Philosophy
The Deep Stuff: Religion, Ethics, Ontology, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Systems and Systems Theory













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Sunday, April 29, 2007
 

Summary: This extension of my group knowledge building model isn't so much one of structure as of membership. It occurred to me that with the support of an "expertise exchange" either a classroom or professional knowledge-making group could extend it's efforts and effectiveness. [This entry was originally drafted on March 22 ... but somehow was left in the draft stack. Here it is --- a bit later than I planned.]
My point is that most groups will run into a "wall" at some point or another. That is, they will soon find that, even between them, they don't have the answers to some of their important and central questions. Nor, they find, do they have resources that quickly provide those answers. Sometimes just waiting out the impasse may help. Perhaps a new problem solving technique will get them there. There are undoubtedly problem solving algorithms that could be adapted to the online group. But, even then, the collective knowledge base and problem solving expertise may not be enough.

Does the group disband or does it look for an expert … someone who will volunteer or who will, for pay, get them through the wall?

To make this situation more imaginable let's first start with a within-class learning group. It could be online or it could be face to face. The group is working within one subject and with problems that are within the reach of the expertise of the teacher. Teacher sets up a problem series and the groups independently tackle the problems [using within class materials and those they can find in the school and class library as well as what they can find online. Often, early in their skill development, occasionally when the group has become more sophisticated at solving posed problems, the group will hit a wall. For the wall we have the teacher. The teacher, who has picked the problems that he/she can solve or has solved, steps in to offer the timely and useful hint … just, barely, enough to get the group over its problem-solving hurdle. The group solves that problem and learns content and problem solving skills in the process. As the class progresses more and more complex problems are solvable by the group, partly because of advances in content expertise and partly because of its growth in problem-solving sophistication.

Take a look at my original model, below.

KnowledgeMakingGroup

Now imagine that this class is online. The learning environment is, for the most part, Moodle, say, or Blackboard. In the Illustration we may be midway in the group problem solving experience; that is, the group decided at an earlier time, last week, as an example, to partition the original, BIG, problem into S1, S2, S3 ... and S5 … smaller problems. The teacher stands either as the coordinator (RC) or is paired with the coordinator -- when it's becoming obvious that whoever has rotated into coordinator position is "stuck", and it is obvious that the other members (R1-R5) aren't able to help. This too seems to be a "doable" approach to within-class problem-solving-based instruction.

In "real" life, the group may not have access to the teacher who happens to have problem solving skills appropriate to their problem. From the perspective of a spontaneously organized problem-solving group ... the classroom is "rigged".

After all, in real life the problems haven't yet been solved. The group has organized in the hopes of surmounting a problem that they aren't sure can be solved. Yet, determination, frustration and solidarity, perhaps, have them joining together to try anyway.


.

Now another, big jump … to non-structured learning situations in which the group has not been organized around a class and acquiring competence in some school-ish way but is, instead a) self-organized and b) motivated by an issue, each member having some reason to be invested in addressing, talking about, learning about, and/or resolving that issue. Picture the situation in which a group of people have locally self-organized around this issue. Each person is computer-comfortable and in communication with the others. Between them they have either partitioned the problem into subproblems -- or have each tried to tackle the problem separately. Each has kept her/his own weblog of work to date. And, using GoogleGroups, they have discussed and attempted resolution without, as far as they can see, any workable synthesis that "solves their problem". Their assigned leader has reviewed their steps to date and all agree that they DO still have the problem/issue but DON'T have a workable solution. Their individual weblogs (W1-W5) as well as their joint group weblog -- GW in the picture above -- reflects their lack of satisfactory closure. They're stuck!!

In the class the teacher would come at the sign of a waving hand in the air or in response to an email asking for help. In real life, the part that isn't in a classroom, who or what fills the role of the teacher? Perhaps a content expert. Better yet, a content expert who can help the group "discover" the answer [Discovered answers can often sink in deeper and hold on longer]. Given the reality of "need and expert" the group needs some means to get the volunteer or paid services of an expert who will provide enough expertise to get them over this hump... and to be available for the next one.
7:25:29 PM    Comments []


Tuesday, March 13, 2007
 

Summary: I praise the free knowledge-making possibilities now available on the web. Some would have said, did, in fact say, that team knowledge development could be strongly advanced by the combination of weblogs and wikis. It's now a free reality.(draft 3/19/07).

This will be the first draft.. less subtlety than I'd like. At the very least it's a place-marker for what I consider to be a worthwhile "philosophy, technology and the times" entry. While keeping my original title for the sake of continuity I find "Team Knowledge Development" to be too obscure. The phrase conjures up sports and hi-tech think tanks... that is too small a venue. The possibilities are far huger than that!!

Why? Think: do we need more knowledge (def. that which allows you to satisfy basic needs in a constantly changing, always demanding environment)? Yes. Where can it come from: any one of the 6 billion entities that call themselves human.

So anything that advances the ability to adjust and adapt and shape for humanity is needed. Sure. No argument, one might say! But, I am also arguing that computers linked via the internet and these free knowledge-making venues , if generally and broadly available and applied, offer us the chance to accelerate the development of useful individual and social behavior.

Individual and group and community, for that matter, knowledge construction is becoming accessible to those who access to the internet via the 100 dollar computer, the internet, and, of course, some kick-off training to develop the taste for it (there is always a need) and a starter set of skills. The taste and the starter set may be more of a challenge than the technology. But, once developed, will have I think, HUGE potential repercussions.

Take 1 group blog on blogger.com and a wiki from wikispaces or from an inexpensive open-source provider (see, for example, www.siteground.com - 4.95 per month) and you have either a free or very inexpensive group knowledge-making environment.

Three years ago it was an operational reality in well-heeled think tanks or online classrooms like Blackboard and Moodle. This was utilization in one --even unrecognized as a "knowledge-making venue" because doing so in the guise of traditional teaching-- of a far broader list of potential individual and social knowledge-making activities. Research as a general knowledge-making activity was by-and-large untouched. This year, while it isn't commonplace, it is possible for all and sundry and has developers and forward-looking venture capitalists recognizing the possibilities.

Now we have to create the social processing that allows us to do what the tools now allow.


The following is a connectivity weblog entry from early December of 2003.
Summary: I illustrate and explain a small group knowledge-making model. I do this in order to distinguish communicative contexts for weblogging. The general weblogging case --well described by Dave Pollard in a recent entry (See also my response and links here)-- is different from the situation in which weblogging is part of an individual or group research (knowledge-making) activity. My sense is that, since new knowledge development requires extensive introspective note taking, research journaling and, often, the testing of successive hypotheses, a wiki is better suited to the process. I've left the external communication role (of more finished pieces of research work) to the weblog. Details below and in notes linked to below.

In my above-referenced  entry I noted:

…if the issue really is expanding individual and collective knowledge, then the inter-blogger steps are a "surface" process which is an overlay on another, less accessible phenomenon, namely, a group's acquisition of new (at least to its members) and goal-related knowledge. IMHO the explanation of the blogging process in this context would be better served if some explanation of essential knowledge-making actions were folded into, or at least linked to from within, the discussion of sequential blogging behavior.

I followed this expressed concern with notetaking concerning the differences between general case blogging and blogging in the context of research/knowledge-making. For my set of notes using Dave Pollard's blogging steps but expressed from the point of view of an individual writing an in-house blog for a working research/knowledge-making group look here.

Those notes led to my construction of this entry's diagram which I offer for your consideration and evaluation. It, too, is drawn from the within-research-group perspective.Explanation of the research and publication process follows beneath the diagram.

KnowledgeMakingGroup

Most research group endeavors have a life cycle--preceding from formation and ending with either a mature knowledge product or a partial version of the planned-for knowledge product, (or, in the extreme worst case, nothing that was intended nor even any unintended side product that has value). The within-group processes I describe below are aimed somewhere in the middle of the life of the research group.

At the base of the diagram you will see 5 R-S pairs. Those represent 5 researcher pairings with a research(knowledge-making) "situation". Each has researcher's assignment has two aspects: first is to "getting a good answer" to a research question and second is to make it accessible, via explanation, to other members of the research team.

Each researcher's notes, problems, results and explanations are detailed in her/his respective wiki. As part of participating in the research team each researcher comments upon, offer suggestions for, evaluate, etc. , the work of two other team members--via the evaluated member's wiki. Those processes are signified signified by the dashed arrows from each researcher to two other team members' wiki documents (those documents are W1, W2, W3, etc.). Such cross-communication can help to assure that the researcher will be developing her/his findings and explanations in ways that are compatible with the larger knowledge question which all are addressing with their particular research projects.

There is one other (the sixth) team member: the Reporter/Coordinator(RC). S/he will also be reading/evaluating the wiki's from the perspective of the larger knowledge-making situation of which the separate researcher situations are each distinct parts. S/he will also be reading from the perspective of an explication of the total product to a public.

In the early project stages the research coodinator/reporter documents impresssions of progress in the in-house summary document which is the group wiki (GW).

For non-group members summary snippets are issued via the group weblog (GWL); its purpose is to document progress and/or to justify solicitations of material support from a suprasystem or from a granting agency. Informational support might come via weblog comments from collaborating groups in a larger enterprise (e.g., a containing suprasystem) or from the broader public made up of knowledge consumers and competing research enterprises. Any responses from those outside sources will be fed back into the group wiki as a means of challenging/updating within-group work.

A last observation: the dashed line surrounding the group is meant to indicate that the boundary is voluntary. All members voluntarily limit their communications to fit within the bounds of the research mission. This self-limitation will occur for some portion of their time as dictated by their interests and the commitment made to the group. In the best of research groups this self-limitation is in fact empowerment. (See my entry about knowledge-making in bounded groups)

[Note 1: I have expanded the number of tools used to two: wiki and weblog. When a publication is to show it's edit history and to allow text intrusions ranging from paragraph level editing by multiple editors to page-level comments, I've chosen a wiki. When the document itself is to remain intact but is be accessible to attached commentary and for linking, I've chosen a weblog. It is possible to follow the design using weblogs alone (replace all wikis with weblogs).The wiki, however, affords a far more nuanced set of possibilities.]

[Note 2: Larger knowledge-making enterprises could be approached by using the illustrated group design as a module and by adding necessary organizationalinfrastructure and process]

[Note 3: If we replace the researcher and group wiki's with in house circulation of a weekly progress update--- on paper, and if we replace the group weblog with newsletter publications and/or journal articles -- again, on paper , then we still have a "plan". How much better off are we , at this level of analysis, because we HAVE inserted Wiki and Weblog?]


11:43:40 AM    Comments []

Summary: I praise the free knowledge-making possibilities now available on the web. Some would have said, did, in fact say, that team knowledge development could be strongly advanced by the combination of weblogs and wikis. It's now a free reality.

This will be the first draft.. less subtlety more like a placemarker.

