Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Opening up sim creation - Clark Aldrich tells us how he does it.

Today's #change11 MOOC session on building simulations was fascinating - hearing simulations designer Clark Aldrich tell us how simulations are created and designed.
I should not be suprised that the process mirrored the design of learning, but it was refreshing to see these principles being expressed in novel ways. Aldrich started by stating that the goal of education is individualistic - with the intention to build competence and build conviction, through participation and practice, emotion and interactive content.
Building conviction was explained carefully and was an interesting concept since normally we do not address it. He means doing the hard things even if you do not want to, to have your understanding (and experience?) at more than a naive level so that your competence is reinforced by your self knowledge and will (my words - please correct me!).
As a philosophy, Aldrich spoke about aligning what you are doing with what you do well with what you want to do with what you think is important to do (in a growing and sustainable way) - this sentence and emphases taken from his slide (based on his book "Unschooling Rules"?).

The road map for producing simulations is simple:
  1. Determine the concept.
  2. Create and Design.
  3. Code.
  4. Calibrate.
  5. Deploy.
He went into detail about the various roles in the process, of aligning delivery of content with the importance of context, agreeing on the metrics for success (ahead of time) and on the programme goals:
  • Engagement
    • Fun enough (liked this - you are not designing for total stimulation)
    • Relevant
  • Convenience
    • Well chunked
    • Easy to access
  • Acceptable cost per student
  • Acceptable time to creation
  • Comfort level of instructors and sponsors (not sure what this meant for sponsors).
It is interesting that these could be learning design programme goals and relevant to any design of learning.

Aldrich went through the "storyboard" of several simulations to show how you can use instances to explain the simulation. These took some listening to and the chat channel was quiet during this process. I, certainly, had to concentrate and not chat!

Two rules of thumb stick in my mind from the presentation:
  1. The cost: $100k / 6 months / for every finished hour. This seemed very reasonable for a well-planned, designed and executed simulation, and a great statistic to have from an expert in the know. There were adjustments to this for single player (-25%), adding multiplayer to a single player (+60%), light-weight mechanics (-70%) and 3D client installed (+100%).
  2. The number of critical decision makers: this was a great way of putting it which I am sure could be applied in all sorts of situations. In symbols, where d is the number of critical decision makers:
        If d < 4, costs are 25% less; if d > 10, costs are 100% more.

What a great rule of thumb, and we can all think of situations where this is so. I would add also that as d gets larger, the probability of reaching a decision approaches zero.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Attempting some structure for #change11 - some harder technology

The change11 MOOC site is well designed thanks to Stephen Downes and serves as the nerve centre for this fast-paced gallop through all things change in learning.
I am trying out symbaloo as a dashboard for all things connected with this MOOC - if it works for you please feel free to add and adjust!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Introspective look at MOOCs - too soft a technology?

Today's #change11 MOOC live session allowed us to hear from Jon Dron and his area of expertise - technologies. After a discussion on constraints, the conversation focused on the pedagogy of MOOCs.
Activity in this MOOC has cooled, even though the topic under discussion generates interest and is a meta-concept that allows us to consider assemblies of technology, so it is of interest to educators (pedagogy is a technology), or should be.
It seems that the drop-off is par for the course. I do not have the figures but I suppose one could question what is massive about this MOOC (now an OOC?).
Dron spoke about about the evolution of a community about a MOOC, and how we could look to evolutionary concepts to consider its likely development. Would the MOOC community parcel up into separate groups like the Galapagos finches? Would there be some partial parcelisation but maintaining loose boundaries that would enable filtration of ideas (genes)?
This perhaps is the only natural outcome that we could hope for. The massive part of the MOOC is not sustainable as it is - there are limits on time and attention that a MOOCer can give and with time this will erode.
There seems to be a philosophical reluctance on the part of the MOOC designers to provide any further structure (if I read Stephen Downes' chat posts correctly) and so it will be inevitable that we have many that will fall by the wayside in our journey. Providing structure will harden the technology/pedagogy but could a better sweet spot be found?
We did touch on having a beginner strand and I suggested intelligent tags (something that allowed a hierarchy like an account structure: #change11 for just change for truly open learners, #change11-core for those who wanted their path charted somewhat, perhaps even #change11-tech for those who wanted to follow the week's technology strand only and perhaps #change11-  for those who wanted to receive all the sub divisions of the tags).
 Despite my comments I am still on this learning journey - MOOC or OOC.

