Category: Week 11

Week 11 – Activity 20: Exploring rhizomatic learning

Timing: 3 hours

  • Watch Dave Cormier explaining rhizomatic learning in this video, Embracing Uncertainty – Rhizomatic Learning in Formal Education (2012).
  • Consider your reaction to the video.
    1. Were you convinced by rhizomatic learning as an approach?
    2. Could you imagine implementing rhizomatic learning?
    3. How might rhizomatic learning differ from current approaches?
    4. What issues would arise in implementing rhizomatic learning?
  • You can blog your responses to these or post them in the forum.

Answers:

1. Were you convinced by rhizomatic learning as an approach?

Yes and no. I felt that it was very specific to a certain demographic of learner. I for one would love to take part in a #Rhizo course, but this is most likely due to two factors; one being my level of educational attainment, and two being my level of general interest in learning. When dealing with students from young to old on a daily basis, I come across many who simply do not have much of an interest in academic pursuit. This might well change with age or other factors, but to have the self-discipline needed here would require a level of engagement and passion.

That being said, for this said demographic, I feel the pedagogical approach is a breathe of fresh air and very valuable. One of of the key values I would look to gain would be that of making connections. It hold it as being very true that the best learning you can do is through other people, as this spurs lifelong learning. From a professional or networking standpoint (i.e. to improve my trade and position), this approach to learning is much more akin to the professional environment (learning on the job) and thus would likely fit in nicely to my ‘normal life’ and form an extension of my professional learning environment.

2. Could you imagine implementing rhizomatic learning?

In my current position not really. Possibly with adult learners. However, as my job is in language teaching, I wonder if it is really possible to hold that rhizomatic learning is better than a constructivist, behaviourist, or even instructivist approach. Indeed, as an additional activity encouraging self-discovery, networking, and a DIY approach is very beneficial to broadening learners scope beyond the classroom, however I am hesitant to start that Rhizomatic learning is best to learn English when a student lacks (for example) a particular level of grammatical knowledge first.

Taking from the Rhizomatic and connectivist approach, activities encourage students to make a learning space beyond the classroom (through blogging, twitter, or any other self-chosen means) could result not only in exposure to more practice, but also in other learning taking place. And this is where I see it as a possible inclusion.

Furthermore, it could be a financially challenging option, given that it would be less possibly to guarantee student success, and therefore the return on the investment from the school and parents could vary too greatly for it to be consider in a traditional classroom environment.

3. How might rhizomatic learning differ from current approaches?

I like to think of pedagogies as a scale of barriers:

Instructivism > behaviourism & cognitivism > constructivism > connectivism.

I would place Rhizomatic learning as a an approach that best fits connectivism, and even on the far right end of this.

This illustrates that Rhizomatic learning has very little, if any, barriers or ‘safety lanes’ in place. It is an open world in which students should explore.

In practice, this would not only require teachers to ‘step back and facilitate’ (as the is the common buzz phrase in constructivism), but rather ‘leave alone’. A level of trust is required that students will indeed pursue learning, and due to the potential failure to do so, the financial structure in which such a course operates needs to be resilient enough high drop outs and varying returns. Thus, the internet is a great place for such a course to exist.

