Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Weeks 5/6

And now onto weeks 5/6 for the PCK course I’m studying. Within two/three weeks we’ll be heading out into schools, so the content for this week is starting to become fairly central. i.e. what is the curriculum and how are you meant to plan teaching/learning around that curriculum.

Essential learnings for secondary middle phase

By the end we should be able to use the “essential learnings” (i.e. the Queensland curriculum) to plan.

After a bit of reading, brief summary of last week, onto an activity that seeks to aid in unpacking the essential learnings for our teaching areas.

I’m doing mathematics and ICT/IPT/IT. ICT is not an essential learning, at least not in terms of standalone subject teaching ICT. It is instead something embedded within all courses. There is support for a separate course in terms of borrowing from other KLAs. But it’s not real well defined, just yet. Especially for ICTs, those guidelines are “coming soon”.

WoW and K&U

Not World of Warcraft, but Ways of Working. It’s the combination of WoW and Knowledge and Understanding that is the focus of teaching, learning and assessment (apparently). However, individual components may be taught, the aim is to build up to the combination.

Intent is to use approaches to learning that are:

  • student-centred.
  • Active engagement.
  • Learning through investigation.

Unpacking Mathematics

So, the idea here is to use the Mathematics KLA to answer a range of questions aimed at “unpacking” the KLA. In the following I’ve used the questions being asked as a scaffold for my interpretations.

Learning and assessment

Am using this PDF as it gives an overview of the learning and assessment for the mathematics KLA across all the junctures. My main focus will be on the year 7 (what they should know) and 9 (what I’ll have to help them learn) junctures.

Looking for the key messages about what is taught and how it is taught

  • What is the nature of the KLA?
    To teach math!? Seriously, the aim appears to be to build on previous recognition of the connection between math and real life situations and expand the more abstract/mathematical applications. It does appear to have a focus on developing students who are able to manipulate/use/apply mathematics to a range of situations. To be able to see it in context. There is emphasis on collaboration and discussion. There does appear to be aspects of this that connect with the idea of quantitative literacy introduced in the literacy and numeracy course.
  • What are the implications for pedagogy?
    It has to be a lot more than read the book and do the exercises, which is what I remember of mathematics at high school. Which implies that pedagogy is going to require a fair bit more effort. i.e. I’m not confident that I currently could connect much of the content to real world contexts.
  • What does L&T look like in this class?
    Active, social, authentic…etc. But I retain just a touch of skepticism that insists that there should be appropriate levels of direct instruction as a scaffold/enabler.

Assessable elements

Using this document.

  • What are the assessable elements?
    I find it interesting that there is currently no discussion in this of weighting. Are all the assessable elements meant to be weighted equally? A decision for teachers/schools? I’ll copy the “rubric entry” for the A descriptor for each element
    • Knowledge and understanding.

      Comprehensive knowledge and understanding of concepts, facts and procedures

    • Thinking and reasoning.

      Insightful application of mathematical processes to generate solutions and check for reasonableness

    • Communicating

      Clear and accurate communication of ideas, explanations and findings using mathematical representations, language and technologies

    • Reflecting.

      Perceptive reflection on thinking and reasoning, the contribution of mathematics and learning

      Not sure this one is written grammatically correct.

  • How are they demonstrated in K&U and WoW?
    The first three are covered well in both. Though communication may not be quite as obvious, it seems to be there. Reflection is even less obvious in K&U. Both communicating/reflecting are more obvious in the WoW, with actual specific WoW related to the two. However, these tend to reflect activities that students should be doing with the K&U.
  • Are they auditable across both?
    I’m not even sure that make sense to be able to do.
  • What will assessment look like?
    An appropriate mix. Some individual tests/assignments focused on some core knowledge, but lots of authentic assessment to test the real world stuff, group work etc.

Knowledge and understanding

  • What are the conceptual headings for Year 9? What are the conceptual statements in each?
    • Number – Number properties and operations and a range of strategies can be applied when working with integers and rational numbers.
    • Algebra – Variables, algebraic expressions and equations, relationships and functions can be described, represented and interpreted.
    • Measurement – Units of measure, instruments, formulas and strategies can be used to estimate and calculate measurement and consider reasonable error.
    • Chance and data – Judgments can be based on theoretical or experimental probability. Data can be displayed in various ways and analysed to make inferences and generalisations.
    • Space – Geometric conventions can be used to describe, represent, construct and manipulate a range of complex geometric shapes. Mapping conventions can be used to represent location, distance and orientation in maps and plans.
  • how detailed are the concepts, facts and procedures for each conceptual statement?
    They seem to be descriptions of “classes”/collections of problems. e.g.

    Lengths and angles that cannot be measured directly can be investigated using scale, similarity or trigonometry

  • What is the purpose of the examples?
    Mmm, this was stated in the presentation.They essentially offer clarification of what is intended.
  • What is it that you will be teaching as core concepts/facts/procedures?
    Mmmm, the stuff listed under K&U, especially pointed to by the bullet points for each conceptual statement. Am I missing something here?

Ways of working

THe comparison of WoW for the mathematics KLA

  • WoW are processes, generally complex reasoning. What are the implications of this for teaching and learning?
    A significant amount of teaching would have to focus on introducing, modelling, practising and reflecting upon these processes. i.e. how concepts are taught and introduced will need to explicitly draw on these WoW, the students need to see them in action and reflection upon them. They need to practice this. There will be overlap between these. The processes themselves are key ways of learning….
  • They can be used in their entirety or as subsets, what would be the difference for each of these?
    Overall, the complete WoW describe expectations of students at the end of the juncture. Subsets are more likely to be used in developing skills with these processes. e.g. “evaluate their own thinking and reasoning” includes 2/3 applications, only 1 might be covered at the start. Aspects of some WoW may be used as part of another. May wish to highlight these aspects.
  • If WoW are essential, what is the implication for grading students?
    The assessment has to provide students an opportunity to provide examples of the WoW. If you don’t have this evidence, you can grade them on the missing WoW.

K&U and WoW together

Learning, teaching, and assessment are required to focus on develop and deepen K&U through WoW. What are the implications for

  • Type of unit plan.
    Interesting, I don’t recall the concept of “unit plan” being explicitly covered in any of the courses. It’s been mentioned in passing, but…

    So let’s start with an annotated unit plan.

  • Method of assessment.
  • The pedagogy required.

Mmm, not sure I’m getting much out of this activity, not sure I could reasonably get much out of it. Much of the latter stuff gets even a little more opaque, or straight forward. e.g. what philosophy? Well it’s been explicitly stated in the slides – constructivism – though the essential learnings themselves don’t explicitly state this, it’s a fair interpretation.

Planning a nunit

Okay, so this should be interesting. Using an assessment alignment planner to plan a unit. This is the guts of it.

Mmm, gotten tired of terminology duplication for some and lack of standard definitions for others. Incredibly difficult to figure out exactly what is required from the question, how best to go about it, and how much authenticity it has with real practice.

Will have to ask and come back to this later. That’s disappointing.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge: Week 4

So, only two weeks to catch up on this course.

