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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

English for Academic Purposes, but with a Purpose

Speaking in Social Contexts: Issues for Pre-Sessional EAP Students

In response to this article, possibly linking the course organization, the pre-sessional EAP course, and the criteria used to select the EAP learners would help the adaptation process.

Course organization: The EAP course that offered a social service project would not only provide EAP learners the contact with locals they seek, but also would serve as a way to better the local community in some way.

Pre-sessional EAP course: Mainly strategically based, a pre-sessional EAP course prepares the learner for knowledge, skills and strategies (i.e., more about survival than linguistic skills alone), and dispositions in terms of the actual project to be carried out in the EAP course.

Selection process: The criteria used to select EAP learners would include language and cultural components.  The selection process might include measuring a learner’s language proficiency, (local) cultural understanding, and more specific understandings that relate to the project that is to be covered in the EAP course.

Course organization, the pre-sessional EAP course, and the selection process might benefit from having an online space (i.e., an online social network linking related information required for the project) that is open and ongoing (lasting at least one year), providing the support and feedback all stakeholders would need in order to create an educative experience for the learner as well as a successful social service project that serves a need.

Any other thoughts?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Edupunk, Free, and Openness

I attended a session this morning on free and freedom moderated by My ESL Friend's George Machlan.  George has spent countless hours online helping a number of English language learners better their proficiency, and for that, I applaud him!  However, we do tend to disagree from time to time and after this morning's session, I feel compelled to share a different perspective.  Let's begin with his.

George begins his discussion on free and freedom (at 31:26) where he states the following:

Is freedom free?

Internet expectations - free...value...advertising...sustainable

Motivation - students...[entrepreneurs]...teachers

freedom - where, when, how, who

healthy community

What does freedom do?

  • cheapens product


  • dependency


  • devalues teacher


  • creates/maintains power structure


  • sets up a false paradigm


  • slows creativity


  • ensures mediocrity - the best move on


  • Is anything free?  At what cost?


Today's session is part of an ongoing series dedicated to what he frames as an "Edupunk movement", and his purpose is to support the notion of You get what you pay for. If you do not pay for it, then it must be of lesser value.  If anyone offers free classes to English language learners, for example, the classes will be less creative, mediocre, and learners will be less participative than if learners paid for classes.  Also, the perception will be that if teachers are offering free classes that they will be viewed as being devalued yet still maintain a power structure that puts students at a disadvantage.  This is my understanding of George's perspective and from where I plan to base my argument.

For the purpose of my argument, I will define the term free as 1) gratis and 2) open.   Regarding the latter, I think George and I agree on the value of using open educational resources that allow users to reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute content as long as attribution is given.  But regarding the former, it's difficult to be open when one has to pay for that openness.  Edupunk (i.e., a do-it-yourself education) is based on the premise that learners take responsibility for their own learning and look for ways to incorporate both formal and informal learning opportunities to best suit personal needs, wants, and learning preferences.  I have never associated the Edupunk "movement" with the notion that one must pay money to have a quality learning experience with an instructor who is seen as more valuable simply because a fee exchange has taken place.

I equate the idea of since it's free, it must be of lesser value similarly to those who feel that Wikieducator must be useless because 1) it's free and 2) anyone can edit the content.  Let's consider the following questions:

  1. Is anyone really benefiting from Wikieducator? I would argue, yes!  I would dare say that if it weren't for Wikieducator, we would still be paying tons of money for printed encyclopedias that would be outdated the day of being published.  Consider the people around the world who have access and who benefit from this free (gratis and open) information.  Having access to open information that promotes learning has to make them less dependent and more powerful at the end of the day.

  2. All things being equal, let's assume that Wikieducator suddenly started charging users to access information.  Would this automatically make the content more valuable? I don't think so.  This would mean less people contributing and less people viewing the content, both of which would actually devalue the content in my view.

  3. But if anyone can edit Wikipedia, doesn't this mean that some content could be inaccurate? Well, yes it does.  But this also means that 1) people need to be more critical of what they read (regardless if it's an online source, book, article, etc.) and 2) if the content is of poor quality, anyone can theoretically make it better.  There are other aspects of openness other than reuse that promote cooperation and collaboration of content, namely revision, remix, and redistribution.  Learning to be critical of all content (even peer-reviewed) and playing an active role in content development are two skills that will serve the learner well in the future.


The misconception is that because one pays for something, it must be valuable.  You don't always get what you pay for.  And if a learner has to pay for a class, there is much more power among those who have money than with those who do not - 80%-20% power law.  Additionally, promoting creativity and dependency of the learner towards someone else relate more to how participants (i.e., teacher, educator, coach, instructor, etc. and learners) interact with each other and the content, less about how much one pays for a course.

What does freedom do?

Freedom affords individuals to a do-it-yourself (DIY) education that requires a level of creativity, criticality, and caring when placing value judgments on one's education.  These value judgments are independent of whether a monetary transaction happens to take place or not.

Freedom in general may be defined as the absence of obstacles to the realization of desires - Bertrand Russell

Many learners are still faced with two obstacles that reduce their freedom to learn: 1) money and 2) being confined to one teacher or class (e.g., being obligated to finish a paid course delivered in isolation).

How can we eliminate obstacles that interfere with the freedom to learn?

Edupunk, Free, and Openness

I attended a session this morning on free and freedom moderated by My ESL Friend's George Machlan.  George has spent countless hours online helping a number of English language learners better their proficiency, and for that, I applaud him!  However, we do tend to disagree from time to time and after this morning's session, I feel compelled to share a different perspective.  Let's begin with his.

George begins his discussion on free and freedom (at 31:26) where he states the following:

Is freedom free?

Internet expectations - free...value...advertising...sustainable

Motivation - students...[entrepreneurs]...teachers

freedom - where, when, how, who

healthy community

What does freedom do?

  • cheapens product


  • dependency


  • devalues teacher


  • creates/maintains power structure


  • sets up a false paradigm


  • slows creativity


  • ensures mediocrity - the best move on


  • Is anything free?  At what cost?


Today's session is part of an ongoing series dedicated to what he frames as an "Edupunk movement", and his purpose is to support the notion of You get what you pay for. If you do not pay for it, then it must be of lesser value.  If anyone offers free classes to English language learners, for example, the classes will be less creative, mediocre, and learners will be less participative than if learners paid for classes.  Also, the perception will be that if teachers are offering free classes that they will be viewed as being devalued yet still maintain a power structure that puts students at a disadvantage.  This is my understanding of George's perspective and from where I plan to base my argument.

For the purpose of my argument, I will define the term free as 1) gratis and 2) open.   Regarding the latter, I think George and I agree on the value of using open educational resources that allow users to reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute content as long as attribution is given.  But regarding the former, it's difficult to be open when one has to pay for that openness.  Edupunk (i.e., a do-it-yourself education) is based on the premise that learners take responsibility for their own learning and look for ways to incorporate both formal and informal learning opportunities to best suit personal needs, wants, and learning preferences.  I have never associated the Edupunk "movement" with the notion that one must pay money to have a quality learning experience with an instructor who is seen as more valuable simply because a fee exchange has taken place.

