2015

This year presents many challenges.  Once I have completed my Research Methods module with my Digital Education course, it was time to prepare for the arrival of my twin boys.  They arrived three months early but thanks to development in medicine and science, they survived.  It was a rough ride for everyone.

All my hopes of with-holding my little daughter from the screen went out of the window when suddenly we have to cope with three children.  So this piece is really about what my thoughts are about the use of digital technology in the life of my nearly four year old child.  (To follow)

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A year on

In the last seven months, I have completed two more modules of the Msc in Digital Education course with the University of Edinburgh.  It has been most helpful in shaping my thoughts and practice in the area.  I took up the course with the hope that I will be able to build on my experience in resource design, and learn the science and art of eLearning, and I am pleased that I have achieved both goals. The most recent module on elearning and Digital Culture has really helped make sense of the development in this area, and helped shape my thoughts and practice in eLearning design.  Please read my final assignment for clarity.

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Communications – what we can learn from babies

It has been a while since I had time to write a blog.  My little girl is taking up all my spare time these days.  At six months she suddenly became even more demanding as she started to indicate through babbles, sounds and eye contact, what she wants, how she wants to be held and which direction she wants to go.  As a parent, my role is to respond so to encourage further communications. She is excitedly exploring the world through her ability to communicate her needs to her mother. While her movements are still restricted due to her inability to crawl yet, she is actively showing us how motivated she is to get somewhere and to obtain her prized gadgets such as the mobile phone, keyboards and remote controls.

Being responsive to a child’s early communications is key to her language development and understanding of social interaction. Ignoring  a babies’ cry or sounds will send a discouraging message to her.  So what can we learn from babies?  In truth, nothing. I say this because being responsive is reflective of our everyday communications with each other.  The only thing I might add is that sadly, we grow up and sometimes forget about the element of turn taking and two way communications, and many times, we find that we no longer respond to messages, and emails and someone sharing about their life or part of the day.  Instead, we queue our responses, or when we are physically present, we may be preoccupied with other things: we are not there for people.

Being there, I think,  is the essence of communication: being there for your baby, your child, your husband, your colleague, your friend, your acquaintances and your neighbour.

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Decisions

I recently have a new addition to my family:  A little girl who is now nearly 8 weeks old and she has had numerous skype video calls meeting relatives and friends from the States, UK, Malaysia and Singapore. At her age, she cannot see where the voice and picture is coming from but she can hear the voices. And we wonder when is the right time to introduce to the baby such gadgets like the iphone and ipads.

I have not had time to read any research on this but my hunch is not until the child is at least five years old. However I will encounter a lot of pressure from my partner who thinks that every child now treats these items as if it is their natural environment, and thus the sooner the child gets her hand on these things, the better.

I wonder what your experience has been with these?  The burden upon parents of this decade:  Decisions for the future that will impact on the cognitive, social and psychological development of children.

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Educating children

It is all too confusing a picture to compare the riots in London to those countries where young people are fighting against nepotism and dictatorship.  Here in the UK, it is mindless accusations of those who are in business – not even the rich.  There is looting, mugging and burning down of properties.  Where social media is used for a good cause in the Arab countries, here it is used for destruction.

Having worked with young people who are disenchanted and some who have a lot of problems, I have seen sensible young people, but a lot of them seem have little interaction and contact with people from different walks of life. Their comprehension of politics and society is skewed too. I have times despaired because the resistance and lack of understanding which I have seen run too deep and not a lot is offered to these groups to enable their situation to improve.  I feared one day my life would be in the hands of young people of such disposition. It might be too late when those who can do something realise this possibility.  As we have seen, it only took some economic crisis to unleash the resentment and anger from sections of the society.

We should think carefully how those in government will contain this ugly monster that have shown its fury.

 

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Learning to read

It never fail to amaze me how effective Reading Reflex is.  I have recently used this technique with a five year old, and after ten sessions, the little boy is reading words like ‘roast’, ‘note’, ‘though’ and ‘host’.  Given another eight to ten sessions, this child will have a reading age of seven or eight.

Another student who had difficulties with reading, spelling and writing, although taken a year to arrive at this level, is now reading books written by Roald Dahl.  And he is now able to spell perhaps 60% of words with the advanced code.  This is quite an amazing achievement for the student, who in April last year was not able to read or write beyond CVC words. Without this intervention, this student would have fallen way behind and will not have followed most of his Year 7 work.  I wondered what schools are really doing for pupils such as this.

The debate about which reading method to employ in schools is really irrelevant when we see how the approach used in schools have failed the students above.  It is perhaps time for literacy teachers in schools to look closely again at how we teach young children basic skills.

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Analogy of curries in the UK

I have been trying some Indian restaurants locally in the UK, specifically those outside London.  I usually go in with the hope that the various offerings will not look and taste all the same.  To the discerning palate, curries are not gluey, sweet and spicy yellow mustardy gravy.  Unfortunately without fail,  this is what is served in most places.  It is the same with Chinese Restaurants outside London. Not only are the cheapest ingredients used but majority of the restaurants provide food that is laced with monosodium glutamate, and after a while all the food taste the same; lacking in texture, fibre and taste.  It really is a shame.  So if you want slightly more authentic asian taste, opt for either oriental restaurants in London, or go for Thai restaurants.

It occurs to me that it is the same when it comes to elearning or web related matters. To those who are not web-savvy, the concept of a website is so often stuck with the static pages of what we used to see ten years ago.  Or some may think of all the new-fangled social network tools that flood a single webpage or what we now call a blog page.  But to those who truly consider both the aesthetics, the users and also functionality, they will be able to tease out the noise from the real features of a page that works.  So if you want to develop this sensitivity, just spend a few hours browsing through different sites and think about what really matters.  Should you like a page design that works in 2011 -2012, give me a bell and we can talk through this.

 

 

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A Review: Dreyfus: On the Internet

It seems to me Dreyfus is making a distinction between embodied and disembodied nature of the World Wide Web, not the Internet, especially in relation to hyperlinks. He is also romanticising the era of thinking that gives prominence to the idea of Cogito ergo sum, that thinking and existing is related, and also the mind controls the body.  And in relation to learning, his reference to Rousseau implies the importance of the child interacting with the physical environment. Hence the emphasis of embodiment in his critique about online or distance learning.

Certainly philosophers for a long time have debated about the relationship of the mind and body. When we take this to a new level, in relation to Distance Learning, where the written word become the prominent medium of communication, Dreyfus is suggesting that the absence of the teacher aka the human body, only partial communication takes place. He takes it so far as to conclude that because the heralding of the new era of leveling the field in education through digital technology has failed to happen, twenty years on, it has failed.  And that it has failed because online learning cannot replace human face-to-face contact; that it cannot teach mastery of a subject, as learning has to be a progression from learning from the master as an apprenticeship, where you are physically present and immerse yourself in the job, to learn from the contact of a human master to master of the subject through practice; and if has failed because distance learning can never create the same mood of a physical classroom; that it is without the risks that pertain in an embodied situation, and it cannot achieve the same effect without the teacher and learner’s emotional attachment to the learning experience; and it will not work as the spoken word, expressions, gestures cannot be attained by exchanging written text on the cyber world.

I think the premise of his assumptions is so much rooted in the past. Innovation is usually rejected strongly by traditionalists, as there is a tendency to compare an apple with an orange: both are different and so direct comparison is probably the wrong premise to begin with.  His critics, have more or less, torn down his assumptions, noting ‘Dreyfus’ failure of pedagogic imagination’, his oversight of what happens in reality in other domains especially in relation to his stages of learning, and the functionality and possibilities of asynchronous and synchronous communication afforded by technology in providing a sense of classroom, community and contact; his misconception of anonymity in Distance Education, when this is not the case in reality (Blake, pp380-2,2002).  The teacher-centredness approach has its time and place, and probably for a specific age group.  As the world evolves and ‘the embodied teacher is no longer considered indispensable to learning in higher education’ (McWilliams Taylor, 1997) for reasons of economy, changes in the culture and delivery of Higher Education.  From reading Lockhard and Pegrum’s Brave New Classroom, 2007, the idea of the embodied teacher is indeed fast becoming a relic of the past: historically, university education catered to creating a community of scholars, and to the elite few, presently, with the World Wide Web, and elearning technologies, newer, and sometimes more suitable pedagogies have developed, to meet the new challenges, needs culture and economy. With the neoliberal view, the discourse in Higher Education is shifting from Dreyfus’s premise of “creating good citizens with skilled in various domains” to “producing knowledge workers need to increase economic productivity and to engage in scientific and technological areas that feed high-tech productivity” (cited in O’Sullivan and Palaska, pp42, The New Discourse of Education, 2007).  The teacher, which used to be the content expert, has to adjust and incorporate the role of a facilitator, helping and directing the management of learning of the students instead.  In this new context, the learners take ownership for their learning (O’Sullivan and Palaska, p45, 2007).

