Connected to Connectivism?
Both Brennan and Downes argue eloquently in stating their view on MOOC’s and by extension connectivism. Ironically, Brennan’s article begins with the premise that there is “no one size fits all”, and then both Downes and Brennan continue their arguments based on a single learning characteristic depending on the focus of the debate. This means they are both correct! And isn’t that the point of educational systems?
Brennan and Downes both agree that self-motivation and self-efficacy is important to learning, and that the learner must want to learn. However, Brennan states there is no support for learning in the connectivism model where teachers “help shape that script. We set tasks that are challenging, and achievable, and we create environments that allow achievement to happen” to enable motivation through self-efficacy. Downes argues that whilst recognising it’s a smaller role, there is always a motivation reasoning set out by the teacher. “Very rarely does a teacher simply set out a task that the student can simply choose to do or not do. When teachers set tasks, there is almost invariably an element of coercion involved”.
Dowes main thrust of argument is that MOOC have the same innate issues that face to face teaching experiences, but they are viewed through different lenses. Brennan argues that in an MOOC...
To learn in a cMOOC you need to connect.
To connect in a cMOOC you need to learn.
to which Dowes counters with...
To learn in traditional education you need to be able to read.
To be able to read in traditional education you need to learn.
Both Brennan and Dowes make equal weighted points that lead us back to the fact that learning styles are individual and again, some learners are better suited to delivery of certain content in different ways. Classrooms are shrinking and becoming more personalized. Differentiation, UDL and accommodations are growing to allow a larger range of individuals and individual learning styles to succeed in learning. MOOC’s will find it difficult to measure how deep the learning goes as efficiently as a face to face teacher. Learning is not as simple as the acquisition of knowledge, but how the context of that knowledge is explored and exploited in thr future.
The difference is observed in the film "Good Will Huning". Whilst Sean (Robins Williams) explains to Will (Matt Damen) that whilst he knows everything there is to know about everything, he has never experienced anything, and consequently can not make a deeper life connection to his knowledge.1
1 Damon M. Affleck B. Good Will Hunting, Park Scene
Brennan, K. (2013). In Connectivism, No One Can Hear You Scream: A guide to understanding the MOOC novice. Hybrid Pedagogy. 24 July 2013.
Downes, S. (2013). Connectivism and the Primal Scream. Half an Hour. 25 July 2013.
Mozilla Web Literacy
Technology: Learning vs Using
Predominantly ‘education technology’ in the K to 7 classrooms relates to insular student research. Students become bored and frustrated by simple electronic 'research' so begin to explore more exciting things in the online environment. This is action is categorized as a misuse of technology by the teachers who set the research assignment. “One Third of teachers with less than five years teaching experience agree that networked devices can make it difficult to maintain discipline..”1 Young students researching a particular subject in science, for example, tend to use websites that are beyond their current academic level, consequently not understanding the concept, and being disheartened by the whole process. Whilst there is an invoked digital literacy skill to research and presenting using technology, there is currently too much weighting in this area at Grade 3 to 7 level without a robust investigation into the digital literacy skills required for appropriate success.
There is less collaboration within digital networks for younger students in the K to 7 arena, despite having plenty of potential and opportunity. Digital collaboration is recognised as one of the most important skills to acquire in the knowledge based world and this should be reflected in education. “In particular, knowledge workers need to know how to work collaboratively, virtually and at a distance, with colleagues, clients and partners. The ‘pooling’ of collective knowledge, problem-solving and implementation requires good teamwork and flexibility…”2
However, for students of K to 7 there are fantastic educational technology applications that have deepened learning and invigorated students. For younger students, the blend of technology and design has been immense through such endeavours as robotic programme and design. Although Pangrazio states “with the recent hype surrounding coding in schools, the ‘maker’ movement and the shift to design approaches to digital literacy, there is the possibility that research investigating social and political understandings of digital media will be deprioritised.”3, completing tasks such as this endemically grows the experience of digital literacy. The pedagogical aspects of digital literacy run concurrently with the used of digital literacy. Isn’t mastering a pen implicit in writing with it?
1 MediaSmarts/Canadian Teachers Federation. (2016). Connected to Learn: Teachers Experiences with Networked Technologies in the Classroom. http://mediasmarts.ca/sites/mediasmarts/files/publication-report/full/ycwwiii_connected_to_learn.pdf
2 Bates, A.W. (2015). Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. Victoria: BCcampus.
3 Pangrazio, L. (2016). Reconceptualising critical digital literacy. Discourse: Studies in Cultural Politics, 37(2), 163-174.
The definition of Distributed Learning determined by the US Distance Learning Association “encompasses the various facets of this learning environment. And unlike the many definitions…. the definition encompasses distance education’s long history.”1 The definition itself includes the words “technologies and other forms of learning at a distance.”2
This definition however does have an emphasis on location. As modern technology changes the way we live, interact and work, it seems obvious that we would change the way we learn as well. Distributed Learning encompasses a new way of learning pedagogically. There are two main facets working concurrently within distributive learning theory. One is the physical placing of the student, not necessarily near the tutor, but more importantly, the role of the student and the tutor changes significantly in a distributed learner environment.
