Friday, November 19, 2010

My public commitments

I recently read that it takes 66 days to form a habit.  You can miss a single day during this period, but the aim is consistency.

I've just started a new job. This is a perfect opportunity to form the habits I want to follow;

  • Fitness - Lose weight, gain strength and flexibility
  • Focus - Develop strong study commitments, and lengthen concentration spans
How am I planning on doing this?

Fitness will come with a regime of bike-riding, swimming and eventually weight training. Couple this with healthy eating and cutting down on alcohol consumption.

Focus will be achieved by sticking to a study plan, early rising and using meditation to develop strong habits and positive mental imagery.

This is my commitment.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Personal Learning Environment

I've been thinking about what tools I use in my Personal Learning Environment, and by order of use it currently is;
  1. Email (gmail) for following LinkIn conversations - wish they were moved to twitter-like posts 
  2. iGoogle - RSS updates (+twitter feeds) and tools categorised to my work/mood
  3. Weblog - Record my readings for later reference, thoughts on hyper-linked topics
  4. Collaborative MindMaps - Like Cmap for free use and intuitive interface, different output options: need to spend more time working out how to share from their server (now want an iPhone app for Christmas!)
  5. 3rd Gen Kindle (on order) so I can share notes on texts from/with other users. Low power, cost, E-ink to reduce eye-strain, light and small, sustainable, etc (Not locked into Apples iTune$) (tick, tick, tick)
  6. Wiki - Haven't used one for awhile, but their were some beauties when I was doing a Masters project, with additional features like Discussion Boards, etc.
  7. ShowDocs - Collaborative editing (just found this, but looks good)
  8. Connect Pro - Wish I could afford my own Web-Conferencing + permanent room to store my resources and then whiteboard, share desktop, etc when discussing topics with peers. Skype is untrustworthy and limited in its scope.
  9. Prezi - for a cloud based collaborative alternative to PowerPoint
  10. My iPhone for pull content on my subscribed Pod and VodCasts

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Holistic education in a networked world - how the digital 'book' will change learning

Tomorrow people - guiding them over the threshold.

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.We've created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." Albert Einstein 

We've lost direction with economic rationalism; by focusing on ends we have neglected the means. The best way to correct this imbalance is through education. By creating self-directed learners we can supply the skilled operators of the networked world we have been building. Through the directed use of these new tools we can address the roots of many of the problems we now encounter, such as global warming, pollution, disenfranchised workers, power imbalances, financial crises. The following model will bring it's own problems and we need to be mindful of these, but they will be emergent and predicting them will be difficult, so I will take a scenario casting approach in thinking about them.

The printed book has ultimately turned us into robots - standardised our education, split our thinking into ever narrower, disconnected channels, building on the norm and ostracising the rebel. This is disaster in a networked world - this laid the conditions for the GFC to incubate, the smartest men in the room created a circle-mill in their room of mirrors. Mono-cultures collapse, this is as true of American hegemony as it was of the Roman empire. They feed so voraciously in their arrogance that they starve themselves with their growing appetites on a limited larder. The wisdom of the crowd only works with a true diversity of views, and this is what we need to cultivate in the minds of our learners. We need to grow the ideas on which we will harvest our future feasts.

So what does an holistic education look like?

I'm addressing higher education here, Androgogy, or the practice of adult learning - so I assume that the foundational skills of reading, writing and arithmetic have been laid, along with socialisation and little bit of life experience to build on. In my benevolent dictatorship I'd have all school leavers embark on some sort of Grand Tour/Inter/National Service design for a couple of years to help this and to direct their future work/discover their passion(s).

Anyway - what does one need to become a life-long self-directed learner?

Information Literacy - how to find and authenticate information
  • Accessing knowledge
Collaborating - training in use of social media and creating a Personal Learning Environment
  • Interacting with knowledge
Reflection - what is the process of 'thinking'
  • Forming knowledge
And so how do we guide our students into a learning, liminal space and keep them there? Firstly we need to change our teachers into guides and coaches, and establish longitudinal relationships with them so that we can build trust and understanding between ourselves over the entire learning journey of our 'degree'. We need to have these people as experts in the different areas of 'knowing' things, so you need different guides for the head, the hands and the heart. I think you need to specialise in each area whilst maintaining communication and coordination between all the other guides.

And then how to assess this kind of individualised learning? Well a big focus would be on a continuing formative feedback loop from the guides and their peers, tracking their progress. Ultimately you would need to build some sort of 'portfolio' which is the only thing open to a summative assessment, which would be conducted in a conversation with all of the above and the wisest of the wise, be they department heads, deans, etc.

So its a massive investment in time and resources. Can we pull it off and still make it inclusive? Do we bring back a mentoring scheme where postgraduates are chosen as learning guides by undergraduates to address some of these problems?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Universities have knowledge but not wisdom

But maybe some Vice-Chancellors have vision?

And how to we get well-rounded students? By faculty role-modeling learning, by breaking down their silos of disciplines and invisible colleges. By actually collaborating and being honest enough to admit they don't know everything?

And University administrators starting to actually pay more than token attention to student learning outcomes, rewarding and communicating great teachers and teaching practices, by breaking down heirarchies.

We must teach to hearts, as well as minds and hands. Ignoring them is to do our society a dis-service.

Online collaboration in formal learning environments = hard squared

I feel frustrated with collaborative activities in a formal online educational environment because in the most part they are poorly designed. It's like they are conducted to tick a box on student attributes, but not actually supported. It's like being told to assemble a piece of Ikea furniture without the correct tools or instructions, and then criticizing the resulting bookcase (because it was really a coffee table).

As an elearning professional it hurts because I know it will make my job harder to convince my fellow students that these tools can be utilised effectively when they are seeking informal online collaborative tools in their workplace. In many cases they will be so scarred by their experiences that to get them to use the tools will seem like the choice of cutting off your arm or starving to death because you are pinned under a rock. So how do we?