Traditionalists, who believed in the power of the embodied teacher, go so far as to call for an urgent awareness to lecturers to fight their corner or risk losing their jobs but I think one cannot fight for the sake of fighting.  Technology in university is at the stage where it is becoming inescapable first due to the investment already poured in over the last fifteen years, and secondly, contrary to Dreyfus’ dichotomy of the embodied and the disembodied, embodiment in the cyberworld is different, or reconstituted using Land’s terminology (Land, 2004).  Dwight (2004) has put forward a cogent discussion challenging Dreyfus’s dualism, of seeing things in ‘fixed essence’, instead he promotes the idea of fluidity and interdependence between a machine and human beings.  It is no doubt, learning online, although has been hailed as the leveling tool to enable more to access higher education, providing more access to information and learning, and all the wonderful conveniences of learning anywhere, anytime, have not quite achieved all that it says it will do (Goodfellow and Lea, 2007; Lockhard and Pegrum, 2007).  However such big changes take time, astute management and the breaking down of myths of what constitutes good learning.  It is now another option available to distributing learning, and having this option is something that educators will need to enhance university education in the new context. (see footnote 1)

Ultimately, I think there must be a balance: the need to ensure a well designed distance learning course, and redefining and empowering the role of the teacher to one of facilitator, one that would teach the learners how to fish, and not giving them the fish; the reliance on self-motivated learning, organisation and charting one’s own path, but more importantly as suggested by Mc Williams and Taylor (1997), that “getting the pedagogical rationale right in the light of more compelling theories of the body and of technology… which will not happen by relying on the current advocate of high technology as a solution to all things, or being in an either or camp but “we would be better served by examining the state of impoverishment of the pedagogical principles that underlie such simplistic thinking.” (McWilliams and Taylor, 1997).  I tend to agree with Mc Williams and Taylor’s conclusion.  We need to dig deep and look across disciplines, theories and technology and really understand them, in order to begin to even think of what is important and what works.

 

Footnotes:

1. I am not forgetting to mention the technological diversity that exists amongst students from different age groups, geographical locations and social classes.  There are also issues regarding distribution and who actually gets to access Higher Education, but I think this particular topic is really not about a utopian ideal of Higher Education via technology, but more of looking at where Dreyfus is coming from and what are some of the more compelling discussions about the posssibilities of technology, and how we can harness the use of this, rather than seeing the two as contesting entities.

Reference:

N. Blake “Hubert Dreyfus on Distance Education: relays of educational 
embodiment” Educational Philosophy and Theory (2002) v. 34, no 4, pp.379-385
Burbules, M (2002) ‘Like a Version: playing with online identities’, Educational Philosophy and Theory, vol 34, no 4, pp.387-393
Champion, E. M. (2004) ‘The Digital Society and Its Enemies: A Critique of On the Internet’, Computers and Society, 32, 8
Clark, A. (2003) Natural born cyborgs: minds, technologies and the future of human intelligence, Oxford: OUP chapter 1, ‘Cyborgs unplugged’, pp.13-34
Dall’Alba, G. and Barnacle, R. (2005) Embodied knowing in online environments, Educational Philosophy and Theory, vol 37(5), pp.719-744
Dreyfus, H. L. (2009) On the internet, 2nd edition, London: Routledge chapter 2, ‘How Far is Distance Learning from Education’, pp.25-48 (e-book)
Dwight, J. (2004) ‘Review essay: On the Internet’, E-learning, 1, 1
Goodfellow, R and Lea, M (2007) Challenging e-Learning in the University, A Literacies Perspective, The Society of Research into Higher Education and Open University Press
Gresham, John (2006) ‘The divine pedagogy as a model for online education’, Teaching Theology and Religion, 9 (1), pp.24-26
Land, R. (2004) Issues of embodiment and risk in online learning. Proceedings of ASCILITE 2004
Lockhard and Pegrum, ed (2007) Brave New Classrooms, Peter Lang Publishing, NY
McWilliam, E. and Taylor, P. (1997) ‘Teacher im/material: challenging the new pedagogies of instructional design’
O’Sullivan and Palaskas, ‘The Political Economy of the New Discourse of Higher Education’ in Lockhard and Pegrum, ed (2007) Brave New Classrooms, Peter Lang Publishing, NY

 

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Silence

In the last five months since my last blog post, I have been through a lot of reading and discussions about digital technology.  Interacting and exchanging points of views with fellow colleagues and participants of the eLearning course at the University of Edinburgh have been a fascinating journey for me. I am now mulling over the pervasive use of social media in eLearning environments and reflecting on how knowledge have evolved in universities.  So if you have been wondering about the silence on this blog, it is all part of the process: where period of silences is equally important as productivity.

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Brave New Classrooms

I am on to my second book, “Brace New Classrooms: Democratic Education and the Internet” edited by Joe Lockhard and Mark Pegrum.

It is like clearing the cobweb in my mind.  Having developed my teaching and education career  along with the world wide web, and the ideals of a knowledge worker, and knowledge creator, it is really refreshing to sit back and reflect on the technological advancement that has taken over the landscape of education and communications in the last 25-30 years.  Caught in the spirit of the times, I have tried and experimented as much as I could with the new ideas and tools, to help enhance teaching, and creation of resources.  At most times, I did not have names or ideologies attached to much of my practices, except that I wanted to be a reflective practitioner, always stopping to think and improve, and develop better ways of doing things.  And so now it is time to read the research conducted: those that have reviewed and tested the efficacy and effectiveness of the practices that have evolved from the digital age.

And the “Brave New Classrooms” is a great place to start as it looks critically at these developments, at the same time providing names and descriptions to things that have been propagated by various schools of thought.  I have yet to finish reading the book but the chapter reviewing Socrates and Plato, in the elearning context is revealing.  I have often wondered about the Socratic Method of questioning, which on the one hand seemed so progressive, but in reality it is set in the authoritarian mode, where ultimately, all questions lead back to what the teacher hold to be true and right. And Plato’s dialogues, although seems to encourage the multiply layers of questioning, at the background, propagates that education is only for the elite.  These two ideas are contradictory to what the utopian view of widening access to all, and also the constructivist pedagogy of meaning making through the dialogue and participation. (Socrates and Plato Meet Neoliberalism in the Virtual Agora: Online Dialog and the Development of Oppositional Pedagogies, M Pegrum). Pegrum reminds me of the value of having a full understanding of concepts and ideas, as opposed to fragmented knowledge, which many of us could so easily be contented with. Even in the elearning arena, name dropping is prevalent.

There is more to read, but I will stop here now.  Ponder, investigate and question more and I will be back with more reports from other chapters of the book.

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2015

This year presents many challenges.  Once I have completed my Research Methods module with my Digital Education course, it was time to prepare for the arrival of my twin boys.  They arrived three months early but thanks to development in medicine and science, they survived.  It was a rough ride for everyone.

All my hopes of with-holding my little daughter from the screen went out of the window when suddenly we have to cope with three children.  So this piece is really about what my thoughts are about the use of digital technology in the life of my nearly four year old child.  (To follow)

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A year on

In the last seven months, I have completed two more modules of the Msc in Digital Education course with the University of Edinburgh.  It has been most helpful in shaping my thoughts and practice in the area.  I took up the course with the hope that I will be able to build on my experience in resource design, and learn the science and art of eLearning, and I am pleased that I have achieved both goals. The most recent module on elearning and Digital Culture has really helped make sense of the development in this area, and helped shape my thoughts and practice in eLearning design.  Please read my final assignment for clarity.

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Communications – what we can learn from babies

It has been a while since I had time to write a blog.  My little girl is taking up all my spare time these days.  At six months she suddenly became even more demanding as she started to indicate through babbles, sounds and eye contact, what she wants, how she wants to be held and which direction she wants to go.  As a parent, my role is to respond so to encourage further communications. She is excitedly exploring the world through her ability to communicate her needs to her mother. While her movements are still restricted due to her inability to crawl yet, she is actively showing us how motivated she is to get somewhere and to obtain her prized gadgets such as the mobile phone, keyboards and remote controls.