Dynamic Views in Blogger - giving the user the views they want?

Tried the Dynamic Views template for this blog for the past few days.
It certainly is attractive and the user is able to select different views - views that allow for easy browsing, looking at the media/pictures, by timeline, etc. The viewer is in control.
However, I lost the ability to customise it. I could not change any of the features. I do not have the html programming ability to change or add features. Visitors could not sign up for posts nor customise it beyond the several views that the template provided. The viewer is not really in control.
So blogs are pretty hard tech after all....

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Dron's balance between hard and soft technologies - seeking the Goldilocks moment

Jon Dron presented a very informative session in Week 11's #change11 MOOC.
Titled "Soft stuff, hard stuff and invisible elephants", Dron described the following:
  • the meaning of technology 
  • the inclusion of pedagogies as technologies
  • SOFT and HARD technologies
  • getting the right balance between them
  • how to move from soft to hard and vice versa
  • and the elephant in the room - "it ain't just what you do, it's the way that you do it. A bad technology, used well, can work brilliantly, while a good technology, used badly, can be useless".
He describes all this well in his post on the nature of technologies.
Dron defines technology as the "orchestration of phenomena for some use" (W. Brian Arthur) and classifies them as:
  • Soft tech - an active orchestration of phenomena by people
  • Hard tech - the orchestration is embeded into a device.

Dron spoke about refrigerating food being a hard technology (difficult to do without automation) and that soft technologies needs people - the technology does not have everything that it takes to make it happen.

He points out that all technologies are ASSEMBLIES of other technologies and tools, some soft, some hard.

Getting the right balance of this for a given time, context and learner is difficult and needs the "Goldilock moment":
  • Not too soft
  • Not too hard
  • Just right!
Aggregating is a way of making technologies softer and replacing with harder things making them harder. A mashup could be made harder or softer.
In discussions about the MOOC approach, Dron said that making the learner have control over the hardness or softness of the technology will allow the learner to have the right balance and find their Goldilocks moment.

Findings regarding the effect of technology on learning generally state NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE - Dron makes the point that it is not the technology but how it is used, what he calls the elephant in the room.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Teacher - Tech Use for Learning - Matrix

The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) from the Florida Center for Instructional Technology offers both a way of categorising teacher use of technology to enhance learning, and also a plan for developing teacher learning and technology for learning integration.

On the horizontal axis are the levels of technology integration in the curriculum, stated in teacher actions, with the increasing levels Entry, Adoption, Adaption, Infusion, and Transformation.

On the vertical axis are the characteristics of the learning environment, this time stated in terms of what the students do: Active, Collaborative, Constructive, Authentic, Goal Directed.
"The TIM incorporates five interdependent characteristics of meaningful learning environments: active, constructive, goal directed (i.e., reflective), authentic, and collaborative (Jonassen, Howland, Moore, & Marra, 2003)." 

As an example of the matrix, the Active Infusion entry contains the following descriptor:
Students understand how to use many types of technology tools, are able to select tools for specific purposes, and use them regularly.
The teacher guides, informs, and contextualizes student choices of technology tools and is flexible and open to student ideas. Lessons are structured so that student use of technology is self-directed.
Multiple technology tools are available in quantities sufficient to meet the needs of all students.

...and at the Active Authentic intersection:
Students select appropriate technology tools to complete activities that have a meaningful context beyond the instructional setting. Students regularly use technology tools, and are comfortable in choosing and using the tools in the most meaningful way for each activity.
The teacher encourages students to use technology tools to make connections to the world outside of the instructional setting and to their lives and interests. The teacher provides a learning context in which students regularly use technology tools and have the freedom to choose the tools that, for each student, best match the task.
The setting provides a variety of technology tools and access to rich online resources, including information outside of the school and primary source materials, that are available in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of all students.

