Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nearing the end of CCK11 - Answers to some questions

We are nearing the end of CCK11, (and we're starting mobiMOOC at the same time!) and I came across this post by Jaap, asking a few question on how connectivism fits in with with established teaching methods. I've got a few thoughts on the issue...

What does a teacher see of connectivism? What will change in education as a result of connectivism? What does a connectivist lesson look like?

Connectivist principles, I think, do exist in schools, it just depends on what type of schools you look at. I think Jean Anyon's commentary, albeit 30 years old at this point, show that there isn't just one type of pedagogy in our schools.  What does a connectivist lesson look like?  I'd say probably something like what is done in Montessori schools. Would this work in public schools? Of course! If we want to throw resources at our schools to pursue this type of teaching and learning.

What are the implications of connectivism for the school? If New Brunswick wants to change education, and introduces connectivism, how will education of New Brunswick going to be?

I am not sure how things are up in Canada, I'd assume that they are sort of similar to the US. I've been exposed to Greek schools and US schools. The US seems a bit more market driven, meaning that schools get money to buy books and supplies and teachers. If some publisher outbids another publisher the schools may end up getting one book over another. Books also tend to stay in schools longer. Conversely, looking at Greece, the government has a book publisher (OAED) that prints books each year for each grade! Books get updated and all schools in the nation are working from the same foundation. Which model is better? You be the judge, I happen to prefer to see each first grader have the same textbook whether you're in Massachusetts, Alabama or Oregon. Textbooks are not value free and pedagogy free. Textbooks have a built-in set of assumptions that guide their development, so if a textbook is available that embraces connectivist activities, it makes teacher's jobs easier, as opposed to having to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Can a teacher (in a non-connectivist school) teach in a connectivist way?
Connectivistisch teaching is it only for higher education?

Montessori schools have shown that you can teach in different modes of teaching, even outside of higher ed. Teachers do teaching in innovative new ways but when local, state and national governments have mandates that mandate some sort of standardized test to pass your class or graduate, it really hamstrings how creative teachers can be, because if that test isn't passed, it hurts the students, the teachers and the school. Of course if students pass, that doesn't guarantee learning, but at least teachers and schools are safe, and students (whether they have learned or not) are passed on to the next level, and they are someone else's problem - this is not right, but it is a by-product of a standardized-testing culture. Small pockets of connectivist teaching can exist in this culture, but wholesale change is not possible until we don't depend on standardized testing for an assessment of learning.

The main question is: What is the difference between connectivist education and other forms of education?

Good question! I still honestly don't buy fully into connectivism. I think the answer is "it depends." Different types of learning, and different types of activities, require different methodologies. For example, behaviorism works for some things, but not for everything. The same thing I think is true for connectivism. It works in some areas, but just like a car, a teacher needs to change gears for different terrains and speeds :-)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Open Education and Language Learning

I've been following along last week's posts on Open Education, and the whole concept of MOOCs, open educational resources and language learning has been swirling around in my brain.  I've known people who've learned languages, online, by immersion. I think that they started off conversing using a common language (probably English) and then slowly transitioned over to the language that they wanted to learn.  I am not sure how face-to-face immersion works, but I assume that online immersion probably works around the same lines.  I'd have to do some more research and looking information up to be sure.

In any case, thinking ahead to a PhD, I am wondering if anyone has researched open education, or MOOCs, or both in the field of Applied Linguistics and language learning. This might be something that I would be interested in doing and I am wondering if there are people out there in CCK11 that have learned a language just by interacting with others online (and supplementing their knowledge in whatever way they deemed necessary).  I am thinking of creating a MOOC to teach Modern Greek, but I'll have to think more on how to plan it, and get people involved, since they may become a PhD thesis.

Thoughts? Ideas? Comments?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

CCK11, this week being mobile

Being on vacation this week, and with little access to a computer and a monitor, my CCK11 involvement is pretty mobile- reading posts and materials on my iPhone and blogging from it as well. I've been using my phone for the same things in the past (email, RSS and PDF reading) so it's not such a change from the norm - with the exception that I am using this tiny screen in a more sustained matter than simply consuming small bites of info at a time.

