Social Software and Personal Learning Environments


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This presentation, in slightly modified forms, was presented by myself to education audiences in Canada, Israel, Norway and the UK in spring 2007. See my blog at for more details

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  • Social Software and Personal Learning Environments

    1. 1. Social Software and Personal Learning Environments: Do they really fit with Formal Education? March, 22 2007 Terry Anderson, Ph.D. Canada Research Chair in Distance Education [email_address] Shock of the Social – Oxford University
    2. 2. Presentation Overview <ul><li>Traditional Opening Joke </li></ul><ul><li>Affordances of Web 2.0 </li></ul><ul><li>Personal Learning Environments </li></ul><ul><li>Change process </li></ul><ul><li>Your comments and questions </li></ul>
    3. 3. Why is E-Learning Better Than Sex? <ul><ul><li>If you get tired, you can stop, save your place and pick up where you left off. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You can finish early without feeling guilty. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You can get rid of any viruses you catch with a $50 program from McAfee </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>With a little coffee you can do it all night. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You don’t usually get divorced if your spouse interrupts you in the middle of it. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>And If you're not sure what you are doing, you can always ask your tutor. </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada * Athabasca University <ul><li>Fastest growing university in Canada </li></ul><ul><li>34,000 students, 700 courses </li></ul><ul><li>100% distance education </li></ul><ul><li>Graduate and Undergraduate programs </li></ul><ul><li>Master & Doctorate – Distance Education </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Only USA Accredited University in Canada </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Athabasca University </li></ul>
    5. 5. Congratulations You - as a contributing lifelong learner Are the Person of the Year!
    6. 6. This Person of the year <ul><li>Wants to learn things </li></ul><ul><li>Continuously moves between on and offline </li></ul><ul><li>Is learning to recognize and demand quality when investing in learning </li></ul><ul><li>Knows there are many paths to learning </li></ul><ul><li>Normally uses a wide set of information processing, creation and communications tools </li></ul>“ The decline of the compliant learner’. P. Goodyear 2004
    7. 7. How do professional educators deal with these “persons of the year”? <ul><li>“We must look at today's radical changes in technology, not just as forecasters but as actors charged with designing and bringing about a sustainable and acceptable world.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Herbert Simon, 1916-2001 </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Values <ul><li>We can (and must) continuously improve the quality, effectiveness, appeal, cost and time efficiency of the learning experience. </li></ul><ul><li>Student control and freedom is integral to 21 st Century life-long education and learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Education for elites is not sufficient for planetary survival </li></ul>
    9. 9. Importance of this issue <ul><li>Educational challenges are not met through evangelism, threats or technologies alone. </li></ul><ul><li>Change happens when teachers, administrators and learners make it happen </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Perceived benefits – Personal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Readiness - Organizational </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pressure – Inter-organizational </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Chwelos; Benbasat; Dexter, 2001) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Each of us is an agent of change </li></ul>
    10. 10. Maybe the Sky Really is Falling! <ul><li>The Net Creates </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Great challenge and Great Opportunity </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Learner Values in Networked Era Focus on Learner Choice: <ul><li>to co-determine and negotiate : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Time and place </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tools for learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pace </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Means of evaluation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ways to learn </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Relationships </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Openness </li></ul></ul>(Paulsen, 1993)
    12. 12. Connection to the Net <ul><li>67.9% of Canadians use the Net - Computer Industry Almanac (2005) </li></ul><ul><li>85% access from home </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Canadian Internet Project (2006) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Average 13.5 hours/week </li></ul><ul><li>76% Broadband </li></ul><ul><li>UK - 57% of homes have Internet access </li></ul><ul><li>69% use broadband (2006) </li></ul>
    13. 13. Affordances of the Educational Semantic Web (Anderson & Whitelaw, 2004) Abundance of Content High quality, Low cost Communication Agent Assistance Read/Write Web 2.0 Filtering, Mashups, Updating Automated Facilitation Net as OS Connected Learning
    14. 14. Affordance 1. Massive Amounts of Content <ul><li>Any information, any format, anytime, anywhere </li></ul><ul><li>Customizable content </li></ul><ul><li>Interactive content </li></ul><ul><li>User created content </li></ul><ul><li>Open content resources </li></ul>
    15. 15. Wiki and Open Courseware <ul><li>Imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing. – </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Terry Foote, Wikipedia </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. Terry’s Technology of the Year Award <ul><li>The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) society aims to distribute a laptop to every child in the world in the next 5 to 10 years </li></ul>“ Our display has higher resolution than 95% of the laptop displays on the market today; approximately 1/7th the power consumption; 1/3rd the price; and sunlight readability” See Mar 13/07 review of beta2
    17. 17. Content - conclusion <ul><li>Cheap or free </li></ul><ul><li>Need to learn to share, recontextulize and re-use. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t build your value on your content </li></ul><ul><li>Content is necessary, but not sufficient, to create a quality educational experience for the persons of the year </li></ul>
    18. 18. Affordance #2 High Quality, Low Cost Communication <ul><li>Multi mode </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Synchronous, asynch </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Text, audio and video </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Stored, indexed and retrievable </li></ul><ul><li>Mobile </li></ul><ul><li>Embedded </li></ul><ul><li>Pervasive </li></ul><ul><li>Learner, teacher, community and publisher created </li></ul>
