Connection not Content

A Blog for MOOCs and Other Animals

#Change11 :: Disconnection not Discontent

with 4 comments

I’m trying hard to be a Lurker but keep being drawn in, fascinated by all the activity and the sterling efforts made by the facilitators in sharing their time and expertise. Now I’m reduced to throwing down a few disconnected notes – nothing like a bit of chaos and confusion! So here goes:

  • What’s Education for?  – I’ve pondered this before – society and the individual need myriad survival skills. These range from very basic to countless specialist skills for trades, professions, humanities and whatever else contributes to human wellbeing. The survival problems currently facing humanity are complex, global and inter-related. They will not be understood or competently addressed by under-educated populations. Also, the effective, rational and sometimes painful solutions to these problems are more likely to be democratically acceptable to educated populations.
  • What’s Education Theory for?  – Lacking the same solid factual (yes facts!) basis and predictive power of the widely accepted scientific theories, education theory attempts to guide rather than dictate. As all sorts of theories and metaphors bubble away in the pot, the body of knowledge surrounding education is debated, tested and refined. The more acceptable parts emerge to have a disproportionate influence on received wisdom and ultimately on practice. When I was a boy, corporal punishment was justified in schools and practiced by many otherwise competent teachers – now it’s almost entirely taboo. Presumably, this was the result of a steady percolation of ideas from broadly accepted theory to practice.

    If the purpose of education theory is to influence and guide education practice then how should a new theory be presented? Given the current situation of real classrooms, lecture halls, inflexible curricula and the burden of assessment, the concern of many educators will often be less with turning established pedagogy upside down than with cheerfully exploiting the bits and pieces of whatever theory or theories fit their particular circumstances. A theory with good predictive value and a compelling message that can be translated into the specificity of action deserves to be trumpeted loudly and clearly !

  • What’s Dave Cormier for? – Change of course, and that’s a fact! The massive effort he put into his Change11 week was very impressive. Regrettably, I’ve had little time to delve much into Rhizomatic Learning but I did find the recordings informative. On the mattter of ‘alienation‘, I can understand why some aspects of the presentations might be considered unsettling. Trying to talk sense and keep an eye on the text chat while some participants simultaneously scrawl over the screen seems above the call of duty! Someone suggested that facilitators might consider initially setting the scene a little more formally – a prepared video for example and this makes good sense to me.
  • What’s this Blog for? – I’m beginning to wonder as it’s rambling all over and out of control – but this a MOOC and I’ll do what I like! There’s a bit of self-discovery involved – perhaps it’s becoming more like ‘notes to myself’ – but I’m not discontented and we’ll see how things go.

Written by Gordon Lockhart

November 15, 2011 at 7:54 am

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4 Responses

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  1. I enjoyed your muse. “A theory with good predictive value and a compelling message that can be translated into the specificity of action deserves to be trumpeted loudly and clearly !” Have you found the theory that matches particular predictive value? What could likely be predicted is really hard to find, as I realised that some learners prefer simple, basic sort of instructions, delivered by people of the similar racial and cultural background, though I wouldn’t say that is the universal case. That’s only my observation, but I am not that sure if one could predict, given the complexity of life. The only prediction that I could make is the assumptions – which I often found to be doubtful in education and learning theory, especially when the context and people involved are important consideration. Musicians trained musicians, doctors trained doctors, but are educators training educators? I am not sure some scrawling over the screen is a concern, as an educators, and I haven’t found the video link. So far if it is about learning in MOOC, I would surely like to think in terms of engagement, rather than dis-engagement. I think rambling has its value, at least at “our” age, where it is also a self-discovery of what actually happened, not another theory. So nice to learn these with you. John


    November 15, 2011 at 11:52 am

    • Thanks for your comments John. I can’t say I’ve found much current education theory or metaphor with clear predictive value – but could be me as I’m not too familiar with the literature. My problem is that I find it difficult to see much value in theory that can’t be pinned down one way or another for application in the field. Yes it’s hard to predict for reasons such as you give so I’d prefer to see much more effort going into field work – more of a ‘bottom up’ rather than ‘top down’ approach. Taking the other point re ‘scrawling on screens’ as an example, let’s suppose that an online presenter acting from a theoretical perspective predicts that encouraging a certain set of participants to paste the screen with anything they like during a presentation is good for learning and that subsequently there are mixed feelings about its efficacy (perhaps with a mixed bunch of teenagers things get out of hand!) The questions surrounding the detailed circumstances of such an experiment (What type of participant does this work for? How many? How familiar were they with this approach at the outset? Is the problem that the presenter (unlike DC!) can’t multitask? etc etc) are just as important, probably more so to an educator trying to do a job, than whether the theory is a particularly good match or not.



      November 15, 2011 at 3:58 pm

  2. Hi Gordon, nice way to say it: Lacking the same solid factual (yes facts!) basis and predictive power of the widely accepted scientific theories, education theory attempts to guide rather than dictate.
    Education theory is non-exist. It is philosophy of low order. Lots of people tell teachers what to do and in the end the teacher has to invent his own education.
    I try to find other ways of discussing education. But I am afraid facts are not abundant in educational philosophy.


    November 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    • ‘Philosophy of low order’ 🙂 I like it! As a techologist used to things being factually true or false I find much of the philosophical machination surrounding learning theory difficult to swallow! Gordon


      November 29, 2011 at 5:15 pm

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