The matrix links to resources and examples in Maths, Science, Social Studies and Language Arts - with a really good and detailed range - a great resource.

This new TIM replaces the 2005-2006 version previously published, and seems a good descriptor of teacher practices in the K-12 area. 

It is interesting to compare the horizontal axis labels with Puentedura's SAMR model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition). They both attempt to describe technology integration in terms of what the technology does, although Puentedura describes it in terms of change from what was done before.

I like the possibility of the predictive nature of the TIMatrix - it can drive teacher learning and adoption of T4L to the next level.

Could this be incorporated as a model for teacher evaluation of technology use? And so drive technology for learning adoption? #change11

Friday, 18 November 2011

Erik in Abundance

It has been really instructive learning about how Erik Duval teaches.
This week's MOOC #change11 subject, Learning in a Time of Abundance, has allowed us to see into a practitioner's teaching environment (classroom, lecture hall, virtual space, not sure what to call it). Duval has organised teaching (note that I am using this term even though what he has really organised is his students learning approaches) to minimize the direct teaching for memorising current knowledge and leverage the abundance of information. As stated in his presentation at the beginning of the week, Connectedness, Openness and Always-on gives us the environment for this leverage.
Yesterday's COOLCast on added another part of the story. Here we were able to learn about Duval's motivation - that his life is really a MOOC, and he said that this week has been a little bit less massive than he expected it to be.
Abundance in the title means also the abundance of content. The availability and abundance of content is such a different experience that Duval says he can concentrate more on what meaningful activities can be built around it.
What tools does Duval use to sip from the firehose of online information? Duval has simple principles, is a strict keeper of time, he has down time which he really respects (family, for example). Secondly, he books in time with his students when he does not do other things. He does a lot of Twitter to be pointed to material, following a # tag for a few days until it does not interest him anymore. He uses RSS and e-mail as good filters.

The other Duval resource was his presentation "Learning with Open Eyes - The Role of Learning Analytics" given as an opening keynote at de OnderWijsDagen in Utrecht on the 8th of November 2011. This was given in Dutch but I think that you can get a lot out of the Slideshare presentation:

This is a key area and I now see why Duval answered the question on Assessment in such a way (see my post on his Monday presentation) - Learning Analytics is what he was talking about as self-tracking data.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Late into Learning in a time of abundance - Erik Duval

(from Erik Duval)

#globaled11 drew me away from the MOOC #change11 this week, but I'm back! So late into making sense of this week's topic - Learning in a time of abundance by Erik Duval.
Duval said three things are different now:

  • Connectedness
  • Openness 
  • Always on
These make it appropriate to look for a different approach to learning and teaching. Implications for learning:
There will be differences in
  • WHAT we learn
    • Things keep evolving so rapidly that memorising current knowledge (of engineering - his subject) does not make sense. We still do emphasise knowledge even if we say we do not.
  • HOW we learn
    • We should leverage the abundance of information to change how we learn, using the three differences above; "please put your mobile phone ON" is his comment at the start of his lessons.
    • Duval's lessons can be up to 5 hours long and the learning takes place throughout the day and night, with dips in the very early morning.
Are students strategies to learn appropriate given that factual information is so easy to find? Duval implied that the internet has changed the dynamics of communication, people are always on (that is to say, even though you are off [asleep] your digital identity and information is there for all to find). 

Assessment - the inevitable question:
Paraphrasing Duval: "We should do something else but we have not figured out how to assess it so we should keep on doing what we have always done" - Duval says that this does not make sense to him.
Duval uses a lot of formative assessment and self-tracking data as feedback, not as assessment. He says that he does assessment in the same way it is done in professional life - he will have a conversation with the student and then translate this into a number between 0 and 20.

