinking knowledge and learning along the lines of wave theory – i.e. learning as waves – resulting from the neuron-connection, that waveform as shown on the fMRI scan denotes the knowledge pattern and wave propagation as a learning both at a micro and macro -level.  Here, the concept of fractals could be useful to denote the propagation of knowledge growth.  Complexity Theory and Chaos Theory – where emergent learning arises could be explained when different waveform meet, causing interference patterns (either constructive or destructive interference – similar to the amplification and dampening action as in self-organizing networks), and different types of waves would be formed upon interaction.

I haven’t shared any of the above ideas to any one yet, as I started to think right now except the one here.  It didn’t resonate with anybody else.  Has anyone explored about these?

Wonders of Nature

Video that may be of interest

My curiosity

My wild questions on assumptions pop up about nature of everything, relating to the interconnected nature of science, where one wave sets up the changes (a ripple stirs up another set of waves, like the butterfly effect).  We speak and hear – through sound waves, we see through light (light waves), we sense through touches – sensory “waves” – muscles contract and extend, we breathe and smell through air (air in the form of wave), we think with brain wave, we send signals through electromagnetic waves.  Even earthquake, air turbulence, typhoon, hurricane, tsunami and black holes are the results of huge waves, some visible, some invisible!

Photos: Wikipedia Butterfly Effect

Would wave be a way of connection?

I wrote these before realizing the video on Curiosity, wonderfully crafted below, with narratives of Feynman.

Postscript: I just found this video about Waves, narrated by Feynman.  What a coincidence of the concepts behind!

I found this video useful in explaining about Waves in Brain

What does it mean to cooperate and or collaborate in #Change11 MOOC?

Thanks Frances for bringing this to the table through her post on Orienting to MOOC. Glad also to learn about Jeffrey, Jenny, Matthias, Markuos and Heli’s views.  Stephen mentions in comments here:

MOOCs and the connectivist approach to learning, as I have argued elsewhere, is by contrast ‘cooperative’. There is no presumption of unity, order, shared goals or coherence. There’s no sense of being ‘in the group’ or its opposite. If teams or groups form, they are tangential to the course, and not the core or essence of it.

So, if you are discussing ‘Collaborative Open Online Learning’, you are not discussing MOOCs. Perhaps you are discussing things like WikiEducator or OERu, where everybody is pulling the same way. I don’t know.

Stephen has also elaborated on collaboration and cooperation here. I had composed a response post here.

Collaboration versus cooperation is nuanced to me.  I could see the difference between the two, especially when learning through MOOC and with others, when “we” actively converse with each others through different channels in MOOC.  It seems that some participants were cooperating for most of the time, though a few participants might collaborate in small groups or teams to work on specific tasks – on research, or wiki, or the MOOCast.  It is therefore important to distinguish between individual learning, networked learning and group learning, as a way of learning over the internet and webs.  The table here – From Cooperation to Collaboration summarizes it well.

There have been tensions in between group and teams learning requiring collaborative participation and individuals learning in a network based principally on PLN/PLE, as revealed in many researches throughout the past, mainly because of the perception of collaborative participation in an online education, where there were also differences in the team’s goals and individual learner’s goals:

“Some of the darker sides of collaborative participation which in its extreme manifestations can be experienced as normative and, we suggest, as a form of tyranny of the dominant and which instead of having a liberating effect, reinforces a form of oppression and control.”

In the case of MOOC networked learning, as pointed out by Clay Shirky here: “Not everyone can participate in every conversation.  Not everyone gets to be heard.” This also relates to the power associated with networks, where power distribution is often uneven, often following a long tail phenomena, even if it is under a small group learning in the networks.

Photo: Google?

These were also reflected throughout the CCKs and MOOCs, where individuals set their own paths of learning using networks, without necessarily sharing any unity, order, or shared goals, within those networks or organizations.  Bloggers just focused on self-reflecting using their blogs and sharing through their PLN (Twitter) or aggregating or curating their collectives (Delicious, Scoop.it or Paper.li, Google Reader) etc.  Learning through such thinking it ALOUD, with reflexive learning is more common to the participation of forum discussion and sharing in the more recent MOOCs.  So, does it reflect the cooperative rather than the collaborative nature of networked learning?

