Category: ALGC

I have started to prepare the results from my research project with the working title “Pedagogical Affordance of Networked Learning in Swedish Upper Secondary Schools” and will in this blog-post scrutinize my research methodology and conceptual framework.  The purpose of this study is to find out how educators use web tools with attention to how opportunities and challenges caused change in their teaching practise within the concept of ‘Networked Learning’. 

Action research falls under the qualitative research paradigm and can include research journal, document analysis, participant observation recordings, questionnaire surveys, structured and unstructured interviews, and case studies.  I applied reflecting-on-action from an approach of ‘Activity Theory’ in order to identify larger patterns and connections from my position as an upper secondary school teacher, i.e. ‘Reflective Practitioner’.  It involved a spiralling process of action, observation, recording, reflection and new action to discover an understanding of a more meaningful or effective practice and to develop insightful research questions (Hillocks, 1995; Schön, 1987).  My analysis includes personal narratives and a structuralist approach to activities among practitioners.  The hypothesis is that different patterns of perceptions are recognisable as deep structures by which meaning is produced and reproduced within the culture.  Rather than progressing in a linear and continuous way, the idea is that ‘Paradigm Shifts’ open up new approaches to understanding that wasn’t considered valid before (Kuhn, 1962).  My ethnographic fieldwork included analysis of conversations or transcripts from recordings as well as a survey questioning attitudes to the shared discourse about the nature of ‘Networked Learning’.  The strength of ethnography often lies in the surprise finding, which encouraged me to take an innocent approach where I don’t know in advance what will turn out to be important or interesting…

(…next step forward is qualitative software applications to assist data analysis, e.g. Atlas Ti or Nudist Nvivo)

Nowadays, we witness the use of web tools provides as new means for professional development. The Networked Learning concept refers to the ways new communication technologies can influence connections between one learner and other learners; between learners and tutors; between a learning community and its learning resources (Harasim, Hiltz, Teles & Turoff, 1995; Goodyear, Banks, Hodgson and McConnell, 2004, Siemens, 2004; De Laat, 2006).
(Source: Alec Couros)

Network communication such as email (invented in 1971) and computer conferencing (1972) were the beginning of online social networks that have grown with the invention of the Internet (1989) and the web (1993). The introduction of web 2.0 innovations such as blogs (1999), user-generated content sites such as wikis (2001) and social networks Facebook, Ning, (2004) as well as several applications Flickr, YouTube, and Twitter (2006) represent what has come to be termed as ‘The Social Web’.
What is Waiting Around the Corner?
Inspired be Nova Spivack’s weblog ‘Minding the Planet’ I have created the following illustration of emerging technologies and trends:

When ‘The Web 1.0’ entered education teachers developed ICT skills, but ‘The Social Web 2.0’ shifted focus on usability, clean-looking sites and people making connections with one another. In ‘Semantic Web 3.0’, the emphasis will revert to the rendering of data in the resource description framework (RDF) that is used to catalogue metadata in meaningful ontologies. This will make way for the ‘Metaweb 4.0’ where information is much more reusable and shared with in distributed knowledge networks.

In this new arena, being a Networked Teacher your Professional Learning Network might contain:

  • 1. Profile service
    2. Functionality for collaboration and sharing of resources between participants
    3. Navigation services that will allow participants to search and receive recommendations for contacts and resources
    4. Supporting services to help participants to acquire answers for their problems/questions
  • (Source: Berlanga, Bitter, Brouns, Sloep & Fetter, 2010)

    In my web-based survey the sampling bias is likely to influence the initial questions about basic use of computers. I assume the participants will not be expected to have ‘no skills’ in using a computer connected to the Internet when participating in a ‘on-line survey’, but these questions are equivalent to the previous survey that are used for comparison. Teachers that don’t use computers will have an increased ‘drop-out rate’ and it will be hard to tackle the possibility of multiple submissions, incomplete responses, and data security.

