Which comes first? Pedagogy or technology?

Miranda picks up on a common point around the combination of technology and pedagogy with this post titled Pedagogy First then Technology. I disagree. If you have to think in simple sequential terms, then I think pedagogy should be the last consideration, not the first. The broader problem though is our tendency to want limit ourselves to the sequential

Here’s why.

The world and how we think isn’t sequential

The learning and teaching literature is replete with sequential processes such as ADDIE, Backwards Design, Constructive Alignment etc. It’s replete with such models because that’s what academics and experts tend to do. Develop models. The problem is that all models are wrong, but some of them are useful in certain situations for certain purposes.

Such models attempt to distill what is important from a situation to allow us to focus on that and achieve something useful. The only trouble is that the act of distillation throws something away. It’s an approach that suffers from a problem identified by Sir Samuel Vimes in Feet of Clay by the late Terry Pratchett

What arrogance! What an insult to the rich and chaotic variety of the human experience.

Very few, if any, human beings engage in anything complex or creative (such as designing learning) by following a sequential process.  We are not machines. In a complex task within a complex environment you learn as much, if not more, by engaging in the process as you do planning what you will do beforehand.

Sure, if the task you are thinking about is quite simple, or if it is quite complicated and you have a lot of experience and expertise around that task, then you can perhaps follow a sequential process. However, if you are a teacher pondering how to transform learning through the use of digital technology (or using something else), then your task is neither simple, nor is it complicated, nor is it something you likely have experience or expertise with.

A sequential process to explain why technology first

Technologies for Children is the title of a book that is designed to help teachers develop the ability to help learners engage with the Australian Curriculum – Technologies learning area. A curriculum that defines two subjects: Design and Technologies, and Digital Technologies. In the second chapter (Fleer, 2016) the author shares details of how one year 4/5 teacher integrates this learning area into her class. It includes examples of “a number of key statements that reflected the technological processes and production skills” (Fleer, 2016, p. 37) that are then turned into learner produced wall charts. The following example wall chart is included in Fleer (2016, p. 37). Take note of the first step.

When we evaluate, investigate, generate designs, generate project plans, and make/produce we:

  1. Collaboratively play (investigate) with the materials.
  2. Evaluate the materials and think about how they could be used.
  3. Generate designs and create a project plan for making the item.
  4. Produce of make the item.
  5. Evaluate the item.
  6. Write about the item and talk with others.
  7. Display the item.

Before you can figure out what you are going to do with a digital technology, you need to be fully aware of how the technology works, what it can do, what are the costs of doing that, what it can’t…etc. Once you’ve got a good handle on what the digital technology can do, then you can figure out interesting and effective ways to transform learning using the technology. i.e. pedagogy is the last consideration.

This is not to suggest that pedagogy is less important because it comes last. Pedagogy is the ultimate goal

But all models are wrong

But of course all models are wrong. This model is (arguably) only appropriate if you are not familiar with digital technology. If you know all about digital technology or the specific digital technology you are considering, then  your need to play with the digital technology first is lessened.  Maybe you can leap straight to pedagogy.

The trouble is that most teachers that I know have fairly limited knowledge of digital technologies. In fact, I think many of the supposed IT experts within our institutions and the broader institution have somewhat limited understandings of the true nature of digital technologies. I’ve argued that this limited understanding is directly impacting the quality of the use of digital technology for learning and teaching.

The broader problem with this “technology first” model – as with the “pedagogy first” model – is the assumption that we engage in any complex task using a simple, sequential process. Even the 7 step sequential process above is unlikely to capture “the rich and chaotic variety” of how we evaluate, investigate and generate designs for using digital technology for learning and teaching. A teacher is just as likely to “play (investigate)” with a new digital technology by trying out in a small safe to fail experiment to see how it plays out. Perhaps this is repeated over a few cycles until the teacher is more comfortable with how the digital technology works in the specific context, with the specific learners.

References

Fleer, M. (2016). Key ideas in the technologies curriculum. In Technologies for Children (pp. 35–70). Cambridge University Press.

On the value or otherwise of SAMR, RAT etc.

Updated 30 August, 2016: Added mention of @downes’ pointers to peer review literature using SAMR. Evolved into a small section

There definitely seems to be a common problem when it comes to thinking about evaluating the use of digital technology in learning and teaching. Actually, there are quite a few, but the one I’m interested in here is how people (mostly teachers, but students as well – and perhaps should throw organisations in here as well) perceive what they are doing with digital technology.

This is a topic that’s been picked up recently by some NGL folk as the course has pointed them to the SAMR model (originally), but now to the RAT model. Both are acronyms/models originally intended to be used by people introducing digital technology into teaching to self-assess what they’ve planned. To actively think about how the introduction of digital technology might change (or not) what learners and teachers are doing. The initial value of these models is to help people and organisations avoid falling into this pitfall when applying digital technology to learning and teaching.

SAMR has a problem

SAMR has received a lot of positive attention online, but there is also some negative reactions coming to the fore. One example is this open letter written to the SAMR creator that expresses a range of concerns. This open letter is picked up also in this blog post titled SAMR: A model without evidence. Both these posts and/or the comments upon them suggest that SAMR appears to have been based/informed by the work of Hughes, Thomas and Scharber (2006) on the RAT framework/model.

A key problem people have with SAMR is the absence of a theoretical basis and peer-reviewed literature for SAMR. Something with the RAT model does have. This is one of the reasons I’ve moved away from using SAMR toward using the RAT model. It’s also the reason why I’ll ignore SAMR and focus on the RAT model.

SAMR and literature

Update: @downes points to a collection of literature the includes the SAMR model. This addresses the question of whether or not there is peer reviewed literature using SAMR, but whether this addresses the perceived (and arguable) need for a “theoretical basis” to underpin SAMR. Most of the literature I looked at made use of the SAMR model for the same purpose I’ve use it, the RAT model and the Computer Practice Framework (CPF). As a method for evaluating what was done, for example

A related Google Scholar search (samr Puentadura) reveals a range of additional sources. But that search also reveals the problem of misspelling the SAMR author’s surname. A better search would be (samr Puentedura) which reveals material from the author and their related citations.  However, this search also reveals the weakness identified in the open letter mentioned above. The work developing/sharing the SAMR model by Puentedura is only visible on his website, not in peer-reviewed publications

Whether this is a critical weakness is arguable. Personally, it’s sufficient to prompt a search for something that performs a similar job, but doesn’t suffer this weakness.

What is the RAT model for?

