3G pedagogy

By robynjay On February 27th, 2011

In his DEHub summit keynote Terry Anderson spoke on the technical challenges and opportunities of 3 generations of distance (in its loosest sense) education pedagogies. It was a balanced, eclectic approach that aligned to our approach in designing the PiE course at SWSI (moodle based).

He began by explicitly stating his values:

  • student control and freedom
  • continued educational opportunities as a human right, and that
  • we can continuously improve the quality effectiveness, appeal, cost and time efficiency of the learning experience

and his belief that ‘technology sets the beat and timing, and pedagogy defines what you do with it’.

The 3 generations – behaviourist, constructivist and connectivist – in themselves and their definitions were nothing new but he did a good job at positioning them as an integrated approach to meet the needs of life long learners in complex contexts.

A behavourist approach was presented as useful for

  • logically coherent self-paced study
  • context free skills and concepts
  • transmissable knowledge
  • presenting multiple representations
  • a support for student modelling and adaptation
  • reflection amplifiers
  • highly scalable teaching
  • reducing insecurity

Interestingly he placed most OER content in this bucket.

A constructivist approach is useful for:

  • presenting multiple perspectives
  • a focus on negotiation
  • metacognition
  • small group learning
  • dialogue
  • less structure
  • google docs, locked down spaces, discussion forums, voicethread

and a connectivist approach for:

  • learner control
  • highly scalable
  • emergent, soft skills related to real world engagement
  • connection forming
  • unpredictability
  • non-sequential

Terry encouraged a focus on NETWORKS of practice (as opposed to CoPs) and asked the audience ‘what is YOUR footprint online for others to connect with?’ and stressed the need to:

  • challenge our assessment models
  • use the network to filter/manage connections
  • rethink learning as a process of filtering and pruning
  • stop trying to MANAGE learning in a connectivist model but trust self-based accountability

My question is how do students learn the underpinnings of a connectivist approach to learning – the ability to filter, prune, connect?

Are some individuals destined to be excluded from the benefits this approach offers? What are the implications of this?

Terry’s slides:

cup half full

By robynjay On December 8th, 2010

This post is in response to Alex Hayes’ request for comments regarding his post over on Posterous. It’s an important debate that needs to be spread more widely so I’m repeating here in the hope it will gain some broader readership.

Alex, I’m speaking frankly and openly here as a critical friend, and hopefully to drive the debate forward . Thankfully I did have a posterous account as I would otherwise not have commented at all via the twitter and facebook login options – a tad ironic under the circumstances I think. I guess what concerns me most about your post and current state of mind is the ‘cup half empty’ lens. IMHO it’s about sensible high level policy, being informed, having the required literacy skills, and having and exercising choice.

As a company promoting a particular technology it naturally IS job to provide full and detailed information about what that technology can and cannot do, and the known inherent risks. As such, with educational clientele,  it would be pointless to offer any technology that was at odds with core educational principles (ie wellbeing of learners). It is, therefore, good to alert those customers and to facilitate debate.

People are buying POV cameras because they make the videoing that they’ve been doing since 8mm days more convenient. What has potential (as opposed to being a threat) are advancements in bandwidth that allow that content to be sent handled electronically. How it’s sent and where it’s stored and the systems that that content interacts with OF COURSE must be considered and evaluated. I don’t doubt that technologies exist that have the potential to capture more than a ‘rich media clip that shows a skill’ but to paint this as something ‘sinister’ and impending sounds a little paranoid. Risks and potential misuse exists with almost ANY technology; gaming is a good example.

Of course there are negatives around broadcasting your location and exposing your activities and habits etc. We all must be informed, learners must have choice, educators have a duty of care. Again it comes back to contemporary and ever-evolving literacy skills. All choices must be made intelligently but I don’t believe that that choice will not remain.

Educational institutions, armed with that information and skilled/professional staff then choose products and methodologies to meet the needs of their learners and contexts.

To say that geolocation is one of the most influential forces in the VET sector is just a tad over ambitious at this point in time but indeed it has POTENTIAL.

It’s easy when something is a passion or focus to think that the world should also have the same urgent interest. Unfortunately there are also students for whom traditional (safe) text-based modes of communication has failed, trainers who stand and lecture at poor unsuspecting students, kids who live in such poor circumstances that they cannot attend to learning. We all have our interests and passions and together that builds the diverse and rich professional community of which we are a part. Multimodal L&T and the use of multimedia in education are truly WONDERFUL things. A scare campaign is not what is needed.

I agree that the majority of adults are very poor at critical reflection generally however if there is ‘little open discourse about the implications for pedagogy that this technology is set to unleash’ it is probably because a) people are too busy dealing with more pressing matters, b) there is little balanced information to debate at present and c) there is no evidence that this IS or will in the near future be an actual legitimate concern for people.

‘Insidious modes of digital employee compliance’ is a separate and wider issue. We must be aware and able to opt-in and out even if OUT means leaving an organisation. But to be honest it concerns me little that the employer of Mike and John the landscape gardeners are aware that they spent 2 hours relaxing in the shade under the trees of my local park instead of getting on with their list of jobs including my new garden.