Firstly I think we need to take the bitterness out of the pill. Consult, listen, hear their problems and communicate how they have been resolved. This is from both a Faculty and Student perspective. How do address lag in low-bandwidth areas? How do you simplify the layout? What tools will you provide to support their ways of working, and help build their PLE's?

Then provide them with training and support. Do let them know they have been using a spanner as a hammer, and how to bang something without squashing their fingers. Make it longitudinal and embed it in practices so that it does get used. Set up Communities of Practice so people can start to share their experiences and we can learn from great ideas. Make it cross-disciplinary so faculty can be exposed to diverse ideas from weak ties. Set up safe fail environments where teachers can experiment on the new faculty inductees.

And for students, please provide some scaffolding. Set out the roles that need to be filled, provide a sample agenda with timings. Actually show some cognitive presence during the shouting match, don't shut the door and tell us to come out when we've sorted it out. When my parents did that it just meant being physically intimidated by my older brother for fourteen odd years until his size advantage was lost. The virtual space will be dominated by the more powerful, and teachers need to be the advocates and encouragers' of the timid. They need to ensure a level-playing field, not sit in final judgment with a summative assessment - it should be about the journey, not the destination.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

iPad v Kindle

Do I want to be a consumer or a contributor?

Do I encapsulate consumerism and technolust or I am I a reflective practitioner?

Of course I suffer from a deluded self-serving bias, but even through beer goggles you can stop yourself wandering into traffic.

Thank-you Amazon for the 3rd Gen Kindle. E-ink will rule. I have no doubt colour will come, just as television progressed to plasma. Remember, it was the internal-combustion car oligopoly that wiped out electric cars, like a cuckoo in the nest of innovative incubation.

The iPads' demise is encapsulated in the 'i'. The new economy is the 'we'. It is not about consumption but contribution. Not about watching movies, but replying to postings. It's not about draining power as an endless resource, but being mindful.

Being connected is about realising how electricity frees us from darkness. A camping trip make you understand how addicted we are to it, and how we place so little value on it. Camping also shows you that we are social animals, reliant on each other to provide the necessities of life - food, clean water, shelter. We have distanced ourselves from the real purpose, being good to each other rather than being good to ourselves, and that means our environment too.

Has the iPad narrowed our focus to an 8" square?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Signature pedagogies

Shulman, L. (2005) Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus. pp. 52-59.

This paper echoes Aristotles assertion,

'Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny'

'Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit'

This is basically what Shulman asserts is a signature pedagogy, the fundamental ways future practitoners are educated for their new professions. It is the way a professional is taught to think, perform and act. Shulman asserts that equal attention is not paid to all dimensions of professional work; physicians learn how to perform, less on how to act. Lawyers are taught how to think, less on how to perform like one. 

The paper with an observation by the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson that to understand a culture, study its nurseries. Shulman too says that pedagogical signatures teach us a lot about the personalities, dispositions and cultures of their fields and that professions have more defined signatures because their pedagogies must satisfy both the academy and their profession - it is preparation for practice in the service of others, 'they must come to understand in order to act, and they must act in order to serve'. So these pedagogies 'shape the character of future practice' and symbolize the values and hopes of the professions. 

Signature pedagogies have three dimensions;
  1. The surface structure, which consists of concrete, operational acts (showing and demonstrating, questioning and answering, interacting and withholding, approaching and withdrawing)
  2. The deep structure, the set of assumptions about how best to impart a certain body of knowledge and know-how
  3. The implicit structure, the moral dimension that comprises the set of beliefs about professional attitudes, values and dispositions
It can also be characterised by what it is not (think Robin Williams in Patch), ow it is shaped by what it does not impart or exemplify. It involves a choice, a selection amongst alternative approaches. That choice highlights and supports some outcomes at the expense of others.

Schulman also points out the paradox of developing habits. Once ingrained they free you concentrating on how (observation and analysis, reading and interpretation, question and answer, conjecture and refutation, proposal and response, problem and hypothesis, query and evidence, individual invention and collective deliberation) to concentrate on why and the context of the performance.  However, they also lock you into these performances, even once their utility has been exhausted, like fixed undercarriages in flight. They become the signature pedagogies strength and weakness, both at the same time.

Habits are positive in scholarship in that they 'shift new learning into our zones of proximal development', whilst at their worse distort learning in some manner. Because many faculty rarely receive direct preparation to teach, this 'apprenticeship by observation' encourages a pedagogy of inertia. 'Teachers and students can be quite inventive or creative within the boundary conditions of these teaching frameworks, but the frameworks themselves are quite well formed'.

Lastly, Shulman raises the concern of 'compromised pedagogies', where balance is lost between the dimensions of the intellectual, the technical and moral concerns. Because practice always operates within a dynamic; the tension between self-interest and that of their clients, between the client and society, costs and profits, efficacy and opportunity, we have a duty to develop students who can recognise these and have the capabilities to deal with them.

We are also encountering rapid change through such factors as globalisation, information technology, the nature of work, city states, etc. These conditions provide the impetuous to examine how other pedagogies can inform discipline specific teaching practices.  How we form the habits of mind, heart and hands prefigure our culture means we need to contest the way we teach for the future we want to create.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Generic or discipline-specific?

Young, P (2010) Generic or discipline-specific? An exploration of the significance of discipline-specific issues in researching and developing teaching and learning in higher education. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 47 (1) pp. 115-124

This was a paper that said one thing and did another in many respects. The over-riding message is that generic pedagogies are utilised across disciplines but they be addressed in discipline contextualised ways. It outlined the differences in teaching disciplines but demonstrated the similar skills required in learning them.

A sad fact was that teaching is so unrecognised as a significant skill in academia, and that actually engaging a community of scholars requires researching within their discipline to be respected by them because a) it's research and b) it's about them.