Being responsive to a child’s early communications is key to her language development and understanding of social interaction. Ignoring  a babies’ cry or sounds will send a discouraging message to her.  So what can we learn from babies?  In truth, nothing. I say this because being responsive is reflective of our everyday communications with each other.  The only thing I might add is that sadly, we grow up and sometimes forget about the element of turn taking and two way communications, and many times, we find that we no longer respond to messages, and emails and someone sharing about their life or part of the day.  Instead, we queue our responses, or when we are physically present, we may be preoccupied with other things: we are not there for people.

Being there, I think,  is the essence of communication: being there for your baby, your child, your husband, your colleague, your friend, your acquaintances and your neighbour.

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Decisions

I recently have a new addition to my family:  A little girl who is now nearly 8 weeks old and she has had numerous skype video calls meeting relatives and friends from the States, UK, Malaysia and Singapore. At her age, she cannot see where the voice and picture is coming from but she can hear the voices. And we wonder when is the right time to introduce to the baby such gadgets like the iphone and ipads.

I have not had time to read any research on this but my hunch is not until the child is at least five years old. However I will encounter a lot of pressure from my partner who thinks that every child now treats these items as if it is their natural environment, and thus the sooner the child gets her hand on these things, the better.

I wonder what your experience has been with these?  The burden upon parents of this decade:  Decisions for the future that will impact on the cognitive, social and psychological development of children.

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Educating children

It is all too confusing a picture to compare the riots in London to those countries where young people are fighting against nepotism and dictatorship.  Here in the UK, it is mindless accusations of those who are in business – not even the rich.  There is looting, mugging and burning down of properties.  Where social media is used for a good cause in the Arab countries, here it is used for destruction.

Having worked with young people who are disenchanted and some who have a lot of problems, I have seen sensible young people, but a lot of them seem have little interaction and contact with people from different walks of life. Their comprehension of politics and society is skewed too. I have times despaired because the resistance and lack of understanding which I have seen run too deep and not a lot is offered to these groups to enable their situation to improve.  I feared one day my life would be in the hands of young people of such disposition. It might be too late when those who can do something realise this possibility.  As we have seen, it only took some economic crisis to unleash the resentment and anger from sections of the society.

We should think carefully how those in government will contain this ugly monster that have shown its fury.

 

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Learning to read

It never fail to amaze me how effective Reading Reflex is.  I have recently used this technique with a five year old, and after ten sessions, the little boy is reading words like ‘roast’, ‘note’, ‘though’ and ‘host’.  Given another eight to ten sessions, this child will have a reading age of seven or eight.

Another student who had difficulties with reading, spelling and writing, although taken a year to arrive at this level, is now reading books written by Roald Dahl.  And he is now able to spell perhaps 60% of words with the advanced code.  This is quite an amazing achievement for the student, who in April last year was not able to read or write beyond CVC words. Without this intervention, this student would have fallen way behind and will not have followed most of his Year 7 work.  I wondered what schools are really doing for pupils such as this.

The debate about which reading method to employ in schools is really irrelevant when we see how the approach used in schools have failed the students above.  It is perhaps time for literacy teachers in schools to look closely again at how we teach young children basic skills.

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Analogy of curries in the UK

I have been trying some Indian restaurants locally in the UK, specifically those outside London.  I usually go in with the hope that the various offerings will not look and taste all the same.  To the discerning palate, curries are not gluey, sweet and spicy yellow mustardy gravy.  Unfortunately without fail,  this is what is served in most places.  It is the same with Chinese Restaurants outside London. Not only are the cheapest ingredients used but majority of the restaurants provide food that is laced with monosodium glutamate, and after a while all the food taste the same; lacking in texture, fibre and taste.  It really is a shame.  So if you want slightly more authentic asian taste, opt for either oriental restaurants in London, or go for Thai restaurants.

It occurs to me that it is the same when it comes to elearning or web related matters. To those who are not web-savvy, the concept of a website is so often stuck with the static pages of what we used to see ten years ago.  Or some may think of all the new-fangled social network tools that flood a single webpage or what we now call a blog page.  But to those who truly consider both the aesthetics, the users and also functionality, they will be able to tease out the noise from the real features of a page that works.  So if you want to develop this sensitivity, just spend a few hours browsing through different sites and think about what really matters.  Should you like a page design that works in 2011 -2012, give me a bell and we can talk through this.

 

 

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A Review: Dreyfus: On the Internet

It seems to me Dreyfus is making a distinction between embodied and disembodied nature of the World Wide Web, not the Internet, especially in relation to hyperlinks. He is also romanticising the era of thinking that gives prominence to the idea of Cogito ergo sum, that thinking and existing is related, and also the mind controls the body.  And in relation to learning, his reference to Rousseau implies the importance of the child interacting with the physical environment. Hence the emphasis of embodiment in his critique about online or distance learning.

Certainly philosophers for a long time have debated about the relationship of the mind and body. When we take this to a new level, in relation to Distance Learning, where the written word become the prominent medium of communication, Dreyfus is suggesting that the absence of the teacher aka the human body, only partial communication takes place. He takes it so far as to conclude that because the heralding of the new era of leveling the field in education through digital technology has failed to happen, twenty years on, it has failed.  And that it has failed because online learning cannot replace human face-to-face contact; that it cannot teach mastery of a subject, as learning has to be a progression from learning from the master as an apprenticeship, where you are physically present and immerse yourself in the job, to learn from the contact of a human master to master of the subject through practice; and if has failed because distance learning can never create the same mood of a physical classroom; that it is without the risks that pertain in an embodied situation, and it cannot achieve the same effect without the teacher and learner’s emotional attachment to the learning experience; and it will not work as the spoken word, expressions, gestures cannot be attained by exchanging written text on the cyber world.

I think the premise of his assumptions is so much rooted in the past. Innovation is usually rejected strongly by traditionalists, as there is a tendency to compare an apple with an orange: both are different and so direct comparison is probably the wrong premise to begin with.  His critics, have more or less, torn down his assumptions, noting ‘Dreyfus’ failure of pedagogic imagination’, his oversight of what happens in reality in other domains especially in relation to his stages of learning, and the functionality and possibilities of asynchronous and synchronous communication afforded by technology in providing a sense of classroom, community and contact; his misconception of anonymity in Distance Education, when this is not the case in reality (Blake, pp380-2,2002).  The teacher-centredness approach has its time and place, and probably for a specific age group.  As the world evolves and ‘the embodied teacher is no longer considered indispensable to learning in higher education’ (McWilliams Taylor, 1997) for reasons of economy, changes in the culture and delivery of Higher Education.  From reading Lockhard and Pegrum’s Brave New Classroom, 2007, the idea of the embodied teacher is indeed fast becoming a relic of the past: historically, university education catered to creating a community of scholars, and to the elite few, presently, with the World Wide Web, and elearning technologies, newer, and sometimes more suitable pedagogies have developed, to meet the new challenges, needs culture and economy. With the neoliberal view, the discourse in Higher Education is shifting from Dreyfus’s premise of “creating good citizens with skilled in various domains” to “producing knowledge workers need to increase economic productivity and to engage in scientific and technological areas that feed high-tech productivity” (cited in O’Sullivan and Palaska, pp42, The New Discourse of Education, 2007).  The teacher, which used to be the content expert, has to adjust and incorporate the role of a facilitator, helping and directing the management of learning of the students instead.  In this new context, the learners take ownership for their learning (O’Sullivan and Palaska, p45, 2007).

Traditionalists, who believed in the power of the embodied teacher, go so far as to call for an urgent awareness to lecturers to fight their corner or risk losing their jobs but I think one cannot fight for the sake of fighting.  Technology in university is at the stage where it is becoming inescapable first due to the investment already poured in over the last fifteen years, and secondly, contrary to Dreyfus’ dichotomy of the embodied and the disembodied, embodiment in the cyberworld is different, or reconstituted using Land’s terminology (Land, 2004).  Dwight (2004) has put forward a cogent discussion challenging Dreyfus’s dualism, of seeing things in ‘fixed essence’, instead he promotes the idea of fluidity and interdependence between a machine and human beings.  It is no doubt, learning online, although has been hailed as the leveling tool to enable more to access higher education, providing more access to information and learning, and all the wonderful conveniences of learning anywhere, anytime, have not quite achieved all that it says it will do (Goodfellow and Lea, 2007; Lockhard and Pegrum, 2007).  However such big changes take time, astute management and the breaking down of myths of what constitutes good learning.  It is now another option available to distributing learning, and having this option is something that educators will need to enhance university education in the new context. (see footnote 1)

Ultimately, I think there must be a balance: the need to ensure a well designed distance learning course, and redefining and empowering the role of the teacher to one of facilitator, one that would teach the learners how to fish, and not giving them the fish; the reliance on self-motivated learning, organisation and charting one’s own path, but more importantly as suggested by Mc Williams and Taylor (1997), that “getting the pedagogical rationale right in the light of more compelling theories of the body and of technology… which will not happen by relying on the current advocate of high technology as a solution to all things, or being in an either or camp but “we would be better served by examining the state of impoverishment of the pedagogical principles that underlie such simplistic thinking.” (McWilliams and Taylor, 1997).  I tend to agree with Mc Williams and Taylor’s conclusion.  We need to dig deep and look across disciplines, theories and technology and really understand them, in order to begin to even think of what is important and what works.

