Education Myths…#9

Myth #9: Micro learning is the future of education

“Pretty much every article I’ve read on “the next big thing” or “the future of learning” forgets the distinction between compliance, professional development, and capability acquisition.” (Bruck, 2015)

This quote echoes my sentiments exactly. Example: Recently Bernard (2015) published an article about how Google and micro learning are the ‘future’ of education. It was quite a weak article, based on outdated education philosophy and did not take into account that 70% of the globe still has poor or no access to the web. So where does micro learning fit into the education landscape?

Firstly, micro learning has been around since, forever. Ever rip an article of interest out of a periodical at a Doctors office or from an in-flight magazine? Ever browse headlines from news feeds till something catches your attention? Ever watch short (less then 5 minutes) YouTube video or a short TedTalk? This is micro learning.

Secondly, let’s call it what it is: micro-content. Short bursts of focused information so that a person will (if they decide to) integrate it into their learning experience. There is an interesting YouTube video about the history of Japan roaming around social media these days. It covers centuries in only nine minutes. It is sort of a Wikipedia on video. After watching it I had more questions than when I started – but not about Japan. My main question was how factual is it? I lived in North Asia for four years and quickly learned that any historical event has three versions: Korean, Japanese and Chinese.

Thirdly – in certain circumstances – this is a great way to get across desired cognitive information instead of useless meetings, boring training sessions, or long workshops. If it is done correctly, some of it will be linear in delivery, but most should be in a nonlinear format. So rather than “covering” content, companies use carefully selected material to help workers develop the skills of their discipline or profession. One site generating a ton of buzz is coursmos.com. I have not used it, but respect the sources recommending it.

Fourthly, limitations. Complex socio-motor (hands on) training takes time and reflection. Could you pass a practical driving test with 5 minutes of driving practice a day? The same goes for reading literature, philosophy, psychology and every other ‘ology.’ A five-minute overview of Lord of the Rings is not the same as ‘living’ the experience from reading.

Final Thought: For those who suggest that micro content is the only way a Millennial will learn, read this!

 

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Education Myths…#8

Myth #8: Learning is past tense

Learned. Learn. Learning

When we make the statement, “I learned ‘X’ the hard way”, it assumes that any learning associated with ‘X’ is complete. All learning is in the present = we are always adding, adapting or unlearning based on present circumstances.

For many years I used to say ‘I learned to drive when I was 16.’ (Sixteen was legal in the mid ‘70s). But now I say ‘I got my license when I was 16.’ The difference between these two statements is HUGE!   Learning is always ongoing (whether we are conscious of it or not), so learning is always in the present. We may have accumulated facts in the past, but that does not mean learning stopped.

I recently commented on an interesting post in LinkedIn about ‘learning from the future’. In a response to my comment the author mentioned intention as a key issue. Intent was also a key issue for people who actually complete a MOOC course. (See Myth #2) Much has been written in the business press lately about concept of mindfulness. “Kabat-Zinn … defines mindfulness as the awarenmindfuless that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience, moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003).” (Roush, 2015). Based on this definition, how mindful are we? I’m sure not many of us would consider ourselves close to becoming a master. Yoda however, was a master of mindfulness.

With the release of The Force Awakens, I – like many of you – partook of some serious binge watching for the previous Star Wars movies. My favorite has always been The Empire Strikes Back (movie release 2 – episode V). I specifically recollect the scene where Luke has just met Yoda and they are now in Yoda’s hut and he is dialoguing with Obi-wan about why he should not train Luke. His main reason for not training Luke was: “All his life he has looked away to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was…what he was doing.”   Sounds a lot like ‘paying attention on purpose, in the present moment’ doesn’t it?

This also reminds me of a section of Paulo Coelho’s (1993) The Alchemist. About three-fifths through the book Santiago (main character) and the Alchemist are travelling through the desert. Santiago asks about being able to learn alchemy (turning lead into gold). “Perhaps if you were in a laboratory of alchemy” the Alchemists says, “this would be the right time. But you are in the desert so immerse yourself in it. The desert will give you an understanding of the world…” Sorry if this is too metaphysical for some, but they are excellent examples of paying attention on purpose and being aware of the unfolding experience.