And I guess that is the same as the disconnect (and fusion) between/of perception and reality. Perception is reality; it is a self-fulfilling prophesy and creates itself in it's own image. So no wonder academia can be accused of living in ivory towers, it can be self-serving. I think most non-academics see Universities as places of learning, of scholarship, of providing the professional workforce of tomorrow. But within Universities it seems that it is primarily about research and expanding knowledge. Although they may be two sides of the same coin they are facing away from each other.

But I digress. If I take the reading on threshold concepts and add it to the generic skills of scholarship (the development of higher cognitive skills, transferable skills such as problem-solving; researching; analysis of data; presentation of information in written form; oral presentation; working with others; action planning and time management) means transferring the responsibility of learning to the student. They are like vampires, they need to be invited over the threshold and greedily suck the guts out of a subject before their ideas become immortalised. It's not about the teacher, its about the students being instrumental in their attitude to learning.

So content needs to be contested to be absorbed even in the Pure/Hard disciplines, and although this is true across all disciplines it will only be adopted if a discipline-based approach to educational research and development is pursued, because (Healy and Jenkins, 2003 cited by Young)
  1. The primary allegiance of academic staff to a discipline as a basis for professional identity
  2. The distinctive forms of teaching found in some disciplines
  3. The particular conceptions of knowledge found in disciplines which need to be understood for curriculum development
  4. The culture and concerns of particular disciplines
  5. The importance of research in the discipline for academics
So its about contextualising the generic issues.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Liminal states and learning distress - no pain, no gain?

Cousin, G (2006) An introduction to threshold concepts. Planet. 17 (Dec)

We teachers - perhaps all human beings - are in the grip of an astonishing delusion. We think that we can take a picture, a structure, a working model of something, constructed in our minds out of long experience and familiarity, and by turning that model into a string of words, transplant it whole into the mind of someone else.

Perhaps once in a thousand times, when the explanation is extraordinary good, and the listener extraordinary experienced and skillful at turning word strings into non-verbal reality, and when the explainer and listener share in common many of the experiences being talked about, the process may work, and some real meaning may be communicated.

Most of the time, explaining does not increase understanding, and may even lessen it.

John Holt
(1923 - 1985) American Educator
How Children Learn

Before reading this paper I was rather inclined to place my mark on a sliding scale on the continuum between fixed and questionable content depending on the discipline being taught. I mean, I would have thought it was intuitive that it would be safer for the inhabitants of houses that rote learning of stress bearing weights for Engineers and Architects be encouraged rather than a 'constructivist' agreed discussion deciding the load to be placed on supporting beams.

But that is counter to the wisdom of the crowds, and that more mistakes can be made in copying from a table than can be made when you 'understand' something. You can't unlearn to ride a bike. In the last reading by Sharma I also noted how much of a 'constructivist' pedagogy was employed in the student led discussions on the topics being presented. My notion of Physics being immutable laws was challenged as much by Einsteins assertion that an imagination was more valuable than knowledge, as one is limited and other is boundless. 

The other point that sprung to mind was the 80/20 law. That 80% of our value comes from 20% of our activity. I was thinking about my Design education the other night, and realised that most of my learning occurred in just a couple of memorable exercises, or powerful assignments. One was drawing icons. Learning to reduce a drawing to its essential items demonstrated powerfully to me the maxim I had heard so many times, that 'less is more' without really understanding it. Of course the paradox is that something as simple as that statement is really so complex that I am still relishing it in the many different facets of my life. However the point is that once I 'understood' the concept it shaped all my designs from that point forward.

So I am now inclined to  believe that all disciplines should be taught as 'contestable', because it is only wrestling with the threshold concepts of a discipline that you can move from mimicry to mastery. This wrestling in a liminal space needs to be encouraged, supported and scaffolded by the learning facilitator until the learner has explorer the route until they are confident enough to scale the summit. Once the concept is conquered a new vista is laid out before you - that memory can never be taken away from you.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Discipline-based scholarship reading

Sharma, D., McShane, K. (2008) A methodological framework for understanding and describing discipline-based scholarship in higher education through design-based research. Higher Education Research & Development. 27 (3) pp.257-270

This paper details how a physics teacher sought to increase the effectiveness of her teaching practices over a 10+ span of years. For this it is terrific because it displays the evolution of her thinking and allows a longitudinal examination of her methods.

I was drawn to her methodology because of my background. Her first attempts utilised Action Research (Practitioner lense). I think Action Research has much to offer as a framework because it is inclusive; it brings in environment, context, the subjects, the researchers, etc. While this may increase complexity it mirrors the real-world, not a sterile lab, and thus is more practical than some other 'theoretical' positions. As a Designer too I am aware that Gestalt provides an additional reason for not excluding anything in the 'world' of a research topic, and that is the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. Like negative space, these created 'holes' are far from empty.

Then when research funding was appropriated a staff member from the Teaching and Learning department provided another Educational methodology, Design-based research (Educational lense). Again, as a Designer I feel some affinity with this method, as it allows Divergent thinking to be included in forming the 'problem' to be addressed. I also agree with Bill Pelz (2004) assertion that it matters little whether he is a fantastic teacher or a excellent educational designer, what really matters is that an environment is created that maximises a students capacity to learn.

The two methodologies complement each other in that they are iterative Design-Implement-Reflect-Change/Design cycles conducted in authentic settings, the biggest difference is that the Design-based research method explicitly utilises theories of learning in the design of an educational environment. I can see positives and negatives in this approach, as intuitively it builds on prior knowledge, but at the same time we may be restricting our thinking to these past theories, and that they indeed may be false leads, as the debate on pedagogical practice are still relatively immature. But again, I guess this methodology will help move the discipline onto a more empirical foundation.