Question - how much do you tell your students?
Duval explains the following at the start of the course:
  • Students will publish in blogs - not write report documents
  • He will not just stand in front of the class
  • He explains why they have to tweet (mandatory)
  • The dangers of neglecting other classes.
Sometimes too much analysis paralysis (great term!) - talking about some issue for ever, need to just move on.

Can clear objectives be maintained but work in a much messier, fragmented way?
Duval doubts that there are such clear objectives except in an abstract way. He says that it is just how life is, messy. Answer is never 42 in engineering terms....

Permission to operate in this way?
"Don't ask anyone for permission"! Like a good lapsed Catholic he just asks for forgiveness afterwards if things go wrong. Great approach.

Comment on coherence and messiness: Duval will spend quite a bit of time with students if what they are presenting is incoherent. Incoherent - self contradicting statements - but messiness? Things connected to many different things in messy ways? Fine.

Practical guidelines for educators based upon his experience:
  • "Let go" is his best advice - let go of fake control, since we as teachers focus on things we can control since we often doubt our capabilities to teach.
  • Accept that other teachers will be just as scared.
  • Connect to the life of students - how do I make it authentic and valuable to them.
Erik Duval's challenge for the week:
  • Find examples of where this approach works really well.
  • What are the limitations to openness? Challenge him with situations where openness does not work.
Good practical MOOC session - thanks!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Howard Gardner at Global Ed - Keynote

This was a first: Howard Gardner was interviewed by his son Andrew, for the Global Education conference keynote. There was a nice relaxed relationship between them - but son was asking the questions his dad was wanting to answer - could a more incisive moderator have got more?

Andrew started by asking dad about the distinction between Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences (MI), an issue that was obviously a Gardner hang-up. Originally, MI was NOT an educational theory and he talked about standing back to see where the educators would take MI. He described it as the different things the brain computer did. Learning Styles, however, was a different concept and to him was a particular style, preference or tendency and may cross different Multiple Intelligences. So - LS and MI are not to be confused.

An unkind person would say that as an author-thinker, Gardner did the inevitable promotion of his books, but there were web plugs too, for Project Zero, for example.
He talked about his motivation for working in different areas, and how market forces were taking over as the raison d'etre, how owners of "for-profits cook the books" with little incentive to teach the arts or humanities and other "soft" areas.
He also talked about the Good Work project and which composed of the following
  • Technically excellent
  • Personally engaging
  • Carried out in an ethical way.
Digital age questions that Gardner raised:
  • What does identity mean online?
  • What about privacy?
  • Ownership of authorship?
  • How do you determine trustworthyness and credibility?
  • What does it mean in the digital era to participate in the community?
Common Sense Media was a curriculum based upon the five points above, and the ethical guidebook from the Good Play project called OurSpace.

Quotation: People have always been greedy but there has not been so many ways to be greedy. Alan Greenspan

And from his book Five Minds for the Future:
  • The Disciplinary Mind
  • The Synthesizing Mind
  • The Creating Mind
  • The Respectful Mind
  • The Ethical Mind
Spoke about the Tea Party and Occuply Wall Street groups as what happens when large group of population feel that they are not being listened to. But these two groups are not forming a conversation, just extremes.

So, although intersting, nothing particularly new.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Alan November asks "Who owns the learning?"