Take a group blog on blogger and a wiki from wikispaces or from an inexpensive open-source provide and you have a low cost/no cost group knowledge-making environment. Three years ago it was an operational reality in well-healed think tanks.. but not that well disseminated. Now, while it isn't commonplace, it is possible for all and sundry.

Now we have to create the social processing that allows us to do what the tools now allow.


The < a href="http://radio.weblogs.com/0106698/2003/12/05.html#a202">following from early December of 2003.
Summary: I illustrate and explain a small group knowledge-making model. I do this in order to distinguish communicative contexts for weblogging. The general weblogging case --well described by Dave Pollard in a recent entry (See also my response and links here)-- is different from the situation in which weblogging is part of an individual or group research (knowledge-making) activity. My sense is that, since new knowledge development requires extensive introspective note taking, research journaling and, often, the testing of successive hypotheses, a wiki is better suited to the process. I've left the external communication role (of more finished pieces of research work) to the weblog. Details below and in notes linked to below.

In my above-referenced  entry I noted:

…if the issue really is expanding individual and collective knowledge, then the inter-blogger steps are a "surface" process which is an overlay on another, less accessible phenomenon, namely, a group's acquisition of new (at least to its members) and goal-related knowledge. IMHO the explanation of the blogging process in this context would be better served if some explanation of essential knowledge-making actions were folded into, or at least linked to from within, the discussion of sequential blogging behavior.

I followed this expressed concern with notetaking concerning the differences between general case blogging and blogging in the context of research/knowledge-making. For my set of notes using Dave Pollard's blogging steps but expressed from the point of view of an individual writing an in-house blog for a working research/knowledge-making group look here.

Those notes led to my construction of this entry's diagram which I offer for your consideration and evaluation. It, too, is drawn from the within-research-group perspective.Explanation of the research and publication process follows beneath the diagram.

KnowledgeMakingGroup

Most research group endeavors have a life cycle--preceding from formation and ending with either a mature knowledge product or a partial version of the planned-for knowledge product, (or, in the extreme worst case, nothing that was intended nor even any unintended side product that has value). The within-group processes I describe below are aimed somewhere in the middle of the life of the research group.

At the base of the diagram you will see 5 R-S pairs. Those represent 5 researcher pairings with a research(knowledge-making) "situation". Each has researcher's assignment has two aspects: first is to "getting a good answer" to a research question and second is to make it accessible, via explanation, to other members of the research team.

Each researcher's notes, problems, results and explanations are detailed in her/his respective wiki. As part of participating in the research team each researcher comments upon, offer suggestions for, evaluate, etc. , the work of two other team members--via the evaluated member's wiki. Those processes are signified signified by the dashed arrows from each researcher to two other team members' wiki documents (those documents are W1, W2, W3, etc.). Such cross-communication can help to assure that the researcher will be developing her/his findings and explanations in ways that are compatible with the larger knowledge question which all are addressing with their particular research projects.

There is one other (the sixth) team member: the Reporter/Coordinator(RC). S/he will also be reading/evaluating the wiki's from the perspective of the larger knowledge-making situation of which the separate researcher situations are each distinct parts. S/he will also be reading from the perspective of an explication of the total product to a public.

In the early project stages the research coodinator/reporter documents impresssions of progress in the in-house summary document which is the group wiki (GW).

For non-group members summary snippets are issued via the group weblog (GWL); its purpose is to document progress and/or to justify solicitations of material support from a suprasystem or from a granting agency. Informational support might come via weblog comments from collaborating groups in a larger enterprise (e.g., a containing suprasystem) or from the broader public made up of knowledge consumers and competing research enterprises. Any responses from those outside sources will be fed back into the group wiki as a means of challenging/updating within-group work.

A last observation: the dashed line surrounding the group is meant to indicate that the boundary is voluntary. All members voluntarily limit their communications to fit within the bounds of the research mission. This self-limitation will occur for some portion of their time as dictated by their interests and the commitment made to the group. In the best of research groups this self-limitation is in fact empowerment. (See my entry about knowledge-making in bounded groups)

[Note 1: I have expanded the number of tools used to two: wiki and weblog. When a publication is to show it's edit history and to allow text intrusions ranging from paragraph level editing by multiple editors to page-level comments, I've chosen a wiki. When the document itself is to remain intact but is be accessible to attached commentary and for linking, I've chosen a weblog. It is possible to follow the design using weblogs alone (replace all wikis with weblogs).The wiki, however, affords a far more nuanced set of possibilities.]

[Note 2: Larger knowledge-making enterprises could be approached by using the illustrated group design as a module and by adding necessary organizationalinfrastructure and process]

[Note 3: If we replace the researcher and group wiki's with in house circulation of a weekly progress update--- on paper, and if we replace the group weblog with newsletter publications and/or journal articles -- again, on paper , then we still have a "plan". How much better off are we , at this level of analysis, because we HAVE inserted Wiki and Weblog?]


11:29:54 AM    Comments []

Thursday, October 12, 2006
 

Summary: My move into teaching was propelled by my first reading of Martin Buber[base ']s I and Thou .

One core, resonant idea at the center: our transactions with others glow with moral purpose. Buber notes that if we treat others as an instruments in our own, self-centered life plan, we are [OE]it[base ']-ing those others, reducing each into a set of qualities that are valued only as far as they help in our own life plan, like puppets in a Punch and Judy play. Buber offered a deeply argued other approach.

There is, he suggests, also the possibility of Thou-ing another. Addressing that other in her or his fullness now and in the future, in both actuality and potentiality. This meant to me that my approach to another should respect her or his wholeness, her or his integrity as now seen and as envisioned in the future.

This meant that a great act of teaching would bring a person[base ']s understanding and actions in better alignment with the translation of actuality, what is at every level, and potentiality, what could be.

What a [base "]Thou[per thou]-based teaching relationship would not be:

  • simply being nice, ie wooing or by other means making the other person comfortable
  • teaching elements of a common curriculum or of [OE]cultural literacy[base '] for their own sakes (as opposed to as incidental to a thou-centred plan for becoming or enablement)
  • comfortable, necessarily. What I am, most fundamentally and now is not necessarily accessible to me. What future versions of me that might be best interpretations of the core [base "]me[per thou] might, at this present moment, be incomprehensible, strange, even repellent to me.

I conclude by saying that I believed then, as a 22 year old, and as I do now, more than forty years later, that helping others become what they have the will and potentiality to become is a great and good thing. It gave me goose bumps to think of the possibilities -- still does!!

I still think that this pursuit is a noble calling, a great quest. Noble because difficult and challenging. Noble because Thou-based. Noble because, if successful, it yields great works of living human art, one miracle at a time. It[base ']s a quest because the goal is not always realized and because the fulfillment is the journey as much as it is the destination.

Oh. Last thought: the sign on my teaching shop was going to be the title of this entry. Teaching: Your Thing.

One of my first jobs, I realized, way back then, would be to figure out what on earth that meant!


3:33:11 PM    Comments []

Saturday, April 29, 2006
 

Summary: I like Survivor but should I? I remind myself of it's ups and downs and what keeps me coming back. I then try to translate to the human issues involved in connected joint survival.

In our present Survivor it looks like Terry's downright excellence at competitions plus a decent strategic sense will have him winning the competition. He could lose, however, if Cerie's superior strategic sense can get someone other than someone jury members detest opposite him in the final two.

It's been the same since the show began: good competitive skills, good strategic thinking and a dose of luck have separated the winner from those that fell by the wayside.

The subject matters and venues are different in the Apprentice and American Idol. And so are the means of selection/elimination. Fellow contestants vote at all stages in Survivor; the public votes in American Idol and Trump votes in the Apprentice. But the end result, i.e., that there will be only one at the end, is fixed. Clearly the success of the shows indicates that there is a deep appeal of such a format and such an end!!

For me, at any rate, the competition certainly has appeal. I was raised to it in a culture which seems to honor competitiveness above most other natural drives. I say natural because I believe it's "wired in" from birth. I see it as being shaped rather than created in familial and cultural upbringing.

Take jealousy for example (Is jealousy the parent of competitiveness or vise-versa?). Jealousy exists without help; it shows itself amongst brothers and sisters and in groups and classrooms. How does it show itself? As a concern over signs that another has been recognized or rewarded more than oneself.

Also two dog-derived ideas (legitimate source: we can can find the bottom-line roots of human behavior in the behavior of other pack animals! Packs are just early mammalian tribes, prototribes, as it were.):

  • first clue: the sweet talk refrain used by a dog trainer with her charges -- "You want to be the only one", and
  • second clue:, the comment yesterday made about a longtime family dog as she politely snubbed the newbie dog who had been adopted two months before -- "She'd prefer to have been an only child". [She's quite civil about it, but her preferences are clear]
  • third clue: the evidence of puppy behavior as the litter approaches even two months -- to have adequate physiological support appears to be almost less the drive than to get more than anyone else.

To summarize my response and to take it back to Reality TV:

If our tribal behavior is pack derived and thus legitimate enough to be expressed,

I don't want it to be just bravado-laced,

unscrupled cleverness as in Richard

Hatch's example.

Richard Hatch
I would prefer the competition to be fair
and principled as in the behavior of

Colby Donaldson (#2 in Survivor 2)
Colby

or Sally Schumann (recently voted out Survivor 12)
,


For me the most recognition should go to those who are nurturing

as well as competitive.

Tina Wesson (winner Survivor 2) is a prime example.

(Interestingly she won only because recognized as "the real winner"

by Colby Donaldson; that was, to me, true excellence on his part!!!)

<>.

It seems to me that we could put together programming which is not only entertains us but teaches and inspires. I don't know if Survivor can be reshaped. But a show could be so structured that longer term necessities are taken care of -- and probably be built around other instinctively natural behaviors to boot!!


That is, we need to give some scope to competitiveness but also to encourage the development and display of skills (and drives) which afford a people-friendly, environment-friendly survival for the whole group. In the real world elimination of competitors is an antisocial high cost strategy which, when I think about it, has to be the lesser of the set of strategies which support a longer term societal success.

Given this reasoning I think you'll have to agree that you and I, fellow Survivor watchers, may be spending too much time watching the struggles of Survivor participants. Why? Because their victory-targeted strategies are only a small subset of the total set of strategies, skills, understandings that we as individuals and as a society must apply. That total set needs to be applied at home, in school groups, at work and in our communities. When we have done that  we will all prosper in ways that ensure our families and communities survival. That survival will have with quality, and it will continue into a future that lasts many generations.


The small subset of competitive skills are, if practiced alone, destructive. We don't live life to win at the expense of all others. The "I want to be the only one" goal is natural, yes. But -- life strategies that give it first or only place are suicidal. Let's put something together that helps us learn behaviors and strategies that allow all of us to have a real future.
[Most recent cleanup: 5/1/06 9:40 am]

7:57:07 PM    Comments []

Sunday, February 26, 2006
 

Summary: A multimedia and in depth learning ecology lesson is available. Slides and Audio. Whether you are after content learning or metalearning, George Siemens offers understanding and advice on how you creates a learning ecology -- and supports the subsequent evolution of quality . His ideas will apply online or off.

