Understanding networking

Today I was inspired to write this after answering Jenny Mackness’s post about attacks on connectivism. She has gathered links to various critical opinions and articles. I continue my pondering here. I don’t want to attack , it is fine to be interested in learning and try to build up theories about it. People try it in CCK-courses or is it better to say that Stephen Downes does with the help of George Siemens. I do not want to write about this, I appreciate their trying. I have worked as a teacher educator and action researcher etc and I am still interested in these questions. It is great to try to understand human learning.

Is it possible to handle a topic like ‘learning theory’ in an open course without former knowledge? I can’t see much sense in it, the theme is too challenging. Everyone has experience about learning, OK but it is not enough. And Experiental learning has already invented, no need to do it again. BUT networking could be a great topic to explore by networking and it could be enough. It is not a piece of cake either but it is more possible and useful. The final project in our first CCK course dealt with networking. It was a good assignment, an opportunity to become conscious about own doings.

My next question is about exploration, which methods we should use? How can we discuss about events in open courses? It takes time to understand basic concepts and theories. What is the level of  speaking: words, concepts, models. I said in my comment to Jenny’s post that openness is not working in CCK-courses and I meant that there is much obscure speaking. Participants are obliged to follow Stephen’s way to think, he takes a privilege to give content to words in his own way. For instance, he says what the word group means – he doesn’t care what others have said after their  research. It took time to understand this.

Now I see that connectivism is something that those two active men have developed based on their own experiences. It is their theory-in-use. This concept comes from Schön’s ideas about reflective practice (theory-on-practice). Networking is the main content, how it becomes possible with new technology. They have succeeded to implement open courses and offered the opportunity to anyone to participate. That is fine but should we focus on the method how we conceptualize and interpret and create new models. Should we re-invent science 🙂 ? Grounded theory has already developed, no need to re-invent it either. It helps to build up models from participative practice.

Learning theories are under development in many universities and research institutes, I see no sense in passing this fact. There are communities like EARLI who have excellent networks. It is not wise to deny all knowledge that exists. Open courses and networks may do whatever – and participants can choose what they want. Everyone is happy then?

You know the book (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) La Petit Prince:  Misunderstandings always become from words.. the fox said these words to Little Prince and he was right, yeah?

Learning theories and technology

Is there any New Learning of this digital age? -this  has become an interesting question. Perhaps it is still open and waits for answers. The attitude towards technology has been bipolar since the 1960’s: a struggle between technophiles and technophobes. Some wait for better, more effective new learning and some are afraid of these changes. Both have grown during last decades and we have got more technological tools.

My history of working as an online facilitator began from the insight that I needed constructive, humanistic and critical didactics in adult education. It was important to understand that technology did not give any theory, I could use all my knowledge about learning theories. I appreciated a book (Matikainen & Manninen) Online education for Adults, 2001 (in Finnish only). They had five orientations to describe the possibilities between learning and online didactics: technological, cognitive, constructive, humanistic and critical. The last one was needed in transformative learning by expanding.I did not read the book first and then go and teach – I began to use our new learning platform and then noticed what I did and why. I became conscious about my pedagogical principles by answering the questions of my colleagues.

This week Finnish teachers had a conference about online teaching, and I could follow it at home by following a typepad notebook some participants wrote there. I refer here two expert’s lectures: Roger Säljö and Kai Hakkarainen.

All technology has been “sold” to the educational sector with unrealistic promises. Social media is not different in that regard. None of these new technologies have actually revolutionized education, said Säljö. But simultaneously:  “Technology does not improve learning – it changes learning.” For instance by building up of a social memory and new representations and documentary practises: in the stone age iconic representations were not sufficient for a versatile culture to develop – but nowadays iconic methods are taking a more central position again.  All representational tools rely on interpretive practices & interpretive communities.  Learning is in the performative recontextualization of knowledge. – I think I should read more about Säljö, has been in my mind some years. I thought he is Finnish but now I know he is Swedish 🙂

Kai Hakkarainen is a researcher and has written about three generations of technology-enhanced learning. The first generation focused on examining computer-supported collaborative learning from the cognitive perspective. The main focus was to examine to what extent knowledge-seeking inquiry elicited conceptual change. Problems of transferring inquiry learning culture from one country to another pushed us to examine social practices and other participatory aspects of learning that had been invisible to cognitive researchers.