Design-Based Research exhibits the following five characteristics:
  1. The central goal of designing an environment and developing theories of learning are intertwined; (Student centred, constructivist underpinning)
  2. Development and research takes place through continuous cycles of design, enactment, analysis and redesign; (reflection informs action)
  3. Research on design must lead to sharable theories that help communicate relevant implications to practitioners and other educational designers; (Focus on engaging peers in productive discussions of teaching - an academic community of practice)
  4. Research must account for how designs function in authentic settings (documenting success and failure) and focusing too on interactions that refine our understanding of the learning issues involved; (research must attract funding, and be applied to other contexts)
  5. Methods here should document and connect the processes of enactment and outcomes of interest (goals, strategies, evidence/data and improvements need to be collected and formulated, feed-back loops instituted)
cited from the Design-Based Research Collective (2003)

 The discussion part of the paper provided the following five insights from their learning journey;
  1.  An understanding of the research process underpinning educational studies provides a foothold for comparing research in one's own discipline area with scholarly inquiry into their teaching and student learning
  2. Practitioner research offers an initial foothold into inquiry into teaching and learning that is both practical and productive
  3. Design-based research is a methodological framework that can be used to describe and shape scholarly inquiry into teaching and learning
  4. Design-based research provides a framework for researching and documenting student learning in authentic settings and connecting with outcomes of interest
  5. Systematic inquiry into one's own teaching - scholarship of teaching - allows academics to participate in multiple communities of practice
 The authors argue that their findings overlap with the scholarship of teaching advocated by Boyer (1990)
  1. The scholarship of discovery - close to the old idea of research
  2. The scholarship of integration - which involves making connections across the disciplines and placing specialities in larger context
  3. The scholarship of application - which goes beyond the application of research and develops a viral interaction and, so, informs the other
  4. The scholarship of teaching - which educates and entices future scholars by communicating the beauty and enlightenment at the heart of significant knowledge
 Sometimes the old ways are new again. Has applied research bastardised academia?


Boyer, E.L. (1990) Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

The Design Based Research Collective (2003) Design-based research: an emerging paradigm for educational inquiry. Educational Researcher, 32 (1) pp 5-8.

Pelz, B. (2004). Three principles of effective online pedagogy. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 8(3).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Change! The issues and strategies to encourage its practice.

Q: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Only one, but the light bulb's really got to want to change.

Do people seem to resist change most if it's thrust upon them? I guess this demonstrates that change is an emotional response. The parallels between learning and change have been noted by many educational theorists, and it always resonated with me when an Educational Designer once dismissed pandering to learning styles with the analogy that if I wanted to become a pilot I would apply myself to learning trigonometry, despite an aversion to mathematics, because I wanted to find my destination and land safely.

So organisational change should be approached as a way of countering resistance, and the best way is through creating a dialogue to;
  1. Explain why the change is happening
  2. What the change will look like
  3. How the change will be implemented
  4. Who is responsible for the idea
  5. And who will help deliver the desired outcomes
Potts, Rebecca and LaMarsh, Jeanenne (2004) Managing Change for Success: Effecting change for optimum growth and maximum efficiency. Duncan Baird Publishers, London

The authors suggest that Managing Change involves;
  1. Identifying resistance to the change
  2. Designing ways to reduce that resistance
    - A communication plan
    - A learning plan
    - A reward plan
  3. Devising a master action plan
However, the intuitively sensible suggestions of creating a compelling story, role-modelling, setting up reinforcing mechanisms and building capability to create change have been questioned on the emotional connection from those involved in making the change happen.

A compelling story for who? In their book 'Made to Stick', The Heath brothers introduce the notion of the curse of knowledge, where the communicator is blinded to the trouble listeners have in 'getting' on message. What is apparent, and needs no explaining to you, may be a fathomless pit to others. They demonstrate this with the tapping game. You tap out a simple tune and others try to guess it. The mismatch between what you hear and they hear becomes clear after trying this test. So the compelling story needs to be written by the people making the change (Discovery, Dreaming, Designing and Destiny). It needs to appeal to its impact on society, the customer, the organisation and shareholders, the team you work with as well as 'me'. It also needs to include the negatives of the change to create real energy.

Similarly, the way you see your role-modelling behaviour can be radically delusional from our 'self-serving bias'.

There is also literature on the folly of rewarding A when trying to while hoping for B. Financial incentives are notorious for inhibiting creativity and knowledge sharing, and satisfaction is a personal thing - your perception sets your expectations.

Capability is as much a mindset as a skillset, our thoughts feelings and beliefs drive our behaviour. We need to scaffold our good intentions, it takes 21 days to start to nurture a habit. At the same time we need to make our measures concrete and set deadlines to meet them. Nothing motivates more than an (achievable) deadline and goal.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

False Dichotomy? 'Western' and 'Confucian' concepts of scholarship and learning

Ryan, Janette and Louie, Kam (2007) False Dichotomy? 'Western' and 'Confucian' concepts of scholarship and learning. Educational Philosophy and Theory. 39 (4) Pg 404-417

'We don't see things the way they are, we see things as we are' Anais Nin.

This paper was a good way of challenging my preconceived ideas of different educational approaches, and at the end of the paper I was ashamed of my own biases when teaching foreign students by projecting my own image of passivity onto them, and not being generous enough to understand that my own behaviour of questioning was the result of much practice and cultural acceptance in doing so.

The authors were also very good in pointing out that a middle ground was a desired outcome, to explore what was good in each paradigm and combining them to create a richer 'learning' environment. And that includes role-modeling. A good teacher is open to learning and should demonstrate life-long learning and self improvement (a mainstay of Confucian learning, as pointed out in the paper).

