by Stephen Downes
May 9, 2014
Understanding and learning outcomes
May 9, 2014
Gardner Campbell examines "the seemingly endless fascination with 'learning outcomes'" and the ingenious idea that "teachers should think about what they believe should happen in the student as a result of the class." But this, he says, leads toward a behaviourist paradigm and away from "the cognitivist turn" that has characterized education in recent years. It leads toward 'specific knowledge'. "Two of the words we must never, ever use are 'understand' and 'appreciate.'" - we are told that these are vague words, when (as Chronicle blogger Robert Talbert says) we should specific words to describe outcomes. Mushy objectives can't be measured. But it's not so much that they're mushy (and here I'm reading into him a bit) but they're complex. The paradoxes that seem to abound in learning are actually reflective of the underlying nature of learning. Reading slowly is ineffective, for example, is the goal of reading is to 'have read' - as it seems to be using tools like Spritz to speed-read. Back to Bogost: "Spritz hasn’t stepped in to sabotage comprehension, but to formalize and excuse its eradication."
In my own work, I'm often an eliminativist. I don't like it when people use words as though they were some sort of conceptual black box, as though (say) the story is over when they say that something "fosters understanding." But this eliminativist part of me should be thought of as an attempt to dehumanize learning, it should be seen as an instance of this: "these complexities matter. When confident, simple, plain, orderly advice is given about a complex matter, I hear the sound of the hatchet replaced by the sound of wood snapping as the branch I’m sitting on gives way."
Conceptual Connections, once again
x28’s new Blog,
May 9, 2014
Concepts can form networks, says Matthias Melcher. "Words can change each other’s subtle nuances, for example when a newer word gradually displaces an older one from a certain meaning, while the older word slowly shifts its connotations, just by being used differently." I don't inherently disagree with this. I was pretty careful in my statement to allow for non-causal changes of state: "can cause or result in..." - and the purpose was precisely allow that networks could be formed by non-physical entities. Concepts may be one such example. Now I have said connections are not just relations between concepts, as Melcher notes here. A concept map isn't the same as a network. But insofar as concepts are dynamic, interacting things they can and do form networks.
Mesh Networks of People
May 9, 2014
I think that the more you get out and talk with people the more you find these deep mesh networks of people around domains, ideas, disciplines and hobbies. As Alan Levine says, "connections I make, not just PLNing or linking online, just by talking and listening… are gold." What's also interesting - I was just at a meeting this morning where I experienced the same sort of thing - is that these networks recede off into the distance; you can get a grasp of some of those around you, you can see them stretch off into the horizon, but the totality of them all is something you can only partially grasp, and you could spend your life exploring. This is what Levine has been doing over the last few years (and he is thus being afforded a genuinely unique view of the world). And significantly, what he sees - I think (it's what I see, at least) - is that this is how human society is structured, and the hierarchies and institutions and more visible elements of society are just an overlay, artificial abstractions, formalisms, artifacts we create, but not ultimately core or significant. Levine has some excellent examples in this post which make it worth a look.
P.S. see also Levine on changes to the Flickr API and on how Twitter is a crappy RSS reader replacement. "Twitter is no replacement for the ability to quickly scan a reliable set of sources that collect the drops while away."
Contemporary Privacy Theory Contributions to Learning Analytics
Journal of Learning Analytics,
May 9, 2014
According to the abstract, "This paper provides an overview of privacy and considers the potential contribution contemporary privacy theories can make to learning analytics." I personally consider privacy one of the key issues in learning analytics; anyone can mine a big set of data, but how do you do what when you need permission from each person before continuing? I like the 'broad overview of privacy' diagram and the nuance offered, for example, from Nissenbaum: "a right to privacy is neither a right to secrecy nor a right to control but a right to appropriate flow of personal information." Some of the issues are highlighted in two scenarios illustrating four key parameters of privacy: context, actors, attributes and transmission principles. This paper is from the inaugural issue of the Journal of Learning Analytics.
Mini-Lectures Using Learning Objects: Bosch's The Haywain (1516)
Susan Smith Nash,
May 9, 2014
Janet Clarey comments, "I love this for its simplicity." It is a set of mini-lessons offered by Susan Smith Nash, each one small and self-contained, using learning objects the way (I think) they were intended to be used. She writes, "Animated learning objects that bring together images, audio, and interaction are a perfect place to engage students. Now that many translate to HTML5 and are designed to be responsive so that they play well on tablets and smartphones (and on all platforms) as well as laptops, etc., they're a great way to deliver mini-lectures."
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