Friday, September 25, 2009

CCK09: DELL concept map

I've included here a concept map for distance English language learning (i.e., DELL), for a course I´m contemplating for English language learners that can be delivered 100% online. In fact, the same map would represent a blended course as well.

Always looking for collaborators, feedback, suggestions, comments, etc.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

CCK09: Knowledge is in the connection

...knowledge is IN the connections: This to me has more significance in that it's not just that there is a connection, but recognizing the tie (strong or weak) within the connection as well.

...knowledge IS the connections: This has less significance to me because it seems that the connection is all that matters, not so much the tie within the connection.

Regardless of the language, I think the point is that connectivism is based on the notion that what we know is a complexed arrangement of connections that is particular to the individual at a particular point in time. The arrangement of connections (e.g., knowledge) is in a constant state of flux; that is, it's either growing or diminishing on a continuous basis (it never stays the same). I equate this to learning a musical instrument. Back in the day, I used to practice the upright bass for hours, whether preparing for a concert or some music event somewhere. I was well aware that if I was playing - putting forth my best effort - I was improving. If I wasn't playing, I was becoming a worse bass player. I can say that I´m sure that no one in the rest of the world played the upright bass exactly the way I did (which is a good thing). The same goes for connective knowledge. My understanding of Paris is the capital of France is unique and unlike everyone else's understanding of the same.

This is why knowledge is not a thing. If it were, I could have found other upright bass players who played exactly the way I did. Wow, what a group that would have been!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CCK09: I woke up finding Waldo

Although I hate to admit it, I woke up this morning "finding Waldo" by way of CCK09.

When I started CCK08, I wasn´t quite sure as to what I believed. The notion of the "The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe" had me thinking (which is always good :)) in the distinction between the what, how, why, with whom, to whom, for whom, etc. of education. Early on, I "sided" with Siemens in breaking down networked learning into neural, conceptual, and social components...but now this interpretation has shifted a bit.

This "change of heart" - which again, hit me as I was waking up this morning (I know, it' sick) - has to do more with the conceptual and social categories that involve connective knowledge. I view these two categories as being "artificial". In my own learning, the "data" that I draw from all originates from some human source (as opposed to a "non-human appliance") that are provided to me through an "operating system of the mind". When I read a book or read an article from the Internet, the information comes from a real live human being - at least they were alive when they decoded the information. Now, if I continue not to have any social interaction with the author(s) of this information, I view this as contributing primarily to my conceptual network. I say primarily, because I also view a professor giving me a lecture (and I'm taking on a passive role as a learner) as also contributing to my conceptual network. If I send an email or chat with the author, then it becomes some sort of mixture between conceptual and social network formations (as opposed to it being one or the other). Similarly, if I take that information from an author that is currently dead, and I begin discussing this information with someone else (through human interaction), then again the conceptual and social networks begin to intertwine.

The attributes of connectivism then are those ties (both strong and weak) with individuals (alive or dead) that affords us to merge conceptual and social connections in a way that best benefits the individual. Instead of looking at a concept map as solely a tool that forms conceptual networks, it should be seen as a tool that has the potential to form both conceptual and social networks (e.g., changing, adapting, or revising a personal conceptual map as a result of interacting with others). Or learning something on my own, then sharing this with someone else to get some feedback. The value of connecting knowledge is the merging of conceptual and social networks and realizing the effects that one has over the other.

My dissertation topic is beginning to!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Personal Philosophy of Education & CCK09

After taking the TPI, I have to say that I agree with the results. I scored considerably lower on the transmission section (i.e., 23) which to me makes sense. Part of my philosophy is the notion that learners who have a choice in the content, process, and product they are to be involved with will be more motivated and empowered to actively participate in the learning process. Although there are times when I take the lead, I am much more comfortable when I´m in a facilitative or coaching role, as Mortimer pointed out in his "Paideia Program" (1983).

I´m essentially dead even on the Apprenticeship, Developmental, and Nurturing scales (40, 41, & 40 respectively) while a little lower on the Social Reform scale, 36 points. As an English as a foreign language educator, much of my philosophy has to do with taking learners from where they are and building on prior knowledge and experiences. This typically involves the notion that "doing and learning are synonymous" (Larsen-Freeman, 2003, p. 14). In the same vein then, learning a new language also occurs at the same time that one is increasing understandings and individual dispositions or habits of mind.

Scoring slightly lower in the social reform scale, I recognize the importance of social context within language learning. But this can lead to a complicated pursuit in determining how much time to spend on the multitude of social contexts that a particular language learner might be exposed to in the future. I am careful at how much of my time is spent on instruction and assessment as they pertain to sociocultural discourse unless the learners request it, I see a particular need, or the situation presents itself whereby discussing such discourse leads to an interesting and motivating teachable moment.

Language learning within the principles of connectivism for me is quite interesting. Content as well as language is changing constantly, so I definitely see a need to focus on both ontology and epistemology within language education. I see great flexibility in what language learners are given the choice to learn, above and beyond just the language. Typically, syllabi are stated as behavioral objectives that typically are limited to language objectives embedded with "shallow" themes (i.e., health, family, etc.). My interests center on how understandings (for cognitivists) or connections can be formed as language and knowing about language are learned as well. In other words, understandings, knowledge, skills, and dispositions all become means and ends, which are typically stated in terms of expressive outcomes - that is as an "educational encounter" (Sergiovanni, 1999, p. 81).