In a recent conversation with my mother I was taken aback by her attitude to Aborigines (Aboriginines, as she pronounced it). It also made me more aware that we change over time, although we may be unaware of it because it is a subtle movement. My mother was raised on a station in Marble Bar and spent a lot her time with the mothers and children of the local population. This was in the days when the men worked as stockmen in return for flour, tea, blankets, jam and tobacco. We see this as exploitation now, however the way Mum tells it the aboriginals had dignity in their horse skills and ability to provide for their families. There certainly wasn't the welfare mentality that Noel Pearson rallies against.

So what made my Mum change her opinion? When I challenged her she said that it was from her experiences nursing, as I guess our community services often deal with the tragic side of our 'society'. In my experience the police have the most prejudiced views of all our community groups, and I guess they have developed a fortress mentality as they are continually under siege, with the threat of violence never far away. Like the army, you need a strong, cohesive culture to deal with that kind of  threat. I could also hear in Mum's language the prevailing attitude of the 'Bowling Club' and the entrenched position our older generations hold.

So bringing it back to an educational context, we need to see learners as individuals, not labels, because there are a multitude of attitudes even within a defined group. We should be aware of the complexities, rather than dumb down to simplistic models of reality, try to draw out the positive aspects and develop a deeper understanding of views other than our own.

Self-Direction and LLL in the Info Age: Can PLE's help?

Muldoon, Nona (2008) Self-Direction and Lifelong Learning in the Information Age: Can PLEs help? Source. Accessed 5 August 2010 Lifelong learning : reflecting on successes and framing futures : keynote and refereed papers from the 5th International Lifelong Learning Conference, Yeppoon, Central Queensland, Australia, 16-19 June 2008. p. 277-283 Refereed ISBN: 1921047569

 An interesting paper that raises the question of how to address the way that ICT's have 'changed the way people think and operate' and is blurring the dichotomy between school-based and work-based learning. The pace of change due to globalisation means that to maintain currency in ones chosen discipline necessitates continued learning across the lifespan.

So the author posits that one of the roles of higher education in this context must be to foster Self-Directed Learning in graduates, and that one way to accomplish this is by letting students practice learning by using Social Media rather than locked-down operating environments and by changing the balance of power between teachers, curriculum and students.

Personal Learning Environments include access to Web 2.0 tools such as search (Google, Flock) create and publish (Blogs, PodCast, YouTube, Flickr) Collaborate and Share (Wiki, and join communties (Facebook, LinkedIn groups) and to create their own identities (ePortfolio, Facebook)

Using such tools changes the power dynamics of the learning environment and creates a longitudinal attachment to their learning (which will be useful given the unreliable nature of our memories).

This paper has helped me think about my own lifelong learning strategy, and blogging on my readings in an open platform rather than on an LMS so I can access their ideas in any future context that I find myself in.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Citizenship is a global society

Given that online courses contain a mix of international students, many of whom are living or working outside of the country of their birth, reflect on your experience with the concept of citizenship. You may wish to include observations about your context (Do you live in a multicultural/multiracial society? How inclusive is the society and culture?), your own situation and activities (Are you a participant or observer in that society? Are you a citizen of the country in which you live? Do you have dual/multi-citizenship? How does that affect your participation? If you are an active citizen, are you an educated one? Why do you say so?) and the actions of others (Would you characterize yourself as a mainstream member of society or a marginalized member? Are there opportunities for you to exercise your citizenship?).

My context
I have lived in Australia for three quarters of my life, the first quarter being spent roaming through Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Malaysia and traveling from India to England where we lived for a few years before returning to Australia. I guess this contributed to my identification with the outsider, the underdog, despite being blessed with being born in an affluent culture, well educated and being in a secure family environment. Moving around meant being exposed to the bullies whenever you started at a new school because you were new, or different. I'm extremely grateful for this because I think you grow through being challenged, and because I don't doubt that if I had been brought up in a more closed environment I would have conformed to the dominant mindset, which I find in Australia is rather insular, tainted with an underlying racism, economically dominated and thoroughly Western (individualistic, consumptive) in its outlook despite being part of a greater Asia.  

I once had a job on a Wheat bin out of Geraldton in the mid-north of Western Australia. The hardest working member of the local team was an aboriginal man who happily pulled the weight of the rest of the employees because he knew that was what kept him employed. He couldn't join them in the crib room for smoko, because he wasn't part of their circle, so he kept working. He was a 'good' Abo, but an Abo none the less. The local population was also having a bit of whinge about the Asians coming in an taking over the market gardens. The ironic thing was that the loudest complaints came from the 'Wogs' who had met exactly the same reception when they set up their market gardens after the war. The Italian migrants had become fully integrated into Aussie culture and my only hope is that so will the Asian immigrants in time and that the blend will keep the good (industry, perseverance) and lose the bad (resistance to change, isolation from our Aisan neighbours, consumerism).

My situation and activities
I have recently moved to a small coastal village on the the Far North Coast of NSW. I can't say I am a very active participant in society at the political level, but do try and participate in community groups, i.e. Mothers group (Even if I am a Dad) and tuckshop duty at my daughter school. I am active in some global contexts, i.e. Interest Groups through Social Network tools, such as LinkedIn eLearning and Education groups as well as membership of organisations such as Amnesty International. I do want to participate further in politics, however it will need to wait until I can devote time and energy that are currently occupied with raising children and study.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Connectivism, the new educational paradigm?

I'm a fan of Guy Claxton Wise Up (Visions of Education) and his work on life-long learning and the power of the mind in non-traditional education, yet to me there was always something missing. His three tenets of Reflection, Resilience and Resources made me think of a Knight (on horseback). The Knights helmet was so shiny, yet the visor had the merest crack in it, and like the Lenard Cohen song, that was to let the light in - not to see the outside world, but to reflect on what was inside themself. Why have some of the wisest protagonists in stories been blind? Does it allow them to focus on their inner world and not be distracted by the shifting sensory cacophony around them? So that is the core of learning as espoused by so many great thinkers (Dewey, Polanyi, Einstein; the list goes on...), that knowing yourself and exercising your imagination is the wellspring of learning and of thus embracing the change you perceive as necessary.

