Saturday, September 27, 2008

CCK08: "collaboration" versus "cooperation"

There was an interesting question posed at 26.23: Does learning as an individual task mean that when we learn together that we are not doing a shared process?

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At 28.20 Stephen Downes distinguishes between "collaborate" and "cooperate" in that the former shares more group properties while the latter shares more network properties (see video). The outer ends of the group/network continuum, I believe, are extreme occurrences that don´t necessarily lend themselves well to most school environments that utilize a curriculum as a means for establishing intended desired results. On the one hand, groups include a closed learning environment that contain hierarchies (i.e., teacher-student, student-student, etc.) and tend to hamper the way information is presented presumably in order to assure that "good" content is being provided. On the other hand, networks originate completely from a personal choice (Dron and Anderson) which is also not practical in today´s school systems. Perhaps the "answer" is somewhere in between.

Establishing classrooms as a learning community means recognizing that individual and group goals are taken into consideration. The taught curriculum includes input and individual choice on the part of the learner so that personal learning networks may be designed, implemented, and reflected upon. The educator takes on multiple roles (e.g., didactic instructor, facilitate, and coach) depending on the circumstances, and assists the learner as the process of achieving individual and group goals unfolds. Yes, at times, a didactic role is required because some students respond to this type of instruction given certain circumstances. It´s not about constantly "feeding" information to the learner or expecting that the learner automatically consider the information valuable, but more about being one of many informants that learners may choose from in order to create their own understanding or networked knowledge. An important role of the educator is to assist the learner in determining what information is valuable (or not) within the context of a particular learning situation.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

CCK08: Rhizomatic Education and language learning




I enjoyed reading Dave Cormier's article on Rhizomatic Education.  The rhizome metaphor emphasizes the importance of diversifying instruction and assessment.  Curricular aims for language learning are typically based on certain behavioral patterns that provide reliable and valid evidence that the learner has achieved a desired level of communicative proficiency.  A rhizomatic education frames these common sets of curricular aims in terms of establishing individual learning progressions with distinct starting and ending points.  In my opinion, relying on traditional tests and quizzes and discrete activities alone will fail to develop the individual learner due to the assumption that an entire group of learners are starting from a single starting point and will end up (or should end up) at one common ending point.  


In contrast, establishing foreign language exchanges, for example, provide the means for developing individual learning progressions that promote individual interests, needs, and learning styles while at the same time respecting curricular aims.  Although preparation for the language exchange performance task can include teachers taking a didactic and facilitating role, the bulk of the actual performance task requires an active learner and a teacher as a coach.  During the language exchange common themes assist the language learner to focus on a certain lexicon while conversations take different directions based on the knowledge and experience of the interlocutors. 


The final discussion this week ended with George and Stephen providing an example of connectivism in a practical sense.  George provided an example very similar to a language exchange as discussed in this blog while Stephen, after writing off a connective-classroom environment as somewhat “artificial”, stated the importance of getting students out of the classroom and doing something for the betterment of society.  While I agree that the latter might be a preferred way of learning, I don’t see anything artificial about learning another culture through a connective-classroom.  Getting to know people from different cultures creates a level of respect for others that also contributes to the common good. 



Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I just thought I'd include ACTFL's first blog-talk-radio broadcast.  There's a lot of good information for first-year language teachers.  They address teachers in the US but much of the advice is good for teachers working abroad as well.  

Monday, September 15, 2008

CCK08: explanation of connectivism from Bauwens

Bauwens mentions here the following:

1. ...a transmission from someone that has the knowledge with someone who doesn't have the knowledge.
2. The value becomes in your experience in tapping the network  rather than the particular relationship between teacher and learner.

Doesn't this first statement put more value on the importance of content while the second statement places more value on the "pipe"? And isn't the teacher part of the network? 

Building a learning community within a class requires that clear objectives be established (i.e., desired results that learners understand), learners have the chance to self-assess, and they collaborate with others (1).  Adhering to a connectivism learning theory (based on the description in this video) leaves me to believe that it's more important to simply "tap the network" and let the learners create their own network set (I wanted to say interpret) that guides them to some intended practice.  But teachers are looking for a type of practice that provides the evidence needed to accurately evaluate the learner (based on the class objectives), so learners must be able to distinguish between good and bad content (i.e., understanding, knowledge, skill, process, or concept) as they prepare for their future or ongoing practice.  This is where I think the teacher plays a critical role as part of the learning network as a whole.      