I equate the idea of since it's free, it must be of lesser value similarly to those who feel that Wikieducator must be useless because 1) it's free and 2) anyone can edit the content.  Let's consider the following questions:

  1. Is anyone really benefiting from Wikieducator? I would argue, yes!  I would dare say that if it weren't for Wikieducator, we would still be paying tons of money for printed encyclopedias that would be outdated the day of being published.  Consider the people around the world who have access and who benefit from this free (gratis and open) information.  Having access to open information that promotes learning has to make them less dependent and more powerful at the end of the day.

  2. All things being equal, let's assume that Wikieducator suddenly started charging users to access information.  Would this automatically make the content more valuable? I don't think so.  This would mean less people contributing and less people viewing the content, both of which would actually devalue the content in my view.

  3. But if anyone can edit Wikipedia, doesn't this mean that some content could be inaccurate? Well, yes it does.  But this also means that 1) people need to be more critical of what they read (regardless if it's an online source, book, article, etc.) and 2) if the content is of poor quality, anyone can theoretically make it better.  There are other aspects of openness other than reuse that promote cooperation and collaboration of content, namely revision, remix, and redistribution.  Learning to be critical of all content (even peer-reviewed) and playing an active role in content development are two skills that will serve the learner well in the future.


The misconception is that because one pays for something, it must be valuable.  You don't always get what you pay for.  And if a learner has to pay for a class, there is much more power among those who have money than with those who do not - 80%-20% power law.  Additionally, promoting creativity and dependency of the learner towards someone else relate more to how participants (i.e., teacher, educator, coach, instructor, etc. and learners) interact with each other and the content, less about how much one pays for a course.

What does freedom do?

Freedom affords individuals to a do-it-yourself (DIY) education that requires a level of creativity, criticality, and caring when placing value judgments on one's education.  These value judgments are independent of whether a monetary transaction happens to take place or not.

Freedom in general may be defined as the absence of obstacles to the realization of desires - Bertrand Russell

Many learners are still faced with two obstacles that reduce their freedom to learn: 1) money and 2) being confined to one teacher or class (e.g., being obligated to finish a paid course delivered in isolation).

How can we eliminate obstacles that interfere with the freedom to learn?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Finding a space to create, critique, and care

I've been spending a lot of time recently reevaluating my virtual space, online identity, and general approach as to how I can open up my own teaching and learning.  For example, I've decided to connect a lot of what I've done in the past and what I plan to do in the future to a Udemy course dedicated to anyone interested in teaching English to students of other languages (TESOL).

What drew me to Udemy is its ease of getting a course up and running and its networking concept.  Other sites tend to focus more on the content or the live sessions as separate components whereas Udemy focuses more on the instructor (i.e., teacher, educator, trainer, coach, etc.) and the course itself.  Instructors can bring in live sessions and content directly to the course, rearranging the content if the learning progression is of importance.  And through livestream, Udemy live sessions can be recorded and uploaded so that the recordings themselves become additional content as well.  Essentially, any document, audio, or video file can be uploaded to Udemy including content that is embedded from virtually any other site.  This is what sets Udemy apart from the others: content can be either brought into a course directly or it can just as easily be linked to other sites such as YouTube, BlipTV, among others.

Along with Udemy, I am also investing more time into a complementary wiki.  The wiki provides the means for greater interaction between educators interested in TESOL since all content (shared in both the wiki as well as the Udemy course) can be reused, revised, remixed, and/or redistributed as long as attribution is given and its use is noncommercial (i.e., Creative Commons, attribution-noncommercial-sharealike 3.0 unported license).  The goal in connecting technologies in this way is to grow connections between educators interested in TESOL in ways that foster creativity, criticality, and caring.

If you are interested in the ongoing live events that are a part of this open and ongoing course, check the schedule and add your comments and suggestions as to how you'd like to participate and what should be included.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Connecting ELLs to the community































This past October, we had our 3rd Annual English Festival at the UAA. Our undergraduate English language learners had the opportunity to present a leader of the past by creating an altar that depicted the individual. Neighboring schools brought their English language learners and their English language teachers (who acted as judges) who interacted with our students, giving our learners a purpose for learning a foreign language. We also had our university students visit other altars and learn about the various leaders from around the world which allowed them to not only increase their language capacity but also their knowledge of what makes a good leader. Our students were also proud to demonstrate all their hard work for other teachers and administrators from the UAA as well.

In addition to the English festival, we also just created a facebook page where English language learners and educators can interact. We want our language learners to learn how to connect with others in ways that help them achieve their language goals...a strategy that will serve them well both in their current classes as well as in the future.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Jim Scrivener on Traditional PPP in the EFL Classroom

My response to this post...







I think the problem I have most with this technique is the lack of contextualization, and the tendency to fall into a teaching rut.  I don't discredit it completely, but do think that the inclusion of technology, for example, affords teachers and English language learners more opportunities to learn the target language in more authentic situations (at all levels).  The more authentic the situation, the more motivated the learner.  It's all about mixing it up.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thesis seminar

I'll be teaching a thesis seminar next semester and plan on using Wikispaces for nearly the entire class.  I plan on having a series of live sessions (WiZiQ) and will use Engrade for maintaining grades for credit-seeking students attending the UAA.  Because the class is a Wiki, anyone can join, participate in the developing a thesis, provide feedback, and/or contribute to the design of the course.  Any comments or suggestions can be made here and are greatly appreciated!

As a side note, I tested Vokle this (very early) morning and this might also be used throughout the course as well.  However, I'm still looking for a third-party video capture solution so I can archive discussions; will see what I can find over the next few weeks.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Having fun and DIY learning

In response to Sylvia after a live session earlier today,

I would like to think of myself as a do-it-yourself (DIY) facilitator and coach - a bass player of a typical jazz group in 1957 (think groups with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, etc.). The "edupunk movement" I feel forces some to dichotomize formal and informal learning in how they relate to academic circles. I don't see it that way. Just as jazz music in the 50s incorporated many aspects of classical music, formal and informal learning can also “live as one”.

The topic of "edutainment" is certainly worth pursuing as long as activities remain "effective” and "engaging" (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005); that is, educative and entertaining. When you consider "edutainment" through an online, live session, the notions of teacher-talk time (TTT) – which also refers to moderator talk time – and student-talk time (STT) become important. If we agree that more STT is required, then one must consider how to motivate and assure that students will interact (e.g., will use writing controls, audio, and/or video); otherwise, students are just having fun but may not be learning a lot (i.e., learning that is educative). Note: the terms “teacher” and “student” can be substituted for “session moderator” and “attendees” respectively.

Differences in language proficiency, accessibility to technology, and experience interacting live with technology are all challenges moderators face when planning and implementing live, public sessions. Another challenge is limiting the moderator talk time and at the same time promoting interaction among all attendees through the implementation of an “edu-entertaining” activity. In my humble opinion, these issues are more important than simply talking about what a fun activity is. It’s more about the process of how to create a fun activity in a live, open space (i.e., "sharing our unique angles") than the product of the (fun) activity itself - the former being contextualized while the latter is not.

Friday, November 19, 2010

There's free, then there's free

Interesting, Giving Knowledge for Free is, well less than free. It's free in the sense that the work doesn't cost you anything, granted; but it appears that you need permission to reuse, remix, revise, and/or redistribute their work.


