Saturday, February 28, 2009

learning dispositions--reflection on planning project sketch

" learning encompasses understanding ( your subject-matter objectives), skills (fundamentals such as reading and writing and "new" 21st century literacies), and learning dispositions. Learning dispositions are important traits, attitudes, habits, and feelings we encourage but usually can not teach directly, such as confidence, curiosity, resourcefulness, cooperation, motivation, persistence, and courage." --Reinventing Project-Based Learning.

I do love the above perspective! Indeed, education as a whole, its task is not only to teach students certain academic contents existing in those subjects. After graduating from school, We probably forgot what particular mathematic and history questions taught in classroom, we perhaps even can not remeber what subjects we learned in school, but these things remain in our entire life: The pattern of leaning, the mind set of an educated human being, the thinking skills of re-solving problems... those qualities mentioned in 'learning dispositions' will permnantly shape our personal character and the way of our doing things.

Tradition education only focused on the direct academic teaching, and students only care about their test results. Students with high academic achievements are normally lack of life skills. Someone has a lot of knowledge about food nutrition, but cann't cook a simple dish.

I love 'project-based learning', in which teacher combines understanding of the taught subject, skills with learning dispositions.

I have this consideration in mind: Normally, 'Project-based learning' includes multi-activities. In this model of teaching, more facilities and space are required. It means that schools, MOEs, governments should invest more financially in education so that not only wealthy pupils in International schools have the privileges. Thus our world will be consists of more and more integrated individuals.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Learning, Knowledge and Connectivism

Science technology has been the greatest dynamic force to move us from the primitive state to the modern society. With all the revolutions of modern science-technology occurred since 19 century, changes in all areas of human being’s life has been taking place enormously. Miracles come to the reality and dreams come true. We cannot imagine what our life would be without the modern transportation and communication tools. Human being's life is being changed permanently.

  1. Learning
    21st century is E-time. It is digital age. We are now facing the challenge that we need to re-consider the traditional learning pattern: Behaviorism---cognitivism---constructivism.
    This change will be totally different from those changes happened before. This change is going to reform human being's learning manners.
    Some significient trends in learning:
    --George Siemens

    " Technology is altering our brains. The tools we use define and shape our thinking."
    "Many of the processes previously handled by learning theories (especially in cognitive information processing) can now be off-loaded to, or supported by technology."

    Is technology rendering certain innate capabilities within us? of course, it is. Apparently there is no need to maintain the abilities that technology can perform on behalf of us, such as typing words in computer instead of handwriting, relying on the database stored in computer instead of memorizing them in our own can list on and on...

  • What is left behind after we hand over almost all our internality to technology?

  • What is actually left for us to learn?

  • Are we heading for half robot-half human type of community?

Pointing out the limitations of traditional learning theories 1) 'is that learning occurs inside a not address learning that occurs outside of people; ...2) are concerned with the actual process of learning, not with the value of what is being learned...

  • What are the essential differences between individual and social learning?

  • How does individual experiences differ from one to another?

  • What are the criterias for evaluating the worthiness of certain learning?

2. Knowledge

With all these tremendous changes contributed by science-technology, one thing is the core value--Knowledge is the strength and power. Here 'knowledge' can be transformed into productivity, mainly means 'Nature Science'; As for the concept of knowledge as whole, it also includes the knowledge of social science. There are various of knowledges regarding its depth and width. We need to obtain certain knowledge that helps us lay a soild base on which we can move further to and dig deeper of the unknown, then the new ideas and thoughts are created, constructed from there.

What is the defination of knowledge?

" Knowledge is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as (i) expertise, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject, (ii) what is known in a particular field or in total; facts and information or (iii) awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation. Philosophical debates in general start with Plato's formulation of knowledge as "justified true belief". There is however no single agreed definition of knowledge presently, nor any prospect of one, and there remain numerous competing theories.
Knowledge acquisition involves complex cognitive processes: perception, learning, communication, association and reasoning. The term knowledge is also used to mean the confident understanding of a subject with the ability to use it for a specific purpose if appropriate. See Knowledge Management for additional details on that discipline."

From my understanding, one kind of knowledge must apply to a particular system or environment. For example, the theory of gravity works on Earth, but not on Moon; The four season's weather exists in temperature zoo, but not in tropical zoo; Most of time we are only interested in the knowledge within our system. It is unnecessary to know what exists outside of our system. Perhaps we can call knowledge at this level 'L1 ' knowledge;
However, we must also understand why gravity does not function on Moon, and why there is only one summer season in Bangkok, and four seasons in Beijing. Those general principles work universally. We can use these common principles to explain the differences and changes. One day Clobal warming might change Bangkok to a city with four seasons, and we must understand how this happens, therefore we can predict the trends of ongoing events. The general principles is at level of 'L2 ' knowledge. So there are different layers of knowledge.
Also there are so much new ideas and new phenomenons being created at rapid speed.
"...the shrinking half -life of knowledge...the half-life of knowledge is the time span from when knowledge is gained to when it becomes obsolete."-George Siemens. Are these so called half-life of knowledge worth learning or exploring? Personally speaking, I would rather not see 'half-life of knowledge" as a kind of knowledge, I would rather see this as a process of forming a kind of knowledge, then later on relatively solid principle comes along. It would be more professional to teach our students those L2 knowledge before leading them to the Chaos.

3. Connectivism

“nodes always compete for connections because links represent survival in an interconnected world” (2002, p.106). ..Nodes that successfully acquire greater profile will be more successful at acquiring additional connections. In a learning sense, the likelihood that a concept of learning will be linked depends on how well it is currently linked. Nodes (can be fields, ideas, communities) that specialize and gain recognition for their expertise have greater chances of recognition, thus resulting in cross-pollination of learning communities"
" The starting point of connectivism is the individual. Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual. "

  • Having amount of solid knowledge base makes connectivism significient.

