Tag Archives: learning

Line manager role identity as facilitators of learning

 

What is wrong with ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’

Last Friday I attended a Digital Cultures & Education research group presentation by Sian Bayne on her recent article What’s the matter with ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’?

These are my notes taken during the presentation and then tidied up later – so they may well be limit, partial and mistaken!

16th_century_French_cypher_machine_in_the_shape_of_a_book_with_arms_of_Henri_II.

16th century French cypher machine in the shape of a book with arms of Henri II. Image from Uploadalt

While Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) is a widely used term in the UK and Europe, the presentation positions TEL as an essentially conservative term that discursively limits what we do as researchers and researchers in the field of digital education and learning. Sian’s critique draws on three theoretical perspectives:

* Science & Technology Studies (STS) for a critique of ‘Technology
* Critical posthumanism for a critique of ‘Enhancement
* Gert Biesta’s language of learning for ‘Learning

For Technology, we dont tend to define it but rather black box it as unproblematically in service to teaching practices. This black-boxing of technology as supporting learning and teaching creates a barrier between the technology and the social practices of teaching. As Hamilton & Friesen discuss, two main perspectives on technology as either as an essentialist perspective of unalienable qualities of the technologies or we treat it instrumentally as a neutral set of tools. I both cases technology is understood as being independent of the social context in which it is used. Hamilton & Friesen argue we need to take a more critical stance especially in terms of technology as the operationalisation of values and to engage in larger issues such as social justice, the speed of change and globalisation, the nature of learning or what it is to be human.

By using the term, Enhanced, TEL adopts a conservative discourse as it assumes there is no need to radically rethink teaching & learning practices but just a need to enhance of tinker with existing practice. So enhancement aligns with Transhumanism – a humanist philosophy of rationality and human perfectibility where technological advances remove the limitations of being human (Bostrom 2005)
Critical post-humanism (Simon 2003) is a philosophical critique of the humanism of the Enlightenment and its assumptions on human nature and the emphasis on human rationality. arguing that these assumptions are complicit in dominatory practices of opporession and control. The human being is just one component in complex ecology of practice that also includes machines, non-human components in symmetry. So post-humanism is more about humility and appreciation of that our involvement as humans in our context is complex and inter-related and interactional. Yet TEL buys into a dominant Transhumanism emphasising the cognitive enhancement of the mind and so could include the use of drugs as a ’technology’ to enhance learning. The Technology Enhanced Learning System Upgrade report.
Transhumanism positions technology as an object acted on by human subject so ignoring how humans are shaped by and shape technology and does not ask Is ‘enhancement’ good, who benefits from enhancement and is enhancing is context specific? It is argued that TEL could learn from the post humanist critique of Transhumanism

The ‘problem’ of Learning draws on Gert Biesta’s writing on the new language of learning and more specifically, the ‘learnification’ of discourses of education. This involves talking about “learning” rather than “teaching”, or “education”. Learning as a terms is used as a proxy for education that takes discussions away from considerations of structures of power in education itself. So learnification discursively instrumentalises education – education is provided/ delivered to learners based on predefined needs rather than needs emerging and evolving over time. So learners are positioned as customers or clients of education ‘providers’ and TEL gets bound up with this neo-liberal discourse/ perspective

So the label of TEL tacitly subordinates social practice to technology while also ontologically separating the human from the non-human. The TEL discourse is aligned with broader enhancement discourse that enrols transhumanism and instrumentalisation so entrenching a particular view of the relationships between education, learning and technology.

Rather, education technologies involve complex assemblages of human and non-human components and as practitioners and researcher, we need to embrace that complexity. Posthumanism as a stance, is a way of doing this and understanding learning as an emergent property of complex and fluid networks of human and non-human elements coming together. In posthumanism, the human is not an essence but rather a moment.

Unbundling higher education

These are my notes from a seminar by Amy Collier, Stanford University  titled The Good, the Bad and the Unbundled on 27 August 2014. These notes were taken live and then cleaned up a bit, links added etc. but they remain a bit partial and sketchy in places.  For a more thoughtful and reflective take on the presentation, see Hazel Christie’s post here. Amy’s own post on her visit  can be found here.

The presentation is looking at this emerging phenomenon in the US Higher Education sector and the possible lessons for UK Higher Education.

Amy has been at Stanford for two half years working on MOOCs and on supporting the increasing interest in online learning at Stanford from a position of a weak tradition of online learning. Her role initially focused on the operational aspects of course design. She now has developed a more strategic role asking what they’re doing, who is being targeted and why adopting online learning.