 

Footnotes:

1. I am not forgetting to mention the technological diversity that exists amongst students from different age groups, geographical locations and social classes.  There are also issues regarding distribution and who actually gets to access Higher Education, but I think this particular topic is really not about a utopian ideal of Higher Education via technology, but more of looking at where Dreyfus is coming from and what are some of the more compelling discussions about the posssibilities of technology, and how we can harness the use of this, rather than seeing the two as contesting entities.

Reference:

N. Blake “Hubert Dreyfus on Distance Education: relays of educational 
embodiment” Educational Philosophy and Theory (2002) v. 34, no 4, pp.379-385
Burbules, M (2002) ‘Like a Version: playing with online identities’, Educational Philosophy and Theory, vol 34, no 4, pp.387-393
Champion, E. M. (2004) ‘The Digital Society and Its Enemies: A Critique of On the Internet’, Computers and Society, 32, 8
Clark, A. (2003) Natural born cyborgs: minds, technologies and the future of human intelligence, Oxford: OUP chapter 1, ‘Cyborgs unplugged’, pp.13-34
Dall’Alba, G. and Barnacle, R. (2005) Embodied knowing in online environments, Educational Philosophy and Theory, vol 37(5), pp.719-744
Dreyfus, H. L. (2009) On the internet, 2nd edition, London: Routledge chapter 2, ‘How Far is Distance Learning from Education’, pp.25-48 (e-book)
Dwight, J. (2004) ‘Review essay: On the Internet’, E-learning, 1, 1
Goodfellow, R and Lea, M (2007) Challenging e-Learning in the University, A Literacies Perspective, The Society of Research into Higher Education and Open University Press
Gresham, John (2006) ‘The divine pedagogy as a model for online education’, Teaching Theology and Religion, 9 (1), pp.24-26
Land, R. (2004) Issues of embodiment and risk in online learning. Proceedings of ASCILITE 2004
Lockhard and Pegrum, ed (2007) Brave New Classrooms, Peter Lang Publishing, NY
McWilliam, E. and Taylor, P. (1997) ‘Teacher im/material: challenging the new pedagogies of instructional design’
O’Sullivan and Palaskas, ‘The Political Economy of the New Discourse of Higher Education’ in Lockhard and Pegrum, ed (2007) Brave New Classrooms, Peter Lang Publishing, NY

 

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Silence

In the last five months since my last blog post, I have been through a lot of reading and discussions about digital technology.  Interacting and exchanging points of views with fellow colleagues and participants of the eLearning course at the University of Edinburgh have been a fascinating journey for me. I am now mulling over the pervasive use of social media in eLearning environments and reflecting on how knowledge have evolved in universities.  So if you have been wondering about the silence on this blog, it is all part of the process: where period of silences is equally important as productivity.

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Brave New Classrooms

I am on to my second book, “Brace New Classrooms: Democratic Education and the Internet” edited by Joe Lockhard and Mark Pegrum.

It is like clearing the cobweb in my mind.  Having developed my teaching and education career  along with the world wide web, and the ideals of a knowledge worker, and knowledge creator, it is really refreshing to sit back and reflect on the technological advancement that has taken over the landscape of education and communications in the last 25-30 years.  Caught in the spirit of the times, I have tried and experimented as much as I could with the new ideas and tools, to help enhance teaching, and creation of resources.  At most times, I did not have names or ideologies attached to much of my practices, except that I wanted to be a reflective practitioner, always stopping to think and improve, and develop better ways of doing things.  And so now it is time to read the research conducted: those that have reviewed and tested the efficacy and effectiveness of the practices that have evolved from the digital age.

And the “Brave New Classrooms” is a great place to start as it looks critically at these developments, at the same time providing names and descriptions to things that have been propagated by various schools of thought.  I have yet to finish reading the book but the chapter reviewing Socrates and Plato, in the elearning context is revealing.  I have often wondered about the Socratic Method of questioning, which on the one hand seemed so progressive, but in reality it is set in the authoritarian mode, where ultimately, all questions lead back to what the teacher hold to be true and right. And Plato’s dialogues, although seems to encourage the multiply layers of questioning, at the background, propagates that education is only for the elite.  These two ideas are contradictory to what the utopian view of widening access to all, and also the constructivist pedagogy of meaning making through the dialogue and participation. (Socrates and Plato Meet Neoliberalism in the Virtual Agora: Online Dialog and the Development of Oppositional Pedagogies, M Pegrum). Pegrum reminds me of the value of having a full understanding of concepts and ideas, as opposed to fragmented knowledge, which many of us could so easily be contented with. Even in the elearning arena, name dropping is prevalent.

There is more to read, but I will stop here now.  Ponder, investigate and question more and I will be back with more reports from other chapters of the book.

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2015

This year presents many challenges.  Once I have completed my Research Methods module with my Digital Education course, it was time to prepare for the arrival of my twin boys.  They arrived three months early but thanks to development in medicine and science, they survived.  It was a rough ride for everyone.

All my hopes of with-holding my little daughter from the screen went out of the window when suddenly we have to cope with three children.  So this piece is really about what my thoughts are about the use of digital technology in the life of my nearly four year old child.  (To follow)

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A year on

In the last seven months, I have completed two more modules of the Msc in Digital Education course with the University of Edinburgh.  It has been most helpful in shaping my thoughts and practice in the area.  I took up the course with the hope that I will be able to build on my experience in resource design, and learn the science and art of eLearning, and I am pleased that I have achieved both goals. The most recent module on elearning and Digital Culture has really helped make sense of the development in this area, and helped shape my thoughts and practice in eLearning design.  Please read my final assignment for clarity.

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Communications – what we can learn from babies

It has been a while since I had time to write a blog.  My little girl is taking up all my spare time these days.  At six months she suddenly became even more demanding as she started to indicate through babbles, sounds and eye contact, what she wants, how she wants to be held and which direction she wants to go.  As a parent, my role is to respond so to encourage further communications. She is excitedly exploring the world through her ability to communicate her needs to her mother. While her movements are still restricted due to her inability to crawl yet, she is actively showing us how motivated she is to get somewhere and to obtain her prized gadgets such as the mobile phone, keyboards and remote controls.

Being responsive to a child’s early communications is key to her language development and understanding of social interaction. Ignoring  a babies’ cry or sounds will send a discouraging message to her.  So what can we learn from babies?  In truth, nothing. I say this because being responsive is reflective of our everyday communications with each other.  The only thing I might add is that sadly, we grow up and sometimes forget about the element of turn taking and two way communications, and many times, we find that we no longer respond to messages, and emails and someone sharing about their life or part of the day.  Instead, we queue our responses, or when we are physically present, we may be preoccupied with other things: we are not there for people.

Being there, I think,  is the essence of communication: being there for your baby, your child, your husband, your colleague, your friend, your acquaintances and your neighbour.

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Decisions

I recently have a new addition to my family:  A little girl who is now nearly 8 weeks old and she has had numerous skype video calls meeting relatives and friends from the States, UK, Malaysia and Singapore. At her age, she cannot see where the voice and picture is coming from but she can hear the voices. And we wonder when is the right time to introduce to the baby such gadgets like the iphone and ipads.

I have not had time to read any research on this but my hunch is not until the child is at least five years old. However I will encounter a lot of pressure from my partner who thinks that every child now treats these items as if it is their natural environment, and thus the sooner the child gets her hand on these things, the better.

I wonder what your experience has been with these?  The burden upon parents of this decade:  Decisions for the future that will impact on the cognitive, social and psychological development of children.

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Educating children

It is all too confusing a picture to compare the riots in London to those countries where young people are fighting against nepotism and dictatorship.  Here in the UK, it is mindless accusations of those who are in business – not even the rich.  There is looting, mugging and burning down of properties.  Where social media is used for a good cause in the Arab countries, here it is used for destruction.

