Monday, December 6, 2010

Our cool video!

Final project does not mean the final for learning or the final for fun. Yue and I want to extend our enjoyment in this course, and thus collaborate on creating a video.

We are trying to reflect what web 2.0 and participatory learning mean to us, and express our personal feelings. Learning with technology and in a participatory way brings a lot of convenience, a lot of fun, and a lot of harvest. As we're international students in our first semester, adapting is painful. Culture shocks, language non-proficiency, new technologies and heavy load of work, all these pour to us. The swamp obstructed our steps. I'm so grateful to the support from friends and encouragement from professors, which helps maintain my conviction and confidence.

Anyway, it is painful but rather fruitful and full of joys, to produce this video, and to have actually learned something after such a busy semester. The sense of achievement works a bit for that joy, and every tiny pieces of implication/ enlightenment. As a student majoring in education, all the classes that I have taken are precious treasure for me to learn (Like a large amount of case studies~).

Blogging is really an effective method of reflecting our learning, and a great way to practice English writing for our international students. I don't feel as nervous as writing a formal paper. Instead, I know that some critical friends are going to read my blogs and I expect their comments (Eric Baumer, Mark Sueyoshi, & Bill Tomlinson. Exploring the Role of the Reader in the Activity of Blogging). So I write in a way of narration, like talking with those friends. I also consider my reflection blog as an ideal place to keep notes from articles, lectures and some other resources that I learned.

We mix many technologies for communications in the video, for they do provide us convenience. Whatever synchronous or asynchronous, they bring us together on the Internet, without the limitation of time and space. We use them to collaborate on academic work, and to know each other in daily life as well. Life is not all about study, and peers are not only co-workers. When living and working in an friendly environment, we will hopefully be more productive.

"Gift culture" is a notion that I love greatly. So we talk about OER, in an emotional way. It feels like many people are offering help to each other. Everyone can be accessible to the world talent. But informed by Jason's words, OER is not always perfect. It's like buying things: we have to accept the flaws of free things; but we will get equivalent services when paying for it. Anyway, OER movement is beneficial to many learners and institutions. And I'm one of them~

I tend to use elaborations or metaphors/analogies to help understanding. It's way of grasping distinguishing features of our learning object through comparison and analysis. And can be fun~ Hope those metaphors in our video can work for explanation, and create a little bit fun~

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What's learning like in people's eyes

All the way through learning in R685, I have heard about different scholars talking about their unique understanding of WHAT IS LEARNING LIKE, such as "I participate, therefore I am". It is such an engaging topic for us to think about!
Except explanations from those dominant learning theories, the following are vivid,fresh and meaningful.

As I have written about, John Seely Brown represents the idea of LEARNING BY PLAYING. "We can make learning fundamentally fun."  He suggests an extension as what shows in the picture above. In the homo sapiens' world, tools are instruments in order to get something done; while the homo faber world begins to think of tools as a device to engage productive inquiry. A new notion is homo ludens, man as player. When learning like playing, learners are encouraged of being in freedom to fail, fail and fail again and then get it right, with their passion all the way. It's a play of imagination. They are also encouraged of learning as "riddles", leading to a reframing or re-registering of the world. The epiphany occurring in that process often maintains in the long-term memory.
Learning by playing indicates high motivation, full engagement, great freedom, lasting interest and concentration. I have been playing online games for a period of time. I was always thinking what makes games so attractive that players seldom get bored. There are stimuli from different dimensions: sense of achievements from every incentive, competition with other players, encouragement from peers, enjoyment of game contexts, etc, etc. All that I can come up with seems applicable to our learning as well. But very often it's not the case for us. Why can' t we learn like playing games? As long as touching the deep joy of learning, we cannot stop going on.

Another is Dr. Paul Kim, the researcher of mobile learning. He talks a little bit about his view of learning and teaching in the week 13 video chatting session. I'm not sure whether those pieces of words compose his entire opinion, or whether it is different from "learning by playing". But I think that is his deep-seated belief, which guides his research and his method to help those kids in the developing world. Let me introduce a little separately, as it is from a different but the same wise person. ^^
Call it LEARNING BY EXPLORING for a moment. Paul believes the ability of every child. He believes kids can explore and discover knowledge by themselves or by communication and collaboration among peers, without much help from the teacher. As to teaching, giving everything does not equal to learning everything; telling is not the true teaching. Teaching can somewhat shift to coaching, which provides students with adequate freedom to explore, to try and finally to learn.
We, as promising instructors, talk about individual difference from the very beginning of learning educational theories, but sometimes end up concentrating on our strategies, technologies, system models, etc, while the concept of learners almost throwing away. Maybe the role of teaching is not only coaching, but also tutoring or mentoring. Maybe education is not that powerful. What's truly powerful is men's ability to learn. Maybe teacher is not that important. What facilitates learning is the context and a desire to learn. Teachers facilitate those facilitators.

