Sunday, February 11, 2007

which radical discontinuity?

I've uploaded my oral presentation to the connectivism conference here. To follow along download the mp3 and slides. Thanks to Leigh Blackall for recording and editing this. There were some interruptions due to my connection being lost a few times, which was unfortunate, but didn't spoil things too much. The chat went ahead fine without me there! I've since been checking my broadband speed and have found out that it varies enormously from test to test - need to work out how to dialogue about this with my ISP effectively.

(all the presentations - George Siemens, Will Richardson, Diana Oblinger, Bill Kerr, Stephen Downes, Terry Anderson - are available from the Manitoba moodle site, here)

I structured my presentation so that there were breaks and time for questions and passing the microphone around and some of this did happen

Here's an after the event elaboration on one slide from my talk:


I'd like to look at the notion of radical discontinuity, that there is radical discontinuity happening in some domains but possible not in others:

1. New tools, web apps. YES, there are hundreds / thousands of new web apps coming on line all of the time

2. New learning environments – augmented conversation, communication and collaboration. YES, you can obtain a lot of excellent advice about how to integrate a new web app into your teaching situation by searching around blogs of educators.

3. New curriculum. NOT YET? I give the example of Greg Whitby's new school in Sydney
where, to quote from the linked article:
"I get the feeling that curriculum reform - and getting that to work in a more or less traditional curriculum framework - hasn't been addressed as deeply as the other aspects of the project (space, time, built environment, "web2.0"). You can't change everything else and keep an old curriculum"
Probably need to talk about this one more. Tony Forster I think would argue that VELS is a new curriculum framework which emphasises more about process skills and less about specific content. One big problem I see with this argument is that we don't currently have either the infrastructure (eg. one laptop per child) or sufficient teachers with the required skills to deliver such a curriculum to everyone. Nothing like it. Until this happens this new curriculum is really just a piece of paper.

4. New epistemology, a new nature of knowledge. What I argued in my presentation was a few of things.

First, most of what we need (not all) has already been brilliantly provided by past learning theories. I tried to summarise this with two big ideas from the past, which cover a lot of ground:
  • Papert's idea of "objects to think with", such as the logo programming language for starters
  • Vygotsky's idea that we use language to author our own self development
Second, even though these ideas are great everything keeps moving and nothing stays still. Learning theory evolves. But I think the new territory which George Siemens connectivism and Stephen Downes connective knowledge seeks to claim has either already been claimed by others or has been better done by others. Theories of distributed cognition are not new and the direction being mapped by Stephen Downes, which emerged more clearly from the forum discussion, is not good IMHO.

I've started a new page on the wiki about What is knowledge? It was very encouraging that educators wanted to grapple with this fundamental question in the chat room

5. New political awareness. I think that's needed, that a lot of the blockage is at that level. I like this slogan:
"The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet" - William Gibson
I see distribution as mainly a political issue, who is stopping the future from being distributed?


Anonymous said...

I have been given Professional Study Leave this semester (one day a week) in order to study computers in the classroom. I am working with another teacher and we are currently trying to get our heads around what we want to do.
You made a comment about in an ideal world, needing a laptop per student. Part of our job this semester is to show how students can work cooperatively (or is it colaboratively?), having at least 2 students working together on one computer. I am the senior librarian in a secondary school (7-12)and coming from a primary school background, and seeing this work, it is strange to see so many secondary teachers oppose this. What is happening in your school?

Ethics and Transparency In Politics said...

Good food for thought there. I'm trying to understand how to resolve a push towards teaching 'creativity' (a side effect of the popularity of constructivist theories?) - which seems to focus on the creation of media artefacts - against a genuine need for good maths and related skills in the areas I teach.

Maths and engineering are creative endeavours... but a different kind of creative thinking from the currently popular Web 2.0 skills.

Unknown said...

but no! - Bill's probably too modest to mention it, but he blazed a 2.0 trail here years before the network infrastructure existed (see - creating this sort of resource using web 2.0 tools would be a comparative walk in the park

P.S. for a great 'take' on creativity, check out Sir Ken Robinson's talk: Do schools kill creativity?">

Bill Kerr said...

hi peter,

I followed your link to the Ken Robertson talk. It's very entertaining, his delivery, wit and some of his anecdotes are brilliant. Afterwards I realised he hadn't really said anything new.