Monday, November 7, 2011

Evolution of learning... Moving towards informal

One of the conversations I had at #DevLearn's DemoFest last week was indicative of the evolution we are starting to see in #eLearning towards more informal learning... but first let me try to describe DemoFest to set the scene.

Picture a ballroom with about 80 small tables with 4 chairs around each one. At each table a presenter has a +/- 6 min. presentation to share with whomever stops by to listen. The ideas were incredible, so was the noise level! LOL!

One of the presenters discussed his attempts to use more social media and collaboration in the trainings he conducts for his organization. He was talking about a recent incident where a colleague came to his desk and he videotaped her explaining how she had used a learned skill and then taken it further. He wanted to encourage more such sharing and said "but then I will be out of a job" meaning they won't need a training department anymore. I replied, "No you won't be out of a job, but your job will evolve. Your job will be in each of the departments rather than being a separate training department."

This was an idea I heard many times at DevLearn. We need to evolve training and make it more job-embedded, more collaborative, more just-in-time. The piece which may still be holding that back from happening is the fear expressed in the statement, "but then I will be out of a job."

How do we help people understand there will always be a need for training/trainers/educators as we move towards more informal learning? What does this evolution look like?

There was another piece to my discussion with that same presenter. He wanted to encourage more sharing and collaboration so I asked how he validated people who did share. I pointed out that he validated the person when he videotaped her and shared her idea. One of points made in Lisa Chamberlin's (AKA @chambo_online) presentation about the MarshU blogger development program "If you build it will they blog" was how much adults in the workplace still want to be recognized. At MarshU badges for completion of the program were highly prized. I was thinking of these badges when I asked the DemoFest presenter how he validated people in his organization. Such a simple idea but people want to be recognized!

I am also thinking about how informal learning relates to eLearning in general whether it is K-12, higher ed, or enterprise. I have no huge Aha answers to share, just lots of questions! These are not the last musings on this topic by this still ignorant author!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Shhh An Academic Went to #DevLearn

Don't tell any of the attendees at #DevLearn2011 but there was an academic in their midst this week! In fact, I was warned in advance not to "act like an academic." Since I profess right from the title of this blog to be ignorant, I decided that this was yet another area of my ignorance.

Truth be told though I wasn't the only academic at #DevLearn! We were however a minority population and we shouldn't be. This is one of my big takeaways from a wonderful conference! I have a whole series of takeaways and Aha's to share.

For those who are not aware #DevLearn is one of a series of conferences put on by @eLearningGuild #DevLearn has the well-deserved reputation of being the foremost, and the edgiest, conference on eLearning.

The underground definition of eLearning is corporate eLearning, aka The Training Department. One of the major buzzes throughout the conference was how to make training more informal, social, just-in-time, experiential, collaborative...
Hmm! Wait a minute, I hear a lot of these terms when talking about how to make K-12 and higher education better. I am sure though there is some big difference between the corporate and the academic versions of eLearning.
So I kept my mouth pretty much shut and continued to listen. In one of my first conversations a gentleman was talking about the conversion of his face-to-face (f2f) two day 8 hours/day training into an online format.
Those who know me well know that the term conversion is a hot button. I firmly believe eLearning cannot be "converted" from f2f. Courses, training, whatever you call the learning events, must be engineered completely differently than f2f trainings if they are going to be effective.
This gentleman went on to say that converting the trainings into 8 hour online sessions wasn't effective for the facilitators or the learners. He was looking to chunk the content more, stretch out the training, give people time to absorb the information and practice the skills.
Sounds a lot like teaching best practices in general. In fact his f2f sessions would probably be a candidate for chunking the content and giving folks time to practice the skills. But once again, I was thinking like an academic. I nodded in agreement but didn't once mention pedagogy or learning theory or brain research but he sure could have used some of that knowledge about how people learn.
There were many such times throughout the conference experience. I left Las Vegas yesterday thinking...
  1. K-12 and higher education are doing a LOT of eLearning. They should be at this table in eLearning Guild, and at #DevLearn talking about and thinking about how people best learn online.
  2. Corporate eLearning and instructional designers could learn a lot from "academics" and academics can learn a lot from corporate folks. We should be encouraging this conversation, not discouraging it.
  3. eLearning whether it is corporate or academic is still, despite all the talk about informal learning, organized around training events. Call them courses which are a semester long, or an 8 hour 2 day training (both are training events), there is very little true informal learning happening.
And shhhh I am told that a certain Russian educational theorist... by name Vygotsky, was mentioned in a Friday morning presentation. I saw it on the Tweet stream! I guess I am not the only one who needs to not "act like an academic!" Vygotsky... Vygotsky! Still laughing!