Curriculum frameworks

This week appears to focus primarily on the curriculum we’ll be teaching to within the state of Queensland: Key Learning Areas (KLAs) and Essential Learnings. Some or much of which will change next year with the introduction of the Australian national curriculum.

Queensland Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting (QCAR) Framework

Aligning curriculum, assessment and reporting. Contain (amongst other things) essential learnings that incorporate national statements. Ahh, the problem of teachers “subverting” curriculum. Interesting language, not talented teachers adapting problematic curriculum.

Queensland School Reform Longitudinal Study (QSRLS) study of what happens in courses: findings:

  • alignment needed – most teachers did not see good assessment as integral to good classroomp ractice
  • effective teachers assert much control and are willing to subvert curriculum learning to gaps
  • Need for PD in assessment and moderation
  • supportive classroom environment – done well, high frequency
  • intellectual quality – ok in some, infrequent, low level
  • recognition of difference – limited, done poorly
  • relevance – infrequent, limited, done poorly
  • efficient school management important, but school leaders must focus on curriculum and pedagogical leadership.

Literature futures, a government benchmark which is no longer easily discoverable online

  • close correlation between socio-economic background and low achievement.
  • Qld has 20% of Oz 0-15 years, but 49% of 0-15 in lowest decile of CSE
  • Traditional intervention models not working for these students.

And now research by Schmoker (2006 I think). 1500 classrooms studied. Lots of “busy” work with no connection to syllabus, assessment, standards, poorly planned lessons, irrelevant worksheets, inequitable classroom practices, little assessment, no feedback…..But why is this? Is it simply that a class with lots of low SOE students is hard to teach and teachers in these contexts are deprived of support, creating a circle of poor practice?

A post here talking about Schmoker’s later work points out the importance of checking for understanding and a classroom with lots of advanced/authentic reading/writing. And suggests avoiding all fads.

QCAR and the four Cs: consistency, continuity, comparability of standards, creating space for deeper learning.

Five elements of QCAR

  1. Essential learnings – what to teach.
    Seen as an agreed core, not the whole curriculum. Common basis for planning. COvers KLAs and key juncture points – 3, 5, 7, 9.

    Three components:

    1. Learning and assessment focus.
    2. Ways of working.
    3. Knowledge and understanding.
  2. Standards – common language to describe achievement
    Link to the assessable elements within the Essential learnings for each KLA, in particular in the learning and assessment focus part.
  3. Assessment bank – quality assessment and resources.
  4. QCATs – Qld Comparable Assessment Tasks (4, 6, 9) – demonstrate what students know…and support consistency of teacher judgements.
  5. Guidelines for reporting – consistency.
    1. Intent is to ensure commonality in what is taught but diversity in how it is taught. Is big on the alignment between: what is taught (essential learnings), what is assessed (Assessment and QCATS), and what is reported (Standards and guidelines for reporting).

      Descriptors of quality

      Find it interesting that the standards are accompanied by the following table that sets out the appropriate words to use as descriptors of quality.

      A B C D E
      Comprehensive
      Insightful
      Proficient
      Discerning
      Well-reasoned
      Clear
      Perceptive
      Controlled
      Skilful
      Accurate
      Significant
      Well-justified
      Thorough
      Thoughtful
      Logical
      Coherent
      Effective
      Logical
      Purposeful
      Informed
      Accurate
      Proficient
      Satisfactory
      Suitable
      Competent
      Relevant
      Credible
      Sound
      Appropriate
      Functional
      Narrow
      Variable
      Disjointed
      Superficial
      Rudimentary
      Minimal
      Unclear
      Cursory
      Vague

      ICTs as cross-curricular

      Oh dear, there are powerpoint slides that examine the ICT KLA, which is positioned as cross-curricula. A copy follows, I really dislike this sort of quasi-quantitative camouflaging of fuzzy, often incorrect ideas. I really dislike the automatic assumption that direct instruction cannot develop higher order skills.

      National curriculum

      Of course the really interesting thing is that within a year or two all of the above might be somewhat less than important. Mainly due to the rise of the national curriculum.

      Problem graph

The next step for the LMS?

This post draws on this article about Google’s Talk Guru to argue the need for systems that support people at the point of them carrying out some task.

I think this is one of the more interesting possibilities as the next step/enhancement for an LMS. In fact, it’s one of the few benefits I can see for keeping some sort of centralised/institutional LMS.

Rather than expect people to attend formal training sessions, or worse expect them to access recorded formal training sessions, have an LMS that scaffolds the student/teachers interactions with the LMS. For example, as they start adding a discussion forum to a course, the LMS provides a mechanism through which good practice can be harnessed.

The exact form of that “good practice” is fairly open. But I would suggest that the easier it makes it for that good practice to be implemented, the better.

It would be even better if this approach was not informed by what is deemed theoretically correct by the educational intelligentsia but instead connects with what people are actually doing and looks for ways it can be made better. An informed mix of paving the cowpath and improving it.

And it doesn’t have to be complex.

e.g. a simple addition to the discussion forum tool in an LMS that showed an academic the average number of posts/replies made by the other staff in the course cohort and perhaps more broadly. Put it in a graph and show where that staff member’s posts in the current course fit in the range. Underneath it have some links to literature/blog posts that talk about the benefits of teacher engagement, and some links to information about how other staff are using the forums.

Difficulties

In terms of “paving the cowpath”, I think this is where one of the gaps (potentially a broadening gap) is occurring. The distance between the people who are supporting academics (who know what the cowpaths are), the people who can change the LMS (those who can pave the cowpath), and the people who decide whether or not the paving can happen is growing.

This could be argued as the situated cognition future of the LMS.

Amplify’d from blogoehlert.typepad.com
that just means getting info that people need to them, when and where they need it

Read more at blogoehlert.typepad.com

 

Supportive Learning Environments: Week 3, 4, 5 and 6

And now begins a couple of weeks catch up, and hopefully getting up. The following is reflection on weeks 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the course on Supportive Learning Environments I’m studying.

Culture, Society and Difference – Week 3

The focus questions given for the week are

  1. How do our sociocultural values shape our attitudes towards groups of people?
  2. What are the limitations of stereotypes?
  3. What is the relationship between stereotyping and prejudice?
  4. How do racism and discrimination evolve?
  5. Should diversity be accommodated or celebrated?

Already I am thinking of the point about human-beings being pattern-match intelligences . It seems that stereotypes and prejudice are examples of pattern matching, rather than rational decision making at action. We’ll see.

Definitions

So, we’re asked to write down the following words (with some space in-between, as if the net gen would be using paper!) and write down meanings we associate with them. I feel the immediate need to do some Google work to develop a more formal meaning before expressing my current opinions. Will ignore that for now.

  • Stereotype – an abstract template/description used to describe characteristics deemed common to a group of people, often used as the basis for decision making/treating that group all the same.
    Am wondering what the difference is between this and archetype?
  • Prejudice – a negative belief about someone that arises from a particular characteristics, rather than actual knowledge of the individual.
    I find this meaning particularly weak and ill-informed. Though it matches okay with the provided definitions.
  • Racism – a belief that a particular race/group of people are in someway inferior to another.
    I missed the idea that racism believes that different human races have distinctive characteristics.
  • Discrimination – actions against a person or people that disadvantage them and are based on a particular characteristic(s).