Some participants of MOOC viewed MOOC as a collaborative platform where Cathy says: “This course will allow us the opportunity to collaborate together and experience first hand this new way to learn.”  There may still be many interpretations about the diverse nature of networked learning, based on MOOC experience.

When it comes to changes in formal and informal learning, we may need to think about the pedagogy involved, where there may also be a shift from collaborative learning in institutions to cooperative learning in networks.  There may also be a shift from cooperative learning in networks to collaborative learning in institutions when MOOC is formally institutionalized and accreditated in institutions.  Does it address the difference between cooperation and collaboration learning in the networks/groups?


Brian Christens & Paul W. Speer.  Tyranny/ Transformation: Power and Paradox in Participatory Development

Debra Ferreday and Vivien Hodgson. The Tyranny of Participation and Collaboration in Networked Learning



Self-directed or network-directed learning?

“learners need to be network-directed, not self-directed learners.” George posted

Why can’t learners be self-directed? Self-directed learners could rely on networks to learn, however, they must also need to make their own decisions on learning, based on critical thinking and reflection. In other words, self-directed learners could also be network directed learners.  I would argue that both network directed learning and self-directed learning are equally important, in order to learn effectively.  This also ensures a balance between networked learning and personal autonomy, so the learner could grow and develop, in a networked learning environment and global learning ecology.  Based on Self-determination theory, autonomy, relatedness and competency will be important factors in motivation.  Options and choice is important for individuals in networked learning.  Professionals could learn and network effectively in networks and teams as they have already possessed the adequate literacy and skills needed, and are motivated to share because that is part of their profession.

Networked Learning with personal autonomy

Here is my response to Leahgrrl, CCK11: Institutional and/versus networked learning
A wonderful reflection. I particularly like her approach of “cracking” the myths about networked learning within an institutional setting, where we might have experienced at schools, colleges or universities, in assuming that the monoliths based on the great “writings and teachings’ would give us the panacea to any “wicked problems”. She pointed out a few challenges about how one could find his/her way to peep, or to participate and engage in networks, and the risk of possibility of ridicule, rejection, mockery and a sense of being indifferent. Isn’t that the reality when immersed in a network of “unknown” nodes? What differentiate such networked learning (in MOOC) from institutions seem to be that there are many variables and uncertainties that are not easily “controlled” by even the institutions, facilitators, experts or the communities, and so the learning would likely be in the hands of the participants, in where they would like to direct their way to go.

Is it liberating for the learners, in learning using the tools and resources over the webs and internet, that lies outside the control of institution? May be some would find the learning experience thought provoking, stimulating and highly rewarding, whilst others might find it intimidating, and hesitate on the worthiness of socialising and connecting based on discursive learning, especially when people have been so accustomed to the structured mode of learning.

But then, there is the challenge of credentials, accreditation, when it comes to certification of the learning achieved within such mode of learning. So, why would people go for such pathway of learning even when it is not accredited as in institutions? “I did it my way” may be what motivates people to learn, and so it goes back to personal autonomy. And you have done it in your fantastic way….

Thanks for such great sharing.


#CCK11 Research articles on Connectivism

Refer to This Special Issue – Connectivism : Design and Delivery of Social Networked Learning

Research Articles

Interconnecting networks of practice for professional learning HTML PDF MP3 EPUB
Julie Mackey, Terry Evans 1-18
The challenges to connectivist learning on open online networks: Learning experiences during a massive open online course HTML PDF MP3 EPUB
Rita Kop 19-38
Emergent learning and learning ecologies in Web 2.0 HTML PDF MP3 EPUB
Roy Williams, Regina Karousou, Jenny Mackness 39-59
EduCamp Colombia: Social networked learning for teacher training HTML PDF MP3 EPUB
Diego Ernesto Leal Fonseca 60-79
Three generations of distance education pedagogy HTML PDF MP3 EPUB
Terry Anderson, Jon Dron 80-97
Connectivism: Its place in theory-informed research and innovation in technology-enabled learning HTML PDF MP3 EPUB
Frances Bell 98-118
Frameworks for understanding the nature of interactions, networking, and community in a social networking site for academic practice HTML PDF MP3 EPUB
Grainne Conole, Rebecca Galley, Juliette Culver 119-138
Dialogue and connectivism: A new approach to understanding and promoting dialogue-rich networked learning HTML PDF MP3 EPUB
Andrew Ravenscroft 139-160
Proposing an integrated research framework for connectivism: Utilising theoretical synergies HTML PDF MP3 EPUB
Bopelo Boitshwarelo 161-179

CCK11 Connectivism – perspective and reflection

This is my response to questions posted by Thomas here.  Thanks again for his great questions.