This ignorant academic has more insights about #DevLearn, informal learning, how people learn. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The essential nature of 8th graders

I was responding to another teacher who asked about my teaching awards and about working with 8th graders. By the time I was done writing my message, I realized it was a blog posting...

I taught in Walla Walla, WA and won the state Excellence in Education award and then won the national Milken Award. That was a life-changing time in many, many ways. But... the way I won the awards was using the following philosophies, maybe they will help you. First of all, even Socrates complained about 14 year olds and how they wouldn't listen etc. I realized if they hadn't changed in a couple thousand years then I wasn't going to change the essential nature of 14 year olds. So instead of trying to change who they were, I changed the way I taught to match their personalities. At 14 they

  • can't do anything alone. Everything, even going for a drink of water, requires at least one buddy.
  • need to sprawl. Their bodies are growing so fast and the hormones are going up and down constantly they just really cannot sit in a desk for extended periods.
  • know everything and adults know nothing. When my daughter informed me that I was brushing my teeth wrong (according to her, not according to the dentist) I really got a lesson in knowing "nothing."
  • believe they are adults. Period. They do.
  • have to know why they need to know something.
So I created a whole curriculum which required them to work in partners or groups for nearly everything. We did stuff big, like poster paper on the floor instead of notebook paper on a desk. I played dumb (because I am an adult and I know nothing) and let them teach me everything. Everything!

And for the last two points keep in mind that I taught the most ancient of ancient history. To be honest I don't think I ever learned about Babylonia or Mesopotamia so I really had to sit in their seats and think how this could be relevant. I used to sit in their seats metaphorically a lot and think why should I care about... If I couldn't picture the teacher convincing me I should care then I knew they would be lost.

So my curriculum was Lehmann Enterprises. I "hired" them as unpaid interns (remember they think they are adults) the first day of school and all of the content was taught through work-based products. They created advertising, did live news shoots (which they had to script), made travel brochures, ran an election in which the whole school voted about Sparta or Athens... The content was embedded in what was being advertised, or being shown on the news, or what was in the travel brochures etc.

When your history students are sneaking out of other peoples classes to advertise for Sparta so the 6th graders would vote for Sparta and not Athens; when 8th graders are hurrying down the hall and saying "Can we start before the bell rings?" when they still as adults talk about Sparta vs. Athens, or false Buddha images, or their Century 21 BC ad... You know you created something compelling for them. And talk about learning, and unintended lessons Wow!

They learned the history and didn't even know they were learning it... Which is why the whole "teach to the test" movement of the last 10 years has made me crazy. If you make learning really interesting and compelling they will learn everything they need for the dumb test and a lot, lot more. Instead we are making school so incredibly boring that they hate learning. And... they do worse on the tests! Makes me crazy, crazy, crazy!!

Whew! That's a lot! But you asked so I got on my soapbox. The main thing to remember is you are not going to change the essential nature of 14 year olds. They are who they are.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Begging for communication

Can I just say... I hate to beg. Does anyone really like to beg someone for communications? Probably not, but it is becoming a real pet peeve with me.

Several business people I have been dealing with... Well let's just say I believe if they want my business they will provide some service and will communicate with me. I shouldn't have to keep asking and begging for the information I want/need to move forward with a business arrangement. Grrr

And as an online instructor I shouldn't have to beg students to communicate with me. A couple of recent instances have me really perplexed. I wasn't sure one student was getting my messages. In my emails I said, please let me know if you are getting my messages. Can I be more clear than that? I expect you to reply. I shouldn't have to tell you to reply, as a matter of courtesy a student should say "Thank you I got your message about blah and I understand/will do the following..." I am very prompt at returning student emails... they should promptly let me know they got my message.

