Sunday, November 9, 2008

What becomes of the teacher? New roles for educators

There were no ‘set’ readings for this week’s topic.  Was this because “This is a heavy assignment week” or is it an attempt to get participants to research and discover their own learnings – ie apply a Connectivismistic approach to the course?  Either way, I felt I needed to do ‘something’ towards this topic, and as I’m not an active member in the course through the discussion forums or the live sessions, finding my own reading was where I’ve headed. 

So what is the role of the ‘teacher’ in Connectivism?

There is a lot of lip service given to creating more ‘learner centred’ experiences, where the ‘teacher’ becomes the ‘guide on the side’ rather than the ‘sage on the stage’, and how technology can support this type of learning.

But what does it actually mean to the ‘teacher’ – how do move from being a ‘teacher’ to being a true facilitator of learning?  What’s required if we are to see a major shift in the teaching and learning paradigm?

It is recognized, that technology-enhanced learning (TEL), and individual-centred learning is more chaotic and the learning process takes longer.  Teachers also work in a system whereby the learning process is often overshadowed by the actual outcome, and they’re expected to meet the requirements of standardized testing, like the NAPLAN

Is it that teachers don’t have the skills or attitudes required, when it is “clear that there is a gap in experience, expectations and technical experience between many young people and their teachers and administrators” (Light & Luckin, 2008)

Involving the learner in their learning design process will require that teachers/facilitators will need to better understand ‘learner motivation’ (D’Mello and Graesser 2007), and develop systems and environments which support learners’ help seeking behaviours. (Aleven et al 2004)

And, is individual centred learning appropriate for all forms of learning? How can specific technical skills, such as building and construction, be developed via the internet/use of technology.  Or is Connectivism more appropriate for the more ‘generic’ skills, ie communication, problem solving etc.

Does learner centred learning foster ‘individualism’ at the determent of the group or the community ie as individuals seeks to meet their own individual needs?

Marie Montessori developed a learning system over a century ago which is about guiding the learner through their own natural learning experiences, however, Montessori education is anything but mainstream, and is only gathering some momentum in the ‘pre-school’ arena.

We recognize that web 2.0 environments enable wider user-generated content but how do we help break down the traditional top-down hierarchical model of education, whilst ensuring equity, power balances, democracy, culture, privacy and how might we ensure that TEL can improve learning for all.

The potential for learners to have a greater voice in their learning, the resources they access, including the technologies, and the nature of the physical or virtual environment in which they learn, is central to the considerations of the 21st century ‘educator’.

CCK08 - week 9 – What becomes of the teacher? New roles for educators

No recommended Readings this week

Other useful resources for this week:

Designing for Social Justice: People, Technology, Learning – FutureLab - Ann Light and Rosemary Luckin, 2008

This publication is partnered by a practical handbook; Designing Educational Technologies for Social Justice, available from:

Notes from readings:

Designing for Social Justice: People, Technology, Learning – FutureLab - Ann Light and Rosemary Luckin, 2008

User centred design (UCD) - some attention has been paid to gathering users’ requirements; or it can mean treating all participants as contributing their particular knowledge and skills

Technology-enhanced learning (TEL)

‘participative design’ approaches in which users and professional designers have a more equal say in taking design decisions … participative design processes are more difficult to handle than designer-driven procedures and usually take longer.

Social justice is an interventionist standpoint, in that it seeks to reorganise society’s resources and structures to create a fairer social order.

all members of society do not need or desire the same things and show how changing society to be fairer can be seen as a design challenge

a design approach that allows for the possibility for everyone to be involved is more egalitarian than one which believes only in exclusive talents or professional systems.

The Liberty principle expresses the view that everyone is equally entitled to basic rights and liberties, as long as that does not infringe upon the rights and liberties of others. The Difference principle states that social and economic inequalities between individuals should be tolerated if, and only if, they are of most benefit to the worst off in society.

Milne applies the ‘veil of ignorance’ experiment to designing computer interfaces, asking “how should we design the interface to ensure that User X would enjoy a sufficient degree of usability, regardless of their characteristics?” (Milne 2005).

If everyone wanted the same thing, it would be easy to design society. Allowing for choice and individual difference is a problem for both philosophers and designers.

In Sen’s view, justice requires us to enable people to engage in the activities necessary to achieve what they want, rather than to give them what they want. Thus, developing one’s ability to satisfy one’s needs and desires is itself a very important good to be distributed as broadly as possible. ‘Development as Freedom’ (Sen 1999)

users in the design process, are intrinsically more socially just than others.

