Open Learning and Contextual Diversity

September 27th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

The debate over open learning is still going on through various fora such as the Open Educational Resources discussion currently being hosted by UNESCO and the #PLENK2010 MOOC. And in many ways, it is not technology which is driving the discussion but a more fundamental question about how to provide wider access to learning and access to wider groups of learners.

One post which caught my eye is The ‘Open Mode’ – A Step Toward Completely Online by Tom Prescott (it is interesting to note that even in the days of Twitter;s ascendency blog posts continue to provide the most thoughtful exchanges).

Talking about the trend away from purely online distance learning courses towards blended learning, Tom says:

It’s wrong because most of the time the educators and the students don’t really want to use technology. They’ll do a bit for the administration, but for learning, no way. It’s a face-to-face course. Why tamper with it. I am of the opinion that this is misguided, but it’s not a battle worth fighting (for now). Fighting this resentment is unnecessary.

I think Tom is mixing up a whole series of things here. Firstly the move towards Blended Learning was driven by pedagogy and not by a retreat from Technology Enhanced Learning. And that move towards Blended Learning has led to a period of pedagogic innovation, albeit based on the adoption of social software and social networking for learning. By focusing on the pedagogy of using technology, increasing numbers of teachers have adopted technology as part of their every day practices in tecahing and learning. This is reflected in changes in teachers’ dispositions towards using technology. I would also challenge the idea that students are opposed to technology for learning. Students are opposed to the use of technology which fails to enhance their learning experience, just precisely to the use of technology for managing, rather than learning.

But the major impact of technologies and especially of mobile devices, is to move learning outside the institutional culture and practice, into new contexts. Of course this provides a challenge to existing institutional cultures and to the existing cultures of tecahing and learning practice. And some teachers will be wary of such a challenge. But its is the potentials of using technology for informal learning, for networked and self structured  learning (as in PLENK2010) and for workbased learning which can open up learning (or put another way, develop Open Learning).

I remain unconvinced that traditional online courses (as in Open and Distance Learning) have challenged that learning in context. Instead they have tended to reproduce existing pedagogic and cultural forms of learning, at a distance. Thus I think we need to see more diversified and contextual applications of technology to learning, rather than a focus on any particular organisational or institutional format.

Otwarty Kurs #PLENK2010

September 22nd, 2010 by Ilona Buchem

Biorę udział w MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), czyli po polsku … hmm … jest już jakiś odpowiednik? Nie? No to powiedzmy “Masowy Otwarty Online Kurs” (MOOK). Może tak zostać?

MOOK w którym uczestniczę nazywa się “Personal Learning Environments Networks and Knowledge 2010”, czyli w skrócie PLENK2010. Tematem są więc osobiste środowiska uczenia się. Inicjatorami są Stephen Downes, George Siemens, Dave Cormier i Rita Kop.  PLENK2010 zaczął sie 12 września i kończy się 14 listopada. Dołączyć do kursu może każdy w każdej chwili, bo kurs jest w tym sensie “otwarty”. PLENK2010 przebiega częsciowo w Moodle, częściowo na blogach in innych siedliskach informacji w sieci społecznej, takich jak Twitter. Sesje “na żywo” odbywają sie w Elluminate, są nagrywane i dostępne dla wszystkich (zobacz listę nagrań w Moodle).

Jest to kurs na wielką skalę, jeżeli chodzi o:

Liczbę uczestników, już pierwszeg dnia przystąpiło do kusu 1200 uczestników, a w poprzednim MOOK w 2009 było ich ok. 2000.

Zbiór zasobów, którego liczbę naprawdę trudno jest ogarnąć. Są zasoby w Moodle (m.in. różne fora dyskusyjne, np. ), na blogach moderatorów i na blogach uczestników, są zasoby na Twitterze i są nagrania w Elluminate. Pierwszego dnia kursu było już okołó 140 wpisów na blogach!