I understand there are degrees of openness, but the least someone could do if they are going to write an article, book, etc. about open educational resources is to make the work itself as open as possible (e.g., CC, CC-BY, etc.).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

OERs, copyright, and access to educational materials

This is in response to a discussion on OERs, copyright, and access to educational materials:

I would argue that contributing to OERs and earning a living are not necessarily diametrically opposite of each other. Consider the connections one might gain by adhering to open authorship as opposed to closed authorship. Granted, perhaps financial compensation from the published work would not exist but what about all the additional ways that a person might make money that would be as a result of connecting with someone through an OER. And what about the interactions that are created from the generation and ongoing development of an OER and the learning potential that this generates.

You ask, If everyone had to freely [give] away their knowledge because OER was the only option, would folks who need to earn a living through knowledge creation survive?

Well, I wonder how much close authorship really leads to "knowledge creation". In my humble opinion, "knowledge creation", or simply learning occurs to a greater degree when individuals interact with content (i.e., revise, reuse, remix, and/or redistribute) as opposed to creating content through closed authorship. The shelf-life of information these days is becoming shorter my the minute. I suspect that in the future, we will need more people who can teach, facilitate, and coach others how to revise, reuse, remix and/or redistribute content than people who can write a book (i.e., closed authorship).

Great discussion and certainly will be interesting to see how OERs bloom around the world going forward.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Openness versus being open and closed

This discussion made me reflect on the term openness in terms of degree.

Simply, everyone should have the freedom to use any type of license that is available - I typically refrain from judging which creative license is "better" than another.  Each type of license provides different degrees of openness and I don't see this changing anytime in the future (if ever); that is, an open educational resource under a Creative Commons License typically falls along an open and closed continuum.  There are many types of teaching and learning contexts that exist and it is unfair to generalize the importance of any particular type of license over any other.  When I see groups develop a licensing policy (that usually singles out one or a few acceptable licenses), I am quickly reminded of how my own learning is networked based (i.e., connective) as opposed to group based (i.e., collective).

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Shifting from mentoring to "unmentoring"

Mentoring in a network environment means facilitating an individual to a point when the mentor is no longer needed - taking the mentee from being dependent to independent, to interdependent. A mentor should guide the mentee in finding additional nodes (both human and nonhuman devices) that aid personal learning. If a mentor and mentee are working within the same organization, which would take precedent, personal or “shared”, organizational mission or vision statements? “Mentoring” someone towards a mission or vision of an organization seems like brainwashing. It's all about working towards personal goals while attending the need for earning a living.

 

...in a networked learning environment where learner autonomy could be more important than anything else...

 

If one agrees that a connective community involves what Downes has referred to as being autonomous, open, diverse, and interactive, I would argue that one is no more important than any other. They all influence each other to a point that if I am not open, or willing to accept other perspectives, or am not interactive, then I can't really be autonomous, for example. A mentor should coach a mentee to be all of these things. If a mentee is being honest about learning in a connective community and the organization's mission and vision align to that of the mentee's, then it would seem that this would be more relevant than simply the mentor/mentee relationship. If a mentee is still at a dependent stage, then the individual is not quite ready to reap the benefits of participating in a connective community.

Friday, October 22, 2010

To provide or not to provide the answers - Is that the question?

A learning moment recently presented itself.
Background

English language learners (ELLs) take free (general) English courses at the university level in order to prepare themselves for an exit (high-stakes) exam.  The courses are pass/no pass and the ELLs have the option to retake the same level course regardless if they pass or not.  Finally, homework is not graded which includes work done in the course workbook.

Superficial Question

Should the course workbook that accompanies the student course book contain the answers to the questions or not?

Argument for having the workbook with answers



  1. What incentive does the student have for simply copying the answers?  Doing or not doing the workbook exercises has no direct effect on the students' grades.  Obviously there is an indirect effect in most cases since understanding the answers to the questions (not just knowing the answers) can help ELLs with the learning process.

  2. The "only" thing that ELLs lose if they fail to understand the answers (not simply by copying them from the answer key) is time.  Granted, time is of the essence for many students who put off meeting their foreign language requirement, but there is no financial loss and students are free to choose to retake the same level at no cost if they feel they are not ready to proceed to the next level.

  3. Spending class time simply checking answers from the workbook is a waste of time - it does not provide the evidence needed in order for EFL/ESL educators to infer whether students understand why the answer is correct.  Providing the answers to the questions alone should not be confused with providing sound feedback from activities completed in the workbook through formative or dynamic assessment.  This is also referred to as "solving the problem backward" through "planning in reverse: means-ways-ends".

  4. Having answers to the workbook can promote autonomous learning.  I say can promote because many times autonomous learning requires teachers to facilitate the process, providing ELLs the strategies to become more autonomous.


The main argument (that I've heard from teachers) against having the workbook answer key


ELLs will simply copy the answers and will not learn anything.

Essential question

Instead of asking whether the course workbook should include the answers or not, I propose a more essential question:



How do EFL/ESL educators use a workbook with an answer key in ways that are formative in nature and seek to provide the evidence needed in order for EFL/ESL educators to infer whether ELLs understand why their answer in correct or incorrect?

As I am sure there are EFL/ESL educators (and teachers in general) on both sides of the argument, I would enjoy hearing from others on the subject.  Any references to support your claim are also appreciated (besides the fact that it strengthens your argument).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The WikiEducator "Invite them and they will come" Online Workshop - (September 22 to October 5, 2010)

Register today for the next Wikieducator workshop, Invite them and they will come!  Join us this Wednesday for a live session that will serve as a general overview of the course as well.



Celebrating the gift of knowledge



Image courtesy of maveric2003

This free wiki workshop is presented online over 10 working days and requires approximately 15 - 20 minutes per day. The course is presented asynchronously -- so you can work at times which fit your own schedule. Join educators around the world who are returning to the core values of sharing knowledge freely.

Learning4Content is the world largest attempt to build wiki skills for education and is administered by the OER Foundation, an independent non-profit organisation helping individual and organisations achieve their objectives using open education approaches.

We have achieved our targets in providing free wiki skills training to over 1000 educators this past year. Since our first pilot workshop in 2008, we have provided free training opportunities to more than 4,000 educators to learn how to develop OER the wiki way. In celebrating this gift of knowledge, we are hosting the this WikiEducator workshop where all facilitators donate of their time freely to help their WikiNeighbours. In the spirit of open philanthropy, the "WikiEducator Gives Back" annual workshop also provides an opportunity to scale-up our international team of Learning4Content facilitators.

L4C facilitators will be giving back in two ways:

  1. Donating their time freely to assist with facilitating this record breaking workshop attempt - (Designated as L4C Facilitators on the participants page)

  2. Sharing their knowledge with future L4C facilitators to join our international team of WikiEducator online facilitators so we can scale capability development for OER the wiki way. (Designated as L4C Co-Facilitators on the participants page)


The OER Foundation will institute this as an annual WikiEducator event which aims to:

  • Break the previous year's record for hosting the largest free online wiki workshop measured by the number of registered participants

  • Provide an opportunity for educators around the world to meet and interact with some of WikiEducators' top editors and seasoned wiki facilitators measured by their approximate edit count in WikiEducator


We aim to have a little fun. We will award community Kudos achievements for:

  • The workshop participant who achieves the highest number of edits during the workshop

  • The Facilitator / or Co-Facilitator who achieves the highest number of support edits during the workshop.


