Wednesday, February 27, 2008



I was very excited with the concept of BricaBox. Kind of like a Ning for content communities. I love Ning and was hoping to do some quick development work, but it was not to be. I'm not impressed with this site. The set up is straight forward, but I'm not sure what to do with the resulting site. It's bare bones. If you want to dedicate time to do design on the site, it's probably a great platform, however, it's not going to take off until the built-in templates give users a nice looking site to start with. Then they can toy with it later.

Also, the administrative design is difficult to use. I couldn't figure out how to do some of the things that I wanted to do. The most important was to delete the site that I started. If I couldn't delete it, at least give me the option to start over again with the design. Neither seem to be options. Very frustrating.

This is a recent beta and I hope that they can get some money pumped in to work on design elements, both for their site and the user sites.


Goodbye to Small Talk

Recently, I've been thinking about the effect of having so much of our private information online. It's not what you may think, though. I haven't been thinking about the use and misuse of my personal data (though that's an important area of concern as well), but rather I have been thinking that all of these publication outlets, particularly micro-publishing (primarily via social networking applications) are replacing small talk in our interactions.

You may be thinking that this isn't such a big loss. Who cares if I don't discuss the weather with everyone I run into today. However, it goes well beyond that. Between updating our profiles, photo and video sharing sites, and Twitter (or similar application), we are, in a sense, outsourcing our small talk to these spaces. These are the pieces of conversation that we get to know one another over. These serve an incredibly important purpose in our social interactions. What happens when the the normal path of disclosure and discovery is routed through a Web service?

I'm not really saying that this worries me, but it is certainly intriguing. Does this have the same result that database searches had for finding research? Will people forgo the getting to know you small talk for quick searches for people with qualities/interests that they are looking for? If so, what does that do to the diversity of our contacts? Is this the beginning of the era of group think?

Just some questions that I'm asking myself.


Kant Attack Ad

Kant Attack Ad

Thanks to Clay Burell for pointing to this video. The video isn't great, but the concept is. In just about any class there are competing ideas, positions, beliefs, and so forth. This is a great approach to dealing with those AND this is a great example for teachers asking their students to do this or anything like it (I've seen this approach in some Language Arts and History classes).

And here is a Nietzsche attack ad


Monday, February 25, 2008

Six “Key Emerging Technologies” for Higher Ed Profiled in the 2008 Horizon Report | nmc

Six “Key Emerging Technologies” for Higher Ed Profiled in the 2008 Horizon Report | nmc:

Vicki Davis (Cool Cat Teacher) bookmarked this today. Thought that it was good fodder for discussion.

The 2008 Horizon Report marked these 6 "technologies" (some are really just concepts) as THE emerging technologies to watch in higher ed (don't know why they just chose higher ed):
1. grassroots video
2. collaboration webs
3. mobile broadband
4. data mashups
5. collective intelligence and
6. social operating systems

These are certainly some smart bets in the technology realm. I'd have to say that many were emerging technologies to watch in 2007. Grassroots video was certainly a player in 2007, which more and more options for both UCC (user-created content) and small film projects. If they had said interactive video streaming sites, I would have been on board. With and Y! Live hitting bit time in the last couple months, video networking is taking off. With video cameras embedded in most new laptops and the cost of plug-in cameras coming down drastically, we are going to see an explosion of video interaction online.

Collaboration webs were also on the rise in 2007. Though, I have a feeling that this report means what will hit the mainstream. If that's the case, I see that happening more this year. There are many different options for collaborative webs. There are sites that mix many collaborative options like Ning ( or others that specialize on types of media, like Google Docs, SlideShare, and Scribd. These are moving from beta-geeks to classroom teachers this year.

Mobile broadband isn't going to make a splash this year in America. I think that it will in many other countries, but the US doesn't have it yet. Not enough people with the equipment and the service isn't nearly good enough to get mainstream buy-in. This won't happen until people on different providers can easily collaborate with people on other providers. Verizon, pushed by Google, is making the move for openness that could make the market. That's going to take more than a year for buy-in though. I'd say that 2009 or 2010 is really the year of mobile computing in the US.

I'm going to stop there (out of time) and say that the other ideas are right on track. I think that each idea and relevant technologies will gain traction this year and discussions will move in the direction of using the Internet as more than just a delivery platform, but as a networking platform.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Super-speed Internet satellite blasts off in Japan -

Super-speed Internet satellite blasts off in Japan - Thanks to Dave Cormier who Twittered this a couple minutes ago.

