Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Erasing Distance and Time - EDUC 8842 Module Two

Siemens (2008) ties the growth of distance education to the increased use of conversational tools and the capacity to increase connections.  He claims it is significant that now anyone can participate with anyone in conversations across boundaries that would have been impossible before the advent of the Internet.
This affects distance education by increasing the amount of global conversations and evaporating the barriers of distance and time.  By increasing the comfort level of students in distance education, the interaction level between participants both inside and outside of courses increases.
Siemens (2004) has written about a learning theory that takes into account this ability of the present technology to disintegrate distance and time thus increasing the ability to have collaborative conversations in Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age.
Heather Kanuka states in Chapter 4 of Terry Anderson's book, "e-learning technologies can effectively respond to accelerating global competition, increase the quality of learning experiences, remove situational barriers, and be more cost effective" (2008, p.91).  George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier have collaborated using e-learning technologies that did all of those.  Dave Cormier explains how in the following video.

Kratz (2011) says collaboration is important because it emphasizes skills, team-building, and creativity that will be necessary in any student's future.  These skills in connecting, team-building, and creativity are alluded to in Dave Cormier's thoughts on rhizomatic learning expressed in COOLCast - w/ Dave Cormier on Rhizomatic Learning where he categorizes the connections made possible by digital tools and the Internet.  Siemens asks, “Where is distance education heading as a field?”  Extended rhizomatic learning is where I believe distance education is heading.  We each build our learning by connecting conversations in and across networks.  I invite George Siemens, Stephen Downes, Dave Cormier, and others to respond to this question.

Anderson, T. (Ed.). (2008). The theory and practice of online learning (2nd ed.). Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press.
Kratz, H. (2011). The importance of collaboration in higher education. Retrieved from http://opensource.com/education/11/11/importance-collaboration-higher-education
Laureate Education, Inc. (2008). Principles of Distance Education. Baltimore: Author.
Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
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Downes said...

In a post today I summarized Bill Cushard in Mindflash as follows: If I had to summarize the best advice I could give to e-0learning developers, it would be this: "here are two key lessons for learning professionals:
1. Adapt to the on-demand world.
2. Embed learning into the context of people’s work."

I also pointed to the resistance against these two trends common in the industry. I would suggest that some of the sentiments expressed in this post are the cause of such resistance. We hear time and time again comments like "s collaboration is important because it emphasizes skills, team-building, and creativity that will be necessary in any student's future." But it's hard to make such an argument stick when the nature of collaboration itself is changing.

Collaboration brings people together, usually at a set place and/or time. It focuses them on a common objective. It emphasizes conformity and uniformity, orchestration and management, pulling as one" and "all singing from the same songbook." These are precisely the trends we are seeing erode in the future of on-demand and as-needed learning.

people often talk as though the alternative to collaboration is working completely on one's own. But this is not true. We still have to communicate and interact. But we can do so while remaining independent and autonomous. This mode of working together is called 'cooperation'. Online learning of the future will be based around a cooperative model, not a collaborative one.

That's the basis behind network learning (though you have to look at it a bit more deeply than surface observations (following Cluetrain) that 'learning is a conversation'. Understanding learning as a language sees each learner as an autonomous actor comprehending and creating communicative acts.

This has nothing to do with "respond to accelerating global competition," etc., Kanuka notwithstanding. Connectivism and network learning are about augmenting individual empowerment, not accelerating the old commodity-based and management-based economy. It's not some sort of modern free trade that homogenizes us all in a single environment. It is a fostering of diversity, a flowering of individuality.

Where this ties into the workplace is two-fold, both related to individual autonomy and diversity. First, it enables custom workplace support, where the performance support system is tailored to your interests and your resources. This in turn allows each individual to make a *unique* contribution to the production or value chain - people cease being interchangeable parts and begin becoming essential individual elements of the ecosystem.

So much of the writing i see about e-learning, whether present systems or future trends, seems to be focused on some sort of 'business reality' that the proponents seem to believe will prevail. That's probably why most of the pundits, even Siemens, write what are essentially 'business' books.