The most interesting aspect of the above mentioned definition of mindfulness if the nonjudgmental component. Is this a pathway to when Turner (2015) believes that students will invest in their learning if there is a real curiosity and passion? How can someone be a ‘sponge’ to new ideas and concepts if they are judgmental about the content, who is presenting it, or who is also present at the time of the activity? Is being nonjudgmental not what all the anti-bully, diversity and empathy training is all about?

This is whspiral sequencey ‘spiral sequencing’ (Reigeluth, 1999) is such an integral aspect of instructional design. The constant ‘revisiting’ of information and experiences within the new context of present circumstances is essential for life-long & life-wide learning.

Final thought: “We see in the past only what is important for the present, important for the instant for which we remember our past.” (Frank, 2012, p.83)

 

Frank, A. (2012). Letting stories breathe: A socio-narratology. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

 

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Education Myths…#7

Myth #7 : Most I.L.P’s are focused on the “I”

“Personalized learning requires a fluid classroom environment, where students work at a pace individual to them, circulating freely between individual workstations and teams.” (kim, 2015)

Given the context of this quote, most ILP’s (Individual Learning Plans) are usually completed within the framework of formal education program objectives and therefore have little to do with the “I”. Furthermore, what if a student’s interests are outside the confines of a schools offering? Or what if a student’s interests change during the program? “When learning is about the transmission of knowledge and some skills in chunks which are tested for a standard quality, then this still looks like school as a production line.” (kitchen, 2015)

Some might say the ‘flipped’ classroom is the answer. If these same people agree with Spangler (2015) that flipped instruction personalizes education by “redirecting attention away from the teacher and putting attention on the learner and learning.” Then this is more in line with the content curator ideas of Myth #3. Like Monahan (2015) I agree that the true purpose of an individual focused course/program should focus on threshold concepts – ones that transform a student’s thinking. “According to Felder (2005) such [true] learner-centered pedagogy will ultimately be more effective than the instructor-centered pedagogy”. (kitchen, 2015)

Should not a true ILP:
– allow a student to challenge or ‘test out’ of specific modules or courses?
– take into account a students prior learning? (regardless of setting)
– have enough diverse modules/courses to keep them focused on growth?
– provide a framework that enables a student to collaborate on their assessments?

Ever wonder what an ILP would like outside of a formal education setting? Driver training (much like academia and ESL) is all about teaching to a test – basic rules of the road. But what about the practical driving part of the test? In reality, should not driving instruction and the driving test consist of a full road test in the actual family vehicle, or vehicle this person will use on a regular basis? What good is learning in, or being tested in, a small Mitsubishi when a person might spend most of their time in an SUV? Is this not just common sense?

Final Thought: Where is the common sense in having students complete an ILP within the framework of a rigid formal education setting?

 

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Education Myths…#6

Myth #6: Culture doesn’t matter.

I stated in Myth #3 that I have driven in 10 different countries – many that are nothing like driving in a developed country. To bring the same driving mindset from Canada into India or Saudi Arabia would end in disaster. Literally! A CEO friend in India gave me this advice: “Forget all the rules, and act like you are in a river because the traffic here flows like many currents in a river.” This one ‘on-the-ground’ piece of cultural advice was amazing and made my experience a great one. Culture matters in life!

How cultural implications influence curriculum design? As the Director of Curriculum for a group of colleges in Saudi Arabia, I sat in on a few math classes that were part of the foundation year to get a better idea of the issues facing Saudi students and math. It turns out the issue was not math, but math in English. I put a few simple ‘word problems’ on the board and 95% of the class was stumped. After some discussion with other colleagues, we began to wonder if part of the issue is that Arabic flows R>L, whereas English flows L>R. The students knew what formula was needed to solve the word problem, but the issue was being able to transpose the numbers in English (L>R) into their normal thinking process of R>L. The result was not a math content issue, but a restructuring of the content to include a certain amount of assisting with the ‘thinking in English’. Culture matters in curriculum design!