The “model without evidence” post includes the following

SAMR is not a model of learning. There is no inherent progression in the integration of technology in learning within SAMR. Using SAMR as a model for planning learning and the progression of learning activities is just plan wrong

The same could be said for the RAT model, but then the RAT model (and I believe SAMR) were never intended to be used as such. On her #ratmodel page Hughes offers this

The original purpose of the RAT framework was to introduce it as a self-assessment for preservice and inservice teachers to increase critical technological decision-making.

The intended purpose was for an educator to think about how they’ve used digital technologies in a learning activity they’ve just designed. It’s a way for them to think about whether or not they’ve used digital technologies in ways that echo the above cartoon. It’s a self-reflection tool. A way to think about the use of digital technologies in learning

It’s not hard to find talk of schools or school systems using SAMR as an evaluation framework for what teachers are doing.  I’m troubled by that practice, it extends these models beyond self-reflection.  In particular, such use breaks the “best practices and underlying assumptions for using the R.A.T model” from Hughes (emphasis added)

  1. The R.A.T. categories are not meant to connote a linear path to technology integration, such as teaching teachers to start with R activities, then move to A and ultimately T. Rather, my research shows that teachers will have an array of R, A, and T technology integration practices in their teaching. However, T practices seem more elusive.
  2. The key to Transformative technology integration is opportunities for teachers to learn about technology in close connection to subject matter content. For example, supporting subject-area teachers learning in a PLC across a year to explore subject area problems of practice and exploration of digital technology as possible solutions.
  3. Discrete digital technologies (e.g., Powerpoint, an ELMO, GIS software) can not be assessed alone using the R.A.T. model. One needs rich instructional information about the context of a digital technology’s use in teaching and learning to begin a RAT assessment. Such rich information is only known by the practitioner (teacher) and explains why the model supports teacher self-assessment. For use in research, the RAT model typically requires observations and conversations with teachers to support robust assessment.

It’s not the technology, but how you use it

Hughes’ 3rd point 3 from the above (the one about discrete digital technologies) is why I’ve grown to dislike aspects of diagrams like the Padagogy Wheel pointed to by Miranda.

Whether you are replacing, amplifying, transforming (RAT model) OR you are remembering, analysing, creating, understanding etc (Blooms Taxonomy) does not arise from the technology. It arises from how the technology is used by those involved, it’s what they are doing which matters.

For example, one version of the padagogy wheel suggests that Facebook helps “improve the user’s ability to judge material or methods based on criteria set by themselves of external sources” and thus belongs to the Evaluate level of Blooms’ taxonomy. It can certainly be used that way, but whether or not how I’ve used it in my first lesson from today meets that criteria is another matter entirely.

The problem with transformation

Transformation is really, really hard. For two reasons.

The first is to understand the difference between amplification and transformation. Forget about learning, it appears difficult for people to conceive of transformation in any context. I try to help a bit through the use of print-based encyclopedia versus Encarta (replacement) versus Wikipedia (transformation).  Both Encarta and Wikipedia use digital technologies to provide an “encyclopedia”, however, only Wikipedia challenges and transforms some of the fundamental assumptions of “encyclopedia”.

The second is related to the horsey horseless carriage problem. The more familiar you are with something, the harder it is to challenge the underlying unwritten assumptions of that practice. I’d suggest that the more involved you are with print-based encyclopedia’s, the harder it was to see value in Wikipedia.

It’s made that much harder if you don’t really understand the source of transformation. It’s hard for people who aren’t highly digitally literate and have high levels of knowledge around learning/teaching/context to be able to conceive of how digital technologies can transform learning and teaching.

What do you compare it against?

To decide if your plan for using digital technologies for learning is an example of replacement, amplification or transformation, most people will compare it against something. But what?

In my undergraduate course, I ask folk to think about what the learning activity might look like/be possible if there wasn’t any digital technology involved. But I wonder whether this is helpful, especially into the future.

Given the growing prevalence of digital technologies, at what stage does it make sense to think of a learning activity as not involving some form of digital technology?

I wonder whether this is part of the reason why Angela lists as Substitution the use of the Internet for research?

Amplification, in the eye of the beholder?

Brigitte connects to Angela’s post and mentions a recent presentation she attended where SAMR (and the Technology Acceptance Model – I believe) were used to assess/understand e-portfolios created by student teachers. A presentation in which – Brigitte reports – that how students perceived themselves in terms of technical skills influenced their self-evaluation against the SAMR model

For example, a student with low technical skills might place themselves at the Substitution level in terms of creating an e-porfolio, however what they produced might be classified as sitting at the Modification or even Redefinition level when viewed by the assessors. Conversely, a student might classify themselves as at Redefinition but their overconfidence in using the tool rather than their skill level meant they produced something only at Substitution level.

I wonder how Brigitte’s identification of her use of a blog for reflecting/sharing as being substitution connects with this?

Focus on the affordances

Brigitte identifies her blog-based reflective practice as being substitution. Typically she would have been using other digital technologies (email, discussion boards) and face-to-face discussions to do this, and for her there is no apparent difference.

However, I would argue differently. I would point to particular advantages/differences of the blog that offer at least some advantage, but also potentially change exactly what is being done.

A blog – as used in this case – is owned by the author. It’s not hosted by an institution etc. Potentially a blog can help create a great sense of identity, ownership etc. Perhaps that greater sense of ownership creates more personal and engaged reflections. It also offers one way to react to the concerns over learning analytics and privacy Brigitte has raised elsewhere.

The blog is also open. DIscussion boards, email, and face-to-face discussions are limited in space and time to those people allowed in. The blog is open both in space and time (maybe). There’s no limit on how, why and whom can connect with the ideas.

But this brings up an important notion of an affordance.  Goodyear, Carvalho and Dohn (2014) offer the following on affordances

An assemblage of things does not have affordances per se; rather, it has affordances in relation to the capabilities of the people who use them. These evolve over time as people become better at working with the assemblage. Affordance and skill must be understood, not as pre-given, but as co-evolving, emergent and partly co- constitutive (Dohn, 2009). (p. 142)

Just because I might see these affordances/advantages, it doesn’t mean that Brigitte (or anyone else) will.

Does that mean I’m right and Brigitte is wrong? Does it mean that I’ve failed in the design of the NGL course to provide the context/experiences that would help Brigitte see those affordances? Does this meant that there is no right answer when evaluating a practice with something like the RAT model?

Should you be doing it at all?

Of course, the RAT (or SAMR) models don’t ask the bigger question about whether or not you (or the learners) should really be doing what you’re doing (whether with or without digital technologies).

