I had several interesting conversations today, all revolving around networks and learning. One of my PhD students made an excellent submission on e-learning, but (I think) pulled her punches on a critique of Connectivism because she assumed that I am an advocate of this. Despite being a supervisor for George Siemens PhD, I am rather agnostic on Connectivism as an educational phenomenon. I know it may seem heretical to some of my colleagues, but I think that Connectivism, though very plausible, just lacks that final … well… connection! In a book several years ago, Robin Mason and I tried to capture the workings of networked, connected learning in a book called “The Connecticon”… it was perhaps rather presumptious for its time, but we thought (and I still do) that the process of online learning can be broken down to three basic levels… 1) the digital, computer-hosted resources; 2) the network and infrastructure of the internet that can link these resources at great speed ( we called this hyper-interactivity); and 3) the humans at each end of the network connections, who absorb, process, and act upon these transmitted resources. They (the humans) will act differently according to their abilities, experience, and cognitive capacities. This (to a large extent) is the basis of situated learning and of social constructivism. Responses in less than 100 words on the blog reply please! 🙂
I was sent an interesting link from a colleague recently https://apps.uow.edu.au/ which is a store of apps created at the University of Wollongong, Australia. It seems a very good idea to me. When discussing it with colleagues I came upon an interesting disagreement (or “contested issue” as academics like to call it!). Most people I spoke to were very much in favour of being able to use social software with their students – especially students of education and/or technology. Perhaps not for direct teaching, but for support, social back-up, and certainly for teaching about the subject itself. It is accepted that it is not good practice to demand that students submit assessments through third-party software providers, but surely the best way of teaching about social networking in education is to allowed controlled use of social software in courses? There should be a system to allow students to sign up at the start of the course that they realise the conditions of use of Facebook, Twitter, and so on. It could even be accepted that students who hadstrong objections could opt out of using these tools (but that would be a bit like opting out of reading the core texts!) Surely, however, by the simple fact that a student is studying the subject (and may already be using these technologies in their personal life) it would seem reasonable that the way to learn best practice , and to guard against unwitting bad practice, is to study the media systematically. I think that objections to this are just another example of education lagging behind the technology practices of society as a whole (and it is interesting that the staff with the most vigorous objections to the use of social media are not tutors, but some ‘support’ staff). It would be interesting to learn about what other universities are doing in this area.
I have been mulling over a really good discussion that I had at the end of last week with some UHI colleagues and some new colleagues from Edinburgh Napier University. Part of the discussion was about a new online journal of “applied academic practice” (listed in the Delicious links to the right). The new journal is online, open access, peer-reviewed, non-blind reviewed, creative commons, and especially encouraging to new authors and new ideas in presentation (multi-media etc) So what’s not to like? This seems to me to be a great democratising force in academia, and it’s high time we academics took control and got our (publishing) house in order! As a thinker, I want to share my ideas with as many people as possible who are interested in the same subjects. As a writer, I want to produce the best, most stimulating, most easily-readable presentations that I can. It’s partly the result of publishing my latest writings direct to Amazon as an e-book, but if it is really so easy, why are we not doing more of this? I can get more accurate and up-to-date statistics on my e-books than I do from my ‘conventional’ publishers, so what is the benefit to the new media? Speaking as someone who is married to a Manager of a ‘conventional’ publishing company (albeit in the minority area of Gaelic language) I have to acknowledge that there is a place for outsourcing the design, proofing, setting, distribution, marketing etc in the mass market, but with the tiny interest (and profit-margins) in academic publishing – monographs, course textbooks, extended essays, and areas of highly speciallised interest – it seems to me that the self-publishing route is the most appropriate. I think we need to look at the university as an institutional publisher of e-books that share the knowledge of the academy!