Thursday, December 31, 2009

Elearning Prediction / Hope 2010 – Next 10 Years

Kia ora tātou – Hello EveryoneFuture City
My prediction and hope for 2010 are tempered by what I learnt and gathered in 2009 and before that. However, my hope does not match my prediction.

I suspect that what I hope happens will not come to pass.

I’ll not dwell on the particular. That is too narrow for the future. Instead, I’ll attempt to look to the bigger picture of where a Nirvana in elearning might lie.


Commercialism and consumerism will rise with renewed vigour, despite the recent and global economic collapse that many experts say was brought about through, among other things, flagrant practices of commercialism and consumerism.

Rather than learn from past errors and misguided pathways, society will resume its hazardous journey and continue to career along a wavering and obstacle-strewn path to uncertain success.

Why do I feel this way? There are many reasons. I will cite only one elearning example here.

At the beginning of last decade (2000 – 2003) I watched the rise and fall of what might have been a brilliant concept in learning resource development – that of the learning object.

I may be wrong here – I don’t think I am. But my feeling is that financially pushy commercial factors, far larger than the budgets for learning itself, launched into the sky and eventually nosedived to destruction what could have been a worthwhile elearning concept, in the form of the learning object.

Pandora relic

I have one hope for this year and for the rest of time.

Sheryl McCoy’s recent post, Another Balkanized Technology Rip-Off, puts into words exactly how I feel about the way commercialism and consumerism have continued to hinder the betterment of society.

The drive to sell, through a strategy of planned obsolescence despite genuine need, continues to come in the way of establishing real expertise in the use of technology. It stymies creativity. It comes in the way of progressing to better things, while purporting to advance and progress towards improvement. It wastes time, resources and money.

I have worked through a decade of watching incompatibles, non-connectables, lack of connectivity and even incompatibility between different versions of the same commercial devices/applications/appliances.

I’ve wracked my senses, grappling with upgrades to versions of machines, computers and their applications. All in an attempt to continue to use these for the purposes that I had worked to acquire consummate ease in and reasonable expertise in.

What I discovered was that I was grounded, once again, when the latest version (of whatever) was released. It made me consider seriously and review any further dubious opportunities for ‘upgrading’.

Valuable opportunity

I hope that we can learn from the mistakes of the last decade, and of last century. Let’s not push mistakes into the past as history to be forgotten. Let’s not claim we are assured success by simply ‘moving right along’.

Let’s start putting to good use what can be salvaged in learning from our past mistakes and successes, and move to a richer and prosperous future.

Rangimārie - Peace in Harmony

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thinking and Learning

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all

De Bono Thinker
A well-meaning friend once lent me a book and said, “You should read this. You’ll learn how to become very rich.” He also told me that the secret clue to becoming wealthy was found on almost every page, and that it also occurred several times on the first page.

I read the book. It is well written – a study of human nature – an interesting compendium of anecdotes and tips, directed mainly at sales-people, but not exclusively. I found the clue to becoming wealthy several times before I’d even finished reading page one.

But it didn’t help me become wealthy.

The book was Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. The clue centred on the word ‘desire’. To become rich, first you must have the desire to do so.

Of course, the main reason I could not use the book for its intended purpose was that I had no burning desire to become wealthy. I’d like to be, but the necessary burning desire isn’t there.

The book did make me rich, however, but not in a financial way. It made me think about how some people can be so engaged in learning, they suck up skills and knowledge as if they were vacuum cleaners. It gave me clues as to how some people seem to learn, almost as if by instinct, and never stop learning.

Teaching and learning

When I taught Mathematics at Rongotai College, Wellington, I always asked for an Upper Fifth Mathematics class when classes were allocated to teachers at the beginning of the year. These classes were of students who had failed to qualify in Mathematics the year before.

Every year, I had a lot of fun with the learners in the Upper Fifth. I really enjoyed teaching them. I used to hold classes after school for those learners who felt they needed some extra help and tuition. It was rewarding. The after-school class was always full, though not all who attended were from my own Mathematics class.

There was one attribute common to all who attended.

Hooks for learning

Teachers speak of engagement, and practice strategies to improve student engagement in learning. Some put a lot of effort into stimulating interest in their learners and this is admirable. They look for and find the hooks that catch some learners and get them engaged.