There’s more reading from the textbook, but no

Indigenous students – Week 4

Focus questions

  • What are your own attitudes towards Indigenous peoples?
  • Why has there been an acceptance of poor learning outcomes for Indigenous students?
  • How can teachers attempt to meet the needs of Indigenous students better?

First off is a set of slides outlining what teachers need to know about indigenous students. At the root of all this is the perspective that it doesn’t appear any different from “good teaching”. i.e. every student is different, value and engage with that diversity. There then appears to be a slight tendency to somewhat “stereotype” indigenous students. i.e. that there is some collective set of characteristics that they all have. Though those characteristics are never really mentioned in specifics…

There’s also a pointer to a MACER report on indigenous education. It has a very “Waiting for Superman” section in which it bemoans that lack of challenge to teachers about the on-going lack of improvement fo indigenous students. While not entirely dismissing the problem of some teachers, this response seems to go a bit far and seems to ignore the influence of socio-economic status. i.e. it is known (and oft-repeated) that a low SES environment has significant impacts on learning outcomes + a large % of indigenous students come from low SES backgrounds, which seems to suggest that SES status is a significant contributing factor here. Certainly schools and teachers should be doing more, but there are other needs as well. The report does pick this up a bit now.

There is then a DEST funded study on self-identity for indigenous students. Perhaps not so surprisingly was the finding that self-identity “is complex and multi-faceted: varies with context; it has multiple dimensions that are valued differently by different individiuals…”. But some commonality around “kinship group, sense of history, language, traditional practices, and place”

Students with high support needs

Focus questions

  • What range of characteristics may be associated with students who have ‘high support needs’?
    Basically anyone who requires an additional level of support in order to effectively participate in school. But it does appear likely that they have to fit into one of the established categories. Which is the problem facing folk with dyscalculia. Given that “high support needs” students are defined by disability categories, one answer to this question is to list those categorise: ASD, SLI, HI, II, VI…
  • How do you feel about including these students in your classroom?
    Uncertain, but then I’m uncertain about most aspects of teaching at the moment. Mainly because I haven’t done it yet. It’s a mystery. Obviously, one feeling is that teaching will be hard enough without also having to deal with someone who has “high support needs”. Mostly because it adds yet another level of novelty to the process. After a bit of experience, this would be somewhat lessened, but I imagine the perception of workload would remain. As with all things it seems to depend on the specifics of the context. i.e. having a student with high support needs within a school where this is an accepted practice, would be somewhat easier than some alternatives.
  • How can the teacher feel prepared to accommodate high support needs?
    This appears to mirror good teaching practice. i.e. know your students, know what resources are available, build collaborative networks within and outside the classroom/school

Apparently an area of education replete with acronyms, though I’m not finding too many areas of education that aren’t.

  • EAP – Educational Adjustment Program.
    A program of resource distribution used to support high support needs students. Such students have to fit within one of the categories of disability.
  • IEP – Individualised education plans.
    Based on an EAP, map out what will be done for the student.
  • The categories are
    • II Intellectual Impairment
      IQ of 70 or below. Question: This raises the point about IQ. I thought that IQ was not a measure of fixed intelligence, just intelligence as it currently stands. That it can be improved. In the explanation, the diagnosis seems to focus on genetic problems as the cause.
    • ASD Autistic Spectrum Disorder
    • SLI Speech Language Impairment
    • HI Hearing Impairment
    • VI Visual Impairment
    • PI Physical Impairment
    • IAS – II/ASD

This is where I feel that I am missing something, a slide I’m looking at lists the following three tips for inclusion

  • Find out the specific needs of the student
  • Identify resources available to you
  • Foster social networks and learning activities that encourage interaction and participation by all students

These look like fairly good guidelines for teaching in general.

Inclusive strategies

So, onto some actual classroom strategies to deal with this. Already starting to seem like general good practice.

Focus questions

  • What strategies can be used to cater for a range of abilities?
  • What implications are there for assessment procedures when catering for a range of abilities?
  • What are the potential benefits for students when they participate in cooperative learning?
  • What role does the teacher play in cooperative learning?

A powerpoint slide covering various collaborative strategies- peer teaching etc – and now onto reading Chapter 4 of the text. Oops, that should be chapter 7.

And now an online resource on collaborative learning. It gives an interesting spectrum of learning approaches

  • Co-operative – working together to accomplish shared goals.
  • Competitive – work against each other to attain grades such as an A, which only a few students can attain.
  • Individualistic – students work by themselves towards learnings goals unrelated to those of others.

What about a “network” approach? Somewhat individualistic but connected to the work of others?

Mmm, interesting suggests Lewin refined the notion of a group to incldue

  1. Essence of a group is the interdependence among members.
  2. An intrinsic state of tension between group members to motivate them toward accomplishement of the desired common goals.

Ahh, and now Deutsch suggesting three types of interdependence: positive, negative and none.

In formal cooperative learning teachers’ roles are

  1. Make pre-instructional decisions.
  2. Explain the task and cooperative structure.
  3. Monitor learning and intervene to assist
  4. Assess learning and help students process how their groups functions.

Suggests different approaches: informal cooperative learning, cooperative base groups.

And now 5 essential elements for good cooperation

  1. positive interdependence.
  2. individual and group accountability.
  3. Promotive interaction.
  4. Appropriate use of social skills.
  5. group processing.

And goes onto to summarise large body of research findings showing the benefits of cooperative over competitive and individual approaches to learning.

And now a reading

Conway, R. (2001). Adapting curriculum, teaching and learning strategies. In P. Foreman (Ed.) Integration and inclusion in action (2nd ed.), pp. 262-310. Southbank, VIC: Nelson Thomson Learning.

Problems for teaching scholars

It appears that there is an increasing, ERA driven trend within Australian universities for placing greater emphasis on teaching scholars. These are academics who are no longer expected to do research, apart from engage scholarly with their own teaching practice.

Why is ERA driving this? Well, from a distance, it appears that teaching scholars reduce the number of “research active” staff at a university. The reduction of this pool apparently helps prevent the dilution of ERA “scores” by those academics who have never really gotten into research.

I have significant problems with university management that are pushing this through for the wrong reasons, but I’ll leave those aside. This post from Mark Guzdial highlights the other category of problems. i.e. creating and pushing hard for people to become “teaching scholars” is a significant change. A significant change that is going to require re-thinking various policies and processes within an institution. I doubt very much that university management are engaging in that re-thinking, yet.

