Archive for the 'Competence' Category

Blogging prevents perspectives?

One huge argument for using internet in learning, is that it is said to widen perspectives, helping people find different stories and learning people to value the greyscales of the world. This seems to be entirely wrong, according to recent events in Sweden. Here, the most widely sold book ever, “Hidden” in English, by Liza Marklund, has been criticized as a fraud. It has claimed to be a true story about domestic violence and a woman’s struggle, but are now met with another book – “Mia, the truth about Hidden”. This new book claims to hold nothing but the truth, and in the intense debate that has followed, the author Monica Antonsson keeps repeating her demands for the truth. A huge blog storm has broken loose with hundreds of thousands of posts by all kinds of bloggers. After a couple of days, this turned into a foxhunt on Liza Marklund, far beyond journalistic dignity, where she is publicly humiliated.

In the middle of all this are the blog community, which has not at all learned to widen their perspectives, valuing the different stories and see the grey scales. All is about chasing the TRUTH, whatever that means. Remarkably often, the bloggers are adult and educated. And after a couple of week, the press got a little bit nuanced. There were possibilities to find perspectives, even outside the actual books.

 

Sad, if you ask me. And an evidence that the learning perspectives that I promote when talking about blogs, might be wrong. Bloggers might just write as a method of bullying. Bloggers move away from the subjects as they get complex. Afterwards, traces from the battles are left in the form of shallow arguments and insults. Not much to learn from.

 

Are people too lazy to read the actual stories and think for themselves? A book may be a huge mountain to climb apparently. And is it so hard to se the word truth as merely a marketing strategy from thw authors, wanting to make a bit of cash? Are the need for an objective truth an evidence that we are tired of a complex world?

 

Here, but only in Swedish news articles, is an excerpt of this storm:

December 11: http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/artikel_2188885.svd

December 12: http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=3462&a=863185

December 17: http://www.newsmill.se/artikel/2008/12/17/darfor-morkar-liza-marklund-sanningen-om-mia

December 19: http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article4030658.ab

December 19: http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/artikel_2228017.svd

December 19: http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article4032527.ab

December 30: http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=3484&a=868991

January 11: http://www.aftonbladet.se/kultur/bokrecensioner/article4158993.ab

January 12 http://www.newsmill.se/artikel/2008/12/12/liza-marklund-jag-har-aldrig-ljugit

January 12: http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=2374&a=872850

January 12: http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/artikel_2310407.svd
January 12: http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/artikel_2308689.svd

January 12: http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article4170754.ab

January 13: http://www.newsmill.se/artikel/2009/01/13/monica-antonsson-svarar-liza-marklund-darfor-haller-inte-forsvarstalet

January 13: http://www.aftonbladet.se/kultur/article4172778.ab

January 13: http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article4172381.ab

January 14: http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=3484&a=873795

January 15: http://www.newsmill.se/artikel/2009/01/15/sa-odelade-marklunds-artiklar-mitt-liv

January 15: http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/artikel_2330279.svd

January 16: http://www.newsmill.se/artikel/2009/01/16/liza-be-om-ursakt-andamalet-helgar-inte-medlen

January 16: http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?a=874413

January 18: http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=3484&a=875055

January 19: http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article4037426.ab

January 20: http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=2374&a=875555

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Compressing Stephen Downes

downes_04_081Stephen Downes recently wrote a huuuuuge essay about the future of online learning. Ten years ago he predicted the ten years we just put behind us on the same subject. He writes that his visions then proved remarkably robust. Now he renews his predictions for the coming decade. The subject interests me a lot, since I try to put some visionary views into my work. Here, I will try to compress the essay in order to debate the subject.

Some of the predictions are quite simple to make, on the edge of being platitudes –  Teachers and students will have better access to technology, the pace of this change will accelerate. Bandwidth will continue to improve. A wireless mobile internet, with wireless broadband, will develop. Computer capacity is also rising. Portable, lightweight computers in all shapes and sizes will be readily available. More and more powerful tools come at low cost or at no cost at all. Interaction and online conferencing will become even cheaper and more effective. Storage will be cheaper. Processors will be more embedded in everyday devices. Digital tech is becoming part of our lives, embedded in everything. These predictions are obvious.