PS. You can navigate in nonlinear fashion --attending to voice, or slides or graphics, as you like.



posttechnologytchng.jpg

His graphic above (slide 19 in his audio and video sequence), captures important segments of the depth complexity of a learning ecology.

PPS. Nota bene. This delivery demonstrates what can be done with powerpoint. Further, because he has used "Articulate" - a Windows-friendly powerpoint-augmenting software -- you get more features and don't have to worry about downloading, compressing or decompressing. :o]



[George's Material came to me via Will Richardson's Weblogg-Ed ]


5:57:43 PM    Comments []

Sunday, December 4, 2005
 

Summary: Bill Wong's parents and I mull over what Bill should learn next. We've just finished a conference with the teacher. Now we explore the same topic with Bill's parents.

The parental take on the "short and sweet" is probably neither short nor particularly sweet to any of the others involved in the question of what and how to teach.

[See my earlier entries in the What to Teach sequence of entries, First entry here , and the second here . This entry and the one which will follow will focus on parental and individual takes on exactly the same profile of skills.
* A reminder: Bill Wong is a hypothetical person. His profile does represent, however, the very real complexity that each person, each learner brings to the discussion of what to learn/what to teach.

Bill W's profile

Now Bill's Parents and I process Bill's Results. What do they think should be taught?
Mr. and Mrs. Wong have requested a review of Bill's test results. They want to plan his middle school and high school education.

As we sit down they both glance at their copy of Bill's Profile of test results(Copy just above )

Mr.Wong: Is this some kind of report card or something? We called for this meeting to talk about Bill's future.
Spike Hall: It's Bill's Achievement Profile. I've taken all of his achievement test results and summarized them in this form. This form or graph can really help us think about Bill's future.
Mr. W makes sure his copy is the same as mine and then notees, " It's pretty complicated , I see that, but I don't see any of the courses he's signed up for on the chart!. What's it have to do with what we're meetings for --
And what're the vertical lines about and the colored dots and so on. Mrs. W nods in agreement.
Spike Hall: Ok. Each vertical line is an area of development. For example, gross motor development translates into, say, athletics. Each vertical line is an, like athletics, area of important development that starts with what you and I and Bill -- everybody-- generally bring into our first days a Kindergarten class and ends with what most of us master in our late teens. Generally speaking, roughly one hundred things, things that need to be learned pretty much in order, are, learned each year of school. Of course there are individual differences and school to school differences.
Mrs. W asks, "Are those differences important?" Oh -- and what is that horizontal line across the graph. Is that important? I see some of his dots, five, are above the line and a couple are a little bit below? Spike Hall: That's an important question Mrs. W. That line represents what other boys and girls of Bill's age are capable of doing -- on the average. You can see --
Mr. W interrupts to say: Fine Motor, Gross Motor, Math and Ethics are the ones that are obviously above and Receptive Language and Expressive Language are below. What does all of that mean. In everyday speak? Bill's capable of reading and writing and speaking but, at least on tests and during observations, he comes up a shade under the class average in those skills. But in athletics, in penmanship and in drawing and in knowing and sharing what he considers right and wrong he is outstanding. Sometimes his skills in communication -- or reluctance, I'm not sure, your experience at home may help clear up that mystery -- get in the way of his strong sense of right and wrong and of justice. But he's clearly a leader, a leader for the good, in my opinion, in these areas.
Mr. W: So he's high in some areas and low in others. Are we supposed to do something because of that? Spike Hall: I'd say yes! We build on this at home and at school. We can, I believe, be pretty darn active in involving Bill's high skills (and high interests) in his schooling and in helping him bring enhance the other skills to support his strong areas. I believe that, now that we have this information, we can use it to tailor how we advise Bill on activities and how we encourage him to take on new projects and to set goals. In other words, with this material in hand you and I and Bill can all make life more challenging and more interesting to Bill. At the same time, we can help him see how other areas (math for example) can support the growth areas that he really does like and with which he has such considerable skill.
Mr. W: Makes sense so far. But we need to talk over the results with Bill. It's ok, right? (Hall nods emphatically). He's never seen this kind of thing before. Spike Hall: Makes sense. Then maybe we can have a follow up with all of us and Bill putting together a plan or outline that builds upon Bill's interests and strengths to take him farther on the path he seems to be on.
Mr. W: Hold it. What if he changes his mind three years from now? What if he wants to, all of a sudden, focus on, say, poetry -- which is not interesting to him now. Spike Hall: That would be his choice. The idea isn't to make him a slave to his best skills or his least skills. Rather-- it is to have his skills work for him and for his life interests (and your backing for them) be in the driver's seat rather than some anonymous and bureaucratic textbook series.
When he has the inclination to shift his priorities our job isn't to stop him or to say, blindly, "Go for it!". Our job, at least as far as I see it, is to help him learn and to help him project the consequences of his actions and plans into the future -- and to weigh those consequences against his needs and our greater experience.
Mr. W: Sounds good. Mrs Wong: Good but work too. But nothing we wouldn't be doing anyway. This is the first time I remember thinking that school and home we're obviously working for the same thing. Spike Hall: Nice to hear you say that Mrs. W. I'll look forward to hearing from you two and Bill after you've had your first talk. If I can help interpret or back up interpretation at school with Bill in class let me know. Then we'll all get together in the next 2-3 weeks.
I appreciate your coming over and your kind comments so much!!


The Wong's and Hall exit school building on way to cars. Mr and Mrs. drive away having an animated conversation. Hall waves and smiles. They're too busy to notice!
3:59:37 PM    Comments []

Thursday, December 1, 2005
 

Summary: Real Person and I talk about the Meaning of Life and Learning For Bill Wong. RP and I begin to talk about developmental profiling in general and as it would benefit instruction in the classroom (in RP's case a High School classroom). (This will be the first of a series of entries on how classroom activity and the learner's cutting edge can or should relate to each other.)


Bill W's profile

We Talk about Bill, Potential and Real Life.
RP and I are sitting in my office after he's had a rough and demanding day in his High School History Classroom. We're planning later classes in his Masters program.

As we are just finishing up our planning he looks over at this chart that's been sitting next to his papers. (Copy just above )

RP: Whatya got there, some kind of graph. I remember you showing us progress graphs in the assessment class.
Spike Hall: It's Bill's Achievement Profile. I've taken all of his achievement test results and summarized them in this form.
RP moves to my side of the table so he can see it better.
So what're the vertical lines about and the colored dots on them.
Spike Hall: Ok. Each vertical line is an area of development that starts with what kids generally bring into the beginning of a Kindergarten class and ends with what the best kids master in their late teens. All in all, roughly one hundred things, things that need to be learned pretty much in order, are supposed to be learned each year in each area.
RP squirms a bit, picks up the chart and reads labels, rotates chart first vertically then horizontally
RP: Okay, I get the basic idea, sort of. What are each of the areas?
Spike Hall:
  • GK: General Knowledge.
    That which is frequently a major component of so-called IQ tests. Material that should make sense on news shows, that comes up in the newspaper, how everyday things work, safety, history, that sort of thing.
  • RL: Receptive Language.
    Reading, Listening and Signing recognition are examples. In general, receptive language involves: The ability to process incoming language. This requires ability to receive some signal (as examples the word "dog" as said by another, "dog" as signed by another or the word "dog" on the printed page). This ability requires a set of "words" that are recognizable by the individual. The ability to process complex linguistic messages requires memory and grammatical decoding skills as well.
  • EL: Expressive Language.
    Writing, Speaking and Signing are examples. In general, expressive language involves: The ability to process an outgoing message. This requires the formulation of an intent, the translation of that intent into a set of semantic items, the grammatic connection of those items into a message and the generation of signals appropriate to those grammatically connected items The ability to process complex linguistic messages requires short-term memory as well as the skills already mentioned.
  • FM: Fine Motor.
    Fine motor skills: The ability to coordinate hand in small spaces to accomplish such things as handwriting, carving, puzzle assembly, knitting, sewing, etc. Usually aided by senses of sight and touch
  • GM: Gross Motor.
    The movement of the body in space as in walking, running, tumbling, gymnastics, swimming.
    Athletics of competitive and noncompetitive forms generally involve the demonstration of skilled gross motor skills.
    Dancing involves the above plus the ability to move as influenced by the rhythm and even mood of music.
  • ML: Math and Logic.
    Perception of, reasoning and communication about amount, amount and space(as in geometry and trigonometry) and logical relations as they have bearing on various understandings concerning everyday and professional existence.
  • Soc: Social Skills.
    Ability to respond to and send messages which are socially effective in the context. This would include manners, perception of emotions, expressing emotions effectively, leading, following, cooperating, negotiating.
  • E: Ethics, Ethical Skills.
    The ability to perceive the application of moral and ethical principles to practical and general situations involving individual, small and large group behavior. The ability to not only perceive but to influence the ethical practices of others would combine both social and ethical domains.
RP has become increasingly agitated while all of this explanation has taken place. His foot is tapping and his face is a little redder than it was a few minutes ago.
RP: [Splutter, cough … ]. I'm having trouble getting behind this project--- connecting it to what I do, which is teach History to kids who start out having no use for it and too often end up the same way. I have attendance problems, I have a Department head who thinks videotapes and DVDs 75% of the time are the answer. Help me make the connections Spike -- I'm not seeing them!
Spike Hall: Okay. Let's start with a premise, namely, that each student will learn well and easily if instructional material, content and process are at or near her or his "readiness level", also that it will not go wellor easily if the material is too far below or above "readiness level". Look now at Bill, particularly at his "profile". What do you see?
RP: Well, for one, his profile has hills and valleys. The hills, I suppose, represent strength and the valley's weakness. Right?
Spike Hall: Close enough but with some qualifications. First, it will depend on how you define strength. If one defines strength as "power" with a material (say social skills) that is greater than that one one's peers. Then yes. But it will depend on the individual. The goal-directed won't be so pleased or sense themselves so powerful if even a relative social strength in social skills or logic or whatever isn't sufficient to realize self-set goals.

But, yes, let's talk of strength as defined by one's power relative to one's peers. How does Bill measure up in that sense?