In another case a student let me know after a multi-week disappearance from an online class that they had a medical issue. Unless you are in a coma, please ask someone to open your email and send a quick message to the instructor letting them know there is a medical emergency. In this case the medical issue wasn't an emergency at all and the student could have advised me about the need for an extension of due dates. However since the student did not contact me in advance or at any time during the several weeks of absence nor were there replies to my messages asking if there was a problem, I had no choice but to apply the late policy.

Communication is a two-way street. Students have a responsibility to communicate with instructors. And instructors have a responsibility to reply in a prompt, informative manner. Making me beg repeatedly to find out if the student is getting my messages offering technical assistance so I know if the help worked just ticks me off. And I end up writing a blog posting! In this case I guess the ignorance lies with the online student population. Hopefully the following plainly stated message helps dispel that ignorance: Students... you have a responsibility to communicate with the online instructor!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

You have now heard of sexting - talk to your teen

Thanks to Congressman Weiner many adults are now less ignorant about the phenomenon known as "sexting." Your teenager, likely snickering in the background at your reaction to the recent n, has known about sexting for quite a while. And now is the time to talk to your teenager.

Start with a discussion but don't lead the discussion. Tell them you are just becoming aware of this and want to know what sexting experiences they might have "observed." If your child believes you are about to attack them you won't learn anything and the point is to first and foremost learn what your teenager has experienced to date. So ask what they have observed then listen. Dispassionately! If you react and start lecturing you won't learn anything. Just listen!

After they tell you the sexting involving their "friends" ask if they have had any such experiences. If you have been quietly listening and taking it all in, this might be when you really hear some revelations. Keep listening! Even if you are shocked, or upset, keep listening!

Ask your teenager what they think about the current news - an adult man contacting young women having racy conversations and sharing inappropriate pictures. Keep listening. Now is when you will learn something about the underlying moral values you have already instilled in your child. You will also learn how their point of view about sharing things online may be different from yours. Later you will have a conversation about these things but right now you are still eliminating your own ignorance and gathering information.

Ask your teenager if there is anything on their computer or their phone which they wouldn't want a family member to see. Their facial expression will relate volumes and may not match the answer they give. Your goal is to have this be open communication so if you jump into discipline mode now this conversation wil be over. And you will have ruined the chance to have conversations about deep and important topics later.

End the conversation now. Period! You need time to process what your child has told you and they need to see this was a safe conversation. You will have opened the door to further talks if you end the conversation without reacting. Thank them for helping you understand this phenomenon and invite further conversation.

At a later time, if discipline and parental oversight are needed, move into that role. When you do here are a few resources. I will share further resources as I find them, and I will share parental oversight suggestions and tips in a future posting. Today's message was to start a conversation and then LISTEN!

Connect Safely: Tips to Prevent Sexting
Talking about Sexting

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Global education or spatulas and prison cells

A teacher in my Computers for Educators Level II course posted his thoughts about using technology to help our students make global connections. His message was so eloquent I asked to share it. Thank you Jeff Meis!

It was in the “Did You Know?” video from module 2 that stated China will soon be the number one English speaking country in the world. From The English Blog, a review of an Irish Times article about learning English in China states that, “in China, English allows you to travel and to gain social advancement, and English-language teachers have become minor celebrities.” This is a commentary on China’s goal of becoming an industrial leader in a global economy. They recognize that the international language of business is English and their top export markets are the European Union and The United States of America. China recognizes that in order to compete globally they must learn about and adapt to their most viable trade partners.

The United States of America’s top export market is Canada. Some might not think Canada’s culture is too different from the United States’. Have you ever been to Canada? Quebec is far different than southern California. But still, most of Canada is English speaking which requires little language and cultural training on the part of Americans. However, the next top export markets are China and Mexico. Most would consider these countries as having cultures quite different the United States. As a country, if we are to continue to trade globally, to succeed globally, and maintain a high quality of life in the United States, we must maintain, expand, and create economic partnerships. We can’t do that with the expectations other countries will always adapt to the United States’ cultures. If we are educating our students in preparation for higher education which in turn is preparing them to work in a global economy then we must educate them on and provide experiences with other cultures.