Having worked with young people who are disenchanted and some who have a lot of problems, I have seen sensible young people, but a lot of them seem have little interaction and contact with people from different walks of life. Their comprehension of politics and society is skewed too. I have times despaired because the resistance and lack of understanding which I have seen run too deep and not a lot is offered to these groups to enable their situation to improve.  I feared one day my life would be in the hands of young people of such disposition. It might be too late when those who can do something realise this possibility.  As we have seen, it only took some economic crisis to unleash the resentment and anger from sections of the society.

We should think carefully how those in government will contain this ugly monster that have shown its fury.

 

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Learning to read

It never fail to amaze me how effective Reading Reflex is.  I have recently used this technique with a five year old, and after ten sessions, the little boy is reading words like ‘roast’, ‘note’, ‘though’ and ‘host’.  Given another eight to ten sessions, this child will have a reading age of seven or eight.

Another student who had difficulties with reading, spelling and writing, although taken a year to arrive at this level, is now reading books written by Roald Dahl.  And he is now able to spell perhaps 60% of words with the advanced code.  This is quite an amazing achievement for the student, who in April last year was not able to read or write beyond CVC words. Without this intervention, this student would have fallen way behind and will not have followed most of his Year 7 work.  I wondered what schools are really doing for pupils such as this.

The debate about which reading method to employ in schools is really irrelevant when we see how the approach used in schools have failed the students above.  It is perhaps time for literacy teachers in schools to look closely again at how we teach young children basic skills.

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Analogy of curries in the UK

I have been trying some Indian restaurants locally in the UK, specifically those outside London.  I usually go in with the hope that the various offerings will not look and taste all the same.  To the discerning palate, curries are not gluey, sweet and spicy yellow mustardy gravy.  Unfortunately without fail,  this is what is served in most places.  It is the same with Chinese Restaurants outside London. Not only are the cheapest ingredients used but majority of the restaurants provide food that is laced with monosodium glutamate, and after a while all the food taste the same; lacking in texture, fibre and taste.  It really is a shame.  So if you want slightly more authentic asian taste, opt for either oriental restaurants in London, or go for Thai restaurants.

It occurs to me that it is the same when it comes to elearning or web related matters. To those who are not web-savvy, the concept of a website is so often stuck with the static pages of what we used to see ten years ago.  Or some may think of all the new-fangled social network tools that flood a single webpage or what we now call a blog page.  But to those who truly consider both the aesthetics, the users and also functionality, they will be able to tease out the noise from the real features of a page that works.  So if you want to develop this sensitivity, just spend a few hours browsing through different sites and think about what really matters.  Should you like a page design that works in 2011 -2012, give me a bell and we can talk through this.

 

 

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A Review: Dreyfus: On the Internet

It seems to me Dreyfus is making a distinction between embodied and disembodied nature of the World Wide Web, not the Internet, especially in relation to hyperlinks. He is also romanticising the era of thinking that gives prominence to the idea of Cogito ergo sum, that thinking and existing is related, and also the mind controls the body.  And in relation to learning, his reference to Rousseau implies the importance of the child interacting with the physical environment. Hence the emphasis of embodiment in his critique about online or distance learning.

Certainly philosophers for a long time have debated about the relationship of the mind and body. When we take this to a new level, in relation to Distance Learning, where the written word become the prominent medium of communication, Dreyfus is suggesting that the absence of the teacher aka the human body, only partial communication takes place. He takes it so far as to conclude that because the heralding of the new era of leveling the field in education through digital technology has failed to happen, twenty years on, it has failed.  And that it has failed because online learning cannot replace human face-to-face contact; that it cannot teach mastery of a subject, as learning has to be a progression from learning from the master as an apprenticeship, where you are physically present and immerse yourself in the job, to learn from the contact of a human master to master of the subject through practice; and if has failed because distance learning can never create the same mood of a physical classroom; that it is without the risks that pertain in an embodied situation, and it cannot achieve the same effect without the teacher and learner’s emotional attachment to the learning experience; and it will not work as the spoken word, expressions, gestures cannot be attained by exchanging written text on the cyber world.

I think the premise of his assumptions is so much rooted in the past. Innovation is usually rejected strongly by traditionalists, as there is a tendency to compare an apple with an orange: both are different and so direct comparison is probably the wrong premise to begin with.  His critics, have more or less, torn down his assumptions, noting ‘Dreyfus’ failure of pedagogic imagination’, his oversight of what happens in reality in other domains especially in relation to his stages of learning, and the functionality and possibilities of asynchronous and synchronous communication afforded by technology in providing a sense of classroom, community and contact; his misconception of anonymity in Distance Education, when this is not the case in reality (Blake, pp380-2,2002).  The teacher-centredness approach has its time and place, and probably for a specific age group.  As the world evolves and ‘the embodied teacher is no longer considered indispensable to learning in higher education’ (McWilliams Taylor, 1997) for reasons of economy, changes in the culture and delivery of Higher Education.  From reading Lockhard and Pegrum’s Brave New Classroom, 2007, the idea of the embodied teacher is indeed fast becoming a relic of the past: historically, university education catered to creating a community of scholars, and to the elite few, presently, with the World Wide Web, and elearning technologies, newer, and sometimes more suitable pedagogies have developed, to meet the new challenges, needs culture and economy. With the neoliberal view, the discourse in Higher Education is shifting from Dreyfus’s premise of “creating good citizens with skilled in various domains” to “producing knowledge workers need to increase economic productivity and to engage in scientific and technological areas that feed high-tech productivity” (cited in O’Sullivan and Palaska, pp42, The New Discourse of Education, 2007).  The teacher, which used to be the content expert, has to adjust and incorporate the role of a facilitator, helping and directing the management of learning of the students instead.  In this new context, the learners take ownership for their learning (O’Sullivan and Palaska, p45, 2007).

Traditionalists, who believed in the power of the embodied teacher, go so far as to call for an urgent awareness to lecturers to fight their corner or risk losing their jobs but I think one cannot fight for the sake of fighting.  Technology in university is at the stage where it is becoming inescapable first due to the investment already poured in over the last fifteen years, and secondly, contrary to Dreyfus’ dichotomy of the embodied and the disembodied, embodiment in the cyberworld is different, or reconstituted using Land’s terminology (Land, 2004).  Dwight (2004) has put forward a cogent discussion challenging Dreyfus’s dualism, of seeing things in ‘fixed essence’, instead he promotes the idea of fluidity and interdependence between a machine and human beings.  It is no doubt, learning online, although has been hailed as the leveling tool to enable more to access higher education, providing more access to information and learning, and all the wonderful conveniences of learning anywhere, anytime, have not quite achieved all that it says it will do (Goodfellow and Lea, 2007; Lockhard and Pegrum, 2007).  However such big changes take time, astute management and the breaking down of myths of what constitutes good learning.  It is now another option available to distributing learning, and having this option is something that educators will need to enhance university education in the new context. (see footnote 1)

Ultimately, I think there must be a balance: the need to ensure a well designed distance learning course, and redefining and empowering the role of the teacher to one of facilitator, one that would teach the learners how to fish, and not giving them the fish; the reliance on self-motivated learning, organisation and charting one’s own path, but more importantly as suggested by Mc Williams and Taylor (1997), that “getting the pedagogical rationale right in the light of more compelling theories of the body and of technology… which will not happen by relying on the current advocate of high technology as a solution to all things, or being in an either or camp but “we would be better served by examining the state of impoverishment of the pedagogical principles that underlie such simplistic thinking.” (McWilliams and Taylor, 1997).  I tend to agree with Mc Williams and Taylor’s conclusion.  We need to dig deep and look across disciplines, theories and technology and really understand them, in order to begin to even think of what is important and what works.

 

Footnotes:

1. I am not forgetting to mention the technological diversity that exists amongst students from different age groups, geographical locations and social classes.  There are also issues regarding distribution and who actually gets to access Higher Education, but I think this particular topic is really not about a utopian ideal of Higher Education via technology, but more of looking at where Dreyfus is coming from and what are some of the more compelling discussions about the posssibilities of technology, and how we can harness the use of this, rather than seeing the two as contesting entities.