Unbundling is an increasingly prominent topic in US  higher education. It should also be noted that unbundling has a long presence in UK HE in particular through the Open University.

The Unbundling idea has taken hold in the US as part of a wider discourse of ‘disruption’. The US has a weird love affair with the term ‘disruption’. This love affair is based on a ‘dis-ease’ with how things are currently done. Higher education is ‘broken’ and should be disrupted and that disruption is often undertaken through unbundling. Yet, that discourse of  dis-ease with a broken education system is often promoted by others as means to sell ‘solutions’.

Unbundling is the separation of ownership of infrastructure and processes of service provision to gain efficiencies and savings. So unbundling involves the compartmentalism of components of HE that are then outsourced to other providers rather than the traditional model of being provided by a single institution.

As an example, the music industry as traditionally produce a bundled product such as the album, but then iTunes disrupted this product by allowing the purchasing of single songs, users creating their own playlists, etc… Apple and iTunes allowed us as customer to do things with the purchased products independently of music businesses. This development lead on to Pandora and Spotify and took place within a discourse of ‘freedom’ and ‘access to artists’ and hence as the democratisation of the music industry. Similarly, we’e seeing an emerging discourse on the democratisation of higher education in US.

So what is the problem? What is lost when we unbundle? In the case of the music industry, we can see a counter-trend with the return of the cassette as a ‘product’ as a piece of art that cannot be unbundled (popular in Portland – who knew?), it is a single, indivisable and cohesive piece of art. Similar examples of rebundling can be seen in the examples of free music when you buy phone X or in playlists created by Pandora. So unbundling and then rebundling leads to a loss of control and more importantly, a loss of a sense of the whole – replaced by another interpretation of that whole – the art of the album. Also, while obscure artists can be found online they don’t have the sales volumes to make money through these unbundled services.

How does this apply to HE? Returning to the notion of HE as broken is “disaster porn” such as the  IPPR report, An Avalanche is Coming. The IPPR report cites the diversity of pressures on HE in terms of purpose, funding, public policy in the context of a globalised economy where HE is no longer fit for purpose. HE should, therefore, look to technological solutions and these are to be found in the private sector.

A particular recent emphasis is on questioning the value of university, is it worth going? The degree is dead, reimagining higher education. Jose Ferriera (at Knewton) claims bundling works to trick people in to believing a service is worth more than it is and hiding the real cost-benefit.

Unbundling in HE may involve splitting: content; social networks; accreditation; delivery; testing; and research (see Henry Brady, UC Berkeley). But what are the tensions then between economic efficiencies and the holistic integrity of education?

MOOCs have inflated this discussion of disruption and unbundling. Clay Shirky argues that HE is being, and should be disrupted and, returning to the music industry analogy, the “MP3 is our MOOC“.

And we can see examples of MOOCs unbundle accreditation from HE now. The American Council of Education is offering credientialisation of MOOCs through member HEIs so separating/ unbundling the delivery and accreditation of courses. Antioch College told its own students that they could receive credit for MOOCs thereby unbundled content, credit and, in this case, the tutoring and support of learning.

But the concept of unbundling has been going on in HE at least since the 19th Century, for example, in unbundling academics from the pastoral roles.

The problems of unbundling:

While a lot of the authors of the disruption discourse make this comparison to the music industry, as George Siemens states, education is a social and cultural as well as content ‘industry’. In taking that perspective, a number of problems with, or questions on, unbundling can be identified:

1. Who, how and what of rebundling? Who does the rebundling and what power are they taking through rebundling? Things that get unbundled tend to be rebundled with a change of ownership and control and what does this mean, for example, on the student experience?

The Minerva project provides access to higher education at reduced cost by focusing on (transferable) skills rather than content/ domain knowledge. They rely on MOOCs for domain knowledge for introductory courses. So Minerva are rebundling MOOCs provided by others while focusing on project-based and experiential learning..

A dark-side of this is that there will still be very bundled education institutions and there is a danger that these highly bundled experiences become the expensive premium service for an elite minority. So the unbundling and rebundling ‘disruptions’ will increase the divisions on access to high quality education.

So, while it remains the case that for some students the unbundled experience may be what they want and need, a key question remains that if unbundling is about raising access to HE then who for and to what form of HE?

Also, bundled and unbundled experiences collected data. HEIs are generally trusted to handle data with care and respect but what happens when services are unbundled and rebundled with the concomitant opportunities for the commercial exploitation of student data. For example, the backlash on the recent Facebook experiment was not just against Facebook but also Cornell University for their role in analysing the data.

