Archive for February, 2007

Feeling a bit hopeless…

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

I attended a keynote presentation today – the equivalent of last gasp of traditional education viewpoints. The bulk of the session focused on essentially saying “don’t use technology in teaching, be engaging instead”. The focus is largely on preserving the ideal of educator centrality in the learning process. At one point, presenters made the statement that teaching a large on-campus class (of 500 or more) was more personal that teaching with technology. I’m stunned. And quite distressed at how narrowly technology is being conceived.
I’m getting tired of this argument…and hearing it from individuals who have not spent time teaching online. Technology is not (or should not) be in conflict with good teaching (I’m going to assume here that teaching has a valid, important role in education – not focusing exclusively on self-directed learning). The most poorly informed arguments I encounter come from those who are not familiar with the space they are criticizing.
“Blogs are impersonal” Do you blog? “No”.
“Wikis are too confusing.” Have you collaborated in a wiki? “No”.
“Students don’t pay attention in class when they have laptops – they’re busy surfing online.” Have you changed your teaching model over the last 10, 15, 20 years?…have you augmented your course with technology as a means of extending learning, not as a means of replacing teaching? “No”. Oh, well, with that line of reasoning, let me tell you how we should perform heart surgery, based on extensive opinions, but no experience.
I personally enjoy a good lecture. I enjoy hearing from experts in different disciplines. So, in my theory of education, teaching, and learning, the expert plays an important role – some times lecturing, other times guiding, encouraging, fostering, and promoting values and characteristics of a field (not only the content).
For too many, technology is seen as a means to replace lectures. So, we have traditionalists standing up and saying “technology removes engagement…what we need is charismatic lecturers”. This same myopic view is seen by technologists – eliminate all lectures, make everything self-exploratory – give the learner complete control, let them choose their own learning. The inability to think holistically is the key fault of both camps. News flash: to traditionalists: technology isn’t going away – the toothpaste is out of the tube…to technologists: technology tools won’t be adopted without critical reflection…your attempts at conversion are as narrow in focus as those you are criticizing. And, the part that sucks, is that at various times, I have been in both camps.
Higher education is deeply entrenched in its historical rituals; research, tenure, publishing, and recognition. Teaching has been largely ignored. But, I think that’s changing. Statements of “scholarship of teaching and learning” are more common in mission statements, now even reflected in tenure considerations. The dichotomy of teaching and technology is falsely conceptualized…and arguing too strongly in either camp essentially reflects preservation of ideals rather than true consideration of the learning, the context of learning, the nature of society today, the type of future learners with inherit, and so on.

Wrapup posts: Connectivism Conference

Friday, February 16th, 2007

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach: “As educators we must have a willingness to share and be transparent…Because as educators we are modeling how we learn and act in the 21st Century. Our students learn more by watching what we do- than what we say. When teachers model how they learn form networks, then that has a huge role in bringing technologies to students and getting them prepared for a 21st century learning environment.”

Still Thinking about Connectivism
: “In the beginning, the mentors see the opportunity as a way to “give back” to the profession and collaborate with other mentors in improving the profession a few teachers at a time. However, it becomes clear early on that the mentorship experience is as much about moving seasoned teachers along a developmental continuum toward improving teacher leadership, as it is about a one-way communication strategies to impart mentor to novice knowledge.”
Sheryl on issues of poverty: “Connectivism holds great promise for students who traditionally have felt lost in a linear style of learning. Finally, students of poverty will be able to work through their strengths, rather than their weaknesses to master classroom content.”
Toward a theory of discontent: “It is natural that we have so many theories. Some prove more valuable than others, some have historicity, while others serve as temporary bookmarks saving our place while we focus on other aspects. Theories are reminders of where we are, where we left off, where we need to return…As for my own thoughts on learning theory, I feel we need a functional theory of discontent — a theory that allows our beliefs and ideas to be challenged by what others think.”
And my heart went pitter-patter: “I have also been able to spend some time in Second Life – and I’ve fallen in love.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t actually fallen in love with anyone – I’ve fallen in love with all the people there. It has been an amazing experience to dialogue with people from all over the world about educatonal issues. I’ve met students, professors, many librarians (they seem to collect there!), teachers, researchers, tech people, and scores of others who are in some way linked to learning.”
Bill Kerr: “But I think the new territory which George Siemens connectivism and Stephen Downes connective knowledge seeks to claim has either already been claimed by others or has been better done by others.”

