Sunday, 22 January 2012

When I think of Connectivism, I think of an information vortex!

Image: Graphic representation of a minute fraction of the WWW

My mind currently associates Connectivism as a vortex of information of which I am still trying to make clear sense of. George Siemens website is great as it offers more of an insight to the theory and how to apply it. I read a post on his site titled ‘Teaching in Social and Technological Networks’ and this has helped me to understand what the role of the teacher is in the Connectivist view. If I look at Connectivism from a very raw standpoint, the role of the teacher becomes to ‘facilitate’ the vast array of information that students obtain from their connections and networks (social media) and from the World Wide Web. The teachers role turns into one of facilitating, directing, steering, filtering and sense-making while still providing a “narrative of coherence” as Siemens calls it, for students in the pertinent discipline. 

Do I think it is a valid theory? I think the key word here is valid. Whether we like it or not, technology is all around us and rather than try to hide from it, I think we should embrace it. As Siemens says in this article “Course content is similarly fragmented. The textbook is now augmented with YouTube videos, online articles, simulations, Second Life builds, virtual museums, Diigo content trails, StumpleUpon reflections, and so on”. The question is, how do we embrace the technology from a Connectivist point of view when it feels, quite simply, bigger than all of us?

When it comes to teaching and learning, do teachers apply one single theory to their teaching? Different theories can be used and applied wherever applicable in the learning context. I found a table by Siemens, 2009, which provides a breakdown and comparison of the learning theories . There are many facets to Connectivism, especially how the learning occurs: “distributed within a network, social, technologically enhanced, recognizing and interpreting patterns” (Siemens, 2009). How do teachers evaluate that learning has occurred? When I think of this alone, I am still a long way from fully understanding Connectivism. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post when I think of Connectivism, I think of an information vortex! :s

Sunday, 15 January 2012

What should you consider before designing an online learning experience?

“Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.”
Chinese Proverb.

When I deconstruct this Chinese Proverb from a learner’s perspective, looking through the lenses of behaviourist, cognitivist and constuctivist learning theories, I see the following... 
  • “Tell me and I forget” – behaviourist theory - passive learner, assumed no prior knowledge, requires direction or some form of external stimulus.
  • “Show me and I may remember”– congnitivst theory - exploring the psychological aspects of how people learn and incorporating participation to encourage the learner to think and problem solve.
  • “Involve me and I'll understand” – constructivist theory - active, contextualised learning through the use of authentic tasks/assessments designed to promote knowledge acquisition by drawing upon ones personal experiences and their immediate environment.
Why am I harping on about these well known and understood learning theories? This Chinese Proverb I believe summarisies the myriad of online learning experiences currently existing out there in cyberspace. It is assumed by many that it is simple to create an online learning experience. You just put text on screen, upload PDFs or PPT slides and let people find the information and absorb it via osmosis (behaviourist). However a more practical approach is to create online learning experiences that are non-linear, dynamic and interactive (with content and peers), scaffolded and to an extent, learner controlled, to give them the opportunity to engage with the content (congnitivst /constructivist).

henever creating or migrating any content to an online setting, I believe that some of the following questions should be asked:
  • What do you want to ultimately achieve?
  • What are the essential foundations of any course design?
  • Would you agree that it is important to design a learning experience, observing best suited instructional theories?
  • Why begin with the latest and greatest, interactive learning technologies if they will not do what you want them to achieve in your online learning experience?
  • Should you be mindful of which learning technologies that you want to use when creating the content or vice versa?
What other questions might educators ask themselves prior to creating or migrating content to an online setting? I’d love to hear your thoughts as this by no means is an exhaustive list.