Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pegs & Purfling

I had initially thought I would design a site that would bring together fiddle players and makers, and try to create a CoP environment for them, but I quickly realized that this was too broad a set of interests to tackle in the time I had available.

So I have opted to go with only one strand: Fiddle building. Fortunately we are not expected to program all the elements we would like to see. I've discovered that most of the sub-pages can actually be hosted very easily using a range of free Web 2.0 tools: a blog (Blogger), a gallery (Flickr or Picassa), video workshop (Youtube), suggested books (LibraryThing), useful links (Delicious), etc. Aside from creating the initial hub/home page, the rest of the content can take advantage of the wide variety of social networking services that already exist. (Ning provides this kind of "all in one" solution.)

More to follow.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Communities of Practice - Can it work on-line?

We've been looking at the notion of building communities of practice, and whether or not it is possible to create what is essentially a social network in an on-line environment.

As Etienne Wenger defines CoP:
Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.
Our assignment is to replicate the conditions using a Dreamweaver created site. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Week 5: AT: Mwanza vs Liu & Schwen

We spent some time looking more closely at Activity Theory as a tool for analyzing Technology/User interactions. Both of the papers we looked at (Mwanza [pdf] and Liu & Schwen) approached the task from different perspectives. As the class discussed the different methodologies, we came to the conclusion that the strength of AT is that it allows emergent issues to be captured and dealt with.

Application of AT in Learning Design:
My group is using BCeSIS as our technology focus. We will be looking at how teachers at secondary and elementary, as well as admin and clerical are using this Student management system. We plan to interview (and survey) participants in order to see what the conflicts are.

Additional BCeSIS info
District 38 info page.
District 81 support page.
BCTF reaction to BCeSIS.
Wikipedia article.
BCeSIS user videos.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Week 4 - AM/PM acquisition vs participation

We had a spirited discussion in class about the strengths and weaknesses of AM vs PM as a metaphor/model to explain what happens when we learn. Does learning mean gaining knowledge or is it the process of "knowing"? The biggest problem seems to be when it comes to assessment. Is it possible to assess someone using the PM approach? The sticking point is this: participation means that learning takes place in a "community of learners", but really happens as the learner is initiated into the practices, behaviours and customs of the practitioners themselves. I learn to be a baker by working with a baker, in a bakery, doing the things that bakers do. Assessment would have to take place in an authentic environment, and would be very time and personnel intensive.

In my own personal understanding, I prefer to see AM as the way we learn, building knowledge up, with the final goal being able to participate in a community of practitioners (PM). For example, I learn to play the fiddle, use books, CDs etc to inform me. But my goal is to be able to perform with other musicians, and function "as" a musician. It is only when I am able to do this last step that I can say I have "learned" to be a fiddler.

Activity Theory Report Project
For our project, Rachel, Al and I have chosen to analyze how teachers, secretaries and admin are using the new BCeSIS system. We will be looking at Elementary and High School settings. More to follow!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Week 3: How do you learn French?

We had an interesting class looking at practical examples of how each of the learning theories affects the teaching of a particular topic. We used "French language instructions" as our focus and explored how this would look to a behaviourist, a cognitive psychologist, et al. I could see elements from each of the different theories in all the teacher manuals I have ever used in my years of teaching French. The instructor reminded us that there is only one world, and the theories are lenses we can use to investigate that world. But which view is "right"? If I choose a lens that dramatically deforms my view of the world, and bears little resemblance to reality, how can I operate effectively, safely, surely, etc.? Does it hinge on what I believe knowledge and learning is? Hmmmm.

Our readings for Week 4 are on "Activity Theory". More about this later!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Week 2: What theory do you use?

This week , the readings focus on the importance of incorporating elements from many different learning theories in one's learning design. The articles reviewed the behaviourist, cognitive and situative schools of thought.

One thing that occurred to me was that while it might be very "democratic" and fair-minded to be as inclusive as possible of all the theories, this approach didn't seem to square with our work in the last semester where we looked at LORI and what makes for a good learning object. As well, the various principles we studied in 892 struck me as less welcoming of an eclectic "smorgasbord" approach; they favour a "it works or it doesn't" mindset. Hmmmm...

The Dreamweaver segment...
I came across a great resource for webpage layouts the other day. (My son Nathan suggested it to me.) Open Source Web Designs has over 2000 layouts the the budding site designer can download as a jump start to a killer design. Follow this link for some great templates!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Educ 893: Week 1 - Plato's Cave

I'm in my 3rd course ("Organizational & Social Aspects of Learning Technology Design") for my Masters. We've been asked to take a reading from Morgan's "Images of Organization" and answer some questions.

Here goes:

Plato's Cave as a metaphor for organizations as psychic prisons

1. Origin:
Morgan uses the platonic allegory of the cave to illustrate his point. According to Plato, we are all like men trapped in a cave, forced to interpret the world by looking at shadows thrown upon the back wall. Over time, the cave dwellers begin to see the cave, and the shadows, as reality. If one were to escape and see the real world, he would be unable to return and live happily in the cave. And in trying to explain the nature of things to the other prisoners would be ignored, possibly causing the inhabitants to cling more tightly to their shadowy notions of the world.

2. Key characteristics of this metaphor:
The key characteristic of a psychic prison is that it has an organization or structure that traps its members in constructions of reality that give an impaired understanding of the world. Individuals can be trapped by a) favoured ways of thinking, b) repression caused by individual and collective psychic history, c) patriarchal ways of thinking and structuring, d) the denial of mortality and d) the fetishization of practices and beliefs.

These concerns and metaphors operate largely via the individual and collective unconscious and as such are not always readily identified by the participants. Breaking through these psychic prisons, as in Plato’s model, must happen as the result of an outside force or agency. We need to look outside our cave and welcome new ideas and metaphors in order to change unwanted and unproductive behaviours.

3. Feel of the metaphor:
“The answers must always come from within”
“Don’t trust outsiders.”
“This is the way we’ve always done things.”
“It’s in the company manual.”
“Always follow procedure and protocol.”
“This product or practice must not be changed, or we lose who we are.”
“The boss or manager knows best. Listen to your leaders. Don’t ask why.”
“This company will never fail.”
“Your contributions will always be remembered.”
Founders’ portraits line the walls.
Plaques honouring predecessors abound.
Routines and rituals must always be followed.
Click to play Plato's Cave
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4. Strengths and limitations of this metaphor:
The weakness are …
a) too much emphasis on “unconscious” patterns of behaviour.
(how can we effect change if the underlying causes are beyond our control or knowledge?)
b) not enough attention to the physical elements of imprisonment
(control over time, buildings, resources, space, movement, physical freedom.)
c) according to the author, it can encourage utopian thinking that provides little in the way of true solutions.
d) a danger that we might try to fix problems by controlling others’ thinking.

The strengths are…
a) a better understanding of corporate culture as a projection of hidden fears and needs.
b) seemingly rational approaches can be irrationality in disguise.
c) solutions must come from outside the traditional boundaries.
d) seemingly irrational resistance to change becomes easier to understand.

5. How can the metaphor inform our work as LT designers?
We need to be aware that there are often many hidden issues that will need to be addressed in any LD project. (“The boss doesn’t like that idea.”) The corporate culture may resist certain ways of doing things. (“We don’t do on-line learning that way.”) A designer needs to remember that seemingly irrational responses or requests usually have a basis in an unconscious, internally logical way of seeing the world.