Are men and women different in expressing their opinions in social media?

Interesting to learn about the xMOOCs as reported by Mure on edX president predicts an online learning transformation – as evisioned by Professor Agnant Agarwal.

This is what we have found in “our” research: The research highlighted a difference between men and women in terms of their communication styles and preferences. Women tended to look for similarities or commonalities (i.e., in issues of language) that could become a source of bonding. In contrast, some men had a tendency to practice one-upmanship, in the sense of trying to keep one step ahead of other participants as competitors. Men were more task-oriented in their use of language, while women put more emphasis on socioemotional dimensions. (Kop, Fournier & Mak, 2011)

As Mary suggested: “Hard on problem, soft on people”.

There are now so many “opinion” & “marketing” pieces in media that many of us (including me) seem to be prophesizing with or without much evidences.  There are certain truths embedded in each claim : technology surely would enhance education and learning.

My questions are:

1. “How do we know we could transform the world of education with online education?”

2. “What is the theory behind such prediction?”

3. “Is the theory of disruptive innovation as proposed by Clayton Christensen predicting what we are experiencing?”

4. “Who have influenced the MOOC movement?”

Whilst I would anticipate that there would be a diversity of opinions on the above questions, I could only explain that we are now likely influenced by the “opinion pieces” in the major media, where the “super-star” professors and those in power in the media would likely be able to “convince” us well beforehand what would be a transformation of education.

Did we predict that in 2008?

I have great respects on many of the pioneers in xMOOCs – Agnant Agarwal, Andrew Ng, Daphne Koller, so please take these as questions, not as a way to dilute their assertions.

I also believe that men are more task – oriented, in that males are more than happy to “forge” their views and opinions than women.  Take a look at most of the news and media posts in most Higher Ed..  How many strong opinion pieces are written by males compared to females?  Male bloggers tend to include lots of evidences (despite that they are all re-mixed, re-purposed views and opinions) in their posts, but they are practically having the same message – a proponent or opponent of MOOCs.  On the other hand, female authors and bloggers are generally more careful in crafting their views and sharing them in blogs or major media.  They tend to hit the soioemotional dimensions, with a light touch on people, but great in rhetorical presentations.

I know this may be overly generalized, but it seems to be reflective of reality, as I have observed that in the decades of teaching and learning, and that throughout the MOOCs since 2008.  What do you think?


Transformation of Higher Education – Why is it so hard?

Is transformation of Higher Education possible?  My reflections:

Relating to the ideas on transformation of  Higher Education with improved teaching and education reform as discussed in this article, I reckon this is similar to the adoption of a connectivist approach in Higher Education.  There are still long roads to cross, due to the enculturated values of teaching and research that have been embraced by both professors and administrators for decades.  Besides there are demands of stability under an education system in Higher Education, it would be difficult to transform Higher Education without changing the pedagogy.  Transformation of Higher Education through improved teaching requires a review of the pedagogy adopted in HE.  I would reflect on this important aspect in another post relating to MOOCs.

Carl envisions and demands better teaching, with push backs from other academics due to challenge of traditional values and cultures that have been in the education system for decades.  I think many professors do know what could be done to improve & innovate teaching.  Higher Education values research over teaching, and that wouldn’t be changing as research “creates” & generate new knowledge, whilst teaching would at best transmit knowledge, as generally perceived by professors and students.

For those very smart & talented students, wouldn’t they just need minimum guidance and would then excel as Carl has cited in the article, under an apprenticeship model, with graduates?  For under-graduate students, only the top and talented students would learn most effectively with such model, as they are self-motivated and regulated.

For most other students, there are still needs for close support and mentoring, that are obviously absent if the only way to learn is the 50 min mass lecture method.

If I were to ask Carl: Is your Nobel Prize based on research or teaching?  If the answer is teaching, then would professors be considering how to improve teaching in a deeper way?

Besides, all PhD and Doctorate programs are still focusing on research as a principal means to gauge and evaluate a persons’ achievement in scholastic and research in the field.  How would we expect  professors to spend time in “teaching” their students when such PhD students are already good enough to learn with technology and network affordance?

But would this be an over-simplification of what teaching of under-graduate programs are all about?  Teaching concepts or correcting misunderstood or incorrect concepts in science is important.  However, would the use of MC and T/F or short answer questions be good enough to inculcate the values and applications of science in real life?

Some students would still prefer lecture method, and so many professors would continue to do so (and I think I would practice it too), as any negative comments or feedback from students would only lead to professors adopting more teacher-centered approach, when they are reminded that these are what the students want – to know the answers to the examination, tests, quizzes and assignments straight away, instead of spending time exploring themselves.