Please share this gift of knowledge and spread the word.

WE look forward to meeting you in the wiki!



Where a PLN and an LMS Become One (#PLENK2010)

I'm wondering if a blog post from nearly six years ago holds a similar perspective in today's terms which is central to topics being covered in PLENK2010.

Anderson lists some Advantages of an LMS which to me actually seem like disadvantages or at the very least, have no advantage at all.

  • Purposefully designed: Is this specific to an LMS?  It seems to me that a purposeful design has more to do with what the teacher does than the tool itself.

  • The capacity and functionality of tools designed to facilitate a net enabled class are now commonly understood by both learners and teachers and fit well with a cohort model of formal teaching and learning. Perhaps a cohort model of formal teaching and learning should not be the objective.

  • Institutional, teacher and student concerns over IP, privacy and support have been largely been addressed in current LMS systems. But does this equate to a more rigorous, relevant, and meaningful learning experience for the student?

  • Mature. There are many mature sites outside an LMS.

  • LMS systems have been around for about ten years and the primary interaction tools – threaded discussion groups for an additional 20 years, They are reliable, well supported by both vendors, development communities and typically institutional IT staff. There are many ways to communicate outside an LMS.

  • UniversalAdapative technologies are often available within LMS with little configuration required by learners or teachers. There are many adaptive technologies outside an LMS.

  • Safe and Secure Is being "safe and secure" really preparing the learner for the real world?

  • Educational institutions have long developed traditions of being safe places for the pursuit of learning and scholarship. One can reasonably expect to be treated fairly (or at least openly) and there are formal and informal norms adopted and enforced within contexts controlled by the institution. Such security is not provided on the open Net. This is redundant.  See comments above.

  • Learning at its best is personal and transformational. To accomplish this may require a sense of security whereby ideas, tones and emotions can be developed and shared. Learners have expectations that their comments, images and ideas are created and shared within this protected environment and are not available on the Open web, nor capable of being archived for decades and brought back to haunt the future. This will depend on the age and maturity level of the individual, but a capacity that is essential for all learners is to understand how to build a digital identity.  There are ways to prepare the "tones and emotions" beforehand while still having learners contribute to an open web.  Also, many spaces on the web allow for open and closed environments.  Finally, framing bad (online) experiences as haunting the learner in the future is the same as saying making mistakes is a bad thing.  It's all about preparing, guiding, and reflecting as the student contributions to the open web.

  • Ease of Use Same as above, is "ease of use" really preparing the learner for the real world?  There is a difference between ease of use and feasibility.

  • While developments in syndication technologies are rapidly improving, the challenge for a teacher or a learner to read through postings and their responses, in threaded or time stamped formats remains a challenge. Modern LMS systems default to easily support search, sort and organize postings in multiple formats. There are ways to do this outside the LMS.

  • Providing support to students for a single LMS system is relatively easy for learning services support staff. Such service can often be outsourced to 7*24 help desks if required. Ease of use argument.

  • Categories for postings are easily made, edited and expanded by teachers (for example typical LMS systems allow creation of informal coffee-room chats and threaded discussion areas, workspaces for teams and theme or chronological ordering of discourse. Categorization of blog posting even for those designed for a particular class are problematic, but become greater when a single PLE is used to contribute to personal, educational and vocational entries. There are technologies that exist today that enable the teacher to work smarter not harder.  There are ways to organize information in a public way.

  • Storing, uploading, archiving, editing and retrieval of course content is relatively easy in full featured LMS systems and usually undertaken by someone else – a prime requirement for effective backup! Storing, uploading, archiving, etc. can be done by teachers, students, and the community (i.e., anyone) in the open web.

  • LMS are the educational tools of today. The busy teacher or learner needs to invest little personal time and energy, but can ‘fall into” the supportive routines provided by educational support systems and expend their innovation energy in other directions. Are LMSs still the "educational tools of today"?  Plus, the tendency might be to set up a class in an LMS and then do little to contribute to it in the future.


  • My thoughts regarding the essential questions for this week follow.

    Can PLEs be seen as institutional level software?

    In part, yes.  If a course is offered in Moodle to degree-seeking students within an institution, that course more-than-likely will make up part of the learner's PLN (you say PLE, I say PLN).  I say more-than-likely because it depends on whether the student is getting anything out of the course, specifically what the student gets from the interaction of content and individuals that originate from the course offered in Moodle.  What the learner learns outside of the Moodle course constitutes the rest of the learner's PLE.

    Do PLEs require dramatic reform of the education system?

    Not in Mexico.  Even though we have courses in Moodle (blended and distance) and have restrictions to some websites when accessing the web at the university, the learners still have access to the web outside of the university which still contributes to their PLN in productive ways.  And although training teachers, admins. etc. to think in terms of a PLN is an ongoing process, I don't consider this as being a "dramatic reform of the education system".

    Must PLEs and LMS be seen as antagonistic to each other? Why can't they just get along?

    In my world, an "LMS" is just a part of a PLN (i.e., PLE) ; they are extensions of each other.  It's like those who just know me at school may or may not have the same understanding of who I am outside of school.  Even though I'm the same person, each network influences each other while maintaining some level of overlap between the two as well.

    This is why I don't like the term LMS and I avoid discussing whether an "LMS" is a good or bad thing.  It has little to do with the tool itself (or collection of tools) and more to do with how the tool is being used at any given moment.

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Is it a PLN, PLE, VLE, LMS, CMS, or something else?


    Good question.  In fact, this is a question that everyone should ask and be able to answer when choosing the different technologies and social, f2f contacts that ultimately become one's PLN.  In my blog post I say, " If I choose and determine that an LMS is the best way for me to learn, then the LMS is my PLN".  My point was that if a person can justify why an LMS best serves the individual's learning needs, interests, and learning preferences, then who am I to judge.  I also say this because many people are for or against an LMS; I think this is the wrong conversation to be having.  We should be addressing the question you pose that forwards this notion of articulating a learner's rationale in developing a PLN.  A learner's rationale for using any tool will also depend greatly on how the tool is being used.

    Clearly for me, an LMS is never my PLN.  For this MOOC (and for the first time), I am completely staying away from Moodle and it's made all the difference!  I weave in-and-out of blogs, tweet, and read The Daily in order to interact with individuals and content for the course.  This part of my PLN works for me and I can explain why it works for me...but I cannot judge others if they can explain an alternative way that works best for them, including using only an LMS.

    If someone says the only place they learn anything worthwhile is through some Moodle course, online community, etc., who am I to argue.  Technologies today are so integrated anyway that everything really is just varying degrees of a PLN.  Think of all the different ways online content can be brought into Moodle for example.

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    #PLENK2010: A PLN and Shifting Power Back to the Learner

    If an institution sets up PLEs for students using something like Elgg is that really that much better than an LMS? The students are still at the whim of whatever the institution chose to use.

    An institution cannot set up a PLN (what is being referred to here as a PLE) for students because, well, it's only personal if the students have a say in its design.  An institution can set up an LMS (i.e., an infrastructure) but that's just a tool.  Whether one calls it an LMS or Elgg, it really depends on how the tool is being used.  The functionality between Moodle and Elgg might be different, but when looking at one's possible PLN, an LMS typically is only a small part of the whole.  The university might be able to control the LMS, but they can do little to restrict the learner's PLN (even with the capability of blocking a few sites).