How diverse culture in one classroom alter a lesson plan. As part of an International Business class I used to teach we had a session on practicing introductions in different cultural settings. All the students in this class that took place in Vancouver all had a degree from their home country before attending our business college. One particular instance stands out in my mind. A Japanese young woman was to introduce herself to a Turkish young man at a networking event. He slightly bowed, took her business card, briefly looked at it and immediately placed it in his back pocket.

The look of horror on the young woman’s face dumbfounded the young man. The audible loud GASP! from all the other Japanese and Korean students stunned the rest of the students into silence. I (knowing the issue) quickly jumped into the scene (like a TV game show host) and asked what just happened. [By placing the card in his back pocket was a sign of extreme disrespect to North Asian cultures] The ensuing discussion about ‘unwritten rules’ among different cultures was amazing but completely dismantled my lesson plan. This was a great way to push passive students to become problem solvers by synthesizing information instead of merely receiving it. (Spangler, 2015) Furthermore, it prompted me to quickly develop a new assignment that enabled all the students in the room to log all these unwritten rules and then write an essay. Culture matters in class!

It is truly unfortunate that many Western education institutions trying to globalize their reach are seemingly blind to the need for MAJOR modifications to their content when entering a different culture.”In her groundbreaking books, Mindfulness (1989) and The Power of Mindful Learning(1997), Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer lays the foundation for contemplative pedagogy, an educational model that seeks to cultivate deepened awareness and insight through introspection and mindful self-reflection.” (Roush, 2015)

Final Thought: I wonder how many education corporations and/or consulting firms spent time contemplating ‘an educational model that seeks to cultivate deepened awareness and insight through introspection and mindful self-reflection’ before seizing a “great business opportunity”?

 

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Education Myths…#5

Myth #5: Context doesn’t matter

Just as Schon (Infed) made the distinction between reflection-on-practice and reflection-in-practice, I will make a distinction between ‘context-of-curriculum’ and ‘context-in- curriculum’. ‘Context of’ refers to the “why” we deliver content we do, and ‘context in’ deals more with the “what” – specifics of certain content.

“Why are we learning this?”
“What does this have to do with anything in my life?”
“Will this be on the test?”

These are very familiar statements to anyone who has spent time in a classroom. The problem is, too often content is delivered without providing a context as to why something ‘needs’ to be learned. Teachers spend a great deal of time in teaching students what they must know, and spend very little time explaining why they must know it. (Bolin, Khramtsova & Saarnio 2005)

As a Canadian kid growing up in Toronto, I had French classes (one hour a week) in grade 6, 7, and 8. However, no one ever helped me to see why I needed to know French – or any other language for that matter. No context was given in the as too the benefits. Now I wish I had studied Spanish in high school because so many amazing countries have Spanish as a first or second language.

This issue is not just language subject specific. Even in ICT, which you would think in the 21st century kids should be clamouring for, there still seems to be some disconnect. In a recent report about what students and teachers think about computer science, Klein (2015) stated, “Even though across demographics they value computer science, the important piece is students often don’t see computer science as for them, and it’s further reflected in who is confident to learn computer science.” Might this also explain the diversity and gender issues within Tech companies and STEM classes?

Could it be that these subjects are being taught in modules without any connection to real life activities? Lave (1988) thinks so, when she implies knowledge gained in the context of its use or application has an immediate salience such that it is remembered and its value understood.   In Myth #1, I stated that passing a driving test does not mean you learnt how to drive. A basic license does not necessarily prepare you to drive in adverse conditions (rain, sleet, snow, dust, etc.), or different countries (left-hand/right-hand), or even different types of vehicles (auto/standard, big/small, short/long, etc). How can you call yourself a proficient  (or expert?) driver until you have experienced many of these conditions? Maybe we are spending too much time on general content (standards?) and not allowing people to become experts in their passion?

