The theory of change

October 15, 2009

Finding a theory to discuss was a bit more difficult than I had anticipated because I wanted to find a theory that was applicable to my thoughts.  Thus, I found on the Connectivism blog Struggling For A Metaphor For Change.  It discussed a video with Tony Karrer discussing, “What is it that is changing in society? With technology? How do these changes impact corporate learning? Or higher education?” What I enjoyed reading was Mr. Siemen’s response to the video.  He suggested that “rather than offering a metaphor” that we look for  “what is the fundamental nature of change.”  This reminded me of a job I had before I went to grad school; I worked for an international engineering firm as publications manager.  My main responsibility was creating brochures for the oil filtration systems the company built.  My position had never existed in the company before, so there was a lot of growing pains associated with the position.  One of the main issues was the lack of adequate technology to create the brochures in the first place.  So, new equipment, computers, scanners, etc. were purchased.  One of the items of most note was a all-in-one-printer-scanner machine; it would allow you to scan in 30 pages a minute and create PDF’s.  It was expensive and replaced the dinosaur of a photocopy machine that basically only did black and white one-sided copying.  The point of my story is that I had to share this machine with about 20 other people who had been very fond of the old dinosaur.   As the new machine was brought in there were comments about its size, “It’s huge…takes up too much room.”  There was a training session on using the machine and all I heard where grumps and grumbling.  Anytime any of the 20 people had to use the machine all you heard was cursing and I even caught a guy kicking the machine one day.  And even a year later I still heard nothing but complaints and anger for the machine.  This amazed me…it was as if these people were cats and I had moved their cat box thus causing total chaos to ensue — they just didn’t like change is eventually what I deduced because this behavior played out with other situations in the office where change was made.   Completely fascinating!  What was it about change that made these people nuts?  Is it just part of being human?  I never came up with a viable answer but reading Mr. Siemen’s blog caused me to rethink the situation again.  That there is a theory of change.  He list seven broad societal trends that are changing the environment in which knowledge exists:

1. The rise of the individual;

2. Increased connectedness;

3. Immediacy and now;

4. Breakdown and repackaging;

5. Prominence of the conduit;

6. Global socialization; and

7. Blurring worlds of physical and virtual.

Like Mr. Siemen’s I believe that “responding to change is much easier when the nature of the change is understood.  There isn’t much of a point in talking about how to respond when we aren’t really clear on the change itself.”



October 15, 2009

When scanning through Stephen Downes blog, he referred to an article by Randy Garrison examining “the foundational principles and practices of distance education in the context of recent developments in the areas of online learning.” Mr. Garrison states that, “In the current culture of connectivity, the relevance of distance education may well be dependent upon developing and communicating a coherent theory that can accommodate transformational developments reflected in [online learning (OLL)] innovations.” In my finite knowledge I understood what Mr. Garrison was saying and could agree.  However, Mr. Downes’ (far more adept than I) states that Garrison makes an error is in his approach; Garrison depicts online learning as rooted in literature but not actual practice “a direct descendant of instructional technology and computer-assisted instruction,” whereas Mr. Downes theoretical approach is rooted in distance education and online gaming.  Which I could agree with this approach as well.  So I will sit on the fence and allow more intelligent individuals to write about this topic and draw better conclusions that I.

Things to write…roles

October 15, 2009

What do you think the role of the teacher is?  I think the operative words are to be flexible, open to change and willing to always be a learner.  Without these qualities teachers would miss important learning opportunities for themselves and their students.  Does it differ if you’re in a classroom or online?  I don’t know that the basic role of the teacher necessarily changes between online and in-room class sessions — the teacher still must be flexible, open to change, and always willing to learn — but I do know that the work load is far greater with online classes than with in-room classes.  Since communication is the foundation for online participation and learning, there is just far more to read and keep up with when instructing an online class.  The teacher can set the parameters (due dates, test, etc.) to help manage the content but the student is still allowed a greater amount of autonomy in an online class.   So, what is the relationship between teacher and learner?  In the book Kearsley discusses engagement theory — I think this theory when applied to the role between teacher and student, defines the relationship. I now from personal experience that if a professor reaches out and communicates on a continual basis, I’m more likely to keep up with my work and reading.

Is the role of the teacher imposed upon you?  Or does it arise from within?  For me, the role arises from within.  The reason being that I love to learn and I love to share what I learn — it is just innate for me.

I read a few of the teacher blogs about the role of the teacher but the one that I found most relevant was Mrs. Deuel’s Educational Portfolio.  Her blog discusses the role of education, the student and the teacher — all being intertwined with one another for success.  She states that the role of education is to provide students with the opportunity to learn in a safe environment and that education should expand the mind.  The role of the teacher is to be a role model, be knowledgeable and be open to new learning opportunities.  She further expanded the role of the teacher in to the community serving as a mentor.  Thus the role of the teacher is always changing because the community changes and the students change…the teacher has to be open to adapt to new and ever-changing ideas.

The role for the student is diverse; they are learners, collaborators, facilitators and even teachers.

I don’t have a classroom, so in terms of a know it all I can only speak from having class with them.  Generally, they have been over-achievers who have an interest in what they were learning; and they actually influenced and encouraged other students to “keep up.”  I read some of the other blogs and found it interesting how there were actually different types of “know it alls” — something that I had not considered.

In terms of teachers pet it is just a part of humanity.  We all have favorite people, therefore, I’m not sure why a teacher should be exempt from this.  The goal should  be more of monitoring the transference between teacher and student.  As a teacher are you giving this student privileges that you are not giving other students?

In terms of front row and back row dynamics online communication is key. As an instructor, staying in direct communication seems like it would be the most important.  Even though it’s online with a group of other classmates, getting and email note from the instructor always makes me feel like I’m participating affectively.

Here’s a link to a fascinating article by W. Brain Arthur applying the theory of evolution for technology.

In the article Designing Learning and Technology for Educational Reform, Jones, Valdez, Nowakowski and Rasmussen list engaged learners as the most successful type of student role.  But the question raised is how do you get students to become engaged learners?  The authors created a list of indicators that can act as a compass for reforming the role of students in education:

1.  Vision  — Students self-regulate and are able to define their own learning goals and achievement.

2.  Tasks  — In order to have engaged learners tasks must be challenging, authentic, and multidisciplinary; fostering of peer relationships can be created when tasks are collaborative.

3.  Assessment —  Using performance-based assessment because it involves the student in generating their own  performance criteria where they will play a key role in the design, evaluation, and reporting of their assessment.

4.  Instructional Model and Strategies —  Students teach other students interactively; this allows for co-construction of ideas and promotes engaged learning

5.  Learning Context — For students to be engaged learners, the classroom has to be perceived as knowledge building.

6.  Grouping — When students are allowed to collaborate they bring background knowledge and perspectives to their tasks. ( The authors pointed out that this was one of the best ways to ensure increased learning opportunities.)

7.  Indicator — The role of the student is to be that of an explorer.  When the student is able to interact with teacher and peers successfully, the student discovers concepts and applies skills that reflect their discovery.

While the list is useful in examining the ever changing role of the student in the classroom, it seems created somewhat in a vacuum — it lacks the reality of the classroom.  Meaning that it doesn’t account for students in large classes or if there are behavioral problems, etc.

Jones, B., Valdez, G., Nowakowski, J., & Rasmussen, C. (1994). Designing Learning and Technology for Educational Reform. Oak Brook, IL: North Central Regional Educational Laboratory.