More interesting is the flexibility and freedom of choice implemented throughout the digital arena, leading to cultural change. This has already started to happen, but in the coming years this will accelerate. An individual will be freed from a certain computer, application or system. Students will also be freed from the classroom. True place independence will revolutionize education. Also, learning will be embedded in other activities.

Schools will be converted into meeting facilities, workrooms, laboratories and multimedia studios with specialized equipment. A diversity on schools will develop, with schools in every shape and form. Learning facilities will use internet to get access to traditional working environments like courtrooms, farms and town councils. We will see traditional forms of education receding gradually to a tide of self-directing and self-motivated learners. Education will be regarded more as a service. The student will be viewed more as a client than as an apprentice.

Personal access devices like mobile phones and lightweight laptops will change the behavior of people who use them, just as mobile phones have done over the last decade. Even more powerful media tools will be accessible through these devices. Learning will be more creative. Students engaged in learning will be seen throughout the community. In the future we should think of students ‘working at school’.

As students’ capacities increase and web resources gets available inside other sites, the place independence will increase also on the web. The student will not be locked to a certain online tool or LMS. These will be more adaptable to use in personal learning environments. Windows, Apple or Linux will not matter any more. The personal learning environment will be available on every machine connected to the web. Different resources on the web will be combined to form a learning environment of high quality learning resources. Multimedia presentations will become more modular and millions of combined resources will create complex and rich materials.

Learning resources should be regarded as words in a multimedia vocabulary used by students and teachers in an ongoing rich media conversation and not bound by copyright and reproduction. The use of learning resources becomes more dynamic. A resource of any kind will be part of multiple courses at once. Individual bits of content will be remixed and repurposed to form new objects. They will function autonomously, connected, interacting, but not joined. Technology of the future will consist almost exclusively of such autonomous objects.

Focus will become more on the individual learner. Networking will be more and more important with learning embedded in other activities. Communities are grown from networks of friends and interest groups. Learners will create their own communities and environments. These can not be constructed by educational institutions, but rather these will support community enabling, with tools and channels available. This is also simpler and more cost effective for the schools.

When online, the emphasis will not be on time, place or formal learning, but meeting individual needs. The Personal Learning Environment will be the central hub for the individual learner to immerse oneself in the flow of communications. Institutions will – reluctantly – develop methods to deliver information to other systems.

The debate over standards and testing will increase. The domains of ‘learning’ and ‘testing’ will separate. Independent testing agencies, as is the norm in some industries, will be a growing trend in learning. There will be greater demand for a formalized system of recognition to demonstrate ones competence without having to go through a formal program of study. What a degree stands for will change. As more and more of a person’s life becomes available online, grades will fade into the background as it becomes easy too see what the student can accomplish directly. Students will demand that there is a human element to evaluation, because they wont be measured accurately by a machine.

The expected diversity of educational providers requires governmental oversight. Economic pressures will prevail. Consequently, educators will focus on providing educational services into self-directed networks of learners. Lawsuits with publishers seeking greater control over the distribution will continue. Innovation will halt as a result of patents and lawsuits. Over time, non-encumbered initiatives will come to dominate. Free standards and not proprietary enclosing of systems will win the fight for the customers. That process will be interrupted, as commercial developers are capable of considerable innovation themselves. Free and open source products will have a bright future. Scientific research and educational content produced through government investments ought to be freely available. The free content movement will continue. Content producers are beginning to understand that it is better to allow their content to circulate freely, as it offers unequalled marketing and promotional opportunities.

While large commercial players will remain in the field of education, volunteer contributions and small enterprise will play an increasing role. Through content distribution networks, those who create work may be compensated – if they desire. The bulk of educational content online will be free to access and reuse, created by governments, foundations, companies and individuals. Two trends prevail: The one about more expensive specialized systems and the one about reuse. Simulations and advanced software will be expensive still and only justifiable by need. A model that puts much of the organization into the hand of students may prove to be much more cost-efficient. Teachers and instructors will be freed from time consuming tasks. Different educational professionals will fulfil different roles, like testing and evaluation specialists, coaches and advocates, content creators and presenters.