 

Final Thought: “Context dependent knowledge and experience are at the heart of expert activity.” (Flyvbjerg, 2011)

 

Flyvbbjerg, B. (2011). Case Study. In Denzin K & Lincoln, Y. (Eds.) The Sage handbook of Qualitative Research. (P. 303). London, Sage Publications.

Lave, J. (1988). Cognition in practice: Mind, mathematics, and culture in everyday life. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press

 

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Education Myth…#4

Note: A review of Myth #1 and Myth #3 may be helpful at this point.

Myth #4: Formal, non-formal and informal learning

Learning is learning is learning.

I, like Billet (Infed)* see learning as ubiquitous in human activity.  The only thing that changes is the context or setting. This idea flies in the face of much hype these days about informal learning, (not to mention my own Master’s work), but the issue of conceptual learning taxonomy is important in the 21st century. It has huge implications about one’s epistemology and ontology. How we as individuals define (whether implicit or explicit) learning will influence assumptions we make about how others ‘make-sense’ in any situation.

Have you ever tried to ‘teach’ someone to parallel park? Better yet, have you ever tried to ‘teach’ someone to parallel park who ‘learns’ (make-sense) differently than you? Chances are it was a disaster. Now think about how you ‘learned’ to parallel park. Think about when you ‘GOT IT!’. Where you alone? With someone? With an instructor? In a classroom? Could have even been different contexts with different size vehicles. The bottom line is, our view of how people learn, impacts our approach in many aspects of life.

Michael Eraut has produced some of the seminal work on learning in the workplace.
Eraut’s Traditional definitions are:

  • Formal learning: learning typically provided by an education or training institution, structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support) and leading to certification.
  • Non-formal learning: learning that is not provided by an education or training institution and typically does not lead to certification.  It is, however, structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support).
  • Informal learning: learning resulting from daily life activities related to work, family or leisure.  It is not structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support) and typically does not lead to certification.  Informal learning may be intentional but in most cases it is non-intentional (or “incidental”/ random)

Livingston developed this further. But notice the difference in wording between ‘education’ and ‘learning’:

  • Formal education occurs ‘when a teacher has the authority to determine that people designated as requiring knowledge effectively learn a curriculum taken from a pre-established body of knowledge…whether in the form of age-graded and bureaucratic modern school systems or elders initiating youths into traditional bodies of knowledge’
  • Non-formal education or further education occurs ‘when learners opt to acquire further knowledge or skill by studying voluntarily with a teacher who assists their self-determined interests, by using an organised curriculum, as is the case in many adult education courses and workshops’
  • Informal education or training occurs ‘when teachers or mentors take responsibility for instructing others without sustained reference to an intentionally-organised body of knowledge in more incidental and spontaneous learning situations, such as guiding them in acquiring job skills or in community development activities’.
  • Informal learning is ‘any activity involving the pursuit of understanding knowledge or skill which occurs without the presence of externally imposed curricular criteria…in any context outside the pre-established curricula of educative institutions’.

The Infed report authors compile a number of other learning concepts and reorganize the information into four clusters:

  • Process. This includes learning activity, pedagogical styles and issues of assessment: that is, the learning practices, and the relationships between learner and others (tutors, teachers, trainers, mentors, guides).
  • Location and setting. Is the location of the learning within a setting that is primarily education, community or workplace?  Does the learning take place in the context of: fixed or open time frames; is there specified curriculum, objectives, certification; etc.
  • Is the learning secondary to other prime purposes, or the main purpose of itself?  Whose purposes are dominant – the learner’s, or others’?
  •  This covers issues about the nature of what is being learned.  Is this the acquisition of established expert knowledge/understanding/practices, or the development of something new?  Is the focus on propositional knowledge or situated practice?  Is the focus on high status knowledge or not?

From both a research and instructional design (ID) mindset, I have come to greatly appreciate this cluster approach. For researchers, it provides yet another option for deconstruction of learning phenomena. Within ID, it allows for a flexible design of how, when and where content/activity is delivered, as well as being able to build in time for individual purposes and processes.