Some students are uncomfortable with this approach—even if it’s more effective. “I remember getting an evaluation from one
[UCSD] student who had just finished my course,” says Simon, a pioneer in the use of peer instruction within her field. “I loved
it. It read, ‘I just wish she’d have lectured. Instead, I had to learn the material myself.’ ” See above article.

Numerous researches have hinted that students want simple and effective means of learning, not complicated or complex tasks which are both time-consuming and difficult to perform.  That is the reality and challenge that most educators and professors are facing Higher Education.  Isn’t it?

The old motto: “Tell them what you want to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you have told them” have now been “transformed” into various formats of video lectures (both mass video lectures and short video lectures with quizzes – like those on Youtube), teaching posts or artifacts, or a combination of face-to-face lectures with online tutorials/quizzes – MC, T/F, and short answer questions, or peer assessments, or eportfolios.

#Change11 #CCK12 Leadership in Networks Part 2

Here is a follow up of my post on Emotional Intelligence and Leadership.  I would like to create more posts on it, as it deserves more reflections on how those concepts are applied in different contexts, and how the theories evolve over different periods of time.

The authoritarian approach seems to be highly applicable in the early half of the 20th century, followed by the democratization and a more people centred supportive approach towards leading in a team setting in the 1970s till 2000s. The Theory X, Y and then Z seems to provide a good set of assumptions about human behavior, and thus leadership styles that are appropriate in matching those assumptions. There seems to be a trend, in that there are still a traditional belief that human are inherently behaving as depicted in Theory X, that is they dislike work, and are motivated only by incentives or money, and need to be disciplined and coerced to follow the directions laid out by the leaders.

I think there are still many questions and assumptions about leadership, especially in an online and network environment, where such leadership is different from that of organisational leadership significantly. For, instance, how would power and influence be exercised in networks, when there is no “formal authority” and “roles and responsibility” associated with “leaders” and “followers”? Also, would network leaders be able to “direct” others who are their fellow weak ties? I think evolutionary leadership could be interesting to observe and analyse under the existing era and climate, where formal and informal leadership meets in networks, and where leadership might be defined in very different ways when the power, status and influence are distributed, and that leaders might need to practice as servant leaders (under servant leadership, as shared  here and here) and negotiate in order to exercise their influence in the networks.

Here I have also reflected on leadership and the principles involved in it.

In this transformational versus servant leadership:

“The transformational leader’s focus is directed toward the organization, and his or her behavior builds follower commitment toward organizational objectives, while the servant leader’s  focus is on the followers, and the achievement of organizational objectives is a subordinate outcome.  The extent to which the leader is able to shift the primary focus of leadership from the organization to the follower is the distinguishing factor in classifying leaders as either transformational or servant leaders.”

Leadership is then an emergent practice where cooperation and collaboration are shared among the peers, leading the network forward in achieving the goals or vision, rather than a “leader’s” practice in the networks. This is where every one would become a leader, when practising his or her PLE/PLN in learning alone or with others.

#Change11 Change, Change Management and Transformation

I love this post on Change Management:

Change is endemic in the education sector. The pressures for change come from all sides: globalisation, government initiatives, doing more with less, improving the quality of student learning and the learning experience, and the pace of change is ever increasing. Living with change and managing change is an essential skill for all.

Change Management

What does change involve?

Change usually involves three aspects; people, processes and culture as shown in the following figure:

People: How would people be impacted due to changes? Are people responding to changes nowadays somewhat different from that in the past decades? What might have been changed in the behavior and cognition amongst people, that may be reflective of the learning in networks and communities?

Here Inge de Waard in her Explore a New Learning Frontier – MOOCs mentioned how people learns in a MOOC.  How did people change throughout the MOOCs?  Here is my reflection in a previous post.  This is an interesting topic of research, and I would like to explore in Change11.

What sort of literacies and skills are required to respond to changes at this era?

In this participatory culture, new literacies all involve social skills, developed through collaboration and networking.

The new skills include: play, performance, simulation, appropriation, multi-tasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia navigation, networking, and negotiation.

See this and this on the debates on required media literacy, rather than mere content expertise. How to facilitate new media literacies?

In this Social OS and collective construction of knowledge, Stephen writes:

Dolors Reig writes that one of the most important tasks of educators is to extend and enlarge participation in new media and in these online communities. [23] Students need to access the basic skills required to use technology, and to take advantage of online services to extend their participation into the wider community. New technologies allow them to reach into these networks independently of any institutional constraints. And they create the possibility of new forms of participation – of blogs and Twitter posts, for example – beyond the more traditional modes of conference presentations and academic papers.

But if meaningful change is to be enabled, if the premise of participation is to be realized, then it will be necessary to extend practice beyond the traditional reach of institutions and community networks.

To manage change within institutions and among people, both educators and students do require analysis and planning as shown in the Change Management diagram above.