  • Individual quality in possessing valuable knowledge determinds the quality of the connection formed by the individuals.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My thoughts on personal learning networks

My perspective as a literature and language teacher, personal learning networks is like a coin with 2 sides, advantages and challenges always come together. We have seen a lot of the positive impacts that the powerful networks has on teaching-learning model in 21st century, here I am trying to see the other side of things . The below is my personal thoughts on this.

1) Traditional VS modern approaches in teaching and learning

21st century technology enable us to reach and use the authentic, the latest info online for free, anywhere, anytime. We see textbooks are not updated as fast as the actual change of our world. 'Truths' are constantly changing. Textbook is no longer the only teaching material; Paper is not the best way to share our work and facts, publishing are made so easy in this digital age.
However, "...the challenges of this moment are significant. ...deluge of info produced by millions of amateur authors without traditional editors and researchers as gatekeepers. ..." (Will Richardson) .
So at what extent, we rely on those online information, abandon our belief in the traditional way of obtaining knowledge?
Thus I have this following critical thinking:
To certain extent, the speed of information and the range of new ideas that come from new media may seem to make it more useful than it really is. In comparison with slower traditional methods of knowing things, new media appears to help us make a giant leap forward in our knowledge base. At the same time, the value of new media may be seen as dubious simply because the usual scope of vigour that traditional methods bring with them might not apply to new media.
Whilst the way of classical knowledge systems may seem narrow from our new perspectives. There are acknowledged human values applied to traditional knowledge. For example, the academic honesty is very much valued in 'face to face' classroom environment; The true relationship built among classmates, workmates in real life situation teaches us how to be sensitive, considerate with the others' needs, how to get along well with the others to appreciate the bond within the community where we locate. The ability of discovering a whole new thing through the tiny details observed in people's manners of daily life is important. There are values that new information does not necessarily have. For knowledge is to be " knowledge", it must survive analysis, reflection, comparison, accuracy, and lastly culture and social acceptability, all these are the tools we use to judge what is valuable and what is not. Thus it takes efforts, arguments, censure and many trials of validity over time. From time to time, new media provides information the way TV news provides entertainment. Entertainment is to be enjoyed whereas knowledge is to be trusted.

In terms of language teaching, we all know that within language are also inherent cultural meanings. We all know that new words enter this bank of understanding each day. We know that new technology is useful in inspiring students and ourselves to know more, to search more and to be more understanding, and at the same time, have more critical thinking: for it is only through that understanding and healthy criticism that real learning can come along.
New media is, in this way, useful.
A glance at new media in terms of language teaching quickly shows that online information provides very flowed knowledge indices, wrong pronunciation, wrong character writings, wrong expressions and quite often totally wrong meanings, especially when we have not been qualified enough to properly evaluate those information.
As for teaching students to appreciate the beauty and the arts of langauge in a literature work, to analyze the particular meaning of the context and so on...these make it very important that we should select the suitable materials to show the learners the right approaches, and the top works represented the highest achievement of the arts of language and literature. As only when you see the best work in that area, should you know where your way is leading to.
For this prediction of the future role of teacher as connector first and content experts second, I would love to have this confidence in this. However, in order to become a good connector, I wonder--
a) how much editorial effort and skills are needed in teachers in order to make sure that online resources are properly represented?
b) How widely should teachers search/navigate/collaborate via the collaborative spaces in order to create the high quality of the teaching and learning resources?
c) How precisely we know the community formed online from people whom we might not know, may never meet, is consists of qualified professional people?

"The Collaboration Age comes with challenges that often cause concern and fear. How do we manage our digital footprints, or our identities, in a world where we are a Google search away from both partners and predators? What are the ethics of co-creation when the nuances of copyright and intellectual property become grayer each day? When connecting and publishing are so easy, and so much of what we see is amateurish and inane, how do we ensure that what we create with others is of high quality? "--will Richardson
And lastly, How much time and energy shall the teachers invest in the above matters in order to become both right connector and right content expert?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What do I hope to get out of this course?

When I was mentoring my students' project works on Chinese literature/philosophy or history in Singapore, I was always suprised at their outstanding presentation skills by using the digital media tools and their rich searching experiences via network, although I played a critical role of guiding them regarding the contents, the curriculum concerns, the reliability of the information, the aims of the project...and so on. One of the projects of my students won the top rewards of the National Project work Competition. Indeed I was so proud of my students, and even thank them for presenting my ideas and thoughts in such a creative way that many people came up to congratulate me on this achievement. On the other hand, I knew that my students contributed equally as I did to this success, or to certain extend, they did more than what I did to make this project more attractive /understood and interesting by using the digital media tools. I can say, those of my students help me learn together with them, and yet, I must admit that they are far more better than me in the area of Information technology. I do not feel I am a powerful educator in front of them any more.
From then onwards, I wanted to equip myself with such knowledge so that I can apply these modern educational technology not only to a more qualified project mentor, but also to my own classroom teaching.

That has been my very motive of learning Educational Technology and Information Literacy since then.

Lately I came to realise that a foreign language teacher's limitation in using this technology in classroom. For example, the online reading in target language is impossible to the foreigners; the authentic learning experience can hardly obtained without enough vocabulary and fluency of speaking of the target language. But I do hope some new approaches to make learning of a foreign language more interesting, to engage students more in learning process, by taking the advantage of the digital age, will be discovered along the way.

After all, I love this statement:

" We start with no assumptions about your past experiences, your students' ages or backgrounds, or the technology tools you have available. Regardless of your role or background, we assume only that you are open to new ideas--and that you like learning."

That is why I am here. I love learning.