Final Thought: What assumptions do you make about how people learn?

*An excellent summation of all of the references can be founds at:  Infed

 

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Education Myths…#3

Myth #3: Learning is linear

“Teaching to test, rather than to skill, extinguishes desirable traits like creativity and innovation in that student.” (Gray, 2015)

When is the last time you watched toddlers play? Whether playing alone or with others, they are innately curious about the world around them – they are like sponges.

Ever observed a group of teens wandering in a mall? Constantly being pulled in different directions by different influences and interests.

Or as an adult, when you are online browsing (killing time???) and something catches your attention. One link leads to another link and you become engrossed in something quite different then when you initially started surfing.

Within formal education, a “linear utilization creates an individual who is knowledgeable about isolated bits of information or experience, but ignorant of the operative whole which these alienated bits are part of.” (kitchen, 2013)

In high school I hated English class. Especially grammar! Even then I had a silver tongue and had, as my British mum used to say, ‘the gift of gab’. Thus I could use grammar, but I never understood it until college when I took a year of Greek. I finally grasped the power of verb declensions and the world of writing opened up to me because I finally had a better grasp of English language grammar. In elementary and high school I had all these rules fired at me for seemingly no reason. It was as Monahan (2015) stated, “Learners in these scenarios liken the experience to trying to drink water from a fire hose.” Exactly! 🙂

Everyday we are constantly adding to our individual learning map. Every time we drive a different vehicle, it is a learning experience. Every different type of conditions we drive in (weather, roadwork, terrain, etc.) it is a learning experience. Every new country (or state/province) we drive in is a learning experience. All of the experiences (at all different nonlinear times) keep adding to our vast storehouse of knowledge and practical experience that makes us the (good or bad) driver that we are.

So if learning is nonlinear, then should not a certain amount of content delivery also be nonlinear? This greatly changes (and frees up) course/program design and provides the educator with much more flexibility. This also changes the role of the educator!  A realignment of our role from content expert to ‘content curator’ also puts content itself into a new perspective. (Monahan, 2015)    What a great phrase – content curator – ability to choose what is important to a class or even individual student.

Final Thought: How much would a switch to content curation change the face of education in your part of the globe?

 

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Education Myths…#2

Myth #2: E-learning & M-learning

If we don’t call people who make online purchases, ‘E-buyers’, then why to we call people who watch online content ‘E-learners’? Many will think this blog is about semantics, when it is about fundamental conceptual differences that should be maintained.

Just because content is delivered digitally, for some reason, people are led to think it will be ‘learned’ more than the same content delivered in the classroom.  Most digital and mobile content is still delivered in a linear (education institute knows best) fashion, and most is still geared toward meeting some (outdated?) external standard. How is this new or innovative?

Actually, learning from a digital medium has been around for decades. During the post war early days of the net (yes it has been around that long) governments and universities used to share information. During the 80’s and early 90’s Usenet groups used digital bulletin boards to share and acquire information. During the early days of the web (mid ‘90s – long before Google) people spent time on this new medium searching for and soaking up information that was of interest to them. So how interested are people in digital content today?

reich_reconsidering_mooc-56

The most interesting stat on this image (Reich, 2015) is not the paltry 6% average completion rate, but the way the researchers classified 58% completion as ‘intend to earn a certificate’. This concept of intention is a key element in learning that often overlooked. Lets return to a statement from Myth #1: Education is for the masses, whereas learning is highly personal. If, as the graphic says, “students who intend to complete a course are 4.5 times more likely to…” then you have to wonder if the appeal of digital content delivery the technology, or the fact that it is extremely convenient and an extreme interest in the material?

I once witnessed a young guy watching a YouTube video on how to drive a standard (stick shift) because he had his test the next day. But after 3 minutes of the video, he was lost. Necessity is not the same as ‘intent to finish’. Some things (MANY actually) still require some element of hands on experience for actual learning to take place.

There is definitely a place for more digital delivery of content, augmented reality and even some VR in education. But we need to drop the false pretense that just because it is in a digital format, it is automatically engaging and salient points will be internalized and learned.