    The long tail (i.e., students) will continue to rise if teachers, administrators, etc. support learners in pursuing a PLN that is truly personal.

    Open Textbook Tweet

    Open Textbook Tweet

    Mark Twain remarked that he could never “make a good impromptu speech without several hours to prepare it.” A tweet, restricted to 140 characters, is a reflection of the impromptu conscience of digital society today. This collection of micro contributions from educators, administrators, and learners reflecting on the burgeoning phenomenon of open education resources and open textbooks is reason to celebrate: we are returning to the core vocation of education, which is to share knowledge freely. Clearly these contributors have thought deeply about the value of “sharing to learn,” but more importantly “learning to share.” This book is insightfully clever because it conveys a powerful message that will be a catalyst to nurture and evolve into a growing community of educators worldwide that is committed to the evolution and collaborative planning of education projects rooted in the foundations of open content. It is clear that OER futures are inevitable. After reading this text, I wonder when we look back at the history of these sustainable education futures, will we wonder why it took so long? - Wayne Mackintosh

    #PLENK2010: It's all a PLN

    Furthering an idea from an earlier post about PLNs,...

    The boundary nodes that make up a personal learning network (PLN) - those within one degree of separation - may consist of any combination of the following:

    1. Individuals or groups of individuals (f2f/online)

    2. Concepts, notions, ideas, thoughts, opinions, etc.

    3. Technologies: blogs, wikis, online communities,


    These types of nodes (i.e., individuals, concepts and technologies - ICTs) influence each other depending on the type of interaction that exists, and the type of interaction depends a lot on the direction of communicate flow (i.e., uni/bidirectional), power structures, and identity to name a few.  Since nodal learning is personal (individuals have choices in how they connect), there is (or should be) a high degree of autonomy that ultimately determines the degree of diversity and openness within the network topology.  In addition to the types of communication that exist between the ICTs, each learner must also continually reevaluate the attributes which influence how the connection will be maintained in the future.

    So if the term PLN is the whole enchilada, why choose PLN over the term personal learning environment (PLE)?  Well, it has to do with the word environment. Intuitively, one can see how individuals have more control over how they interact with ICTs and less control over their learning environment or learning ecosystem.  Sure, we have more control than we have in the past with respect to the when, where, why, how, etc. of our own learning, but our boundary nodes are the direct result of a series of personal decisions.  In my mind, a learning environment (which extends beyond the boundary nodes) is not personal in ways that a learning network is.

    So given the number of possible ICTs that can make up a PLN, what becomes more important is how individuals decide on which boundary nodes to connect with and how they choose to communicate with them in terms of means, ways, and ends (in that order).  By building capacities first, the individual is more likely to become responsible (i.e., able and willing) for pursuing personal goals than if "personal" goals are being dictated beforehand much like how mission or vision statements (or course objectives) are typically handed down in a directive fashion.

    Using a single term, a PLN, makes it easier to describe the interaction or influence between individuals, concepts, and technologies that connectively make up a "support system" for personal development.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Using the Community to Build the Curriculum

    It would be interesting to set up a PLENK2010-like course but with no pre-determined content whatsoever.  This course has no center with regard to the spaces used to interact with others (and content), but there is a "center" when it comes to content.  Why not start with essential questions (that come from the participants and/or facilitators) and build a course around that.  Each participant brings in content and experiences to the mix and suddenly learning truly emerges.  Instead of front-loading content (e.g., recommended readings), facilitators could reference these same readings through forum discussions; in others words, as evidence to form an argument or point of view.  Other members would follow suit.

    I'm sure Dave see's shortcomings to this approach but the thought just occurred to me once again as I participate in PLENK2010 simply by responding to questions posted by members (and related readings referenced by them), then seeing where the dialog takes me.

    #PLENK2010: Is this MOOC a PLE?

    Is this MOOC a PLE?

    I'm not sure it really matters.  Taylor adds the following questions:

    •  But how do new participants know what is possible [in a MOOC, PLE, PLN, etc.]?

    • How much time and energy are required to acquire new skills and knowledge?

    • What new skills and knowledge can one expect to gain?


    This MOOC, PLE, PLN, whatever, is what it is.  Everyone enters this course (as with any course on the planet) with different levels of readiness, interests, needs, learning preferences, etc.  Trying to determine what new skills and knowledge can be expected to be gained, for example, will vary greatly.  This is where expressive (non-behavioral) outcomes become more realistic in measuring degrees of emergent, non-linear learnings.

    At the end of the day, any course is about  finding the most appropriate ways to communicate so that each learner interacts with content and other individuals, then evaluating whether are not current connections (i.e., relationships) exists that afford an extended discussion.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    LMS Exists Mainly for the Needs of Managers, not Learners

    The LMS exists mainly for the needs of managers...not learners.

    I would say the participants in the PLENK2010 MOOC, who have decided to participate in a Moodle, would not agree.  These members have all the freedom in the world to choose how they wish to conduct discussions, yet they choose an LMS.  I'm willing to bet there are some who will work completely from Moodle for the entire course.  So from their perspective, an LMS exists mainly for the needs of the learners.

    #PLENK2010: Being too open!

    Ok, pet peeve time...choosing a hashtag!  I get MOOCs, open courseware, connective communities, etc., and the value in having each participant choose the way in which they want to interact with content and individuals.  But we should all be able to agree on having a single hashtag to filter our discussions.  It would be great if we could all agree on one hashtag for this course.

    ...wondering what percentage of participants are using #PLENK2010, #PLENK10, PLENK2010, etc...  And which hashtags are most people using?  And what's the criteria for choosing a hashtag, if there is one?

    I'm sure it's just me, but this does drive me nuts.

    #PLENK2010: Five points about PLNs

    Dave's five points about PLEs PLNs for PLENK2010

    Here is my adaptation...

    • Point #1:  I use the term personal learning network (PLN) to refer to all of the following: professional learning network, personal learning environment, learning management system, course management system, etc.  A node that makes up a PLN can be a person, group, institution, online community, software program, etc.  And it's personal if the learner (and not a teacher, trainer, expert, etc.)  has control over which nodes to connect with and what type of interaction the learner prefers to have with each node.

    • Point #2:  Judging a PLN should come from the learner who cultivates the PLN.  If I choose and determine that an LMS is the best way for me to learn, then the LMS is my PLN.  It is not the responsibility of someone else (nor their place) to judge whether my PLN (e.g., an LMS) is right or not for me.  I decide this for myself.

    • Point #3: "[PLNs] need not be supported by educational institutions", but educational institutions will lose out if they continue to create obstacles for students to access websites.  In fact, it would be to the institution's advantage to support PLNs in any way they can.  As more individuals gain the capacity to develop a PLN, institutions will need to be more competitive, which means to incorporate a more open approach to teaching and learning.

    • Point #4: Ownership(personal) and Time(network) are critical impediments to implementing PLNs in both formal and informal education.  Cultivating a PLN is an ongoing endeavor that requires time for the busy professional as well as for the busy student.  Taking ownership in one's learning can be a novel idea for a professional as well, especially if the individual is used to having been taught in a linear, more traditional fashion (e.g., similar to Freirian's banking concept of education).