The second-generation research focused on analyzing patterns of participation in computer-supported collaborative learning.  The emerging third generation research aims at overcoming the dichotomy between the cognitive (knowledge acquisition) perspective and socio-cultural (participation) perspective by means of long-standing and deliberate efforts of knowledge-creation, involving what is called objects of activity.

He recommended the dissertation of Minna Lakkala, see my earlier post. We have many new artifacts that help collaboration, for instance the etherpad was necessary to me to follow. Social media is a normal part of working if you are open-minded and have courage to prove new tools. We are living in an iterative process where individual skills become social property of the whole community and so on.

I have lived in that process about ten years – and in the same process with smaller amount of technologies many decades, but what is the quality of learning: we have called it transformative, emansipatory, empowerment .. The dear child has many names, we say in Finnish. Shared knowledge building and networked learning are enough to me just now.

Learning theories: recent discussions

It seems I’ll have to take a long journey – this time I am going to refer to some discussions in the blogosphere I remember, probably meaning they have made an influence on me.

First I take Teemu Leinonen, who has lived globally much longer than me and knows about wikipedia and -media and many international projects. His blog is named Flosse Posse and he wrote about the learning theories recently. He needed  behaviorism, constructivism and social constructivism. (edited 11.10, read Teemu’s comment) I like the way he tells about these theories, he convinces me about his expertise. Then he tells about Sugata Mitra’s experiments Hole in the Wall, which we have been discussing about in PLENK2010: Learning by doing, socially, in small groups. To give affordances for poor children is the way forward.

Another source was in Pontydysqu web pages and it took a time to find. They have much knowledge there and I was not familiar with those pages, but I succeeded and here it is: Connectivism vs. constructivism by Jenny Hughes. She tells about some projects (Mitra + ..) and lists the learning theories needed for interpretation. I feel empathy when she becomes confused with theories. One new concept can be found: social connectivism (it was lacking, really 🙂 ). We have to know the theories of Dewey, Vygotsky, Piaget, Papert, Bruner, Engeström – perhaps it is best to speak about their work and their development instead of putting them to one category of learning theories. I liked the style in comments to Jenny Hughes’ blog post, but I feel I am tired of listing theories. It does not help.

My last link goes to Jenny Mackness, her blog post after our Elluminate session yesterday. Jenny writes about the relevance of learning theories to teaching practice and reflects her own experiences as an educator. Theories matter, but not directly, they are tools which must be assessed and developed to different purposes. Jenny proceeds to George’s presentation about connectivism as networked learning.

What have I learned while summarizing my personal history, my work in the teacher education and these three discussions? Actually, I am not any more interested in this level of listing and shortly referring to main sources. What does it help? My question is: where is thinking, pondering and real discussion. I see Jenny M. gives an example of combining theories to one’s practice and professional development. But we don’t have time and interest to do it throughout in PLENK, I suppose.  I cannot grasp this theme even I know everything. How can I find my way forward? What is the level of our working, discussion, collaboration? How should I participate in order to make sense in this chaos in my mind? 🙁  🙂

Learning theories: my personal history

I was admiring Barbara Fillip’s choices in her blog: we live in a global world and we try to catch it with our brain, our genes and all the connections we have formed during our life. This time I try to present the history of my learning theories: what I have learnt and why. Let’s try, is this possible at all. I name the decades in order to get some order 🙂 to my thinking.

1964- I began to study psychology and had my first courses about learning. We had a book written by Skinner, we could get the answer page by page, the book was reinforcing us. So I learned basic concepts about learning: conditioned and unconditioned reflexes, reinforcement, punishment, transfer. We made experiments about accidental learning, transfer, memory. This was a time of the positivistic paradigma of science: I learned to be accurate (or I should to ..) I learned the basics of working brain (Luria) and the concepts (neurons synopsis dendrites..) I understood the flexibility and complexity of the brains and the cortex.