So having said all that we DO need to be informed and I’ll look forward to any further information you provide us and we DO need to focus on the implications of what we implement for learners but we must do so with a positive mindset lest we go sit in a cave and scratch on the walls with sticks.

And as for Latitude, most of us turned that off months ago as a pain in the arse.

CC FlickR image by paloooza

education: right or privilege?

By robynjay On January 18th, 2010

We now live in a country where the right to a free, general education pretty much ends at age 18. Young people have known no different. They are excluded from improving their skills if money is tight, and are burdened with debt at the time of their lives when they need those savings most. Sure places like TAFE offer subsidies but its far from ideal. Education now equals money earning citizens not enriched lives.

Recent discussions by Mike Bogle and Simon McIntyre reflect a reaction to this contemporary position.

When I was 19 I undertook a free undergraduate higher education degree.  In my late 20s, with little money, I enjoyed so called ‘hobby’ courses at TAFE. If I paid fees, they were minimal. In my mid-30s I worked in the field of adult literacy and numeracy. The students who attended could choose whether to pursue a qualification (generally their Yr 10 equivalent) or simply to focus on their particular need. For people with a disability this was often money focused, for youth – getting their licence, and for older people-being able to read to their children and grand-children. The important thing was that they had a choice, and it was free – no question.

Under the Howard Government in Australia, the education of its citizens became aligned to skilling up workers. The days when a grandmother could gain free informal but professional literacy support disappeared. By 2006 NO provider in NSW was able to offer literacy assistance to adults that was not aligned to a qualification. From that time on grandmothers and people with intellectual disabilities were force fed through a qualification encompassing competencies they would never use, for a piece of paper they did not care about.

During this period we also saw Adult & Community Education (ACE) colleges move from centres of community enrichment and wellbeing, to a mix of so called ‘hobby’ courses and vocational education and training (VET) to a situation where, if non-accredited courses are run they come hand in hand with a pretty hefty fee to offset the lack of adequate Government support. Number crunching became the requirement, and creative mapping of personal enrichment courses to potential VET outcomes and future careers was what enabled centres to stay afloat but still meet community needs. And quite rightly so.  A creative drawing course can easily inspire an individual to take up a career in design etc. The benefits of engagement in learning for individuals and their families is well documented.

Post-compulsory non-accredited education in Australia is now only afforded to those with superfluous income, OR those with the skills and motivation to establish and manage their own personal learning environment (PLE). In terms of the latter, not many have those capabilities.
Set this against a changing world where working lives are complex and ever changing; where the need for generic skills of resilience, flexibility, knowing how to learn and locate information, team work, innovation far outweigh specific practical skills. In the VET world leaders are documenting the need for students to be supported in picking and choosing from multiple qualifications, with a resulting portfolio of competencies rather than a rigid qualification. The needs are changing but organisational structures are NOT.

Higher Education has the potential to truly focus on community education and enrichment but is totally hamstrung by archaic power structures, and an elitism that will be its undoing. It is of course at the mercy of Government funding and priorities place it’s staff on a treadmill of research and time demands that distract from innovative teaching, but it’s whole position is outdated and irrelevant.

In terms of informal opportunities at a University level  I think there are other options apart from trying to squeeze people into a mould.  They say courses are full but I have not yet seen a lecture theatre or tutorial room that does not have any empty seats. What would it take to offer a small number of places for people to sit in? Imagine the benefits of having mature community members engage in conversations with enrolled students. No assessments, no grades. For young people it’s a good opportunity to decide whether the course is indeed for them; for older community members it’s an opportunity for extending their skills and sharing their wisdom. People attend actual courses, rather than simply watching recorded video because they seek interaction; this would offer that.

So the issue that started all this was what to offer young people who miss out on their university place. I’m going to be quite radical here and suggest that they simply should get out in the world, travel and work, and have time to think about their true interests. Too many young people move straight from 13 years at school to another 4+ at university. They make bad choices based on parents and school content and accrue debt as a result.The worst result is for these individuals to accept other courses simply because they are all they could gain entry to. I saw this in Education and the result is a bunch of mediocre teachers. I’ve seen it in Science where students have gained entry with an entrance score of less than 50/100.

If you build it, they don’t always come…

The desire for ‘a degree’ is driven by a society where recruitment and progression is based on those bits of paper instead of real skills. Universities are a classic case in point; where a PhD in an obscure topic is deemed more important than actual capability and experience for jobs that do not require high level research. Higher level positions are almost unobtainable unless you’re a life long academic and yet the pay rates offered are abysmal. It’s no wonder they cannot get good staff when needed.

Universities need to get their act together if they wish to remain relevant in the middle to long term. They need to focus on quality teaching, innovation, openness, community connections and education in its truest sense. They need to recognise the skills and knowledge that people bring to a course as a result of life. And they need to be seen as a flexible and welcoming place for conversation and learning. We are now in a space where students will vote with their feet and pick and choose from the talented educators who typically are open and accessible. Perhaps what is need is a new model of educational organisation; one for the future.

cc licensed flickr photo by Seryo

how is the internet changing the way you think?

