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The connectedness of ideas by learning online – towards a new theory of learning

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. This IMHO is what learning has become in the 21st century – and how it got there

There’s more going on here than you may realise!

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. Traditional top down learning

Two triangles, one above the other and linked with a down arrow suggests traditional top down learning … or simply knowledge transfer from someone who knows something to someone who does not.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 3 By someone’s side

Two triangles, one facing the other, may represent a shift towards collaborative or horizontal learning in a formal setting, though for me it represents the learning you do away from the institution – with friends, with family ‘on the same level’ as it were.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 4. Participatory and situated, networked learning on the periphery

From E-Learning V

Fig.5 The thinking starts with Vygotsky and his research into behaviorist learning

It then progressed to the study and analysis of learning in communities

From E-Learning V

Fig. 6. Activity Theory as conceived of and developed by Yrjo Engeström. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.7 The interplay between two entities or communities coming together to solve a problem and thus producing something unique to them both (object 3) – a fresh idea.

From E-Learning V

Fig.8. Activity Theory re-connected – breaking out

Though developed over some thirty years the structure of ‘Activity Theory’ as a model is breaking down because of the quality, speed and way in which we now connect overrides barriers and invades silos making communication more direct and immediate.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 9 Activity Theory in a connected world

Everyone and everything is just a click away.

From E-Learning V

Fig.10 Visualizing the maelström of original ideas generated by people sharing their thoughts and ideas as they form

The maelström of new ideas where people and groups collide and interact. Historically this had been in grounded ‘communities of practice’, whether a London coffee shop or the senior common room of a prestigious university, the lab, the studio, the rehearsal room … today some gatherings online are frequent, enabled by the Internet and no less vibrant as like-minds and joiners contribute to the generation of new ideas.

This, drawing on Engestrom via Vygotsky, might be a more academic expression of Open Learning. Here a host of systems, expressed in model form, interpose their drive to achieve certain objectives into the common whole. That mess in the middle is the creation of the collective powers and inputs of individuals, groups, departments or institutions. The Open bit are the connections between any node in one system, and any other node from any other one of the systems … which blows apart the actions within a single system, making them more open, though not random.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 11 It’s going on inside your head.

fMRI scans reveal the complex way in which ideas form and memories are recalled and mixed-up, challenged and re-imagined. We are our very own ‘community of practice’ of conflicting and shared viewpoints.

From E-Learning V

Fig.11. Perceiving brain activity as the interplay between distinct, interacting zones

From E-Learning V

Fig. 12 Ideas enter your system, your brain and are given a fresh spin

From E-Learning V

Fig.13 Ideas coalesce until you reach a point of understanding. The penny doesn’t so much as ‘drop’ as to form.

Where would we be without one of these. 98 billion neurons. A uniquely connected mass of opportunity and potential. This is where, of course, memories are formed and thoughts had. Increasingly we are able to share ideas and thoughts as we have them, typically through the tips of our fingers by sharing our thinking online, especially where it comes to the attention of like-minds, and troubled-minds – anyone in fact or strongly agrees or strongly disagrees enough to contribute by adding their thinking and revealing their presence.

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Peace in pieces

Fig. 1. Poster commemorating the bombing of Hiroshima for Japan, 1985. Ivan Chermayeff, de la warr pavilion, Bexhill.

Trip FIVE to this exhibition, this time with my brother-in-law, is imminent. What I adore about exhibitions here is that they are ‘bitesize’ and smart; they are a perfect ‘mind burst’. They are the ideal repeat show too as with each visit you see more, and see differently … and are influenced of course by the person you are with.

The right image says what each viewer sees in it.

This idea naturally translates into any and every conflict we see today: MH17, fractured and not yet stuck together, the Middle East utterly smashed into dust – I have this visual in my head of Hanukkah Lamp, the smoke from which forms a fractured map of Israel and Palestine.

From E-Learning IV

From a learning point of view to start with a poster such as this is to follow Robert Gagne theory of learning design; also the natural skill of storytellers and good communications: get their attention.

Open and free learning needs to preach to the converted

Fig. 1 My big sister and me

‘Preach to the converted’ is the mantra of advertising; increasingly it should the mantra of e-learning, and especially of Massive Open Online Courses which are both open and free. Give potential students what they want in a way that they are already open to. Don’t force feed platforms and tools that are foreign to them, nor pander to the book, pen and notebook when by its very nature if you are learning online you are in front of a computer screen. Think more in terms of the needs of the student, than of the willingness of the faculty to give this kind of e-learning a go. Engage someone with a background in communications.

‘Preach to the converted’ ties into the need to know who your students are – in all their diversity. There’s a bunch of personas used by the Open University to help with this. We’re a handful of shifting types across a spectrum of some 12 personas. This helps educators design for hidden, massive audiences.

Fig.2. The Santorini Museum

Big Sis and me both wanted a book from the Santorini Museum.  

We’d done the Akrotiri excavation and did the museum in our separate ways (family event on the island with people arriving at different times and staying in different place. When we met up we agreed immediately at the frustration at no having a shop at either location. You whet your appetite on a subject are ripe for a bit more. I even started looking for a two week course on Archaeology in Future Learn. No book. Not much of a website. Ample content with each artefact.

