I, The Thinker

At PLENK2010 participant Heli Nurmi’s request (see Test Your Blog Please), I submitted the URL of this blog to http://www.typealyzer.com/ to have it subjected to a Myers-Briggs personality test. It turns out that these scribblings reveal me to be an INTP type (The Thinker)

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as* arrogant, impatient and insensitive* to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TheThinker,Rodin.jpg

I’ll have to think about that!

Week 7 in PLENK2010

Week 7 in PLENK2010
Originally uploaded by Chris P Jobling

Week 7 of PLENK2010 is all about the tools. I subject about which I believe I actually have some expertise.

Though the concept of the personal learning environment has been around for the last five years, there has not been a comprehensive summation of what has been developed in the field. We would like to build that summation this week.

Now what tools do we use to build a summation? Is this a job for the wiki which has thus far been sadly underused? Or will we mind map? Google doc?

The Unconceivability of Digital Literacy

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

– Inigo Montoya, the (film of) The Princess Bride. Novel and screenplay by William Goldman.
Week 6: (digital) literacy (skills)
This week, I was in Gegynog at the final meeting of the Gwella participants. While there, a few people mentioned the phrase digital literacy. A variation of the phrase cropped up in the introduction to the readings for Week 6 of #PLENK2010 (see the Wordle above). It’s also a key theme of Robin Good and Howard Rheingold’s post New Media Literacy in Education which was one of the readings. Furthermore, it popped up in Wednesday’s discussion as reported earlier.

Like the Dread Pirate Roberts who keeps climbing the sheer cliffs after Vizzini has cut the rope:


The persistence of this phrase makes me think that it’s a topic that I can get my teeth into for the remaining four weeks of PLENK 2010. Perhaps I’ll be able to find out what it means.

Digital literacy, passion and changing educational paradigms

On Sunday, I finally found the time to listen to the recording of guest Will Richardson, author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, from Wednesday’s #PLENK2010 live Elluminate session. In this session, Will gave a short presentation Using PLE’s Successfully and a couple of things came up.

First was a summary of the recommendations on 21st Century* *Literacies from the US National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) [1]:

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
  • Design and share information for global communities to use for a variety of purposes
  • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.
This is a pretty sophisticated set of competences that I would struggle to demonstrate. It’s even more challenging, when you consider that these are the aspirations of a professional body for teachers of *high-school age* children! Do we even do this for our undergraduate and postgraduate students? Would I and my colleagues be competent to teach these high-level **digital literacies **[2] to them?
The second theme was a set of principles for creating and successfully using a PLE:
– Pursue your passion.
– Read widely.
– Filter.
– Share.
– Add value.
– Be personal … sometimes.
– Manage/balance.

I can see how these principles might apply to my own PLE, which for me is centred around this and the [Learning Lab blog](http://llcommunity.blogspot.com/). But it’s not quite so obvious how it might apply to our students. Too often, we try to get them to engage with the tools of a PLE by telling them that it’s *good* for them, and we then try to get them to engage with a topic related to a course we are teaching or a topic within a course of *our* choosing, and we try to force them to engage by assigning credit. Would they engage more if they were able to *pursue their passion* while we supported their learning as mentors rather than assessors?
In the discussion, will mentioned the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) animation [Changing Education Paradigms](http://comment.rsablogs.org.uk/2010/10/14/rsa-animate-changing-education-paradigms/) which is based on a [speech given to the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson](http://www.thersa.org/events/vision/archive/sir-ken-robinson) [3]. An idea, and its presentation, well worth sharing.
1. *Definition of 21st Century Literacies*, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), February 15, 2008. URL: [http://www.ncte.org/governance/literacies](http://www.ncte.org/governance/literacies).
2. Barbara R. Jones-Kavalier and Suzanne L. Flannigan, “Connecting the Digital Dots: Literacy of the 21st Century”, *Educause Quarterly*, Volume 29, Number 2, 2006. URL: [http://bit.ly/dabAsD](http://bit.ly/dabAsD).
3. Sir Ken Robinson, *Changing Paradigms*, RSA Edge Lecture, 16 June 2008. URL: [http://bit.ly/bMz8FM](http://bit.ly/bMz8FM). video: [http://youtu.be/mCbdS4hSa0s](http://youtu.be/mCbdS4hSa0s). 

Podcast of the Week #7: Pythagoras’ Trousers

The title of this occasional series is a bit of a joke as it’s been several weeks since my last Podcast of the Week post. Nonetheless, it’s worth breaking my silence this week because this month‘s podcast of the week has local and professional interest. I’m a committee member of the Wales South West Network of the Institution of Engineering Technology (IET). Serving in the Young Professionals Network is ‘young’ Rhys Phillips who broadcasts a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) podcast called Pythagoras’ Trousers on Sunday mornings on Radio Cardiff (7.30-8.00 am). Now, that’s not in receiver range here in Swansea, but it wouldn’t be a modern, thrusting radio show if it didn’t also provide a web site for web broadcasts and a podcast.

Although there have been only 6 episodes so far (they’re all still available on iTunes), Rhys has managed to interview some quite high profile people including broadcaster and writer Simon Singh and Project Leader of the Large Hadron Collider Lyn Evans of CERN.  Plus he’s flying the flag for STEM and the IET in Wales, so all power to his elbow.