Idea MOOK’a oparta jest na konektywistycznej teorii uczenia się, która definiuje uczenie się jako proces tworzenia połączeń pomiędzy różnymi elementami, odkrywaniem wzorów w chaosie wszechświata (Siemens, 2005). Siemens uważa, że w dobie cyfrowej pożądane są “nowe umiejętności umożliwiające rozumienie znaczenia, znajdowania drogi, czy też formowania spójnej wizji danej dziedziny. Ważne, aby uczący się na tym etapie potrafili funkcjonować w sytuacji rozproszonej i niepełnej informacji, działać w zespołach, wchodzić w interakcję z różnymi kulturami, przekonaniami i światopoglądami” (EduNews, 2009).

Taką właśnie rozroszoną i niepełną sytuację stwarza MOOK. Potrzeba trochę czasu i wysiłku, żeby móc zrozumieć MOOK w jego całej złożoności. Nie wystarzy z reguły pierwszy “rzut oka”. Na szczęście w znalezieniu wzoru/myśli przewodniej pomaga wizualizacja struktury kursu w Moodle oraz agregacja niezliczonych zasobów dokonywana codziennie przez Stephena Downesa w cyfrowym dzienniku “The Daily”, który jest skrupulatnie dokumentowany w archiwum. The Daily można prenumerować przez RSS-feed i e-maila.

Wraz z kursem przeprowadzane są badania dotyczące uczenia się w MOOK’u, m.in. na temat agregacji informacji, sposobów pracy z zasobami, typów interakcji między uczestnikami. Uczestnicy kursu są więc jednoczesnie uczestnikami badań. A ja jestem bardzo ciekawa, jakie bedą ich wyniki …

Developing a post-web-2.0 strategy for learning – a twitter conversation

September 16th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

I moaned on twitter this evening about the intrusive advertising now showing on Slideshare. Fairly obviously, Slideshare are trying to persuade people to sign up for the recently introduced Premium Accounts. The end of free is in sight with many social software providers turning to premium account models in an attempt to monetize services (or at least pay for bandwidth). And of course this was bound to happen. Whilst in the initial days of Web 2.0, service providers could make money on advertising by poaching advertising budgets from print publications, there has to be a point where advertising money runs out, especially in a recessions.

But this provides a big challenge for using technology for teaching and learning. the last two years has been a period of great innovation, with an increasing focus on pedagogy, rather than technology per se. That in turn has been facilitated by teachers (and learners) being able to themselves choose what applications to use, free from institutional diktat be it by managers, accountants or systems administrators. whilst the cost of premium accounts is generally low (although interestingly not for high bandwidth applications such as video streaming), teachers and learners are going to be forced to decide which of the many available services they wish to subscribe to. And most teachers do not have access to a budget for applications. So does power return to the managers? Will we be forced back to the Learning Management Systems and Virtual Learning Platforms so beloved of systems admins.

In a series of tweets Scott Wilson suggested “we need a new post-web-2.0 strategy” and that “open source and the open web are going to be at the heart of it, and new partnerships with IT departments.” He pointed out that “IT departments are under pressure to cut costs and outsource services; this is a key leverage point and educational technologists may be able to help.”

Scott Leslie joined in the discussion, suggesting that my original tweet fearing a move from the free use of social software by teachers to managerial and IT administrator control “is a false dichotomy that confuses ‘Agency’ with ‘Autonomy’ – there’s a role for system-wide/inst….” He suggested “provisioned systems to replace the “free” ones, but done in ways that maximize learner/teacher agency and choice.” And as an example of such a strategy Carlos Santos proposed the SAPO Campus model. Scott Wilson agreed with Scott Leslie saying “also work on ensuring centrally managed platforms are extensible and flexible for adding new edu tools and apps (even sharepoint!).”

An interesting discussion and one that urgently needs to be taken forward. I wonder if this could be continued as part of the #PLENK2010 course?

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