Archive for March, 2006

Propositions on learning today

Friday, March 31st, 2006

I’m trying to define the core changes in society and technology that impact learning. I’ve compiled ten propositions, and would life to hear areas that you feel I’m missing (or where I’m flat out wrong).

I’m bringing two basic assumptions to this list – 1) learning is a process, not an event 2) learning intention drives learning approach.

My (evolving list of) learning propositions:

  • Increased complexity=increased decentralization
  • Increased information amount=decreased capacity to internalize
  • Accelerated pace of information development=decreased linearity
  • Increased pace, information amount, and complexity=increased ambiguity
  • Increased ambiguity=increased need for diversity
  • Increased diversity=increased need for openness
  • New tools/technology and openness=new affordances and transformations
  • New affordances=democratization
  • Democratization=destabilization of silo power structures and two-way flow (conversation, knowledge, and information)
  • Two-way flow=equality among participants of a space
  • Learning Ecologies

    Friday, March 10th, 2006

    I had the pleasure today of delivering a presentation on connectivism and learning ecologies to a group of museum professionals (Canadian Heritage Information Network) in Ottawa. I’ll post a link to the presentation soon.

    Roundtable discussions revealed a current state of grappling with technology as a means of extending learning and knowledge presentation that mirrors what’s happening in other fields. Education, business, politics, media – everyone is trying to figure out “what has changed”. And what does that change mean?

    I see several substantial points of change that are reframing our society and processes of functioning:

  • The rise of the individual
  • The increased capacity for connections and connectivity
  • The breaking apart of content
  • The creation of user-controlled spaces

    The roundtable discussions were excellent. An appropriate mix of cynicism, optimism, and attitude of experimentation provided a great climate for candid dialogue. A general concern appeared to be the desire to get people to use virtual museum resources.

    I think this is the wrong question. People don’t want to visit your content. They want to pull your content into their sites, programs, or applications. This is a profound change, largely not understood by educators. We are still fixated on the notion of learning content, and we think we are making great concessions when we give learners control over content (and start to see them as co-creators). That misses the essence of the change: learners want control of their space. They want to create the ecology in which they function and learn. Today, it’s about pulling content from numerous sites and allowing the individual to repurpose it in the format they prefer (allowing them to create/recognize patterns). Much like the music industry had to learn that people don’t want to pay for a whole album when all they want is one song, content providers (education, museums, and libraries) need to see the end user doesn’t want the entire experience – they want only the pieces they want. We need to stop thinking that learners will come to us for learning content – our learning content should come to them in their environment.

    What does this actually look like? Well, it means that our education platforms should be designed to allow for learners to pull our content into their space. We need to make content open and available to be accessed so that exploration and dialogue can happen on the learner’s blogs, wikis, or personal eportfolios. It’s not about us, it’s about them. The dialogue and learning will happen on their time, in their space, on their device. We must create the ecology that allows for maximum innovation, so that the greatest number of recombinations are possible.

    During the session, I was asked to provide an example of an online learning ecology. (I was asked later, “do you actually do this stuff, or do you just think about it”?). One of the most obvious learning ecologies is the internet itself. It’s a wonderful example of a space where we can learn from experts, informally, formally, in communities, etc. The structure of the internet provides many valuable lessons that should inform how we create our learning spaces. I will post more in the near future on effective learning ecologies. A quick final note – ecologies don’t exist only online. Our learning model should include face-to-face components

    Off topic: One challenge I often encounter in trying to communicate the value of connectivism and learning ecologies is how to communicate the implications of choice. When we take one approach, we are leaving many other factors unattended, but impacted. When we pursue blogs, we are making choices that change things. But that choice doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Other parts of our organization will also need to change. It’s important to be aware of what we are leaving behind in our choices…and that one view (“blogs are good”) does not lead to universal application (“blogs should be used for everything”). This one-dimensional view is lazy thinking. Each tool for the appropriate task. So, when I advocate for social technologies (or informal learning), I am not saying that structured courses are irrelevant. Intent and task need to be tightly linked.

  • It doesn’t come pre-packaged anymore…

    Monday, March 6th, 2006

    While preparing for a presentation I’m delivering later this week, I was struck (again) by how significantly things have changed due to the internet’s affordance of connectivity.

    I don’t use textbooks in my courses. I use a combination of my own writings, augmented with websites, and supported through dialogue and learner to learner interaction. My intent is to provide learners a diverse set of voices. A textbook is most often a one-sided view of the knowledge of a particular space (and, in certain fields, they can be dated by the time they are published). I don’t view content as something that learners need to consume in order to learn. As I’ve stated before…learning is like opening a door, not filling a container. Content is something that is created in the process of learning, not only in advance of learning.

    In previous posts, I’ve stated my preference of connections over content. However, it’s impossible to ignore the valuable role that content has in the learning process. Content is a core of society. Content is the codification of our knowledge, our art, our vision, our dreams, and our aspirations. As little as five years ago, content came pre-packaged. You could get your content fix in the form of a textbook, a CD, a newscast, a newspaper, or a classroom. Not any more. I think the subtlety of the transition leaves many unable to see its depth.

    We can now acquire our information in any manner that we desire. Learning, seen as content consumption, doesn’t fit this model anymore. Learners piece together (connect) various content and conversation elements to create an integrated (though at time contradictory) network of issues and concerns. Our learning and information acquisition is a mashup. We take pieces, add pieces, dialogue, reframe, rethink, connect, and ultimately, we end up with some type of pattern (meme?) that symbolizes what’s happening “out there” and what it means to us. And it changes daily. Instead of a CD with the songs of only one artist, we have iPods with a full range of music, video, audio files/books, images, etc. Our classrooms, instead of the pre-packaged views of an instructor or designers should include similar diverse elements.

    It’s easy to make predictions when trends are substantially developed…and this is so obvious that many know it intuitively: Learning is no longer pre-packaged. Tomorrow’s courses and learning experiences will be structured with different tools (bye-bye LMS’ as we know them today)…and learning itself will be perceived more as an activity that occurs in networks and ecologies, not hierarchical, pre-organized structures. The central filtering agent is no longer the teacher or institution. It’s the learner. Think about what that means to our education system as we know it today. It changes everything.

    Re-reading this post, I recognize that I really haven’t said anything new…but it just strikes me that as educators, we are not grasping (or prepared for) the depth of the change that is occurring under our feet. If it’s happened (breaking apart the center) in every other industry – movies, music, software, business – what makes us think that our educational structures are immune? And what does it mean to us? What should we be doing now to prepare our institutions? Ourselves? Our learners?