RP: Well I wouldn't know about Bill except with reference to himself-- that is how many objectives out of the total K-13 set he has mastered. In some areas more than others. Those are self- and sequence- related strengths right?
Spike Hall: Right. That's the way I see it too. But we also have that funny dashed line going across the chart. That represents the average that is expected of people who are the same age.
RP: That would allow us to compare him to the "norm". Ok, I get it and on that basis he's quite strong in in Fine Motor and Gross Motor skills, and really good with Ethics; and more or less average in other areas.
Spike Hall: Do you see any implications from this pattern of average to terrific in various skill areas?
RP: Maybe. Hmm. Maybe the Ethics would be useful as we look at political history or social dynamics or the conduct of school board and city council meetings, etc.
Spike Hall: I agree. But it isn't just benefit to the class. It's benefit to him. If you ask things of him and instruct him in a way that respects and interacts with his present skills and beliefs you will be more likely to help him make significant growth.

It doesn't have to be a totally different curriculum to do that. You can still have the American History textbook play a significant part. But how you use it can be adjusted to skills, values and profiles, to the benefit, and learning pleasure, of all.

Rowanda F., fellow faculty member and advisor to RP, drops by and is invited to sit down. She listens a bit while looking over the Bill W chart. She gets an intensity of look and is clearly about to say something. Spike and RP look expectantly in her direction.

Rowanda: You two are obviously onto something hot and, as much as I've been able to gather getting here late, it seems really worthwhile. But - hey --I'm concerned about something too. Where is it that Bill's aims, ambitions and concerns are folded in?

[Rowanda continues] One of the most powerful forces for success in Bill's (and any other student's] program has to be what s/he wants, what s/he will commit to, what goals are driving actions right now. Even if we keep the subject matter organization, this really should be questioned, but even if we did, we have to have Bill sitting in the driver's seat and with us as advisors. This chart will give Bill insight, us too. But it shouldn't call the tune. It's not that Bill is low in X and high in Y that is important. What is centrally important is what Bill wants to do now and what he wants to become. The fact that he is high in Fine Motor skills and Ethics may inspire choices of goals or methods... but shouldn't BECOME the goals.

[Rowanda concludes] Finally I don't see one assessment that I think is central if Bill is going to be in the driver's seat (and he should be). It has been called metalearning and deuterolearning -- but basically is how good he is at learning to learn. Having an understanding of how well he independently or with guidance learns to learn any given subject (for example the general subjects on this chart) is insight Bill needs as he tries simultaneously to find out who he is, what he wants and what he might be good at.

[Rowanda exits] Sorry guys to introduce the subject and then exit but have an appointment for which I'm already 10 minutes late.

RP: Wow that's too much too fast but I think I've been swayed!!! At the same time I don't really know what this chart or expanded one Rawanda is referring to has to do with how I run my History class. More on that later. Spike Hall: [laughing] She's always like that. Frays the nerves, at least in my case, but there's lots to be had by replaying what she says.

In this case I've got two things to start with.

  • The first one is that Bill has to be at the center. These test results are for Bill's guidance as he makes decisions; we are informational and planning resources, but it's his plan!! This is a far more radical idea either of us might realize.
  • The second is the whole idea of learning to learn. If you accept the idea of Bill's being in charge of his learning -- and he is,ultimately, however much we insist on control of our classroom or class processes, then knowing just what his l-to-l skill in each area is important as he chooses what to do. Finally, he should probably understand how good he is at this central skill and what he can do about it.
My mind is tired. Let's quit for now.
RP and Spike agree to let it go for the day. RP wants specifics and Spike promises to describe possible uses and classroom actions that are tuned more exactly to RP's history classroom.

[Stay tuned for further interactions. Bill Wong: Part II.]
1:31:47 PM    Comments []


Friday, November 4, 2005
 

Summary: Readiness theory would have us predict that learning will be real and non-trival to the extent that what is being taught about and how it is taught matches the content and learning strategies already "owned" by the learner. It seems that the education profession is quite comfortable with this as a general statement; however, the useful application of this maxim in classroom situations, i.e., something that results in improved student learning, is appallingly small . Class lectures and/or reading one chapter at a time from a text, as representative examples of current practices, are not good ways to maximize student learning. In this entry I offer one basis for understanding why this is so and then I sketch several ideas for making the ideal into the real.

Moving to Personalization from Large Group Instruction is a BIG Deal:

Assume that you have the objective sequences, tests, and instructional activities for several content areas planned; that map is lying in front of you. If you are teaching in an elementary school as a classroom teacher, you may have to teach each of thirty pupils in each of these content areas. If you are a secondary or adult-level teacher working in a typical situation, you may have as many as two or three content areas to cover for perhaps ninety to one hundred and fifty students.

Let's look at the elementary classroom. In that classroom, as stated before, you might be responsible for thirty students' progress in five curriculum areas. You would probably be responsible for reading, language arts, arithmetic, social studies, and science. As is illustrated in the first table, your personalization problems would be considerable. In these five areas you could, if each student had different objectives from all of the others in that area, have responsibility for personalizing in a classroom with instruction required for 150 (5 areas x 30 students) objectives.

Thankfully, since there are usually several objectives which are needed for more than one student, the required instruction would probably come closer to a distribution like that illustrated in the table below example (where instruction is required for approximately 85 objectives as the year begins ).

In such a situation there is no way that "whole class" lectures alone could be a useful instructional activity for each of the students depicted below (as x’s in the table below) . Even if your lesson was perfect, that lesson could only say the appropriate thing to a small fraction of your students (those who had sufficient skill levels to be able to learn from the concepts that you were using).

The other students might sit still, might even acquire pieces of the information here and there, but would not learn in the sense that you assumed or were hoping for.

The Personalizer's Dilemma
Reading
Language Arts
Arithmetic
Social Studies
Science
Obj. # # of Students Obj. # # of Students Obj. # # of Students Obj. # # of Students Obj. # # of Students
1
--0--
1
--0--
1
--0--
1
--0--
1
--0--
2
--0--
2
--4--
2
--0--
2
--0--
2
--0--
3
--2--
3
--1--
3
--0--
3
--5--
3
--2--
4
--1--
4
--1--
4
--0--
4
--5--
4
--3--
5
--1--
5
--1--
5
--0--
5
--3--
5
--3--
6
--1--
6
--1--
6
--2--
6
--1--
6
--1--
7
--1--
7
--0--
7
--3--
7
--1--
7
--1--
8
--2--
8
--0--
8
--1--
8
--0--
8
--4--
9
--2--
9
--0--
9
--1--
9
--1--
9
--1--
10
--3--
10
--1--
10
--1--
10
--1--
10
--1--
11
--3--
11
--1--
11
--1--
11
--3--
11
--1--
12
--0--
12
--1--
12
--1--
12
--1--
12
--1--
13
--1--
13
--1--
13
--0--
13
--1--
13
--1--
14
--1--
14
--1--
14
--3--
14
--0--
14
--0--
15
--4--
15
--1--
15
--2--
15
--0--
15
--0--
16
--4--
16
--1--
16
--1--
16
--0--
16
--0--
17
--1--
17
--1--
17
--1--
17
--1--
17
--0--
18
--0--
18
--1--
18
--1--
18
--1--
18
--0--
19
--1--
19
--1--
19
--1--
19
--0--
19
--0--
20
--0--
20
--0--
20
--1--
20
--1--
20
--0--
21
--1--
21
--3--
21
--1--
21
--1--
21
--1--
22
--0--
22
--3--
22
--1--
22
--3--
22
--1--
23
--1--
23
--3--
23
--3--
23
--0--
23
--1--
24
--0--
24
--0--
24
--3--
24
--0--
24
--1--
25
--0--
25
--1--
25
--1--
25
--0--
25
--1--
26
--0--
26
--0--
26
--0--
26
--0--
26
--1--
27
--1--
27
--2--
27
--0--
27
--0--
27
--1--
28
--1--
28
--0--
28
--0--
28
--0--
28
--0--
29
--1--
29
--0--
29
--1--
29
--0--
29
--0--

You can probably see that this same sort of reasoning applies to any secondary or college classroom situation that you might describe. While there might be fewer subjects taught during the day, there would be more students. The likelihood of one textbook page or one lecture being appropriate for all students is virtually zero. The difficulty of managing the delivery of personalized instruction is at least as difficult for the secondary or college teacher as it is for the elementary teacher. And , if maximizing the rate of student mastery of (not exposure to) material is the goal , it is equally crucial to the success or failure of the secondary and college enterprise

Organizational Assumptions

Normally, we interact with people spontaneously, and in a 1, 2, 3, 4 at a time fashion. However, teaching and personalization are not "normal" relationships. The relationship in each is purposeful and planned. Personalization, when it occurs, requires the simultaneous distribution of a teacher's purposes, plans, and interactions among thirty people, at maximum; and at minimum (as in the reading example in Table 1), among four to six individuals or clusters of individuals.

In order to have the maximum impact upon all thirty individuals in a classroom, there has to be a radically different organization to instructional activities than there would be, say, to a conversation.

Each personalizer has many forces with which he or she must deal in order to personalize. All of those forces mandate high organization in order to accomplish individually prescribed instructional objectives. A list of these forces is given in the following table.


Personalization Factors and Necessary Organized Responses

Assumption
#

Factors

Necessary Organized Response

1

Students enter any sequence of instructional objectives with varied mastery

Different lessons need to be taught to different students at the same time.

2

Students have different perceptual requirements for learning.

Instruction on each objective must be offered using more than one perceptual modality.

3

Students have different physical/social needs for optimal learning.

Instruction will need to be offered in varied physical/social settings simultaneously. For example, a small group and an individual study option might both be available for Objective 26 in the science sequence.

4

Students require distinct motivational strategies. Reinforcers for the varied subjects will vary from student to student.

Teacher will have to arrange the instructional environment so that varying motivational strategies (e.g., points with one, grades with another, praise with another, etc.) may be used simultaneously.

5

Students will finish the same instructional activity at different rates.

For 5, 6, 7: The teacher will need to develop and maintain procedures which allow her/him to be sensitive to the failure or success of instruction (7).

6

Students will require varying numbers of instructional activities in order to achieve mastery of the same objective.

These activities will need to be usable at any time (5,6).

7

Initial plans for motivational and instructional activities will need repair as patterns of student response show where plans need improvement . Also, even the best designs will need some modification a as the times alter what students commonly experience.

The teacher will need to periodically revise instructional and motivational activities.

8

The teacher will not know the answer to all problems that show themselves.

Each instructional unit,. i.e., department, building, learning team, the school as a whole, etc., whatever else it does, will have to provide problem-solving material and support to teachers in order that best solutions to problems.

With these factors in mind, you can see that personalization requires a high level of classroom organization. It follows that a lecture format does not allow personalization and thus is not productive in terms of student learning. Implementing a high/middle/low grouping plan will allow finer tuning of instructional delivery. Everything else held constant this will enhance average learning of objectives per week but will be far short of what is possible.