For example, did you know that when conducting business in China it is proper etiquette to accept business cards with both hands and you should not discuss business at meals. Or when conducting business with Dubai via email a common way to end a message is “Aa,” which is slang for the Arab greeting “Assalamu alaikum.”

Sites and tools like the Global Education Collaborative, ePals, iEarn, Skype, Voicethread, Ning, The Flashmeeting Project, and Education Beyond Borders are examples of ways students, teachers, and others can communicate and collaborate internationally. If we can create these experiences for students, virtual or otherwise, then we are preparing them for success in the 21st century.

If we don’t create these experiences and, instead, we keep education stagnant then we might as well give our students spatulas and/or build more prisons.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Young teacher asked - How do I get more training...

A young teacher in my technology for teachers course said, "I am going to be a math teacher in the future. Where can I get more training about how to use technology in the classroom?"

I encouraged other students to add to the list below. Please comment on this post and add your own ideas, I will share them with my class.

* Use the professional organizations to which you belong such as NCTM. They have a website with tons of support for teachers, they have conferences and publications. * * Join other related organizations such as ISTE.
* Get on email mailing lists for these organizations so you are alerted to new books, publications, articles, webinars etc.
* Search online for tutorials including YouTube and TeacherTube videos, Common Craft videos etc.
* Look at the resource lists from the math book publisher. Most of them have websites along with tutorials and virtual manipulatives.
* Use social media to build your professional learning network (we will discuss PLN's later in this course by the way). I use Twitter for this purpose, I know the minute a new article/blog post/news item etc. is published that I might be interested in. In addition my professional learning network will answer questions such as the one you asked here and will send me to new resources I might never have found...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Social media... Not just social or for socializing - News from Joplin

Thank you to Kristin Lineberry a student in my University of San Diego Technology for Teachers Level II course for this incredible and moving insight.

Kristin said:

I will be the first to admit that I am a facebook "lurker." I have had an account for about 3 years now, and at first it was fun and amazing to reconnect with all my college and high school friends. I rarely post a status update, but I log on to facebook almost daily to read the interesting and sometimes amusing anecdotes that my facebook "friends" post. I have totally avoided twitter... not only do I not really "get it," but I just don't understand constantly sending out "tweets" about myself to an invisible audience, many of whom I don't even know! I became an avid texter only about a year ago, and I have never used skype.

If you are a high school or middle school teacher, you are aware that the majority of our students get all of this. They not only post on facebook, they "tweet", they text, they IM, they email, they skype.... and on it goes. In the "Did You Know?" video we watched this week we learned that it took TV 13 years to reach a target audience of 50 million, but that it took facebook only 2 years to reach the same. Like it or not, social media is our future and we need to learn to embrace it.

This week, Joplin, MO was hit by a horrific tornado. My husband is from a small town about 10 miles from Joplin, and my in-laws still live there. We didn't hear about the tornado on the news, we heard about it first on facebook only minutes after it happened. Within minutes, many of my husbands high school friends were posting all kinds of information on their facebook pages. We learned that phone lines were down, power was out, most cell lines were tied up, but facebook was the best way to communicate. The principal of destroyed Joplin high school even stated in a newspaper article that all communication about the school would come through facebook. And this is when I realized: social media is not just for socializing. People were looking for loved ones- others would repost the information on twitter. Many facebook sites shot up instantly with information about how to help: everything from naming missing people to helping reunite lost pets with owners.

Kay mentioned a post by a previous student in which she discussed her son and friends using facebook as a forum to discuss coursework. I thought that was pretty amazing. Social Media sites like facebook are obviously here to stay. But what place do they have in education? I know facebook is blocked at many school sites now. Should it be? I ask your opinion on this because I am really not sure.

