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IFNTF2018 presentation: From courses that teach to courses that learn

Reposted after technical difficulties first time round...

Slides from my talk at the International Federation of National Teaching Fellows World Summit 2018 in Halifax, NS, May 2018. In this I discuss the motivational strengths and weaknesses of self-paced courses for both learners and teachers, and ways that the Landing has helped limit the weaknesses. Central to the ways it does this are persistence, boundary crossing, and social embedding- teachers become learners, learners become teachers, and the environment itself evolves to teach. Learning becomes persistently visible, beyond its original context and community, and the opportunities for social learning constantly expand. (12MB download)



  • Jon, can you expand on what you mean by the environment learning.

    Daryl Campbell May 5, 2018 - 9:25pm

  • Sure, Daryl -

    A traditional LMS course is quite static. Apart from in limited microhabitats like FAQs and forums, mostly the environment reflects the teacher's (or course team's) own design decisions. If it changes, it is because the design team has learned, not because the environment itself has learned. A typical Landing course, on the other hand, constantly evolves through the activities of its members, growing and changing all the time. This evolution happens at multiple scales within the environment, with historic (simple moves into the adjacent possible, posts made by individuals shaping the space), memetic (cultural shifts, patterns, etc occuring at a broader scale) and collective (changes in structure resulting from recommendations or tagging, for instance) behaviours working together and interactively to shape the space. The environment thus shapes itself to its inhabitants as much as vice versa. Of course, there are also designed elements - this is more like a city than a jungle, but cities certainly learn. Though I was not conscious of the source of the idea when I wrote it, this is akin to Brand's ideas of buildings learning - - which has been an inspiration for quite a few of my ideas.



    Jon Dron May 7, 2018 - 7:06am

  • Hi Jon,

    First, thanks for posting your presentation slides. Aside from being interesting, they give me content to use during future job interviews where I explain pros of AU distance learning when my major competition is University of Waterloo CS students/grads. :)

    Second, would you please expand on 'cooperative not collaborative'?

    Is it akin to a collaborative environment of forcing group projects resulting in extrinsic motivation (the carrot of needing to work in a group to get a mark) and just a couple people doing all the work versus a collaborative environment where teachers sometimes learn from their students and the students sometimes help teach? Where students are intrinsically motivated to share what they learn, ask each other questions, etc.? Where, dare I say, the motivation to learn may be stronger than the carrot of grades? Is this in line with what you meant?

    Thirdly, I do not recall learning about connectivism when I did a certificate on Teaching Effectiveness, but I so, so, SO strongly agree with Siemen's first principle of connectivism: "Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions."

    And "Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill." is specifically why I converted my Anki SRS flashcard deck to be one deck holding all subjects -- that getting a card on French vocabulary, for instance, followed by a different subject may increase creativity and connections in memory.



    Jennifer Davies May 9, 2018 - 9:00pm

  • Thanks Jennifer!

    The cooperative teaching pattern involves people doing things for their own benefit and sharing them, as distinct from a collaborative pattern in which a group works together for a common goal. It's the only way to do the social thing in self-paced teaching, unless you have gigantic numbers, because it is very rare for two people to be at the same point and working at the same pace. If students are doing things that interest them and are not being too overtly manipulated, rewarded or punished (which is death to intrinsic motivation), then the approach is supportive of relatedness, competence, and autonomy, which happen to be the three prerequisites for intrinsic motivation, according to self-determination theory

    It also happens to be the dominant social pattern in connectivism (small 'c'). This opens up a wealth of opportunities for learners to act as teachers, for the benefits of reification, for diverse views to matter, for authentic sense-making, and for boundary crossing so that people learn way more expansively and in ways that matter to them more than to their teachers, all the while benefiting from countless others who themselves benefit in similar ways. It's about emergence and collective intelligence more than planned teaching to fixed outcomes. I emphasize the small 'c' because I see it as a family of methods and ideas, like constructivism, not just George's (and Stephen's) theory of that name. At least, that's the argument I have had at some length with Stephen Downes. My own definition is probably most clearly stated in the least lengthy of my many posts responding to Stephen (we got a bit cross with each other!).

    More formally, Terry Anderson and I think there have been three distinct generations of distance education pedagogy - the cognitivist/behaviourist (I nowadays prefer the term 'instructivist' because it's all about independent learners being taught in ways that focus on achieving teacher-controlled learning outcomes), the social constructivist (which tends to be very collaborative, highly social, very group-based, and focused on inquiry, problem solving, and active approaches to learning, but still strongly guided by teachers), and the connectivist (see above). Connectivism only started appearing in syllabi a few years ago, and still doesn't penetrate all of them, because it only really emerged as a single theory/model in the 2000s, and only in the past 5-10 years has it been widely seen as a connected family of ideas. We like to be a bit on the cutting edge here, at least some of the time :-)



    Jon Dron May 9, 2018 - 11:27pm

  • >>...because it is very rare for two people to be at the same point and working at the same pace. 

    Ah that makes sense with my experience so far as well as it's not just students having different start times, but also some may do five courses a semester taking 4-6 months whereas some may try to complete one course every month or two.

    >>If students are doing things that interest them and are not being too overtly manipulated, rewarded or punished (which is death to intrinsic motivation)...

    So agreed. I really enjoyed Daniel Pink's talks years ago on the limits of carrot and stick motivation as well as a couple of his books I read during a post grad certificate in Career Development.

    And likewise, I've especially been enjoying project-based courses such as COMP444 and your COMP266. Being able to choose a project and focus of research/learning (providing we map to the learning objectives) is much more satisfying and engaging than, for example, courses where the exams are 100% multiple choice requiring regurgitating facts rather than applying knowledge or doing any real thinking.

    Also, thank you for the links. I have bookmarked them for now, but will surely read them once I've made more progress on COMP266. :)

    Jennifer Davies May 10, 2018 - 6:08pm

  • Thanks Jennifer. Daniel Pink uses self-determination theory a lot in his writing. My personal favourite writer and speaker on the topic is Alfie Kohn. His book 'Punished by Rewards' should be required reading for all parents, teachers and educational administrators, I think, but virtually all his work is brilliant.


    Jon Dron May 10, 2018 - 8:30pm

  • Nice. I recognize some of those book titles/topics, but don't believe I've read any of them as of yet. Thank you for the suggestion -- it's really thoughtful of you. :)

    And now I'm trying to decide whether next to take COMP306 (as I'm currently doing a course on C++) or get Punished by Rewards and take EDPY200 Educational Psych for my Learning Tech minor.

    (C++ will probably win out due to timing...unless I go with a 3rd option and work on some core CIS courses. hehe)

    Edit: I'm going to sign up for that C++ course now. As I'm already working on the course, it will be nice to have the assignments for COMP306 to work on at the same time. :)

    Jennifer Davies May 10, 2018 - 8:50pm

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