#CritLit2010 A short reflection on Connectivism

What an interesting discussion here with Heli and Ken!  Heli, Your English is fine, and I understand where you are coming from.  I came from a non-English speaking background, and so I share many of the feelings you have, when exposed to a global learning environment, here in blogosphere, in particular.
You both have interesting points here about Connectivism, especially about this paper on Connectivism by Rita and Adrian, and though we have reported our findings through our papers, there are many ideas about Connectivism for me to reflect upon, before I could further share my views.
It’s a bit difficult to “speculate” on what each of us are thinking, unless it is through anonymous interviews, survey or research (even narrative research), where our voices could be “heard” and recorded. However, we may be changing our views in the future, or we might have shifted our way of thinking as we share more perspectives with others in different spaces or media.  So, would we also need to take into account of the influence due to some rhetoric persuasion and debates, and the introduction of new and emerging technologies that might cause such shifting of “thinking”.
Furthermore, there are many factors which could be considered as “constraints” when learning with online learning, whether within an institutional education or social networking.  So openness and autonomy under an educational setting could be totally different from that in social networked learning, or in a non-institutional learning space or media.  Although there are still protocols, rules or norms expected in different informal or non-formal Communities (i.e. Community of Practices, Church Communities, Charity communities etc.), we are often not judged upon individually with performance criteria as such in an institutional setting, where qualifications are awarded based on those criteria. Would most people like to establish a positive personal identity on the Web or social media (the persona)?  Who would like to be viewed or perceived as a troll or irritant to others in the media (at least for educated and learnt people)? So would assessment criteria and personal identification in a course be critical in determining  whether openness and autonomy is important or not?  Would people who have their personal identify known behave appropriately when they are under the scrutiny of the public?  I don’t mean that we should have the big brothers watching over us, whether it is in a formal course or just an informal media. However, would most of us like to have “freedom of speech” sort of autonomy, “freedom to choose between transparent or opaque” and free to follow the rules or not when networking in the open space or media (irrespective of whether this is allowed in case of institutional education or not)?  How about those who would like to learn more independently in the social space or in a formal course (like the distance learners who have been around for decades)?  Would openness be important for them?  Would autonomy be critical for their self-dependency?

Relating to the research, we have also noted the biasing of “research” as we can never use an experiment on education with human based on a control and experimented group at the same time.  Even research from the neuroscience could be “colored”, once the researcher investigates on the “one to be studied”, as there could be “changes in behavior” in response to being examined in an experiment.  I think we all learnt from the Hawthorn experiment on the impact of observation on people, and the causal relationship between what is observed and what is in reality could still be “different”.  This is especially difficult in any open learning complex environment.
1. Referring to this Educational significance of Social Media What are the merits and demerits of using informal learning/social media in education?
2. What are the issues, challenges and opportunities relating to the use of Complexity Theory (which is pretty close to Connectivism) in Education?
3. Are lots of educators implementing Connectivism in their teaching within their institutions?  What have they found? This paper on Networked Learning by Wendy provided valuable insights into the application of Connectivism in higher grades of K-12 students
4. Is MOOC or OOC another alternative way of educating our students?  To what extent is it better than the traditional methods of education (especially in Higher and Further Education)?
5. So, is connectivism a learning theory?  Is it a new learning theory? And what are the implications if it becomes a new learning theory?
I will surely explore these in the coming posts and papers.
This blog on Research on Connectivism could provide some information on research for our community
John
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Facebook and its impact on social networking and education

Steve Wheeler posted in his blog.  He asks: Should we try to use social networking services such as Facebook and Myspace as serious educational tools, or should they remain the domain of informal chat and backstage antics?  Great question.

Here is a research paper on Facebook.

With these themes in mind, the paper concludes that rather than necessarily enhancing or eroding students’ ‘front-stage’ engagement with their formal studies, Facebook use must be seen as being situated within the ‘identity politics’ of being a student. In particular, Facebook appears to provide a ready space where the ‘role conflict’ that students often experience in their relationships with university work, teaching staff, academic conventions and expectations can be worked through in a relatively closed ‘backstage’ area.

I think it could be a huge challenge for educators to use social networking service such as Facebook as a serious educational tool or a formal education media.