A good current example would appear to be the push within Australia to put NAPLAN online.  The folk pushing it have clearly identified what they think are the benefits of doing NAPLAN with digital technologies, rather than old-school pen(cil) and paper. As such it is an example (using the RAT model) of amplification. There are perceived benefits.

But when it comes to standardised testing – like NAPLAN – there are big questions about the practice. Just one example is the question of just how comparable the data is across schools and years. The question about comparability is especially interesting given research that apparently shows

The results from our randomised experiment suggest that computer devices have a substantial negative effect on academic performance

 

References

Goodyear, P., Carvalho, L., & Dohn, N. B. (2014). Design for networked learning: framing relations between participants’ activities and the physical setting. In S. Bayne, M. de Laat, T. Ryberg, & C. Sinclair (Eds.), Ninth International Conference on Networked Learning 2014 (pp. 137–144). Edinburgh, Scotland. Retrieved from http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/abstracts/pdf/goodyear.pdf

Hughes, J., Thomas, R., & Scharber, C. (2006). Assessing Technology Integration: The RAT – Replacement, Amplification, and Transformation – Framework. In C. Crawford, R. Carlsen, K. McFerrin, J. Price, R. Weber, & D. A. Willis (Eds.), Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2006 (pp. 1616–1620). Orlando, Florida: AACE. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/22293/

Understanding and using the idea of "network learning"

The following seeks to engage with some thoughts shared by Brigitte, bring together some earlier ramblings of my own, and connect this with R&D related work I should be doing over coming months (though it’s historically rare for those plans to come to fruition).

The title of Brigitte’s post is the question “What is networked learning?” This is an important question in the context of the NGL course we’re participating in because the overall focus is developing your own answer to that question, identifying the principles of your conception of NGL, and then using those principles to design a change to how some task you are involved with “as teacher”.  Hence if your answer to “What is networked and global learning?” isn’t all that great, the rest of what you do will suffer because of it.

Features of less than great answers

It’s not hard to see less than great answers to this question. The following lists some of the features of those that I’m familiar with.

It’s the technology, isn’t it?

The most common is that the use of networked digital technology (even an LMS) is the key feature of network learning. Or if you’re really cool, it’s use of blogs, Diigo, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Slack or insert latest sexy networked digital technology. While I’m keen on digital technology and it can be a great enabler for efficiency, or a great catalyst for rethinking and transformation of practice. It’s just a (increasingly useful) means to an end.

This post from last year – titled “There’s more to it than the Internet and social software” – picks up a similar refrain and links it to various thoughts from 2015 NGL participants and beyond, including the idea that everything is a network.

It’s groups of people, isn’t it?

Another common less than great answer revolves around groups of people. i.e. multiple people all working toward a common goal. An answer that often suggests that the absence of commonality of purpose (or some other form) means it can’t be what passes for networked learning. And/or, it’s an answer that often assumes that a single person – someone not talking directly to someone else – can not be engaged in what passes for networked learning.

In this comment on one of my earlier blog posts comparing connected and networked learning, Nick Kelly expands the comparison to include communities of practice. The most common “groups of people” model that comes to most people’s minds.  The particular view of network learning Nick uses in that comment is described as

NL emphasises the possibility for technology and design to enable better connections between learners and between learners and resources

Nothing there about common purpose.  It’s a definition that includes the idea of connections between learners and resources.

It’s about students (and teachers), isn’t it?

Another common less than great answer tends to limit network learning to the learners. Or, as I suggest in this post it might also include the teachers

Typically networked learning – at least within an institutional setting – is focused on how the students and the teachers are engaging in networked learning. More specifically, how they are using the LMS and associated institutional systems (because you can get in trouble for using something different).

But what about everyone else? If we live in a rapidly changing world where ubiquitous digital technology is transforming the very assumptions upon which we operate, aren’t we all learners who might benefit from network learning? Harking back to Nick’s description above

NL emphasises the possibility for technology and design to enable better connections between learners and between learners and resources

Which is the point I try to make in the earlier post, that network learning shouldn’t just be thought of as what the students and teachers engage in, but as

how the network of people (teaching staff, support staff, management, students), communities, technologies, policies, and processes within an institution learn about how to implement networked learning.

The argument made in this paper is that the use of digital technology to enhance learning and teaching in most formal educational institutions is so terrible because “everything is a network” is only thought to apply (if then) to learning and teaching, not the support and management roles.

Learning and knowledge are people things, aren’t they?

In this paper some colleagues and I draw on what Putnam and Borko (2000) have to say about new views of knowledge. Views of knowledge that certainly do not agree that knowledge is something that is solely in people’s heads. It’s a view that’s connectes

Better answers

Brigitte draws on the Wikipedia definition of networked learning

Networked learning is a process of developing and maintaining connections with people and information, and communicating in such a way so as to support one another’s learning.

That’s a better answer (IMHO). No explicit mention of technology or common purpose. But of course there are alternatives and this remains a short description that doesn’t offer much detail. What are good and bad ways of developing and maintaining connections? What is a connection? What is its form? How might it be formed?

It’s in answering these types of questions where the variety between different interpretations of NGL enter the picture. Exploring these different interpretations and find one that works for them is one of the challenges for participants in the NGL course.

Putting it into practice

Formulating and justifying principles for action

A use the following definition of educational theory quite often because it resonates with my pragmatic view of theory. Hirst (2012) describes educational theory as

A domain of practical theory, concerned with formulating and justifying principles of action for a range of practical activities. (p. 3)

And that’s the aim of the NGL course, to encourage participants to draw upon their view of network learning to formulate and justify principles for action. Action that involves them planning some intervention into an act of teaching.

This post seeks to compare two different perspectives on network learning. One titled connected learning (getting a lot of traction and doing interesting stuff in the USA) and more European view of network learning. What’s interesting is that both appear to formulate principles for action.

It’s the formulation of principles for action that are based on an appropriate perspective of networked learning, and then using those principles to design a contextually appropriate intervention is the main focus of the last task in the course.

Is it worth it?

Adam isn’t alone when he expresses the following, related uncertainty

While I myself am a big enthusiast of implementation of ICT in education, I still haven’t convinced myself that online and distance curriculums actually offer learning advantages aside from flexibility and convenience

Indeed, this may be the big question for many people, but whenever people ask the “does it work” question with learning and teaching (with or without digital technologies), I am immediately put in mind of the following quote

That is why ‘what works’ is not the right question in education. Everything works somewhere, and nothing works everywhere. – Dylan Wiliam

A previous offering of NGL included a UK-based university educator teaching one of the sciences. Her definition of “what worked” was, not surprisingly, a very objective one. Either, NGL worked, or it didn’t work. And you could only know if it worked if there were double-blind, randomised, controlled trial. The gold standard for knowing if something works, or doesn’t work.