Learning, and achieving through learning, is a bit like growing wealthy. There are many contributing factors, not all of which are related necessarily to innate ability. The learner who has a burning desire to learn will learn, despite apparent handicaps, whether it is learning to become a musician, learning to play chess or learning to read.

But to do this, they must also be able to think to apply their desires effectively. It is in teaching learners how to think that permits those who have the desire to learn to reach their goal. It ignites the fire of learning within them.

    Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week. – George Bernard Shaw

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Deck The Halls

Ngā mihi o te kirihimete me Te Tau Hou - A Merry Christmas and a happy New Year

Opens new window at The Titanic

    Deck the halls with cloud computing,
    fa la la la la, la la la la.
    Tis the season, no disputing,
    fa la la la la, la la la la.

    See the blazing screen before us,
    fa la la, la la la, la la la.
    Strike the keys and join the chorus,
    fa la la la la, la la la la.

    Follow me in multi-tasking,
    fa la la la la, la la la la.
    Is it useful? No point asking,
    fa la la la la, la la la la.

    Can this be? I’ve no cognition,
    fa la la, la la la, la la la.
    Heedless of my mind’s condition,
    fa la la la la, la la la la.

    Don our coats for it is raining,
    fa la la la la, la la la la,
    things to learn, but where’s the training?
    Fa la la la la, la la la la.

    Sing we joyous, all together,
    fa la la, la la la, la la la.
    Heedless of the global weather,
    fa la la la la, la la la la.

Thank you - bloggers, commenters, followers, visitors and great mates - for your support and friendship. I have really appreciated you being with me this year.

Have a rave time this festive season!

Rangimārie - Peace in Harmony

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Compassion - What I Learnt About Fishing

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allThe Anglers
As a child, I was never aware of any real ability I had, other than to get into mischief or catch cold. I discovered these rich talents early on. Even as a ten year old, I bumbled along with no appreciation of any real capabilities I might have had as a human being.

My grandfather used to take me fishing. I got a buzz from the wonderfully natural places we visited. My head got filled with the summer sounds and scenery of these spots. But I was hopeless at catching a fish, having too much compassion for the poor hapless creature to get any enjoyment from the event.

I recall stabbing my finger with a fishhook, being more astonished at how easily the needle-sharp device entered the tissue than the searing pain it caused. It stuck firmly, deep in my fingertip.

My grandfather was annoyed and looked at me sternly for a moment. He fumbled in the pocket of his fishing jacket and took out a small pair of pliers, holding them tightly in his hand.

With his other hand, he grabbed mine and lifted the injured finger so high that my shoulder hurt. I watched to see what he would do.
I thought he might pull out the hook with his pliers but I was too dumb and curious to close my eyes and brace myself.

He deftly pinched the hook in the jaws of the pliers and gave it a powerful and sudden twist. What I saw made my eyes pop.

Contrary to what I’d hoped, he didn’t pull out the hook. Instead, the business end of it reappeared through the tip of my finger – a tiny fluted barb, tinged with the blood that dripped from the newly pierced hole.

Grandfather carefully snipped off the barb with his pliers and swiftly pulled out the remains of the hook. He explained that the barb would have torn my finger apart if he'd remove it the same way it went in.

As I held my sore finger, wrapped
tightly in a piece of bandage,
I reflected on what it might be like for a poor fish who unwittingly takes the bait.

    I stood beside a brooklet, that sparkled on its way,
    and there beneath the wavelets, a tiny trout at play,
    as swiftly as an arrow, he darted to and fro,
    the gayest of the fishes among the reeds below,
    the gayest of the fishes among the reeds below.

    Angler there was standing, with rod and line in hand,
    Intent upon the fishes, a sportive fearless band,
    “`tis vain” said I “good neighbour, to fish a brooklet clear”
    The fish will surely see you upon the bank so near.
    The fish will surely see you upon the bank so near.

    But skillful was the angler, and artful too,
    The crystal brooklets depths defying, he hid the fish from view, and then he skill renewing,
    the fishes unheeding took the bait,
    and I was left lamenting, my tiny troutlet’s fate,
    and I was left lamenting, my tiny troutlet’s fate.

Video - The Trout

Daniel Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Jacqueline du Pré and Zubin Mehta


Friday, December 18, 2009

Experience and Qualification

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
Opens a new window at Bradley University in Second Life

I’ve been reflective in my thoughts on where teaching and learning, training and higher education have been leading us recently.