(a) Technology and social media – Is technology the perfect solution to education? No?  It seems that technology alone won’t provide improvements in the score of tests and examination.  You need people – teachers and social support.

(b) Pedagogy, teaching and facilitation – This involves a change in the sort of teaching and learning theories and strategies in managing change.

(c) Development of Personal Learning Environment and Personal Learning Networks


Culture involves both the explicit way of working – the formal systems and processes in place and how they operate, and the tacit level of operation – the informal and semi-formal networks and other activities that people employ to get things done and by-pass, subvert or seek or influence the more formal processes (Change Management).

How would culture effect changes?  What are some of the cultural changes in societies? The world views of rich societies differ markedly from those of poor societies.  This does not imply cultural convergence, but it does predict the general direction of cultural changes.  More than ever, the world is brought closer together through the internet, social media and web connections. However, as each community and network’s culture is unique, I suppose a multi-cultural global network has a diverse culture, where its local and global digital citizen would dwell as visitors and residents. I think changes among people are based on their cultural attitudes, technological beliefs and personal habits.

Why Changes?

This post by Stephen on refuting every points by Doug on Divergent Thinking, Constructivism and Dentistry well illustrates the need of changes, in respond to changing ecology, societal and professional  or academic requirements, and a need to think and reflect what all those changes mean to individuals, communities and networks.

How do you see changes?

I see changes as part of my life.  Sometimes the challenges that change in life could be both constructive and disruptive.  On the positive side, changes in education would sharpen my focus on the purpose, content and process (which is indeed fundamental in education). On the negative side, changes in education may lead to feelings of apprehension, discomfort, and a loss of control.  These have been reflected in various writers about how education and social media has changed their lives and interests.  I am particular impressed with those change of interests shared by Stephen Downes.

Transformative Learning

In this Transformative Learning in Adulthood by Susan Imel, transformative learning occurs when individuals change their frames of reference by critically reflecting on their assumptions and beliefs and consciously making and implementing plans that bring new ways of defining their world (MEZIROW 1997).

A view of tranformative learning as an “intuitive, creative and emotional process” is beginning to emerge (Gralov 1997, p90).

Both the rational and the affective play a role in transformative learning, especially in networked learning.  Teachers also need to consider who they can help students connect the rational and the affective by using feelings and emotions both in critical reflection and as a means of reflection (Taylor 1998). This form of reflection is now used in blogging and network conversations.

#CCK11 #PLENK2010 Transformational learning

It’s an interesting read on nuts-and-bolts-from-classroom-to-online-think-transform-not-transfer – Think Transform not Transfer 

Stephen posted here with his comments:

You are helping students become something, not acquire something. Sadly, that wasn’t the point of this article. This “nuts and bolts” missed the most practical advice of all!

Hi Stephen,
I agree with your views that transforming the students to become a more autonomous learner is much better than transferring information. Often, educators were using strategies such as that proposed by the author of the article: “a good instructor brings to the classroom, such as responsiveness, a sense of humor, interesting stories and examples, and immediate feedback”. However, this would only address “good teaching”, and have made numerous assumptions about learning, in that learners are the receptors, ready to be fed with those interesting stories, and receiving feedback from the teachers.

How about learning in the online classroom? Are the teachers also learning? Would such practice help the learners to learn outside their online classrooms, in the communities, amongst networks etc.? What is a more learner-centred approach towards learning, apart from teaching?
@jkunrein, “Sadly, in the world of corporate elearning (which is, after all, the Guild’s main audience), “just” transferring knowledge would be a vast improvement for a large percentage of courses.” Isn’t this similar to feeding the learners with fishes, like what the fisherman normally does? Teachers as fisherman should be providing a space, or showing people with spaces to fish and supporting them so the learners know where and how to fish, and thus won’t have to rely forever on the fisherman (the teacher) to provide them with the fishes. “the transformation she’s suggesting is in the service of more effective elearning, and her advice to that end is solid and practical.” May be if the transformation is based on the learners’ needs in the long run, then we need to consider what transformation really means, rather than just the mere transfer of “knowledge” or the acquisition of “knowledge and skills”.

The elearning world can never suffer from too much improvement”. Why not? Have we been using innovative approaches such as PLE to improve the elearning world? Have we improved together with our learners?  Our current researches indicate that Web 2.0 practices and PLE/PLN are all leading to great advances in elearning, on top of the fixed schedule, teacher instructed online classroom session where students are mostly reactive rather than active in the participation, if it is based on teachers telling their stories (the typical lecture). We may please our customers (learners) by giving them lots of fishes, but my experience for the last two decades with corporate world (training) is that our learners might be much better off if they could share their great learning by teaching each others, rather than being a passive learner sitting in an online class only.
I will share our latest research in MOOC which fully validates what Stephen has said.
Thanks Stephen for relating to a stimulating article, and your great insights.