To obtain financial return, produced material cannot be digitally duplicated, for the effective value per unit approaches zero; and it cannot be something that the users could easily produce for themselves. Content providers will discover there are much larger markets to be had when they help people create their own content. This will be the basis for the educational marketplace of the future. In general, helping people provide for themselves will provide the best opportunities. Selling people cameras instead of pictures, for example. Course content creation kits instead of courses.

Online learning and conferencing will gain when fuel prices rise. The reason of relocating children to school computers from their own computers will be questioned. Buildings constructed for learning will serve the entire community and not just students. The enormous sums of money spent on books and wall maps will be reduced to a trickle. The need for physical libraries will be obliviated. Savings in staff costs will be realized when the traditional teacher-and-class model is abandoned. Content presentation will be done by computers, or by students for each other. Students will be able to begin working and earning early in their educational career, resulting in a longer period of productivity, and more wealth, opportunities and choices later in life.

As platforms depend more on external services, the question of management becomes more vague. The trend is toward licensing hardware in the same way as we have started licensing software. On the other hand, if the platform becomes an advertising vehicle or an instrument of censorship, it will be eschewed in favour of more useful technologies. Tracking and reporting will be major functions of educational systems. Text-based communication will merge into a single method that may be used either synchronously or asynchronously. The same will happen with video communication. Conferencing will increase in both size and flexibility with near-zero compression and latency. They will be used more like windows, always on, always connected, where you can see other people and chat with them on a casual basis.

Filtering technologies seem unable to block unwanted content as spam, viruses and phishing. So filtering of content by system administrators will remain, unfortunately blocking students access to the entire internet. Filtering may also be used to protect markets for vendors of content. Probably, the only way forward will be to enable people to select what they want, rather than to force them to block what they don’t want. Social networking is one example of this. People wanting safe community standards will use the community as a filter. As people become increasingly frustrated with unwanted content, the internet will resemble less a broadcast medium and more a person-to-person communications medium. Business models based on content distribution and especially advertising will have to take note.

This is my conception of the essay. Several interesting thoughts emerged, I will write a certain post about them soon. You can find the full text on Stephen Downes blog. Myself, I wrote a paper on the subject a few months ago, which is published on the National agency of education and of course here on the blog. Slowly I try to translate the six chapters to English.

Chapter 1 Technology for life or technology in change

Chapter 2 Competence, technology access and digital divide

Competence, technology access and digital divide

spindelWhen Internet had is big breakthrough in the end of the 1990:s, the view on competence, knowledge and education started to change. To read, write and count was the most important competences, but this is not longer enough to fulfil the needs that a changing society demands. To handle the high-tech, digital and global society new knowledge, competence and attitudes are needed. The words digital competence and digital gap are used. The phrase “Digital divide” often regards to the difference between groups of citizens when it comes to computer access and possibilities to handle information via internet.

Digital competence is a wide concept, containing several different parts, from knowledge on handling computers, mobile phones and several applications, to developing a critical and reflecting attitude to ICT. The EU-commission has listed eight key competences for life long learning. One of these competences is digital competence. In Sweden its mainly the National Agency for Education, the KK-foundation, the National Agency for School Development and the National Agency for Flexible Learning that has worked nationally to provide digital competence by initiating and financing different ICT-projects.

The whole society changes with the modern information technology, so schools and teacher programmes has to consider this change. Internet and the technical development puts new demands on the educational organisation and its strategies. The enormous development of the last years social and collaborative media is one example of this development. This can be used in much greater extent than it is today.

Many teachers feel they do not have enough knowledge to use ICT as a pedagogical tool in their education. A new teacher programme that focuses on a new teacher role can meet this and give teachers more knowledge and confidence. When the future teacher programme is planned, ICT, digital competence and internationalization should be regarded. Technology demands an open attitude by the teachers, as there is a steady stream of new tools and methods. This attitude will be met by a new teacher programme. A continuous development of competence is also necessary for a professional teacher trade.

The digital technology needs a developed, modern infrastructure. One of the main reasons that the school world has not aquired the benefits of modern technology is the lack of access. Education has never been regarded as equal to other parts of society when it comes to “IT-fication”. Teachers is one of few trades where its not a matter of course to have a working computer and in the school world, the computer is not always regarded as a tool for learning. This point of view needs to change.