Bad Times – Good Times

The college newsagent had sold out of The Guardian, so I bought a copy of the latest Times Higher. There were two main features of interest. The first, mostly bad news for the UK academy, were the reports of the likely impact of the Browne review that was published this week
“Lord of the market: let competition and choice drive quality.” The future looks dark indeed, with strong hints (see Leader: A gamble on the Market) of a 70% reduction in teaching budgets and the decimation of funding for non Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

And though Browne’s review is careful to talk only about funding in England, Wales is sure to follow.

Apart from one bright point, hidden away in the Review in Summary

All new academics with teaching responsibilities would undertake a teacher training qualification accredited by the Higher Education Academy.

it’s a tale to take the shine off any academic’s day!

So it was with some relief that the other major feature was a two-article feature on Social Media: Don’t Be Afraid to Share and Face Values. The former features quotes from Martin Hall, Martin Weller, Alan Cann and Jim Groom. Some of whom should be familiar to my fellow #PLENK2010 lab rats. Cann, who’s experiments with student PLEs and FriendFeed inspired me to create a PLENK2010 group (see Tuesday’s post), has some things to say that are apposite to this week’s topic of assessment in PLE:

I don’t want to be building some ghetto destination that students have to go to get marks. If we want our students to build social networks that they will use, we need to use public destinations and online resources that people already have confidence in.

The second article is concerned with the face that people project on the social network Facebook. Apparently, though not as inhibited as people my age and older, young people aren’t as reckless with giving away their personal lives as the media would have us believe.

Life under the microscope

Today’s live #PLENK2010 session was ostensibly about assessment in a Personal Learning Environment but it seemed to be more about how PLENK2010 (the research project) could assess whether the participants (us) could assess their own learning or indeed whether or not it was possible to assess what learning actually happens or could happen in a Massive Open Online Course. In other words, we PLENKers are lab rats running the maze of a completely unstructured learning experience so that the people in white coats can observe us and form theories about how lab rats learn so that they might build the personal learning environment of the future.

(And wasn’t an early lesson of the first two weeks that a platform built by a third-party is not a personal learning environment and is therefore by definition a VLE/LMS and must by the philosophy of this course be a bad thing?)

Maybe I’ve taken the wrong message home with me … but I feel like I’m somehow under the microscope, and I’m not sure that I am comfortable with that role.

One thing I am sure of is that if I set up one of my courses like PLENK2010, my students would have all bailed out by now and I’d be having to justify my teaching methods in front of the Dean.

I might be enjoying myself immensely, despite falling badly behind on my coursework, but I think my students might be more goal oriented, and I’m not sure yet what I can transfer to my own teaching.

Friendfeed groups – a social network for PLENK2010?

In response to George Siemens’ Week 4 discussion topic “Is it the topic or the period in the course?“, Vahid Masrour said

“I have a suggestion… posted in my blog [Where is MOOC’s social network?”], but in a nutshell, i think the MOOC should provide better+easier means to ‘cluster’ for the participants. A Facebook-like profile if you will.”

In one of the comments to Vahid’s post, Rita Kop said:

“We were hoping you as participants would come up with these groups/ connections. Please start these initiatives and get people involved. In a conenctivist [sic] learning event we can all manage, organise and develop structures.”

I saw that as a challenge, and thinking that Friendfeed might be the scaffold on which to build such an ad hoc social network — other possibilities, e.g. Ning or Elgg costing money or hosting to set up — I went ahead and created a public group. The URL is http://friendfeed.com/plenk2010: come on over and see what you think.

This is cross posted from the reply “[friendfeed as missing PLENK2010 social network?](http://ple.elg.ca/course/moodle/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=357#p2597)” which is part of  the Week 2 discussion: [Scaffolds and helpful hints for [PLENK2010] course started by Susan O’Grady]

PLENK2010 – It’s a Marathon not a Sprint!

Losing Contact!

The faciltators said we couldn’t possibly read everything, but I feel like I’ve not read anything from Weeks 4 and 5. As you can see there’s a huge amount of discussion going on in the Week 4 forum and it’s already building up in Week 5 which has just started. And that’s not even counting the twitter feed and The Daily. I feel like a marathon runner who went too fast for the first 3rd and is not going to make the 13 mile marker.

Part of the problem is the encroachment of my real job … but still, I need some encouragement here.

No PLENK this week

Apart from multitasking through the two Elluminate sessions this week and “curating” the course materials in my Week 4 Pearltree, I’ve hardly participated in #PLENK2010 this week. It’s not because of the week four effect discussed in Dave Comier’s blog posting Cluster and Focus -> Surviving week 4 of a MOOC, neither is it the “painful and confusing” nature of this week’s topic PLE/PLN and learning theories. Rather its the imposition of real life. This week is the first week of my University’s new academic year and there’s been just too much to do.

Unfortunately, the materials continue to pile up: 88 unread posts in the 16 Week 4 discussions, countless missed tweets and 6 day’s of “The Daily”.

“Cluster and focus” says Dave … easy for you to say, say I.