In the opening keynote of the GlobalEd conference, Alan November looks at some fresh ideas (fresh from him). He states that there is little to indicate that there have been significant or measurable improvements, on the whole, after the spending of tens of billions in technology.
He asks that there must be no more of the following:
  • No more Technology Planning
  • No more 1:1, students should have but that is not the central issue
  • No more Ed Tech - no more technology directors and less talk of technology
But have more on Learning Design - define problem as improving learning for all our children, then Learning Design is what we should be aiming for. 
(and November asks if anyone has changed their titles - well, we are now talking of T4L so as to emphasise that it is all about the Learning).
Critical questions to ask - do we have:
  • Right information about learning
  • Right relationships to support learning
Students - do students have the right information and the right relationships? "Our teachers know too much, but student tutorials are pitched at the right level", depending upon your friends are you probably will do better or worse at school. Build capacity of students to help students - less emphasis on teacher technology training.
So change in the relationships is vital: mentions Eric Mazur - designing an online community of his students (November says Facebook might be based upon this since Zuckerberg was in Mazur's class!), brings out an amazing treasure trove of information on how learning is happening.
(Mazur's presentation at BLC11 is a "must watch", 20% of learning achieved with the best lecture; figures out that students need immediate feedback with a lot of peer conversation, and that Sochratic approach is better; hence the flip classroom).
As far as professional development is concerned, November says that it is much more rewarding to be global, for your personal learning network to be beyond campus.
($1,000 pencils: students taking notes from teacher in class - a nice way of stating that 1 to 1 means nothing unless the pedagogy changes).
The knowledge of the teacher is in the way of the learning, says November, it is not about knowledge transfer.
November talks about the flipped classroom - here is the video from Clintondale High School which has gone through a complete transformation of pedagogy:

Learning design is the key, not the technology.
Question to ask is who owns the learning? And not how many computers do you have. 
November talks about new student roles for developing empowered learners:
  • Tutorial designers
  • Official scribes
  • Collaboration coordinators
  • Researchers
  • Contributors to society
  • Curriculum reviewers
  • and specifically:
    • Videographer
    • Photographer
    • Data entry
    • Live blogging
    • Interviewers
    • Skype connections
    • Backchannel
So, November asks:
  • Who owns the learning?
  • Are your students producing a legacy?
  • Who works harder in the classroom?
  • Are students publishing to a global audience?
But he says that TEACHERS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER to emphasis the need for learning designers.

An excellent thought provoking session.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

BYOD does not necessarily mean only mobile phones

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a shorthand for the idea of having each student with a computing device - their own. The assumption of many writing about this is that the device will be a mobile phone. In 7 Myths About BYOD Debunked, Lisa Nielsen gives a pretty good account of why mobile phones can be the "D" in BYOD.
She phrases the two "myths" that I question in this way, but I think misses the point:
  • Myth No. 2: BYOD will result in lessons geared toward the weakest device.
  • Myth No. 6: Cell phones are not that powerful, so we should not waste our time with them.
Firstly, mobile phones ARE the weakest device. This is not to say that they always will be, or that they are not powerful, but in comparison with other "Ds" they are the weakest device. Two factors make them difficult to work with - the size of the display and the multitasking limitations. The first will not change until we have virtual displays appearning in front of our eyes. The second may be improved but it is related to the first problem.
So, if the option is ONLY mobile phone, then they can be the device. But if it is realistic to consider other options, from netbooks through i-Pads to laptops, then these other "Ds" win hands down.
For digital scholarship, involving extensive writing, researching and reading, the mobile phone does not hack it.
(For messaging, light e-mail, Twitter, G+, FB, everyday camera, recording audio, and even reading from i-Books in the dentist's waiting room, the smart phone is great)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Models - usefulness and otherwise

Well, my last piece on Rhizomatic Learning.
In today's #change11 MOOC live session a series of questions allowed Dave Cormier to expand on the ideas and again it was an interesting hour.
At one point Stephen Downes started to sketch to explain traditional learning and rhizomatic learning (it was me typing in the labels - it may not have been exactly what Stephen meant).
All of a sudden it started to make sense, the idea that nothing new is created with traditional transmition of knowledge, that rhizomatic learning created something new, and then STOP! On the wrong track, Dave dragged us back underground to draw the rhizomatic approach (top right).