    I will in my thesis address potential problem when conducting Web-based surveys:

  • 1. Coverage error
    2. Sampling error
    3. Measurement error
    4. Nonresponse error
  • (Dillman, Tortora, & Bowker, 1999)

    I’m planning to use Google Docs’ spreadsheets survey/forms feature and played around with the “Blank survey template”.
    You enter the question in the Title and if you want supply help text that assists the users completing your survey. Select the Type of question (Text, Multiple Choice, etc.) and mark if the question is required (forces users to enter a response). At a later stage you may re-order your survey by dragging-and-dropping the question to the desired location. Finally to distribute your survey, you may use “Email this Form” (this generates an e-mail with the link to your survey form), or click “Embed” from the “More Actions” menu. Google will then display the iFrame code that you may copy/paste into your e-mail or to use on your web page. Responses are collected and stored in a Google Documents Spreadsheet (compatible with MS-Excel). When required you may disable your form by clicking “Accepting Responses” from the “Form” menu. Then you can also create a copy of an existing survey form by selecting “Create a Copy…” from the “File” menu and new data can be collected.

    ·Cognitive performance is believed to be stimulated by the capacity to use tools. Fundamentally ‘Tool use’ is defined as the manipulation of an object to change the position or form of another object. In 2009, Iriki and his team have followed up their research with Macaque monkeys (large-brained social animals) with training more primitive Degus to use rakes for food collection.
    ·Experiments showed that given precise experimental controls, rodents can be trained to perform a complex task:

    (Initially the use of tool has no purpose [clip01], but after training [clip02] the Degus manage to collect food)

    ·They concluded that tool use is not resulting from higher intelligence, but is a specific combination of basic cognitive abilities (in this case physical properties such as mass, structure, and friction). I think this could be relevant for how ICT tools should lead to better integrated, more insightful, and more intuitive knowledge in education. It would be interesting if we could study how ‘Computer Simulations’ enhance Inquiry-based learning (de Jong 2006), create interactive visualizations (Lindgren & Schwartz, 2009) and offer multiple representations (Ainsworth, 2006).

    Thesis Statement Definition [#ALGC]

    ·Most graduate or post graduate programs require students to write a thesis or a dissertation on a topic or subject of their choice. A thesis statement defines in a sentence or two, the essence of the essay. In order to have a clear focus, it is important that the thesis statement puts forward the stream of argument that you intends to follow. It’s generally placed at the beginning of the paper after introducing the key issues and core concepts…and therefore I would like to prove in this paper that…

    ·In ‘ALGC- 09 Cohort’ I have handed in my ‘Research Plan’ and started to formulate the ‘Research Purpose & Questions’ based on findings I TAKE from the ‘Literature Review’. The process to reach a ‘Thesis Statement’ is now write, read and rewrite… and the next step will be distribute, analyze and rewrite… This includes SHARE with the tutors, course members and friends to accumulate feedback. USE what is suitable for the final version, distribute again, and continue in this manner until it seems good enough or the deadline has approached.

    This is a two-year master’s degree programme resulting in a Master of Arts and Social Science (60 credits) with a major in Adult Learning.  The design is unique in the sense that four universities in four different continents collaborate. These are based in Sweden (Linköping University), Canada (University of British Columbia), South Africa (University of the Western Cape), and Australia (Monash University).  This award-winning fully online program focuses on the role of adult learning in understanding and responding to globalizing forces and their impacts.


    Graduates of the programme will:

    • Learn and teach globally
    • Use global connective technologies
    • Understand knowledge-based societies and the implications for learning
    • Understand globalisation discourses
    • Develop cultural sensibilities and sensitivities
    • Develop an equality perspective to learning, and reframe their own professional practices

    I’m joining this final course from the fourth cohort that started the ALGC programme in 2004.  The aim of my research project is on in-service training of Networked Literacy for Teachers.  I will try to investigate different perspectives on course design for a networked society based on Connectivism and Connective Knowledge.

    The traditional role of the teacher as an unquestioned authority has been replaced by the role of a facilitator that encourages people to recall, value, talk about, and critically analyze their own past experience to construct knowledge from it.  This new paradigm changes the identity of teachers from a new understanding of learning.

