Cross Post – but clearly intertwined discussion

October 19, 2008

This comment was posted this weekend, to the eLearning Guild’s NING site for Work Literacy – where people are participating in order to “try out” and “talk about” Web 2.0 tools. I think it is a great idea, and when I perused a question there tonight, I felt inclined to offer this opinion, as it appeared to me, as a relation between the CCK08 course and the eLearning Guild’s reason for hosting this 6 week online “training” event.


I am also a spectator here, as I am fully immersed in CCK08 online course (with 2200+ others) being driven by University of Manitoba and Stephen Downes — but in answer to Susan’s comment –

I work as an elearning/Innovation researcher for Dept of Defense / Joint Forces Command. I utilize a vast number of online sources to gather leads, white papers, conference proceedings and test results in an attempt to understand the current state of eLearning and at the same time venture educated guesses what the future direction needs to include.

Google Reader, Google Docs, Twitter and LinkedIN are all in my kitbag on a daily basis to achieve this goal – and from time to time, I blog on my personal space, and ask questions online to guage other opinions.

What I really need, is the Intelligent Agent which John Scully described in a video during the 1980’s – but still does not exist today – one that can report each morning to me, what it found overnight, in the areas of research I am interested – from a vast and deep collection of knowledge.

Until that time, I will be perusing my network, group and collective of resources – all in a somewhat random and complicated way – day by day.

Wired up – Tuned in or Tuned out?

October 10, 2008

I was so taken by this brief article in August, that I organized a panel discussion around this topic at an upcoming educational conference to be held in Virginia Beach, VA, 21-24 March 2009 titled “Stories, Games, and New Technologies for Digital Natives”. More details in a future post…

“Generation IM – Getting through to today’s teched-out children”
August 2008
Source: Instructor Magazine

Jacob is your average American 11-year-old. He has a television and a Nintendo DS in his bedroom; his family also has two computers, a wireless Internet connection, and a PlayStation 3. His parents rely on e-mail, instant messaging, and Skype for daily communication, and they’re avid users of Tivo and Netflix. Jacob has asked for a Wii for his upcoming birthday. His selling point? “Mom and Dad, we can use the Wii Fit and race Mario Karts together!”

Most likely, you teach a classroom full of Jacobs. Peggy Sheehy knows what that’s like from firsthand experience. “Outside of school, our children are bombarded with digital input—and they have been
since the day they were born,” she says.

As an instructional technology facilitator at Suffern Middle School in New York, Sheehy knows how tech has fundamentally changed the world our students live in—and perhaps our students themselves.

“Compared to us, I believe their brains have developed differently,” says Sheehy. “If we teach them the way we were taught, we’re not serving them well.”

And that’s just what many teachers struggle with: How do we teach 21st-century skills to a generation of digital-media natives? What does it mean for our teaching methods and curricula—let alone how we relate to our students? And who are these kids, anyway?

No really, too popular to succeed.

October 9, 2008

I learned about the Matthew Principle this week, via some readings…and I am kinda concerned. Defined somewhat like “more will be given to those that already have.”


“For example, popular sites in Google that appear on the first page of search results, are apt to remain so because people seldom search much further than that first page, so there is a positive feedback loop whereby those at the top tend to stay there.”

(“Collectives, Networks and Groups in Social Software for E-Learning” by Dron/Anderson)


So how does this affect eLearning trends  — I am concerned that current and future innovation might get stiffled by this effect – as can be seen by my informal survey performed on LINKEDIN recently, where I asked the question “Why is it so difficult to change the practice of Education?” -to which I received some interesting answers – but my summation was that existing condition have huge inertia which are terribly hard to change. Then I asked “How come more people don’t teach using stories?”, and a number of people answered because teachers might or might not see the value in changing from their historical (safe) methods.

Maybe the sun will continue to rise day by day, and new innovations will somehow displace yesterday’s hottest new thing, but I am simply a little skeptical – given the enormity of the Internet, and incredibly fragmented nature of technology across the globe (millions or billions of capable XML/PHP/AJAX programmers), making it ever so hard for a new innovation to garner a sizeable marketshare against not 10 but 10,000 open source, free alternatives!  Has our favorite tool’s popularity now become an impediment fo our innovation to succeed, and become the future new-new thing? (Maybe this is MS Office’s problem?)

Vocabulary words for the week

October 3, 2008

I would never have believed it, but there is a word for what Connectivism is (or could be said be) part of — Self-Directed learning….