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Language Exchange

As I reflect on my language exchange experience so far this semester I am constantly amazed as to its impact it has on my students - first-year UAA pre-service English language teachers.  Each week's exchange (i.e., performance task) really drives the rest of the week's lessons as learners prepare for their conversation with their US partner(s) at MU.  I see my group gaining more confidence each week as they improve in their langauge acquisition and learn more about their exchange partner(s). 

In addition to using Skype as the primary means of communication, this semester we began using other applications for complementing the language exchange experience.  We opened up a Moodle page from NineHub in order to establish a central location for learners and teachers to collaborate.  NineHub has been working out well so far and to my knowledge is the only free Moodle host available at this time.  Moodle provides a good way for learners to share their reflections and continue their correspondence, asynchronously or synchronously, throughout the week.  Since my particular class is a listening and speaking class, we also are using VoiceThread as a means for learners to practice these skills by reflecting on the experience to a real audience.  The good thing about Moodle is that VoiceThreads can be embedded so learners can access everything within the Moodle page.  There are certainly other applications available that do the same thing but Skype, Moodle, and VoiceThread are serving our purposes well at this time.

It would be great to hear from others who are participating in similar experiences.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

CCK08: Interpreting the Pipe and Content

As I'm getting a little more familiar with connectivism this week (and wishing the word would be added all to the spell-checkers out there), some of the terminology used in explaining how we learn in today's world is resonating with me.  The internal, external, and conceptual networks that we build through experiences emphasizes the point where teaching is more about demonstrating and modeling, and learning is more about practicing and reflecting.

Within a language learning context, I would add there are more viable networks that need to be created as well.  The building of contextual, strategic, and phonetic networks also develops language proficiency through the creation of educative experiences.  I hesitate to say simply the creation of experiences, referring back to Dewey's distinction between educative and non-educative experiences, because certain practices are better than others.  This is where connectivism gets a little vague.  

"The pipe is more important than the content" is a phrase coined by Siemens in referring to connectivism and this gives me the impression that any content creates connections.  Or perhaps the more "pipes" the better, regardless of the content that "flows through it".  Or is it that fewer “pipes” but with better content is preferred over many “pipes” of poorer content?  For me, putting into practice this concept still puzzles me.  I agree we should try to create as many connections as possible within the confines of the curriculum, but it's still up to the teacher to interpret this (or rationalize it) to their liking.

As always, I welcome all opinions.   


Monday, September 8, 2008

Calling all bloggers...

I started this blog without much of an explanation so although a bit late, here it is.  

The reason for establishing this blog was to complement a course on connectivism, but since there are certainly other educational areas of interest, subsequent posts will cover a variety of topics.  Anyone may comment on the posts, but if you'd like to be an author, please send me an email message (by clicking on the profile button) and I will be sure to invite you.

All types of comments and posts regarding educational topics are welcome!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

MEXTESOL Aguascalientes

It was good to see some new and familiar faces at yesterday's MEXTESOL Aguascalientes conference. Two topics in particular struck my interest: 1) when to use translation when teaching English language learners and 2) and how to consciously promote academic and character development simultaneously.
Although most would agree that translating for ELLs does have its place in language acquisition, there appears to be some debate as to the degree in which teachers use it (i.e., what model is most effective-The role of translation in the EFL / ESL classroom). What model is most effective within your own teaching and learning contexts: 90/10 - 90% L2, 10% L1 - 50/50? How do you use translation, if at all, in your class?

Developing character and academic proficiencies at the same time addresses the importance of teaching the whole person - or using the common catch phrase teaching the whole child. As foreign/second language teachers, as with any educator, we all are responsible for developing learners to be more productive citizens by establishing a set of virtues that promote professional success. So, how do you promote character development in your class?

CCK08 Connectivism Course

In the coming weeks, I'll be discussing issues regarding connectivism and its place within the language learning environment (as well as within education in general). Although there continues to be a lot of discussion about whether to consider it a learning theory or not, I'm more interested in learning how the main aspects of it (whatever one decides to call it - social networking, connectivism, etc.) fit into teaching and learning.

Here's a short video with George Siemens, considered a co-founder of connectivism along with Stephen Downes, made three weeks ago.

Here's a video he posted to YouTube last year.