Visitors to museums are converts; not just easy to sell postcards and tea-towels too, but ready to learn and suckers not just for ‘the book’, but just as prepared to come to the talk, even, these days, to sign up to a taster course.

How phenomenology explains why people may still be adrift of the desired learning response.

Between formal and informal learning design styles

Highly prescriptive vs call up the information you need as you go along. So defined instructions vs figuring it out for themselves. Perhaps using tools to guide and inform. We were given the simplest of tasks, teaching students how to cross a busy road in safety.

I made a point about any group requiring leadership or a champion.

I made a point on Randy Pausch whose 3D lecture series included mixing up student groups who then had to vote on each other’s levels of collaboration in the group.

There was a discussion on informal peer assessment that I didn’t entirely follow, certainly my notes are somewhat cryptic. Hopefully the session was recorded so I can listen back.

It is the unexpected insights in a synchronous session that prove valuable, especially the asides in the break-out room.

Assemble the books and papers you plan to refer to ahead of writing.

This is a new one to me. I prefer to write what I want and deal with the referencing after rather than fitting the assignment to the books and papers.

Perhaps a combination of the two is required.

The learning plan you produce may not be followed closely given the myriad of ways people respond. Many are drawn in by the assessment but not all.

Can such divergent styles be accommodated?

As the Elluminate discussion progressed, four students, one tutor moderator, I did a doodle.

doodle

Having shared the idea I then corrected it.

From Wenger (1998:233)

‘There is an inherent uncertainty between design and its realization in practice, since practice is not the result of design but rather a response to it’.

Phenomenology explains why people may still be adrift of the desired response.

The notes reads ‘design as well as we can … ‘the students share the outcome. We set the learning, that is then displaced to or set in the context of each learner. We might have a learning objective, but students can and diverge from this’. (A good thing if you want diversity and originality)

As a learning designer you have to anticipate a variety of behaviours and plan for not too many being wildly divergent. This can be achieved by understanding the students.

We learn in activity pockets as individuals and in groups

Whilst embracing ‘Activity Theory’ I cannot always use the argument lucidly.

Engestrom presents an idea of how people or communities/groups communicate and learn from each other; when two people start to agree with gushing enthusiasm I’d worry, something else is going on.

(Power play of some kind, or love?)

[These ideas developed further here ‘My Mind Bursts’]

It is the very act of coming from a different stance that we as individuals begin to form ideas that are in effect beyond our current understanding, and when these ‘objects’ of understanding collide fresh thinking for both parties occurs.

There is a reason why in advertising (still I hope) a copywriter sits with an art director; this is how ideas from. Sitting in with ‘creatives’ and becoming one myself I came to appreciate this partnership … though it has taken me 30 years to understand what is going in.

It has taken the last year with The OU to have my own thinking turned inside out, to let go, to share, to collaborate, rather than try to be that lone author in a garret, hunched shoulders over my work, never sharing it and rarely letting go.

What I have always needed and thrive on are collaborators in the form of agents, producers, editors, publishers, fellow writers and directors, colleagues who facilitate and enable, fellow bloggers too …

If a blogger blogs, what do you do if you are forever engaged in other social media such as LinkedIn or Facebook?

‘e-Commentator’ already feels like a naff ‘noughties’ way to express it.

We’ve had our fill of ‘e-tivities’ and ‘e-learning’ haven’t we? It is just learning; they are just activities.

I’ve return to Engestrom often.

My ability to trace my love hate acceptance path through his thinking attests to the value of doing this, my ‘learning journal’.

This is what initially had me befuddled and angry:

Two people are the easy part.

The interplay between SIX people because yet more complex.

At arm’s length, the objects, the ideas, views or knowledge that they have begins to take on an identity of its own.

‘Expansive learning is based on Vygotsky, though three times removed; it implies that we learn within activity pockets as individuals and groups. The interplay between these groups are the consequential objects of learning that in turn transmogrify in the presence of other objects. Solving problems, dealing with contradictions, may come about as these learning systems slide or shift’. Vernon (2011)

Am allowed to do that? Quote myself? It is my ‘object 3’ moment when it comes to this.

Anyone care to comment?

The challenge when reading papers such as those below is how to make the subject matter comprehensible to the non-academic. Some turn to diagrams, others to metaphors, yet others to cartoons.

I favour the lone speaker free of PowerPoint or even FlipChart.

If they can hold their argument and look into your eyes their conviction can be convincing.

My goal must remain making the complex comprehensible. Academics have a tendency to tie themselves in knots. If they only talk to fellow academics no wonder. I recognise the value of visualising, of animated explanation, of the power of persuasive through discourse, of metaphors, and analogies, of ideas rising out of the confusion to present themselves.

The problem with all things WWW is that it is just trillions of binary Ones and Zeros in the cloud (which is why I like to use the water-cycle as an analogy).

REFERENCE

Engeström (2001) article, Expansive learning at work: toward an activity theoretical reconceptualisation

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