#PLENK2010 Connectivism & PLENK- my interpretation

This is a response to Mary on my previous post on transformative learning.  I think I would like to share it here, where I would elaborate on my interpretation of the theory of connectivism and how it relates to PLENK.

Thanks for your wonderful sharing.
We all learn differently, due to many factors, as you mentioned. So when it comes to learning on the web & internet, we may have used different strategies that are based on our capacity, skills and experience – critical literacies etc.
1. Do a full understanding of PLENK theory and practice necessary?
2. Does a full understanding of PLENK in theory and practice require “transformative learning” (as asked by Carmen)

There are two questions here: For Q1, what is involved in PLENK theory and practice? I don’t think we have come up with an agreed PLENK theory as yet. There are PLENK practice which are all based on idiosyncrasy and again there are only general principles which are found to be useful if followed. I think we have been discussing and critiquing on the constructivist (VLE) and connectivist approaches (PLE) and it would take another post for further sharing.

Q2. Relating to transformational learning theory:
This theory has two kinds of learning that is involved with it. Those learning theories are instrumental learning and communicative learning. With instrumental learning is focuses on “learning through task-oriented problem solving and determination of cause and effect relationships” (Taylor, E. W., 1998, 5). With communicative learning it is involved with how others communicate their feelings, needs and desires with another person.

So, I think it pretty covers part of the learning of tools (PLE/N or the Web 2.0) with instrumental learning. Also, it addresses the communicative learning that are often associated with how we learn through understanding of our own feelings (internal reflection) and others (reflection with others via sharing, participation and engagement in activities or conversation)
I could argue that we don’t necessarily need too much theory to formulate such learning, but it may be good to reflect on the significance of these learning on our growth. Similarly, when we adopt a connectivist approach, what we might have done is to use a new and emergent kind of vocabulary, a more complex system (i.e. Complex Adaptive System) approach in understanding our learning more holistically.
I would think we need an ontological learning with some details extracted from excerpts:

“An ontology provide a shared vocabulary, which can be used to model a domain, that is, the type of objects and/or concepts that exist, and their properties and relations.
While a conceptual schema defines relations on Data, an ontology defines terms which with to represent Knowledge. For present purposes, one can think of Data as that expressible in ground atomic facts and Knowledge as that expressible in logical sentences with existentially and universally quantified variables. An ontology defines the vocabulary used to compose complex expressions such as those used to describe resource constraints in a planning problem. From a finite, well-defined vocabulary one can compose a large number of coherent sentences. That is one reason why vocabulary, rather than form, is the focus of specifications of ontological commitments.”

I think what we may need is a totally new and novel way to understand knowledge (the tacit knowledge) in particular when we are immersed in the networks using PLE/N.
From the research we (Jenny, Roy and I) have conducted, we found that people do have a preference in learning style, and it could be quite complicated. The learning style pattern for the CCK08 in order of preference is: 1. reflector, 2. pragmatist, 3. theorist, & 4. activist. The implication is that people may be employing various combination of the preferred style of learning under different circumstances, with different strategies. As learners go through their learning journey, some may prefer to try the tools first, before coming to understanding the underpinning theory behind, whilst others may prefer to study the principles behind those use of tools, before trying them.
So, there is no one golden rule for doing the PLE/N, as it is all based on personal preference, and situation.
This also lead me to ask: if we wish to learn the advanced theories relating to education and learning, could we do so with open, online learning? My question was based on that we have all assumed that people have gone through the various stages of learning, and that they have good mastery of the instrumental learning (use of tools) and communicative learning (how to communicate effectively using those tools), and thus could move on to ontological learning. But is this assumption right?
So the challenge could be: For academic discourse, to what extent would people be able to engage at a “deep learning” level with the use of blogs and forums? Also, what motivates people to engage at such levels? What are the conditions upon which such discourse would happen? What levels of critical reflection will occur in blog/forum?