Ha, my thoughts are rambling...

Relevant Articles: 
John Seely Brown (2010, June). Closing Keynote at the New Media Consortium 2010
      in Anaheim, CA. A Culture of Learning. Gardner Campbell’s reflective blog post:; Video of keynote:


(For week 14.)
I have been holding a bias that the content of podcast is always audios. A correct definition for a podcast can be "a digital media file (or series of files) that is distributed over the Internet." We have podcast, as well as vodcast which adds video to the podcast. 
Audios add a different way to learn or layer of understanding for students. It's like the use of video, in line with the effect of dual coding theory. Cognition involves the activity of two distinct subsystems, verbal system and non-verbal system. Podcast extends learning beyond text to visual or aural memory, thereby fostering students dual coding of information (Paivio, 1986 from Lin, 2010).
Teachers can podcast to record lectures, summarize key points, show additional resources, etc. Students can use it to reflect their learning (as some of classmates have done), do projects, also show additional resources, etc.
In this respect, videos on YouTube can be called podcast. Blogs that contain videos or audios can also be called podcast. Podcast is a kind of broadcast. Then what's its difference from other resource sharing formats such as YouTube uploading and sharing activities in social networks? or is it a different dimension from them? I am slightly confused about this...

Suprisingly, I read from a survey in 2007 that 86.2% of the podcasters are males. Similiar phenomenon to contributions to Wiki. More than 90% pocasters have at least high school education. Similar to uploaders of YouTube. More than 80% are working full or half time and more than 60% are not single. Maybe work and love provide people with more experiences that worth sharing? 
Podcast is not that money-consuming, but there's a conclusion that "North American podcasters tend to spend more money on podcasting than European podcasters". I'm just curious about how to spend money on podcasting...
Podcasters tend to target their audience to a small group and they interact well with their audience, via email or blogpage. Almost every podcast comes with a blogpage, but podcasters distinguish themselves from bloggers (How about classmates who do podcasting?^^). 
People do podcasting mostly to share information or express their opinions.
In my eyes, podcasting is almost the same as blogging. The only difference is their formats of presenting information. One is in video or audio while the other is in texts.

Relevant articles: 
Mocigemba, Dennis, & Riechmann, Gerald (2007, July). International Podcastersurvey: 
       Podcasters - who they are. How and why they do it. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, 
Bonk, C. J. (2008, March). YouTube anchors and enders: The use of shared online 
      video content as a macrocontext for learning. Paper presented at the American
      Educational Research Association (AERA) 2008 Annual Meeting, New York, NY.
Jason Lin. (2010). The Open Source and Open Education Movement. Web 2.0 and 
      Emerging Learning Technologies from Wikibooks

Learning with mobile

(For week 13.)
This week we had a great guest speaker Paul Kim, from Stanford University. He has been doing abundant studies in mobile learning.

Most of his research is conducted in developing countries where children have few accesses to education, even fewer accesses to life of average standard. Paul developed a kind of mobile device with his group and sponsoring companies, and handed out these devices to each child. Kids were allowed to explore them without teacher's guidance, and in all cases they successfully got familiar with the use of devices through discussion and collaboration. Children can play different games in the mobile device, which involves the knowledge of math, language, etc. There are hundreds of levels in these games. Children can advance to next level by some efforts, but there is always another next level waiting to be achieved. Even Paul himself cannot achieve the highest level. It is such a great motivation for children to challenge, so as to keep learning.
These places for experiments are often poor areas. In some of them, electricity is available for only two hours a day. However, mobile devices need to be charged, and children have to connect their devices to a computer for updating of game programs inside. Paul talked to some univesity, residents and so forth in that area, to establish simple charging stations and computer service centers for all the kids. There are even some cute bicycles on which children can ride to charge their devices. The problem of sustainability seems almost solved.

This is really an amazing work that does help provide education to less developed regions, and gets satisfactory results. We may ask why it is mobile learning method that has been chosen, rather than popularizing computers or some other technologies. Paul considered that people in those areas do not have steady access to the Internet, electricity or even schools. Consequently, the benefits of Internet-based programs cannot reach these populations. Mobile technologies, on the other hand, are more economical, portable and flexible than traditional conputers.
I agree on its protability and flexibility, but cannot help doubting whether mobile technology is economical enough. Paul said each of these devices costed $50. Much less than a computer. However, although those children picked as Paul's experimental subjects have got access to mobile learning devices, many other children do not have the chance. If we think of generalizing mobile learning to all the developing world, who will take the charge of providing those devices and services? Obviously Paul cannot afford the large amount. $50 is not very much to US citizens and many other populations, but it can mean a lot to most of people who are still struggling on the poverty line. So, I really want to ask that in what circumstances can this mobile learning method be able to generalize?