(1996). Schön sees unpredictability as an important characteristic of the design process  …. that design is not a predictable activity

Process is often overshadowed by outcome

TEL research recognises and contributes to the move towards a learner directed style of learning, such as that described by Knowles (1984) as ‘andragogy’, and the more self-determined learning paradigm proposed by Hase and Kenyon (2000) referred to as ‘heutagogy’.  Researchers are now particularly concerned with the role of motivation and the way that systems can recognise a learner’s motivational state (D’Mello and Graesser 2007), and the role of metacognition, through for example developing systems that support learners’ help-seeking behaviours (Aleven et al 2004).

What does seem clear is that there is a gap in experience, expectations and technical experience between many young people and their teachers and administrators

The fact that user-generated content breaks with the traditional top-down hierarchical model of education raises questions about power balances, democracy, culture, privacy and how we might ensure that user generated content can improve learning for all citizens

The potential for learners to have an greater voice in the nature of the subject matter being learnt, the resources, including the technologies, being used to support their learning, and the nature of the physical or virtual environment in which they learn, is central to this agenda.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Is VET vocational? Occupational destinations of VET graduates

Notes from a presentation by Sandra Pattison, General Manager, NCVER – research paper:

Are you in an occupation for which you were trained for?

based on ANZSCO Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations statistics


Managers = 14% trained to be managers are in a managerial position within 6 months of undertaking training, however, 85% of the people trained in the ‘trades’ area will be in their trained area.

Most Graduates agree that any type of training is ‘relevant’, except in the Arts and Media Professionals.

About 20% of people who’ve undertaken vocational training didn’t find their training relevant to their current occupation.

In South Australia in 2008 student survey:

High (75%) to Very High (95%) rates of employment for people who’ve undertaken vocational training.

These statistics are important for planning ie where there’s a high outcome of people getting employment in what they’ve been trained, then it makes sense to put the training funds into these areas.

Not a lot of data on ‘pathway destinations’ – need some more recent longitudal data in this area.  

Learners who have successfully completed lower level qualifications ie Certificate I/II are more likely to be successful later on in their career and undertake further training.

Statistics are not supporting the COAG agenda that if an individual has a higher level qualification they are more likely to support a better economy.

Some occupational areas are more specific in nature (ie trades), and some are more ‘generic’.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Power, Control, Validity and Authority in Distributed Environments

Information on the internet is no longer ‘scare’.  Facts and figures, on just about anything, is now available at your fingertips, and within seconds.

However, has the advent of the internet been an equally ‘freeing’ experience for all?

Just because the internet exists, it doesn’t mean that everyone has access to it. 

Consider some of the following:

- Kevin 07’s Digital Education Revolution might be trying to address the lack of computers in schools but there is still a huge digital access divide in our homes.  A colleague this week heard on a daily current affair show that 87% home in Adelaide’s Eastern suburbs have internet connection (broadband no doubt), compared to 27% in the Northern suburbs, and regionally remote individuals have poor or no internet access.

- A recent ‘coffee chat’ with a project manager, deploying an e-portfolio system to manage a senior secondary school unit, described the vast chasm between the technical infrastructure and technical support of private/independent schools compared to their poor cousins, the public school system.  Surely school connectivity, ranging from a 10mb connection down to a 256/512 kb connection, must influence the adoption of effective e-learning strategies, and therefore effective use of the internet.

If information is power and you can’t access information due to costs and poor infrastructure, are you then powerless? And if you do have access to this information, who is controlling/managing the information (ie Google, MSN etc)– is this ‘controlled’ power?

Consider: Google’s vested interest in influencing its search results; ICT manager’s and politicians need to manage information access through controlled firewalls and internet filters; and teachers dictation over who should/shouldn’t access their knowledge through their walled gardened LMS and what information students should/shouldn’t view ie Wikipedia.

@jhawtin tweeted that “the net offers ease of sharing ;-)” but this practice isn’t as widely spread as it should be as many want to 'own' information and hence retain their power stronghold, so sharing is not encourage and enforced through controlling copyright and trademarks regulation.

Increased influence or popularity, and therefore connectivity, offers some internet sites engendered ‘Power Laws’ – allow them to restrict what information people view or access by what’s feed through these sites.

Manuel Castells cites that “power no longer resides in individual institutions (even states) but in what he calls the ‘switchers’ through which networks regulate terms of entry and privilege or exclude particular interests or positions.” Hence, accountability can no longer be a linear process, whereby one party is held accountable by another, but “something more complex and messy, with lines of accountability that are: multiple; overlapping; and based on deliberative as well as procedural processes.”

There is some socially democratic existence on the web through the ‘open source’ movement, an approach that originated in software programming through things like the Linux computer operating system, and through the sharing of content, images and video, by ‘Creative Commons’ licenses.

The internet may not be a truly free and accessible space, so individuals need to be aware of its imbalances and inequities by knowing how to think and question – the Russians knew they were being feed propaganda during the Cold War – but do you know that Google and Facebook is mining your data?