Along with Wiliam, I think education is much more difficult than that. It’s much more contextual. What works today, may not work tomorrow with the same learners.

Why is e-learning like teenage sex?

I’ve given a presentation that argues that almost all e-learning is like teenage sex. Not because I think that digital technologies cannot have any positive effect. But because I think the way that formal education institutions and the people within them understand and harness digital technologies remains extremely limited.

From this perspective, in this type of context, NGL is rarely going to provide advantages beyond flexibility and convenience.  Especially when the mindsets that underpin how formal education institutions do anything is stuck in a very non-NGL view. Which is what we argued with the BAD/SET framework, and where the D in BAD stood for Distribution and was defined as

the world is complex, dynamic, and consists of interdependent assemblages of diverse actors (human and not) connected via complex networks.

For me, network learning involved effectively recognising and leveraging that view of the world.

References

Hirst, P. H. (2012). Educational theory. In P. H. Hirst (Ed.), Educational Theory and Its Foundation Disciplines (pp. 3–29). Milton Park, UK: Routledge.

Putnam, R. T., & Borko, H. (2000). What do new views of knowledge and thinking have to say about research on teacher learning? Educational Researcher, 4-15.

Exploring Moodle Book Module usage – part 1 – background and planning

I’m due to have the slides for a Moodlemoot Australia presentation in a few weeks. Time to get organised. The following is (perhaps) the first of a sequence of posts reporting on progress toward that presentation and the related research.

Background

My interest in research is primarily driven by the observation that most educational usage of digital technology to enhance learning and teaching is fairly bad. Typically the blame for this gets laid at the feet of the teaching staff who are digitally illiterate, not qualified to teach, or are laggards. My belief/argument is that the problem really arises because the environment within formal education institutions just doesn’t understand what is required to make a difference. Much of what they do (e.g. institutional standards for course sites, checklists, training, support documentation, design and support of technlogies…) does little to help and tends to make the problem worse.

You want digitally fluent faculty?

A contributing factor to that is that institutional attempts to improve digital learning actually fails to be based on any insights on how people (in this case teaching staff and all those involved with digital learning) learn. How institutions implement digital learning actually gets in the way of people learning how to do it better.

Schema and the grammar of school

The ideas of schema and the grammar of school offer one example of this failure. This earlier post includes the following quote from Cavallo (2004) establishes the link

David Tyack and Larry Cuban postulated that there exists a grammar of school, which makes deviation from our embedded popular conception of school feel as nonsensical as an ungrammatical utterance [1]. They describe how reform efforts, whether good or bad, progressive or conservative, eventually are rejected or denatured and assimilated. Reform efforts are not attempted in the abstract, they are situated in a variety of social, cultural and historical contexts. They do not succeed or fail solely on the basis of the merit of the ideas about learning, but rather, they are viewed as successful based upon their effect on the system and culture as a whole. Thus, they also have sociological and institutional components — failure to attend to matters of systemic learning will facilitate the failure of the adoption of the reforms. (p. 96)

The grammar of school problem is linked to the idea of schema which links to the following quote that I first saw in Arthur (2009) and which is taken from Vaughan (1986, p. 71)

[In the situations we deal with as humans, we use] a frame of reference constructed from integrated sets of assumptions, expectations and experiences. Everything is perceived on the basis of this framework. The framework becomes self-confirming because, whenever we can, we tend to impost it on experiences and events, creating incidents and relationships that conform to it. And we tend to ignore, misperceive, or deny events that do not fit it. As a consequence, it generally leads us to what we are looking for. This frame of references is not easily altered or dismantled, because the way we tend to see the world is intimately linked to how we see and define ourselves in relation to the world. Thus, we have a vested interest in maintaining consistency because our own identity is at risk.

Evidence of schema in how digital technologies are used

Horsey, Horseless Carriage

The schema idea means that people will perceive and thus use digital technologies in ways that fit with their “integrated sets of assumptions, expectations and experiences”. This is an explanation for the horsey, horseless carriage way people respond to digital technologies. It’s why courses where the majority of students are online students and will never come onto a campus are still designed around the idea of face-to-face lectures and tutorials.

It also explains why when I finally returned to teaching a course I adopted the idea of a ramble for the structure of the course.  It explains why the implementation of the ramble evolved into using the Moodle Book module the way it does today. The images below (click on them to see larger versions) illustrate the connection between my practice 20 years apart, more detail follows.

1996 2016
The 85321 "online" book - 1996 Online book 2016

The 1996 image is a page from  the study guide (wonder how many people can play the au file containing the Wayne’s World II quote) for the Systems Administration course I taught in 1996. The 2016 image is a page from the “study guide” I developed for an Arts & Technologies C&P course.

I believe/suggest that the influence of schema also plays a significant contributor in the practice of other teaching staff as they transition into digital learning. It’s a factor in why most course sites remain dumping grounds for lecture slides and the subsequent widespread growth in the use of lecture capture systems.

And it’s not just the teaching staff. Students have developed schema about what it means to be taught, and what it means to be taught at university. A schema developed either through direct experience, or via the experience of others and various media. The typical schema for university education involved large lecture halls and tutorials.

 

So what?

The above suggests that whenever students and teachers engage with a digital technology (or any change around) and its use for learning and teaching, there are three main possibilities:

  1. It seen as nonsensical and rejected.
    e.g. whatever was said doesn’t make sense from existing grammar rules and seen as just being wrong.
  2. It sounds like something familiar and is modified to fit within the confines of that familiar practice.
    e.g. whatever was said sounds an awful lot like an existing use of grammar (even though it is different), and thus is interpreted as matching that existing use.
  3. The significant difference is seen as valued and existing practice is modified to make use of that difference.
    e.g. the different use of grammar is both understood as different and the difference is valued, and is subsequently existing practice is modified to incorporate the new grammar.

If this is the case, then examining the use (or not) of a digital technology in learning and teaching should reveal evidence of these possibilities.  This seems very likely, given widespread common complaints about the use of digital technology to enhance learning and teaching. Complains that see most practice stuck at possibility #2 (at best).

If this is the case, then perhaps this way of thinking might also identify how to address this.

But first, I’m interested in seeing if use of a particular digital technology matches this prediction.

Use of the Moodle Book module

Due to a 2015 grant from the USQ OpenTextbook Initiative I’m going explore the use the Moodle Book module. The plan is to analyse the use of the Moodle Book module (the Book) at USQ to see how both learners and teachers are engaging with it, see if the above expectations are met, and figure out what might be done in terms of the support and development of the Moodle Book module to help improve this.