2. Impacts on teaching and other staff.
We can see the unbundling of the academics’ role eg, in support development of student social networks, advising, admissions, instruction design,teaching, research etc . especially to para-academics, but this is problematic if you view the academics’ role as holistic.
In the case of MOOCs, courses are being designed by people who may not deliver/ teach on them. But this approach can also be seen in the development of Online & Distance Learning (ODL)  programmes from the 1990s as they considered how learning technologists interacted with academic staff. Different models of ODL can be seen:

(i) craft model where faculty did it all; (ii) collegial model where academics helped each other; and (iii) where a virtual assembly line was created the produced a course for  academics to deliver. The craft model is where academics identified themselves as autonomous experts whereas this identity was lost in the assembly line model. So unbundling also affects academic self-identification.

But why is an integrated faculty role of value? Because it engages academics in their work and highlights the integrative role of research and teaching. On the other hand, unbundling does allow faculty to focus on individual areas of strength – why force a shy researcher in to teaching?

There are other models such as Patricia Ianuzzi’s (University of Nevada) team-based model involving the co-production between academics and para-academics of student experiences.

3. the lost art of the University: what happens when unbundling leads to loss of serendipity and synergies of the bundled student experience?

On a positive note, unbundling may provide opportunities for the redesign of HE and to challenge assumptions of the institutions.

Examples of redesigning rather than unbundling has changed HE
1. domain of one’s own at the University Mary Washington as a push-back against VLEs and MLEs. Each student was provided with a domain for students to use any tools they wanted and use for their learning. This initiative allows students to experiment with online learning both personally and in groups. Another initiative is Thought Vectors at Virginia Commonwealth University enabling student learning on open websites.

2. the Stanford 2025 project involved both students and staff to consider the redesign of Stanford for 2025. For example, redesigned away from semester and academic years to a much more flexible programme structure built around micro-learning opportunities as Paced Education. In effect this is unbundling the curriculum and is being implemented through The Impact Lab. This social innovation is focused on the food system and involves students researching (immersion), prototyping and piloting implementations of interventions in the food system.

The key point of this talk is to examine the issues and opportunities in the unbundling of higher education.

Q&A
Q: Can you separate the neo-liberal drivers of the rise of idea of unbundling and the more positive opportunities of redesign? How suspicious should we be of unbundling in HE?
A: I’m very suspicious mainly because I work in Silicon Valley and see unbundling projected as way for start-ups to access investment and government  to ‘solve’ higher education through the private sector.

Q: Can you comment on the adjunct faculty in the US as it appears to be linked?
A: Unbundling the faculty role leads to the deskilling of the faculty so seeing rise of adjunct faculty as having very specialist skills along with precarious employment positions. See the alt ac movement in US (alternative academic).

Q: Comments Music Industry to suggest that senior managers saw that the internet would change their business but didn’t know how to change. Also, the UK has the experience of the OU for the team development of courses. Finally, HEI is very diverse but that is hidden to many of us. Some HEIs rebundle through eg, accreditation of prior learning (cites military in US as example of this)
A: RPEL is really important. A key danger of unbundling is that it imposes a monolithic view of HE and that a sense diversity is lost.

Q: Interested in your views of a model from Cornell University of a faculty housing model of free housing if you live with the students as a rebundling of student services?
A: Stanford has strong ethos of living on campus and the creation of a learning community.

Q: Who is the customer and what is the product? Are students viewed as a product and society the customer?
A: The student as customer is a strong aspect of the unbundling discourse. People have changed their ideas of education as a public good and the promotion of citizenship – now less of a priority given the end of the Cold War.

Q: Worried that there may be an oversimplification of a good or bad unbundling and whether there is a need for a bigger discussion on what the university is for?
A: I’m not opposed to unbundling per se but more discussion is needed beyond the binary of good and bad but that allows the challenge of the assumptions of educational institutions

Learning techniques – for education and life

An interesting and useful read from Harold Jarche on learning techniques framed in terms of PKM and sense-making. As with many areas of knowledge and learning, the post (and the research article cited – and summarised here) highlight the tendency towards shallow learning techniques and the avoidance of the more valuable, but harder, techniques of sense-making and critical thinking. The two key techniques here of elaborative interrogation and self-explanation seem to me to be two crucial steps in situated knowing and being able to think through the nitty-gritty pragmatic aspects of applying knowledge/ information in actual problem-solving situations. It is these approaches that should provide the situational links between education and professional practices.