Even the schools and classrooms infrastructure is a problem in many cases, as one has to do with outdated technology and equipment. But by building well designed environments and by using older computers as thin clients in combination with modern computers as work stations, the schools existing equipment would be used better.

There are two reasons for introducing ICT in schools. One is pedagogical. The computer is a good tool for education and ICT supports most subjects and learning situations. The other one is about the schools mission to bride the digital divide, since certain groups will not have access. They can not use a computer at home to work on learning matters, or they do not use a computer at all. Schools have a task to make sure everyone uses a computer as a natural tool. Several other measures are also necessary to bridge the digital divide and to reach the accessibility goal. Among others, support for broadband development.

The second language – a limitation

I try to write this blog in English, as you might notice, even though I’m Swedish. My confidence is fairly high that I can make myself understood in my second language. I always had the highest degrees in English at school, I travelled a lot and I lived in Australia for a while, with a girl and a couple of cats. However, I always find it hard to get my opinions, my humour and my personality through when it comes to communicating in English.

 

I just read an article in the Swedish magazine Skolledaren 11/2008. “Swedish a superior tool – for a Swede”. It explains the issue really well: A second language can never bee as deep and detailed as your mother tongue.

 

In Sweden, there’s a belief that we can communicate well in English. Not perfectly, but good enough. But generally a five year old English kid speaks it better and handles the details of her own language better. Since we can order coffee when on vacation, we gain a certain confidence. This confidence can put us in awkward situations. In the article, the Swedish academy’s Horace Engdahl, who has done research on English literature and held lectures in English for several years, tells about problems he encountered. He always loses debates against English professors, even though he has better arguments and knows the subject better. Because as a foreigner you are always in a rhetorically inferior position. He also tells about his introduction when Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize a few years ago. He was going to say “She has opened her box” for the readers. But when a translator had a look at the introduction, he explained that this phrase was a sexual metaphor. They changed it to “She has opened her casket” which is neutral. For a Swede, these details are very hard to master.

 

Some believe that a small language like Swedish should be replaced and that we should switch to English. But with a language in which we cant handle the complexities and cleverness, we can never make an impression or be convincing. Many Swedish scientists writes in English today, as a method to get international impact. Unfortunately the stylistic errors are plenty and they colour the content. In the end, this creates the opposite effect from what the writer intended. The academic works are not taken seriously and are met with some ridicule. Mr Engdahl tells about French students who read Swedish articles written in French on their free periods, with its unintentional obscenities that occur in the Swedish school-French.

 

There is a belief that a language is just a system of labels that we can change for the corresponding labels in every other language. But a language is a conception of the world, and where Swedish is a very concrete language, English is more well-presented. French on the other hand is full of conceptual definitions, constant thesis and conclusions. A Swedish way of reasoning would seem a little bit primitive to a French. A native is used to these errors in a certain extent, but the patience is limited. In Sweden there are a high number of immigrants, and they face the same kind of problems. The Swedish-Iranian writer Fateme Behros writes in Swedish. An example of this problem is when she formulated the phrase “You lie like a dog”. But in Sweden a dog is a respected animal. Consequently the phrase did not work in Swedish.

 

When asked about beautiful words in ones own language, magical, poethical, clever or just efficient ones which opens up emotions appear. The article has a few Swedish examples: Sommarvind – which is almost identical in English. Fjäril – which is entirely different in English – Butterfly. A direct translation of butterfy to smörfluga would be quite strange and not very attractive to a Swede. DagsmejaMiddday thaw, which is a little different too. And how do we translate the concentrated cleverness of Rävslumra – to slumber lightly and on guard? The Swede who thinks its enough to “communicate” has without understanding it, very low demands of complexity.

 

To be witty, funny or angry is extremely hard in your other language. We have no access to the deep emotional layers needed to be expressive. The second language becomes numb. Even in our best other language where we think we have a direct understanding, the brain works hard during a translation process. The neurological energy need makes us tired after a short while when trying to replace labels.