The power of connection
: “One of the most interesting aspects though was the opportunity for ongoing discussion. When the online conference started, I had just returned from a weeklong medical school conference in the US. I had come back frustrated by the lack of connection I felt at that conference. Workshops provided very few opportunities for discussing what had been presented. After the workshops, I tried to engage people about the conference, but found myself in social chit chat about the weather and politics.
At the online conference, I learned so much on so many different levels from new technology tools to new theories about how learning occurs to assorted ha-ha moments. People happily provided links, virtual tours and criticism about ideas they didn’t agree with.
The trip to the US cost my university $2,000, while the online conference cost the university $0.”
OCC2007 Ending: “Well, our whirlwind of a week with the Online Connectivity Conference has now ended, and while I have been getting at least 100 emails extra each day, I will miss the creative juices that have been flowing.”

Connectivism conference

Friday, February 9th, 2007

Some additional thoughts from the last few days of the conference:
Stop by the conference moodle site for a listing of the presentations, discussions, powerpoint files and more.
…as well, have a look at the Attendr site for the conference – add your location.
Online Connectivism Conference: Healthy Discord – “The fact that at a Connectivism conference the very definition of the topic is open for debate by the presenters. This speaks volumes to the unchartedness/ the newness of this way of connecting to one another, and it embodies the idea that knowledge is both fluid and reconstructed/remixed in this new connected world.”
Downes, Stills, and Nash?? – wow, who knew…:)
Stephen Downes, Connectivism, and Second Life: “I listened to Stephen Downes today. He used analogies to teach, making me think that networks are modeled in everything from river tributaries to the human mind to the networks built over the Internet. Some connections are explainable and logical, but many are the product of chaos theory at work”
There are additional conversations and posts on the subject – including comments on Diana Oblinger’s and Terry Anderson’s presentation…search technorati or icerocket for more…I’d love to post and dialogue about these more but, alas, life calls for me…must honor responsibilities.

Connectivism – Day 3: Diana Oblinger

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

Diana Oblinger delivered the fourth presentation in the Online Connectivism Conference, nicely capturing the nature of our challenge: Balancing Agility and Stability in Higher Education (the presentation is available here).
Additional reactions to the conference:
What do you mean, flat?: “Now, as these conversations take place, I wonder how this type of forum, still in its infancy, will impact the generation of students I will be speaking with next month. Will we see a change in the offering of university classes or will we see an aligning of class expectations as universities begin to become more global in nature?”
More on the Connectivism Conference….: “Diana’s presentation included a good deal of very interesting statistics about Internet usage, who was using what tools and for what purpose.”
Read, Write, Mix, Rip, and… Burn, Baby, Burn: Notes on How Social Media Affects Conventional Teaching and Learning Practices: “Social media, or more specifically the Read/Write Web, serves as a means for people to extend their knowledge and understanding, pursue their passions, and connect with others far beyond the constraints of formalized educational environments.”

Prescription of Good Pedagogy
: “It is a huge mistake to think that because we see our youth manipulating cell phones, text messaging, and plugged into iPods, that they all can understand or can deal with the technology on a deeper level.”

Connectivism Conference – Day 2: Will Richardson

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

Will Richardson delivered an excellent session yesterday during Day 2 of the Online Connectivism Conference: Audio file
A quick summary of the discussion going on surrounding the conference and Will’s presentation:
What is a connected education?: “…when everything knowable can be known, then what it means to be educated ought to be up for grabs.”