I agree with Siemens when he states that connections are formed at the neural, conceptual, and social "levels". I think this serves the language learner well, especially in terms of the social aspect of network creation since now technology allows language learners from around the world to interact with each other to a much higher degree. This also opens up the "playing field" in that language learners now have at their disposal a wider range of "experts" to draw from.

Larsen-Freeman, D. (2003). Teaching language: From grammar to grammaring. Boston: Heinle.

Mortimer, A. (1982). The paideia proposal. New York: MacMillan.

Sergiovanni, T. (1999). Building community in schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Monday, September 14, 2009

CCK09: Getting started…

Well, today officially kicks off the second MOOC on Connectivism. I posted earlier how I would set up my own PLN, and have pretty much decided to stick with that except for one exception: using Google Reader (GR). Although there is a Moodle forum set up for the course, I will be using GR as my main aggregator, or a way to bring related information to me through the use of a tag: CCK09.

The reason I´m taking this course is to pursue related research interests, specifically as they pertain to English language learning. As I´m finalizing my doctoral coursework, I am now in the process of narrowing down a topic that by year's end will be the basis of my dissertation. My hopes are that this "second round" at CCK09 (previously CCK08) will shed more light on the practicality of the theoretical concepts being covered.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bloom's Taxonomy vs. UbD

In reading Bloom's Taxonomy 2.0, I quickly thought of posting an alternative that I believe is more representative of how one learns today. The taxonomy revision (i.e., relabeling, changing nouns to verbs, etc.) does little to change how it's being used in the classroom: mainly to establish pre-determined outcomes. For example, many course objectives are expressed as the following: "By the end of the course the learner will be able to apply this, or analyze that, etc. Since the new taxonomy is still hierarchical, teachers, I feel, still tend to think linear in that they begin considering the lower order of thinking skills first.

Churches (2009) answers the following question:

Is it important where you start? Must I start with remembering?

I don't think it is. The learning can start at any point, but inherent in that learning is going to be the prior elements and stages.

But in practice, I wonder how much of the lower levels of the taxonomy are explicitly being taught in the classroom, and how much the learner actually brings to the learning experience on their own (either through prior experiences or through the classroom experience itself). Also, is it possible to develop "prior elements" (i.e., "remembering" and "understanding") at the same time as developing "later elements", such as "evaluating" and "creating"?

An alternative that is more conducive to learning as an emergent phenomenon, based more on chaos theory is Wiggins and McTighe's (2005) notion of building understandings, a term quite different than the way the term is being defined in the new taxonomy. Understandings are expressed in terms of "six facets":

With this alternative, objectives are stated in terms of understandings whereby the teacher facilitates the development of these six facets according to the teaching context. In other words, learners gain understandings (i.e., information and ideas that relate to the learner) through their own personal journey that is certain to be unique for each individual.

Take the following understanding for example, often seen in a thematic unit on friendship in a foreign language class: Learners will understand that friendship requires give and take. Imagine how learners can provide their own understanding of what constitutes a friendship without working typically through a hierarchical process that adheres solely to the cognitive domain. The empathy facet, for example, includes an affective aspect of learning and is seen as just as important as being able to explain, apply, interpret, etc. Understandings thus become the cultivation of six, equal, aspects of learning that emerge from the learning experience as opposed to being dictated to the learner on the first day of class.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Public speaking through integrated technologies

This semester I´m teaching a public speaking class to pre-service English language educators in Mexico and have signed up again to participate in a series of language exchange sessions with Marquette University. When approaching which technology to use for this class - in hopes of enhancing the learning experience - I opted out of using Moodle at one end (i.e., a CMS that tends to be a more closed off learning environment) and wikis, blogs, etc. at the other (i.e., totally open learning environment). In an effort to provide a quasi-open learning environment for learners, I decided to integrate technologies that mainly include the following: LearnCentral, BlipTV, VoiceThread, Skype, and Engrade.

I'm using LearnCentral as our main hub; that is, a place where most of our asynchronous interaction takes place. Students join an open group where other LearnCentral members can join and participate as well. So it ends up being open to other educators and learners but limited to the members within LearnCentral. The objective is to expose learners to a variety of experts on the subject of public speaking that serves as a complement of what they are doing in class.

Also, we record video presentations and upload to BlipTV so students can see and hear themselves speak. This gives them a chance to reflect on their linguistic and paralinguistic skills as well as to reflect on the performances of their classmates. The assessment aspect of public speaking thus becomes a distributed effort among the teacher, peers, and self.

Each week, Skype and VoiceThread are used to conduct weekly exchanges and reflections which both serve as an additional tool to help with the development of public speaking skills: last semester reflections and this semester reflections. See here to view a language exchange project we implemented last year.

Finally, Engrade is used to post attendance, assignments, and grades. This allows students to know at all times how they are being assessed for the class.

So, the integration of these technologies is a mixture of closed and open learning environments and is integrated in a way that helps students move in and out of each one. Learning resources are added to the LearnCentral group in order to link and embed relevant and meaningful web content and voicethreads and videos are embedded within LearnCentral as well so in effect, LearnCentral becomes a space where input and output come together.

How are others integrating technologies currently in their classrooms?