Reference:

N. Blake “Hubert Dreyfus on Distance Education: relays of educational 
embodiment” Educational Philosophy and Theory (2002) v. 34, no 4, pp.379-385
Burbules, M (2002) ‘Like a Version: playing with online identities’, Educational Philosophy and Theory, vol 34, no 4, pp.387-393
Champion, E. M. (2004) ‘The Digital Society and Its Enemies: A Critique of On the Internet’, Computers and Society, 32, 8
Clark, A. (2003) Natural born cyborgs: minds, technologies and the future of human intelligence, Oxford: OUP chapter 1, ‘Cyborgs unplugged’, pp.13-34
Dall’Alba, G. and Barnacle, R. (2005) Embodied knowing in online environments, Educational Philosophy and Theory, vol 37(5), pp.719-744
Dreyfus, H. L. (2009) On the internet, 2nd edition, London: Routledge chapter 2, ‘How Far is Distance Learning from Education’, pp.25-48 (e-book)
Dwight, J. (2004) ‘Review essay: On the Internet’, E-learning, 1, 1
Goodfellow, R and Lea, M (2007) Challenging e-Learning in the University, A Literacies Perspective, The Society of Research into Higher Education and Open University Press
Gresham, John (2006) ‘The divine pedagogy as a model for online education’, Teaching Theology and Religion, 9 (1), pp.24-26
Land, R. (2004) Issues of embodiment and risk in online learning. Proceedings of ASCILITE 2004
Lockhard and Pegrum, ed (2007) Brave New Classrooms, Peter Lang Publishing, NY
McWilliam, E. and Taylor, P. (1997) ‘Teacher im/material: challenging the new pedagogies of instructional design’
O’Sullivan and Palaskas, ‘The Political Economy of the New Discourse of Higher Education’ in Lockhard and Pegrum, ed (2007) Brave New Classrooms, Peter Lang Publishing, NY

 

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Silence

In the last five months since my last blog post, I have been through a lot of reading and discussions about digital technology.  Interacting and exchanging points of views with fellow colleagues and participants of the eLearning course at the University of Edinburgh have been a fascinating journey for me. I am now mulling over the pervasive use of social media in eLearning environments and reflecting on how knowledge have evolved in universities.  So if you have been wondering about the silence on this blog, it is all part of the process: where period of silences is equally important as productivity.

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Brave New Classrooms

I am on to my second book, “Brace New Classrooms: Democratic Education and the Internet” edited by Joe Lockhard and Mark Pegrum.

It is like clearing the cobweb in my mind.  Having developed my teaching and education career  along with the world wide web, and the ideals of a knowledge worker, and knowledge creator, it is really refreshing to sit back and reflect on the technological advancement that has taken over the landscape of education and communications in the last 25-30 years.  Caught in the spirit of the times, I have tried and experimented as much as I could with the new ideas and tools, to help enhance teaching, and creation of resources.  At most times, I did not have names or ideologies attached to much of my practices, except that I wanted to be a reflective practitioner, always stopping to think and improve, and develop better ways of doing things.  And so now it is time to read the research conducted: those that have reviewed and tested the efficacy and effectiveness of the practices that have evolved from the digital age.

And the “Brave New Classrooms” is a great place to start as it looks critically at these developments, at the same time providing names and descriptions to things that have been propagated by various schools of thought.  I have yet to finish reading the book but the chapter reviewing Socrates and Plato, in the elearning context is revealing.  I have often wondered about the Socratic Method of questioning, which on the one hand seemed so progressive, but in reality it is set in the authoritarian mode, where ultimately, all questions lead back to what the teacher hold to be true and right. And Plato’s dialogues, although seems to encourage the multiply layers of questioning, at the background, propagates that education is only for the elite.  These two ideas are contradictory to what the utopian view of widening access to all, and also the constructivist pedagogy of meaning making through the dialogue and participation. (Socrates and Plato Meet Neoliberalism in the Virtual Agora: Online Dialog and the Development of Oppositional Pedagogies, M Pegrum). Pegrum reminds me of the value of having a full understanding of concepts and ideas, as opposed to fragmented knowledge, which many of us could so easily be contented with. Even in the elearning arena, name dropping is prevalent.

There is more to read, but I will stop here now.  Ponder, investigate and question more and I will be back with more reports from other chapters of the book.

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Analogy of curries in the UK

Posted by admin-elt on Jun 28, 2011

I have been trying some Indian restaurants locally in the UK, specifically those outside London.  I usually go in with the hope that the various offerings will not look and taste all the same.  To the discerning palate, curries are not gluey, sweet and spicy yellow mustardy gravy.  Unfortunately without fail,  this is what is served in most places.  It is the same with Chinese Restaurants outside London. Not only are the cheapest ingredients used but majority of the restaurants provide food that is laced with monosodium glutamate, and after a while all the food taste the same; lacking in texture, fibre and taste.  It really is a shame.  So if you want slightly more authentic asian taste, opt for either oriental restaurants in London, or go for Thai restaurants. It occurs to me that it is the same when it comes to elearning or web related matters. To those who are not web-savvy, the concept of a website is so often stuck with the static pages of what we used to see ten years ago.  Or some may think of all the new-fangled social network tools that flood a single webpage or what we now call a blog page.  But to those who truly consider both the aesthetics, the users and also functionality, they will be able to tease out the noise from the real features of a page that works.  So if you want to develop this sensitivity, just spend a few hours browsing through different sites and think about what really matters.  Should you like a page design that works in 2011 -2012, give me a...

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A Review: Dreyfus: On the Internet

Posted by admin-elt on May 26, 2011

It seems to me Dreyfus is making a distinction between embodied and disembodied nature of the World Wide Web, not the Internet, especially in relation to hyperlinks. He is also romanticising the era of thinking that gives prominence to the idea of Cogito ergo sum, that thinking and existing is related, and also the mind controls the body.  And in relation to learning, his reference to Rousseau implies the importance of the child interacting with the physical environment. Hence the emphasis of embodiment in his critique about online or distance learning. Certainly philosophers for a long time have debated about the relationship of the mind and body. When we take this to a new level, in relation to Distance Learning, where the written word become the prominent medium of communication, Dreyfus is suggesting that the absence of the teacher aka the human body, only partial communication takes place. He takes it so far as to conclude that because the heralding of the new era of leveling the field in education through digital technology has failed to happen, twenty years on, it has failed.  And that it has failed because online learning cannot replace human face-to-face contact; that it cannot teach mastery of a subject, as learning has to be a progression from learning from the master as an apprenticeship, where you are physically present and immerse yourself in the job, to learn from the contact of a human master to master of the subject through practice; and if has failed because distance learning can never create the same mood of a physical classroom; that it is without the risks that...

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Silence

Posted by admin-elt on Apr 14, 2011

In the last five months since my last blog post, I have been through a lot of reading and discussions about digital technology.  Interacting and exchanging points of views with fellow colleagues and participants of the eLearning course at the University of Edinburgh have been a fascinating journey for me. I am now mulling over the pervasive use of social media in eLearning environments and reflecting on how knowledge have evolved in universities.  So if you have been wondering about the silence on this blog, it is all part of the process: where period of silences is equally important as...

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Brave New Classrooms

Posted by admin-elt on Dec 14, 2010

I am on to my second book, “Brace New Classrooms: Democratic Education and the Internet” edited by Joe Lockhard and Mark Pegrum. It is like clearing the cobweb in my mind.  Having developed my teaching and education career  along with the world wide web, and the ideals of a knowledge worker, and knowledge creator, it is really refreshing to sit back and reflect on the technological advancement that has taken over the landscape of education and communications in the last 25-30 years.  Caught in the spirit of the times, I have tried and experimented as much as I could with the new ideas and tools, to help enhance teaching, and creation of resources.  At most times, I did not have names or ideologies attached to much of my practices, except that I wanted to be a reflective practitioner, always stopping to think and improve, and develop better ways of doing things.  And so now it is time to read the research conducted: those that have reviewed and tested the efficacy and effectiveness of the practices that have evolved from the digital age. And the “Brave New Classrooms” is a great place to start as it looks critically at these developments, at the same time providing names and descriptions to things that have been propagated by various schools of thought.  I have yet to finish reading the book but the chapter reviewing Socrates and Plato, in the elearning context is revealing.  I have often wondered about the Socratic Method of questioning, which on the one hand seemed so progressive, but in reality it is set in the authoritarian mode, where...