The internet allows access to free information but is it truly freely accessible?

CCK08 - week 8 – Power, Control, Validity and Authority in Distributed Environments


The Fifth Estate — Through the Network (of Networks) .pdf

Network Logic: Who governs in an interconnected world? (.pdf) (this is a long paper/book. Skim sections that you find to be of interest) – edited by McCarthy H, Miller P & Skidmore P

Notes from readings:

The Fifth Estate — Through the Network (of Networks) .pdf – William H Dutton, University of Oxford

Fourth Estate – advent of the printing press, radio, television and other mass media created an independent institution in many nations – became known as the Fourth Estate = central to pluralist democratic processes.

Fifth Estate – new form of social accountability – enabled by growing use of Internet & ICTs

‘communicative power’ of ‘networked individuals’ is key

the Internet and related ICTs can play in ‘reconfiguring access’

The Internet and Web may be packed with material that is free, but they also contain much that is owned – trademarked, copyrighted, proprietary, licensed and more.

By enabling a huge range of people across the globe to reconfigure their access to information, people, services and technologies, the Internet and related ICTs have the potential to reshape the communicative power of individuals and groups in numerous ways. Of course, powerful actors and institutions – not only groups – can enhance their communicative power by strategically using the Internet. This is shown by the increasing influence of companies anchored in cyberspace, such as Google, and the growing online presence of traditional Fourth Estate media giants like News International or the BBC.

the access divide, the economic ‘haves’ get more access to the Internet than the have-nots. This underpins concerns that the Internet reinforces socio-economic inequalities in society.

‘digital choices’ about whether or not to use the Internet also comes into play - many people choose not to use it - individuals who do not find the motivation to go online when they could.

Internet has already achieved a critical mass, enabling networked individuals to become a significant force even though there are continuing digital divides. 

beyond its mere diffusion the Internet is becoming a critical infrastructure of everyday life.

educated individuals are relatively more sceptical, but the most distrustful are those individuals who have never used the Internet. This leads us to call the Internet an ‘experience’ technology.41 As experience online continues to build, more users are therefore likely to develop such a learned trust in the Internet.

I will argue, the Internet is crucially enabling individuals to network in new ways that reconfigure and enhance their communicative power – as a type of Fifth Estate.

users of the Internet and Web will choose to access only a narrow spectrum related to what most interests them. In the words of Cass Sunstein44, users are ‘cocooning’ themselves, creating ‘echo chambers’ in which their own personal prejudices will be reinforced rather than challenged.

As discussed, it can flourish despite a digital divide in access. And it can be a significant force even though only a minority of users are actively producing material for the Internet, as opposed to simply using it. For example, only about 28 percent of current users even post pictures on the Internet. Less than one in five use a distribution list for e-mail (19%), post messages on discussion boards (16%), try to set up a Web site (16%) or maintain a personal Website (15%)

The gates the Internet opens to allow in those aspects of the outside world of benefit to the user also bring in those causing harm by intent or accident, including spammers, fraudsters, pornographers, bullies, terrorists, and more. -  the Internet can empower the malicious in addition to the well intentioned. This has led increasingly for calls from citizens, governments, business and others to introduce online gatekeepers and other controls to govern what was originally conceived by the Internet’s designers as an open, end-to-end network with minimal central control, particularly in allowing a free flow of content65.

The vitality of Internet-enabled Fifth Estate networks rests less on new policy initiatives since its emergence than on preventing over-regulation or inappropriate regulation of the Internet.

peer production of Internet governance’ – ie Wikipedia & ebay

the Internet can be used to increase the accountability … or … as an alternative source of authority and as a check

Network Logic: Who governs in an interconnected world? (.pdf) (this is a long paper/book – edited by McCarthy H, Miller P & Skidmore P

we have taken advantage of the new connections: to earn, learn, trade and travel. But collectively we don’t understand their logic - a governance gap that needs to be bridged.

We are paying so much attention to networks now because of computerisation; it is electronic connections that have made the network such a ubiquitous and public organising principle.

our conception of accountability seems likely to evolve away from simple lines of answerability towards something more complex and messy, with lines of accountability that are:

multiple, so that any one actor was accountable to a number of other actors in a number of different ways

overlapping, so that at different times in different circumstances one source of accountability might take priority, but at no point could there be no accountability at all

based on deliberative as well as procedural processes – generating opportunities for genuine discussion and learning, rather than fostering defensive mindsets or going through the motions.

we can only connect the pursuit of freedom to systems of organisation that will not be undone by its exercise, a networked world can become a more sustainable and a more enriching place. Making it so requires us to change not just our tools of intervention, but also our ways of seeing the world.