    • Point #5: Cultivating a PLN requires ongoing facilitative support from a variety of sources: teachers, trainers, colleagues, students, administrators, basically all stakeholders.  Even in formal education, there is no starting or ending point when it comes to developing a PLN.  There is no minimum or maximum set of nodes and no right or wrong way to interact with those nodes per se.  What is more important is the impact the PLN has on the learner both in how the learning process unfolds and how the learner communicates with others.

    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    #PLENK2010 - Getting Started!

    I look forward to PLENK2010!  I will primarily use this blog and link with other blogs in order to interact with content for this MOOC, and will use this opportunity to connect with others as well.  Most of what I do online is through WikiEducator.

    I look forward to getting started!

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    The Physical versus the Virtual

    "Given that both E-Books and online courses be used for the sole purpose of learning, which one would you say was a more effective option?"

    I don't see this as being "either...or" (it's like asking what's better, a book or a course). An ebook is a resource and an online course is a means of delivery that includes a whole host of possible resources, learning theories, and types of communication (i.e., asynchronous and synchronous communication).

    We might ask: 1) What do you prefer, ebooks or physical books? 2) What do you prefer, online, blended, or face-to-face courses?

    Heidi says, "...I know my team would not be receptive to e-books as a form of learning".

    When I think of ebooks, I think of books found in Google Books, ebrary, etc. where parts or entire books can be accessible via the web. If someone rejects the use of ebooks, I'd be interested in knowing how much of it is a personal preference and how much of it is due to accessibility and know-how of the Internet and technology as a whole. It would be interesting to know Heidi's corporate learning environment, but I would say that if I have limited access to the Internet and/or I do not know much about technology, that's one thing. If I have access to the web, I'm technologically savvy, and I prefer not to use ebooks, that's a different notion.

    Would like to hear additional thoughts on the matter.

    Monday, September 6, 2010

    Academic paragraph assignment

    A writing assignment as part of an open academic writing course...

    Watch the video below and create one academic paragraph related to a topic being discussed. The academic paragraph will include three main points with adequate support for each. The main points can come from the video below or from any other reliable source. Your citations and references should follow APA. You are to post your paragraph here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr64l4FjvBQ&feature=related

    Sunday, September 5, 2010

    Learning4Content - The WikiEducator "Invite them and they will come" Online Workshop

    I'm very happy to be co-facilitating the next Learning4Content - "Invite them and they will come" Online Wikieducator (WE) workshop!  If you are interested in learning WE skills, register today!  You'll quickly find that there is plenty of support throughout the WE family should you need it which includes contacting me directly.

    See how others have used Wikieducator:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tc9-CNlIqsY

    We'll see you in the wiki!

    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    Letting Go in the Classroom

    [brightcove vid=14109949001&exp3=11490813001&surl=http://c.brightcove.com/services&pubid=10228042001&w=486&h=412]

    For many teachers, letting go of both classroom control and well-designed lesson plans seems extremely difficult. It also seems like a really bad idea. But teachers need to "embrace the messiness that is learning," says master teacher and author Robyn Jackson.

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    Blogs and language learning

    Some questions have been surfacing recently (as part of a TESOL online workshop) about the use of blogs.  When deciding whether to use a blog or not, an educator typically must ask the following two questions (among others):

    1. How can I use a blog to further my own teaching practice?

    2. How can I use a blog to further the achievement of my students?

    Understanding that there is some overlap in asking both questions, I will focus more on the former.  Notice how the video below presents a discourse among individuals interested in language learning:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQdQSISB8E8

    The benefit of a blog is that individuals can create discourse through asynchronous communication on topics of interest.

    What are your thoughts on using blogs, either as a means for promoting your own learning or as a means for promoting student achievement?

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    Is Teaching a “Class” a Big Mistake?

    Learning is social.

    I think most would agree that learning occurs through social interaction, but I see this as being different than learning being social.  One can intuitively see how this is the case when considering how one learns how to play a musical instrument.  If I study from the same music teacher, the same number of hours, the exact same instrument, under all the same conditions as my friend, the two of us would still not play music in the same way, with the same musical style, etc.  Learning is personal.

    A problem with class sizes of 25 – 30 is the peer group is often too small to be functional. Not everyone is ready to give feedback when a learner needs it. Larger group sizes are needed for peer review to work. From our experience groups of around 50 – 60 students should be considered as a minimum, groups of 90 – 120 or more is even better.

    This really depends on how one defines a group.  Since "virtual learning enviroments" is being considered, I would argue that we are really looking at a network as opposed to a group whereby peers become not only the classmates within the same school, but peers that extend beyond the classroom.  Regardless, it's the type of interaction between the students that counts, and not the number of students that make up the learner's network

    Teachers (and schools) have the obligation to find innovative ways to connect students and experts in ways that bring about multiple perspectives.  Teaching a class is not a mistake, teaching a finite group is.

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    The Social versus the Personal

    The Yin and Yang of Ideas and Creativity


    My response...

    Is social creativity more productive than individual productivity?

    It depends on how one views “social creativity”. This made me think of Siemens’s collective/connective or Downes’s group/network distinction. Social creativity (in terms of degree) is the result of the individuals’ creativity. If some individuals are marginalized in any way, the misconception is that social creativity is representative of each person. As Downes has referred to a connective community as being open, diverse, autonomous, and interactive; as I see it, these same attributes are required when promoting creativity in general.

    Personally, I tend to avoid terms like “social learning” and “social creativity” – both happen at an individual level through social interaction.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Dealing with the Three Cs in English Language Learning and Teaching

    Recent response to an interesting exchange...

    With regard to FL teacher education, how do you attempt and/or manage to balance the three important perspectives or goals you are referring to, i.e. “creativity”, “criticality” and “caring”?

    Teachers have to use discretion based on the maturity, academic, and linguistic levels of the students, but choices can come in a variety of ways:

    1. choosing which content from the Internet to use in class and why the content is appropriate

    2. choosing which groups will form and how they are to work together (e.g., team charter)

    3. deciding which products to produce (e.g., video, brochure, presentation, etc.)

    4. determining how to express empathy and perspective

    By pursuing understandings (Wiggins and Mctighe, 2005), teachers can use a variety of assessment methods (e.g., Socratic method, instructional conversations, tests, quizzes, academic prompts, performance tasks, etc.) for making more informed inferences on a student's achievement.  This also implies the need to set expressive outcomes instead of behavioral outcomes in ways that make learning and the assessment of learning more of a ill-defined, non-linear, and emergent (i.e., authentic) phenomenon.  Thus, we are requiring students to know more than discrete facts and figures that they likely will find on standardized tests; it also makes stakeholders more conscious of a learner's capacity (as a matter of degree) instead of a competence (either you have it or you don't).

    As for language teaching and learning go, I label communicative and linguistic knowledge and skill as being (to use Popham's words, 2008) enabling knowledge and subskills respectively in terms of how they relate to understandings.  In other words, language becomes both a means and an end much like ESL and content teachers working together in the US when teaching English language learners (i.e., Sheltered Content Instruction or CLIL).

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    Day one in WordPress!

    Well,  I finally made the move.  This is officially day one in WordPress, and I really like what I see.   I look forward to continued discussions related to all things education.

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    Open course for EFL educators (Wikieducator)

    Here's a recent message to EFL educators in Mexico taking an open (to anyone) course on professional development in Wikieducator...