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Challenging eLearning in the University

Posted by admin-elt on Dec 9, 2010

I have been reading the book entitled ‘Challenging E-Learning in the University’ by Goodfellow and Lea (2007). Goodfellow and Lea, with background in linguistics, bring interesting perspectives and raise pertinent questions about what constitutes learning in University.  They focus on the academic literacies required with the introduction of technology driven learning management frameworks which have taken over the landscape of University Education in the last few years.  They highlight the tension that exists between the systems and the ideology of student empowerment that is created.  And more importantly, they discuss the transformation of traditional roles of lecturers and universities to one that facilitates learning and knowledge.  Although universities in the name of eLearning have embraced technologies into the delivery, assessment and management, there is little clarity on what constitutes knowledge.  As linguists, they also bring into focus the text-centred modality, that still governs meaning making at this level.  There are so many issues to be raised as to what we will accept as authority and also the divide that exist in this era.  Despite the intention of policy makers to make sure that the digital divide gets smaller, Goodfellow and Lea remind us that eLearning is still very much dependent on written word. How does this impact literacy teaching in our classrooms...

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eLearning and Snow

Posted by admin-elt on Dec 6, 2010

“Which era in history would you like to be born?” I asked my tutee. After much thought, he said during the Stone Age! While he is constructing his arguments, I ponder about our era. This time, the dreaded arctic wind in the UK; some schools have been closed for a whole week now. Many school hours have disappeared, never to be recovered. At the same time, the discussion in the news today is about provision of high speed broadband to the UK and it was reported that nine million people in the UK do not yet have access to the internet. Places such as Korea and Singapore have better connections than the UK. Let us consider a future where schools are not solely dependent on physical classroom attendance. Think about some forward thinking education establishments in the Far East which have already been trialling this for years. And let us ask some questions whether teachers in the UK have begun piloting schemes of elearning as a way to complement teaching in the classroom effectively. In 1996 when I was teaching History, I had my own website where schemes of work, lessons and tasks were made available online. My students used the site as a primary tool for reference. And I would like to think that if I was teaching in schools in the UK today, my students would be doing the same. In fact, they would be interacting with the content matter online with their schoolmates. My presence in the classroom will draw from discussion students have online, and I will introduce new concepts which will then to be...

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Work & Feedback

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Plans & Pricing

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This year presents many challenges.  Once I have completed my Research Methods module with my Digital Education course, it was time to prepare for the arrival of my twin boys.  They arrived three months early but thanks to development in medicine and science, they survived.  It was a rough ride for everyone.

All my hopes of with-holding my little daughter from the screen went out of the window when suddenly we have to cope with three children.  So this piece is really about what my thoughts are about the use of digital technology in the life of my nearly four year old child.  (To follow)

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In the last seven months, I have completed two more modules of the Msc in Digital Education course with the University of Edinburgh.  It has been most helpful in shaping my thoughts and practice in the area.  I took up the course with the hope that I will be able to build on my experience in resource design, and learn the science and art of eLearning, and I am pleased that I have achieved both goals. The most recent module on elearning and Digital Culture has really helped make sense of the development in this area, and helped shape my thoughts and practice in eLearning design.  Please read my final assignment for clarity.

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It has been a while since I had time to write a blog.  My little girl is taking up all my spare time these days.  At six months she suddenly became even more demanding as she started to indicate through babbles, sounds and eye contact, what she wants, how she wants to be held and which direction she wants to go.  As a parent, my role is to respond so to encourage further communications. She is excitedly exploring the world through her ability to communicate her needs to her mother. While her movements are still restricted due to her inability to crawl yet, she is actively showing us how motivated she is to get somewhere and to obtain her prized gadgets such as the mobile phone, keyboards and remote controls.

Being responsive to a child’s early communications is key to her language development and understanding of social interaction. Ignoring  a babies’ cry or sounds will send a discouraging message to her.  So what can we learn from babies?  In truth, nothing. I say this because being responsive is reflective of our everyday communications with each other.  The only thing I might add is that sadly, we grow up and sometimes forget about the element of turn taking and two way communications, and many times, we find that we no longer respond to messages, and emails and someone sharing about their life or part of the day.  Instead, we queue our responses, or when we are physically present, we may be preoccupied with other things: we are not there for people.

Being there, I think,  is the essence of communication: being there for your baby, your child, your husband, your colleague, your friend, your acquaintances and your neighbour.

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I recently have a new addition to my family:  A little girl who is now nearly 8 weeks old and she has had numerous skype video calls meeting relatives and friends from the States, UK, Malaysia and Singapore. At her age, she cannot see where the voice and picture is coming from but she can hear the voices. And we wonder when is the right time to introduce to the baby such gadgets like the iphone and ipads.

I have not had time to read any research on this but my hunch is not until the child is at least five years old. However I will encounter a lot of pressure from my partner who thinks that every child now treats these items as if it is their natural environment, and thus the sooner the child gets her hand on these things, the better.

I wonder what your experience has been with these?  The burden upon parents of this decade:  Decisions for the future that will impact on the cognitive, social and psychological development of children.

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It is all too confusing a picture to compare the riots in London to those countries where young people are fighting against nepotism and dictatorship.  Here in the UK, it is mindless accusations of those who are in business – not even the rich.  There is looting, mugging and burning down of properties.  Where social media is used for a good cause in the Arab countries, here it is used for destruction.

Having worked with young people who are disenchanted and some who have a lot of problems, I have seen sensible young people, but a lot of them seem have little interaction and contact with people from different walks of life. Their comprehension of politics and society is skewed too. I have times despaired because the resistance and lack of understanding which I have seen run too deep and not a lot is offered to these groups to enable their situation to improve.  I feared one day my life would be in the hands of young people of such disposition. It might be too late when those who can do something realise this possibility.  As we have seen, it only took some economic crisis to unleash the resentment and anger from sections of the society.

We should think carefully how those in government will contain this ugly monster that have shown its fury.

 

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It never fail to amaze me how effective Reading Reflex is.  I have recently used this technique with a five year old, and after ten sessions, the little boy is reading words like ‘roast’, ‘note’, ‘though’ and ‘host’.  Given another eight to ten sessions, this child will have a reading age of seven or eight.

Another student who had difficulties with reading, spelling and writing, although taken a year to arrive at this level, is now reading books written by Roald Dahl.  And he is now able to spell perhaps 60% of words with the advanced code.  This is quite an amazing achievement for the student, who in April last year was not able to read or write beyond CVC words. Without this intervention, this student would have fallen way behind and will not have followed most of his Year 7 work.  I wondered what schools are really doing for pupils such as this.

The debate about which reading method to employ in schools is really irrelevant when we see how the approach used in schools have failed the students above.  It is perhaps time for literacy teachers in schools to look closely again at how we teach young children basic skills.

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I have been trying some Indian restaurants locally in the UK, specifically those outside London.  I usually go in with the hope that the various offerings will not look and taste all the same.  To the discerning palate, curries are not gluey, sweet and spicy yellow mustardy gravy.  Unfortunately without fail,  this is what is served in most places.  It is the same with Chinese Restaurants outside London. Not only are the cheapest ingredients used but majority of the restaurants provide food that is laced with monosodium glutamate, and after a while all the food taste the same; lacking in texture, fibre and taste.  It really is a shame.  So if you want slightly more authentic asian taste, opt for either oriental restaurants in London, or go for Thai restaurants.

It occurs to me that it is the same when it comes to elearning or web related matters. To those who are not web-savvy, the concept of a website is so often stuck with the static pages of what we used to see ten years ago.  Or some may think of all the new-fangled social network tools that flood a single webpage or what we now call a blog page.  But to those who truly consider both the aesthetics, the users and also functionality, they will be able to tease out the noise from the real features of a page that works.  So if you want to develop this sensitivity, just spend a few hours browsing through different sites and think about what really matters.  Should you like a page design that works in 2011 -2012, give me a bell and we can talk through this.

 

 

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It seems to me Dreyfus is making a distinction between embodied and disembodied nature of the World Wide Web, not the Internet, especially in relation to hyperlinks. He is also romanticising the era of thinking that gives prominence to the idea of Cogito ergo sum, that thinking and existing is related, and also the mind controls the body.  And in relation to learning, his reference to Rousseau implies the importance of the child interacting with the physical environment. Hence the emphasis of embodiment in his critique about online or distance learning.

Certainly philosophers for a long time have debated about the relationship of the mind and body. When we take this to a new level, in relation to Distance Learning, where the written word become the prominent medium of communication, Dreyfus is suggesting that the absence of the teacher aka the human body, only partial communication takes place. He takes it so far as to conclude that because the heralding of the new era of leveling the field in education through digital technology has failed to happen, twenty years on, it has failed.  And that it has failed because online learning cannot replace human face-to-face contact; that it cannot teach mastery of a subject, as learning has to be a progression from learning from the master as an apprenticeship, where you are physically present and immerse yourself in the job, to learn from the contact of a human master to master of the subject through practice; and if has failed because distance learning can never create the same mood of a physical classroom; that it is without the risks that pertain in an embodied situation, and it cannot achieve the same effect without the teacher and learner’s emotional attachment to the learning experience; and it will not work as the spoken word, expressions, gestures cannot be attained by exchanging written text on the cyber world.