Guzdial raises/suggests two points, there are almost certainly many more

  1. Testing ideas in your own classroom is not convincing.
    If any of these “teaching scholars” actually engage scholarly with their own teaching it will almost certain take this form. Try something in my class, run a survey, write an ASCILITE/AACE paper. (The fact that they are being pushed into the teaching scholar role because they aren’t research active does not bode well for the level of scholarly engagement in their own teaching).
  2. Ethics issues around studying your own course.
    For some times, there has been complaints from folk researching their own teaching that the human ethics constraints are too heavyweight. In part, this appears to be due to the “one size fits all” approach to ethics approval. But Guzdial reports on MIT’s much stricter perspective. Researching our own class is an inherent conflict-of-interest, you can’t do it.

It’s going to be interesting watching the law of unintended consequences play its part as the ERA band wagon roles on and what shape Australian higher education will be in at the end of it.

Amplify’d from computinged.wordpress.com
My colleague Amy Bruckman told me that, at MIT, the Human Subjects Review Board will not allow a researcher to gather data on his or her own classroom.  There is an inherent conflict-of-interest, if you are studying your class and teaching your class.
Your classroom is a great place to get ideas.  It’s never a great place to test your ideas. You should test your ideas so as to convince others — testing in your class is akin to saying, “See! It worked for me!”  That’s not convincing.

Read more at computinged.wordpress.com

 

Literacy and Numeracy: Week 4

Week 4 of the literacy and numeracy course.

Hot topics in literacy and numeracy

So, literacy, especially reading, is important. At least back in 2004 when this interview was undertaken. It is of one of President’s Bush advisors.

Another point about about how poverty and its impacts, in this case with such children living in households where reading is not a priority. Also suggesting limitations in terms of discussions in the house. At 4/5 this can be a gap of twice the size, by 12th grade it can be 4.

Reading is not a natural activity.

No improvement program is not equally beneficial for all kids, there is no magic bullets.

Point about a lot of middle/high school kids not being active readers.

Find this comment interesting

You know, programs that taught kids to guess from pictures or from surrounding context. The evidence indicating that that is actually counterproductive is pretty massive.

I have a 6yo son who’s learning to read, and guess what type of books they are using? Books with big pictures that provide context for the couple of words at the bottom. So the point seems to be that such approaches are not inherently wrong, but they do not – by themselves – provide the necessary building blocks.

Teaching reading

And now we are onto a government report from 2005. Going a bit beyond what is asked, I think. Looking at “contemporary understandings of effective teaching practices”.

Suggests two broad approaches.

  1. Whole language.
    So this seems to be the approach criticised by the previous interviewee. It’s the constructivist approach. Ahh, they even have references for the inappropriateness of constructivism as an operational theory of teaching: Ellis (2005); Purdie & Ellis (2005); Wilson (2005). Argument is that this approach is not useful for students with learning difficulties or from low SOE.
  2. Code-based.
    Focuses on explicit teaching of the structure and function of language. The aim being to provide students with the ability to “reflect on and consciously manipulate the language”

Oh, more bashing of constructivism

Sasson (2001) refers to constructivism as ’… a mixture of Piagetian stage theory with postmodernist ideology’ (p. 189) that is devoid of evidence-based justification for its adoption as an effective method of teaching

and Wilson (2005)

We largely ignore generations of professional experience and knowledge in favour of a slick postmodern theoretical approach, most often characterised by the misuse of the notion of constructivism.

I do wonder why these alternative perspectives on constructivism were not given in the ICTs course when constructivism was introduced. Would have been a more balanced view-point.

And now into the reports comments

These observations by Wilson are consistent with expressed concerns that too many faculties and schools of education in Australian higher education institutions currently providing pre-service teacher education base their programs on constructivist views of teaching.

🙂

And this comment on the social background issue

fi ndings from a large body of evidence-based research consistently indicate that quality teaching has significant positive effects on students’ achievement progress regardless of their backgrounds.

Engaging with recommendations

We’re being asked to participate in a group discussion about one of the recommendations from this report. The trouble is that the recommendation #2 that I see in the report, is not the one we’re meant to talk about.

Defining New Literacies in Curricular Practice

Another reading

Semali, L.M. (2001). Defining new literacies in curricular practice.

New literacies are defined as those “that have emerged in the post-typographic era”. Implications being

“post-typographic” points to the fact that electronic texts are destabilizing previously held conceptions of literacy and are requiring students and teachers to examine assumptions about reading, writing, books, and what we know — and think we know — about curriculum practice.

Some reflection to do, but laptop power is an issue. Time to go home.

Is high school the next challenge for CS

I’m biased, for other reasons I’m in the process of becoming a high school teacher of information technology/maths. That said, it’s given me the opportunity to think about a problem from a previous live as a University academic in information systems/information technology.

That problem was that, apart from a small period of time around the dot-com boom, the type of students enrolling in these courses was very limited, primarily nerds. This wasn’t a problem because of the students, some very fine people within that group. It’s a problem for Uni IT/IS courses because this group represents only a very small percentage of the population and when enrolment numbers are tanking you worry about this.

The continual response from the University I worked at was to change the program, to make it more attractive. They never seemed to get the fact that by the end of high school, the majority of students have already made their up their mind about IT/IS because of their experiences. And they sure as hell aren’t signing up to do that for the rest of their life.

Which brings us to this quote from an article explaining how on University CS instructor has made his course more interesting by allowing students to work on something meaningful to them. And the quote from someone in the NSF saying that they have the high school CS course to get kids interested, but can’t get it in schools.

This seems to be shaping as the challenge for me in coming years, how to get a program like this into a high school and observe what it does.

Amplify’d from www.washingtonpost.com
“We’ll have no problem interesting kids in doing these things,” Cuny said. “The tough part is getting into the schools.”

Read more at www.washingtonpost.com

 

Literacy and Numeracy: Week 3

So, after a delay due to an assignment in another course and organising a new car, it’s time to catch up on Week 3 of this course. Just as week 4 is starting and the first assignment is due. A few late nights coming up.

Secondary school focus

So, some concrete links to the setting I’ll be teaching in. Am wondering about the structure and content of the course, I don’t feel as if I’m getting much insight from it. Perhaps it says more about me, than the course.

I wish someone would talk to these folk about proportional page width with HTML and Moodle.

Okay, so the point is made about literacy and numeracy in school moving beyond the 3Rs…multimodal, multimedia and – gratuitous Friere quote – “read the words and the worlds”.

If this is the case, then why am I getting such a sense of dissonance between this statement and what I see and hear going on within Australian schools around NAPLAN tests? Perhaps I have the wrong idea of NAPAN?

Literacy after the early years

And onto a reading

Comber, B., Badger, I., Nixon, H. & Pitt, J. (2002). Literacy after the early years: A longitudinal study. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 25 (2), 9-23.

They aimed to produce

  • longitudinal case studies of literacy development among primary-aged kids in 3 low SOE schools.
  • analysis of student development, teacher pedagogies and local application of reforms.
  • resources to extend teachers knowledge.

Findings with 3 focii

  1. What did low SOE students bring to school.
    Students are diverse in the experience, with haves and have nots. Some literacy practices of students not able to used in schools, not recognised.
  2. What did they make of the literacy curriculum .
  3. What is needed to make literacy teaching work.

mmm, I’m not seeing any flashes of brilliance here. A lot of it appears to be known, and I wonder abou the value of such research with a small sample size and that doesn’t give much in the way of evidence/argument about how they reached their conclusions.

