Sunday, 28 September 2008

Hello Reykjavik

I just arrived in Reykjavik for a conference on PISA 2006 and the transition to e-assessment. It's my first time in Iceland, and I must say it was a bit surreal. I'm just reading Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, which contains a lot of descriptions of a newly terraformed Mars: cold, lots of rocks and lots of lichen. Trust me, walking around in Iceland came scarily close to how I had been imagining the novel in my head up till then.

I'm hoping to find some time over the next days to post my thoughts on the conference. There is a very impressive lineup of international speakers scheduled to speak, and i am looking forward to exchanging ideas and opinions with them. Pictures will have to wait I'm afraid, as I forgot to pack the cable that connects my camera to my laptop...grrr...

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Connecting connectivism

The article Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge has been really valuable for me in understanding the ideas behind connectivism a lot better. It is a bit of a read, but in my opinion well worth the time and attention.

What resonated particularly well for me, is the idea of building an emergentist theory of learning. I have always preferred a holistic approach to understanding. One of the major weaknesses in our 'Western' view of the world is the idea that we can understanding everything by reducing it to it's component parts. I suppose it is something that developed with my long term practice of Chinese martial arts and philosophy. More recently I have found tremendous value in 'system thinking' as described by Peter Senge in his book 'The Fifth Discipline'. In this book Senge criticises the reductionist approach to running businesses such as our obsession with KPI's and the like. I think I'm starting to realise that connectivism really is based on similar principles, applied to learning.

Reflecting further on connectivism, and in particular on the idea of 'levels of knowing', there are several other things falling into place as well. I have been a fan of the SOLO taxonomy ever since being introduced to it by Graham Gibbs about 3 years ago. For me it makes so much more sense then the archaic taxonomy of Bloom. It classifies levels of understanding by the amount of connections that a learner makes, and the broadness of those connections (for instance into other domains of knowledge). It seems to me to be an excellent reflection of how learning would develop according to the connectivist model.

So after a somewhat sceptical start, I must say that I'm beginning to warm to some of the ideas behind connectivism. I do still think some of the theory and arguments behind it need more refinement, and perhaps that is something I should try and articulate over the next few weeks to help this discussion along. For the moment though many of the ideas are still somewhat in the 'primordial soup' stage, and so I will give myself a few weeks before venturing down that path further.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Yay we won!

Woohoo, our SLAM for ALT-C 2008 on the Digital Divide has been found:

And the organisers have been kind enough to award us their special pick. I feel so warm and fuzzy inside now :)

Do have a look at the other SLAMS, and award winners on the Digital Divide Slam homepage!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Free at last?

Research done by PISA has shown convincingly that school systems whit a high degree of autonomy perform better (see my post on SAT troubles for a bit more info) . It seems that the Liberal Democrats have now formally adopted this position, and have outlined plans to scrap the national curriculum. A brave move. It will be interesting to see how this discussion unfolds, and if it will survive the inevitable backlash from the control brigade.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

What is Connectivism?

It's only the first week and I'm already behind schedule, how embarrassing. Either way, here are my reflections on the first week of connectivism:

Levels of analysis
Although not a part of this weeks reading, I did find a lot of value in a video recommended by Clark Quinn: (not Donald Clark as I erroneously said earlier):

It seems to me that a lot of the differences in the various theories and views on learning really boil down to the level of analysis or perspective that you take on the problem. Connectivism in that sense is the result of the analysis of learning within a new level or structure that has been created through new technology.

Aside from the level of analysis, analogies can form another perspective on a problem. Often we start employing an analogy because it aids in the representation of an aspect of an idea. However, analogies are always flawed, and so when we start employing our analogy to liberally we inevitably run into problems. Unfortunately our brain seems to like, and need, simplicity and so we often find ourselves stuck in our own analogy.

The brain as a computer is a very obvious analogy. Knowledge as an object that can be internalised is perhaps also the result of a subconscious analogy. In the days where books were not too abundant and the number of views expressed in them relatively limited perhaps it was logical to see the book as a synonym for knowledge. And so reading the book, internalising it, equivalent to learning. the observation had very little to do with what learning really is. It is more an expression of how learning commonly took place.

And so for the blogging, networking and
podcasting fanatics amongst us, networked learning has become our preferred mode of learning. And while it serves a lot of us very well, I am not sure it actually makes it a theory of learning, or if it is merely an instantiation of it. And to be very precisely, perhaps it is more a means of sense making, more then learning. Learning, to me, is still something I cannot easily separate from the individual.

Friday, 12 September 2008

ALT-C 2008

This week I have had the pleasure of attending ALT-C in Leeds. We had an awesome opening by Hans Rosling, but unfortunately I cannot find the recording for that. For those of you who have not heard of Hans, I thoroughly recommend looking at his TEDtalk, and the Gapminder website.

While several papers and presentations were the ussual rehashes and repeats of previous years, there were also some very interesting nuggets. One was from the University of Vienna, who have been looking at the development of an IMS LD design tool for lecturers within the EU funded project Prolix. While I couldn't easily find much documentation on the tool they developed, you can download the source for GLM (based on Eclipse) from sourceforge. I'll certainly be having a look at it over the next few weeks.

Another highlight was the talk by George Siemens. If you are interested you can still look at the recordings for the session in Eluminate (you'll have to download their Java applet for it though). it was a shame I only found out George was staying in the same hotel as I was when I was checking out, and too hung over to try and engage in some conversation.

My third pick would be the SLAM session on the Digital Divide, where we all created small clips on the digital divide in little groups which was a lot of fun. The recordings should all be up on the wiki, although the last time I checked ours still hadn't made it there :( However, I did find this picture by Christina Costa of the group I worked with.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Introduction to Connectivism course

I have enrolled on the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge course, together with many, many of my colleagues (about 1600 in total I think!). This is my introductory post, which is part of the suggested pre-course activities.

My background
My name is René Meijer, and I am currently managing the Educational Development Unit at the University of Derby in the UK. I moved to the UK about 4 years ago from Holland, where I developed IT and e-learning projects and policies for secondary education.

Why I am interested in this course
Firstly I see this as an important part of my own professional development. I am looking forward to meeting new people and learning about new ideas. I am particularly interested in better understanding more about what 'models of learning' and what 'value propositions' are relevant in Higher Education today, and of course tomorrow. Secondly, I am also working on the design of professional development for our own lecturers, and I am very interested in looking at this 'model' of learning to see how appropriate it would be to apply there.

When would I consider this course a success?
I think success for me is very much linked to this model of learning. How will participation be, how valuable is the network and networked information that results from it. In what way are there financially viable ways of using this model in other provision? Success I guess, will be linked to a positive answer on each of those questions

Other random info about me
I suppose there's more then enough random info on this blog, feel free to have a look around.