The last couple of CCK11 topics, Power and Openness have been pretty interesting; Power was covered quite a few times in my Applied Linguistics curriculum (in one of the readings Freire mentioned one of my professors: Dr. Donaldo Macedo - pretty cool) so the readings were a nice adjunct to things I had already read. More on Power in a future post, this one is devoted to open educational resources and on one of my efforts.

Last semester, my last as a master's level student, I formed a small study group of applied linguistics students who were taking the comprehensive exam with me last December. We opted to use google docs to dissect each and every reading we did as part of have program and distill from these the essence of the readings, this way we could reference our google docs cheat-sheets (8 in total, one per class) while we met after work and on weekends to quiz each other on potential comp-exam questions.

The effort was pretty successful. We didn't get through all the readings- near the end we ran out of time and decided prune the remainder of our "to do" list and to focus in a few "über important" readings in a quick and dirty manner. Our group members all passed the exam (yay!) and we've got our diplomas.

This semester a new group of students are taking the comps and I thought that they would find the notes we created as a useful start. I shared those notes with all taking the exam (after being asked to share them) with the stipulation that they don't just rely on these for the exam (if they do, they will probably not do well on it) and that they contribute back tithe notes by improving on them and adding info on the readings that my group skipped (due to lack of time) or that we did a quick job of (again due to lack of time).

The comp exam is a couple of
Months away and I just checked my google docs account to see if there were any changes made to the docs I shared...nope! I am wondering if people haven't started studying yet (worrisome if you ask me) or if they opted to not contribute back to the project...or a third potential case is that they don't have anyone pushing people to take some assigned readings and verify hat they read with what's on the docs.

When I ran the group I felt like I kept pestering group members for their article summaries (in bullet-point format), but from some of the CCK11 materials I read it seems like someone needs to tale the helm in open educational resources.

So, have you started any open resources? How have they been met? Have people contributed? Stick? Carrot? Or neither?

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Connected Knowledge and the language barrier

I've been mostly lurking these past couple of weeks on CCK11. I've enjoyed reading both assigned readings and reading through blog entries of participants. Most blog entries are in English, which isn't surprising considering that this MOOC is run in English, but at least once, if not, more times per week I've seen postings in Italian, French and Portuguese - I'm sure I've seen Spanish as well, but I really don't remember. I definitely saw some Spanish in LAK11.

While I do enjoy reading (good) content in English, it's always a breath of fresh air to read it in other languages! I minored in Italian and German as an undergraduate, I self-studied Spanish (in isolation, so my communicative competence isn't that great...but reading is OK) and I took 4 years of French in high school and I spent a year or so in French chat rooms in college (the early days of Yahoo! Chat).

For me reading in a second language isn't that difficult - it's challenging since I live in an anglophone environment, but it's not difficult (everyone likes a good challenge, no?) Most people, at least in the US anyway, aren't like me, it seems like most are monolingual anglophones that have either been taught to dislike polylingualism (aka "English is good enough" or "everyone speaks English"), or they've been taught to fear languages in a similar vain as fearing math ("I'm no good at Math" or "Oh, French is hard!").

This poses a serious problem, in my opinion, because we now have a natural barrier for connections to knowledge sources. If you don't understand a language then it is impossible to gain access to that knowledge or information node! Sure, there is Google Translate and other machine translation, but as a best-case scenario these tools just give you broad brushstrokes. We're nowhere near to the level of the Universal Translator as seen in Star Trek. You could circumnavigate and find translators to get you what you need from that node, but how much do you lose by not having a direct connection?

As a side note for you all to ponder (along the lines of if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it): are the readings really assigned if there is no carrot or stick attached to those assigned readings?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Know your learners...

I've posted a new blog post over at the UMassOnline blog with some thoughts about the net gen and teachers knowing their learners. Check it out: click here