In a post by Elmine Wijnia (Communigations) (http://elmine.wijnia.com/weblog/archives/001298.html) she posted: Weblog serves as a communication hub
“I’ve been thinking about whether weblogs can be a medium for discourse. .. Habermas makes a distinction within communicative action, between conversation and discourse. I figured that no single medium can offer a platform for discourse, so weblogs as a sole medium can’t be seen as discourse. Rather, weblogs are a very good starting point for discourse. The weblog can serve as a filter for getting to know people who are interested in the same things. Through weblogs one can have conversations with ‘self’ and (preferably) others. These conversations can transcend into discourse when people start using multiple communication tools simultaneously (VoIP, chat, forum, e-mail, wiki, webcam etc.) ” “Combining different media is the strength and the weblog serves as a communication hub”
To me, that sounds like the communicative and instrumental learning based on the PLE/N, and if there are further ontological learning happening, based on the connectivist approach, then that would be the connectivist approach towards learning and knowledge in action.
Also, the reason why it is so difficult to fully understand connectivism might be based on the fact it addresses the three levels in an integrative manner – neuro (neuroscience approach), conceptual (cognitive approach) and social and external (social learning approach with complexity theory and various social learning theories integrated). This is similar to viewing 3 D pictures where the images of 3D are all overlapping, and you need to put on 3D glasses (technology, agents, TV, tools) in order to view them properly. Besides, you need to interpret the 3D movies based on the emergent properties, as each 3D patterns may be different when shown, due to the complexity nature of the environment and 3D glasses one puts on.
For your question “What is the difference between a truism and a maxim?”
I will try to address that in another comment.
John

#PLENK2010 Institutional Learning versus Personal Learning

Here is an interesting post by Rita contrasting institutional learning from personal learning environment

Rita says:

“My research highlighted the importance of communication in learning to create a high level of social ‘presence’.  An LMS/VLE is problematic in facilitating this.”

I do see this pattern recurring in MOOC since CCK08, 09, EdFuture, CritLit2010 and here PLENK2010. How did this occur? Wasn’t it inherent in the design of a MOOC? Why LMS/VLE may not be ideal in supporting some learners in MOOC?  I think we (Jenny, Roy and I) have attempted to research through our Blogs and Forum as Communication and Learning Tools, and some common themes emerged that did reveal many of the issues and challenges you mentioned.

May I summarise as follow?

(1) Teaching (LMS/VLE Moodle) versus learning (Blogs, Twitter, FB).

(2) Participation via active participation (LMS/VLE Moodle) & Blogging versus lurking through reading, listening etc.

(3) Self-directed learners (lots of bloggers) versus social learners (may be forum posters, FB, Twitterers).

(4) Power relations (instructors, peer learners).

(5) Confidence and affective issues.

(6) Levels of knowledge displayed.  To this end, we have found some significant differences in views and perceptions between instructors and participants in forums versus blogs.

(7) Feedback from others (instructors, in particular, and knowledgeable others, including other guest speakers, more experienced teachers and learners).

(8) Level of presence of instructors and participants in LMS/VLE Moodle.  This could be contrasted with the presence of instructors and participants in blogs, Twitter, FB, SL, Amplify, and collectives (Delicious, Google doc, wikis etc.).

(9) Large numbers of participants – I could see many participants would like to try the Moodle forum, posting their views, questions, and concerns.  There are however, a number of participants who raised the question of how their voices would be heard, if they were to do it in their own blogs.  Would the bloggers be speaking to themselves? Would forum be a better central stage or shelter for new comers? How to use some of the tools like CMAP? What are the differences between CMap and MindMaps etc.? So the more participants there are in the Forum, the more challenges there are for participants to filter their “ideas” and information, as many people may not know who are talking to whom. Also, the diverse advice and opinions could also be coming from instructors, knowledgeable others or many who are still trying to find their ways.  So, whose opinions should one trust? What is the truth? Which group should one join?

(10) Dispersed learner groups, which could lead to “disaggregation” of networks, and the development of conflicts within and amongst groups and within group members, when each one wishes to have his voice heard, acted upon and responded in reciprocity, and the differences in views and perceptions which may give rise to arguments.  Here conflict resolution is not easily achieved due to the lack of consensus.

(11) The language issue and misunderstanding arising from the syntax, semantics in posts and the cultural values, as revealed in the exchanges.

(12) The pedagogy that is inherent in VLE and PLE in MOOC – PLENK2010. What sort of teaching pedagogy or learning that underpins each approach – VLE/PLE? When should each be used?

