Sunday, November 16, 2008

Why is so difficult to change the practice of Education? Third CCK08 paper.

I think that the main reason lies on the self image that the teachers held about themselves and in the way in which the students perceive education.  I wish I knew about a practical way to shift those positions.

The teacher's traditional position.

In a traditional way a teacher stands out of the crowd, in a status way that medical practitioners did some years back as pictured by Quino in his famous cartoon (Quino cartoon, page 5, Mafalda, book 9;1977). In that view teachers are considered vessels of knowledge, leaders of the future generations.  In rural places they are treated with awe and respect, the community is grateful to have them; it usually implies less comfort to go and teach sometimes in a hut.  In the cities they are held also with respect, parents try to get along with them for the sake of their kids' well being. The teacher that requires his students to send their homework to his/her email sometimes is viewed as a nuisance; most of the students don't have computers at home and parents have to cope with the expense of paying extra to cyber places.

Being a teacher gives you status, power over your learners, a position in life supported by your credentials and years of experience in the field.  It's not easy to let go of that position, of the privileges perceived and of the underlying assumptions. Stephen Downes talks about this, among other things, in his post about Reusable Media, Social Software and Openness in Education.

Students point of view on education.

On the other hand, most the students regard school and homework as an imposed obligation that they don't enjoy.

felipe_tarea Qino cartoon. #895, Mafalda 4 (1968)

Felipe (thinking): "Well, I better go do my homework."...
Felipe (thinking): "Damn!"

They act as Felipe, they wish that something would come along to get them of the hook. I have acted like that myself.  Students come to the cyber place to do their homework and what they do is copy and paste from pages they Google, they don't reflect on what they put together. They try to do it fast to have time to add a picture to their photo blog (MetroFlog is their favourite), chat or visit their Hi5 spaces. If they happen to find a teacher that invites they to learn in an engaging way they respond eagerly but they expect leadership.  If you leave them to choose what to learn and how to go about their learning they freeze.  Talking to teenagers I've found they are confused, they know that even if they do well in their studies that doesn't warranty them a job or a better life in the future.

Matthias has a different point of view on this issues and looks into resistance in a broader way than me. Worth reading.

S. Downs puts forward an answer: "The idea that all of us, acting independently, but ensemble, en masse, can come up with something better than any individual in the group could by themselves. This is not a case of marching toward mediocrity, this is a case of the group simple being able to take into account more factors, more variables, than any given individual. The group being able to absorb more information than any individual. But for this to work, we have to have the open communication and access. We have to have the distributed non-centralized non-hierarchical model".

To teach in a non traditional way means to accept, claim, demonstrate and model that you don't have all the answers, that you are not better or worst than others, that you are only a bit different.  It also means that you are open to share what you know and have, that you are open to persuasion.

I don't have a practical path to bring this change about.  All I see is that maybe if we take responsibility of our own learning, model the behaviour we expect, provide examples, establish outcomes, set the table with what we see as goodies and invite others to share the meal we may shift the status quo a bit.

I found the following video at Tom White's blog. We are against inertia.

Despite the fact that this short article is a free roaming thought piece, I find myself with an acute feeling of the responsibility for what I write.  It's hard to explain.  This doesn't mean that I didn't feel responsible before, it means that I'm more aware of that  responsibility as a part of a learning community. I see this as a beneficial outcome.  I blame this to all the readings, interactions, talks and wonderful people I have met during the CCK08 course. Thanks to all of you.

The Official Quino Home Page can be found at

What's the role of a connectivist teacher?

My answer to this questions can be found in this CCK08 Moodle thread, I'll post it here:

"As far as I see and as far as I have understood the connectivism model the role of the "teacher" is to sit back and let the students take control. 

I mean sit back not with a bad connotation, of course SD and GS are not scratching their bellies!  They are very busy keeping this three or four ring "circus" going.  They invested many hours beforehand setting up the design, the layout, the Daily, pageflakes, Wiki, Elluminate, syllabus, inviting guest speakers, getting Dave to moderate, etc.

The most difficult part of online and offline teaching, is to get the learners flying on their own.   Connectivism strives towards learners independence, to decentralize the learning process, to avoid hierarchies. To get that going you need to kind of disappear at the background. If you jump in, the learners will tend to ask YOU to take the lead. Because they recognize you as an authority figure, you'll mark and evaluate them.

I think a connectivism course doesn't have to be "cold" or "detached" to avoid learners dependency.  Webheads, for example,  don't promote dependency and their sessions are full of generosity and kind encouraging comments.  They set tutorial's mechanisms at the side and point learners to go, click away, find out and sort things for themselves.  They also, as a rule, set aside a week for informal networking along with a Nettiquete code. That time is used to make sure that all participants know how to handle their email accounts to avoid the overload feeling, to free participants from the technology issues to be able to focus in the content."

 Evaluation MOOC

I was very impressed by the way Dave Cormier handled the  evaluation of the CCK08 in his Elluminate session: with honesty. The picture is a screen shot of that session.

As Dave Cormier mentions, Webheads are kings on teaching online a knowledge moving target without losing people along the way.

I found some of Stephen Downes comments evaluating somehow the CCK08 course at one of Graham Attwell's  posts.

I also found Cristina Costa's reflections about a course she gave, she is on of my admired Webheads, I don't know if her course had a connectivist approach but I definitely like the way they encouraged and aided the learners to participate; from backstage.

Preparing this post I ran across an open eye slide presentation that touches responsibility, enabling and community creation in an open source platform.  By David Eaves.

Community Management Presentation
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: 2007 fsoss)