Relevant articles:
Elizabeth Buckner & Paul Kim. (May 15, 2010). Storytelling among Israeli and
       Palestinian children in the era of mobile innovation. (to be pulished in) AECT 
       2011 Educational Media and Technology Yearbook. Volume 36.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Learning by playing

(For week 11.)
Some scholars, instructors or educators believe learning to be fun. "Learning by Playing" is such an intriguing and exciting slogan!
John Seely Brown said in a video that we can make learning fundamentally fun. When learning like playing, learners are encouraged of being in freedom to fail, fail and fail again and then get it right, with their passion all the way. They are also encouraged of learning as "riddles", leading to a reframing or re-registering of the world. 
Games provide learners with a new learning context, in which "recreation facilitates re-creation". 

Inspired by this idea, people are now applying serious games and virtual worlds in educational context. These games often use three dimensional spaces, allowing learners to step inside the screen of their imagining. Besides the visualization, serious games and virtual worlds also allow us the potential to: provide support for our learning communities; broaden our networks of learners; provide tools to support creative learning activity and experience design.
The possibilities of the 3D web include the capability to integrate these and other
2D tools and tool kits, to support learner-generated content, to enable sharing of content and to allow us to visualise more clearly different scenarios of practice.
Game-based and virtual world applications has the capacity for integrating with different media and interactive resources, as well as integrating with available social software and collaborative tools. This opens up the option for learner groups studying out of normal hours of learning, or beyond the timeframe of the course, and open up real potential for learning outside the standard institutional framework.
With all these merits, serious games are not necessarily perfect. Work to enforce academic rigour, analysis and synthesis, as well as meta-reflection and higher order cognition, needs to be considered in learning design.

Interestingly, much evidence shows there is no significant difference between serious games and face-to-face or blended learning. Multi-modes of learning often accelerated learning and longer retention of information results. However, some studies indicate that game-based learning can change attitude, and can be engaging and motivating for learners.

Relevant articles:
Bonnie A. Nardi, Stella Ly, & Justin Harris (2007). Learning conversations in World of 
      Warcraft. forthcoming in Proc. HICSS 2007. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from
John Seely Brown (2010, June). Closing Keynote at the New Media Consortium 2010 
      in Anaheim, CA. A Culture of Learning. Gardner Campbell’s reflective blog post:; Video of keynote:
Sara de Freitas (2008). Emerging trends in serious games and virtual worlds. Becta:
      Emerging Technologies for Learning, 3, 57-72. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from

Online rivals inperson

(For week 10.)
When talking about web technology for learning, we can never forget online courses. I myself am taking an online course this semester, which troubles me a lot, but also teaches me a lot. 

I have read about a study of comparing the online learning engagement between distance learners and on-campus students. Those conclusions are surprisingly applicable to my situation, the same as what I have experienced and observed. Distance learners tend to experience “higher levels of academic challenge and reflective thinking, gain more in terms of practical competence and in personal and social development“, interact more with faculty, and participate more in leaning communities and independent study (Chen, Gonyea, & Kuh, 2008). They reveal weakness in only one area - active and collaborative learning.  
As an on-campus student, I spent long time getting used to online learning, including e-reading, weekly discussion in the OnCourse forum and cooperation with distance students. Because I have to disribute my concentration to different courses, I didn't perform actively enough in group work earlier this semester. With the majority in our group being native speakers, I cannot understand many of their words typed during the group meeting. (We use breeze for meeting, but all of us tend to type...) I apologized a lot for my slow reaction in English. When I saw comments like "Shuya need more participation" in the mid-term peer evaluation, I was really embarrassed and stimulated. From then on, I tried to speak more, take more of the tasks, and reply to group emails as soom as possible. I don't know how much I have improved my performance or whether group members feel better about me. Whatever, I have tried my best...

This article mentions some recommendations for encouraging active and collaborative learning, which is from Dr. Bonk and Zhang. Online instructors can design assignments that feature group discussion, collaborative problem-solving, case studies, group blogging, team reflection papers, and debates. Assigning every student a "critical friend" in the class who provides feedback on course assignments is one way of ensuring that distance learners interact with peers. These are valuable online teaching methods that I need to write down and refer to when necessary.

