As Choosing what to learn and the meaning

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Last updated: September 6, 2019

As stated in my Eddl 5111 blog, I believe I design my teaching after the Connectivism Model.  Connectivism is a learning theory promoted by Stephen Downes and George Siemens. Called a Learning Theory for a Digital Age, it seeks to explain complex learning in a rapidly changing social digital world. In the theory, learning occurs through connections within networks.   Learner’s recognize and interpret patterns and are influenced by the diversity of networks, strength of ties and their context. Transfer occurs by connecting to and adding nodes and growing personal networks”Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual.

Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing. Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.” (Siemens 2005)Siemen’s Principles of Connectivism:?       Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.?       Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.?       Learning may reside in non-human appliances.

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?       Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.?       Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.?       Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.

?       Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen as a shifting goal post. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow depending on changes in technology and student levels.A question I have started to ask myself after doing the readings in the Eddl 5111 class is how exactly learning happens in the environment I am trying to create.  When it does, by some freak of nature, happen, how can I measure the levels of the learning rather than just the final outcome?The readings in the course have made me realize that the goal of connectivism in my class and in distributive learning should be one of collaborative experiences, participation and interactivity for both students and instructors. According to Kearsley (2000), “online learning is as much a social activity as an individual one.

”  Creating an environment that promotes learning in a manner that reflects students’ access to new forms of social media and technologies has become central to my classes.According to Siemin’s (2005), “The question of how learning occurs is therefore the question of how connections are formed between entities in a network. ” Siemen’s literature describes either actual networks of neurons (‘neural networks’, such as human or animal brains) or simulations of these networks (‘artificial neural networks’), which are created using computers. In both cases, these networks ‘learn’ by automatically adjusting the set of connections between individual neurons or nodes.This is a very different model of learning from what I used as a young teacher. In behaviorism, learning takes place through operant conditioning, where the learner is presented with rules and consequences. In constructivism, the transfer of knowledge takes place through memorization and rote.

This is essentially a process of presentation and testing.In constructivism, there is no single theory describing how the construction of models and representations happens. The theory is essentially the proposition that, given the right circumstances, learning will occur.In practice, this means that I the teacher should identify the core concepts to be learned in a course – the performance goals – and then mentor or facilitate learners through a set of increasingly complex and even customized projects applying these core concepts. Building in options and choices in assignments and allowing students to design their own projects is a way to do this.

A popular new teaching and learning mantra advocates making students’ thinking visible. Making our thinking visible requires students to create, talk, write, explain, analyse, judge, report and inquire. These types of activities give the students a much broader base of learning resources. Such activities stimulate students’ growth from concept awareness to concept acquisition, building in that “series of intellectual operations” that Vygotsky (2002) believes is required for concept acquisition.

Discussion forums, blogging, journals online portfolios and group work are all excellent strategies for engaging and building links and networks. When I started to look at how I wanted to measure my students I looked at the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy and started to develop rubrics to evaluate their progress rather than just tests and marks.”The revised taxonomy moves from remembering to understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating, and creating as cognitive processes. “(Anderson, 2000). During interaction, the learners merely practice and remember how to operate various media to build their own learning spaces.

In wayfinding interaction, learners have to master the ways to navigate in a complex information environment and connect with different human and non-human resources, so they have to reach higher levels of understanding, applying, and evaluating information and connection formed in this process. Sense-making is a pattern-recognition process, so the top five categories of the cognitive taxonomy are each involved in it, especially applying, analysing, and evaluating. Innovation interaction focuses on the expression of ideas, models, or theory by artifact creation and innovation to enhance and build new social, technological, and informational connections.

It thus engages a learner at the deepest, creation level of Bloom’s revised taxonomy.” (Zhijun Wang, Li Chen, and Terry Anderson 2014)  Using rubrics with multiple levels of evaluation allows me to measure where on the scale the students’ learning is falling.  It also allows me to modify my evaluation of individual students based upon where they fall rather than where we expect them to be.Connectivism deals with learning – actionable knowledge – that involves developing meta skills for delineating patterns and connections within a mass of technology-mediated knowledge that is rapidly changing/increasing and only tenuously under the learner’s control; evaluating the value of content (i.e. whether information/knowledge is worth being learned); and determining when and what knowledge should be retired and replaced with updated knowledge (the meta skill of unlearning obsolete knowledge) (Siemens, 2005).