By robynjay On January 14th, 2010

The 2010 question for the Edge World Question Centre is “How is the Internet changing the way YOU think?”

With over 167 responses, it is clearly designed for a long day curled up by a cosy wood fire in the snow bound Northern Hemisphere!
I haven’t had a chance to read them all yet but am inspired to respond and hope you will add your personal response too…

I’m not sure that the way I ‘think’ is as significant as the way I live, respond, learn, engage and create. Kai Krause aptly describes this as a redefining of ‘ how we perceive the world and ourselves in it, new models of how we work and research, entertain ourselves, communicate with our family and friends, how we learn about the past and preserve our memories, what we expect of the future and how we plan for it, what we watch, read, listen to: all greatly influenced by technology in general and the Net in particular.’

I mustn’t be ‘normal’ for one my age in this regard. Quite frankly I am sick and tired of people using their age as an excuse for non-engagement. It’s not about age. Being at the tail end of the ‘boomers’ I spent the first half of my life with pen in hand and nose in a book; all my undergraduate degrees were hand written, so I have as much excuse for non-engagement as anyone (excluding those who are truly disadvantaged through poverty or lack of connectivity).

Of course there’s good and bad, but I couldn’t imagine a life unconnected. The internet overlays my life; work and relaxation.

I engage with the lives, ideas and creativity of people who live in places I’ll never see in real life.

I can independently create content and share it with the world

I can collaborate with wide-spread teams and communities.

I feel closer to people on the other side of the world than I do to the couple in the apartment next door.

I can converse with people with interests as obscure as mine

I can send a few words of kindness across the globe right when they are most needed

I see the images of great photographers the day they are taken, and share my own with like-minded people globally.

I share ideas and work with a global audience.

I am equipped and empowered.

I have knowledge and skills at my finger tips –  to grout a mosaic, play the guitar, heal a wound

I can trade and operate a business without jumping on a plane

I can ask for and receive help and access my support network [almost] anywhere anytime

What frightens me is that after all these years the education system still fails to engage. Still fails to support the development of skills to enable critical, effective, creative users. Of course young people learn from their peers, they are comfortable connecting within walled gardens and private chat. But in my experience very few are equipped to use the internet as a learner and eventually, professional.

In his contribution Howard Rheingold – says

“Those people who do not gain fundamental literacies of attention, crap detection, participation, collaboration, and network awareness are in danger of all the pitfalls critics point out — shallowness, credulity, distraction, alienation, addiction. I worry about the billions of people who are gaining access to the Net without the slightest clue about how to find knowledge and verify it for accuracy, how to advocate and participate rather than passively consume, how to discipline and deploy attention in an always-on milieu, how and why to use those privacy protections that remain available in an increasingly intrusive environment.”

and Evgeny Morozov adds…

“Today we are facing the emergence of the “cyber-lumpenprolitariat”, of people who are being sucked into the digital whirlwind of gossip sites, trashy video games, populist and xenophobic blogs, and endless poking on social networking sites. The intellectual elites, on the other hand, continue thriving in the new digital environment, exploiting superb online tools for scientific research and collaboration, streaming art house films via Netflix, swapping their favorite books via e-readers, reconnecting with musical treasures of the bygone eras via iTunes, and, above all, perusing materials in the giant online libraries like the one that Google could soon unveil. ”

The cause and solution sit squarely on the shoulders of an schooling system that not only ignores the issues, but actively blocks access to the spaces that require explicit engagement and critical discussion. As I have mooted many time, it is a breach of their duty of care.

[CC FlickR image: Lee Carson]

going jogging in a suit

By robynjay On January 7th, 2010

The internet spells the death of English

oh truly!! … I can’t believe that argument still exists.

Thankfully Crystal argues against the position….. ‘There are people around who would treat what I said to be the voice of the devil, but one has to remember that spelling was only standardised in the 18th century. In Shakespeare’s time you could spell more or less as you liked.” ”All that will happen is that one set of conventions will replace another set of conventions,” he said.

While knowledge of traditional spelling is necessary to get by, writing is about meaning making – evaluating style and mode according to purpose and audience.

If we are moving away from some of the nonsensical spellings that are a nightmare to learn – GOOD! I spent years trying to assist adults struggling to overcome their lack of self-esteem as learners. Many came in telling me they ‘couldn’t spell’; in fact I could ‘read’ their message very well. There were minor errors but it did not impact on the task at hand. Learning some basic spelling rules helped some, a little but generally we reverted to small pocket sized indexed notebooks that students could use when ‘good’ spelling was ideal.

As for the argument against sms speak – abbreviated spelling is a useful tool in particular media and contexts. It HAS it’s place. You won’t get far in twitter using traditional spelling but good twitterers also make great writers of academic papers.

The best writers have an armoury of styles and can use each one appropriately to suit context, audience and purpose. Stick to one [traditional] style and you’ll not only look a right jerk but you’ll miss a lot of fun. What educators need to do is to embrace all styles in their program and provide opportunity to learn to use ALL well.

Using only formal English is a little like wearing a suit 24/7

[CC FlickR image: Paul Goyette]