Relevant articles: 
Chen, P., R. Gonyea, and G. Kuh (2008). Learning at a distance: Engaged or not?.  
      Innovate 4 (3). Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from

Videos as visualized educational resources

Life on the Internet can be quite colorful and entertaining. Some do blogging, some chat with friends, some have online classes, and some search for information. Someone found that 69% of internet users watched or downloaded video online; 14% had posted videos. Online video is playing an important role, not only in amusement, but also in education. 
Several reasons lead to the prevailing of videos. First, technology has rendered many of the processes of media creation, distribution, and consumption faster and less costly than ever before. Second, public expectations about the availability of media have grown to the point that many people consume and freely exchagne media property - including private, copyrighted property - each day in the course of their personal and professional lives. Third, new companies, enterprises, and initiatives regularly exert game-changing influence in film and elecrtonic media.
The most popular online videos are comedy or humorous videos, with 50% of online adults reporting to have watched. Educational videos has gained its proportion from 22% to 38%, between the year of 2007 and 2009. Older video watchers, in contrast, are more likely than 18-29 year-olds to spend their time watching news video and educational videos. They are just as likely as the youngest adults to upload video. And internet users with at least some college education are more likely to upload video than are those with less education. Someone describes our cultural shift today as one from book literacy to screen fluency where video is the new vernacular - a "world beyond words."
The copy right issue is always important. The majority uploaders are not concerned that someone might copy or use their video without permission (Just 15% are very concerned about potential copy or use of their video). This is in line with the feature of video sharing sites. The most popular sites for video uploading are social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook (52%) and video-sharing sites like YouTube or Google Video (49%).
Video is an important format of education resources. But videos are not systematically integrated to instruction. There is a demand for digital video assets among faculty. However, they lack identifiable, high-quality content libraries and simple, reliable tools for customizing the video to their curricula. Faculty report that they want to have a central role in determining and ideally customizing the content in their libraries. It maybe a feasible way for faculty and librarians to collaborate in the creation of video resources, with the support of advertisers.

Relevant articles:
Kristen Purcell (2010, June 3). The State of Online Video. Pew Internet & American 
      Life Project. Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Peter B. Kaughman and Jen Mohan (2009, June). Video Use and Higher Education: 
      Options for the Future. 

Wiki, a place for creation, construction and collaboration

(For week 8.)
Wiki is a useful tool, including Wikipedia, Wikibooks, etc. "A wiki makes it easy to swap ideas and information on projects--whether for a family vacation or a complex business enterprise. A wiki opens the door to experts and shy silent types alike, increasing creativity, expertise, and productivity all around. Wikis end the waste of ricocheting emails and communication breakdowns--wikis literally get everyone "on the same page" (From

The article I learned investigates the relationship between users' behavior in Wikipedia and their cultural backgrounds. Findings suggest that cultural differences do exist in their computer-mediated communication (CMC). 
This article refers to Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory when discussing users' cultural background. The four dimensions are Power Distance, Collectivism versus Individualism, Femininity versus Masculinity and Uncertainty Avoidance. Power distance means the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.
The Collectivism versus Individualism dimension describes the extent to which members of a culture rely on and have allegiance to either their self of the group. The Femininity versus Masculinity dimension deals with gender roles and their importance on individual and cultural levels. And Uncertainty Avoidance describes the extent to which people feel anxious or uneasy in unfamiliar or unpredictable situations.
With this perception, the research finds that:
  • The higher the Power Distance Index (PDI) of a country, the fewer deletions are made in that Wikipedia page (but the more likely there are bo be Spelling correction contributions).
  • The higher the Individualism Index (IDV) of a country, the less likely its people are to add or clarify information, and lower the IDV of a country, the more conributions can be found in the categories Add Information and Clarify Information.
  • The higher the IDV of a country, the more contributions are made by members of the particular Wikipedia page in the corrective categories Fix Link, Grammar,  and Spelling.
  • The higher the Masculinity Index (MAS) of a country, the more contributions in the categories Add Information and Clarify Information are found (In countries with a relatively higher MAS, success and progress are more important than in countries with a lower MAS); but the less likely corrective contributions are within Fix Link, Grammar, and Spelling.
  • The higher the Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) of a country, the larger the number of contributions is in the category Add Information; and the less likely contributions are in the categories Delete Link and Mark-up Language
This research is conducted among Wikipedia websites of France, Germany, Japan and Holland. I cannot help thinking of my country, China. In fact Wiki is not widely accepted in China, the same as facebook, youtube and some other social networks and resource sharing sites. The language maybe one of the reasons; the special consideration from the government is an important factor as far as I understand. We have our own online encyclopedias, and each page is strictly scrutinized. That differs from the freedom of Wiki. It seems a sad situation, for our connection to the world is obstructed to a large extent. 
Anyway, these findings must be applicable to Chinese computer-mediated communication as well.

One of the guest speakers this week introduced her research of using Wiki in early childhood education. This implies the application of Wiki in collaborative learning. It also promotes creation and motivation. In this way, students are constructing their own knowledge. A pretty effective teaching method!