The second point is resilience. The Armour and a shield to protect this mindfulness from the slings and arrows of failure, to enable you to live to fight another day and learn from your mistakes - by reflecting on what worked and what didn't. It provides a level of confidence that you can take on the world safely, with all its detractors and pits and trap falls of counterpoints. You can trust yourself to fight your best fight without wasting your energy on doubt and negativity.

Lastly, Claxton wrote of resourcefulness, which I saw as the long lance clutched firmly in the Knights gauntlet. It was both offensive and defensive. It keeps people at bay, and can skewer them like a kebab if they have the affront to challenge. It could also be utilised in myriad ways. It could be used as a flagpole when travelling, carrying your standard for all to see for miles around when held upright in your stirrup, or even as the tent pole to pitch your canvas over when resting. A very handy tool - but an inanimate object.

For me the vision lacked the Charger, the Relationship part of the connectivist paradigm. The trusty horse that enabled you to travel to far-away lands and make connections with different kingdoms. Also the knight as a chess-piece is the most innovative mover; it provides the hook from left field that feeds innovation (like the weak ties in Social/Organisational Network Analysis). And it is dynamic and taps into how we are social creatures at heart. Behaviourism, Cognitivism and Constructivism all focus on the individual, just like the Knights Helmet, Shield and Lance does. But wasn't the Round Table the real strength of Arthurs' kingdom? United we stand, etc? Gestalt shows us that we are greater than the sum of our parts

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Goldilocks dilemma

I've been working on a collaborative paper with peers around the world, and our topic has been on the role feedback and reflection play in learning (through an online environment). It's been a gut-wrenching experience to say the least, and right now, for me, that hasn't been resolved.

I don't think of myself as a lazy person, yet I recognise that my motivations lie in the perceived rewards from my efforts. It has been interesting to note that the feeling of failure in tackling this topic has been strong, that it is too complicated to achieve a result in the time we have, yet the urgency to push on has come from my own sense of self - that I am a team player and this is a core of my self-identity. The balance between discomfort, with the drive to push through led me to Mezirow and a bit of an ah-ha breakthrough. As a learner I need to complete 'pictures' - see interconnections, and until now I have been juggling. I wouldn't have reached this point without the support and encouragement of my peers.

Is this the core of a good teacher? Pushing without shoving. Setting stretch goals and then supporting the learner to reach them. Finding the fine line of balance between too much and too little?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The exhaustion of being an Introvert

When I did the Myers-Briggs I was surprised to find I was classified as Introverted. I like being with people, it's just that I energise by spending time by myself. So I feel like I fell off the studies after submitting my first assignment. I was so enthused when I started I was like a puppy replying to every post, and that finally took its toll.

Networks - the paradox of density and Gestalt

Nicholas Christakis has a fascinating take in his TED talk on Social Networks, and the part where he showed the knitting of atoms of carbon into graphite and diamonds was illuminating. The diamond is far denser than the pencil lead, but lets in light because the atoms are arranged in a connected network much more than in graphite. It is not the property of the carbon, but of the network, that gives it its 'personality'.

This sort of counter-intuitive result is like America's use of torture to combat terrorism. I don't think anyone would argue that Abu Ghraib damaged their reputation, and made the job of their soldiers even harder, so how to you counter this behaviour? I would argue open and transparent systems, with prisoners accorded all the rights of an American in court will win the war of hearts and minds - if not the isolated battles of interrogation. Why destroy something you respect and trust? If you understand something then you can begin a basis of communication, negotiation, persuasion...At least begin dialogue.

So it is in management. Command and Control doesn't work as effectively in the Knowledge Economy as other techniques that distribute power and empower employees (which used to be known as people, before they were turned into Human Capital).

So lets start looking at the real animal, and rename it as the 'living system' that is an organisation, not the dry graphical nodes of 'social network' chart. By recognising the big picture and seeing it as having it's own dynamic life, that requires care and nuturing, we give dignity back to the people who sustain it. The gestalt is the sum all of us, and yet bigger than all of us individually. As our actions ripple back and forth across the distances between indirect connections you realise the system takes on a life of its own, it develops personality - and that can't be isolated into individual nodes.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Paradox of Networks

I listened to the disadvantages of networks with a great deal of interest last night. You see, I'm a glass half full kind of person, my blindspot is the downside of things. I guess the GFC was a great eye-opener in the danger of inter-dependencies of a networked society - that this inter-connectedness makes us all more vulnerable to an impact in one (now non-isolated) part as it ripples through the web.

Anyway, this talk was great and it touches on something that Ralph Stacey wrote about in his complexity books. By actually concentrating on the group - and their outcomes, the individual is actually (paradoxically) given a greater respect, a more noble impact with their contribution. This is the central paradox - that group think, the wisdom of the crowd, is only maximised if all the people in the group are independent, are individuals. Everyone has to be free to voice their own concerns, not be swayed by what others think of their opinions. Because the downside is a circle mill, where we all goose-step into oblivion. Is this consumerism?

I've been returning to a problem posed to us by one of my Design professors - that we all want to be individuals, but belong to a group. Eat our cakes. We are defined by who we belong to, as much as we are by our thoughts and actions.

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him... The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself... All progress depends on the unreasonable man." George Bernard Shaw

There must be a fine line between having the courage to speak your convictions and not alienating yourself from the group with your opinions. A fine balance...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Social Networking/Media, Boundary Spanners, CoP's and Peer evaluation (+throw in information literacy)

I'm writing a Literature Review on Formative Feedback and Reflective Practices in an online environment. Our class has also been discussing the vision versus reality of elearning, and the huge chasm between them.