First, as reported in past papers, learners won’t find it comfortable to learn with their teachers over their shoulders, too much “control” as the learners might sense.  Besides, this could be perceived as an “intrusion” of the learners’ private space.  Learner autonomy always comes first, especially in online learning in higher education.

Second, people go to Facebook for totally different reasons from formal education.  People (with learners alike) like socialising, sharing of feelings and emotions, or sharing of some interesting sites or links on Youtube, personal likes and dislikes, or articles.   Some may even prefer online dating, or just chatting with friends in an informal manner.

Third, educators could be more readily able to exploit Facebook when sharing with other educators, but would find it difficult to interact with learners.  For educators in Facebook, when it comes to communicating and interacting with peers or closed friends, there could be many taboos, as no one wants to be “gossiping” around other educators’ back – that is just not professional.  Besides, this could be viewed by students and other colleagues, and thus creating tensions.  Even counselling or mentoring might better be done in private, via messaging, rather than in an open public space.

Finally, Facebook is designed more on a private “family” sharing basis – with photos, short messages, links to great sites like Ted.com or YouTubes, blogs, or news etc.   So a light tone of socialising and networking would be more appropriate in the interaction and communication amongst friends.  Education with fun, or exciting news would be welcomed by the friends and family members.  And that may be the boundary that most people would draw IMHO.

Here is “Viewing American class division through Facebook and My Space” by Danah Boyd.

Facebook has 250 million users, amazing!  It has now got more than 500 million users (as at 28 Oct 10)

How do you use Facebook?

Postscript: More information from this 10 ways Universities Share Information Using Social Media.

This paper on Facebook provides a useful summary. Facebook usage was found to interact with measures of psychological well-being, suggesting that it might provide greater benefits for users experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction.  That sounds good for people who want to socialize but may be too shy to do so in a face-to-face manners.  Also, this may help in boosting life satisfaction, by sharing views and experience with friends or classmates over FB.

Regression analyses conducted on results from a survey of undergraduate students (N = 286) suggest a strong association between use of Facebook and the three types of social capital, with the strongest relationship being to bridging social capital.  In addition, Facebook usage was found to interact with measures of psychological well-being, suggesting that it might provide greater benefits for users experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction.

Postscript: This post provides a good overview about How much Facebook knows about your life.

A post on Why do people use Facebook on 17 Feb 2012.

Personal reflections on the technology, tools and learning – Part 2

This is a response to Ulop’s nice post on sheep

I see technology and tools as enablers or aids to learning only. 

My observation is: people are fascinated and at times excited with the use of technology and tools in learning.  And I think it’s the learning where educators and learners are passionate about.  Overall it’s the individual empowerment in learning which keep people inspired. 

I don’t know the answer to your question.  It seems that people have tuned into the Web2.0, with some educators and learners equating the tools to learning in some respects.  These Web2.0 tools appeal to most educators due to its open and free access and registration, and ease of use. 

The learning and application of the Web 2.0 tools allows collaboration between educators  with peers, and learners with peers etc.   These tools provide platforms for educators to facilitate learning and in some cases to accelerate learning .  However, it may come to a limiting point where educators and learners might feel overwhelmed with those complex technical tools, especially if these tools are developed for social purpose rather than educational purpose.  Also, some tools such as LMS are mainly built from an educators’ perspective, and may not have fully considered the learners’ needs and the learning context. 

If we are serious about the learners’ needs, then would it be imperative in assisting these learners in understanding their needs and the tools available to suit such needs?  This could also be achieved by exposing them to a learning ecology where they could easily immerse, enjoy and share their learning with others. 

How could this be done?   Involvement and engagement in social networking /Web 2,0 tools – FB, Youtube, Myspace, twitter, delicious, slideshare, Flickr, social tagging, reading and “listening to” blogs/video blogs, responding to blogs, writing blogs, etc. may be a good start.  Otherwise, just try a few social network tools and see how it works.

Once educators and learners have accustomed to the on-line and virtual/digital environment, they will gain a deeper understanding of the learning ecology.  Learning would be part of the day to day “personal business”, where formal education and informal learning are integrated.