In the end the argument is that the following factors make a difference to what children learn

  • recognition – extent to what children do counts and they see that it counts.
  • resources – extent to which schools have resources.
  • curriculum – quality, scope and depth of what is made available.
  • pedagogical – quality of teacher talk, teacher-student relationships and assessment practices
  • take-up – extent to adoption of literate practices by children and what discourses the school authorises
  • translation – extent to which children take practices to new situations.

Am having a sense of “duhh, basically knew that”.

Queensland Education Performance Review

So, getting more practical and examining the state government’s review literacy/numeracy. A review commisioned after 2008 NAPLAN tests and the 2007 TIMSS tests. The review had a focus on primary education.

Mmmm, the last reading was also talking about research at the primary level. I thought this week was focused on secondary schools?

The report emphasised “the importance of high quality teaching and school leadership”.

Mm, much of the report sounds much the same as most of these things in terms of 5 recommendations

  1. primary teachers have to demonstrate through tests literacy/numeracy.
    Government spends money implementing tests, rather than asking why/if existing education practices aren’t sufficient. Nor asking how the new tests will be gamed by student teachers. A bit like the IELTS (english language test) for NESB students. Lots of cramming, pass the test, then revert to practices that contribute to the learning disappearing…..Not to mention the discrepancy between wanting more authentic assessment for students, but inflicting tests on teachers.
  2. More professional development.
    Will it be any better than the old? What are the factors limiting benefits from existing PD?
  3. More funding for specialist literacy advisors.
    Ahh, many targeted at improving NAPLAN performance…..question whether the focus on NAPLAN will impact the quality of the literacy/numeracy skill of students.
  4. Introduce standard science tests at years 4, 6, 8, and 10
    “In principle” support. i.e. too hard for us to do anything, so we won’t.
  5. Review international best practice and importance of leaders.
    New leadership institute….Ahh, talk to Federal government about hosting national leadership development institute.

Australia’s language potential

Another reading

Clyne, M. (2005). Australia’s Language Potential. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. pp. 143-173.

Moving onto “issues connected with new literacies in the English language”. From this and the next reading we’re being asked to engage in a group discussion around the following

  1. What do you believe to be some of the issues surrounding language and global English(es) as raised in these articles?
    Perhaps most obvious to me in this reading, was the influence of broader societal trends. For example, globalisation, economic rationalism, multiculturalism have all had significant impacts on the question of language. In addition, the idea that this is a dynamic, emerging problem, not something that is pre-defined.
  2. What are the implications of this for notions of literacy and numeracy?
    Is there much in particular? Perhaps that these notions will be influenced by the same trends, that they too will form a dynamic, emerging problem.

It’s late and I probably shouldn’t be doing this now, but you get that.

The reading is the 5th chapter of a book, this chapter looks at policy. Starts with the idea of countries based on languages (e.g. European, France etc) arising from policy, including an EC one on minority languages. Leads to the idea that Australia is trying to balance immigrant languages without “sacrificing national cohesion”. Through “a context of mainstreaming cultural diversity” and “promoting unity within diversity”….the chapter looks at the ups and downs of pluralist language policy.

Various researcher abstractions dividing up the evolution of Australian policy.

UP unto the 70s/80s, assimilation was the policy towards immigrants. Bilingual education prohibited.

English language classes for adults started in 1948, bu ESL in schools only in the 60s. Billy Snedden quote “We must have a single culture…We don’t want cultural pluralism”.

But at around this time various factors including the Suez crisis, Britain joining the EC/EU etc generated ideas of Australia as independent state….Then the Whitlam government…..leading to an Australian identity that included cultural diversity….but not uniform, union movement remained concerned about migrant threat to jobs. Also remained difference between some capital as multi-cultural and some regional areas.

Eventually demands for teaching other languages and cultures in schools. Broader societal trends slower, some move with radio stations, especially with multilingual stations set up to education folk about Medibank. Devolution of curriculum planning to schools also helped introduction of community languages.

Through the early 80s, significant expansion of multiculturalism.

Only in 1976 did the census include a question about language, no (good) numbers before that. Linguists began pushing for national language policy. In 1982 an inquiry was held into the need for a “national language”. It generated four guiding principles

  1. Competence in English.
  2. Maintenance and development of other languages.
  3. Provision of services in other languages.
  4. Opportunities for learning 2nd languages.

Some delay federally, filled in by movement in some states. An SA policy identified language maintenance as a right.

Eventually national policy started to be formulated based on a rationale of social justice, long-term economic strategies and cultural enrichment. Policy formulation was responsibility of Minister for Education, hence education focus.

At this stage, economic rationalism enters the picture and the focus turns to short-term economic goals. Education portfolio joined with employment and training. New top-down policy with a focus on English literacy and languages connected to external trade and tourism.

Aside: Got to love the poor OCR of this scan

social mobility and t h e utilisation of their slulls with

Eventually, language policy re-fragmented: literacy, Asian languages, interpretation, translation…suggested that this was in part because of government antipathy to policy development, especially bottom up. First off the rank was Federal policy around economic importance of Asian languages.

Suggestion that many contextual factors in 90s and 2000s prevent development of language policy, including: funding crisis in universities, more broadly economic rationalism and user pays. i.e. no money for translators and other services…suggesting the idea that economic rationalism is the new assimilation. National language policy is seen as a luxury in times of economic restraint.

This creates issues with demographic changes as services not keeping up due to limited funds. e.g. Sudanese arrivals.

Language policy flows from multi-culturalism, so some thought given to that…including Hanson and Howard and the role of fear, economic crisis etc.

Ethical investment and the case for linguistic diversity

Next reading

Singh, M. and Scanlon, C. (2003). Ethical investment and the case for linguistic diversity. Zadok Perspectives, 81: 18-20.

Another great OCR scanning job, apparently WWII was fought in the Pacific between 1942 and 1745.

The Navajo Indian codetalkers used by the use during WWII are used as the evidence for the value of linguistic diversity. And since we have half the languages we had 500 years ago, things aren’t looking good. And that the majority of current languages will be extinct within 2 generations – only about 600 left.

Language death arises from a range of inter-related: political, economic, cultural and social processes. e.g. the rise of the nation state and subsequent cultural homogeneity.

Rise of transnational or global languages and consumerism.

Destruction of local habitats……community survives by making a living from the local environment and a sustainable economic system.

Mentions a range of reasons why language death might be seen as a good thing.

However, point made that language plays a central role in creation and transmission of knowledge. Different languages, different ways of thinking. Also embody intimate knowledge of local surrounds, knowledge that could be valuable.

Of course, I feel this argument about it being economically valuable to be diverse is a losing one. It has to battle the much easier to understand economic value of everyone talking the same language as opposed to a possible, but yet unknown potential benefit.

Has mentioned the importance of some localisation in the overall push to globalisation, i.e. there are different markets. The idea of “linguistic capital”.

IN terms of new technology, the old style “english is language of IT” has been replaced again by localisation.