In the Partnership for 21st Century Skills website, they mention Life and Career Skills as an important component of education. Under this heading are subtopics like: flexibility and adaptability, and social and cross-cultural skills. Critical thinking is also mentioned with communication and collaboration being an integral part of the learning process. Students can obviously communicate and collaborate in a discussion group on a page like facebook. Does this have a valid place in education today? I believe that it does. As we saw in videos and read in readings this week, the job market has changed immensely. People now do business over computer screens with partners on the other side of the globe. Technology and social media especially, has made us all closer and given us all more information. I believe that we need to start incorporating some of this into education so that students are better prepared... and they learn that social media can be for more than just socializing.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Teaching comes before Technology even in the dictionary

I have had a long email conversation with a student who is creating online technology integration training for teachers. I realized this is a conversation which should be shared...

The conversation began when I put this comment on a recent assignment.

Teaching comes before technology even in the dictionary
(quoted from Making the Move to eLearning). I would propose that you teach teachers how students can learn more effectively when using technology and not teach them about specific tools. If you look at the NETS-T standards from ISTE you will see the emphasis is not on tools and technology tips/tricks but on what technology can bring to learning. My little soapbox, I will get off it now but I couldn’t let this pass without asking for the focus to be curricular, not on tools.

My student replied... Whoa! Thank you. That expression is closer to what I was hoping to accomplish with Technology training for teachers. If teachers can use various multimedia to excite, peak interest and curiosity then the end result is more internalization of knowledge and skills for the students.

This has been my quandary since I started thinking about technology training for teachers a couple of years ago - do I present information on the 'how to' side of technology tools so teachers can become proficient using them? The expectation is once they know how to use technology, they will incorporate it in their lessons because they will understand its impact on their students. The other side is do I present the information of technology tools and their impact and leave teachers to their own devices on acquiring the 'how to' skills?

What I proposed in an earlier class was combining them by teaching the 'how to' side and requiring that the teachers use reality (project based) lessons to demonstrate an understanding of technology's use in the classroom. Am I on the right track with this?

Quite honestly, if I had my way in the classroom, those that have smart phones or notebooks would be able to use them in the class to do research. After Japan's tsunami, I used my iphone and document reader to show YouTube' videos on tsunamis and earthquakes to answer questions from a group of very nervous 5th graders who thought Alameda was going to be underwater - I had to use my iphone because the district's filter prevents access to YouTube and social sites but that's a whole other issue.

And I responded... The biggest fallacy is that if teachers know how to use a tool they will know how to integrate it into the curriculum. Really forward thinking creative teachers might, maybe. The vast majority need to see examples. If they see some examples they then can make the leap into new ways of using the tech in their curriculum area.

The way I was taught in the most intense but most valuable educational experience of my life was to be given a curricular task (just like we would give the students) be shown a few just-in-time tech skills to use with one or two tool choices, provided with or reminded of resources for figuring out other things with the tools (remember to use the Help menu... for example) and then given time and opportunity to struggle. Adults do not like to struggle but they learn from it.

Children tolerate struggling a little better, they seem more used to having to figure things out. We slowly train them out of that ability to figure things out on their own. By the time they are in high school they just wait for us to give them the answer because they know we will. If we let them create, let them find more than one answer, and if we accepted multiple forms of the answer, and we refused to step in and help them, they would keep that characteristic, but we don't. Think of how a child figures out a video game. They try, they lose, they try again and learn a new trick and make it a little farther. They share tips with friends and get a little farther. There is no manual, no help menu, they struggle and they love it. Schools train all this out of them, we teach them there is one right answer, the teachers knows the right answer, and if you wait long enough the teacher will help you get the answer they wanted all along. We might say we do something different in education, a few of us do, but the majority of education is exactly that for students... no wonder they prefer video games.

Bottom line is all the teachers are used to a world where there is one right way to do something, someone knows what that right way to do it is, and if you wait they will help you get it... Making them do something with multiple avenues to be right and letting them struggle on their own somewhat is good for them but uncomfortable.

The intermediate step is to give them the curricular task, give them a few skills to get them going, provide them with scaffolded resources in case they need them and a support network of other learners, and then help them before the frustration level is so great that they quit. The real trick in online ed is knowing when their frustration level is getting too high and it really is an art in online ed and I freely admit I have screwed up more than once and let someone get too frustrated.