What follows is an initial map of what I’ll be exploring.

A major aim here is to explore whether a student or teacher using the Book have made the transition from possibility #2 (treating the Book as a print-based book) to possibility #3 (recognising that this is an online book, and using that difference). I’ve highlighted some of the following questions/analysis, which I think be useful indicators of this transition. The darker the yellow highlight, the more strongly I think it might indicate someone making the leap to an online book.

Question for you: What other practices might indicate use that has moved from #2 to #3?

Which courses use the Book

First step is to explore whether the Book is being used. How many courses are using it? How many books are being produced with the module.

As the abstract for the talk suggests, early analysis revealed a growth in use, but I’m wondering how sound that analysis was. Hence there is a need to

  1. Correctly identify the number of course offerings using the Book each year.
  2. Identify the number of different teaching staff are responsible for those courses.
    Longer term, it would be useful to ask these staff about their background and reasons for using the Book.
  3. Identify the type of courses using the Book.
  4. How many books are being produced by each course?
  5. How do the books fit into the structure of the course?
    1. Is the structure the same from offering to offering?
    2. How much does the number and content of the books change from offering to offering?

Characteristics of the book content

  1. Statistics around the level of readability of the text (e.g. Flesch-Kincaid etc).
  2. The structure of the book – are sub-chapters used.
  3. Are images, video, Moodle activities included?
  4. What about links?
    • Are there any links at all?
    • What is linked to?
    • Are links purely to external resources? 
    • How many links connect back to other parts of the course’s Books?

Patterns in how the books are authored

  1. How are the books authored?
    • From scratch?
      1. Using the web interface?
      2. Via an import process?
    • Copied from previous offerings?
    • ?? other??
  2. How are they edited? 
    My expectation that a teacher who sees the Book as a replacement for a print book will not be editing the books during semester.

Patterns in how the books are read/used

  1. Are students reading the books online or printing them out?
  2. Does printing always happen at the start of semester? Does it continue through semester? Does it drop off?
  3. When are students reading the books?
  4. What is the nature of the paths they take through the books?
    1. Do they read the books and the chapters in order?
    2. How long do the spend on each chapter?
    3. Do they revisit particular books?
  5. How many times do discussion forum posts in a course include links to chapters/sub-chapters within the books
    • Posts written by teaching staff
    • Post written by students

References

Arthur, W. B. (2009). The Nature of Technology: what it is and how it evolves. New York, USA: Free Press.

Cavallo, D. (2004). Models of growth – Towards fundamental change in learning environments. BT Technology Journal, 22(4), 96–112.

How many digital devices do you have?

In a couple of the courses I teach I ask students (for slightly different purposes) the question from the title of this post, “How many digital devices do you have?”.  In one of the courses that question takes the form of a quiz and looks something like the following.

Question text

How many different digital technologies do you own?
Select one:
a. 0
b. 1 to 5
c. 6 to 10
d. 11 to 20
e. More than 20

 What answer would you give?

Count them up folks. What answer would you give. I’ll give you some space to think about that before talking about what some other folk have said.

 

 

What others have said

Some of the students in another course (where the question is framed somewhat differently) have offered the type of answers I expected, based on the framing of the question.

Jay identifies 3 devices. Neema lists 2.

Thinking a bit further afield than that I can probably count quite a few more than that in my house. I’ll ignore devices personal to other members of my family. This gets me the following list: laptop, 2 smart phones, digital camera, printer, various external drives, Apple TV device, T-Box, X-Box One.  That’s 9.

 

 

 But that doesn’t really start to count them

Fleming (2011) writes that it is

estimated that today’s well-equipped automobile uses more than 50 microcontroller units (p. 4)

Wikipedia defines a microcontroller as “a small computer) on a single integrated circuit containing a processor core, memory, and programmable input/output peripherals.

So your car alone potentially has you well into double figures. Remember that Fleming was writing in 2011. If you have recently purchased the latest Mercedes E-Class, chances are the number of microcontroller units in your car goes well beyond 50.

And of course, with your thinking re-calibrated by this example, you can probably quite easily identify additional devices in your house that are likely to control microcontrollers.

Implications

Digital devices are increasingly ubiquitous. Digital isn’t limited to a separate device like a computer, tablet, or smart phone. It’s wearable and in every thing.

I expect most people not to be aware of just how reliant they are on digital technologies in everything they do. Hence it’s uncertain that they understand or are prepared for what this might mean for what they do. For example, I don’t think many people in higher education or education more broadly quite understand the implications this has for how those organisations operate, perform, or exist. I’m not convinced that the patterns they use to make sense of the world are ready yet to deal with these changes effectively.

But then I’m not convinced the technologists are either.

Interesting times ahead.

References

Fleming, B. (2011). Microcontroller units in automobiles. IEEE Vehicular Technology Magazine, 6(3), 4–8. doi:10.1109/MVT.2011.941888

 

Teacher presence in network learning

A new semester and the Networked and Global Learning course is running again. Apologies to those in the other courses I teach, but this course is consistently the most engaging and interesting. It’s a course in which I typically learn as much as the other participants. However, due to the reasons/excuses outlined in the last post, I haven’t been able to engage as much as I would have liked with the course.

This has me thinking about something Adam wrote, in particular the argument/observation from Rovai (2002) which Adam describes as

This is bringing to light the sense of disconnection students are often experiencing due to physical and psychological separation from teachers, peers and institutions

What follows is some random reactions to this particular quote and an attempt to connect it with my teaching.

Badly designed learning generates bad outcomes

As someone who has been working, learning and teaching online for a long time I am biased and this idea troubles me. In fact, it puts me in mind of the following point made in this recent post around the question of banning laptops in the classroom, because handwriting is better for learning

Those studies about the wonders of handwriting all suffer from the same set of flaws, namely, a) that they don’t actually work with students who have been taught to use their laptops or devices for taking notes. That is, they all hand students devices and tell them to take notes in the same way they would in written form. In some cases those devices don’t have keyboards; in some cases they don’t provide software tools to use (there are some great ones, but doing it in say, Word, isn’t going to maximize the options digital spaces allow), in some cases the devices are not ones the students use themselves and with which they are comfortable. And b) the studies are almost always focused on learning in large lecture classes or classes in which the assessment of success is performance on a standardized (typically multiple-choice) test, not in the ways that many, many classes operate, and not a measure that many of us use in our own classes. And c) they don’t actually attempt to integrate the devices into the classes in question,

In terms of student disconnection,is it arising from there truly being something essential that a physical face-to-face learning experience provides that can’t be provided in an online space?