Firstly the talk by Clay Shirky on Social Media.
So disruptive technologies surpass Control, connecting many-to-many and destroy the one-to-one, one-to-many paradigms and replace them with many-to-one and many-to-many connections. This allows our ZPD to be vastly expanded.

Then the disadvantages of Networks and Group Think from James Surowiecki.
Circle Mills are mindless follow-the-no-leader scenario where each link thinks the next link knows what's going on. A follow them home mentality, or if I shut-up then no-one will notice my ignorance until we all see the Emperor's New Clothes scenario. So we need the courage to admit failure, not understanding, or not cover over our weaknesses - all courageous decisions that may not be in our personal interests, but by creating a greater social capital, maybe paradoxically the most direct way to serve ourselves.

Then SNA and the Power of Loose Ties, or boundary spanners within Communities of Practice.
It is the Mavericks, the unreasonable person, that advances our thinking, that helps create a new world shaped by the way we look at it. (We all live in the same universe but inhabit different worlds),

What are the new skills needed in this Networked World? Independent views supported by the skills of information literacy and the higher cognitive functions employed during the process of peer dialogue?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Transformative Learning

Mezirow seems to be using different language to describe the same phenomena Lonnie Athens' does in his process of violentization. I also believe that Bertram Brookes was onto the same thing with his 'fundamental equation of information science', i.e. you've gotta know what somebody already knows to build on it, or address their bias (and yes, we are all biased - I'm not suggesting that teaching is done without an agenda).

I've had my worldview changed over the time I spend studying Knowledge Management. I feel I have new lenses in which to view the world. It's also changed me in the way some of my convictions have been strengthened - and that was done by cognitive dissonance.

You see I was Director of Studies for a very shoddy Registered Training Organisation (RTO - Visa factory) when my first daughter was born. I was torn between being a good provider for my family and being able to provide a quality training environment for my students. How could I mentor my child if I sold out my values? I was literally feeling the cracks inside myself when I came home and shut down, drinking too much and going into a depressive spiral.

Luckily the owner forced me into a situation that made my choice easy. I was told to fire a teacher because she raised an OH&S issue. I walked out there and then, and spent the next six months unemployed, but with my baby daughter bonding. My next job has sent me on the path I am now pursuing, and I am a much happier person, better father, but still require more work on being a better husband (It's those strong convictions again, and not cutting other's the slack they deserve just because they hold views contrary to mine). You can choose your friends, but not your family... Did I really just say that?

So I've experienced by incremental change through study, and a tipping point in my professional life. And I guess although I didn't change direction, I grew and learnt more about myself in the process.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My current understanding of online pedagogy

Bit late, being week 6 and all, however I was never a quick starter. Life is a marathon...

Firstly, I don't think you can have online pedagogy. This is purely semiotic, because I really find this term offensive and idiotic. I also believe that my eldest child, who started school this year, could learn through online instruction. She doesn't have the requisite skills to 'scaffold' her learning, i.e. knowledge of interfaces, reading, writing, etc. Although I must admit she has been amazing me with her skills navigating Dirtgirl, and other ABC kids sites. We under-estimate so much, and it's true they inhabit a different world to us X gen people.

I have always liked Bertram Brookes' fundamental problem with information science, where he posits that new information plus your existing knowledge creates an incremental change in the structure of that knowledge. I like this because it combines Cognitivism and Constructivism. You can see how you need to have a mind to start with, before you can interact with Vygotsky's ZPD, or Wengers CoP.

And I think that is where online learnings' sweet spot is... Androgogical networking. Social Capital is supported through mutual respect and reciprocity. We learn off each other through sharing and caring. Which is the third leg of the triumvirate of learning, behaviourism.

I also think that technology enables us to use our learning style preferences, to play to our strengths, and to share our knowledge through different information artifacts, be they podcasts, essays, concept maps, or multimedia prototypes.

Gratitude post

I'd like to give thanks for:
  • Beautiful children
  • Loving wife
  • Great game of footy last night at Skilled Park
  • An interesting job
  • A clean car
  • A lovely day
  • Being the youngest in my family
  • Not having to work on a Saturday morning
  • My health
  • My team-mates at the Raiders
  • My neigbours
So much really...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Love my concept maps

For my Masters of Learning and Development I'm combining my two subjects - Assessment and Online Pedagogy (Not fond of the ubiquousness of this term in Higher/Adult education)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Reflections on online studies

Well it's been a bit unstructured really and I'm just starting to get more discipline into my studies.

What has been holding me back?
Starting a new routine is difficult. We have made so many changes that the dust really hasn't settled yet. What are these changes?
  • Relocating from Sydney
  • Setting up a new house
  • Tilly starting school
  • Getting daycare for Evie so I have uninterrupted time to focus on study
  • Starting online studies, finding out how much time I had to devote to courses - dropping two when finally realising that I had over-committed given my responsibilities of:
  • Being the home Dad
  • Finding time for the body (addressing gout) so I am mentally resilient as well as physically fit
  • Organising for my Mother to move here from WA
  • Entertaining guests that come to visit from Sydney, Perth, etc
  • Getting used to Moodle, rather than Blackboard/WebCT
  • Getting to know how the Instructors use the LMS to present their content, idiosyncratic design architecture
Then I also need to read and focus my energies for the online environment, rather than get distracted by glittering lights, inbox messages, etc.

For instance this is a posting for my assessable diary for EDU8114 that I've really only just started in Week 4!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Gratitude and Happiness

I've just read an interesting article in the SMH (link in title) on this Good Friday morn. The paradox of giving is better than receiving is explored in this article, and how the way we see things dictates our thoughts and actions. If it's true people don't trust lawyers, is it because lawyers don't trust people? I think of John Howard as I write that sentence. But perhaps I should be grateful we at least live in a democracy, and that for all of his ideologies that I oppose he did introduce the Family Tax Benefit that allows me now to be a stay at home dad and study while my wife earns a modest income to support us.