 

The article has a very thoughtful ending: English has entered Swedish education as a language of learning. It is a social experiment without analysis of the consequences. We think that we get access to the riches associated to the English language, but there is a self contempt in not valuing our own language higher. Most of us will speak a kind of limited pidgin English without knowing it. A version of English that can never compare to the language of the natives. For a Swede the Swedish language is the main route to intellectual development.

 

Of course all of us trying to handle the Internetized world face this problem too. Myself, I make errors all the time and hope for your understanding. My best help is the lexin dictionary and some strange confidence of what sounds good.

Knowledge for life or knowledge in change?

Here is a summary of the first chapter from the report “The future of learning” that I have co-written.

Today, learning is regarded as a fundamental condition for the development of our society.  Sometimes we forget that the humanity throughout history has been forced to aquire new knowledge to understand the world and work socially. Of course we need new and different capabilities than we needed just a few decades ago.

Lifelong learning has became a key comcept in discussions around learning. But what do we need to learn for the society of tomorrow? Both the youth- and adult educational programmes follow the pattern of traditional education in a traditional school environment. Despite large investments in ICT (information and communication technology) in school, the everyday of pedagogy is not very different from the situation 25 years ago. One reason that the educational world is lagging behind in the use of modern technology is the lack of the relevant technology.  There is an expectation that schools will develop the use of ICT without getting real means to do it. Technical development will continue regardless of the development in education. How will schools take part of this development?

In the digital society, the citizen is always connected. The technical gadgets and the web are used as tools, socializing with family and friends, but also as participation in society. It opens for learning, both individually and togeter with others in learning communities.

The learning theories that were created before ICT changed the conditions for learning is no longer enough, George Siemens claims regarding his own learning theory “Connectivism”.  Lifelong learning takes place in formal education, but in the future,  it will even more occur in experiences throughout our private life and work.  Borders between formal and informal education are dissolved and learning takes place in global networks, where knowledge are created and shared between individuals and organizations. Knowledge banks grows fast, but at the same time the knowledge gets obsolete faster.

With the access to collective knowledge, there is no longer any use to gain huge masses of knowledge beforehand, but rather to know where to find the knowledge that are needed to solve a problem or make a desicion.

For each individual it will be necessary to gain information competence, to be skilled in handling, valuing and work with information. An analytical skill and a well developed skill to estimate reasonableness and probability to gain the information that is needed for the moment. There will be expectations on the individual to cooperate and have a high presence on the web.  As a citizen of the future knowledge society one will use a collaborative way of working.  It brings possibilities to work and learn in social networks, where members can be spread over the world.

The future of learning

I participated in a group of three members during the spring and summer. We explored the trends of learning and tried to come up with ideas for the future. Interviews and printed sources, such as the Horizon report were used. Six main areas were identified and we publish our report soon, only in swedish though.

The six areas are the following:
– Knowledge for life or changing knowledge
– Competence, technical access and digital gap
– The social web
– Individualised learning
– Motivation and work tools
– The need of a national initiative

I will explain the different areas in coming posts on my blog.

Competence and digital gap

Of course it is not easy to change the learning community. One of the main problems is that many teachers and many students do not have the competence right now, to take advantage of the tools that are available on the web.

For some reason, it is often presumed that the students, particularly the younger ones, automatically has huge knowledge of the web. But this is not the case. Some do, but mostly it is very shallow. If you can handle your Facebook account, does that mean you can use the web and web2 as a meaningful learning resource or your personal learning environment? I am not so sure.

And the teachers… I feel a bit sad for them, beacuse they always get the blame for the system errors. The whole education system is slow, conservative and of course, lack the recourses to be in the front line of the development. Continuation courses in digital media would be very clever to make teachers  more competent in these matters.

This slow system is confronted with students that are extremely fast to pick up new trends and new methods. So it leaves a large gap between the scool and the individual. Also it leaves a gap between the school world and the business world, which uses these tools more and more.

So I can identify four parts with gaps between them, when it comes to digital competence: the student, the teacher, the school world and the business world. Since three of these parts are in the same system, it is meaningful to aim recources toward these and make a real change.


About this blog

Starting from a project about foreseeing the future of learning, this blog is an output of thoughts, ideas, comments and research. I am trying to be practical too, providning examples of the different aspects of the subject. My name is Pelle Filipsson and I work as a web pedagog.