The cause of personalization will be advanced considerably by moving the teacher out of the role of a bottleneck in the flow of instructional information and organizational and operational communication (One thing about large group lecture, choral recitation and all doing the same thing—fewer decisions for the teacher . When the teacher organizes the personalized classroom s/he is building in a necessity for many more moment to moment decisions. Why? Because decisions are no longer the same for all nor do they occur at the same time. Thus the need for careful planning and organization in the personalized classroom. The bottleneck is found when every or most instructional messages and organizational decisions must be created on-the-fly by the teacher. When the bottleneck exists the classroom pace grinds down to a snails pace within moments of the beginning of class.

On the other hand, if the volume of decisions is planned for, these decisions are anticipated and thus built into the structure and processes of the classroom. Class members act independently as signaled by place, circumstance or time. Once these signals are planned and then learned and practiced, the multiple organizational and instructional decisions will be carried out independently by members of the class. During class hours the teacher spends time on planned instructional delivery and on individual learning concerns that have not been built into the carefully designed personalized learning environment.

By having much of the organizational decision-making and instructional communication capable of occurring independently of here-and-now teacher action we eliminate the bottleneck. All students will have access to the instructional communication and organizational decisions that they need. Thirsty people will get to drink when they need it, or, in ‘instructionese’, each person will get the lesson that is appropriate to her or his level of readiness.


Teaching a System as Well as Subject Matter:

Your major trick will be to set up an instructional system that eliminates the bottleneck, and to teach students to use it. In such a system, you would reserve for yourself those instructional communications and organizational decisions that could not be made by students or materials. Naturally, the fewer of these on-the-fly the less likely there will be bottlenecking.

Components of Your Organizational System

The major idea of your system is the division of the total activities of the class into subactivities which are carried out at centers. For example, the centers might be as follows:

  1. direct instruction/individual counseling
  2. tape and filmstrip,
  3. group study,
  4. reading,
  5. individual work,
  6. mastery testing,
  7. daily monitoring of progress in each (orspecially targeted) subjects.

Each center has its organizational rules which govern its use and which are posted for all to see in its location. This particular subdivision of classroom activities is not the only one possible. Subdivisions could be based on subject matter (e.g. science, reading, math, etc.), or topics, such as environment, creativity, etc. in which all basic skills have a part. (For example, the environment center might have required math, reading, writing, and social activities associated with its objectives.)

[Edited for html problems readability 12/1. Also having trouble with MarsEdit and Radio Userland Handshakes]
7:26:00 PM    Comments []


Saturday, October 29, 2005
 

Untitled Document

Summary: It's hard to find a path to educational reform. Using "deficiency scores" on norm-referenced tests is and ineffective approach, even if it's sincerely intended only as a startup catalyst. They just aren't family-, school- or teacher- friendly enough to translate into effective reform. The heat they generate consumes resources while enhancing nothing but the level of distrust of Federal change efforts.

Effective reform must translate directly into classroom change, one child, one objective and one lesson at a time. (And yes, NCLB doesn't work because, while it may generate just criticism, it does not simultaneously generate effective change.) What could fit these "good change effort " specifications is curriculum based testing in multiple developmental areas. The pay off for such a monumental test development and administration effort is that, even if the results do not flatter our present instructional efforts or systems, we will have created a precise "what to teach next" estimate for each individual in each of multiple developmental areas.

One motivator: A local demonstration the reality that individual growth isn't yet touched by what we do now. One approach to such a sketch, cousin to the present dysfunctional consumer of state funds, could take flesh as a statewide assessment of a representative sample of schools. This assessment would actually help has to in two ways that our present mandated system does not: a) it would be curriculum referenced and directly translatable into retargeted, individually tailored instruction, and (b) we would then have a sense of what is possible (from trial teaching and summer teaching) and what is real, right now. We could use these discrepancies to focus our reform efforts.

A piece of such an analysis is sketched and explained below.



I'll illustrate by filling in (hypothetical) results for the sixth grade in the state of Floriana. For this illustration I'm discussing results in 3 of 14 areas of development* from the table of my last entry and interpreting. Pieces of the table with interpretation follow below:

Statewide Measures of Developmental Knowledge: Sixth Grade

Data Timing or Analysis-------->



Type of Skill

A

Test
Begin School Year

B

Test End School Year

C

Test Begin Next School Year

D

School Growth/ Week

E

Summer Growth/ Week

F

State Annual Growth/ Week

G

National Begin Next School Year

H

National Annual Growth/ Week

General Cultural Information 660 770 830 2.8 5.0 3.3 1092 2.4
Receptive Communication (Listening, Recognizing Signed Communication, Reading, etc) 902 1092 1110 4.8 1.5 4.0 1010 3.0

Social Interaction (Including Self Control)

1242 1382 1424 3.5 3.5 2.0 800 1.5
Ethical/Moral Understanding and Behavior 1010 1154 1221 3.6 5.6 4.1 600 1.5



In this example I am assuming that 3900 objectives have been carefully and rigorously sequenced as stairways to growth for for any learner. The phrase "carefully and rigorously sequenced" means that if one is tested and found to be ready for objective 29 then s/he has mastered/doesn't need all objectives of lower number and would fail at tests of mastery of objectives of higher number. There are more than enough possibilities in each area for even bright 25 year olds.

Columns A-F report state averages whereas columns G and H report national averages.

Columns A-C and G report report average positions within learning sequence at state and national levels, respectively.

Columns D-F and H report average growth per week at the state and national levels, respectively.


Now that the stage has been set for our mental experiment, what might Floridians note about this data? How might they interpret it. How would these intrepretations affect future actions?

First, let's note column D . It's values are the computed average weekly growth rate during the school months (roughly 36 weeks of school distributed over 40 weeks of the year). We find that in the state of Floriana students master an average of 2.8 objectives of general cultural material, 4.8 objectives having to do with receiving and understanding information that made accessible in books, lecture, television, conversation,etc,3.5 objectives per week having to do with social interaction skills (manners, reading body language, negotiations, games, are examples) and 3.6 objectives per week having to do with moral/ethical behavior (for example, behaving in such a way so as to benefit others and to support, say, social order and what society considers "a good life"). In short, progress is made in the sixth grade; there seems to be markedly less learning in the area of general cultural understanding, however.

Comparing what we've just learned from column D with the information from column E allows us to compare the impact of school with the impact on non-school life as they each affect the growth of sixth graders. This comparison makes it obvious that, in the State of Floriana, non-school has a decidedly stronger impact on growth in all areas but receptive communication. What this means will require further research by Florianan policy makers.

Finally, Florianans will probably want to compare Florianan to National levels of achievement and growth rates.
Levels of achievement: Florianan students are higher in all but general cultural information.
Growth rates: Sixth grade Florianan students have a higher annual growth rate in all areas: for the first three areas growth rate is 25-33% higher. Perhaps most interesting is the growth rate of Florianan students in ethical/moral behavior. It is just short of three times greater than the national average. With a difference this big I suspect that the only surprise will be for an out of state analyst. This will come as no surprise to Florianans once noted. It may well be an indicator of a strong and unique divergence of the Floridian life-style and belief-system from that of the nation as a whole.

However Florinian analysts end up calling the divergence from national norms, the differences between Summer growth rates and School Year growth rates needs understanding. What is it that accelerates the summers (or depresses growth in the school year)? Are there factors in classrooms , curriculum choices, preprofessional or inservice training or supervision that could be altered. However this analysis turns we can check growth rates again next year and determine if our chosen solution was effective. That is, we can check if we adopt and use the criterion-referenced, curriculum-referenced test system that was initially developed to assess the system as a whole.

Don't worry, in the criterion-referenced view, teaching to the objectives is fair and appropriate. Just don't teach memorized answers from a purloined or otherwise copied master test.


6:22:22 PM    Comments []

Thursday, October 6, 2005
 

Summary. This entry takes up where my earlier entry on Needs Based (or Goal Free) Evaluation [at the general level] left off. In this one I've decided to conduct a 'mental experiment' by beginning to describe a needs based evaluation of our schools.

In order to procede with some intellectual order that we'll start with the following definition:

"A student is having educational needs met when:
  • a) she/he is receiving appropriate instruction for her/his "zone of proximal development" (roughly synonymous with "readiness level" and first articulated by L. Vygotsky);
  • b) this condition (a above) will be bet in each of 14 distinct areas of development (see below for a list);
  • c) the conditions indicated in a and b above are also delivered at a rate that is determined by maximum comfortable rate of learning in each area of development for each person.*"

Then we get busy.

For starters: Conduct a needs based (goal free) assessment in one tenth of the school districts of one state. Get pre and post data over one calendar year. Use criterion and curriculum referenced testing in each of 14 areas of human endeavor. Add a sampling at the beginning of summer to enable an estimate ofthe amount and sorts of learning that occur outside of school.

In order to design school improvement efforts we must know what to improve. Thus we will have to profile the benefits (i.e., the learning) presently derived from schools. Such a profile will allow us to portray the rate, breadth and depth of school learning. This information cannot stop with the basics, i.e., 'reading, writing and arithmetic'. We are concerned that our developing citizens are capable of engaging with deeper issues, such as active citizenship, an understanding and care for the natural environment, etc. We are also concerned with development of individual potential wherever it is headed (as long as it is not hostile to or destructive of the general social order). In order to test our present delivery (via home and school interventions) of such a breadth of skills we'll have to test quite broadly. We will also --- in order to be sensitive to rate of learning as an indicator of potential-- we'll also have to be able to determine the degree to which the average rate of learning of such skills is close to optimal (i.e., a sufficient realization of what is possible with "state of the art" instruction).

Statewide Measures of Developmental Knowledge: Sixth Grade

Data Timing or Analysis------------->

Type of Skill

Test at Beginning of School Year (v1**) Test at End of School Year (v2) Test At Beginning of Next School Year (v3) School Year Growth per Week (v4) Summer Growth Per Week (v5) Annual Growth Per Week(v6) National Avg. at Beginning of Next School Year (v7) National Avg. Growth Per Week (v8)
General Cultural Information
Receptive Communication (Listening, Signing, etc)
Expressive Communication (Speaking, Signing)
Written Expression
Numerical and Logical Understanding
Bodily Coordination
Eye-Hand Coordination

Social Interaction (Including Self Control)

Introspective Knowledge
Ethical/Moral Understanding and Behavior
Musical Appreciation and Expression
Visual and Multidimensional Appreciation and Expression
Mechanical/Scientific Appreciation and Expression
Appreciation and Interaction with Natural (Living and NonLiving) Systems

This would give us a basis for deciding what we would like to do given what we presently [have been proven to] accomplish with our schools.