    Hello everyone! We are completing the second week of the Wikieducator workshop which you should now have a working knowledge of the following skills:


    • Create bold and italicized text
    • Create headings and lists (i.e., bullets, number, and indentions)
    • Upload and insert photos respecting copyright laws (e.g., using creative commons search and/or Wikimedia Commons)
    • Create internal/external links
    • Begin working on your user page

    The central question we are focusing on during this workshop relates to the following question: How to become a better EFL educator? The answer to this question, which will be unique for each of you, will be in the form of a personal learning network (PLN). This workshop is intended to help you develop your own PLN and to share it with others.

    In your user page, add a section (i.e., heading) where you share your goals in becoming a better EFL educator in terms of being a better communicator of English, increasing your pedagogical skill set, and/or increasing your knowledge of how languages are learned. Follow up by stating what you plan to do to accomplish these goals. If your goals change over the course of the semester, which they might, just update your user page to reflect these changes.

    The first of three modules, the communicator of the English language module is meant to review various web 2.0 tools that might assist you in becoming a better communicator of the English language (both in written and spoken discourse). Weekly activities will be populated throughout each module and everyone is encouraged to participate in at least two activities per module. We will schedule several face-to-face sessions as well, but these sessions are meant for those who need assistance in getting around Wikieducator.

    Finally, make sure your name appears in the list and that all of your information is correct. You'll notice that we are tracking edits so you can easily see how others are contributing. You can also refer to this list to find a colleague's user page.

    Well, that's it for now. Keep asking questions and we'll see you in the wiki!

    Saturday, August 7, 2010

    How do you define an LMS?

    Details | LinkedIn

    And the debate continues...my response:

    When you say, "Why would I choose or reccomend an approach to others if there are more appropriate ways of doing it", you are assuming that your interpretation of "appropriateness" is the same for others. I will not assume that I know what is appropriate for the infinite number of educational contexts that exist today as well as which have existed in the past.

    I'll extend my perspective once again but I realize that the fundamental difference in our opinion appears to be the definition of an LMS. I understand your meaning of the term as a Moodle-like platform that tends to be closed and content is pre-fabricated, probably linked to standards where learning tends to be linear - and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. I define a "LMS" as a personal learning network (PLN), where a "typical" Moodle application would only be one part of a PLN. If we can't agree on definitions as I suspect we can not, perhaps this warrants a new post (smile). But this is where I am coming from.

    An example of structuring content not using what most people consider an LMS.

    Web 2.0 tools: Google Wave, Blogs, Wikis, websites, Google search, email, etc.

    Can you envision how content might be structured using some combination of these tools? Do you see how integrating technology can be an alternative to using an "LMS" (i.e., Moodle, blackboard, etc.)?

    Conversely, do you see how an LMS might be used to provide "just-in-time" content? Do you see how integrating technology and an LMS might change the playing field?

    I can truly put my hand on my heart and say that learning and teaching are too complex for me to generalize in saying that the LMS (however it's being defined...and I assume we are referring to Moodle-like platforms) is the devil. Guns don't kill people, people kill people.

    PS As we are unlikely to agree on this (which is fine), I would like to shift this discussion to more specific educational contexts where we can address the "appropriateness" of particular web tools. This would lead to a more constructive conversation. (End of post.)

    -----
    How do you define an LMS?

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Are LMSs still relevant? Do they work?

    Details | LinkedIn
    My response...



    Let's assume we all agree that one example of an LMS is Moodle. Moodle is like a pencil. If I require my students to use a pencil in class, am I reverting back to the Stone Age? Does using a pencil in class automatically mean that I support traditional teaching/learning methodologies and techniques? It's my belief that a pencil can effectively and efficiently be used to in conjunction with (a) asynchronous and synchronous communication, (b) different delivery methods, both online and offline, and (c) different learning theories: behaviorism, cognitivism, social constructivism, socio-cultural theory, connectivism, etc.

    There is no reason why YouTube, Google, or any other web tool cannot be implemented into a class that uses Moodle or any other "LMS". An "LMS" could just as easily be the entire Internet. The problem is not the "LMS", it's the type of communication, delivery, and learning theory being used.


    Friday, July 16, 2010

    Wikis and Wikieducator

    A big shout out to my friends at UVM-Aguascalientes!

    There is an open (free) course starting next week (as if you had nothing else to do) that you might be interested in regarding wikis:


    You are certainly encouraged to check out wikispaces as well (UVM Aguascalientes wiki started last year)


    If anyone is interested in learning more about Wikieducator, reply to this post and will schedule a live session going over the basics in how to get started.  I tend to favor Wikieducator due to the opportunities to collaborate with others as well as to build open educational resources.  If you are already a member of Wikieducator, please sign my guest book located on my user page.

    Connectivism and Relational Trust

    leadership is about relationship, and nurturing of relationship with others in the networks (Suifaijohnmak's webblog)

    I agree to a degree.  It's about making the connection then developing the connection in a way that builds trust.  This is intuitive and would make sense when working with the same individuals over time.

    But I also learn by occasional connections I form online.  For example, I might get some information from one source with no strong relational affiliation, then take that information to a more relational-trust network or community and build on the idea.  In fact, there are many possible learning scenarios that do not include connections that are built solely on relational trust.

    I still see the relational trust as a community-based perspective whereas the individual and the role the individual plays within a variety of communities as a connectivist perspective.  Again, communities based on social capital and relational trust (Serviovanni, 2005) certainly have merit, but I do not think it's a complete look at how we can learn best - growing connections that are transactional, collaborative, and/or relational, all of which are dependent on the individual and the context.

    A video on the importance of relational trust:






    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    The Process of WebQuests

    I've been participating in a workshop on webquests and recently responded to a post related to the process section of a webquest (slightly adapted)...

    I tend to be a bit ambivalent when it comes to the process section of a webquest because of what the webquest is set out to do versus how it is actually being implemented (and this may be the reason why I have only technically applied a webquest once over the last five years).  Webquests are intended to address a real-life problem or is considered to be an authentic task in and of itself.  But most real-life problems are ill-defined and requires a process that results only after a period of interaction, openness, and diversity acceptance - all of which usually are absent when procedures are presented before students begin the task.

    I agree that a teacher must be prepared and should anticipate problems that might hinder the educative experience, but I wonder if "frontloading" too much information for a given task can lessen its value.  I feel that a failed project can occur when teachers are not accustomed to taking on a facilitative role that requires special care in guiding the students through an ambiguous situation.  That is, the teacher must understand the ambiguity of the problem so through proper assistance, students can work through levels of uncertainty.  As an EFL teacher educator, even NNS, preservice educators can be a bit uncomfortable about working through an ill-defined problem, but isn't this what we should prepare them for?

    I continue to search for balance when it comes to providing information a prior and providing the intervention (i.e., support, didactic instruction, guidance, etc.) needed in order for students to be successful.  This searching is an ongoing learning process for me and one that I enjoy as I seek to improve how I teach and learn.