The Gift of Connection
: “Teachers, during the most stressful period of teaching probably in the history of mankind, we have been given a gift — a gift of connections with one another.”
Tony Forster: “Networking creates the opportunity to meet people of common interests. The edublogging community is great for teachers, but have students benefited?”

Passion-Based Learning
: “Since we have rejected traditional classrooms where students are treated as empty vessels and embraced learning that is learner-centred, passion needs to acquire an important status in education…s an educator, I need to step outside my “comfort zone of content” by sharing my own self: things that I myself am passionate about. I need to stop peddling content and show that I am a learner too.”
Graham Wegner: “I do wonder how connectivism can work for the pre-adolescent years of schooling and how technology dependent that form of learning is. I really like a lot of questions Bill raises on his wiki in regards to whether we need to declare allegiance to one theory or another.”
Some great discussion is occurring in the Moodle forum as well (you can click to login as guest to read, but posting requires you to create an account)…covering topics as diverse as Second Life as an educational tool, overcoming obstacles to how we teach (including the provocative question: “has it gone too far? Our faculty are struggling with a new student body who question everything and faculty feel sidelined by the facilitator role – that their expertise is no longer of importance – all knowledge is relevant now”…and an exploration of “the world is changing…but“.
Stop in and participate in the growing conversation…

Online Connectivism Conference – Day 1

Sunday, February 4th, 2007

Some great discussion emerging following our first day of the Online Connectivism Conference. Several individuals have agreed to serve as context filters for the conference. Some key ideas being presented from the discussion from and blogs in general:
Stephen Downes: What connectivism is – “connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks…in connectivism, there is no real concept of transferring knowledge, making knowledge, or building knowledge. Rather, the activities we undertake when we conduct practices in order to learn are more like growing or developing ourselves and our society in certain (connected) ways.”
Chris Sessums: Connectivism and the contextual lens of poverty – “Digital technologies and their affordances represent both educational opportunity and impossibility. While the Internet and the read/write web provides an opportunity for thousands of people to connect and expand their networks, enhancing their ability to co-create knowledge (and even earn a salary), those without access are essentially disenfranchised at a number of social, political, economic, and educational levels.”
Barbara Dieu: First Reactions “As a secondary school teacher this has been the case. I have never learnt and connected so much as in the past years. If I had not done this, my mind would have been geographicallyand intellectually restricted to the four walls of my classroom, of my home and of my close friends. I would have never had the chance to interact with experts and peers from different areas and my knowledge would have been limited to the books or conferences I was never able to afford the time or the money.”
Tony Forster: “For me the debate is not whether Connectivism has the necessary depth to be called a learning theory, whether it deserves to be an -ism. For me the important issue is what can be learnt about living and learning in a connected world when 1000 people from round the world connect in a way which was previously impossible.”
Virginia Yonkers: “if everyone in the organization is thinking alike, there is an “organizational knowledge” that has been created, won’t there also be a tendency to squash creative thinking, thus making connectivism just another way to socially engineer an organizational structure/culture?”
Michael Hotrum: “Textbooks and professors should not position themselves as experts who can claim to keep pace with the changing face of knowledge – but they can guide us, can provide trusted nodes, a framework, a foundation and skill set that enables and maximizes our learning journey.”
Vicki Davis: ” I intentionally read people out of my field at least twice a week. I have several other folders (a lot from the business world) that I read continually besides my educational peers and mentors. Sometimes I learn things from photography websites. Sometimes I glean something from the news. Sometimes somebody is a real jerk to me about something I said, but I go on a bunny trail that takes me to new knowledge. The world is a stage.”
Sharon Peters: “In my experience, the difficult issues of the digital information age are alarming and somewhat frightening to those educators who are beginning to become aware of them, particularly those who realize they are not prepared. Frankly, I have never seen as wide a gap as now between our students and their teachers in terms of facility of technology.”