4. What issues would arise in implementing rhizomatic learning?

  • Chaos could be a deterrent – making connections between what one person might be doing and yourself requires a level of skill that might not be possessed by all.
  • Patience – this is a possible swing and miss suggestion, but it could be the case that a student is passionate about X, and others are more interested in Y, and therefore to achieve learning in X, the waiting for applicable discussion to get involved in an contribute might seem like a waste of time. This is entirely up to chance and how wide a spectrum X engulfs.
  • Self-assessment – as educators we are still highly unsure about what ‘success’ is. As Siemens pointed out in a solid analogy, ‘if a student wants to learn only a certain thing in a MOOC, and drops out thereafter, has he/she not been successful?’
  • Funding – as mentioned above the internet and MOOC-like structure allows for high drop outs and varying degrees of ‘success’. In a classroom with paid teachers and rented buildings, this is less likely to be an agreed upon method.
  • Standardisation – if leaners are heading off in different directions, we need to reconsider what exactly constitutes a ‘grade’. Is it possible to streamline students at all?
  • Teacher training – this was said of the risks when implementing constructivism. For a teacher to stand back requires a level of pedagogical and epistemological knowledge to analyse a situation. Not only could this be an academic issue for some, but the there could be large variations within even a single school or MOOC team about who best to approach learning. This can result in a high degree of variation of stated learning outcomes, and streamlining assessments and so forth becomes challenging. It could also be damaging to the student if teachers differ too greatly in their views. Such an approach requires the teacher to ‘know’ each student which takes time and is a more personalised approach. The rhizomatic learning approach could hold similar concerns.
  • In Downes’ (2007) asks: “What is it to ‘construct an understanding’ if it does not involve: – A representational system, such as a language, logic, images, or some other physical symbols set (ie., a semantics) – rules or mechanisms for creating entities in that representational system (ie., a syntax)?”
    • Does Rhizomatic learning offer a set language, logic, or other semantics in which to consider, differentiate, and substantiate its particular means of ‘constructing an understanding’?
    • In other words, can one look at an approach and state ‘this looks very Rhizomatic’ as appose to another pedagogical or methodology?
    • It is worth considering if Rhizomatic learning is not a different entity altogether, in that it defies such criteria and can still be considered a unique and defined learning approach in the web of epistemology.
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Week 11 – Activity 19: Implementing connectivism

Timing: 6 hours

In this activity you will be devising a course that takes a strong connectivism approach, based on some key principles devised by Siemens:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.
  • Take the description of the short course on digital skills that you developed in Week 8 and recast it, so that it adopts a highly connectivist approach. Or, if you prefer, you could take this ‘Open education’ block as an example and recast it in a more connectivist model, or another course you have familiarity with. You should take each of the principles set out above and state how they are realised in your course, either as a general principle or by giving an example activity.
  • Blog your course outline, along with how the principles are realised.
  • Read and comment on some of the courses suggested by other learners. You might like to consider:
    1. whether you found connectivism useful
    2. whether connectivism was in conflict with the traditional concept of a course
    3. what it would be like to study or teach a course based around connectivism.

Answers:

1. Whether you found connectivism useful

I found the inclusion of connectivism to result deeper thought in creating a course and how the course is expected to be completed (adding more layers for students to navigate). This has resulted in a more thorough and contextual approach with more pedagogical consideration.

2. Whether connectivism was in conflict with the traditional concept of a course

No it wasn’t. My general approach to course designing is to provide a context to what students learn. The change here was that the manner in which this context was achieved was more clearly defined.

3. what it would be like to study or teach a course based around connectivism.

The issue of unpredictability appears to be key. I have no idea what students will produce as I have only provided the outline and not the solutions or even a clear-cut end result. It would require a teacher who is very knowledgable in the subject matter, which could course problems for a typical K-12 curricula where often teachers are tasked with teaching multiple subjects which may include some they don’t know about in the depth. Thus limited their ability to respond to unpredictable outcomes.

 

Changes in the original course:

Note for myself – This table is also saved as a word document under Week 11 – Activity 19.

Original from Week 8 Activity 8 For Week 11 Activity 19
Week Topic Resources Suitability (G/M/B) Making it more ‘Connectivist’
Overall changes from original below: The course will be delivered in a more social manner, encouraging working with other peers in a group, or discovering information in broader networks such blogs. The challenges on mastering individual applications will not be delivered in a clear step-by-step manner, but rather as undefined and unmentioned challenges that students will need to overcome in order to reach the week’s particular goals.
1 MS Office:

Basic overview of MS Office tools applicable to teachers: Word and PowerPoint.

How to do basic Word formatting and PDF export:

https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=663198&hitlist=keywords%3Dmicrosoft&fromUnified=true

Medium:

Useful for an overview of content taught during the week. However far to general and non-detailed to provide quality learning on it’s own.

Students will be tasked a particular MS Word objective, such as to create a report or advertisement. They will be given some criteria to meet, such as what the final product should include, but little guidance in how to achieve this.