Wiring the world is a pipe dream. If we are ever going to really deliver global broadband, we have to take to the sky. Thankfully, the Japanese see a future in this. Everybody just complains how terrible satellite Internet is, but that is the nature of technology. It will suck until someone can make it better. Even the speeds promised here won't be terrific in a few years, but that is why scientists get grants. Go do some science and figure out how to do it better.

As long as we leave Sprint and Verizon up to promoting technology, we'll continue to stay in the Internet dark ages. Companies look for ways to make money, not how to prove new technologies (they let other countries do that and then implement, leaving us years behind). That's why we need cooperation and support from the government (don't talk to me about subsidies for laying line). This type of cooperation keeps bleeding edge bleeding. The only thing bleeding at American communication companies is our American pride.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Connectivism: Coming to My Own Understanding

This is going to be a much longer post than I usually do. Be forewarned :)

I've been intrigued with the concept of Connectivism (George Siemens) for a while now. I've been unhappy with what I see as limitations in other popular learning theories, but wasn't sure which direction to go in.

I've always believed that a good tool changes the way that we work. The computer as tool metaphor has always satisfied me, but not because I don't think it is a game-changer, rather because I think that it is a great tool and it changes the ways we work/live. This is where Kozma left off in his debates with Clark on Media vs. Methods. Not that media itself made a difference in learning/teaching, but that attributes of media changed how we learning/teach.

The following is part of a qualifying exam that I'm writing. This is the section on learning theories. Overall, I will be discussing how changing social and technological conditions are resulting in a paradigm shift in language education (though the same could be said for education in general).

Now, you can agree or disagree with this assertion, but here I'd love feedback on my understanding of Connectivism. If you'd like to focus on Behaviorism, Cognitivism, or Constructivism, that's fine too, but these are just bare summaries. I know that I could add a lot more on each, but that's better left to those that I cite. They already have done a find job.

Any feedback that you can offer would be appreciated. Thanks.


Changing Theories of Learning

Societies change and so do the ways in which we think about learning. Learning theories attempt to explain how we learn and in so attempt to explain the nature of knowledge. The field of education has seen many learning theories come and go over the years, but a few have survived and still influence the design of instruction today, namely: Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism. Recently, a new set of networked theories of learning have emerged to attempt to address social and technological realities that may influence and even change the ways that we learn. Current popular theories will be briefly described and compared and contrasted with the developing theory of Connectivism (Siemens, 2005).


Behaviorism, most often associated with the work of B.F. Skinner (1935) was the most prominent learning theory for much of the twentieth century. Its influence is still strong in the field of education, though it is certainly out of vogue. This theory holds that learning is the result of an event (stimulus), the reaction to that event (response), and the consequences for that response (Burton, Moore, & Magliaro, 2004). Through this process, participants modify their behavior to obtain a favorable outcome.

Behaviorists believe that knowledge is developed through sensory impressions (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). Learners, therefore, build knowledge through everyday experiences in a type of trial and error approach to knowledge-building. Each successful cycle leads to the next. Through these iterative and incremental cycles, we not only learn not to touch a steaming pot, which has an obvious stimulus, response, and consequence, but we also learn how to operate a car, act on a first date, and even speak a language.


Cognitive Constructivism (Cognitivism) is most often associated with Piaget (1952) was popularized as a response to Behaviorism. Cognitivists faulted Behaviorism for a difficultly in accounting for higher order thinking skills and a lack of focus on the mind in learning (Ertmer & Newby, 1993).

Cognitivists are concerned with how learners "how information is received, organized, stored, and retrieved by the mind" (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p. 53). It is often associated with schema theory, information processing theory, and the "mind as computer" metaphor of cognition. It focuses on the promotion of mental processing; how learners think through problems. It endeavors to make learning meaningful to each learner for a particular context (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). The focus is on how learners interact with and process the world.

For Cognitivists, the learning environment is only part of the learning process. It is the most immediate, but it does not and cannot account for individual learners' interaction with the content and the connections that they build between existing concepts and new concepts. These interactions are iterative and accumulative resulting in increasingly complex understandings (Boudourides, 2003). Cognitivists would likely agree that, though there is a correct answer, no two people come to it in exactly the same way.


Social Constructivism (Constructivism) is most often associated with Vygotsky (1978). Constructivism has many similarities to Cognitivism. They both describe theories of learning that emphasize the construction of knowledge; however, they differ in a number of areas. The two most important are (1) the distinctions between realism in the two theories, that learning is the result of interaction with the real; and (2) that social interactions are not only the vehicle for learning, they are the vehicle for development. Growth comes through these interactions (Boudourides, 2003).