Final thought: If you are going to utilize digital content, then use the following rubric to at least try and ensure that it will accomplish what you want it to.

master-online rubric

 

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Education Myths…#1

Myth #1: Education and Learning are two sides of the same coin.

For decades I used to believe that education (not educators) and learning were so interconnected that I assumed they were two sides of the same coin. However, over the past 10 years I have come to realize (through Masters research and working in a number of different countries) that learning and education need to be as conceptually separate as the church and state discussion.

Consider the following statements:

  • Education is solely concerned with content it deems important, whereas learning is focused on individual interests.
  • Education is delivered in a linear fashion, whereas learning is non-linear and constantly evolving
  • Education is measured by static standards – unless sanctioned change, whereas learning in measured by internal motivation
  • Education is top > down, and from external > internal (sometimes), whereas learning is bottom > sideways and from Internal > external (sometimes)
  • Education is a noun, whereas learning is a verb
  • With education you must know ‘x’ to get to ‘y’, whereas learning is only limited by the person, based on their drive.
  • Education is for the masses, whereas learning is highly personal.

Learning and education are two fundamentally different animals and need to be treated as such. “…teachers may [have to] cover content, but if it doesn’t promote learning, does it really matter that its been covered? (Weimer, 2015). I find it interesting how many different experienced teachers and instructors in so many different countries are verbalizing how frustrated they are because their respective systems are to restrictive. As Kitchen (2013) states it, “formal education is merely an institutionalized and standardized method for the imposition of what is perceived as important to learn and how it is to be learnt.”

Just because someone passes a drivers test, it does not mean they have really learnt how to drive. Just because someone can rent a car in many different countries, it does not mean they know how to drive in those countries.

Final Thought: “While assessing knowledge is essential, it is not the end of learning. (Monahan 2015).

 

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Just Wonder…4

Just wondering if education reform can unite the Philippine urban/rural divide? (The natural follow up is wondering why education is not a MAJOR in the 2016 Philippine elections?)

I have lived in both Pasig and the Fort. I have also live in La Union province and now Cebu province. I have also traveled extensively throughout Northern Luzon and stayed in a number of very rural communities. A trip to Mountain province at Christmas 2010 exposed me to the massive difference between urban and rural Philippines. One sees it in the infrastructure (roads, electricity, telecom and lack of internet). One sees it in the old schools with limited teaching resources and inexperienced teachers trying to get experience to move to bigger schools to develop their career. One sees it in the mindset of the common people who think of survival daily or weekly as opposed to longer term.

Much has been written about the state of the Philippines education system. MDG reports put it way behind. (Link 1 below) Global university rankings are low and don’t seem to move up. Research is limited, and usually only theoretical. (Link 2 below) But I think the next few years of ‘controlled chaos’ in the transition to the K-12 programs present amazing opportunity for education officials, teachers and students alike.

Given that students will spend the majority of their formative years at school, I am amazed that the teaching profession here is deemed as inferior in both pay and status. Is it fair to compare teacher salaries here and in developed countries? Of course not. However, in developed countries, teachers are treated as professionals like accountants and medical practitioners. I don’t see that here.

This then begs the question why education, the status of teachers (salary, training and resources) is not a major election issue? I saw that one candidate says they will greatly increase the pay for police, but I have yet to see anyone talking about teachers. How can rural schools run the new K-12 programs (and universities develop new undergrad and graduate programs) without a major funding infusion? How can schools run ICT and science programs with no labs? (If the US needs USD$ 4Bil to upgrade – Link 3 below – the Philippines needs PHP 2 Trillion minimum to get going). How can teachers act on a student’s natural curiosities if there is no flexibility to modify and enhance course content?

Link 1: http://www.nscb.gov.ph/mdg/MDGWatchasofSeptember2015.pdf

Link 2: http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/education/44146-asean-2015-philippine-higher-education

Link 3: http://www.cnet.com/news/obama-seeks-4-billion-to-reboot-tech-education/