* This implies that the instructional system will be providing instructional materials, lessons and tests at a pace that is dictated by individual rate of learning as opposed to a fixed schedule. Thus, at any given time, students will be working on different objectives, with different materials, for differing lengths of time. It should be obvious that, while I have stated needs to be, roughly,"to grow as much as possible in areas of activity that are valued by most human societies", this does not overlap with subject coverage in most schools.
** All variables are calculated averages deriving from statewide grade level sampling of actual instruction. Another variable, Potential Annual Growth per Week, could be created through use proven alternative curricula on a cross sectional subsample of students in representative regions of the state . *Edited 10/20/05
12:26:28 PM    Comments []

Summary: Must we always evaluate only because a funder or service provider mandates or requests the evaluation? For example, must we only evaluate a school as required by, say, the school board or the school's faculty or administration? Must the local hybrid gas-electric engine plant be evaluated only as corporate offices dictate? The answer to all is no! In this entry I work to unpack the ideas using thoughts from Michael Scriven, eminient philosopher and evaluator. As you probably can guess, I will fold in some thoughts and interests of my own.


Scriven's Description:
"... the evaluator is not told the purpose of the program but does the evaluation with the purpose of finding out what the program is actually doing without being cued as to what the program is trying to do. [....] Merit is determined by relating program effects to the relevant needs of the impacted population, rather than to the goals of the program (whether the goals of the agency, the citizenry, the legislature, or the manager) for the target (intended) population. It could equally well be called "needs-based evaluation" or "consumer-oriented evaluation" by contrast with goal-based (or "manager-oriented") evaluation. It does not substitute the evaluator's goals nor the goals of the consumer for the program's goals, contrary to a common criticism; the valuation must justify (via the needs assessment) all assignments of merit. The report should be completely transparent with respect to the evaluator's goals.

One of the major arguments for the pure form is that it is the only systematic or design procedure for improving the detection of side-effects. Evaluators who do not know what the program is supposed to be doing loom more thoroughly for what it isdoing. Other arguments for it include:

  • (i)it avoids the often expensive, always speculative, and time-consuming problems involved in determining true current goals and true original goals, reconciling and weighting them;
  • (ii) it is less intrusive into program activities than GBE [Goal Based Evaluation];
  • (iii) it is fully adaptable to midstream goal or need shifts;
  • (iv) it is less prone to social, perceptual, and cognitive bias because of reduced interaction with program staff; and
  • (v) it is 'reversible', that is, one can begin an evaluation goal-free and switch to goal-based after a preliminary investigation thereby garnering the preceding benefits (whereas if you begin goal-based, you can't reverse);
  • (vi) it is less subject to bias arising from the desire to please the client because it's less clear what the client was trying to do.

[...]

GFE is somewhat analogous to double-blind design in medical research; even if the evaluator would like to give a favorable report (e.g., because of being paid by the program, or hoping for future work from them) it is not (generally) easy to tell how to 'cheat' under GFE conditions. The fact that the risk of failure by the evaluator is greater in GFE is desirable since it increases effort, identifies incompetence, and improves the balance of power.

Doing GFE is a notably different and enlightening experience from doing the usaul kind of evaluation. there is a very strong sense of social isolation, and one comes to be extremely conscious of the extent to which GBE evaluations are not reallly 'independent evaluations' even when they are called that; they are cooperative efforts, and hence easily co-opted efforts. Ones is also conscious of the possibility of enormous blunders. It is good practice to use a metaevaluator and very desirable to use a team.

[GFE is not a method in the same sense of other evaluation methods ... in that it can be combined with any one of them, except a goal-based evaluation, and that only for a part of the investigation. i.e., start multimethod goal free and after having reaped all desired benefits switch to goal based and start working more closely with program personnel.] [Evaluation Thesaurus,4th edition, 1991, Sage p 180-182]


It is clear from what MS has argued that he believes that one can evaluate without being program driven. He has made clear that the GFE does revolve around some form of needs analysis which puts limits on the breadth and depth of inquiry. Thus there is some agenda, with argument and political subscription of some degree, which will serve as a driving set of values from which the needs analysis will be derived. You have to start somewhere however, and, if you are doing other than putzing around, you better have some large group of stakeholders invested in the needs assessment that you use in your GFE in order for it to be deemed worthwhile.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that we have built our needs analysis [an analysis of some portion of human existence which leads to a description of needs which are entailed and a working definition of what "meeting" those needs amounts to]. Our GFE would then concern itself with determining the causal effects that the chosen program or programs, has had upon the client population.

If, say, one were inquiring about safety from various forms of fire, there would be a set of needs that, if addressed effectively, would result in a minimal average risk of injury or loss due to fire. It seems clear that since absolute safety (no fires, no damage, no form of injury, ever) is impossible, some statistical goals will serve as standards for excellence, satisfactory and unsatisfactory service. All of this having been said, the fire system of, say, Dogpatch, could be directly observed and statistically weighed against those statistical standards without any consideration of what programs are being offered by the Fire Department as a whole, by the separate fire houses or by the individual firemen. This, then, would be GFE of fire protection in Dogpatch.

Could we also do a Needs Based Evaluation of education in Dogpatch or its distant, metropolitan neighbor, Erehwon? Yes! I believe we could.

The basic outline would be the same: List the needs, educational needs in this case, locate and translate standards for excellent, satisfactory, unsatisfactory and dangerously low levels of meeting of those standards and sample, measure and estimate until a confident estimate of true standard adherence has been created. However, it would be more difficult with education.

First, education's mission differs, at least at the outer boundaries, from town to town. Further, even given a common general agreement as to mission, to develop each child to her/his maximal individual potential, for example, the difficulty will derive from great number of possible practical translations. Given this considerable ambiguity what I will next say can only be taken as illustrative. Whatever the standards and however chosen they must be a potent, useful, assessable, yet at the time acceptable to the stakeholding recipients of the GFE Education report.

Let's say that criterion referenced developmental sequences of objectives in each of Howard Gardner's distinct developmental areas are chosen as basis for testing. Further, we've found an authority who's already developed and applied those sequences in K-15 in multiple regions of country. Part of that translation has involved the development of criterion-referenced, group administratable, tests which reliably place each person within their "zone of proximal development" (ala Vygotsky). Finally the same tests have been reliably used to assess learning rate (objectives mastered) for each individual in each area of development, given appropriate instruction at proximal level of development.

Given this much we will be able to proceed to some fruitful needs-related assessment.

[Go to my next entry for further details.]
11:42:18 AM    Comments []


Tuesday, July 12, 2005
 

Summary: The number of ways to transmit a motivating vision knows is limited primarily by one's communicative imagination and ingenuity. We know the effective vision by it's effects. It frames and impels specific learning. An effective vision is not limited by the knowledge-making venue; a good vision can work in instructivist, deuterlearning and independent or collaborative research environments.

All of this I said in a recent entry. In this entry I would like to share a specific vision-making classroom activity, one that has turned the heads of 20 year old sophisticates and superintendents with 20 years of experience.


Here are the clients of the simulation activity: FineteachPeople.gif
Part of the visioning is the creation of an imaginable reality, as you can see in this case, a group of people working together. A teacher and 6 students. The idea of the picture is to create an imagining, a vessel for memories and analogies to real people rather than "words" and "phrases". These imagined people will draw commitments, concerns, compassion and hope in a way that "individualizing" "personalizing" "maximizing potential", alone, cannot.

Impact on thought comes through a) the acceptance of the assumptions about how things work and the b) consequent psychological transitions which occur when the simulation, with an accepted set of premises, impacts the simulation students as it does. (Class members will generally agree that the 6 member class more-or-less represents the range of skill/character variation within a typical class.)

The following sets up the exercise (which I've typically done in a 1-1.5 hr period) The Ms Fineteach Simulation Experience

(these materials are supplements for the accommodative instruction class discussion)

The purpose of this simulation is to examine curricular and instructional ideas as they interact with each other and as they influence real life situations.

The following are the guiding concepts of this particular simulation:

   Rule 1: Kids learn things in sequence. Placing them above or below their readiness level will result in no learning.

   Rule 2: Lessons have content aims. If the content aim is within three objectives, up or down, from a studentÕs readiness level, s/he will learn at her/his learning rate (LR). Otherwise s/he will not learn at all. Example: If Howard Hughes is ready for, i.e., has mastered prerequisite skills/ concepts/etc for, objective 27, he will learn at his learning rate. If he learns at a rate of 6 objectives per week (LR=6), he will do that (even if the teacher isn't exposing material that quickly). If he learns at a rate of 2 objectives per week (LR=2), he will learn that many objectives this week, even if the teacher has presented more material than that.

   Rule 3: Students will give teachers a two week honeymoon... with only minor-too all intents and purposes, negligible --misbehavior ... for two weeks at the beginning of the school year. This means that what would, under other circumstances, set off misbehavior will not do so during the honeymoon. Good impact of instruction will, however, take place.

   Rule 4: For Òoff-taskÓ read 50% of it as quietly off-task (e.g., staring out the window... reading a comic book hidden in the text book, etc.) and read the other 50% as a ÒtroublesomeÓ [disruptive] kind of off-task.

   Rule 5: If misbehavior of the ÒtroublesomeÓ variety is between 25% and 50% the teacher is decidedly grumpy; i.e., s/he is less positive, takes more convincing to participate in building planning and development activities [which, in the long-term, makes or breaks a school; change is constant...if teachers don't participate in the structuring of how change impacts their school... then laws are imposed on them... they resent... and feel out of control and unimportant and their cooperation level goes down even further, and so on].

Rule 6: Ms Fineteach aims her reading program so that it covers 3 objectives per week. She starts the present semester and this unit on objective 30. Her method is large-group-oriented: There is an explanation of the activity followed by the activity. There are roughly 6 different and worthwhile multisensory activities which are set up for each objective. She plans for the group to complete the [18] activities having to do with three reading objectives each week. By the end of our 8 week simulation she will have exposed each student to 24 objectives [and 144 activities].

 Rule 7: If the average of all students' troublesome behavior averages greater than 50% teacher begins to be decidedly bitter... i.e., waaaay beyond grumpy. Problems are projected onto others. Uncooperative and hostile toward a problem solving orientation. His/her lessons arenÕt as effective. Coverage is reduced from three to 2 objectives per week -which will alter teacher impact on the students who are at the appropriate learning level.

Rule 8a: Impact of nonlearning. With the exception of the honeymoon, when a student does not learn anything during a given week, her/his OT rate (see below) will double in the following week.

Rule 8b: Impact of learning. Any week in which at least one objective is learned will result in a studentÕs cutting her/his OT rate in half during the following week.


A full set up of the experience with worksheet and value/concept probes is provided on an in-class worksheet( which is accessible via this link).
7:57:10 PM    Comments []

Saturday, July 9, 2005
 

Summary: Your first job as master teacher is to wake them up. After the last echo of the wake-up call has fallen silent your students will be left with a hunger and a vision. The vision will enlighten each act of specific learning. The vision is necessarily new and the hunger is for its realization.

The vision is a context, a framing, a meaning system within which all of the specific content of your teachings will fit. As with pieces of a jig saw puzzle, each teaching is seen, by the awakened, to be a specific and partial realization of the vision, "big picture". The struggle to acquire the piece that fits just so, or, possibly, the struggle to find any piece that clearly fits anywhere in the design, is driven by the vision of the awakening.