1970- was the time of wonderful student movement in the world: I learned to participate and change the world better together and globally. I was empowerment in practice. In our university we criticized teaching and studied marxism, we wanted equal opportunities to everyone. It was the first time when children from working classes came to universities. Materialistic dialectics has been a part of my thinking since then: all is moving and changes happen through contradictions: thesis – antithesis – synthesis (Hegel). The richness of societal interactions was the key of development.

1980 Developmental psychology became my expertise and I understood human interaction as a source of all development. I also saw my two children to grow, what a excellent program in every individual .. I enjoyed. Constructivism arouse in learning psychology and criticism toward Finnish school life was large. We knew the results and lectured about them but did not see the possibility to change anything.

1988 was a revolution in my mind when I saw that theory and practice can meet each other. I worked in teacher education for adults coming from work, all kinds of vocations. The educators had courage to renew teacher education in an excellent way: newest scientific knowledge and best practice. Networked learning became true.

1990 I worked as a researcher and tried to catch the richness of reality but it was not easy. Concept maps came to the institution were I worked, Novak visited there some months.1994 back to teacher education and I was obliged to be the head of teacher education. Administrative work, I learned how slow is development in institutions and hard is to be a leader.

2000 I was happy to work as a teacher educator again. Perhaps I was more realistic than earlier, did not wait for miracles but was not cynical either. Online teaching interested me, we got a learning platform in 2002 and I began to use it. I could use our great pedagogical principles in online facilitating. In 2005 I participated in OnLine Educa Berlin. In 2006 was my first international course Inquiry oriented teaching online, I got feedback from facilitators about my own teaching, and began to use English language.

2007 I began blogging in Finnish as an online teacher. A community for social media was grounded in Finland and I participated in it. In 2008 I heard about the first CCK course – and here I am 🙂 I was wondering what connectivism is. I have found the importance of connections so many times but I had not been a part of global blogosphere. Am I now? Have to write another post about my learning in CCK  studies,  some day.

Learning theories in teacher education

Learning theories have been a part of my life always, many decades. This week I have a good opportunity to find my thoughts and questions about learning. I decided to write step by step: first I checked my last work place’s presentation about learning theories. This  picture has been collaborated in the University of Applied Sciences, Teacher Education, in Jyväskylä, Finland.

learningThe purpose of teacher education is to help student to build up -or find – their own teachership. They have to know all learning theories in order to choose those which work best for their purposes.  The picture illustrates the pedagogy in teacher education: it does not give ready-made answers but gathers frames for decision making.

The image was copied from the page “approaches to learning”. You can find other assigments and materials in the web pages, they are open learning objects. This is the way I am used to think: every theory gives something to teaching practice. I cannot say that behaviouristic theories are old because they seem to work very well. Feedback and reinforcement are essential factors in everyday life, even in internet. Perhaps serendipity is an example of random reinforcement: you try again if you succeed only sometimes. I read tweets which I follow and hope some day to get insights 🙂

Piaget was a remarkable researcher many decades. His research is older than constructivism, I think, so Piaget is called a cognitivist. Engeström belonged to this line at the beginning, he wrote a book in Finnish Perustietoa opetuksesta which had large influences in practice. It was a scientific book that could be read and was interesting. Piaget was very conscious about the near mutual dependence between emotion and cognition, he was a real scientist.

Constructivism and experiental paradigms were the most important in teacher education. Kolb tried to gather all about learning and I loved his book Experiental Learning but it was only in English and not easy to read. Experience as the source of all learning  and the orientations: reflection, conceptualization, experimentation as a spiral. It was something, it helped to understand and interpret learning happenings.

You can find same theories in this link given for week 4: learning theories and models in web.

Reflective practice was one of our main concepts, Schön and Argyris helped to explore it. Practice was the criteria for theory, theory-in-use must become recognized. Teach as you preach. Then became research about expertise in 1990’ies we had good connections with researchers. Oh, those were the days.. I cannot tell everything shortly.

I am not sure if this belong to PLENK2010 but I give that tag anyway. Next I will write my own history since studying psychology and working in the department of psychology. One post I have to gather the newest discussions about learning. And what else?