MOOCs automation, artificial intelligence and educational agents

Geoge Veletsianos is speaking at a seminar hosted by DiCE research group at University of Edinburgh. The hastag for the event is #edindice and the subject is MOOCs, automation and artificial intelligence.

[These notes were taken live and I’ve retained the typos, poor syntax and grammer etc… some may call that ‘authentic’!]
 
George began by stating that this is an opportune time for the discussion as MOOCs in the media, the developments on the Turing Test and MIT media lab story telling bots used for second language skills in early years or google’s self-driving cars. Bringing together notion of AI, intelligent being ets.
Three main topics: (1) MOOCs as sociocultural phenomenon; (2) autonomation of teaching and (3) pedagogical agents and the automation of teaching.

MOOCs: first experienced these in 2011 and Change11 as a facilitator and uses them as object of study for his PG teaching and in research. Mainly participated as observor/ drop out.

MOOCs may be a understood as courses of learning but also sociocultural phenomena in response to the perceived failure of higher education. In particular, MOOCs can be seen as a response to the rising costs of higher education in North America and as a symptom of the vocationalisation of higher education. Worplace training drives much of the discussion on MOOCs as illustrated by Udacity changing from higher ed to training provider and introducing the notion of the nano-degree linked to employability. Also changes in the political landscape and cuts to state funding of HEIs in the USA and the discourse of public sector ineffieciencies and solutions based on competition and diversity of provision being prefered. MOOCs also represent the idea of technology as a solution to issues in education such as cost, student engagaement  and MOOCs as indicative of scholarly failure. Disciplines and knowledge of education such as learning sciences not available many as knowledge locked-in to costly journals, couched in obscure language. MOOCs also represent the idea that education can be packaged and automated at scale. Technologies seen as solutions ot providing education at scale, including TV, radio and recording lectures etc. so education is seen as content delivery. 
Also highlighted that xMOOCs came out of comp sci rather than education schools and driven by rubics of efficiency and autonomation. 
Pressey 1933 called for an industrial revoluation of education through the use of teaching machines that provide information, allow the learner to respond and provide feedback on that learner response. B.F. Skinner also created a teaching machine in 1935 based on stimulous/ response of lights indicating whether a response is correct or not. 
Similarly MOOCs adopt similar discourses on machine learning around liberating teachers from administration and grading to be able to spend more time teaching. So these arguments are part of a developed narrative of efficiency in education.But others have warned against the trend towards commodification of education (Noble 1988) but this commodification can be seen in the adoption of LMS and “shovelware” (information masquarading as a course).
Automation is increasing encrouching in to academia via eg, reference management software, Google scholar alerts, TOC alerts from journals, social media automation, RSS feeds, content aggregators (Feedly, Netvibes) and programming of the web through, for example, If This Then That (IFTTT). 
As a case, looks at the Mechanical MOOC that are based on assumptions that high quality open learning resources can be assembled, that learners can automatically come together to learn and can be assessed without human involvement and so the MOOC can be automated. An email schedular coordinates the learning, OpenStudy is used for peer support and interactive coding is automatically assessed through CodeAcademy. So attracts strongly and self-directed and capable learners. But research incates the place and visibility of teachers remains important (Ross & Bayne 2014). 
Moving on to educational agents as avatars that present and possibly respond to learners. These tend to be similar to virtual assistants. Such agents assist in learning, motivation, engagement, play and fun but the evidence to support these claims is ambiguous and often “strange”. In the research, gender, race, design and functions all interact and learners respond often based on the stereotypes used in human interactions. The most appealing agent tending to have a more positive effect on learning. Also context mediates perceptions and so how pedagogical agents are perceived and understood. 
The relationship between the agents and learners and their interactions is the subject of a number of studies on topics of discussion and social practices. Found that students and agents engage in small-talk and playfulness even though they are aware they are interacting with an arteficial agent. Also saw aggressive interactions from the learners, especially if the expert-agent is unable to answer a query. Students also shared personal information with the agents. Agents were positioned in to different roles as a learner companion, as a mediator between academic staff and learner, as a partner.
So social and psychological issues are as important as technology design issues. So do we need a Turing test for MOOC instruction? How we design technologies reflect as well as shape our cultures. 
//Ends with Q&A discussion

Professional learning, informal learning and ‘wicked’ problems [2]

Following up on my previous post on learning and wicked problems here, the following diagram summarises a learning process in non-routines knowledge work. Again, this comes from Peter Sloep’s Chapter on Networked Professional Learning in Littlejohn, A. and Margaryan, A. (2014) Technology Enhanced Professional Learning: Processes, Practices and Tools. London: Routledge.