Without the vision your students are reduced to doing what they're told to do, to "behaving" in a teacher-approved way.



tulareclass.jpg
(Picture from Tulare county (USA, CA) library online photo archives. As typical as this picture is for its time, I thought it an evocative nonexample of vision-guided individual learning.)
Alright!, you say. I'm going to explain my whole philosophy for the course right at the beginning. That way they'll get the big picture. Sounds good!!

Not really! The creation of an integrating vision is a huge challenge. The vision must leap over the ignorance that the specific teaching that follows is meant to erase. In my own case, for example, I've found that without suffcient care and creativity my previews can be an explanation which is constructed from the yet-to-be-mastered pieces. Appropriate as a review, perhaps, but NOT as a preview, even less as a vision.

Even less? Well yes! You can't construct an explanation from concepts and principles not yet mastered. So that's mistake one. But, because the vision has two jobs, there's yet another problem. The other, deeper, problem is that a set of terms does not equal a vision. The vision has to make an end-run around unknown content in order to achieve two objectives: to create useful expectations of the content, the pieces and the whole. The vision should also make the need for personal realization of the vision understandable, thereby creating a sense of a possible personal future that is both:

  • higher (better in some moral sense), and
  • better (in the sense of personal efficacy)
.
An Integrating Vision can help all sorts of "teacher + class" groups achieve common learning goals.
Vision: Its Uses at Different Levels of Learning/Knowledge-Making
LEVEL DESCRIPTION INTERPRETATION
Instructivist Learning material is acquired in presequenced, "bite-sized" chunks that have been preassembled by curriculum developer. In the Instructivist world, where knowledge has been analyzed into a sequence of objectives which when mastered progressively move the learner from not knowing (e.g., 'non reader') to knowing (e.g., 'proficient reader') the vision can motivate and inform the learner so that her/his energies and intellect can support the instructional efforts which are working on her/his behalf. I think of this as the passive learning mode. This is how we typically teach reading and arithmetic skills in US schools. Even here ... a vision, which affords an alternative view (the same end, even the learning route, as seen from a different, and accessible, perspective) can support learner efficiency and motivation and commitment. Each will enhance total learning efficiency.
DeuterolearningIn the Deuterolearning world, where sequences of objectives play a varying yet always part-time role in learning, the vision can integrate and organize as student switches back and forth between instructivist and self-chosen experimental learning methods, as dictated by both strategy and vision. The vision is a constant source of reference, here, as next objective and strategy are chosen from the staging platform which is present level of mastery. On more than one occasion the vision itself will be questioned and possibly be redesigned as its reality and accessibility are tested.
ResearchAnd finally, in what may seem a novel twist, we have learning in the research world. In the research world the learning that is sought is knowledge presumed to be not yet known. There are no precut learning sequences. Here the vision is all there is. In this situation there is no triangulation of already established method and predetermined sequence and end result, on the one hand, and the vision-based view of the same object, on the other. In this situation, it is not established that the vision is anything but a fantasy, an imagined allegorical possibility. In this situation, therefore, the vision plays an immense part of learning sequence design for the researcher or research team. At the same time, and of necessity, it is also subject to constant scrutiny and revision as its utility in moving researcher/research team to the desired end is put to the test.

RsrchTeam.jpg
In all cases the vision serves an orienting and motivating part which helps separates empty learning activities from those that are in fact inspired.
3:40:47 PM    Comments []

Friday, June 10, 2005
 

Summary: In searching for open source qualitative research software I found TAMS (Text Analysis Markup System) and TAMS AnalyzerTAMS Analyzer 3.0 for the Mac. TAMS Analyzer uses Graphviz in order to map qualitative findings. Graphviz converts text (text edit, nisus, bbedit, etc.) into graphs. The flexibility and utility of Graphviz resulted in a Big Mac design award.


Mathew Weinstein of Kent U is author. His summary remarks appear immediately below.

TAMS stands for Text Analysis Markup System. It is a convention for identifying themes in texts (web pages, interviews, field notes). It was designed for use in ethnographic and discourse research.

TAMS Analyzer is a program that works with TAMS to let you assign ethnographic codes to passages of a text just by selecting the relevant text and double clicking the name of the code on a list. It then allows you to extract, analyze, and save coded information. TAMS Analyzer is released under GPL. The Macintosh version of the program also includes full support for transcription (back space, insert time code, jump to time code, etc.) when working with data on sound files.

I would really like to know if anyone is finding any of this software useful. Thanks: mweinste@kent.edu. I'll add you to the mailing list!
------
Key TAMS Analyzer 3.0 Features:

  • Multi-user support using MySQL as a server
  • Select near with export
  • Improved document management for portability
  • Window zooming
  • Code creation and code set creation done straight on workbench
  • Code set grouping of results
  • Code set creation through marking records
  • Many interface improvements

Key TAMS Analyzer 2.5 Features:

  • Multimedia support
  • XML file formats
  • Hot code sets
  • Ability to set comments for both ranges of text and individual tags
  • Recoding possible even if files are not open
  • Updated the regex engine; improved regex search algorithm
  • Flexible results export

Key TAMS Analyzer 2.0 Features:

  • Project based design
  • International character support (partial)
  • Through tweedling preferences, projects can be set up to be moved to new machines
  • Searches are now possible even if files are not open
  • Updated the regex engine
  • Escape characters now usable in non regex searches
  • Metatags introduced to empty (or not empty) universal code values at EOF
  • Metatags introduced to control how repeat values are calculated for coded sections that cross {!end} boundaries

Key TAMS Analyzer 1.0 Features:

  • Supports multiple coders.
  • Can search information for complex combinations of codes and coders
  • Codes can be nested or overlapped
  • Supports saving and restoring multiple ethnographic projects
  • Practically unlimited numbers of hierarchical codes
  • Easy double click coding
  • Codes can be offset from the text through color
  • Turn frequently used codes or sections of text into one click buttons
  • Search for coded text across documents
  • Export results of searches to database formats
  • Coding frequency and coding co-occurance reports
  • Interactive re-coding from results windows
  • Flexible output: attach additional information to particular passages and to passages within a section of the document

Documentation and Screenshots are available here

If I were the gasping type I would do so when seeing the analysis features that are available and comparing them (textual and graphical) to those available using Filemaker and Word back then. Did I mention free? Complex knowledgemaking is free for anyone with access to a library Mac and a 1 gig memory stick.

I was the data and online guy for a project conducted 17 years ago. All members of the team had Word software and could send data via a modem. Comparing the steps of work then (I spent my sabbatical at it -- all work done on an 87 Mac, and early Mac versions of Filemaker and Word) from to the group work done 17 years ago for our Qual study of the Education program of a small Philadelphia University.


[Technorati research knowledge-making software sourceforge]
2:19:04 PM    Comments []

Summary: I would like to see some explicit discussion amongst research-oriented and instruction-oriented "personal web publishing" theorists and practitioners. The topic: knowledge development strategies for individuals and groups. To jump the gun a bit:

  • In order to accelerate an individual's learning provide, and train to use, two pieces of software, in addition to general web access software: a weblog and a content management system like Omnioutliner Pro. (Assuming s/he is already proficient with general productivity and web access software).
  • Once individual already has above skills, fold in use of wiki software in a group learning format.
    (The group learning format can be in a "face-to-face plus online", aka "hybrid", setting (e.g., coworkers at same site who also work and communicate on line) or it can be done purely online. In either case, this step also requires skill development in the social arena--accepting and generating praise, accepting and generating constructive criticisms, listening and feedback skill, generally.

    Also involved: extemporaneous extrapolation and explaining "on the fly" (The extrapolater will not have had chance to practice saying this "new-to-her" idea.)

It occurs to me, as it has to numerous others (see others in links section... follow their link trails for a good starter set of thinkers), that the same relationship between inputs, processes and outputs can be variously labelled weblogging, journal writing, learning, research, 'my job', etc. depending on the context. Whatever the context, the inputs, processes and outputs remain the same and effective knowledge development and organization strategies remain the same. I believe that collaborative research & development (as supported by weblog & wiki -see below) is prepared for by training . The training would be not only in subject matter but in "learning to learn"** via the acceleration enabled by personal web publishing.


For your inspection, a summary of two writings: first work done by Seb Fiedler and Priya Sharma on training to learn via the use of personal webpublishing tools and the second a summary of my entry concerning the conduct of team research also using personal webpublishing tools.
-----------
What are personal webpublishing tools? Examples are group and individual weblogs and wiki's. Software details vary slightly between the two projects; the primary difference between the two is that one focuses on the generic process with secondary attention to subject matter (the topics are chosen individually but are within a discipline). In the research process suggested below the topics are distinct subpieces of a general research topic. A general problem has been partitioned into researchable parts and handed to researchers who are knowledgeable in the general area and in the use of the personal webpublishing approach to learning/research acceleration.

See what you think.


Seb Fiedler's Personal WebPublishing as a Reflective Conversational Tool for Self-Organized Learning (for BlogTalk1 11/03). At the time of publication he and Priya Sharma were together running a special topics class which were aimed at enhancing self-managed learning projects at Pennsylvania State University. Because there was the opportunity/requirement for face-to-face interactions with teacher and among students--the authors have been classified this as a hybrid learning environment.

Project Notes (please see illustration in final section of paper (link above is a .pdf of that paper)).

  • Project Roles
    1. Learning Environment Designer: Sets up of the technological architecture. (Used Userland's Frontier/Manila package: "The backbone of our conversational learning environment is a cluster of independent sites that are visually and functionally interlinked. A course log functions as the publishing space for the Learning Coach and the Learning Environment Manager. … Project owners can comment on items that are published there and open up independent discussion topics if they feel the need. … The project logs offer a similar set up like the course log. Project owners can create and publish log items, story pages, pictures and files (e.g., .pdfs). Initially they can only edit two additional interface elements [ useful links and an about page in which scope, intention etc. of project is presented]
    2. Learning Environment Manager: Monitors the ongoing use of the Webpublishing spaces, comments on technical features and procedures, assists participants when there are questions or problems, alters the system interface when the need arises, works out bugs and technical problems when and if they occur.
    3. Learning Coach: the following are the actions commonly taken by the learning coach:
      • negotiates needs and purposes,
      • helps to define a manageable scope for project,
      • facilitates conversational exchanges among the participants,
      • introduces and suggests resources,
      • comments on the task-focused activities and negotiates criteria for evaluation,
      • coaches and counsels as needed,
      • creates opportunities for face-to-face meetings,
      • augments, highlights, models and fees back good practice
      • scaffolds (breaks final skill set into steps as needed) by providing mini- interventions and assignments to trigger inner and outer conversations.
    4. Learning Project Owners: "spend most of their time working on their particular learning projects, documenting their meaning making process through the externalization of thoughts, observations and questions, chunks of newly constructed meanings, reflections, and so forth. In addition they provide feedback and commentary to each other through face-to-face encounters and their personal Webpublishing spaces."
------

My Group Knowledge-Making Paper (full reference here) (illustration and process description):


KnowledgeMakingGroup

Most research group endeavors have a life cycle--preceding from formation and ending with either a mature knowledge product or a partial version of the planned-for knowledge product, (or, in the extreme worst case, nothing that was intended nor even any unintended side product that has value). The within-group processes I describe below are aimed somewhere in the middle of the life of the research group.