Or, is it because the types of online learning experiences being examined by Rovai have not been designed appropriate to draw on the affordances offered by an online learning environment?  Do these online learning experiences examined by Rovai suffer the same problem that most of the attempts to engage in open education illustrate? i.e. an inability to break out of the “persistent patterns of relations” (Bigum, 2012) that are formed by someone brought up teaching face-to-fact?

Given that the abstract for Roavi (2002) includes

Data were collected from 375 students enrolled in 28 different courses, offered for graduate credit via the Blackboard e-learning system by a private university

Indicating that the “persistent patterns of relations” under examination in this paper is from a North American university in 2000/2001 where online learning was limited to the Blackboard LMS. A time and system which is unlikely to be described by anyone as offering only the pinnacle of an online learning experience.

Might the sense of disconnection arise from the poor quality of the learning experience (online or otherwise) rather than the lack of physical presence.

Or is it simply that both teachers and learners have yet to figure out how to leverage the affordances of online learning?

What type of presence should a teacher have?

The following two images represent connections formed between participants in two discussion forums in a large course I teach (these are from first semester 2015). Each dot represents a participant. A red do is a teacher, blue dot a student. A connection between two people is formed when one of them replies to a post from the other.

This first image is from the general Question and Answers forum on the course site.

Forum network map The second image is from the Introduction and welcome forum, where students introduce themselves and say hi to someone the same and different. Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 3.01.34 pm

In the first image, there is on red dot (me) that is strongly the center of all that’s going on. I’m answering questions. In the second image, the red dot that is me, is only lightly connected.

Which is better? Of course it depends. Which is scalable in an effective way?

The Equivalency Theorem suggests that as long as one of student-teacher, student-student, or student-content interaction is high, deep formal learning can occur. High levels of more than one and the educational experience will be more satisfying.

So far the NGL course has been suffering from low student-teacher interaction.  I wonder about the other two? Time will tell.

Teacher as meddler in the middle

A couple of years ago I wrote this post as an example of a “as teacher” post – a requirement for the NGL course. Not a lot has changed, and all this talk of interaction and connection has me thinking again of the first question I was interested in two years ago

How I can be a more effective “meddler in the middle”?

In particular, how can I be more aware of where the types of interactions students are having in the courses I teach, and subsequently what actions can I take to help strength as necessary? If I do this, what impact will it have on student learning and their experience?

I wonder if the paucity of methods for me to understand exactly how and interactions that are occurring that has me refining teaching materials. Materials that students may not be engaging with.  I’m hoping that this project will help reveal how and if students are engaging with the content in at least one course. Anecdotally, it appears that for many interaction with the content is little more than a box to tick. If borne out, this raises the question of how to get students to interact/engage effectively with the content.

There are similar questions to be explored around use of blogs and the connections between students….

References

Bigum, C. (2012). Edges , Exponentials and Education : Disenthralling the Digital. In L. Rowan & C. Bigum (Eds.), Transformative Approaches to New Technologies and student diversity in futures oriented classrooms: Future Proofing Education (pp. 29–43). Springer. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-2642-0

Rovai, A. (2002). Development of an instrument to measure classroom community. The Internet And Higher Education, 5(3), 197-211. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s1096-7516(02)00102-1

Valuing the "residue of experience" a bit more

For a while now I have been drawing on the following quote from Riel and Polin (2004)

Over time, the residue of these experiences remains available to newcomers in the tools, tales, talk, and traditions of the group. In this way, the newcomers find a rich environment for learning. (p. 18)

to explain why I encourage/require the use of various types of social media (blogs, social bookmarking, feed readers) in my courses. This 2014 post identifies the problem (what happens in a course site, stays and dies in a course site) and how the social used in these courses helps address that problem.  If you do a Google search for edc3100 blog, you will get another illustration of how at least some of the residue of experience remains available to newcomers in at least one of the courses.

The problem is that this year has revealed that the design of the course doesn’t yet value that residue of experience, at least not in terms of the main value measure for many students – assessment. Students gain marks for writing blog posts that link to posts from other students, but the code that does this marking only recognises currently enrolled students. Linking to the broader residue of experience doesn’t count.

Interestingly, this has only become an issues this year. Only this year have students been asking why they missed out on marks for links to other (“old”) student posts. Leaving aside why it’s only started this year, this post documents the move to valuing the residue of experience.

After implementing the code below, it appears that at least 28 (about 25%) students this semester have linked to blog posts from students in previous offerings of the course. Would be interesting to explore this further. See how prevalent the practice has been in previous courses. Update these visualiations to show the connections between offerings.

What I need to do

The process will be

  • Refamiliarising myself with how the “valuing” is currently done.
  • Planning and implementing how to value the residue of experience.
  • Figuring out if/how to check how often the residue of experience has been used.

How it is currently valued

Some perl code does the work.  Details follow.

BlogStatistics class gathers all information about the blogs for students in the current course offering.  A method generateAllStatistics does some of the grunt work.

But this class also creates a data member MARKING for each student. Based on the Marking class and its GenerateStats method. This class gets the content from the bim_marking table (i.e. all the posts by the student).

GenerateStats accepts a reference to a hash that contains links to all the other blogs in the course (for the specific offering).  It calls DoTheLinks (gotta love the naming) passes it the hash ref to do the count.

One question is how much old data do I currently have?  Seems like there’s only the 2015 and 2016 data easily accessible.

Planning and implementation

One approach would be

  • BlogStatistics generates a list of old student blog URLs
    • add BlogStatistics::getOldStudentBlogs that creates $%BlogStatistics::OLD_BLOGS DONE
  • BlogStatistics passes this into each call to Marking::GenerateStats  DONE
  • Marking::GenerateStats would pass this onto Marking::DoTheLinks DONE
    • also increment POSTS_WITH_STUDENT_LINKS if a link is to an old student blog DONE
    • increment POSTS_WITH_OLD_STUDNET_LINKS if a link is to an old student blog DONE
  • Modify the report generator to show OLD links DONE

 

 

What is "netgl" and how might it apply to my problem

At least a couple of the students in a course I help out with are struggling a little with Assignment 2 which asks them “to develop a theory-informed plan for using NGL to transform your teaching (very broadly defined) practice”.

The following is a collection of bits of advice that will hopefully help. Littered throughout are also some examples from my own practice.

NGL != social media

Network and Global Learning (NGL/netgl) should not be interpreted to mean use of social media. In the course we use blogs, Diigo, feed readers etc as the primary form of NGL practice and in the past this has led folk to think that NGL equates to use of social media.