This is a really long answer to tell you that I would suggest you design curricular tasks and projects and embed the necessary skill-building and resources into the support for the tasks. And keep the lines of communication open between them and other students, and between them and you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Names on your "papers"

The following is from a class I recently taught which had a small number of enrolled students. This is important for all of us to remember as we set up technology projects so it is shared here for all to see.

As I gathered all the Final Project documents so that I could email comments to all of you I realized that 4 of the 5 had no name in the document or in the file name. This was something we did not cover in the course protocols or the course materials but is something to consider as you work with technology and your students.

Imagine if you had 20 students and they all turned in ProjectX.doc to you? First of all, your computer might overwrite each item if they have the same name meaning you will end up with only one document in your folder. Or... it will change the file name for you to ProjectX1.doc ProjectX2.doc but you still have no idea whose work you have in your folder until you open the document. Even then, you will only know whose work you have if students have put their name inside their document. If the ratio from this course 1 of 5 with a name continued on for 20 students you would have 4 documents with names inside and 16 without names.

I don't bring this up to embarrass anyone, but instead this is something to really think about before doing tech projects. Usually I teach my students a file naming protocol and I prescribe it for each assignment. Usually it is last name first initial and the name of the project. So for this assignment in our course my final project would have been named


This is my fault for not prescribing a file naming protocol. Telling teachers to put their name inside their document, in other words, "put their name on their paper" is something I don't think I should have to say. However, I know I do. I had a professor in my Master's studies who really took me to task when I did this same thing. He told me it was "inexcusable at the graduate level to submit an assignment with no name in it." I don't think I have forgotten to do it since then.

As you all move forward, think about file naming protocols and title page/slide/name on your project protocols. Think through the methods for students showing you which work is theirs. Put those procedures in your directions for your technology projects and reiterate them during the creation and submission phases.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Teaching and learning come first

Just a quick post... I have had a lot of big projects on my to-do list and #CCK11 took a big time backseat. I have some thoughts on why my first MOOC experience turned out this way and will share them in a day or two but first, a fun visual.

I do a lot of work with the fine folks at ISTE as a project reviewer. Of late I have been steeped in the refreshed NETS-T (National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers). I also have been rewriting my teaching with technology course for the University of San Diego. I decided I need to show the power of visualization to the teachers who will take my course and I copy/pasted the language of the NETS-T into Wordle. Here is the result

Wordle: NETS T (National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers from ISTE)

Frankly it is not a surprise to me that learning is the main term in the standards. As I said in the book I co-authored with Lisa Chamberlin "Teaching comes before technology, even in the dictionary." And learning comes from good teaching! That's all for now! Just a quick post of my visual with explanation!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Familiar ground

Put someone in a stressful work environment and they will retreat to the things they know well and things which worked in the past. We know student teachers often turn to "stand and deliver" teaching methods after a few weeks of student teaching because they are overwhelmed, anxious, becoming exhausted etc. If Vygotsky were observing them he would likely say they were beyond their zone of proximal development. Others might say they returned to their security blanket. I'll call it... familiar ground.

I only mention the V-man because I have been beyond my zone of proximal development (ZPD) in CCK11 so far. ZPD is a fancy way of describing the area between being too comfortable (and bored) and being pushed too far (and therefore too stressed to learn). Inside the zone between bored and stressed is the edge of chaos (or educhaos as my friend Lisa Chamberlin calls it) where we learn. I believe in this because I have a) experienced, b) seen it, and c) utilized this knowledge to adjust the learning environment for bored/stressed students.

Trying to understand connectivism sent me outside my ZPD and down the rabbit hole. To climb back out I returned to familiar ground, searching for resources. Work and life continually have me looking for information, research, people, etc. who can help me. I see now that I make connections to get answers and further my understandings. And I can only do this inside my ZPD.

Today's searching brought me to the blog role for CCK11 where I selected about 10 new blogs to follow. My choices included people new to blogging and connectivism, those who seem to 'get it', people outside the USA and people in fields related to but different from my higher education role. Again, these are connections, or potential connections, to grow my understanding.