    19. 19. <ul><ul><li>“ I learned more about Clive by reading his introduction tonight online than I did in our entire course together last summer ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(Kerlin, R-A, 1997) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Each person operates a separate personal community network and switches rapidly among multiple sub-networks.” </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(Wellman, Boase, & Chen, 2002) </li></ul></ul></ul>
    20. 20. Affordance 3 Agents <ul><li>Google Alerts </li></ul><ul><li>MeetingWizard </li></ul><ul><li>RSS </li></ul><ul><li>Athabasca </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Freudbot AIML </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>E-Advisor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are you ready for AU ? Agents </li></ul></ul>
    21. 21. These Affordances Stimulate Development of a Participatory Culture <ul><li>relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, </li></ul><ul><li>strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and </li></ul><ul><li>members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another - at the least they care what other people think about what they have created. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Henry Jenkins, Media Education of 21. Century 2006 </li></ul></ul>
    22. 22. Creating Incentive to Sustain Contribution The New Yorker September 12, 2005
    23. 23. Social Affordances of the Web Content Communication Agent WIKI Blogs MySpace Flicker Filtering SecondLife Calendaring Geotracking Learning
    24. 24. Pedagogical Basis <ul><li>Knowing Knowledge Siemens, G. (2007) </li></ul><ul><li>Integrated Virtual learning – pedagogy of nearness Mejias, 2005 </li></ul><ul><li>The contributing student Collis 2005 </li></ul><ul><li>“ Towards a Pattern Language for Networked Learning, Goodyear, P. </li></ul><ul><li> Community of Inquiry Garrison & Anderson, 2003 </li></ul><ul><li>New Learning Environments John Seely Brown, 2006 </li></ul>Our educational discourse is largely stuck in a time warp, framed by issues and standards set decades before the widespread use of the personal computer, the Internet, and free trade agreements.” Stewart and Kagan (2005)
    25. 25. Learning About Learning To Be Explicit Knowledge Tacit Knowledge Dimensions of Knowledge Michael Polanyi John Seely Brown New Learning Environments for the 21st Century 2006
    26. 26. Learner Teacher Content Educational Interactions Learner / teacher Teacher / content. Teacher / teacher Content / content Learner / learner Learner / content <ul><li>Anderson (2002) Equivalency Theorem </li></ul>
    27. 27. Learner Teacher Content Educational Interactions Learner / teacher Teacher / content. Teacher / teacher Content / content Learner / learner Learner / content <ul><li>Anderson (2002) Equivalency Theorem </li></ul>Group as educational actor Jon Dron, 2007
    28. 28. Reasonable expectations of ‘the group’ <ul><li>As a resource – wikipedia effect </li></ul><ul><li>As a motivator </li></ul><ul><li>As a real world source of authentication/validation </li></ul><ul><li>As a way for integration with the institutionalized learning </li></ul>
    29. 29. Context and the Technology <ul><li>Lifelong learning demands a move from Institutional to Learner Centered Paradigms </li></ul><ul><li>The Personal Learning Environment (PLE) Solution </li></ul>
    30. 30. What is a PLE? <ul><li>“ The logic of education systems should be reversed so that the system conforms to the learner, rather than the learner to the system.” Futurelab 2006 </li></ul>
    31. 31. What is a PLE? <ul><li>A PLE is a user constructured web interface into the owners’ digital environment. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Content management integrating personal and professional interests (both formal and informal learning), </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A profiling system for making connections </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A collaborative and individual workspace </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A multi formatted communications system </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>All connected via a series of syndicated and distributed feeds to each other and selected others. </li></ul></ul>
    32. 32. &quot;The PLE is an approach not an application.&quot; Stephen Downes <ul><li>An approach that: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Values and builds upon learner input </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Protects and celebrates identity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Respects academic ownership </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is Net-centric </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Supports multiple levels of socializing, administration and learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Supports communities of inquiry across and within disciplines, programs, institutions and individual learning contexts </li></ul></ul>
    33. 33. PLE- Learner Links their environment to that of education institution My hobbies My calendar My social Life My school(s) My files My publications E-portfolios My profile My conversations(s) My work My identity
    34. 34. PLEs are not VLEs <ul><li>VLEs were designed, built for and operated by institutions of formal learning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Designed to meet teacher needs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Based on dissemination & push rather than a pull model of education </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Contributions are owned by the institution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Student is forced to learn a new system at each institution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Course centric view of learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hard to interoperate with competitive or OS products </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Designed to protect intellectual property, not make it freely available </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Very poor record of innovation </li></ul></ul>
    35. 35. PLE Activities <ul><li>Making connections, classifying and organizing </li></ul><ul><li>Creating, tagging and sharing artifacts </li></ul><ul><li>Applying knowledge on and offline </li></ul><ul><li>Sharing experiences and building new contexts </li></ul><ul><li>Teacher’s job is: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>to help learner’s determine and satisfy their learning needs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to create and support environments from which learning emerges </li></ul></ul>
    36. 36. Learner Centred OLE.doc – Derek Wenmoth, March 2006
    37. 38. Early PLE Prototype products “ Welcome to Flock, the safe, spyware free web browser that makes it easier to connect with your friends. With Flock it's a snap to upload, comment, and discover new pics. Read all the news you care about, in one place. Blog freely.” PLEX - RSS Reader on steroids Blogs and Profiles With RSS “ The perfect solution for you to bring people together around shared goals, activities and interests to form a shared knowledge network”.