Distributed learning provides “learners the opportunity to use their meta-cognitive skills during the learning process. Meta-cognition is a learner’s ability to be aware of their cognitive capabilities and to use these capabilities to learn”.3 This is critical for e-learners according to Ally M. at the University of Athabasca, “since learners will complete learning materials individually.”4 This actually avoids rote learning often seen in schools which avoid deeper learning opportunities in students.
Our interactions, both social and work related, are increasingly in an on-line environment. We use new technologies for an ever-increasing variety of communications so it makes sense to engage in this environment, whilst you are learning. If the online learning community is authentic, then real learning can occur. "Online learning communities provide many opportunities to enhance and support learning on-line”5 Technical education on-line reflects the increasing number of technical on-line jobs and work environments in the wider world.
Defining distributed learning has moved from a purely distance location method of acquiring knowledge and skills, to an understanding that the type of learning is different from that in a college or classroom. Collaboration not cooperation, where “cooperation describes students working alongside each other…. Collaboration…describes interactions that are interdependent and actually promote the kinds of joint contributions of students that enables outcomes that exceed what might normally be achieved….”6
Distributed learning is an umbrella term for all learning that generally is not located in a single central location. “Distinctions can arise when the chosen model focuses on either or both time and geographic distances.”7 However, in an age where educators are pushing for differentiated learning, personalized learning, creative and critical thinking and non-linear curricula, it is important to except different methods of delivery as part of a robust pedagogy.
1 & 2 Bower, B. & Hardy, K (2004) From correspondence to cyberspace: Changes and challenges in distance education New Directions for Community Colleges, Vol. 2004 Issue 128
3&4 The Impact of Technology on Education” in Education for a Digital World: Advice, Guidelines, and Effective Practice from Around the Globe,
5&6 Journal of Learning Design: Representing Authentic Learning Designs Supporting the Development of Online Communities of Learners: Oliver R, Herrington J, Herrington A,
7 Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributed_learning
What Matters to Watters
The contention offered by Audrey Watters is that educational technology has been developed through commercial intent and not educationally led goals. This inhibits educational technology from delivering a robust pedagogy or more vigorous learning opportunities. Watters believes “to tell the story about the future of education, the emphasis is on product not processes, it emphasizes the private not the public, it talks about skills but not really inquiry.”1
There is an inherent caution with new technology even throughout history. As Bates points out even Socrates complained that the educational technology of the time (writing) was damaging education. He worried that “[people] will cease to exercise memory because they rely on what is written, creating memory not from within themselves, but by means of external symbols. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminding”2. This in Socrates view diminished the learning. (I was reminded of this quote through the written word in front of me on a computer screen).
We are indeed living in an age of technological advancement and schools should certainly be part of that development including the application of modern technology. One of the difficulties, as always, is finance. Nintendo spent a whopping “$527million dollars of R&D in 2016/17”3. Allowing it to deliver exactly what it knows its users want, to further enhance their profitability.
Currently education budgets simply don’t allow for this kind of research and development, implying a lack of political will to enhance student learning without commercial profit. If educational technology wanted to replicate this kind of success in knowing its users, the current climate would advocate a commercial route to ensure both company and political profit.
Bates recognises that “most technologies used in education were not developed specifically for education but for other purposes”4, supporting the idea that educational technology is not inherently for the purpose of education. This would seem to support Watters ideas when she agreed that ““Computer-aided inspiration” as Papert envisioned has been mostly trumped by “computer-aided instruction””5.
Educational technology must be driven by educators to avoid a sleepwalk into developing ‘computer-aided instruction’ where educators are not fully trained in uses of technology that can create inquiry and inspiration in the student.
Inherent with access and availability with new technology comes a laziness that does not do it justice if its developed for it’s own sake. Educational technology, if properly administered, brings real life, modern day, authentic experience to students to reflect the way their education should be changing to meet modern standards.
We must “…re-position(s) technology not as the catalyst for change, but rather its tool. Developing a philosophy, a rationale that is fundamentally societal and pedagogic, means that the vocational will naturally fall into place. Re-thinking the position of ICT should allow teachers to be more comfortable with, and contributors to, a purpose which accords with their professional self.”6
Technology can be a “monster” but this monster can be tamed by strong educators in the classroom who recognise and can confront this issue alongside the students they are teaching.
1 ChangeSchoolsTalks2015: Audrey Watters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kDb_-eWTv0 1:24
2 & 4 Bates, A.W. (2015). A short history of educational technology. In Teaching in a Digital Age. Victoria: BC campus.
5 Watters, A. (2014). The Hidden history of ed-tech. In The Monsters of Educational Technology, pp. 7-31.
6 Watson D.M. (2001) Pedagogy before Technology: Re thinking the relationship between ICT and teaching. 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Welcome to the Blog.
The School of Animation and Invention is currently a concept school. Ideas and philosophy of its structure are still in development. It is being conceived from research and experience of current educational theories and practices, in an attempt to design and build a Grade 3 to 7 school relevant for the future challenge that exists in these exponential times.