I find it curiously odd that there seems to be a cogent drift away from the value of qualification, in those who are actively engaged in creating educational and training resources. This, at a time when experience is already not held universally in high esteem.

By qualification, I mean a formal standard, diploma or degree, conferred by an authorised and antonymous education or training body.

By experience, I’m implying months or years actually practicing a discipline, in whatever role the position requires.

I have tremendous faith in the youth of today, so I’m not denying their worth and value. They have unbelievable potential and the future of the world as we know it lies undeniably in their hands.

But in the past decade or more, there has been a move away from recognising experience in the workplace. Fresh minds – and let’s not deny it, youth – and the promise of creativity coming from those, have been put above the true and proper value of experience.

And now, we might be misled into believing that qualification could also be discarded.

I put it to you, that by severing the effective combination of qualification, experience and innate ability of the potential appointee to a position in the workforce, we are not only doing a disservice to the workplace, we are putting the future of the world at risk.

Ngā mihi nui – Best wishes

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Learning - A One Way Street?

Kia ora tātou – Hello Everyone
Filling Jugs

Robert Winston got it right when he corrected John Campbell on TV3's Campbell Live today. John had remarked that he was learning a lot during his interview with Lord Robert, when the surgeon politely pointed out that he too was learning a lot.

Lord Robert is Professor of Science and Society at Imperial College, London. He made the point that the brain is an ever-changing organ where (learning) connections are being made all the time.

He said that when he left the TV studio, his brain would be different from how it was when he came in. This is because neural connections would have been made in Lord Robert's brain during the time he was in the studio. He would have learnt new things.

Empty vessels

'Filling jugs' has been a favourite metaphor for teaching and learning.
It implies many things erroneously. Among which is that teaching is a one way process of transmitting knowledge from teacher to learner.

My teacher training lecturers at Moray House College of Education, Edinburgh, in the 70s, were before their time. They each passed on their message. But a common theme was that teachers should never stop learning.

Part of good pedagogy is sharing the journey with the learner. There is as much for the teacher to learn on the way as there is to be taught.

If ever there is an idea that is ‘learner centred’, that one is!

Haere rā – Farewell

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What I Learnt About Learning 2009

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allKallan in the Land of the Long White Cloud

On The Learning Circuits Blog, Tony Karrer’s Big Question for December is What Did You Learn About Learning in 2009?

I reviewed my posts over the year, following Tony’s advice, looking for things that might be relevant to this. There are several recurring themes. Some I’ve also met on other bloggers’ posts. I've selected two main ones that are related - the quick pill and learner engagement.
I’ve a lot of questions, and few convincing answers.

We are often dogged by tradition when it comes to theories of learning. They are many and varied. But it’s too easy to discard time-honoured philosophies and replace them with something new and seemingly innovative.

Thinking and learning

One theme that’s prominent is related to multi-tasking, among a series of other linked ideas that took my interest this year. It prompted me to think of how ideas on thinking and learning evolve in the first place.

The discussions I’ve followed on the merits and demerits of multi-tasking seem to be at cross–purposes to each another. Those who believe that it can be done effectively are seemingly oblivious to hard evidence that it just can’t be done.

The quick pill

Learning is not often easy. It nearly always involves concentration, thought and patience. A person looking for a learning panacea (don’t all learners do this as some stage?) may end up having to make a strategic choice, and stick with that long enough to see if it works.
It doesn’t always work. It’s no different for the teacher who is looking for a quick pill to offer learners.

Teachers have a more difficult job in many respects, for they have first to assess the learners’ progress, and interpret these assessments to see if a method works. Teachers who believe that assessment is not required or who neglect the need for these are short-changing their learners and fooling themselves.

Learners who know something about metacognition may have more facile routes to similar destinations. But they also have to assess effectively their own progress before they know if a learning technique is any use to them.

The smorgasbord of tips and ideas to do with learning that learner and teacher confront, tends to be so much in-your-face - a plethora. And there are conflicting arguments in abundance over the merit of each tempting morsel – which one works for what situation, etc – everything from where the learning is sourced, to how it’s supposed to be assimilated:

    Are books a good idea? Should learners be able to read AND listen to mp3s? Does listening to music really assist learning? What type of music is best if it does? Is the Internet a fast option? Can a learner listen to or watch instructional DVDs and read the Internet at the same time?