Mm, interesting comparison. The previous reading used the example of “English only language groups” as a negative example. i.e. folk in the US and other “english” countries campaigning to outlaw other languages in schools and other areas. This reading is using examples of language groups campaigning against “the world-dominating English language” through the use of multi-lingual IT.

Experimentation

Before I finish, I did author two posts to the course discussion forum. May as well share them here.

Google translate and a tendency to homogeneity

Google translate is a fairly good service that offers translations between one language to another.

But if you try to “round trip” the translation – take it from one language, through various others and back to the original language – you encounter some problems.

I heard about this from some presentations by Dave Snowden and tried it for the first time tonight.

I took the phrase

Hello how are you today. Is it raining there?

and used Google Translate to take it from English to French and then fed the French translation (“Bonjour comment allez-vous aujourd’hui. Est-ce qu’il pleut là-bas?”) into Google Translate to go to German. Then the German into Japanese and finally the Japanese back into English. Here’s the final English output

Hello, you specify how today. Is it raining?

For me, in the context of this course, this example reinforces just how hard language understanding is. This suggests that “global english” – possibly defined as a type of english removed of all contextual/cultural references and idioms – is probably not as simple nor useful as some suggest.

Just as Singh and Scanlon argued that the loss of localised languages represent a loss of knowledge, diversity and insight. The loss of cultural idioms and references in global English may represent a similar loss.

Perhaps global English is just another attempt to remove diversity and complexity from the world rather than put in the hard yards to engage and generate value from that diversity and complexity. I do fear, however, given the general nature of human-beings and the pressures of economic rationalism there will be a tendency to opt for homogeneity.

The odd one out

Which of the following three doesn’t fit?

Chicken A cow Grass
Chicken Cow Grass

Your answer?

Might be fun if you posted your answer as a reply before reading too much further.

The theory is that there will be different answers and the differences in answers will be based on the languages and cultures in which people were raised.

For an explanation take a look at this page which also describes where it comes from.

Learning brief – Reflections and conclusions – version 2.0

This is version 2 of an attempt at the first assignment for the ICTs for Learning Design course.

Introduction

The following offers some reflections and conclusions on three learning activities: profile Wiki, learning theories Wiki, and mobile phones Wiki. The reflections and conclusions are based on a series of blog posts and subsequent comments summarised in Table 1. Initially these thoughts arose from a focus on a Year 11/12 course in Information Processing and Technology (IPT). Consideration was later expanded to include a Year 8/9 mathematics course. The reflections and conclusions are organised around three main components: learning theories, thinking routines (aka scaffolding activities), and e-learning spaces. The rest of this post is organised around those components and closes with some brief conclusions.

Table 1: Summary of reflective posts and comments
Post Description
Profile wiki (Jones, 2011a) Reflection on participation in the profile wikis activity
Learning theories wiki (Jones, 2011b) Reflection on participation in the learning theories wiki activity
Mobile phones wiki (Jones, 2011c) Reflection on participation in the mobile phones wiki activity
Learning logs for week 1 (Jones, 2011d) and week 2 (Jones, 2011e) Logs of thoughts and reflections during completion of regular course work.
A PMI of constructivism (Jones, 2011f) Initial individual thoughts for the learning theories wiki. Including comments from two people external to the course on the topic.
Similarity of knowledge question (Jones, 2011g) A discussion on the similarity of “neuronal” and “networked” knowledge arising from a post about another course. That post generated a question from a reader that lead to a response from Stephen Downes
Version 1.0 of this post (Jones, 2011h) The first attempt at a submission for this assignment.

Learning theories

Most courses in mathematics and IPT appear not to draw heavily on constructivist, let alone connectivist learning perspectives, and they appear to be the worse for it. In terms of mathematics, I am interested in how the “What Can You Do With This” (WCYDWT) approach might be applied. It is described as being “a design method for creating powerful, technologically supported and rich problem-solving experiences in math classrooms” (Meyer, 2010). It appears significantly influenced by constructivist perspectives of learning. I am also interested in Engagement Theory (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1998) and its Relate-Create-Donate mantra in both mathematics and IPT. In terms of long-term goals, I have an interest in developing a senior IPT course based on students actively participating within the developer community of a specific open source tool such as Moodle or WordPress. Initial thoughts about this idea were informed by connectivism, however, Engagement Theory offers some additional perspectives.

At this stage, I do remain concerned about the limited depth of my knowledge of and experience in applying these learning theories. It did not take long for reflection and discussion around learning theories to delve into murky theoretical depths. A post (Jones, 2011g) posing questions about the similarity of neuronal and networked knowledge within a connectivist perspective arose from in-depth discussions around constructivism and connectivism. The initial PMI of constructivism (Jones, 2011f) completed as part of the learning theories activity also revealed a number of potential limitations of constructivism and literature undertaking more in-depth examinations of constructivism within education (e.g. Davis & Sumara, 2002). It also revealed research suggesting that constructivism may not always be appropriate. For example, the finding that explicit instruction achieves better outcomes for low-achieving mathematics students than constructivist approaches (Kroesbergen, Van Luit, & Maas, 2004).

Thinking routines

Both learning theories and thinking routines – such a Plus-Minus-Interesting – offer guidance or scaffolding for e-learning design. One advantage of thinking routines over learning theories is that they provide explicit guidance and are subsequently easier to adopt. These assignments were my first experience with thinking routines in formal learning contexts and the benefit was obvious. The subsequent interest in applying thinking routines led to a brief literature search which revealed publications such as Ritchhart and Perkins (2008). As with learning theories, it appears that we have only scratched the surface.

At the same time I see some dangers in thinking routines. One problem is what Snowden (2009) describes as the danger of creating recipe book users rather than chefs. A recipe book user can only proceed when there are ingredients that fit their collection of recipes. A chef on the other hand can create dishes with what is at hand. This connects with Mishra & Koehler’s (2008, p. 10) description of an expert teacher as someone who is able to “flexibly navigate the space defined by the three elements of content, pedagogy, and technology and the complex interactions among these elements in specific contexts”.

E-learning spaces

With a background in information technology and a long history in e-learning design (e.g. McCormack & Jones, 1997) I was perhaps most comfortable with this component. This allowed me to focus more on how to effectively marry technology, pedagogy (learning theories and thinking routines), and content. This has been the most useful aspect of this assignment. That said, this is benefit is mainly limited to the IPT teaching context. I am much weaker in mathematical content knowledge and it has been an obvious limitation on my ability to think creatively about e-learning design within mathematics.

The assignment has also highlighted the negative impact on learning from two sources related to technology: poor quality technology and limited user knowledge of technology and its mores. Problems with the Moodle wiki in the profile activity had a negative impact on the attitudes and perceptions of many students, and as Marzano & Pickering (1997, p. 13) suggest, when attitudes and perceptions are negative, learning suffers. Second was the limited technical knowledge of some students or staff with ICTs. In staff, this limited knowledge prevented the ability to provide quick resolutions to student problems and lead to further negative attitudes and perceptions.