CCK09 – my view of the process of learning

I published my final project a year ago (see December 2008) and answered the questions. Now I am going to ponder my view of learning, what am I thinking just now and if I can see any new influences during this autumn?

The most influential source to me was the visitor vs resident -description and the Elluminate with David White from Oxford. I have waited for serious research to understand what’s happening. It was useful to recognize my perspective which guides my learning. Many brilliant learners are very selective in their net use, it was good to hear. Connectivism describes mostly positive sides but participating is connected with negative factors, too.

Skill are nondigital, I have written down from David White, skills are applied in a digital space. This is a key to understand my project ponderings a year ago. I have developed my concepts about learning many decades and I can say that “I know everything about learning”. I contextualise new knowledge with many old theories: learning by doing, experiental learning, activity theory and so on. When I do this I have to think that connectivism deals only with some parts of learning and tells us what is already known in psychology.

Learning is not only fast running forwards (experimentation, doing, action) it is thinking, conceptualizing and theory buildind and takes time. It was Francis Heylighen from Freie Universitet Brussels who helped me in this, I found serious research what to follow. It was the week about chaos and complex, I hadn’t find the source without CCK09.

Do we need a new theory about learning in a digital age? I am not sure anymore, but we need knowledge about learning in all ages and contexts. New phenomena must be experienced, not only read from a book (for instance how to use twitter) – but experience itself is not enough. It must be analysed.

I am glad about the research CCK08 course participants have produced, I appreciate Jenny, John and Roy and others. It was fine to have an Elluminate session about new research ideas, thanks to Frances. I enjoy my first clumsy voicethread and Roy’s comment. Thanks to Gus who guided to try voicethread. I have promised to continue my way by writing a narrative story about living in networks. I know that human attributes must be there: trust, respect, empowerment. It cannot be only objective information change between blind unknown people.. it is about motivation and culture as David White said. Human values must be included, connections are nothing without them?

To CCK09 course and facilitators I want to say with song words:

you raise me up so I can stand on mountains
you raise me up to more I can be

We had in Finnish Talent competition our own “Susan Boyle”, a man who sang this to our hearts.

CCK09 – Tom Haskins helps me

Last week I was not so much interested in themes given (groups and networks), I feel that I have nothing to learn from our course, the situation there is all the same than a year ago. So I had time to reflect the situation in the course, what is happening. I prefer my blog and clarify the mess in my brain here, not disturb others with sharing it. They, who are interesting in my thought follow this and I appreciate them greatly.

My intention was to tell about an important help I got last week. Google Alert gave me Tom Haskins question about CCK09 connection problems. That’s what I have lived through, I fail to find or recieve  the ‘great new idea’ offered to us. There are many ways to interpret this as Tom says. I don’t know yet what my answer will be. I do not believe that neuroscience is a solution of learning sciences’ open questions. It is only part of it.

Pondering on the far out idea also resonates my thinking. It is true that nobody can see the new learning theory needed to intepret new learning possibilities around us. Is it a theory what is needed or a new frame or ..? I saw West Side Story in TV (in Finland) yesterday and I had no problems in enjoying it. After the movie there was a programme of Bernstein and Kiri Te Kanava and Jose Carreras and the orchestra and I admired their great expertice. Fifty years ago and now: people are still people. – Is it worth a new theory if we nowadays listen only 5 minutes videos and follow fragments .. develop excellent vehicles for rapid streams of whatever (nonsense).

Kuhn’s The Structure of scientific revolutions is in my mind, too. Do we really need a revolution of learning theories? And how to do it? I am interested in testing new ways to learn and I appreciate CCK courses because practice is the needed prove, a natural experiment. Continuous follow-up about our reflections is necessary. Or is connectivism a movement for better open world and  we can find each other in CCK courses. So every new network connection is result and we don’t need any else evidences.

Dilemma is an interesting psychological concept, Tom wrote about it already and there is a comment of cognitive therapy. And then forward to different process connections… now I have found a blog to follow –  thanks to CCK09 tag.