Wonderful to learn from and share Rita’s insights.

John

#CrtiLit2010 On Web 2.0

Has Web 2.0 reached the educated top?

This study addresses the following questions:

• Which trends can be seen towards technological equipments?
• Which trends can be seen towards internet access at study home?
• Which trends can be seen towards communication behavior?
• Which trends can be seen towards the usage of e-learning platforms at secondary school level?
• Which trends can be seen towards Web2.0 competence?
In context with the outstanding rise of Facebook we can assume that communication using social communities has become very popular and is therefore breaking new grounds. Nevertheless there is no significant decrease of using standardized ways of communication like email, instant messaging or newsgroups. Because Facebook has been clever enough to open its platform for other common Web2.0 applications and makes it easy to integrate them individually a further side effect of the boom is that people slowly get used to work with those Web2.0 achievements like microblogging or smart media sharing habits as well as embedding items from different sources following mashup philosophy (Kulathuramaiyer & Maurer, 2007). This means that students get used to online editing practices more and more; the acceptance of Web2.0 is strengthened, the way for an online desktop working environment is being paved, cloud computing seems to switch from concept to practice. University teaching should take care about those results and work with social communities in an educated way. There are several publications telling us how to do so (Ebner & Maurer, 2009).
This study recommends that university teaching should work with social communities in an educated way.
John

#CritLit2010 Story Telling as a Critical Literacy

Here is a story that conveys an experience of the sort of perceptual agility storytelling delivers:
Source: Simmons, Annette. (2007). Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins. p15-16
An old farmer patiently spent part of each afternoon talking with a nosy neighbour, who visited him about the same time every day.
One afternoon during his daily visit, the neighbour suddenly exclaimed, “Did you buy a new horse?  Yesterday you only had one horse, now I see two.”
The farmer told the neighbour how this horse, unmarked and apparently without an owner, wandered into his barn.  He explained that he had asked everyone he knew, and since no one owned the horse he decided he would care for it until they found its owner.
The neighbour said, “You are such a lucky man.  Yesterday you had only one horse and today you have two.”  The farmer said, “Perhaps, we shall see.”
The next day the farmer’s son tried to ride the new horse.  He fell and broke his leg.  That afternoon the neighbour said, “You are an unlucky man.  Your son now can’t help you in the fields.”  The farmer said, “Perhaps, we shall see.”
The third day the army came through the village looking for young men to conscript to fight.  The farmer’s son was not taken because he had a broken leg.  The neighbour again said, “You are a lucky man,” and again the farmer said, “Perhaps, we shall see.”
This story is quite similar to a famous Chinese story which reads (based on my memory):
There was once a poor farmer called Choi Yung (an old man) and he owned a horse in his farm.  One night, his horse ran away via a broken fence.  When Choi Yung found that his horse had run away next morning, he tried searching around, but still could not find her.  So Choi Yung was very sad and thought:”I am so unlucky”
After a few weeks, Choi Yung heard loud galloping noises and that woke him up in the morning. He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw a herd of horses who were led by his lost horse entering his farm.
The moral of this story is that even though Choi Yung has lost his horse, such unlucky incident could bring him a fortune.
Photo: Flickr (Life on the Farm)
Hope you like this story.
There are many digital stories…. and surely we all like to share.
How about yours?

Do you agree?
Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins

#CritLIt2010 Research in Personal Learning Environments

I am reflecting on this Research in Personal Learning Environments.

I am aware that this course on Critical Literacies is part of the research in personal learning environments.  How about you?

Photo: Flickr

What I would like to learn is the findings from this research and the similarities and differences between this research and our previous research on CCK08.

Here is the presentation for our second paper which were presented on Tuesday 4 May 2010 at the Networked Learning Conference in Aalborg.

Blogs and Forums as Communication and Learning Tools in a MOOC

Jenny Mackness and  Roy Williams have presented two papers at the Networked Learning Conference 2010 in Denmark – The two papers we (Roy Williams, Jenny Mackness and Sui Fai John Mak) wrote following the CCK08 course

Thanks to Matthias for the links:

My questions to the Research in Personal Learning Environments with Critical Literacies Course CritLit2010  are:

1. Would a community of learners be able to fulfill the role of “educators” in a networked learning environment?

2. What are the roles of such community of learners?

3. How would assessment of these community of learners be made?  What are the assessment criteria?

4. What is the role of the instructors/facilitators in the PLE?

5. How would community of learners identify themselves in a networked environment (such as this course of Critical Literacies)? Would they identify themselves as peer learners, peer instructors, or peer mentors-mentees?