1. Is connectivism only for the benefit of an autonomous, self-directed learner, like you and me?

Connectivism could benefit not only autonomous, self-directed learners, but also all other learners who would like to develop higher order learning skills in their life-long learning journeys. There are lots of assumptions here, and so I don’t think we could easily identify the learners who would benefit most with connectivism. This depends on learners’ prior experience, their learning habits, their perceptions of learning with technology and media, and their motivation. As most adult learners could be confused by the complexity of learning whilst immersed in learning networks (internet and webs), especially if they are exposed to such learning environment as “novice”, some would doubt about their perceived “digital migrant” status, and may withdraw from learning. There may be more “unlearning” required for such learners before they could overcome the lack of confidence in learning.  Besides, a feeling of lack of security, language barriers, and insufficient information, technology and social skills, and a lack of or poor access to technology could deter learners from learning under such a digital learning environment.  So, connectivism may be more suitable for (technology) innovators and early adopters at this stage.

2. How could a teacher get students, who learn because they have to, because they are going to be tested and thus have to know certain information, and thus, understandably, lack intrinsic motivation to learn?

It is very difficult for teachers to motivate students to learn, especially if the students are lacking the “intrinsic motivation”. However, teachers could create a learning environment that is conducive to learning, as I have shared here, through interaction with students, or encouraging and supporting students in their learning journey. Could we do away the testing and still be able to assess if students are able to demonstrate their capability or capacity in “knowing certain information”? How about negotiating with students so they could develop their skills – with learning by doing? How about assessment projects (like eportfolios, or problem based learning) which could cater for their needs? Other methods could include the development of artifacts (videos, podcasts, slideshows, blog posts, wikis, games) which may help them to consolidate their learning in a progressive manner (the formative assessment). The use of interviews with experts, knowledgeable others, or professionals of a domain would enable the learners to reach out to the outside world, so they could understand the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for certain jobs or careers. The adoption of PLE (Personal Learning Environment) would stimulate the learners to take responsibility of their own learning. So, what could a teacher do? A lot? Would this depend on the learners’ needs, and support required? As a teacher, it is important to realize when intervention is required, and when it is not necessary. There is a saying: “If we try to teach the students too much without understanding their needs, we are “taking” away their learning opportunities” Would it be better to allow the students to make their choices in their learning journey, so they could be “motivated to learn”? Would it depend on what they need and what support and advice would benefit the student most?

3. Would you say that connectivistic learning is powerful enough to overcome the inertia and lethargy common to most students in our schools and universities?

Connectivist learning is one of the learning strategies (and philosophy) and as shared in (2) above, it depends on the students and learning environment and system. My experience is that if we are just to add those PLE/N into the current system (i.e. still relying on lecturing, testing of students using the traditional means), then most students would only sense such connectivist learning as an additional “component” to their often “congested” learning curriculum. Besides, for those students who have been so adapted to the traditional lecturing approach, they would hesitate if such learning would benefit them that much, as the development of PLE/N could involve a lot of hard work, as well as the perception that it’s the duty and responsibility of the teacher as the principal source of information (i.e. to teach), or that the teacher as the only curator, to provide them with all the necessary resources required to learn. How would we be able to convince students to take the initiative in developing their own learning? This could be a huge challenge for any educator. Also, good teaching is good teaching (which could include all those elements that I shared in (2) above), rather than the delivering of a fixed time lesson or lecture followed by a test or examination only.

I don’t think I could conclude that connectivist learning is powerful enough to overcome the inertia and lethargy as you mentioned, but surely it provides an option to both educator and learner to consider in schools and universities. We are still at an experimental stage in the adoption of such networked learning strategy in formal education, and more evidences (case studies on the adoption of PLE/N and Connectivism) are required to justify the claims of its added value to learning, education and the education system.

What are your perspective on the above questions?