I also returned to two videos which make me laugh and make me think -- two of my favorite things!! Both are TED talks by Sir Ken Robinson. With my newfound interest in connectivism I heard his messages just a little differently this time. I made different connections with his themes. Schools kill creativity video --> The follow-up Bring on the Learning Revolution video

My ignorance and confusion about connectivism are still in abundance but returning to familiar ground has allowed me to learn a little, just a little, more today.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Down the rabbit hole... CCK11 Day 3

#CCK11 - Day 3

Lewis Carroll's Alice and I seem to be having a shared experience. What was up is down, what was in is out... Or as she would say, "Curiouser and curiouser..." Connectivism and my ignorant brain are not yet... wellllll... connecting! Having joined today's Elluminate live session and hearing Stephen and George both explaining this theory using various metaphors was appreciated, but so far it didn't help.

What did help a little was their instruction to 'expect to be confused.' Hurrah! Check that off the list! I have confusion to spare. The back channel discussion showed I am not the only one checking off 'expect to be confused' from the to-do list.

At times I get the idea of connectedness between people growing the knowledge. Then I try to put technology as a connector not as a conduit and I falter again. Where I am really struggling though is picturing this as a learning theory which guides our intent as teachers planning lessons and courses.

Connecting learners is not new to me. In fact it is a signpost in every course I teach. How to give students the openness to go forth and connect and still learn what some accrediting body says my course is supposed to teach is where I join Alice in her fall down the rabbit hole. Picturing the non-structure of the current MOOC experience as a way to teach my course objectives... well I can't picture it. Not in 2-D, 3-D, jigsaw...

Perhaps part of the connectivist philosophy is that traditional courses, educational institutions etc. have failed so poorly (and they really have and I am part of this system) that we junk the whole thing and just connect to whatever we want to learn, from whomever we want to learn it? Is my confusion coming from trying to overlay connectivism on the existing structure?

Oh my! Which way did that white rabbit go? Alice... Oh Alice... wait up, I would like to connect with you!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thinking in Twitter bytes and connectivism

Lately I have been finding myself thinking in Twitter bytes (bites?). My thoughts are coming composed in +/- 140 characters. Sometimes this concerns me, is this an aging brain faltering into fractured thoughts?

This morning I awoke with a CCK11 based realization that this is a connection between myself and the tools I use (Facebook for personal uses and Twitter for professional purposes). On both tools I must edit myself into small bites of information or insight. The part of the connectivism theory where I was stuck yesterday was the concept of learning as connections with technology, and within technology. The AM epiphany was the connection between myself and the tools. Aha this is an example of a connection with technology.

But is it?

Is it really a connection between myself and the tech, or myself and the creators of the Twitter interface? People created Twitter. People set the program to reject messages of <140 characters. On Twitter I am not connecting with the tool, I am using the tool to connect (or try to connect) with other people.

So which is it... my morning Aha! was that the Twitter bytes being composed in my head were a connection with technology but I keep coming back to people. People created the software being used, people use the software to connect with each other. My connectivism ignorance is still the idea of connections with technology, and technology connecting with itself.

Hmmm More coffee please!

Monday, January 17, 2011

New journey... On the road to connectivism

My first foray into open education begins with Connectivism and Constructing Knowledge taught by world-class thinkers and leaders in education, George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Today's post is my first step on this 12 week journey.

My first steps are to begin to understand the learning theory of connectivism and how it differs from previous learning theories. What is learning? I would have said prior to today's readings and videos... Learning is individuals developing connections with information or skills within themselves. This is a people-oriented view of learning. Connectivism goes beyond people as individuals.

Siemens (2005) mentions "learning that is stored and manipulated by technology." I am still grappling with this idea. I understand storage of information using technology. And I have heard some machines can learn (although I swear no device I have ever owned learned anything except how to frustrate me... hmmm maybe they were learning?!) Learning manipulated by technology is where I am stuck for now. (I can see that blog postings during the course will be showcasing my transparent ignorance more heavily than usual!)

He goes on to indicate that previous learning theories are inadequate in a digital age because, "They also fail to describe how learning happens within organizations." Is this learning inside the databases, or among the people in the organization? How to define organizations is a key point I will continue to mull!

I have also been reading Stephen Downes writings. I am working at absorbing them now. A post on those will follow

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.