6. Is  “negotiation of course curriculum” employed in this course?   By whom? And how? As this course is based on research, how would research into PLE be linked into the conversation and dialogues?

7. What are the particular research methodologies used in this course by the instructors and facilitators?  Are they based on the survey and social network analysis?

8. What are the impact and implications of “critical literacies” on the motivation of participants of Critical Literacies Course?

9. As the course also employs Virtual Learning Environment VLE (Moodle), how would one isolate the impact of VLE from Personal Learning Environment (PLE)?

10.  What are emergent learning from the course so far, from the instructors and participants?

11. What is the pedagogy employed so far in this course?  Participative pedagogy? Self-directed Learning? Heutagogy?  PLE? …..

More questions to come….

How about you?

John

Postscript: Here is an interesting post on the Networked School

I also find the explanation here very useful in the Emergent Networked School Environment

#CritLit2010 Development of Critical Thinking Skills in online course

In this Collaborative Learning Enhances Critical Thinking by Anuradha A. Gokhale

Collaborative learning fosters the development of critical thinking through discussion, clarification of ideas, and evaluation of others’ ideas.

For collaborative learning to be effective, the instructor must view teaching as a process of developing and enhancing students’ ability to learn.  The instructor’s role is not to transmit information, but to serve as a facilitator for learning. This involves creating and managing meaningful learning experiences and stimulating students’ thinking through real world problems.

In this Participation and Critical Thinking in Online University Distance Education by Mark Bullen

The results suggest that the emergence of a dynamic and interactive educational process that facilitates critical thinking is contingent on several factors: appropriate course design, instructor intervention, content, and student’s characteristics.

The study concludes that computer conferencing should be given serious consideration by distance educators as a way of facilitating interaction and critical thinking in distance education.

The critics argue, much distance education is rooted in a transmission model that inhibits the development of critical thinking.

Learners passively assimilate knowledge rather than critically examine and construct it, based on their own experiences and previous knowledge (Burg, 1988; Garriso, 1993; Lauzon, 1992)

p26 of 40

Most of the students were generally satisfied with instructor’s participation but, when pressed, several did indicate that greater instructor involvement might have helped stimulate the discussions.

The instructor agreed that student participation may have increased if he had become more involved and tried to provoke more discussion.

p29 of 40

Several factors appear to have had an impact on the students’ ability to use critical thinking skills in their contributions to the discussions: cognitive maturity, the instructor’s style of teaching, the students’ experience with a dialogical style of teaching, and their understanding of critical thinking.

Research conducted using this model found that reflective judgment scores increased consistently with age and educational levels and that college freshmen and seniors tended to view knowledge absolute or uncertain and idiosyncratic to the indiviudal (King & Ktchener, 1994).

Teaching style is another issue that can have an impact on students’ ability to exercise their critical thinking abilities.

Sternberg and Martin (1988) suggest the best approach for facilitating this is a dialogical style of teaching in which there is ongoing interaction between students and the instructors, and that involves discussion, inquiry, and the free exchange of ideas.

p30 of 40

Student characteristics such as their previous experience with distance education or independent study, their cognitive maturity, and their experience with participatory and interactive learning environments seem to be necessary preconditions for the successful implementation of computer conferencing where success is measured by high levels of participation, interaction, and critical thinking.

The above two research cases both stress the important role of instructor as facilitator, who could greatly assist the learners in developing their critical thinking skills by participating in the discussion.

In the case of online course where instructors are encouraging self-directed and collaborative learning using Web 2.0 tools (such as blogs, wikis, Facebook, Twitters, Ning and Moodle etc.), (a) what would be the role of instructors? (b) how would instructors assist the learners in the development of critical thinking skills?  (c) How would critical thinking skills be evaluated?

Finally, what are the factors that would impact on the learner’s development of critical thinking skills in an online course? Which of them are critical success factors?