Using Siemens as an alternative theory to my traditional methods of teaching I have tried to create a more project-driven experience. As we have moved into the age of the Internet and integration with the web is so easily accessible, I found my traditional theories lacking in flexibility. “We can no longer personally experience and acquire learning that we need to act” (Siemens 2005). Students must rely not only on one set of classroom experiences created by me, but also on the experiences of others. We learn through the network of connections we have with people and information.  Jarche (n.d.) describes the development of a personal knowledge network as an ongoing process of:?       Seeking new information and connections;?       Making sense of the new information encountered through integration with existing knowledge, reflection, writing, and enhancing the new knowledge, and finally;?       Sharing the results of the seeking and sense-making back to others in the network.

This can serve as an effective starting point for anyone interested in establishing their own PKN or for those responsible for facilitating a connectivist learning experience for others.In my linked lessons I want my students to explore several aspects of learning at one time.  The course itself is Marketing 11/12 so the primary focus is the linking of the 4 p’s of Marketing into one unit.  The students should be able to apply the many concepts they have learned over the term.  The 4 p’s are Product, Price, Promotion and Place.  This project has them analyse aspects of each of these for their assignments.  The Project is also designed to have the students learn using several secondary tools: ?       The use and understanding of QR readers and codes, and how they might apply to marketing; ?       The use of jingles in the form of mp3 files; ?       The use of digital photos and the sharing of their files with other students;?       The use of smartphones or tablets to access, collect and share data;The lessons are designed to have the students work as individuals, but they must work with other students and/or store personnel to achieve their final goals.

  Using the connectivism model I am having my students deal with aspects of chaos in the learning approach.  They must access information from many sources, some unconventional, when trying to complete their assignment.  Students must learn to use new tools in a QR reader and Digital Collage maker.  The outcomes of using both are not predetermined, and the students may find very different ways of solving their problems with these tools.

  The students must also build upon past lessons to find ways to complete the new ones.The rationale for using a web-based lesson that is linked was to allow my students to explore different levels of the knowledge they have already learned.  I can assign this lesson to individual students or to groups.

  If a student is absent there is very little preventing them from doing the assignments on their own or from home.  These lessons can be assigned to students in different parts of the city or any geographical area.  The outcomes may be quite different but if they have access to the web they should be able to complete the lessons.When teaching various classes that integrate technology and traditional classes, I have in the last few years shifted my focus from that of teacher to that of a facilitator.  In reality, the change was not based so much on pedagogy as it was on the practicality of delivering instruction to a broad base of student levels in split classes with textbooks that were older than my students.

  It has been comforting to find through this class that my teaching style is being supported by a great deal of research and literature.     Part 2: Assessment Lynham (2002) stated that “one of the challenges of theory-building research in applied disciplines is making the logic used to build the theory explicit and accessible to the user of the developed theory” It is called a framework for interaction and cognitive engagement in connectivist learning.Interaction, in connectivist learning contexts, is a networked process rather than a linear one – with significant recursion. The lower levels of interaction are the foundations of the higher ones, and each level influences the next. The lower levels support the development of higher levels, while the development of higher levels extend the need for learning at lower levels, such as in innovation interaction learners may need to further connect with different technologies, information, and people to support the remixing and learning artifact creation process. This is supported by Bloom’s New Taxonomy where levels of interaction the learners engage in, the more cognitive presence, network identity, and social presence evolves in an ever increasing network that they develop in their learning. In connectivist learning,” keeping knowledge circulating and growing is the purpose of all learning activities and interactions.” (Siemens, 2006).

  Compared with social constructivism, innovation interaction is not the end of connectivist learning, but a new beginning of further networking and connection building with different nodes (technology, social, and concept) through sharing innovation interaction artifacts in an open and persistent network.”Connectivist learning is a process of networking and connection” (Siemens, 2005). Siemens argued that ” learning is the process of forming three basic networks: neural networks, concept networks, and external/social networks” (Siemens, 2005). During this interaction process, not only are these three networks created, but also the technological network that supports these interactions is created.The theory allows for instructors to step back from overly controlling course content, bypass textbooks and traditional lecture presentations and bring learners to the forefront in locating, presenting and making sense of relevant knowledge.