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    #CritLit2010 Connectivism Grows

    #CritLit2010 Connectivism as the journey continues � Suifaijohnmak's Weblog

    "Connectivism = (Network + Stimuli + Interaction) = Trained Reaction"
    I view stimuli as a facet of interaction which is a facet of a network. Interaction if the simultaneous processing of input (i.e., stimuli) and output (i.e., behavior). A network is a bunch of nodes interacting one another. Or stated another way, the change of one node causes the change of another node or nodes. According the Downes, a network has the following characteristics: open, diverse, autonomous, and interactive. So, instead of looking at stimuli, interaction, and network separately, I just see each as a subset of the other.
    I tend to avoid words like "trained", "learned", "competencies", etc. because they all are dichotomous. If I say,
    "I learned the present tense"
    "I'm a trained professional"
    "I'm technologically competent"
    they all insinuate that I either have it or I don't. If we say we have a "trained reaction", then we return to a more behaviorist perspective that implies that certain behavior (i.e., output) will result from specific stimuli (i.e., input).
    I would argue that a network is more complex in that it requires the skill of sifting through vast amounts of input and at the same time producing a much quality output as possible. Through reflection, the output thus becomes input as well so through this interaction, the person (i.e., node) moves through the network in ways that best suits the learner. Understandings, learnings, capacities, etc. grow, are cultivated, and flow as if along a continuum. Learners never start at zero percent and end at 100 percent.

    Tuesday, June 29, 2010

    Curriculum, assessment, and instruction and today's youth

    Why is it so vital that curriculum development and instruction are tailored to the youth of today's unique learning styles? (Kelly Clark)
    It's vital that the written, taught, and tested curriculum; assessment; and instruction be tailored to today's learner (avoiding a discussion of learning styles at this point) because today's learners learn differently than those in the past. Technology affords learners to network with others which opens up educational opportunities like no other time in history. Learners now have the world as their audience as opposed to only the teacher.
    In terms of learning objectives, expressive over behavioral outcomes provide the potential for diversifying assessment and instruction in terms of content, process, and products. Giving learners a choice in their own learning shifts to a more learner-centered paradigm that considers teachers more as curators, way-finders, and facilitators. Finally, today's learner needs to know the what, how, when, where, why, and with whom of education in a way that focuses more on ontology (i.e., Who am I? What is my role in life? How do I impact my own personal learning network?) and not only epistemology. And yes, I think these same questions can honestly and productively be applied to youth of all ages in ways that promote creativity, criticality, and caring.  This is one perspective on why it’s vital that the written, taught, and tested curriculum; assessment; and instruction be tailored to today's learner.  Thanks for asking. :)

    Monday, June 28, 2010

    Free Learning

    Doug Peterson discusses my 'Free Learning' badge, which was created in response to one of his comments. "But, what does this mean? What am I supporting? ... All day yesterday, I kept thinking about this new badge as I was having my discussions with friends, old and new. It could be interpreted in so many ways. My focus is on the word 'free'. Has Stephen used it as a verb? Or, does it connect with 'learning' to be a noun. It seems to me that it takes on a different connotation depending upon how you use it." To me, it's fine no matter how you use it. I like the many meanings of the word free. I think they're intermingled and related. And the meaning depends on your perspective. I have no problem with that (Badges ~ Stephen's Web).

    Free learning (as opposed to free beer) means having the option of reusing, remixing, recopying, and redistributing Open Educational Resources (OERs). And I support free learning!

    I support free learning

    Sunday, June 27, 2010

    Wikieducator Workshop

    Wikieducator workshop scheduled for this week...sign up today!

    #CritLit2010 Teacher-controlled/Autonomous Dichotomy

    #CritLit2010 Networked learning � Suifaijohnmak's Weblog

    To what extent is the help of teacher necessary?

    This question is at the root of determining where teachers and students lie when looking at the teacher-controlled/autonomous dichotomy. Using terms like approach or roles seems a bit too permanent when one considers the act of teaching and learning as being complex. Instead, being a didactic instructor, facilitator, and coach resembles activities as opposed to roles or approaches since teachers, students, and other actors within the learning ecosystem move in and out of these positions quite fluidly depending on the particular discourse. The goal of the teacher is to be prepared to move in and out of these three positions as well as create the same mindset with the students in a way that promotes sustainability. Sustainability will thus allow for learnings - or “understandings” (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005) to emerge in a more natural and profound way.

    Friday, June 25, 2010

    Sunday, June 20, 2010

    #CritLit2010 Twitter vs. Facebook Discourse

    “When I reflected on Foucault’s definition of discourse, I realize that power relations would have a significant impact on the conversations held between networkers”

    According to Barabási (2003), the Internet is a scale-free network (i.e., containing hubs and connections) that follows a power law distribution (for good or bad). In order to recognize the impact power has on any particular type of discourse requires that each actor 1) recognize the type of tie that exists between the actor and other nodes within the network and 2) recognize the attributes of each node. This level of criticality will help determine the impact nodes (including the actor herself) have on the network with regard to centrality and prestige.

    “Take Twitter as an example, would the followers and the following assume a power relation?”

    This would depend on how much the actor depended on Twitter as part of a personal learning network and whether the actor perceived the tie with the individual or node as valuable. I would dare say that most people use Twitter in conjunction with a wide variety of additional tools that ultimately would limit the impact power might have on this type of discourse. That is, even those along the long tail have the opportunity to gain some level of power if they are able to critically assess ties and node attributes.

    I view Twitter discourse (TD) differently than Facebook discourse (FBD). Typically, TD is limited to the individuals participating in that discourse and tends to be a bit more fragmented and difficult to follow for “outsiders”. It’s been my experience that FBD is easier for others to view discourse and the discourse itself tends to include more turn-taking. In general, TD is more spontaneous and I would say contains more utterances (non-discursive) while FBD is more thought out and contains more conversations (discursive) - although I don’t have the data to back this up. Finally, I see TD as more of a network, FBD as more of a group, at least in terms of degree of openness, agency, types of interaction.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    "Predicting" Gets a Bad Rap

    I love your statement: “Prediction is doomed to failure. The value of futures thinking is in opening minds to consider new possibilities and to deal with change. They should not be seen as visions of where an organization might go.” - Siemens, 2010


    Gonick (2010) argues that the future of education will include the following: open, global, lifelong, and informal learning.  This is a prediction in that they are outcomes that are assumed to transpire in the future.  Whether they happen or not, this information is based on a sound argument in my point of view.  Intuitively, I think most would agree that whether these outcomes happen or not, we will adapt to whatever the result.  It's possible to include a level of creativity and scenario-based discussions around these predictions that help provide context.  


    At a more basic level, each time I communicate with others, I am predicting.  I am predicting that my message will be communicated.  I am predicting that my audience will understand my meaning.  I am predicting that my audience will react in a certain way, etc.  They can be either sound or weak, but nonetheless are still predictions. 


    Predictions are gimmicks... - Levine (2010)


    Just because it's a prediction doesn't automatically equate it as being unsound or weak.  The argument behind the prediction (i.e., stating a single outcome could happen) or forecast (i.e., stating a variety of outcomes could happen) frames the level of certainty.  I could forecast an outcome by saying, "Under this situation, this could happen, or this could happen, or this could happen, etc.  One could argue that this level of uncertainty is what is needed in forecasting - not predicting - the future, but it could also lead to such ambiguity that the usefulness of the statement could be in question.   


    I agree that we need to be open, creative, and willing to adapt to situations as they happen.  But I think we can form arguments that lead to a single outcome or a variety of outcomes that both take into consideration the right amount of certainty and uncertainty to adequately support an argument.