    Does the learner have a so-called digital-immigrant’s barrier to accepting these learning technologies? If so, what can the learner do about it if they have?

    What other barriers to learning can impede the progress of the would-be-learner? The list goes on.

Learner engagement

Another theme I’ve seen a lot of this year is learner engagement. Again, a whole set of questions arise out of this.

    What is it that hooks the learner? How can the hook be put to further use? Is there a way of maintaining an effective level of engagement once initiated? Is it individual engagement or is a community more likely to achieve a better level of success?

    What influence does the support of the learning environment have on learning? Are parents, partners or other significant people important to the learner when it comes to motivation?

    What circumstances are best for learning – situational or isolated instruction? Of these, are the benefits associated with either, dependent on the occasion?

    Where does praising the learner fit into all this?

I find this difficult. I’ve covered so much ground this year, it’s a hard task to prioritise and select the most significant ideas or the most interesting thoughts, for I’m really not sure of their relative importance.

They are all fascinating in their own captivating way. The practice of the good teacher is to select, revise and re-activate from past actions those that work best in the ever-changing environment of learning.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What's In A Name?

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
A RoseCourtesy PD

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet – William Shakespeare

Evening Standard columnist, Frank Furedi, believes that the educational crisis facing Britain today is in part due to the way objective academic standards are being defined and asserted in the classroom.

His claim is that society seems “to have given up on adult authority and the idea that the person who knows best in the classroom is the teacher.” He believes that “education requires the conscious and regular imposition of adult authority.”

I was reminded of Furedi’s opinion when learning recently of the debate over the move by principals and teachers in some New Zealand primary schools to have pupils call them by first name. Some teachers believe that learners bond better with their teacher when they call them by their first name.

Anthropologist James Urry claims that removing the age-based hierarchy empowers children before they have the social skill to cope with it.

Canterbury College of Education associate dean, Barry Brooker, was reported as saying that using formal titles develops a demarcation between teachers and students that gives teachers the authority to do their jobs properly.

Do teachers need authority to do their jobs properly?

At The Correspondence School of New Zealand (TCS), a distance education centre, learners always refer to teachers by first name.

When I first took up a teaching post at TCS, this idea was new to me. I’d taught in different secondary schools for many years before then.

In all the schools
where I taught, in Scotland and New Zealand, students called their teachers by their surname: Mr Roberts, Mrs Gill, Miss James, etc.

When I graduated PhD, the principal of the Edinburgh High School
I was teaching in announced to the school that I was to be called
Dr Allan, from now on. I've been addressed as Dr Allan, or Sir, by students in every face-to-face school I’ve taught in since.

But I had no problem when my students called me Ken at TCS.
The policy of the school was that students always referred to teachers by first name.

Other distance education centres do the same. And you know, it seems to work. I find that learners relate to me with at least as much respect as I had earned while teaching in face-to-face schools.

Are face-to-face schools so different that students calling their teachers by first name can damage the potential for effective student–teacher relationships? What do you think?

Ngā mihi nui – Best wishes

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Odd Tails – a post for bloggers

Kia ora tātou – Hello Everyone

It is usual for a blog post to attract nearly all its visitors during the first few days after being published. This is so much so that the term
‘the long tail’ is often used to describe the shape of the visitor profile of a typical post.

Now and again a blogger may spot an exception.

Digital Natives? Digital Immigrants?’ is a post I published in mid-July this year. It was popular and attracted a couple of comments.

Normally even the tail of a popular post would dwindle quickly over a period of less than a week. After two or three months, only the occasional visitor would be registered by visitor tracking.

I use Google Analytics (GA) to track one sector of visitors to my blog.
It gives a fair indication of comparative popularity.

The July post is an exception to the long tail trend.
Its visitor profile is at the top of this post. It has received recent attention of a magnitude not unlike what might be expected of a newly published post, yet it was published over four months ago.

I first took note of its unusual visitor profile when comments started to appear, again, as if out of the blue. It has since attracted a significant number of comments.

Occasionally posts generate very long tails that never really dwindle to nothing. Working With Online Learning Communities is such a post, published 1 April 2009. Its visitor profile shows recent steady traffic.

Posts with visitor profiles of this type tend to have been cited and linked on popular blogs or web pages.

Isn’t it heartening that not all posts receive the same fate as a time-capsule?

NASA's Voyager Golden RecordCourtesy NASA

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Ngā mihi nui – Best wishes