What I like about the process described is its iterative nature and that, ultimately, the ‘vague problem’ doesn’t really disappear through a simple solution. Rather, my reading of the process is that ‘solutions’ and their implementation generate further understanding of the vague problem, hopefully making it less vague and so initiating a new round of evaluation and analysis. But also, any intervention also generates new unexpected and vague ‘problem’s to be learned about and addressed.

Wicked problem solving

 

LinkPool [16012014]

I’ve been back to work for four days now but today was the first day of feeling inspired and quite happy to be back (possibly due to ‘home improvement’ hassles earlier in the week). Anyway, this is not an extensive post but I found a couple of useful reads this week:

An e-learning strategy framework caught my eye mainly for the statement that:

I realized that this manager was under the impression that her learning management system (LMS) was her e-learning strategy. Several years ago, Brandon Hall said that an “LMS is the lynch-pin of an e-learning strategy,” but technology alone is not a strategy.

Which is a nice illustration of the common problem of technological determinism. But the framework presented discussed organisational goals, MarComms, administration, audiences and finance yet nothing on pedagogy. Can an e-learning strategy framework that doesn’t address questions of how users learn be adequate?

The Vulnerability of Learning from @gsiemens via @mhawksey caught my eye as something rarely stated but very true:

Learning is vulnerability. When we learn, we make ourselves vulnerable. When we engage in learning, we communicate that we want to grow, to become better, to improve ourselves.

And the same can be said of other valuable learning processes of creativity and innovation – there is a link between making oneself vulnerable and doing what is valuable. As George suggests, the logic of efficiency may well end up destroying what makes learning valuable personally and socially.

Mobile learning at work

An interesting post from Graham Attwell on mobile learning that quotes Donald Clark:

Training Magazine’s annual survey of US L&D professionals shows that just 1.5% of training was delivered via mobile devices. That’s right, after about 7 years of hype and discussion we’ve reached 1.5%. That’s not leaping. That’s trench warfare.

The issue here is partly framed in terms of the Learning and Development function that remains in a training course mentality rather than supporting workplace performance and situated knowledge development, generation and sharing. Graham makes the interesting point that the potential of mobile tech is in supporting an environment of learning and …

to link learning that takes place in different contexts. That mean linking formal learning to informal learning. And to link learning that take place in vocational schools, in training centres and in work.

But this potential is not realised, in part due to the attitude of employers or their failure to understand how such technologies are being used anyway by their workforce:

A recent survey we undertook on over 500 construction apprentices in Germany found that whilst over 50 per cent said they used their mobiles for finding information related to their work or training, only 20 per cent said their employers allowed them to do so. They said that they used the devices in their breaks and lunch time. And in construction I would argue that mobiles are a working tool anyway. So part of  “establishing good practice in our organisations for finding information and experts and for sharing information”, is a task of awareness raising and capacity building with companies for them to realise the potential of mobile technologies for their organisation.

LinkPool [18092013]

Here are a few links of interest:

Harold Jarche reviews Gary Klein’s “Seeing What Others Don’t” on how insights happen and provides an effective scaffolding for reflecting on and in action and in the importance of stories in sense-making. I can see these models highlight in the review as pragmatic approaches to operationalising the probe-sense-respond approach in the Cynefin model.

Tim Kastelle has posted on building your experimental capability with the key statement that capabilities for experimenting are key to innovation:

The second big idea is the focus on learning. If you try an idea and it doesn’t work, and you don’t learn anything from this, then it really is a failure. None of us have enough spare resources to afford this. Nevertheless, to innovate we have to try out a fair number of ideas that end up not working as we expected. This is only feasible if we structure things so that we learn from our experiments.

In essence, the steps are pick a problem; work out what a solution might look like and how you would identify that you have succeeded; do something; learn from what worked and what didn’t and keep building on what works.

 

WeekNotes[09092013]

What was done last week:

  • developed the Moodle site for the E-Learning Strategy & Policy course on the MSc Digital Education and I’m really looking forward to delivering the course over the next 12 weeks or so
  • started reading lots of personal learning environments (PLEs) in terms of their implications for learning and development in organisations given that PLEs permeate organisational boundaries. People work in networks of relations that ignore institutional boundaries so why don’t we think about management and organising also in terms of networks?
  • continuing to read and think about actor network theory and online learning
  • marking lots of dissertations – with some, its a joy, with others… not so much
  • I also learnt how to clean my dogs teeth – strangely enjoyable activity for both of us (chicken flavoured toothpaste in case you were wondering).