Relevant Articles: 
Pfeil, U., Zaphiris, P., & Ang, C. S. (2006). Cultural differences in collaborative 
      authoring of Wikipedia. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(1), 
      article 5. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from

Friday, December 3, 2010

From brains to the net? Episode Two - Brains

Another article of week 7 that intrigues me a lot is Is Google making us stupid from Nicholas Carr. It arouses our attention to the impact we have got from modern technology, especially the Internet. 

Let's see what Carr holds in his mind:

He starts with the feeling of his brain being tinkered, his neural circuitry being remapped and his memory reprogrammed. 
All these are due to the way in which information is presented in online searching and surfing. Google is a representative. The Google way of information presentation is featured by hyperlinks. Unlike footnotes i academic articles, hyperlinks don't merely point to related works. Consequently, they may lead us to a page that has nothing to do with our original purpose. Online reading also put "efficiency" and "immediacy" above anything else. People browse through titles, contents pages and abstracts, to get information they need. This may lead to the lack of deep reading, and then thinking.

Yes, there are some relationships between reading and thinking. "Reading, explains Wolf, is not an instinctive skill for human beings. ... We have to teach our minds how to translate the symbolic characters we see into the language we understand. And the media or other technologies we use in learning and practicing the craft of reading play an important part in shaping the neural circuits inside our brains" (Carr, 2008). So it can be predicted that the circuits woven by our use of the Net will differ from those woven its change to our reading habits. The Internet also distracts our attention by its specific way of appearing on the computer screen. All the things are shown in the less than 16 inch area right in front of us. Messages from email, IMs, or social networks can easily attract us from our reading on the computer. Our concentration is diffused.

Here are metaphors of the typewriter and the clock. Someone writes tighter and more telegraphic after using a typewriter. The prose "changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style." While since the advent of clocks, people started to decide their daily activities obeying the exact time. Their brains seem to operate like clockwork. Correspondingly, in such a digital era, we inevitably start to think of our brains as operating like computers.

I seem to be convinced by Carr to some extent. Thinking of the way we think now, I cannot deny that we tend to pursue the amount of information that we know access to, instead of having our specific view or profound understanding of a certain topic. Imagining that we don't have a clock, or don't have a computer, our life and our thoughts will obviously be different. 
However, does distraction and shallowness equal to stupidity? or is it the truth that our brains are entirely shallowed? I don't think so. On the one hand, we have not lost our ability of thinking critically and deeply, even though in many cases we haven't achieved a thorough understanding of something. And this kind of ability has gained great attention in many educational contexts (especially higher education), as a learning objective to be achieved. On the other hand, nowadays, knowledge can in fact be stored in books, webpages, online resources, friend's brain, and all kinds of networks. (Though I doubt the connectivism as a learning theory, it does tell some truth.) It is efficient to know where knowledge can be found instead of what it exactly is. The change in our brains saves storage space, and thus lead to a higher operation speed, which is similar to the positive correlation between operation speed and RAM memory space of the computer.

Relavent articles:
Nicholas Carr (2008, July/August). Is Google Making Us Stupid? Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Web-log? More than a log!

What I am going to talk about is what I am doing now - blog~

I don't how the blog comes into its being. It seems like a diary, but many others can read it; it seems like a newspaper, but the author is not necessarily a professional journalist; it seems like a bulletin, but readers and the writer can chat with each other.

It is a BLOG~ We call the one who does the blogging as blogger. 

Blog plays different roles in different people's life. Some blog to practice their creativity; some to motivate others; some to stay in touch with friends; some to document and share their ideas. They talk about personal life, politics(I don't think this is the case in China...), entertainment, etc. 
Blogs are grouped in numerous clusters with limited links between clusters. Many read blogs of friends, and some read the "big one"'s blog as well. They read sometimes during periods of boredom - reading blogs has even become a routine, for killing time.
The interaction between readers and bloggers brings the feeling of "connectedness". Readers feel their comments or feedback is expected from bloggers. They tend to express their agreement and make positive comments. Bloggers and readers expressing things that might not be considered an important topic of conversation, such as moods, which helps create the "connectedness". And once readers feel connected, they are further motivated in reading blogs.
 When writing online, are bloggers "creating alternate identities or exploring certain facets of their personality that were not as prominent"? Now people seem to become more honest about themselves online. More than half of the people were reported to use pseudonyms in article of 2006, while research in 2008 tell us that it is no longer the case. Some people view their online experience as a part or an extension of the offline life. "While blogs and real life experience are still distinct realms for readers, there is a relatively tight coupling between readers' online and offline identities" (Eric Baumer, Mark Sueyoshi, & Bill Tomlinson, 2008).

