Tactical Media/Tactical Teaching?

I spent some time over the summer reading about Tactical Media – hit and run type events that challenge status quo or pose questions to the public. This tactic is not limited to just a political action, as we’ve seen with flash mobs or other spontaneous actions. The more I read about tactical media, the more I think about tactical teaching.

I suppose that a lot of teaching is tactical – short term events leading to a long term outcome – however a lot of current online learning doesn’t really touch on these ideas of spontaneity or in-the-moment teaching. Those are the things I remember most from my own education. Throughout my life I’ve been a bit of a questioner – in high school this tendency could lead my teachers off track so often when the lecture part of class was boring I would ask a question that would eat at an issue that was related but would be sure to railroad the teacher into a monologue that would either be a) entertaining or b) take up a lot of time.

In grade 11 history, we could get Mr. Whyte off track really quickly by mentioning Quebec, French language privilege and the Meech Lake Accord. I’ll never forget those rants – impassioned pleas of “Haven’t the French had enough accomodations from Canada?” and throwing chalk at the board. It didn’t change my view of Quebec (in fact it’s probably made my view of Quebec much more sympathetic), but it did leave a mark.  I’m sure you have those moments where teaching has left an indelible mark on you – otherwise you probably wouldn’t be in the field.

Another related event that struck me was whenever a teacher would stop the lesson mid-stream to either go off on a tangent, or to review something in the moment. It happened in my Math classes in high school (the ones where I was asked if I was planning on taking math higher than grade 12, to which I said no, and the teacher said good) often – talking about a higher algebraic concept then re-teaching the rules of some other concept. The act, stuck with me; the content, well, not so much.

More recently, in CCK08 (hard to believe it’s been four years), Stephen Downes force subscribed everyone to a discussion thread, to illustrate a power dynamic in groups and networks. While a constructed event and not serendipitous, it was brilliant teaching. I’ll remember that for a long, long time.

I often wonder if these moments in time, my personal aha! moments, could be what really are interesting about teaching and learning. More importantly, they may be what I’m missing with the whole Coursera, Udacity, Content Driven MOOT (Massive Online Open Training) thing. Those moments when learning really happens, the moments that stick, they don’t happen in these training events that are out there under the guises of MOOCs. There is no connection between myself and the instructor from Udacity (Dave? I forget his name, nor frankly do I care) for the course I took. I was just a number. There was no tactical teaching that occurred – they may argue that the weekly questions were somewhat tactical, I suppose they might be – perhaps I would feel different if one of my questions were answered. Not that I had questions, I understood the content well enough.  And for the course, that’s the measure of success.

Success shouldn’t be so simple, because success is not a simple condition – it’s complex and situational. Which brings me back to tactical media. Tactical media arises, creates an event as a response to an idea, and then leaves an artifact to ponder. Doesn’t that sound like good teaching?



Curation As A Method of Digital Teaching

George Siemens, Connectivism ruminator, has explored the idea of teacher as a curator previously, and it has come up again today courtesy of a tweet from @hjarche. Even though I was a participant in CCK08, and marginally involved in CCK09, I didn’t recall these ideas of what the teacher would become, although I do recall discussing the concept a few times in the chats in Elluminate. Curation is an interesting metaphor for teaching in the new technological environment – gather and display evidence, sometimes in a structured path, and allow conversation to develop from there. Allow the user/learner to make sense and meaning, then interject to either drive conceptual points further, or provide counter-points. I’d like to think this is what I do, but I’m not so sure. Even though feedback about my teaching is always positive, and people feel that they’ve learned something… I don’t know if that’s true. Maybe I need to ask better questions.

Riding the Wave of Crowds

There’s a lot of talk out there amongst y’all about distributed learning. Considering that we’re on the web and all, that’s a fairly insightful statement. Crowd sourcing was an interesting concept that I hadn’t heard about before, of course I’m not up to date on my marketing theories. I started thinking about how this is partially a business to individuals relationship and how it really emphasizes the power of crowds. Of course, marketing has always been about public opinion and (in my opinion) the power of many to influence.