As described in my reflections on the mobile phone wiki activity (Jones, 2011c), the limited experience amongst students with collaborative authoring on a Wiki led most to adopt approaches that limited the benefits of the technology.
Mishra and Koehler (2008, p. 2) argue that designing “solutions that honour the complexities of the situations and the contexts presented by learners and classrooms” is an important factor in successful e-learning design. At this point in time, I have very limited knowledge about the contexts within which I will be teaching. My use of e-learning design needs to be constrained by this limited knowledge and designed to help me develop greater insight.

Conclusions

For Mishra and Koehler (2008, p. 2) an expert teacher has a “deep, pragmatic, and nuanced understanding of teaching with technology” that enables them to effectively solve the wicked problem of teaching with technology. This assignment has identified the importance of learning theories, thinking routines and scaffolding to effective e-learning design, both individually and in combination.

From this assignment I’ve identified a number of future tasks, including a need to:

    Develop more effective methods for gathering, evaluating, using, and reflecting upon TPACK associated with my teaching areas.

  • Improve my level of mathematical content and pedagogical knowledge.
  • Spend more time thinking about learning theories and thinking routines.
  • Learn more about the specifics of the learning contexts in which I will teach.
  • While learning about these contexts adopt a more exploratory approach to my use of e-learning.

References

Davis, B., & Sumara, D. (2002). Constructivist discourses and the field of education: Problems and possibilities. Educational Theory, 52(4), 409-428.

Jones, D. (2011a). Reflection on the profile Wiki: ICTs for Learning Design. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from http://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/reflection-on-the-profile-wiki-icts-for-learning-design/.

Jones, D. (2011b). Reflection on the learning theories wiki. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from http://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/reflection-on-the-learning-theories-wiki/.

Jones, D. (2011c). Reflection on the mobile phones wiki. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from http://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/reflection-on-the-mobile-phones-wiki/.

Jones, D. (2011d). ICTs for learning design – the first week. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from http://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/icts-for-learning-design-the-first-week/.

Jones, D. (2011e). ICTs for Learning Design: Week 2. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from http://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/icts-for-learning-design-week-2/.

Jones, D. (2011f). A PMI of constructivism. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from http://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/a-pmi-of-constructivism/.

Jones, D. (2011g). A question (or two) on the similarity of "neuronal" and "networked" knowledge. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from http://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/a-question-or-two-on-the-similarity-of-neuronal-and-networked-knowledge/.

Jones, D. (2011h). Reflection and conclusions: Learning brief. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from
http://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/reflection-and-conclusions-learning-brief/.

Kroesbergen, E. H., Van Luit, J. E. H., & Maas, C. J. M. (2004). Effectiveness of Explicit and Constructivist Mathematics Instruction for Low-Achieving Students in the Netherlands. The Elementary School Journal, 104(3), 233–251. JSTOR. Retrieved March 3, 2011, from
http://www.jstor.org/stable/3202951.

Marzano, R. J., & Pickering, D. J. (1997). Dimensions of Learning (2nd ed., p. 352). Aurora, CO: McREL.

McCormack, C., & Jones, D. (1997). Building a Web-Based Education System. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2008). Introducing technological pedagogical content knowledge. Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (New York, New York) (pp. 1-16). Retrieved March 14, 2011, from
http://punya.educ.msu.edu/presentations/AERA2008/MishraKoehler_AERA2008.pdf.

Ritchhart, R., & Perkins, D. (2008). Making Thinking Visible. Educational Leadership, 65(5), 57-61.

Snowden, D. (2009). The chef and the recipe book user. Retrieved March 14, 2011, from http://www.cognitive-edge.com/blogs/dave/2009/11/the_chef_the_recipe_book_user.php.

Reflection and conclusions: Learning brief

The following is a first draft of Assignment 1 for the ICTs for Learning Design course I’m taking. Am wondering how much it will change by Friday (submission date). If only to reduce it by about 1500 words to meet the maximum word count.

Introduction

Mishra and Koehler (2008) view teaching with technology as a wicked design problem (Rittel & Webber, 1973). The topic of this assignment is directly connected with the understanding how to solve the wicked problem that is e-learning design. This assignment has aided in the development of an understanding of learning theories – with a special focus on the constructivist paradigm – Engagement Theory (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1998), and the value of a number of thinking routines. In combination these provide useful abstractions, or ways of thinking, which appear to be very helpful for a student teacher trying to make sense of what is important when attempting to solve the wicked problem that is e-learning design.

This post consists of three main sections:

  1. What.
    Summarising what was done in this assignment.
  2. Reflections.
    Discussion of various observations and ideas that arose from the assignment.
  3. Conclusions.
    Lessons that have been drawn for my future practice of e-learning design.

What

This assignment can be said to have three main components: scaffolded learning activities; e-learning spaces; and, learning theories. Each is described in the following sub-sections.

Scaffolded learning activities

Table 1 summarises the three learning activities on which this assignment asked students to reflect. It was required that the reflection on each activity be posted to our blog. The names of the activities in Table 1 are links to the relevant posts on my blog. These blog posts were in turn supported through a blog reflection scaffold.

Activity Description Scaffolding
Profile wiki Share a personal profile, based on a provided template, with members of a group Wiki templates
Learning theories wiki Work with a partner to develop a Plus-Minus-Interesting (PMI) analysis of a reading about a particular learning theory. Each pair would post their PMI analysis to a Wiki. Each pair of different readings served as part of a Expert Jigsaw. Wiki.
PMI.
Expert Jigsaw.
Mobile phones wiki As a group, share insight about the role of mobile phone in education scaffolded with De Bono’s six thinking hats Wiki.
6 thinking hats.

E-learning spaces

The primary e-learning space used was a Wiki (Leuf & Cunningham, 2001). Each activity had its own Wiki implemented within version 1.9 of the Moodle Learning Management System (LMS). This Wiki is actually a fork of the ErfurtWiki (Cole & Foster, 2007), an older, somewhat less featured Wiki engine. A separate Wiki was created for each activity listed in Table 1.

The scaffolding for each activity was provided through the Moodle course site. Some of the scaffolding (e.g. for the 6 Thinking Hats structure) was embedded within the Wiki for that activity. Student reflections on these activities made use of individual student blogs.

Learning theories

The course readings and activities covered a broad array of theories. The diversity includes four very different perspectives on how learning happens in the form of behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism, and connectivism. There is further diversity within each of these learning paradigms. For example, Steffe and Gale (1995) describe six different versions of constructivism. Diversity was further increased through coverage of theories of a very different type. That is, theories which are not primarily focused on how learning occurs. For example, Engagement Theory (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1998) is a framework for guiding how to design technology-based learning. Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson et al., 2000) offers a way to classify learning objectives or outcomes.

The release of the design framework (Fasso, 2011) for these activities revealed how the design drew on a specific combination of theories including: the constructivist paraadigm, Engagement Theory and Bloom’s taxonomy.

Reflections

Each of the following briefly summarise the reflections generated by my participation in these activities.