I'm a humdrum blogger... 80% of the blogs use text, 72% post photos, 49% other images, and 15% use video. I never used photos, images, videos, audios... but a reporter of academic reading... To exercise my creativity, as well as to have fun of learning, I decide to insert something vivid to the following blogs~ Let me start with a smile O(∩_∩)O

Articles learned: 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

From brains to the net? Episode One - Net

Topic for week 7 is Connectivism, Social Knowledge and Participatory Learning, which attracts me greatly.

Connectivism is a said-to-be learning theory that aims at providing a better explanation to the learning in a technological and digital era than what the existing three major learning theories (behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism) have done. 

The most interesting part is connectist belief of knowledge existing in the network outside of human's brain. "Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements - not entire under the control of the individual." "'I store my knowledge in my friends' is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people." In this theory, it is the "know-where" that matters, rather than "know-what". That is to say, it is more important for us to know where we can find specific knowledge, instead of knowing the exact description of knowledge. 

Consequently, learning can be equaled to making connections. We have to form new connections, as well as organize and adjust old ones. 
"Unlike constructivism, which states that learners attempt to foster understanding by meaning making tasks, chaos states that the meaning exists". Learners are making meanings from "a cryptic form of order", "a breakdown of predictability, evidenced in complicated arrangements that initially defy order", which means to recognize and organize the patterns of knowledge from a chaos of numerous existing patterns, meanings or pieces. In other words, learners are forming connections between specialized nodes or sources of information among a great deal of disordered information. The ability to distinguish important information from unimportant ones is also a key learning task.
When the environment or the "underlying conditions used to make decisions" change, the decisions (connections) that have been made may not be correct any longer. Adjustment of connections is needed all the way through learning, as information and environment is changing all the time. "The ability to recognize and adjust to pattern shifts is a key learning task."
"The capacity to form connections between sources of information, and thereby create useful information patterns, is required to learn in our knowledge economy." The diversity of connections learners make is a key factor that influences learning.

However, the position of connectivism as a learning theory has been challenged almost since its advent.
Pløn Verhagen (2006) believes connectivism to be relevant on a curricular level as it speaks to what people should learn and the skills they should develop. To be relevant at the theoretical level, connectivism should explore the processes of how people learn. According to Bill Kerr, connectivism fails to qualify as a theory based on three criteria. They are:
  • Connectivism does not contribute to a theory or learning reform, due to its use of "language and slogans that are sometimes ‘correct’ but are too generalized to guide new practice at the level of how learning actually happens,"
  • Connectivism does "contribute to a general world outlook," and
  • Connectivism "misrepresents the current state of established alternative learning theories such as constructivism, behaviorism and cognitivism, so this basis for a new theory is also dubious" (Kerr, 2006, para. 5-7). 
To my point of view, connectivism does not explain the exact learning process that happens in human brains. And instructional strategies derived from connectivism, such as the design of learning environment and use of learning communities, etc, seem similar with those of constructivism.

Relevant articles: 
Siemens, G. (2005, January). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.
       International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, Retrieved
       November 03, 2008, from

Thursday, November 4, 2010


For week 6.

Open Educational Resources (OER) and OpenCourseWare (OCW), and the latter can be seen as part of the former.

This week we have gained an understanding of the OER construction and sustainability all over the world, and had a glimpse of a variety of OpenCourseware projects.

What's worth mentioning is the Open Educational Resources movement. This movement can be considered to start with the strategic plan Using Information Technology to Increase Access to High-Quality Educational Content in 2002. OER is a sharing of digital learning resources over the Internet among institutions and individuals, openly and for free. Its official definition is “digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research." It can include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. It is a global development, involving over 300 universities from US, China, Japan, Europe and so forth. The amount of open access courses (OpenCourseWare) has surpassed 3000. One of the most well-known example is the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative.