Originally I read crowd sourcing as crowd surfing, which in my head, could describe the way individuals survey ideas on the web. Pick and choose from search results, go on facebook and ask your network of people questions, search on twitter for tweets about it, read wikipedia – you get the idea. Anyways, like a crowd surfer – you ride the crowd like a wave, eventually crashing to the floor when you have enough information to make a concrete connection to reality again – whether that’s to buy a product, engage in a service, or not do any of that at all.

I like that description of how online activities work sometimes. Plus it’s a nice tie-in to edupunk.

CCK08 Wrap Up

I’m listening to the CCK08 Wrap Up and one of my favourite topics – lurking – came up again. I stated at the time that lurking was a selfish statement – although you could lurk in CCK08, but take your knowledge elsewhere to a different group or network of connections.

Stephen said this in the chat, then expanded on it around the 53 minute mark:

Moderator (Stephen Downes): Yes – the activities themselves bcome patterns that are mtched to competences or expertise – activities = demonstration of performance

Here’s another drawback to lurking, you get no feedback on your thoughts. Yes, I understand the reflective learner, I’m almost always better when I’ve thought about things for a bit (at least that seems to be the pattern). But if you provide no activities to demonstrate your learning, you have a fundamental problem in getting anyone to recognize your ability in that area. Sure, it may be satisfying enough to know you can do it… but unfortunately, very few people will take you at your word. It’s a lot like trustworthyness – you have to earn it. External sources validate the internal ones.

So I’m sorry I missed the wrap up, there’s lots of things I wanted to add during the session, but couldn’t because I was only 8 hours late.

Singularity and Connectivism

Last week, I watched a documentary on Alan Moore, who’s a fairly interesting fellow. One of the things that he said was the rate of information was growing at an exponential rate. For anyone who knows calculus, you can half any number an infinite amount of times and never equal zero – you only get so close to zero that you approximate it. In this case, zero is the length of time it takes for human knowledge to double. So doing some internet research brought up this article about the law of accelerating returns. That article refers to the moment that the double exponential growth of human knowledge and the moment when knowledge grows almost instantaneously as the singularity. Mindblowing, especially so considering that it was written in 2001. If you’re familiar with The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, you know the Vogons come and “pave vogons!over” the Earth at the moment that the Earth (as computer) is to uncover the meaning of life, the universe and everything. So maybe everyone’s read a few too many good books?

As a total aside, if you want to create some bad Vogon poetry, the BBC has decided to allow that to happen. I don’t think they understand what they have unleashed…

Now what does this all have to do with education? Well, clearly, a new paradigm will be required for knowledge growth that expands immediately.

In connectivism, it’s more important to know how to access data, than what the data is. Getting information and assessing it is crucial to applying that information in a successful way. It also addresses the concept of singularity and instantaneous exponential growth of human knowledge. Now, the Kurzweil article talks about how artificial intelligence will be able to exceed human intelligence in the next twenty years or so (although this isn’t a fixed number by any stretch). It certainly is only one hypothesis. The article continues on to speculate about what might occur to allow for this singularity.

Bringing it back to Alan Moore, he also talks about the singularity and addresses it in a more spiritual manner – where this singularity might be seen as a spiritual enlightenment. Kurzweil also points to this as some sort of transformative incident, although the article doesn’t really speculate that much about the future beyond the singularity.

Reflections on The Future and Research – Week 12

CCK08 – I missed the Friday session last week, and the review of it is one that I’m sad I missed. It’s a huge relief to have it over. In the future I hope that courses in this reality we go in a couple of slightly different ways.

The Daily – you need some sort of central location to allow people to sift through the vast array of materials before they can select their aggregation of feeds.

Moodle – I would not use it next time. Strongly suggest blogs, and e-mail a listserv (the Daily listserv?) to announce your blog.

Emotionality – Stephen makes a point about emotions and motivation at 9 minutes or so in the wrap up, and how the student should be responsible enough, and intellectual enough, to disavow those emotions. I don’t think that’s right, or even just. I would hope that someone in my peer group would think of the consequences of their actions, and how it might have an effect on others. I would’ve thought that Stephen would consider another’s emotions, and the emotionality of learning – this stuff isn’t as dispassionate as that. Learning is confusing, frustrating, angering, reflecting… It’s part of the role of a facilitator to consider the emotions of the participants. I don’t know if there’s anything else than that.