At the base of the diagram you will see 5 R-S pairs. Those represent 5 researcher pairings with a research(knowledge-making) "situation". Each has researcher's assignment has two aspects: first is to "getting a good answer" to a research question and second is to make it accessible, via explanation, to other members of the research team.

Each researcher's notes, problems, results and explanations are detailed in her/his respective wiki. As part of participating in the research team each researcher comments upon, offer suggestions for, evaluate, etc. , the work of two other team members--via the evaluated member's wiki. Those processes are signified signified by the dashed arrows from each researcher to two other team members' wiki documents (those documents are W1, W2, W3, etc.). Such cross-communication can help to assure that the researcher will be developing her/his findings and explanations in ways that are compatible with the larger knowledge question which all are addressing with their particular research projects.

There is one other (the sixth) team member: the Reporter/Coordinator(RC). S/he will also be reading/evaluating the wiki's from the perspective of the larger knowledge-making situation of which the separate researcher situations are each distinct parts. S/he will also be reading from the perspective of an explication of the total product to a public.

In the early project stages the research coodinator/reporter documents impresssions of progress in the in-house summary document which is the group wiki (GW).

For non-group members summary snippets are issued via the group weblog (GWL); its purpose is to document progress and/or to justify solicitations of material support from a suprasystem or from a granting agency. Informational support might come via weblog comments from collaborating groups in a larger enterprise (e.g., a containing suprasystem) or from the broader public made up of knowledge consumers and competing research enterprises. Any responses from those outside sources will be fed back into the group wiki as a means of challenging/updating within-group work.

A last observation: the dashed line surrounding the group is meant to indicate that the boundary is voluntary. All members voluntarily limit their communications to fit within the bounds of the research mission. This self-limitation will occur for some portion of their time as dictated by their interests and the commitment made to the group. In the best of research groups this self-limitation is in fact empowerment. (See my entry about knowledge-making in bounded groups)

[Note 1: I have expanded the number of tools used to two: wiki and weblog. When a publication is to show it's edit history and to allow text intrusions ranging from paragraph level editing by multiple editors to page-level comments, I've chosen a wiki. When the document itself is to remain intact but is be accessible to attached commentary and for linking, I've chosen a weblog. It is possible to follow the design using weblogs alone (replace all wikis with weblogs).The wiki, however, affords a far more nuanced set of possibilities.]

[Note 2: Larger knowledge-making enterprises could be approached by using the illustrated group design as a module and by adding necessary organizationalinfrastructure and process]

[Note 3: If we replace the researcher and group wiki's with in house circulation of a weekly progress update--- on paper, and if we replace the group weblog with newsletter publications and/or journal articles -- again, on paper , then we still have a "plan". How much better off are we , at this level of analysis, because we HAVE inserted Wiki and Weblog?]


RELATED LINKS

  1. Seb Fiedler's Papers at his site.
  2. Denham Gray's entry (3/05) on the social character of Personal Learning. See , also, his link (via Ton) to a free course on action research and evaluation.
  3. Ton Zylstra's Series of Entries(12/03) on Actionable Sense

  4. Seb Paquet's Article (10/03) Exploring Relation of Weblogging to Research
  5. Seb Paquet's wondering (9/03) about how long it takes for students to get comfortable with weblogging
  6. Dave Pollard's (7/03) Detailed Analysis of Blog Flow Sequence

  7. Related Entries from Spike Hall:
    • Entry (12/03) showing a research process as it might follow weblog-based networking -- responding to ideas of Ton Zylstra
    • One of my entries on Learning to Learn Learning to Learn ---high proven payoff
    • Notes extending Dave Pollard's weblogging flow ideas into research
    • Definition of Klogs (10/02) (knowledge logs): thoughts and processes involved
    • The Bounded Group Knowledge-Making Hypothesis, (12/02)including a restatement of two earlier hypotheses. This thinking led to my proposal of the group research model pictured above. Details of the hypothesis are below.

      First, the basic klog hypothesis: a comparison of otherwise equivalent initial learning 'problems' will show that klogging of knowledge acquisition [with no other supports, not even the news reader] will result in faster and more comprehensive knowledge acquisiton than a nonreflective participation in a quest for the same knowledge.

      Second, the augmented klog hypothesis: comparison of otherwise equivalent initial learning 'problems' will show that the klog augmented by news aggregators, automatic google searches (such as googleIt applied to title) and commentary from readers of klog entries (as in 'further reading' [see above]) will demonstrate significantly enhanced speed and comprehensiveness of development when compared to results of the pure klog approach.

  8. Lilia Efimova's Thoughts about Weblogs and Wiki's (6/04)

*Comparability is necessary across sets; the sets need to be of equivalent psychological stature. By way of illustration, "20 single syllable french nouns versus an earlier, altogether different, set of 20 single syllable French nouns". 20 addition problems versus 20 ice skating manuvers wont do. :o]

**When we get into the realm of 'Learning to Learn' (aka deuterolearning, metalearning) our discussion is particularly called for because, or so it seems to me, discussion of various levels of learning as if they were one will undermine our collective ability to construct effective systems (If we assume that all food is the same won't we be able to think out how to mix, prepare, cook and present in efficient and esthetic ways?

Using the broadest designations Bateson (Towards an Ecology of Mind) listed at least three levels of learning:

  1. learning,
  2. learning to learn (i.e., demonstrating altered knowledge of learning such that greater speed and efficiency is clearly demonstrated in situation 2 as opposed the otherwise comparable* situation 1 , and
  3. "learning to 'learn to learn': acquiring the more or less independent ability to generate learning strategies.

[Technorati learning, learning-to-learn, research, knowledge-making]
9:43:23 AM    Comments []

Thursday, June 2, 2005
 

Summary: In our efforts to use the writings of others to bootstrap our own learning we often do full-text searches. While we're used to doing this with materials that have been specifically written for the web, we're not yet used to the possibility of having access to all of the world's writings. Maybe it's time to get used to the idea!!

In this entry I'm referring to the knowledge quest that starts with the phrase search, i.e., the entry of a phrase , e.g, "individualized, web-based, instruction", "weapons of mass destruction", or "yogic support of family peace", etc., and the resulting web-derived return of print-based (as opposed to web-based) passages containing the search phrase. Several web services are on the threshold of doing exactly this.

Type a word or phrase and, a few seconds later, a list of books that contain your phrase will be presented to you. This via the Google Print service. (Address: http://print.google.com/). This service gives tangible evidence of the coming of a time when we will have access the digitized contents of all of the world's books, past and present (out of print, in print). The reality of full access will take a while. After several searches I've had its possibilities amply demonstrated!*

Excerpts from the 12/14/04 Google Announcement and Description of the service (the emboldening is mine):

"We believe passionately that such universal access to the world's printed treasures is mission-critical for today's great public university," said Mary Sue Coleman, President of the University of Michigan.

For publishers and authors, this expansion of the Google Print program will increase the visibility of in and out of print books, and generate book sales via "Buy this Book" links and advertising. For users, Google's library program will make it possible to search across library collections including out of print books and titles that weren't previously available anywhere but on a library shelf.

Users searching with Google will see links in their search results page when there are books relevant to their query. Clicking on a title delivers a Google Print page where users can browse the full text of public domain works and brief excerpts and/or bibliographic data of copyrighted material. Library content will be displayed in keeping with copyright law. For more information and examples, please visit http://print.google.com/googleprint/library.html.

Such a huge project: all books under copyright and all books in the public domain. Google estimates that it will take years to put together the total digitized library.


Now we have the technical ability to access the digitized contents of all of the world's books (paper or electronic), as long as there is one scanable copy to be put in the digital domain. Google is working with libraries to scan in rare texts.

Project Gutenberg is also a resource to turn to for books that are out of print (no longer being printed by publishers): Any book that is/was out of print may be accessible as an ebook through project . While Project Gutenberg specializes in US and English books it also has a big roster of books written in other languages. The total collection includes more than 15000 ebook titles. 3:32:56 PM    Comments []


Saturday, May 7, 2005
 

Summary: Formal, instructionally oriented knowledge offerings continue to expand. Now, if certification via passage through a "program" ,i.e., pay-for-learning sequence, is not of concern, you may work your way to learning "world class" knowledge without having to pay "world class" prices. From your home computer.

This is, among other things, a move in the direction of distributive justice, countering the tendency for the rich (in knowledge) to get richer and the poor (having little knowledge and little real access to it) to get poorer.

All we need now is for everyone to have online access and the ability to use it. (A computer in every hut?)


Utah State University has entered the Open Learning Support movement.

Welcome to Utah State University's Open Learning Support: a free and open resource for faculty, students, and self-learners around the world. OLS supports USU's mission by engaging the public, cultivating diversity of thought and culture, and supporting learning.

Open Learning Support:

  • Is a space where individuals can connect to share, discuss, ask,
    answer, debate, collaborate, teach, and learn.
  • Is not a degree-granting or certificate-granting program.
  • Does not provide formal access to university faculty or content authors.

OLS currently provides discussion services for over 2200 modules in the Connexions collection at Rice University (this server). OLS also provides discussion services for MIT's discussion services for MIT's OpenCourseWare initiative.

OLS is free to use and free to integrate with open access collections of educational materials. If you have a Connexions-like collection of educational materials and you would like to integrate with OLS, let us know.

Open Learning Support is generously supported by a grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

[via edu_rss]


Here, for example, is the list of Departments through which courses are available at MIT. I have provided a sprinkling of the course links so that you can check content and organization and referencing for yourselves.

The Open Learning Support movement is providing learning opportunities for independent learners around the world. All that's missing is live access to the professor. Also provided is discussion space so that learners with a facilitator can process and examine materials. A good facilitator with some serious background in a particular content could help sincere and moderately independent learners to gain access to "world class" (in terms of utility, currency, complexity, take your pick) content.

*The term "learning object" is used frequently and to good purpose by Stephen Downes. His point: that once a good student-operated "lesson" has been constructed it can be reused multiple times without the requirement of multiple deliveries by the original instructor, or any instructor. Knowledge objects would be stored online and be accessible for use in multiple ways in multiple courses. I am calling course materials, such as those linked to above from MIT, large learning objects. (My editorial stretch to the phrase "Large Learning Objects" has not necessarily been sanctioned by Mr. Downes.)
10:41:52 AM    Comments []


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