Some comments:
  • Open Education Resources "can be an efficient way of promoting lifelong learning, both for individuals and for government, and can bridge the gap between non-formal, informal and formal learning." 
  • Its sharing-for-free feature is in common with that of all the other topics about open sources we have discussed, which I believe to be an important component of "gift culture". Connective theory comes up with the concept of "information flow". And I think OER has promoted an academic information flow globally.
  • Same as all the free-sharing stuff on the Internet, copyright issue arouses to OER. In an era when knowledge is attributable to some certain people and can bring profits, we seem in need of making a balance between respecting the right of the author and promoting and sustaining collaboration and resource sharing.
Here are some of the provided suggestions to improve the development of OER and OCW, which I think are interesting or important:
  • Recommendations for educational policy makers and funding bodies: promote open educational practices that allow for acquiring competences and skills that are necessary to participate successfully in the knowledge society; demand public-private partnerships to concentrate on ventures for innovating educational practices and resources.
  • Recommendations for boards, directors and supervisors of educational institutions: establish reward mechanisms and supportive measures for developing and sharing of Open Educational Resources and experiences; clarify copyrights and define licensing schemes for making Open Educational Resources available.
  •  Recommendations for teachers: make use of tools and services that support collaborative learning processes and learning communities; share proven learning designs, content and experiences through open access repositories and open licenses.
  • Recommendations for students: develop one's own ePortfolis and make study results accessible to others; respect IPR/copyright of others and make one's own creative work accessible under an open content license.
  • Recommendations for educational repositories: do not follow a top-down strategy of delivering learning objects; empower teachers and learners; make licensing of content as easy as possible; assist open content initiatives in the creation of rich metadata and provide semantically enhanced access to resources.
  • Recommendations for developers and implementers of e-learning tools and environments: involve teachers and students in the development of learning tools; favour institutional learning environments that support group-based, collaborative learning practices.
Relevant articles:
Giving knowledge for free: The emergence of open educational resources. OECD 
      Publishing: Centre for Educational Research and Innovation. (2007). (153 pages).
Geser, Guntram (ed.). (2007, January). Open Educational Practices and Resources: 
      OLCOS Roadmap 2012 (149 pages). Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    open-source software

    For week 5.

    Guohua Pan, an instructional design specialist from Southeast Missouri State University, talks about the definitions and connotations of open source and the bazaar model of software development in his paper the Emergence of Open-Source Software in North America.

    Notes from the article

    Definition: Open source refers to a product, usually an original computer software program that is "of or relating to source code that is available to the public" wither partially or in whole.

    Criteria of open source: (Johnson, 2005)
    1. Free redistribution; 
    2. Source code-distributed with the original work as well as all derived works;
    3. Derived works-allowing modification;
    4. Integrity of the Author's Source Code; 
    5. No discrimination against persons or groups;
    6. No discrimination against fields of endeavor;
    7. Distribution of License;
    8. License must not be specific to a product;
    9. License must not contaminate other software.

    Advantages of open source:
    • It motives innovation;
    • It makes available the talent of the world;
    • It reduces the cost and helps to create a sustainable economy wherein co-developer's participation in code development is free.

    Disadvantages of open source: (What makes open source may also break it.)
    • The quality of the product is often at risk-anyone can work on it;
    • The open source product is often left unattended to or forgotten once the original developer decides to no longer fund it and offloads this product as open source for the world community;
    • The hidden cost is unpredictable, to keep the project running as well as to make others aware of it and enlist their support and services.

    The Bazaar Model - a well-known open source development model:

    Its central thesis is that the development of software is distributed and     transparent. Users of the operating system are potential developers. The source code of the prototype software is open and released as early as possible to attract co-developers; the software is released whenever significant changes are made, for co-developers and users to modify and debug. In bazaar model, several versions are allowed to exist at the same time. Another feature is its dynamic decision making structure.

    Open source projects:
    Sakai; (which IU is using~ OnCourse is built upon this course management system.)
    Moodle; (a very famous one in China, for it's free)

    "In North America, open source is more an individual initiative derived from personal needs with minimal government support."

    Some thoughts

    I'm really in love with the "gift culture", in which people communicate and collaborate with each other, and share their information and talents, instead of competing or hiding from each other; in which we can enjoy the creativity, enthusiasm, informativeness, and even warmth in our world community.
    The development of open-source software seems like collaboration of co-developers from all over the world. Everyone has a chance of showing his product, evaluating and making use of other's work. Diversity and transparency promotes the success of open-source software.

    Relevant articles: 
    Pan, G., & Bonk, C. J. (2007, September). The Emergence of Open-Source Software,
          Part I: North America. International Review of Research in Open and Distance

    Sunday, September 26, 2010

    courses online, learning online

    For week 4.

    From China to America, I'm getting closer and closer to online learning.

    When I was taking the course of Open and Distance Education in SISU, we studied a case of Beijing Institute of Technology. Online courses in that case focus more on the organization and presentation of learning contents but lack synchronous interaction between teachers and students. There are technical methods to ensure students' online learning time, for instance, the web page will be blocked and a dialog box ejects when user does not operate for over 15 minutes.
    This semester I take an online course in IU. Students and the teacher have regular meeting time online, using Adobe Connect Meeting. This software is effective for class meeting but problem occurs to group discussion. Because the class is composed of both on-campus students and distance students, it's hard to reach an agreement on time and individual habit of browsing forum in OnCourse varies largely. Our group has had two or three discussions already but every time we came to a conclusion that we need a meeting next time again. Students are struggling to find a way of effective and efficient group discussion.