When knowledge is no longer expert-centered and content and conversations are continuous, growth and learning can occur for all classroom participants, including the instructor.Within connectivism theory, learning is considered to be a process in which, the role ofinformal information exchange, organized into networks and supported with electronic tools,becomes more and more significant. Learning becomes a continuous, lifelong system of networkactivities, embedded into other activities? (Bessenyei, 2007). Bessenyei further stated:”The motivation for gaining and contextualizing information becomes stronger if searchingand evaluation becomes a cooperative, network activity. Thus the collective knowledge onceagain becomes a source of individual knowledge. As the number of cooperative activitiesincreases, personal social networks become the scene of informal exchange of expertise, and”communities of practice” develop. Besides the questions of “how” and “what” to learn, wenow have the question of “where to learn”. Connectivism learning theory places emphasis on the importance of instructing students tosearch for, filter, analyse and synthesize information in order to obtain knowledge.

Siemensstated, “When knowledge… is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet therequirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to whatis needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses? (Siemens, 2004). My AssessmentPerformance is most often analysed through formative and summative assessment.

 Formative assessment is ongoing and provides information needed to adjust teaching and learning for a more effective outcome. It not only helps to monitor student progress throughout an activity, but can also gauge student understanding and readiness to proceed to further tasks.Summative assessment focuses on a particular point in time, such as a test at the end of a unit or grading term.  Every lesson was arranged around a stated objective pertinent to the general task to be done.

At an early point, a goal was formulated to show students what they needed to perform with the purpose of arriving at a general end. The outcome pointed to what learners should do with the tasks product, so as to allow an alternative manner to visualize the message exchanged and constructed through the activity development.In my project, I have used both forms of assessments.

  I have provided quizzes or fill in the blank questions to assess the student’s level of knowledge after watching videos.  This form of assessment will help me gauge whether the students have gathered any information from the videos.  The students are asked to use aspects of the lessons already taught to create something new using those concepts.  There is a component of creating using Fotor that the students will be assessed on based on what they create.

  There are technology challenges with using QR readers, and Youtube sound files.  The students also have to conduct their own group market research on M&M’s and submit that research for evaluation.Regardless, whether the immediate assessment is formative or summative, I will need to be able to distinguish between the capabilities of the tool and the students’ performance using it.  How the project is done will be as important as the final completed work.  The rubric I have created is designed to help me measure the level of knowledge of a student for each section of the project.  The quizzes will have a defined right or wrong mark.  The non-quiz aspects of the project will be marked using the rubric.

  Using the connectivist theory, the lessons are designed to be very student centered.  The lessons build on previous knowledge and try to help students explore ideas that will take them to a higher level of critical thinking.Connectivism learning theory places emphasis on the importance of instructing students tosearch for, filter, analyse and synthesize information in order to obtain knowledge.  Following this theory, I have bypassed textbooks and traditional lecture presentations in favor of the online model. The class is not teacher centered so all classroom participants must engage in their own exploration. As a teacher, when I engage in the process of assessment and evaluation, I make a number of decisions based on the knowledge of students and how they learn, as well as the goals and expectations of the class and the IRP.This includes decisions such as:•             Why am I assessing?•             What will be the focus of assessment?•             What assessment strategies will be used? •             How will the information be recorded?•             On the basis of the evidence collected, what patterns emerge? •             Am I meeting the students learning needs?•             What is the best way to report this information? •             How will I use this information to inform my teaching? The assessment/evaluation process involves the use of multiple sources of information collected in a variety of contexts. Observation, work samples, quizzes and self-evaluation are tools in the process of assessment and evaluation.

Web 2.0 played an essential role in several of the tasks.  Furthermore, Web 2.

0 let students explore, examine and reflect on their own interests through their use of the web-based tools. In this way, students would be able to manage their tasks using virtual environments such as Weebly, Fotor, YouTube, and several others. Observation is the careful consideration and analysis of students’ behavior and performance based on a broad range of contexts. When using connectivism theory, observation is the most important assessment tool teachers use.

In order to use observation effectively, teachers need to know a lot about students, language, and how students engage, and they need to be able to interpret what they are observing. Students will demonstrate to me what they think, know, and can do as they engage in various classroom activities that require the application of language processes and learning strategies. I will be able to observe and learn a great deal about students by observing them engaged in such processes as reading, writing, and interacting with others.

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