Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Student mindset, Pedagogy and Technology

I read an interesting post by Ulrich Schrader in response to Timbuckteeth's post on E-learning 3.0. I have responded to the original post by Steve Wheeler recently and on the subject of Mindsets, pedagogy and technology here I go again...

Academic freedom allows academics to choose or subscribe to whatever pedagogy they think works for them and their students. Some of the options to choose from are:

  • the "teacher at centre of Teaching and Learning" approach or
  • the "student at centre" approach or
  • the "network at centre" approach or
  • the "content at centre" approach or
  • a mix of above for some reason or
  • any other approach

What technology? What approach/pedagogy?

  • Static Web sites (Web 1.0) is very suitable for Instructions/Content - "teacher and their generated content at centre" - behaviourist/cognitive.
  • Collaborative technologies (read Web 2.0) are highly suitable for Constructivist and or Socio-Constructivist pedagogy -"student/network at centre".
  • Personalised learning (Semantic Web or Web 3.0?) - "relevant content/ activity at centre" - cognitive
What student mindset?
To elaborate this I present some of the helpful comments from my students:

  • "A simple lecture on this topic would have been enough"
  • "The best part of this unit was the lecture notes/handouts"
  • "Lectures and some discussions with peers helped me broaden my thinking"
  • "I like to be given some really good reading list, like different chapters from different books by different authors on same subject. Quality content that helps me find out the meaning of things myself."
  • "for me the learning environment i.e. being in the company of other students and academics is of importance."

You can actually map these back to different pedagogical theories that I have used.

The above listed comments still do not do justice to the variety of students that is out there. Most academics choose the pedagog(y)ies that they can implement. Or those that cater to the needs of the majority. Inevitably there will be students for whom the chosen approach is not relevant. What about such students? We know well that all pedagogies have their own place and own audience. Therefore, a blend of pedagogies is not a bad thing.

So far...

Higher Education has traditionally been majoritarily behaviourist (Taught Courses-Teacher/their content at centre).

It is, however, changing rapidly anyway. A lot of academics now use the Constructivist approach as their chosen approach (allowing the student to be at the centre). Problem Based Learning (PBL) has gained popularity in many subject areas.

Student managed to learn through lectures. So WHY change?

I do PBL alongside lectures. Why?:

  1. As it allows a change from a "teacher centred approach" to a "student centered approach",
  2. Due to a top down initiative in my department that introduced PBL (I was starting my career then and I joined in),
  3. As technologies like the Web 2.0 Technologies aided me in achieving this easily.
Ok, Lectures plus some constructivist work, WHY change yet again?

Well they say change is the only constant (sorry about the cliche).

I would like to think that the change should not come without some benefits. Someone smart out there with their brilliant new idea should not have an easy sail even if you are generally quick to latch on to new ideas.

If I can reach those students to whom my efforts do not do any good currently then you've got me. If the change is simple then even better. If it embraces (or replaces with a good reason) what I have been doing so far then ultimate. I am beginning to sound like I have a limit to accept change. But that's not true. I am all for it if it meets any of my conditions above. People like to put their stamp on things, in doing that they try to replace old with new. Innovation should build upon the good practice that is ongoing.

If the semantic web can help my students ( example: auto-find the content they need to aid their learning, auto-convert the information to suit individual style) then bring it on. I shall keep the goodies of Web 2.0 and enrich the student experience with whatever comes next in this direction.

To follow or not to follow: that is the question.

Everyone who twitters, either follows or blocks new users at somepoint. This is how they decide which network they want to join and whom to allow to receive their tweets. Twitter networks can be assymetric unlike other Social Networking services such as Facebook or Orkut (which are symmetric).

Other people have talked about their strategies on following/unfollowing new twitter users. Examples include Ms Bell (interesting 3Ps+S model described there). Please post in the comments section if you know of other similar posts that help you make a strategy for follow/unfollow.

Here is my way to decide upon this question:

When someone unfollows you, how do you feel?
I will feel bad. But I have not checked Qwitter for my profile yet. Okay I just did that...and...well I have to wait for them to send me an e-mail (Junk box awaits your email Qwitter).

When someone follows you, what do you do?
I make sure I check if I want them to follow me or not (bots, advertisers etc are particularly not welcome). I follow them back only if their profile is of interst to me and I think the reason for it is simply sustainability (as defined in Ms Bell post above) of my own network. I do not want too many tweets that I do not want to read (cost-benefit).

When you want to follow more people, what you do?
Mostly I find people of interest from within my network as it grows and people use new @names with interesting content in their tweets and I latch on. From time to time I use Twitnet to check the profiles of people on the edges of my network and for that matter people on the edges of other people's networks. This helps me grow my network under my control in a simple visual and more meaningful way.

When do you unfollow someone?
I only ever block people. I have unfollowed a few in the past when I find out that their views are disturbing or not appropriate. Basically my follow strategy saves me the trouble most of that time. In the past I have unfollowed and followed again as I did not have a clear strategy at that time with regard to follow/unfollow. No I have recorded it here so you can think of one for yourself too.

What happens when you have to make a decision to follow or not and you cannot?
In such cases I follow and use tweetdeck to group such people sepearately or keep them in all friends so that I can decide as time goes by. Then I can continue to follow or unfollow them later.

Your thoughts are welcome, please leave a comment below. I use twitter for Project Supervision to create a peer support group/community of interest amongst the studnets I am supervising. I also use it for my professional development. Soon I will introduce twitter in the classroom and the VLE for a true blended experience for me and my students. More on that soon. What do you use it for?

Monday, 13 April 2009

Web 3.0 and its role in Education

This post is in response to Timbuckteeth's (Steve Wheeler's) post on Web 3.0 and e-learning 3.0:

As far as I have experienced it, Web 2.0 is Read/Write/Collaborate (varying shades of it).

From 'create a site', to 'collaborate using a site' to 'search/mash-up the data from n sources to get the best the web has to offer on what you want' is more like what Web 3.0 will have to offer.

Web 3.0 may or may not have more mobile technologies. Mobile technologies do not change the nature of activity that web is used for only it access. So mobile or static access will happen for Web 3.0 - I am not so sure at this stage. I do not care either.

From an institutional prospective: The educational use of Web 3.0 will enable read/write/collaborate and re-present the information to learners in a more meaningful way than what current technologies allow - Filtering/searching/mash up etc will play a big role in all this.

From a learner's point of view: Web 3.0 will further what web 2.0 allowed (i.e. read/write/collaborate) and help learners 'personalise' the information that is created via interactions in Web 2.0 to best suit their own needs.

So far, mainly constructivist principles have found resonance with what e-learning (Web 2.0) has to offer. Web 1.0 was more suitable for Behaviourist principles (online material/ quizzes/feedback etc). Web 3.0 will make the content King, again. Thereby making the cognitive approach to teaching and learning more prominent alongside behaviourists and constructivist approaches.

Learners will use the web to suit their style of learning using their PLE. Institutions will benefit from being able to blend different pedagogies using the web as they need to cater for many different types of learners. Some academics will make use of this more than other giving way to Personal Teaching Environments (PTEs) that make use of the web in this way.

Next big thing will be the content created collaboratively via the web primed for the best use of its users (more personalised). Somewhere the PTE will meet the PLE and Web 3.0 need to make the meeting of these two as smooth as possible.