Vocabulary of the week:



Heutagogy – Self directed learning!


Education has traditionally been seen as a pedagogic relationship between the teacher and the learner. It was always the teacher who decided what the learner needed to know, and indeed,how the knowledge and skills should be taught. In the past thirty years or so there has been quite a revolution in education through research into how people learn, and resulting from that, further work on how teaching could and should be provided. While andragogy (Knowles, 1970) provided many useful approaches for improving educational methodology, and indeed has been accepted almost universally, it still has connotations of a teacher-learner relationship. It may be argued that the rapid rate of change in society, and the so-called information explosion, suggest that we should now be looking at an educational approach where it is the learner himself who determines what and how learning should take place. Heutagogy, the study of self-determined learning, may be viewed as a natural progression from earlier educational methodologies – in particular from capability development – and may well provide the optimal approach to learning in the twenty-first century. ( )

Connectivism – Learning Theory or Tool for Learning (Friedman’s paper)

October 3, 2008

Connectivism – Learning Theory or Tool for Learning

Mark Friedman

October 2, 2008


Apologies to start this informal paper with a quote, but it really is my abstract…


“The idea of learning through digital connections and peer collaboration enhanced by technologies driving Web 2.0. Users/Learners are empowered to search, create, and collaborate in order to fulfill intrinsic needs to learn new information.” (eLearning Guild, E-Learning 2.0 “Learning in a Web 2.0 World”, Wexler et al, 23 Sept 2008)


I think that Connectivism helps explain why certain Web 2.0 technologies actually work – and help people achieve desired learning. Obviously, we are all told that tools don’t solve problems, but that people do. Using these tools in a creative and innovative ways is how people vary and some leverage these tools differently than others can.  What excited me about the deep thinking that CCK08 has helped me perform over the past four weeks, is mostly surrounding the results of an integrated network – what I have begun to refer to as a Personal Learning Environment/Network (PLE).


“The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe… A real challenge for any learning theory is to actuate known knowledge at the point of application.” (, “A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”, Siemens, 12 Dec 2004)


This quote by George Siemens resonated with me, in that it brought together my prior knowledge of McCluhan (Medium is the Message) with my a-priori knowledge that LinkedIN’s primary value had to lay in the business/social network aspect of the service. I have actually utilized this free tool, at the point of application, so to speak, as a last minute source for what needs to be called market research, and possibly even Subject Matter Expertise. So whether or not I had given any thought to what a Learning Theory was, before CCK08 began, really becomes less relevant than my realization that my prior use of Facebook, Second Life, Twitter, AIM, Google Docs & Reader and LinkedIN…. essentially I have understood how these tools are actually learning tools and how they can be combined to form a fluid PLE.


I do want to spend some time in CCK08 exploring the idea that shear acceleration of information growth in our society is bound to have a profound impact on our Personal Learning – just like it is on our formal learning constructs. Today’s kindergartners will graduate high school facing 128 times as much information as today. Obviously, we need disruptive technologies, as well as wonderful innovation tools just to be able to handle the enormous information overload. Communication skills, creative skills and analytic skills are all three going to be ever more important (and sometimes I think more rare than they should be, but that’s a reflection on our formal learning institutions!).


Some questions have come to mind so far in this course, including what are the real implications of Connectivism within society, and specifically within the Educational Community. Of course, I have posted that question in LinkedIN already to attempt to get the audience’s opinion on that (smile). I also agree with a fellow classmate, Tom Whyte, who posted a thought, of “what number of participants in a network are required to make it valid and/or effective”? Is there something magical about the 100-node network? What advantages are there is growing from 125 up to 175 people? These are things I would still like to research and learn about.


Ending with a pertinent quote, from my LinkedIN Q&A, posted at 7am today, and answered within 4 hours (i.e. what a great Web 2.0 network!):


“What then constitutes the safest and most effective learning environment? Some believe that you have to contextualize learning to achieve efficiency. Other believe that abstract learning is better, followed by vocational training as required. These issues are independent of the growth in the volume of information available to be learned. Selection criteria of the content to be offered for learning is not the same as the activity of learning. However, you correctly imply that it is a nonsense to distinguish between theories of cognition and theories of learning. How the mind acquires signals, attributes meaning both denotative and connotative, and operationalizes activity based on those meanings is a complex but single process representing the ability to learn and adapt behavior based on that learning.” (David Marshall, 2 Oct 2008)