So what have I got to be grateful for today?
  • Two beautiful children (even if the little one is a Gestapo officer reincarnate, she does makes us laugh with her authoritarian nature)
  • A loving wife with a beautiful, caring nature
  • A lovely house near the beach and abundant natural gifts of the Northern Rivers of NSW
  • That I'm losing weight
  • That I have a stimulating career ahead in the emerging field of elearning
  • That we have good friends from Sydney coming to stay with us, and more on the way
  • That I have so much room to improve it's hard to fail
  • That my Mum will soon be closer to us and her grandchildren
It's nice to start your day with a smile on your face...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Social Networking and Air Kisses

I've recently been thinking about how the way we look at our environment determines our behaviour. I guess that is what Bandura was getting at with his Triadic Reciprocal Determinism.

Firstly a quote I like:
'We don't see the way things are, we see them the way we are' Anais Nin

I'll also follow this up with:
'..who cares is some one-eyed son of a bitch invents an instrument to measure spring with'. E.E.Cummings.

There was a recent post on the eLearning Guild (LinkedIn) that spoke about Change. A comment that resonated was that the reason most change projects fail is that they are based on rational arguments. Change is an emotional response that has very little to do with rationality. People change readily if they trust the messenger and see the benefits. The example given was that both a +5% raise and -5% cut in salary are changes - each eliciting different responses. However, even some Executives give themselves pay-cuts.

I don't know about you but I'd like to be in the trenches with this guy. He is the sort of leader you would charge into machine-gun fire for. Maybe this is why the Japanese could lead Banzai attacks in WW2, because the soldiers trusted their commanders. It makes a big difference to the German reliance on non-thinking automatic obedience, drilled into them from an early age. Maybe that's why the population allowed the Holocaust to happen - too many sheep. Apparently the best way to fool a German was to blow a whistle loudly - the local Burghers used them to control the civil population, and I guess it may contribute to the 'character' of Germans as the stereotype is measured, methodical, tempered, etc.

Anyway - getting off topic. Trust is such an holistic emotion that messages are less than 10% of the meaning taken by a listener. Apparently body language and tone have a lot more impact than the words themselves - an emotional response that is more whole body than brain.

But let me pull this back to my original post heading. I used to hate 'networking'. I saw it as a lot of self-serving arse-lickers looking for favours at little expense, so consequently I shied away from it. Then someone told me to approach it from the angle of how I can help the other person, and it made my conversation much more of an 'open questioning' style than the stilted ones I used with another lense.

You see I believe in reciprocity too. Here is my paradox - It is better to give than receive because ultimately you get back much more than you contribute in many subtle and varied ways. We do live in community, and Social Capital supports you, and provides nurture in many more ways than Human Capital can individually.

"Money's meant to be spread around. The more happiness it helps to create, the more it's worth. It's worthless as an old cut-up paper if it just lays in a bank and grows there without ever having been used to help a body"

Friday, March 26, 2010

Learning, Change and the Spare Jumper philosophy

I was listening to Dan Campbells' Learning Theory Podcast and I felt like commenting on my own reflection on Learning, Change and Comfort Zones.

I have recently moved, and while I still have fresh eyes I have been noticing that people who are not extending themselves, venturing into new territories and staying in well worn grooves of comfort are slowly withdrawing from wider circle of society. It's a paradox that staying in your comfort zone is really staying a danger zone. I had an old rugby captain who used to run around the field shouting 'no complacency' when we were winning. Easing off means you are cheating yourself of growth I feel. Pushing boundaries gives you greater space to play - expanding your Proximal Zone of Development (Vygotski).

We live in Australia, and although the image is of the sunburnt country, it does get pretty cold at night. My wife came up with the idea that you should never put on a jumper when you are out and as the sun dips, and a chill comes into the air. She reckons its better to save it until later at night, when the temperature really plummets. Her rational is that if you put on your jumper too early, you have nowhere else to go later when you really need it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gout is a real pain in the - foot

Living up in the hot summers of Northern NSW is giving me pause to reflect on diet and alcohol intake. I've been carrying a bad foot for more than a month now - usually I can get rid of the symptoms in a day or two with tablets, but sweating so much because I'm a fat bastard, and drinking too much, because I have good neighbours and been on holidays has led me to a rethink.

It's true that I'm good at telling people the solutions to their problems, but it's hard taking your own advice.

So I here make a public pledge to drink more water, drink less beer (and alcohol) and eat meals with less purine and lose 20kg!

Lets see how I progress over the next three months - let me go to the toilet and weigh myself.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Study plans for 2010

Well, I've gone and done it, enrolled in a Masters of Learning and Development, majoring in Learning Design and picking up other units from the Online and Distributed learning streams. Why have I done this rather than complete a project to attain my Masters in Knowledge Management? I had come to the conclusion that KM was too nebulous for many Managers to understand and fully appreciate the impact it can have on an organisation, hence the layoffs and retooling of many KM departments when discretionary spending gets squeezed, or a new CEO takes over. Makes me nervous with a family to feed and career to build. Secondly, the MLAD develops my past skills and experiences. At my (middle) age, many interviewers eyed me with suspicion about why I was changing (apparently) my focus from eLearning/Multimedia.
During my studies in KM I came to a conclusion that it was only one part of a triangle of merged skills, and I always like the 'softer' side of KM, i.e. Knowledge came from Learning and Change. Well change is a prickly, poisoned chalice. I am always reminded of the joke, "How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light-bulb?" The answer is only one, but the light bulbs gotta wanna change. To many change directives are initiated top down by Leaders who have no real idea of what the people they are directing to change do or feel - bound to fail most times. It also seems too simplistic, I think a complex situation can't be unravelled so easily, especially when dealing with ICT's and humans.
So wish me luck.