Just because we used blogs, Diigo, and feed readers, that doesn’t you should. You should use whatever is appropriate to your problem and your context.

What is NGL?

Which begs the question, “what is NGL”? If not just social media.

As I hope was demonstrated in the first two-thirds of the course there is no one definition of NGL. There are many different views from many different perspectives.

The first week’s material had a section on networked learning that included a few broad definitions. I particularly like the Goodyear et al (2014) quote that includes

learning networks now consist of heterogeneous assemblages of tasks, activities, people, roles, rules, places, tools, artefacts and other resources, distributed in complex configurations across time and space and involving digital, non-digital and hybrid entities.

The course material also covers more specific conceptions of NGL. e.g. connectivism gets a mention in week 1, as does public click pedagogy.

Week 3 mentions groups, networks, collectives and communities; the idea of network learning as a 3rd generation of pedagogy; and some historical origins of network learning.

What’s your problem?

It’s all overwhelming, is a common refrain I’m hearing. Understanding that there is a range of different views of NGL probably isn’t going to help. That’s one of the reason why Assignment 2 is intended to use a design-based research approach i.e. (emphasis added)

a particular approach to research that seeks to address practical problems by using theories and other knowledge to develop and enhance new practices, tools and theories.

At some level DBR can help narrow your focus by asking you to focus on a practical problem. A problem near and dear to your heart and practice.

Of course, the nature of “problems” in and around education are themselves likely to be complex and overwhelming. The example I give from my own practice – described initially as “university e-learning tends to be so bad” or “a bit like teenage sex” is a big complex problem with lots of perspectives.

How do you reduce the big overwhelming problem to something that you can meaningful address?

This is where the literature and theory(ies) enter the picture.

What might “theory informed” mean?

First, go and read a short post titled What is theory and why use theories?.

Adopting this broad and pragmatic view of theory, there are many ideas and concepts littered throughout this course (and many, many more outside) including, but not limited to: connectivism; connected learning; communities of practice; group, networks, collectives, and communities; threshold concepts etc. In understanding your problem, you are liable to draw upon a range more.

As per the short post theories are meant to be useful to you in understanding a situation or problem and then as an aid in formulating action.

Combining theories from NGL and your “problem”

The theories for assignment 2 aren’t limited just to theories from NGL. You should also use theories that are relevant to your problem.

You look around for how other people have conceptualised the problem and the approaches and theories that they have used. Do any of those resonate with you? Can you see any problems or limitations with the approaches used? Are there other theoretical lenses or just simple ways of understanding the problem that help narrow down useful avenues for action?

In terms of my problem with the perceived quality limitations of university e-learning, I’ve been using the TPACK framework for a while as one theoretical lens. TPACK is quite a recent and broadly used theory for understanding the knowledge teachers require to design technology-based learning experiences. (Since all models are wrong, it has it’s limitations)

Drawing on TPACK I wonder if the reason why university e-learning is so bad is because the TPACK (knowledge) being used to design, implement, and support it is insufficient. It needs to be improved.

Not an earth shatteringly insightful or novel suggestion. But by focusing on TPACK that does suggest that perhaps I focus my attention for potential solutions within the TPACK related literature, other than elsewhere. Almost always there is more literature than any body (especially in the context of a few weeks) can get their head around. So for better or worse, you need to starting drawing boundaries.

Now with a focus on TPACK it’s time to combine my personal experience with the theory and associated literature. My personal experience and context may also help focus my exploration. e.g. if I were working in a TAFE/VET context, I might start looking at the literature for mentions of TPACK in the TAFE/VET context (or just at TAFE/VET literature). Again, narrowing down the focus.

I might find that there’s nothing in the TAFE/VET context that mentions TPACK in conjunction with e-learning. This might highlight an opportunity to learn lessons from other contexts and test them out in the TAFE/VET context. Or there might already be some TPACK/TAFE/VET/e-learning literature that I can learn from.

In my case, as someone with relatively high TPACK I get really annoyed when people think the main challenge is “low digital fluency of faculty” (i.e. teaching staff). This gets me thinking that perhaps the problem isn’t going to be solved by focusing on developing the knowledge of teaching staff. i.e. requiring teaching staff to have formal teaching qualification isn’t (I believe) going to solve the problem, so what is?

You want digitally fluent faculty?

This is potentially interesting because a fair chunk of existing practice assumes that formal teaching qualifications or the “right” professional development opportunities will help teaching staff develop the right TPACK and thus university e-learning will be fantastic. Being able to mount a counter to a prevailing orthodoxy might be interesting and useful. It might make a contribution. It might also identify a fundamental misunderstanding of a problem and a need to read and consider further.

In my case that led to an interest in (seeing a connection with) another theoretical idea, i.e. the distributive view of learning and knowledge. I do recommend Putnam & Borko (2000) as a good place to start learning about how the distributive view of knowledge and thinking can help situate teacher learning.

The combination of TPACK and the distributive view of learning appears to be useful. So we ended up using it in this paper to explore our experience with university e-learning. That work lead to questions such as

  • How can institutional learning and teaching support engage with the situated nature of TPACK and its development?
  • How can University-based systems and teaching practices be closer to, or better situated in, the teaching contexts experienced by pre-service educators?
  • How can the development of TPACK by teacher educators be made more social?
  • How can TPACK be shared with other teacher educators and their students?
  • Can the outputs of digital renovation practices by individual staff be shared?
  • How can institutions encourage innovation through digital renovation?
  • What are the challenges and benefits involved in encouraging digital renovation?

Most of these are questions that could be good candidates for a design-based research project. i.e. can you use these and other theories to design an intervention or change in practice?

Designing an intervention

This recent post is my attempt to answer at least this question from above

How can institutional learning and teaching support engage with the situated nature of TPACK and its development?

It takes the distributed view of TPACK, the BAD mindset, and tries to envision some changes in practice/technology that might embody the principles from those theoretical ideas.

The idea is that being guided by those theoretical ideas makes it more likely that I can predict what can/should happen. I can justify the design of the intervention. I might be wrong, but it will hopefully be a better reason for the specific design approach than “because I wanted to”.

The ultimate aim of a DBR approach is to design, implement, and then test this design to see if it does achieve what I think it might.

Don’t forget the context. Don’t focus on the technology

My example above is very heavy on in terms of technology and requires fairly large technical expertise. That’s because it is something that I’ve designed for my specific context. It makes sense (hopefully) within that context.

If I were someone else working (with less technical knowledge) in a different context (e.g. an outback school with no Internet connection), then the solution I would design would be different.