    This quote, from my application for PhD studies at Shumen University, illustrate that as practitioners of adult learning in a global community we work with others experience.  In 2004 I enrolled to the “Adult Learning and Global Change” program through Linköping University in the fourth Cohort.  The most valuable outcome was the gradual transformation in my perception of my professional practice, which led to a scholarship for PhD studies at Shumen University.  During the ALGC program also I established a new framework of understanding that allowed me to reflect on my ongoing experiences of teacher training in Bulgaria.  Norms are negotiated in a common discourse and I found peer-to-peer learning useful for critical reflection.  I could also see that a collaborative setting help us to reformulate our immediate experiences.

    Knowledge is embedded in prior knowledge:

    I initially was focused on input and to create opportunity for learning, but one key feature in the program is that the learning experience is embedded in prior knowledge.  In order to develop expertise we scrutinize our own assumptions and create an awareness of others decisions and situation.  When I first visited Konstantin Preslavsky University of Shumen inBulgariathey were interested in exchange of knowledge for in-service teacher training withSweden, but didn’t found the methods in the project adaptable to the reality of teachers in the country. 

    Formulate goals that make sense to participants:

     The project is now using local capacity and the goals are formulated in ways that make sense to the participants.  The Swedish Institute had me as a candidate for a bilateral agreement and the Ministry of Education and Science inBulgariaaccepted my application.  My role will be to initiate a new knowledge discourse and promote informal learning in an everyday context.  The ambition is to produce a knowledge society by retraining and updating teacher’s pedagogical skills. 

    Norms in everyday practices sensitize the perception:

    I would say that cultural sensitivity helped me to address the international differences that in our society might lead to exclusion from adult learning.  One example is when qualification and skill formation is only voluntary without enough incentives.  The context for everyday practices is restricting innovative teaching due to strict working hours and lack of resources.  The existing views and perceptions sensitize us to filter the experience and only use norms included in our identity.  There are ways to question that identity. 

    Peer-to-peer learning creates critical reflection:

    My position in the discourse for in-service training is that we learn from experiences of others and also when we make their experience our own.  This appropriation requires critical reflection, which will occur during interaction with colleagues of friends.  That is why I have highlighted the theory of peer-to-peer learning and use Computer Supported Collaborative learning, CSCL, as method.

    Collaborative learning provides variation in ways of understanding:

    Variation in ways of understanding is a key element to investigate our position and makes us aware of new approaches.  The spontaneous and immediate experience is unprocessed and confusing, but can be used for collaborative learning.  Reports from case studies give us examples of how we can use new knowledge.  Then in peer discussions we formulate our own interpretations as well as get confronted by others, which then create reformulations

    Comments from peer students in ALGC

    Jan Green: “Your personal experiences with Computer Support for Collaborative Learning, ICT, and being a student of learning here certainly add to your tacit and explicit understanding of what teachers may / will go through in this project. Therefore, you will have the sensitivity to address these concerns before they come up and/or deal with them in a supportive manner when they do come up. […] Very important work for now and for the future. Your work in Bulgaria in the local context certainly has potential to be ‘translated’ into many other cultures and areas of the earth!”

    Paul Stacey: “There are several components to it that intersect with some of my areas of interest and work. In particular I’m fascinated by the potential use of personal and collaborative Internet offices/spaces/rooms, whatever you want to call them, for personal and peer to peer learning.  Another key part for me is the way you propose to see these used to sustain momentum and keep learning flowing between what I presume are face to face workshop meetings. This is an especially crucial concept”

    Carla Crozier: “I couldn’t agree more with the quote “Knowledge building occurs as students explore issues, examine one another’s arguments, agree, disagree, and question positions. Collaboration contributes to higher order learning through cognitive restructuring or conflict resolution, in which new ways of understanding the material emerge as a result of contact with new or different perspectives.”(…) “Collaborative learning is predicated upon interaction” I find in my situation / context this is also very key. […]The thing I really like about collaborative learning is it provides a framework to bring out people’s strengths – individual competencies working together for that goal as you state.”

    Barbara McPherson: “The concept of peer to peer learning is well accepted in classroom teaching; the extension into the computer supported collaborative learning can be equally as valuable and possibly overcome barriers to participation in a physical class.”