Twitter – I never really got this technology. I’m into depth of understanding. I don’t think this provides it. I have an account, follow a few people… but largely I’m not that interested in twitter.

CCK08 Final Piece

CCK08 – Ahhh, the culminating piece of learning. Here’s a synthesis of my connections in the moodle forum that raises a few questions on the nature of memory in a world where everything is recorded (such as the forum). I’ve found I’ve forgotten to remember what was discussed, much less with whom and why. Here’s a 3 minute Flash based presentation about that, created in Camtasia and recorded in my home studio on a Korg D888 multitrack recorder and a sublime Audio Technica AT2020 (really, a great mic at around $125).


Reflections on Systemic Change – Week 11

CCK08 – This was written but forgotten in draft mode for the last week. So, through the magic of the internet, I’ve backdated it to reflect that. It’s interesting to see the connectivism work to some extent in a small class (and let’s face it, this large class is actually a large class with a small active component of 40-50 people). Can this change over into a larger scale? In one of my earliest Moodle postings, I commented that the paradigm had already shifted, albeit that was in reference to copyright, the sentiment is the same. I’m sure there a definite change in how people interact with computers, especially the newest influx of higher education students.

So there’s a change with how people interact with computers, so does that necessarily mean there’s a shift in how they learn? No. It does mean that there’s a shift in how they operate, and in which environments they feel comfortable in. Does that mean there’s a shift in how educators should teach? Yes. In my opinion, good teachers find new ways regardless of what is going on around them. Curiosity should be rewarded.

Dunbar’s number of approximately 150 suggests that maybe networked theories of learning are limited to smaller social connections than what a systemic change might require. Perhaps the weaknesses of prior learning theories were in that they didn’t account for informal learning as much as connectivism does. We’ve been working with Dewey for almost a century, Freire for about half that; not exactly a ringing endorsement of formal education being a social emancipator.

Informal education, well, there’s another story all together. Social organizations understand that formal education is to fit people into roles in society (whether that be engineers, artists, musicians…). Political movements understand that as well, and I think that’s why we see a distinct lack of formal training outside of the corporate world, who wants to deal with the classes, boring lectures and the formality of it all? Anything you need to learn in a social context you learn by doing. Lots of what you learn in school is by listening and reading. Is it any surprise that there’s a gap?

Hopefully connectivism addresses this gap. I think, as it stands now, it does.

Reflections on Openess – Week 10

CCK08 – I have a serendipitous relationship with the world. Case in point, when I decided that the job I am currently doing is not good enough (for me) – three other positions that suit me pop up. When I have to write about openess, and my thoughts about the week, I find this blog post about UVU goes open. Well, the article was posted last week – but much like my life, I’m about a week behind.

What’s interesting about that is that UVU is seen as a vocational University. I’ve always associated openess with regards to philosophy and sociology and history, not necessarily vocations. Of course, why not? I suppose my own perception of vocational skill training as specifically hands-on – but what’s to stop people from working on their own?

I’ve often thought that open courseware was always appropriate for computer skills (with it’s history of open source software, peer to peer sharing and the undercurrent of piracy of software), and I can certainly see that things like automotive repair would and could lend itself to sharing over the web. In fact, the last few times I’ve been interested in learning something new, I invariably end up at YouTube, watching a video how to do it. Installing taps? Attempted to do it (actually couldn’t get the bolts off) without any sort of help – except for the videos online. Configuring software? Went online to find a tutorial. All because someone thought someone else would need it.

In this age of information gluttony, it’s easy to just google it. It’s hard to find experts, though. I think open courseware attempts to address this sort of thing. You don’t have to have a degree in Philosophy to understand Wittgensten (although it probably will help…), see what others say about him. You don’t have to have a plumber’s certificate to do some basic plumbing.

Of course, this is a major adjustment from where we are – socially things are going to change a lot. Sure, you’ll still have dinner parties, events to go to – but some of the culturally diverse things where you meet different kinds of people may start slipping away. The plumber that comes to your house to fix your taps may tell some sort of story that sparks an inspiration or has an effect on your viewpoint of an issue. Or maybe they tells an off-color joke that reflects poorly on them. Strangers are becoming stranger; more estranged if you will. As we become more open in one area are we becoming more closed in others?