Putnam and Borko (2000) give a range of examples around teacher learning that aren’t heavily technology based. If there is no Internet connection, there might be a high prevalence of mobile phones. If not, I might need to become a little more creative about using low levels of digital technologies.

In fact, if I were in a very low technology environment, I’d be actively searching the literature for insight and ideas about how other people have dealt with this problem. Almost certainly I wouldn’t be the first in the world.

References

Putnam, R. T., & Borko, H. (2000). What do new views of knowledge and thinking have to say about research on teacher learning? Educational Researcher, 4-15.

What is theory and why use theories?

The following is an edited version of something used in a course I teach that’s currently hidden away in the LMS. I’m adding it here because I’m using it with another group of students.

It’s a quick attempt to cover what I perceive to be a reasonable whole for many education students. i.e. what exactly is a theory and why the hell would I want to use them? My impression is that not many of them have developed an answer to these questions that they are comfortable with.

This is a complex and deeply contested pair of questions. I’m assuming that if you lined up 50 academics you’d get at least 50 different sets of answers. My hope that this is a useful start for some. Feel free to add your own pointers and answers to these questions.

If you want a more detailed look into the nature of theory then I can recommend Gregor (2006).

What is theory?

I take an inclusive and pragmatic view of theory.

An inclusive view, because there is a huge array of very different ideas that can be labelled theories. A pragmatic view is taken because the reason we use theories in this course is to make it easier to do something. To understand a particular situation, or for most reading this figure out how to design some use of digital technology to enhance or transform student learning.

Hirst (2012, p. 3) describes educational theory as

A domain of practical theory, concerned with formulating and justifying principles of action for a range of practical activities.

i.e. educational theory should help you teach and help your learners learn.

In the context of this particular course we touch on various ideas such as: the Computer
Practice Framework, TPACK, Backwards Design, the RAT framework, the SAMR model, The TIP Model, constructivism, and many more. For the purposes of this course, we’ll call these things theories. They help with “formulating and justifying principles of action”.

There is huge variability in the purpose, validity, and approaches used to formulate and describe these objects called theories. A theory isn’t inherently useful, important, or even appropriate. That’s a judgement that you need to make.

A theory is just a model and All models are wrong, but some are useful (Box, 1979).

Why use theories?

Thomas (1997, p. 78) cites Mouly (1978)

Theory is a convenience a necessity, really organizing a whole slough of facts, laws, concepts, constructs, principles into a meaningful and manageable form

These theories are useful because they help you understand, formulate and justify how and what to do. In this course, these theories will help you plan, implement, and evaluate/reflect upon the use of digital technologies to improve your teaching and your students’ learning.

Learning and teaching are difficult enough. When you add digital technologies to the mix even more complexity arises. The theories we introduce in this course should hopefully help you make sense of this complexity. Guide you in understanding, planning, implementing and evaluating of your use of ICTs.

References

Gregor, S. (2006). The nature of theory in information systems. MIS Quarterly, 30(3), 611–642.

Hirst, P. H. (2012). Educational theory. In P. H. Hirst (Ed.), Educational Theory and Its Foundation Disciplines (pp. 3-29). Milton Park, UK: Routledge.

Thomas, G. (1997). What’s the Use of Theory? Harvard educational review, 67(1), 75:105.

"Me as teacher" – the 2015 focus for NGL

NGL is a course I teach. Participants are asked to spend the semester engaging with networked and global learning as: student, learner, and teacher. They are asked to blog and reflect on this mishmash of experiences throughout the semester. I’m trying to do this as well. Not only to model one version of expectations, but also because I find it a valuable learning process myself. I did “me as learner” last week, this week it’s time for “me as teacher”.

as “meta-“teacher

Last year I wrote this “as teacher” and it had a more traditional focus. I was thinking about me as the teacher of a couple of formal courses. The directions in NGL tries to expand the understanding of “teaching” beyond formal learning to include “as you doing something that helps others learn”. For the rest of this year I’d like to push the boundaries a bit. I’d like to go meta in terms of teaching.

One of my key positions at the moment is that university e-learning is a “bit like teenage sex”. It’s quite horrendous and isn’t dealing well with some difficult problems. Yet another restructure, or a focus on quality standards is not going to help! There’s something more fundamental here. I want to explore what that might be.

In particular, I want to help universities learn how to do e-learning better.

I use that “learn how to” for two purposes. First, to indicate that they need to get better. Second, and much more importantly, is that the way to get better is to focus on the problem as a learning problem. The solution isn’t to analyse the situation and identify the solution (and then implement it). The solution is to recognise that they only way to improve the quality of e-learning is to approach it as a never-ending learning problem. The organisation as a whole always needs to be learning. Trying new things, failing, getting better, finding what works, changing it etc.

Me “as teacher” is actually me as meta-teacher.

Back to the questions asked of NGL participants.

What is your role as a teacher? Who are your students? What is the context?

Let’s keep the context narrow and say within my current institution. The “students” are essentially anyone involved with e-learning at the institution. I’m not formally teaching any of them, but perhaps as I engage within the network of the institution there will be some learning.

Taking a very network centered perspective on learning, my “role as teacher” is to help make connections. Borrowing from the “distributed view” the idea is that

the world is complex, dynamic, and consists of interdependent assemblages of diverse actors (human and not) connected via complex networks.

The mindset underpinning university e-learning is to SET in it’s ways. The question is how to change that?

What role does NGL currently play? How can it help?

My argument is that due to the SET mindset, NGL doesn’t play much of a role at all in university e-learning. While network technology is used increasingly within university e-learning, the practices, conceptions, and processes around it are still largely industrial and completely inappropriate. All the attempts to improve e-learning are trying to do so within the confines of this inappropriate mindset.

I think that really grokking a NGL mindset promises to improve the ability of universities to learn how to do e-learning. Largely because it’s a more appropriate model of the learning that needs to take place.

I’m particularly interested in how the idea of Context-Appropriate Scaffolding Assemblages (CASA) might be implemented and subsequently make it easier for universities to learn how to do e-learning in much more interesting and effective ways.

What difficulties might arise?

The largest barrier is that this requires a mind-shift. A major mind shift. Modern organisations (at least those that still haven’t figured it out) like universities are built on a different mindshift. A NGL mindset is radically different. Different mindsets have been a barrier to reform – especially around computing – before. Pedaling a different mindset is a good way to set yourself up as “strange”.

Then there’s the question of workload. The selfish reason I’m interested in this problem is because I suffer from it. Too much make work, not enough capability to engage in meaningful learning.