I think the premise of his assumptions is so much rooted in the past. Innovation is usually rejected strongly by traditionalists, as there is a tendency to compare an apple with an orange: both are different and so direct comparison is probably the wrong premise to begin with.  His critics, have more or less, torn down his assumptions, noting ‘Dreyfus’ failure of pedagogic imagination’, his oversight of what happens in reality in other domains especially in relation to his stages of learning, and the functionality and possibilities of asynchronous and synchronous communication afforded by technology in providing a sense of classroom, community and contact; his misconception of anonymity in Distance Education, when this is not the case in reality (Blake, pp380-2,2002).  The teacher-centredness approach has its time and place, and probably for a specific age group.  As the world evolves and ‘the embodied teacher is no longer considered indispensable to learning in higher education’ (McWilliams Taylor, 1997) for reasons of economy, changes in the culture and delivery of Higher Education.  From reading Lockhard and Pegrum’s Brave New Classroom, 2007, the idea of the embodied teacher is indeed fast becoming a relic of the past: historically, university education catered to creating a community of scholars, and to the elite few, presently, with the World Wide Web, and elearning technologies, newer, and sometimes more suitable pedagogies have developed, to meet the new challenges, needs culture and economy. With the neoliberal view, the discourse in Higher Education is shifting from Dreyfus’s premise of “creating good citizens with skilled in various domains” to “producing knowledge workers need to increase economic productivity and to engage in scientific and technological areas that feed high-tech productivity” (cited in O’Sullivan and Palaska, pp42, The New Discourse of Education, 2007).  The teacher, which used to be the content expert, has to adjust and incorporate the role of a facilitator, helping and directing the management of learning of the students instead.  In this new context, the learners take ownership for their learning (O’Sullivan and Palaska, p45, 2007).

Traditionalists, who believed in the power of the embodied teacher, go so far as to call for an urgent awareness to lecturers to fight their corner or risk losing their jobs but I think one cannot fight for the sake of fighting.  Technology in university is at the stage where it is becoming inescapable first due to the investment already poured in over the last fifteen years, and secondly, contrary to Dreyfus’ dichotomy of the embodied and the disembodied, embodiment in the cyberworld is different, or reconstituted using Land’s terminology (Land, 2004).  Dwight (2004) has put forward a cogent discussion challenging Dreyfus’s dualism, of seeing things in ‘fixed essence’, instead he promotes the idea of fluidity and interdependence between a machine and human beings.  It is no doubt, learning online, although has been hailed as the leveling tool to enable more to access higher education, providing more access to information and learning, and all the wonderful conveniences of learning anywhere, anytime, have not quite achieved all that it says it will do (Goodfellow and Lea, 2007; Lockhard and Pegrum, 2007).  However such big changes take time, astute management and the breaking down of myths of what constitutes good learning.  It is now another option available to distributing learning, and having this option is something that educators will need to enhance university education in the new context. (see footnote 1)

Ultimately, I think there must be a balance: the need to ensure a well designed distance learning course, and redefining and empowering the role of the teacher to one of facilitator, one that would teach the learners how to fish, and not giving them the fish; the reliance on self-motivated learning, organisation and charting one’s own path, but more importantly as suggested by Mc Williams and Taylor (1997), that “getting the pedagogical rationale right in the light of more compelling theories of the body and of technology… which will not happen by relying on the current advocate of high technology as a solution to all things, or being in an either or camp but “we would be better served by examining the state of impoverishment of the pedagogical principles that underlie such simplistic thinking.” (McWilliams and Taylor, 1997).  I tend to agree with Mc Williams and Taylor’s conclusion.  We need to dig deep and look across disciplines, theories and technology and really understand them, in order to begin to even think of what is important and what works.

 

Footnotes:

1. I am not forgetting to mention the technological diversity that exists amongst students from different age groups, geographical locations and social classes.  There are also issues regarding distribution and who actually gets to access Higher Education, but I think this particular topic is really not about a utopian ideal of Higher Education via technology, but more of looking at where Dreyfus is coming from and what are some of the more compelling discussions about the posssibilities of technology, and how we can harness the use of this, rather than seeing the two as contesting entities.

Reference:

N. Blake “Hubert Dreyfus on Distance Education: relays of educational 
embodiment” Educational Philosophy and Theory (2002) v. 34, no 4, pp.379-385
Burbules, M (2002) ‘Like a Version: playing with online identities’, Educational Philosophy and Theory, vol 34, no 4, pp.387-393
Champion, E. M. (2004) ‘The Digital Society and Its Enemies: A Critique of On the Internet’, Computers and Society, 32, 8
Clark, A. (2003) Natural born cyborgs: minds, technologies and the future of human intelligence, Oxford: OUP chapter 1, ‘Cyborgs unplugged’, pp.13-34
Dall’Alba, G. and Barnacle, R. (2005) Embodied knowing in online environments, Educational Philosophy and Theory, vol 37(5), pp.719-744
Dreyfus, H. L. (2009) On the internet, 2nd edition, London: Routledge chapter 2, ‘How Far is Distance Learning from Education’, pp.25-48 (e-book)
Dwight, J. (2004) ‘Review essay: On the Internet’, E-learning, 1, 1
Goodfellow, R and Lea, M (2007) Challenging e-Learning in the University, A Literacies Perspective, The Society of Research into Higher Education and Open University Press
Gresham, John (2006) ‘The divine pedagogy as a model for online education’, Teaching Theology and Religion, 9 (1), pp.24-26
Land, R. (2004) Issues of embodiment and risk in online learning. Proceedings of ASCILITE 2004
Lockhard and Pegrum, ed (2007) Brave New Classrooms, Peter Lang Publishing, NY
McWilliam, E. and Taylor, P. (1997) ‘Teacher im/material: challenging the new pedagogies of instructional design’
O’Sullivan and Palaskas, ‘The Political Economy of the New Discourse of Higher Education’ in Lockhard and Pegrum, ed (2007) Brave New Classrooms, Peter Lang Publishing, NY

 

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In the last five months since my last blog post, I have been through a lot of reading and discussions about digital technology.  Interacting and exchanging points of views with fellow colleagues and participants of the eLearning course at the University of Edinburgh have been a fascinating journey for me. I am now mulling over the pervasive use of social media in eLearning environments and reflecting on how knowledge have evolved in universities.  So if you have been wondering about the silence on this blog, it is all part of the process: where period of silences is equally important as productivity.

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I am on to my second book, “Brace New Classrooms: Democratic Education and the Internet” edited by Joe Lockhard and Mark Pegrum.

It is like clearing the cobweb in my mind.  Having developed my teaching and education career  along with the world wide web, and the ideals of a knowledge worker, and knowledge creator, it is really refreshing to sit back and reflect on the technological advancement that has taken over the landscape of education and communications in the last 25-30 years.  Caught in the spirit of the times, I have tried and experimented as much as I could with the new ideas and tools, to help enhance teaching, and creation of resources.  At most times, I did not have names or ideologies attached to much of my practices, except that I wanted to be a reflective practitioner, always stopping to think and improve, and develop better ways of doing things.  And so now it is time to read the research conducted: those that have reviewed and tested the efficacy and effectiveness of the practices that have evolved from the digital age.

And the “Brave New Classrooms” is a great place to start as it looks critically at these developments, at the same time providing names and descriptions to things that have been propagated by various schools of thought.  I have yet to finish reading the book but the chapter reviewing Socrates and Plato, in the elearning context is revealing.  I have often wondered about the Socratic Method of questioning, which on the one hand seemed so progressive, but in reality it is set in the authoritarian mode, where ultimately, all questions lead back to what the teacher hold to be true and right. And Plato’s dialogues, although seems to encourage the multiply layers of questioning, at the background, propagates that education is only for the elite.  These two ideas are contradictory to what the utopian view of widening access to all, and also the constructivist pedagogy of meaning making through the dialogue and participation. (Socrates and Plato Meet Neoliberalism in the Virtual Agora: Online Dialog and the Development of Oppositional Pedagogies, M Pegrum). Pegrum reminds me of the value of having a full understanding of concepts and ideas, as opposed to fragmented knowledge, which many of us could so easily be contented with. Even in the elearning arena, name dropping is prevalent.

There is more to read, but I will stop here now.  Ponder, investigate and question more and I will be back with more reports from other chapters of the book.

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