 

Rather, students should use the two ‘Good’ resources given, and navigate through them to find the solutions. Additional more social resources could include:

 

–        The Microsoft support community – http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office?auth=1

–        Third party support communities such as the personal MS Word Help site – http://www.mswordhelp.com

 

 

 

Linking to Siemens key principles of ‘connectivism’:

–        Learning may reside in non-human appliances.

–          

–        Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.

–        Decision making is itself a learning process

–        Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources

For teachers: https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=75593&hitlist=keywords%3Dmicrosoft&fromUnified=true Medium:

Full course, which is arranged in a section-by-section layout allowing for easy navigation. No worksheets or activities. Based on MS Office 2000.

Word:https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=551520&hitlist=keywords%3Dmicrosoft&fromUnified=true Good:

Extensive overview of many word functions laid out in a categorized manner, allowing for the selection of specific parts of the course.

Introduction Word course on business letter composition:

https://learn.saylor.org/course/view.php?id=57

Medium:

Introduction courses to creating a business letter. Students could learn multiple functions of word through this process. however, it could take longer than 6 weeks so segments will need to be chosen.

Overview of the basics of Powerpoint:https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=82659&hitlist=keywords%3Dmicrosoft&fromUnified=true Good

Broad overview of the features. Useful for introduction. Includes a look into speaker notes.

2 Online searching:

Using keywords; doing research.

Keyword choice: https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=774698&hitlist=keywords%3Donline%2520searching&fromUnified=true Good:

Video providing a basic overview of how to search using Google. Focusing on keyword choice.

I larger focus should be given to self-discovery. An interesting task could be:

Putting students in groups, and have them find resources through Google on a particular topic. The quality of the resources is not of particular importance here. The aim is for students to note how their search terms could result in different resource collection. Students should compare their results with others in the group noting the terms used.

 

Subtle guidance could be given to guide students to better results, and they would be encouraged to use the ‘Good’ alongside.

 

Linking to Siemens key principles of ‘connectivism’:

–        Learning may reside in non-human appliances.

–          

–        Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.

–        Decision making is itself a learning process

–        Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources

–         Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions

–        Ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill

Doing research: https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=294121&hitlist=keywords%3Donline%2520searching&fromUnified=true Bad (for this purpose):

For younger learners it is beneficial. Child-like layout, teaching concepts that adults could learn in a more succinct manner.

More on searching skills: https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=294127&hitlist=keywords%3Donline%2520searching&fromUnified=true Bad (for this purpose):

For younger learners it is beneficial. It also includes explanations around what is the WWW, which could contextualize the information in a clearer manner. Child-like layout, teaching concepts that adults could learn in a more succinct manner.

3 Using blogging for learning:

Learning the basics and how it can enhance cross-disciplinary learning.

Integrating tech to enhance liberal learning: https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=875469&hitlist=keywords%3Dblogging&fromUnified=true Medium:

Journal article, which would be good for students to read, but given the course length is not so much applicable.

As this is a task about blogging, it would be interesting to see how much students could learn through only viewing and contributing to blogs. For this week of the course, students will need to:

a)      Learn how to blog by viewing other blogs (tutorials etc.)

b)      Produce their own blog.

c)      Interact with other blog owners.

d)      Publish how they found the learning experience on their blog and compare this with others.

 

Linking to Siemens key principles of ‘connectivism’:

–        Learning may reside in non-human appliances.

–          

–        Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.

–        Decision making is itself a learning process

–        Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources

–         Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions

–        Ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill

–        Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.

Blog basics: https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=305419&hitlist=keywords%3Dblogging&fromUnified=true Bad:

An advertising like blog post, encouraging people towards monetization. Not applicable.

4 Avoiding Plagiarism:

What is plagiarism and learning to cite.

Citation: https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=296406&hitlist=keywords%3Dcitation&fromUnified=true Medium:

Will require some modification, but can be used as a tool to provide more details on specifics of citation.

Giving students a heavily plagiarized document, and requiring them to use their newly developed searching skills to find which parts have been copied and from where.