But the more they are pulled into the old language of 'competition', 'reducing barriers', 'productivity', 'collaboration', and other management-style ideology, the more they miss the actual revolutionary potential of these new systems, both for work and for learning.

p.s. the more I see blog posts citing 'traditional literature' to the exclusion of all else, the more disappointed I become. Don't be led down this garden path into believing that only academic literature is worthwhile. If you want to write about connectivism and network learning, the most important (not to mention original) work lies outside academia, not within.

Durff said...

Stephen, Thank you for responding to my blog post. So many ideas herein to swim around in my head. I would enjoy hearing George's response....

Learning2 said...

Lisa, I am beginning to see how skills, team-building and creativity can affect how students comprehend and grow. In my opinion, distance education can provided students with a wider range of knowledge and connection to others.

I am impressed with your video and how you differ between the knowledge presented in the traditional setting and knowledge presented by online classes.

Learning2 said...

Lisa, you have made it clear the difference between what students can learn in the traditional setting verses what can be taught from an online setting. Your video appeared to provide data from several published researchers.

Durff said...

Seane (Learning2), The video is by Dave Cormier who along with George Siemens and Stephen Downes have facilitated MOOC courses.

-M. Fuller said...


The way you have framed Siemens ideas regarding comfort and conversational tools connects me an area I am researching: self-efficacy of teachers with regard to technology integration. Rogers (2003) identifies negative associations and resentment may result from mandated adoption. These feelings can undermine a teachers sense of self-efficacy. “Teachers who lack a secure sense of instructional efficacy show weak commitment to teaching, spend less time in subject matters in their areas of perceived inefficacy, and devote less over-all time to academic matters” (Bandura, 1995, p. 20). As self-efficacy impacts both behavior and motivation (Bandura, 1977), it is foundational to understanding effective teaching. Siemens stuck a similar cord; people need to feel comfortable with the technologies in order to use them effectively. As online communication becomes globally ubiquitous, we should see even more "global conversations".

I get an error from your COOLCast link, but I found this explanation from David Cormier about Rhizomatic Learning (2011a). I really enjoyed the letter to his son as a simplified explanation of Rhizomatic Learning, but I fear this has nasty future encounters with the current state of content area standards. It would be wonderful to afford the opportunity for students to explore their own connections to a content area topic. I have trouble imagining this at work in a classroom with more standards/elements than there are days to teach, and a state-mandated test which may be tied to performance-pay. The free-flowing nature of learning described by Cormier is what attracts me to the Montesori method of education.

Of course, Cormier (2011b) states, with regard to students in vocational colleges, since vocational programs are connected to mandated testing, this method of learning is not best for them, leaving the idea of Rhizomatic Learning to the job site. He also notes this is not an expectation of his children at their school, though he reinforces the importance of exploration (2011b).

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Incorporated.

Bandura, A. (Ed.). (1995). Self-efficacy in changing societies. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Cormier, D. (2011a, November 18). Explaining Rhizomatic Learning to my five year old [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://davecormier.com/edblog/2011/11/18/explaining-rhizomatic-learning-to-my-five-year-old/

Cormier, D. (2011b, December 11). Tough questions about Rhizomatic Learning from Jaapsoft [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://davecormier.com/edblog/2011/12/11/tough-questions-about-rhizomatic-learning-from-jaapsoft/

Rogers, E. (2003). Diffusion of Innovation (5th Ed.). New York: Free Press.

Luke Bilger said...

I am very interested in this idea of MOOC. In my opinion this is how learning should be. Years ago people focused on one career and studied towards that. Today, with the help of technology, individuals can learn about many things and do multiple things.

Many people I know have changed careers at least once. I, myself, am a teacher and run an Internet ratio station and have many other interests. Learning confined to an institution is limiting. Who can afford classes on everything that interests them? When I started my radio station I joined a group of broadcasters doing the same and we continue to learn and grow together using Facebook and skype. It is rewarding. This is true learning.