For me, a model has to be simple to follow and we should not need to read French philosophy to "get it". Stephen's alternative started to make sense, Dave's rhizomes clouded it for me. So, for me (and I stress that others may well find the concept useful) it goes no-where and as a model fails.
However, let me add something more concrete to the question raised about "assessment" or at least the badging or verification of such learning.
I can see that for teacher professional development, an open non-curriculum self-directed connected learning approach works (have I just described rhizomatic learning?). In my school, those at the cutting edge of technology for learning are learning in exactly this way. The ideas that permeate from them are proof that the learning is taking place. They are badged by their subsequent actions, and this is a perfectly acceptable verification.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Rhizomes - back to basics

If the metaphors don't work for me, what can I suggest?
Well, let me write it in other terms without using the rhizome, worker, soldier, nomad metaphors:
The first dichotomy is formal and informal learning.
Formal, of course, is everything conventional, perhaps existing already, based on courses, structure, teaching, VLEs, etc.
Informal is that learning which is achieved outside of the official formal learning structures but includes online, PLEs, MOOCS, in fact, anything driven by the learner and including books, experience, and other interactions which are not necessarily technological.
Another dichotomy: under informal we can include the learning which is facilitated by a person or persons bringing resources, ideas and people together (the social artist?) as well as the learning achieved by those who truly direct (or wander) through their own selected learning experiences (the nomad in rhizomatic learning?).
What is missing here that should be here - is this too simplistic? What ideas are in rhizomatic learning which can't be derived from here?

Metaphors that don't work for me - Social Artists, Rhizomes, Nomads

We are categorisers. It is how our brains work. We can't help placing labels on concepts and this helps us refer to huge ideas in a simple way.
We use metaphors as particularly apt labels. The mind-ideas generated by the metaphor helps us remember and work with the concepts.
I have found both the Social Artist metaphor and now the Rhizomatic Learning (including Workers, Soldiers and Nomads) particularly difficult to work with.
Dave Cormier's facilitation on #change11 MOOC's session yesterday was excellent. A fairly large number of participants interacted on chat and on the screen. But it took me the session to understand each of the metaphors for Rhizomatic Learning and none of them, for me at least, "clicked". In fact, they seemed distracting. The "Workers", "Soldiers" and "Nomads" metaphors brought many other not entirely relevant ideas to mind. They simply did not work for me. As for Rhizomatic Learning, I was left with the feeling of "so what?".
Clearly the work on the Rhizomatic Learning concept has gone a long way. Have I been left behind in a developing thought process where the original labels worked but the ideas have matured?
The only benefit of such a loose or inappropriate coupling of metaphor to concept is that it needs such deep explanation and understanding - perhaps that is a good thing.
Oh, it did seem to me that there were too many flippant comments in the interactive session. You come to expect it on chat but I was disapointed with the negative and lightweight responses on the interactive board. Purpose of education? Why did my fellow participants have such limited and cynical views?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Time for a Learning Revolution

It takes a 16 year old to say it so clearly:
Policy-wise, we need a national curriculum, based on lean standards, so that teachers have the full autonomy to shape and mold the curriculum.
Nikhil Goyal writes about project based learning in the Huffington Post under the title "It's Time for a Learning Revolution".
I propose that we institute a 21st century model of education, rooted in 21st century learning skills and creativity, imagination, discovery, and project-based learning. 
He gives as an example of this idea in action, the High Tech High in San Diego, California, which has this as its descriptor for its eleven schools:
All of these schools serve a diverse, lottery-selected student population; all embody the High Tech High design principles of personalization, adult world connection, common intellectual mission, and teacher as designer.
[the example comes from his post within Andrew Revkin's article here]. 
What would it take to make this happen?
Learning by Breaking - a project approach:

Social Artist doubts - process and "feel-good"

This week's MOOC #change11 has not held my interest.
Without doubt, Nancy White is a charismatic facilitator, using graphical tools to have participants express themselves and develop a particular view. I think this approach (using such graphical tools) is excellent for the participants.
I learned long ago that my wonderfully produced mathematical notes were excellent - for me. The iterrative process of producing these and improving them was valuable to me, the writer. My students needed to produce their own versions (yes, to construct their own knowledge), for this to be valuable for them.
So the outcome of the process did not mean much without being a participant.
Also, there seemed to be an inordinate amount of "feel-good" commentating. Why? Could there be a cultural difference?
Hence my Tweet: the Queen has got no clothes on. There, I said it.