 

Student can then be tasked to search for plagiarism detection software (10 free ones listed here: http://elearningindustry.com/top-10-free-plagiarism-detection-tools-for-teachers) to compare the results. Their results should be posted on their blog, and comments should be made on classmate’s blogs.

 

Linking to Siemens key principles of ‘connectivism’:

–        Learning may reside in non-human appliances.

–          

–        Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.

–        Decision making is itself a learning process

–        Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources

 

 

Introduction: https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=1020772&hitlist=keywords%3Dcitation&fromUnified=true Medium:

Can be used as this week’s introduction. Provides an overview of the key areas of citation.

Citation basics: https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=399075&hitlist=keywords%3Dcitation&fromUnified=true Medium:

Could be used after the above. Also a video, but more comprehensive.

Plagiarism: https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=294136&hitlist=keywords%3Dplagerism&fromUnified=true Good:

A video and ‘cheat sheet’ combined to provide useful tips and things to look out for when citing, as to avoid plagiarism.

5 Research Skills (authenticity of materials) Evaluating resources: https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=78565&hitlist=keywords%3Devaluating%2520resources&fromUnified=true Good:

Multiple videos looking at various aspects of research skills, from web pages, to blogs, to explaining what search engines won’t find.

Students could be placed into groups and tasked with evaluating the authenticity of various information shared on a set list of blogs. Sudents will note down issues where biasm, lack of referencing, or false information, etc. was found.

 

As a review, in groups students could develop a checklist for authenticity based on their experience and what cases they found and how they found these. These could be share through student’s blogs and collated.

 

Linking to Siemens key principles of ‘connectivism’:

–          

–        Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.

–        Decision making is itself a learning process

–        Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources

–        Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions

–        Ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill

Week 11 – Activity 17: The role of abundance

Timing: 4 hours

  • Read Weller (2011), A pedagogy of abundance.In the conclusion two questions are posed: ‘The issue for educators is twofold I would suggest: firstly how can they best take advantage of abundance in their own teaching practice, and secondly how do we best equip learners to make use of it?’
  • Post a comment in the forum to contribute an answer to one of these questions, drawing on your own context and experience. For example, you might suggest that we could best equip learners to make use of abundant content by developing their critical analysis skills.

Answer: How do we best equip learners to make use of it [abundance]?

Filtering, searching, and evaluating resources: How to navigate through search engines, using advanced search functions. Furthermore, students need to be taught how to validate documents and fact check. This is especially concerning if we take the view of some anti-constructivist arguments that students can end up shaping their own views which could be misguided due to lack of debate. 

Using abundance: Carrying on from the above, having access to large sums of people (in a MOOC for example), should also be seen as a positive. If students wish to make new connections in their network, or seek clarity on a particular issue, such a network of people can be used to their advantage. Students should be encouraged to test their theories and share their answers with a larger group to strengthen their ideas. 

Networking and involvement: Students should be taught the value of connection making, and how/where to meet those with similar interests, akin to partaking in Communities of Interest. These types of connections can be more valuable than course objectives for continued learning. Furthermore, what often happens during MOOCs where some students break away from the institutional tools (such as forums), and form their own community elsewhere (i.e. Facebook groups), can be a successful approach in filtering out abundance information.

Blogging: Be it microblogging (Twitter) or standard blogging, these can be useful places for students to gather their thoughts and collate a personal learning environment. 

Bookmarking: Using tools such as Diigo, Pocket, Evernote, and so on, bookmarking resources for future reference or to finish reading later can remove some of the pressure of finding forum posts later, or forgetting what you wanted to read.

Trust, safety and confidence: Especially for younger students diving into internet communities. This is not only relevant for the students themselves but also for organisations that might encourage this type of web involvement. Developing a critical eye for the type of participants on forums, being aware of the comments that can be received from content, and other such issues are important for developing a trusted network and gaining confidence in their participation on the web.

Using alternative formats: The type of resource you are accessing can limit the place and time you have to study. For example, you cannot read a book while driving to work. In this case an audiobook version would be a better alternative. Similarly, downloading the video you want to watch for viewing offline, or if available reading the transcript of podcast can be more efficient. Learning to manage formats to fit your time and place can enhance student’s productivity.