At this later stage, educators would be more serious about real transformational learning.  That relates back to the effective use of metacognitive skills and sensemaking as mentioned in my other posts.  The 6 hats – which include information, system thinking, organising, critical thinking, creative thinking, and parallel thinking may be useful for sensemaking and pattern recognition.  Ultimately, this would be based on an ontological approach towards learning, where wayfinding, sensemaking and patterning are fully exploited.

e-learning in school and outside school for teens

In this e-teaching and motivation by Heyjude, there were interesting sharing of experience of some of the teachers using the tools and technology in “motivating” students’ interests in learning as discussed in this Learner centered e-teaching & motivation.

My impression is: this is going beyond e-teaching, and more in line with e-learning, where the learners (the kids) will be able to explore learning via the multi-media and technology, Web2.0 tools etc.
We have made a few assumptions here:
(a) most teens are interested in the use of the tools (Web 2.0) (may be we should also include the TV, movies, videos, internet resources, networks and those associated tools and technology)
(b) most teens will learn better than the class room teaching via YouTubes, Facebooks, social networking, wiki, blogs
(c) most teens feel comfortable with the use of such tools, once guided by the teachers or their peers
(d) most teens enjoy learning via the technology as they could immerse into the virtual environment and have fun
(e) most teens are digital natives and so would embrace these Web2.0 as enabler in social networking (for the rest of their lives?)

Then the various speakers shared their experience on teaching using those tools such as mobile, wiki, blogs etc.

There are questions which might have been addressed in various research studies. See this PhD research paper by Danah.
Are those (a) to (e) assumptions (or hypothesis in the case of scientific study) valid?  Are those the main criteria in motivating the students (teens) and enhancing their learning?  To what extent are they valid?  What percentage of those teens are interested in these modes of learning?  How do these teens feel about the learning? Do they really want to learn under a school environment if they could learn these by themselves?  What sort of interventions will be necessary as educators?

And I would like to explore the following too:

1. What about the safety of these kids over the net?  In Australia, there are Child Protection Acts in which teachers are expected to sign and comply with and that kids are protected under those Acts under a school environment.  If there is a breach of the Child Protection due to inadequate caring by the teachers concerned in school, whose responsibilities will it be on any allegations?  Will the teacher be liable to prosecution?

2. How will the learning of these teens be associated with their future studies? And future careers?

3. Will it be based on open curriculum, courses or a fixed number of subjects in a course?

4. Will the teens be expected to attend school?  What are the requirements of “progression”?

5. How could we ensure that these teens are learning towards those goals of the 21st century as “prescribed” and promoted by the education authorities?

6.What will be the role of the teachers, educators and school administrators in the support of those types of “e-teaching” and “e-learning”?

7. Are there enough technology resources and support for these teens (the supply of computers with internet connections to these teens)?

8. What implications will these be on the learning and development of teachers?

9. Are there any involvement of other stakeholders such as parents, teachers’ union, school administrators, librarians, and instructional designers in the design and delivery of such e-teaching or learning?

Thanks Judy for posting this interesting Learner centered e-teaching & motivation.

Postscript: This post on Online Instruction as Less Effective Than Classroom Learning may be of interest to you.  Do you agree with the findings?

What’s next for connectivism and connective knowledge?

Here is a talk by Mary Poppendieck on the Role of Leadership in Software Development http://au.youtube.com/watch?feature=user&v=ypEMdjslEOI Thanks to Jenny Mackness for showing the URL.
What are you building?
Three Stonecutters were asked:
What are you doing?

  1. I’m cutting stones
  2. I’m earning a living
  3. I’m building a cathedral

The suggestion by Mary was: Move responsibility and decision-making to the lowest possible level.

The Litmus Test: When workers are annoyed by their job

Under the same concept, when learners or teachers are annoyed by the “teaching and learning ecology”, what option will you choose?

Are you going to be the cathedral builder?

Some suggestions:

  1. May be we can do experiments
  2. Try innovative solutions – develop open course/coursewares, build networks, community of practice
  3. Be adaptable in learning new ICT tools via continuous personal learning and development – applied connectivism
  4. Go out and learn more – join communities, networks, open courses and forums
  5. Use creativity in building constant improvement both individually and collectively (connectivism and connective knowledge with brain power) with the exploitation of ICT (Web 2.0), networks, community of practice
  6. Leadership in place – every learner a leader – takes ownership in learning and teaching
  7. Network leadership – co-operation, collaboration  amongst networks, community of practice
  8. Research

Your suggestions….

May be a wiki to collect more ideas…

Or a set up of a community/network to continue our exploration on connectivism…