Also, whereas both cognitivism and behaviorism are objectivist theories of learning, constructivism holds that there is no knowledge that exists outside of the person; there is no objective reality. We cannot assume that two people understand in the same way. Knowledge is a process of developing understanding of something in a very personal way through situated activity (Duffy & Jonassen, 1992). Learners create meaning from their experiences that are separate and different from the meanings developed by others, even those participating in the same experience. Understanding is based not just on current experiences but the aggregate of all experiences, thus each person brings with him/her a cache of experiences that are brought to bear in a particular situation (Ertmer & Newby, 1993).


Connectivism is an emerging theory of learning presented by Siemens (2005), which is representative of the growing interest in networked theories of learning ( Siemens establishes Connectivism as a learning theory for the digital age, since previous theories do not adequately account for learning when considering the knowledge requirements of the information age. Namely, how does learning theory change when information storage, processing, and recall are off-loaded onto devices and through networked connections?

Siemens defines Connectivism as:

Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing. (2005, Connectivism section, ¶ 1)

In this view of learning, networks (neural, social, and technological) represent a distributed view of knowledge. In the brain, knowledge is distributed through connections between different regions of the brain and in the networks we form (social and technological) knowledge is distributed through connections between individuals, groups, and devices (Siemens, 2006). This means that our network connections are not just sources of information, but the very connections that we make are part of our knowledgebase. This focus on connections between learners and information sources sets Connectivism apart from other popular theories of learning.

Behaviorism and Cognitivism place learning as an internal process and knowledge as an external entity, where learning occurs through the processing of input to arrive at an established knowledge goal. Constructivism places learning as a social process and knowledge as an external entity, where learning occurs through our social interactions and knowledge is constructed through social interactions. Connectivism also places learning as social process and knowledge as an external entity. However, in a Connectivist framework, learning occurs not just through social interactions, but through interactions with and between networked nodes (people, places, devices, etc.). Hence, while a Constructivist would likely see the network solely as a social medium for interaction, a Connectivist additionally sees the network itself as an extension of the mind. Learning is a process of connecting networked nodes and information sources (Siemens, 2005, 2006) to inform individuals’ understanding and application of concepts and processes.

Connectivism is a new theory of learning and is a theory still in development. There has been little, substantial criticism of the theory, though, as Siemens states, there has been significant discussion of the concepts involved (Siemens, 2006). Verhagen (2006) published a brief criticism of Connectivism. He argued that Connectivism is not a learning theory, but rather a view of 21st Century skill sets. It does nothing to describe how humans learn or what the nature of knowledge is. Another criticism was that knowledge cannot exist in “appliances”, which is in response to Siemens’ claim that “Learning may reside in non-human appliances” (2005, Connectivism section, ¶ 3).

The first argument concerns me a great deal. What is the value of a learning theory that does not adequately describe how people learn (not just conditions for learning to occur)? Siemens addresses these concerns in his response to Verhagen (Siemens, 2006) including this very useful table (p. 36) (see Table 1) contrasting Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, and Connectivism.

Table 1 – Siemens’ Contrasts between Learning Theories

[sorry can't put the table here - click here to see the Word doc]

These distinctions and his further discussion on the differences certainly help to clarify how Connectivism can be considered a learning theory. However, the distinction between Constructivism and Connectivism is still difficult to see and raises questions that will have to be worked out in future interaction/iterations of the theory, including:

(a) What is the difference between social interactions and networked interactions? Social interactions certainly happen across multiple networks, through the use of many different tools. What differentiates ; and

(b) Do social engagement and participation correspond with diversifying a network? If so, how is Constructivism different than Connectivism, and if not, how are these practically different?

Verhagen’s second argument against Connectivism regarded the potential for knowledge to be stored in appliances. In my initial readings of Siemens discussion of Connectivism led me to this conclusion as well. Further readings, however, led me to understand that “Learning may reside in non-human appliances” (2005, Connectivism section, ¶ 3) referred to the learning process and not knowledge itself. Siemens (2008) seemed to have confirmed my understanding in a recent discussion on the IT Forum listserv, “In essence, information is a node, knowledge is a connection, and understanding is an emergent property of the network itself.”

Given the incredible changes in how find, process, and store information, in addition to the incredible demands put on us by the influx of information that we are responsible for in daily, not to mention professional, decision-making, looking at alternative learning theories is a worthwhile venture. Connectivism may or may not be able to answer how we do (or will) learn in the 21st Century. It is, however, a good starting point for this discussion as well as a guidepost in our discussion of how language learning and teaching are undergoing great changes.


Wow! You made it all the way through. That's amazing. So, what do you think? Where am I off? Where am I on? Do I need to change careers and go back to being a stay at home dad? :)