Benefits of theories and other scaffolds

For me, if e-learning design is seen as a wicked design problem, then it is necessary to have scaffolding that helps a designer understand the strengths and weaknesses of certain approaches. It is useful to have suggestions around what works and what doesn’t. The types of theories, frameworks and collections of thinking routines we have been exposed to within this assignment provide examples of how nuggets of expert knowledge can be packaged and used. In particular, appropriate theories help the designer to “design solutions that honour the complexities of the situations and the contexts presented by learners and classrooms” (Mishra & Koehler, 2008, p. 2). But it is not only the designer that can benefit. Thinking routines provide assistance and scaffolding to students. I particularly found this through the use of the PMI and Expert Jigsaw routines used in the learning theories wiki.

These advantages have shown just how limited my previous educational experiences – as both student and teacher – have been. Looking and reflecting further on how my teaching can draw on the benefits offered by theories and other scaffolds will form an on-going part of my professional development.

Problems with theories and routines

The key benefit of these is that they offer abstractions that reduce the complexity of e-learning design by focusing attention on perspectives that are known to work. There are also some problems that arise from these abstractions. These are summarised as, abstractions can:

  • Be wrong.
    For example, connectivist proponents Downes (2009) argue that the conception of knowledge on which constructivism is based is wrong.
  • Be inappropriate.
    Theories like behaviourism were not developed within the education discipline. As such their migration into education is not without problems (Davis & Sumara, 2002, p 417).
  • Be hard to implement.
    The nature of the tools or the broader context can make it very difficult to effectively implement some of these abstractions. Dalsgaard (2006, n.p.) argues that learning management systems do not support a social constructivist approach.
  • Encourage the law of instrument.
    Kaplan (1998, p 28) framed the law of instrument as “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding”. There may be a danger that e-learning designers, especially novices, will see every learning outcome as a nail for their theoretical hammer.

Complexity, constructivism and e-learning

Approaches to learning based on a constructivist perspective value placing learners in realistic or authentic contexts. This increases complexity for both students and teacher over more traditional approaches. While encouraging deeper learning and more critical thinking skills for students, this complexity also makes such approaches harder.

Adding technology in the form of e-learning adds to this complexity. Especially so in learning contexts, such as this course, where a significant percentage of learners are not all that familiar with technology. Even more complexity is added when the chosen technology is unreliable or difficult to use. An example of this was experience with the Moodle Wiki tool during the learning theories activity.

The need for ICTs with improved functionality

Throughout this experience my background in software development has led me to reflect on the functionality of the available ICTs. While the Wiki concept is tremendously useful as a collaborative writing tool, I am not sure that the functionality of the Moodle Wiki was appropriate to the constraints of this particular context.

For example, I only re-visited the Mobile phones Wiki two times after my initial contribution. Both times were sparked by a need to reflect and blog about the Wiki and revealed new insights about how the Wiki was being used. Had the Moodle Wiki notified me of changes (as some other Wiki engines do) I believe the value I received from the activity could have been enhanced.

Conclusions

From the first week of the course I have been considering the content from the perspective of teaching a senior (grade 11/12) class in Information Technology (IT). The following conclusions have arisen from that context.

Authentic contexts and problems

Too many IT courses rely on simple and narrow problems in order to focus on the principles. The readings on constructivism, connectivism, and Engagement Theory (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1998) have reinforced the learning and motivational advantages of engaging students in authentic problems.

This is why I envision a two-year senior course in IT that is taught by engaging the students within an active community around a widely used open-source system such as Moodle or WordPress. The chosen system would have to have a fairly active community and a plug-in architecture. An active community provides an existing collection of resources, processes and people on which the students can build networks. The plug-in architecture allows students to independently choose the specifics of their final project.

Value of thinking routines

Active participation in an open source community is far from simple, is often very poorly scaffolded, and requires significant knowledge and experience. The type of thinking routines used in this assignment offer ways to scaffold student entry into this community and potentially lead to changes to the community. For example, the class could use a PMI analysis combined with an expert jigsaw to analyse some aspect of the system or its community. The results of that analysis could be fed back into the community and its operations.

Potential benefits of e-learning spaces

Within such a course, the use of e-learning becomes simpler, more authentic, and central to the course. Students would be using ICTs to participate in the system’s community in order to develop skills in ICT. It is no longer a question of whether to use e-learning spaces but how to better use them. In addition, it would make sense for the chosen system (e.g. Moodle or WordPress) to be used in providing those e-learning spaces. Thus opening up the possibility of students improving the system based on their own experiences.

Difficulties

Many of the typical difficulties with these learning approaches are mitigated by a combination of my background and the nature of the course. There do, however, remain some significant barriers. Not the least would be the sometimes quite significant distance between the experience and expectations of students, parents, and the school system and the reality of this type of approach.
While this assignment has helped significantly in offering guidance about how to design this approach from the perspective of the learning and teaching. The change management issues associated with the implementation of this type of approach within a given school context remain unanswered. At least until more is known about the nature of that school context.

References

Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., Airasian, P. W., Cruikshank, K. A., Mayer, R. E., Pintrich, P. R., et al. (2000). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloomʼs Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Abridged Edition. Allyn & Bacon. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/dp/0321084055.

Cole, J. R., & Foster, H. (2007). Using Moodle: teaching with the popular open source course management system (2nd ed.). Sebastopol, CA: OʼReilly Media, Inc.

Dalsgaard, C. (2006). Social software: E-learning beyond learning management systems. European Journal of Distance Education. Retrieved from http://www.eurodl.org/materials/contrib/2006/Christian_Dalsgaard.htm.

Davis, B., & Sumara, D. (2002). Constructivist discourses and the field of education: Problems and possibilities. Educational Theory, 52(4), 409-428.

Desouza, K., Awazu, Y., & Ramaprasad, a. (2007). Modifications and innovations to technology artifacts☆. Technovation, 27(4), 204-220. doi: 10.1016/j.technovation.2006.09.002.

Downes, S. (2009). Learning networks and connective knowledge. In H. H. Yang & S. C.-Y. Yuen (Eds.), Collective intelligence and elearning 2.0: Implications of web-based communities and networking (pp. 1-22). IGI Global.

Fasso, W. (2011). Bloomʼs revised taxonomy / Learning engagement planning framework (p. 2). Rockhampton, QLD, Australia. Retrieved from http://moodle.cqu.edu.au/file.php/17135/Bloom_s_planning_sheet.doc.

Kaplan, A. (1998). The conduct of inquiry: Methodology for behavioral science (p. 428). Edison, NJ: Transaction Books.

Kearsley, G., & Shneiderman, B. (1998). Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Educational Technology, 38(5), 20-23.

Leuf, B., & Cunningham, W. (2001). The Wiki Way: Collaboration and Sharing on the Internet. Addison-Wesley Professional. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect?tag=citeulike07-20&path=ASIN/020171499X.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2008). Introducing technological pedagogical content knowledge. Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (New York, New York) (pp. 1-16). Retrieved March 14, 2011, from http://punya.educ.msu.edu/presentations/AERA2008/MishraKoehler_AERA2008.pdf.

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