    Making a conclusion from these two experiences, I feel that the development of online courses is in bad need of theoretical study and technical support. As I see from the article Online Learning as a Strategic Plan, faculty invest additional time and effort in online as compared to face-to-face teaching and learning. Articles in this week talk about various factors affecting online teaching and courses and their present situation, but few of them introduce and analyze online courses in a designer's perspective. 

    There are really many things affecting the development and sustainability of online courses other than the designer. Strategic decisions, financial investment, technical trends, incentives for faculty, academic resourses and so forth, designer needs quite many things to develop and sustain a successful online course. I remember an interesting saying from my undergraduate teacher, developing online courses also has its fashion trends in choosing what kind of techniques to use. That is proved by statistics but I can find it now ha... Faculty involved in the survey believe that teaching or developing an online course requires more time and effort than for a comparable face-to-face offering. In short term it must be so but I think in the long run, it can benefit larger amount of students in a comparatively low cost.

    Actually I'd like to know more about online course design. Ha, that may be one of my future objectives in absorbing knowledge here.

    Relevant articles:
    Association of Public and Land Grant Universities. (2009, August). Online Learning as a
           Strategic Asset. Volume 1: A Resource for Campus Leaders.
           and Volume 2: The Paradox of Faculty Voices: Views and Experiences with Online 
           (summary page:

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    Our technology-influenced learning

    For week 2.

    This week, we looked into what the web technology and Internet have brought us. Different authors hold different views, optimistic, critical, or extremely pesimistic.

    Nicholas Carr, a critical view holder, tries to find what the Internet has done to us, especially to our brains. Here are some of his main points:
    • Regular Internet usage may have the effect of diminishing the capacity for concentration and  contemplation. There are a lot of distractions from the Internet.
    • Internet could yield an expansion of the short-term memory banks and a correlative atrophying of long-term memory, as well as multitasking, skimming & scanning. However: The more time we spend surfing, and skimming, and scanning ... the more adept we become at that mode of thinking. As people get better at multitasking, they become less creative in their thinking.
    • Unlike speech, which is an innate ability hardwired into the human brain, the ability to read has to be taught in order for the brain to rearrange its original parts for the task of interpreting symbols into words.
    • Research in the field of nueroplasticity as of 2008 has demonstrates that the brain's neural circuitry can in fact be rewired. Our brains are very malleable, they adapt at the cellular level to whatever we happen to be doing.
    I should admit that our brains have been changed by the Web technology. We don't need to remember the exact knowledge. Instead, success means to know where to find those useful information. We tend to open several windows when working on the computer, with our instant messaging software logging on. We read in front of a computer instead of holding a book. We have access to almost every person and all kinds of books, articles, pieces of news, etc., because of the interpersonal connection and information sharing of our almighty Internet. ...

    There's a "fight" between two ideas: "To enjoy the advantages of tchnology while minimizing the disadvantages" and "Technology is inherently dangerous". As when they fight in my mind, the "enjoy" one gets an overwhelming victory.

    Internet is of course imperfect. Some of the changes it bring about do affect human in a negative way.I have experienced the distraction quite a lot. When I'm reading professional articles, interruption may often arise from the instant messaging software.
    However, we are not robots, and have the ability of adjusting our behaviors to "enjoy the advantages of technology while minimizing the disadvantages". For instance, like what Carr does, we can turn off our cellphone, MSN or e-mail to keep concentrating on the reading or the assignment that are being done. We are using the technology, but not being controled by them.

    According to what the author advocates in Learning for the 21st Century, the world advances, so should our learning skills.

    One of the elements the article mentions feels interesting and important, which has long been ignored by school education. That is the financial, economic and business literacy. When I planned my journey to the US and the earliest period after I arrived here, Bloomington, that is a struggle to make a decision of which cellphone plan to choose, which apartment to rent, how to manage my bank accounts, and a lot more troublesome things like that. Financial issue matters a lot in our 21st Century life. If some kind of guidance or instruction can be provided, life can really get a boost.

    Besides, the metacognitive approach to instruction also arouses my attention. As I have experienced when studying about Learning Theory, Psychology and some other courses related to metacognition, learning and contemplating about how I am learning does improve my study.  Attempts have been made to apply metacognitive approach to teachers' instruction, to help students make their study plan, or arrange their time for different subjects. But only some psychological priciples are introduced to students. I think more information about human cognition and psychological features can be delivered to them, in an organized and well-designed way.

    Believing that technology helps us to achieve a better future.

    Relevant articles:
    Learning for the 21st Century (A Report and MILE Guide for 21st Century Skills) (no 
    Nicholas Carr (2010, May 24). The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains. Wired.