    38. 39. Blogging Connections Real Time Pacing Social Presence Content Admin Asynchronous Int. Dissemination Knowledge Polling Elgg - Portal Products Learning Objects Elluminate Furl Moodle Technologies of AU’s MDE 663 Fall 2006 CMAP
    39. 40. Usefulness over 8 Educ Functions N= 9 of 13
    40. 41. Are we ready for PLE’s ? <ul><li>Advantages of VLEs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Purposefully designed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mature </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Safe and Secure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ease of Use </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Centrally Supported </li></ul></ul>
    41. 42. Advantages of PLEs <ul><li>Identity </li></ul><ul><li>Customizable and control </li></ul><ul><li>Ownership </li></ul><ul><li>Social Presence </li></ul><ul><li>Capacity and Speed of Innovation </li></ul><ul><li>Open Connectivity (API, mashups, web services) </li></ul>See my blog posting at: Are PLE’s ready for prime time? http:// /
    42. 43. Will VLE’s become PLEs? <ul><li>Some will. </li></ul><ul><li>Most likely survivors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Are modular allowing student and teacher use of component parts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are standards based and provide access (APIs) or source code for mashups and interoperability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are driven by and respond to user centric innovation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t make mistakes that alienate their users </li></ul></ul>
    43. 44. Users of Web 2.0 – UK Data David White, JISC funded ‘SPIRE’ project 2007’.
    44. 45. Response to my blog posting Are PLE’s ready for Prime Time? <ul><li>Who are &quot;we&quot; in this case? We in the ed-biz or we human inhabitants of the earth? I may be being hyper sensitive but all too often we in the ed-biz see it as our job to operationalize things for them, the (demonic) other. </li></ul><ul><li>Through this, Terry appears to be perpetuating the teacher/learner divide. Too many discussions are about how can we do things for you/them. </li></ul><ul><li>Not until we realize that we are them and they are us - without abdicating responsibility for mentorship, inscription, facilitation and, indeed, teaching - can such ideas as PLEs be realized. </li></ul>Seb Schmoller
    45. 46. Blogs vs Threaded Discussion Cameron & Anderson, 2006 <ul><li>Cognitive presence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Context beyond the course allows for enhanced verification and application </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus beyond course aids in application to real contexts </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Social Presence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Increased depth from chronological background </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Openness may inhibit self-disclosure, humour </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Teaching Presence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Poor navigation and tracking </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Difficult to follow conversations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Harder to assess </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Little institutional support </li></ul></ul>
    46. 47. Formal education paradox? <ul><li>Many PLE applications today are: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>challenging to learn how to use, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>unstable and unsupported </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>not as administratively effective for either students or faculty as VLE substitutes. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why bother with their use???? </li></ul></ul>
    47. 48. PLE response to needs of a Complex Adaptive system <ul><li>“ A complex system, when disturbed or threatened by some change in its environment, can be lured by attractors and feedback modifiers out of a sense of equilibrium towards the edge of chaos” (p.125 Pascale et al.,2000) </li></ul><ul><li>Qualities of complex adaptive systems: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Emergent behaviour </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unpredictability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Amplification and dampening feedback loops </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Complex relationships content, actors (learners and teachers), machines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ edge of chaos’ sweet spot “zone of high creativity, innovation, and breaking with the past to create new modes of operating” (Zimmerman, 2001) </li></ul></ul>
    48. 49. PLE’s on the Edge of Chaos <ul><li>“ living systems thrive only when pushed away from their comfort zone, the area in which they must reconfigure themselves” (Dervitsiotis, 2005, p. 925) </li></ul><ul><li>Three key factors are variation, interaction and selection (Benet & Benet, 2004, p.45) </li></ul>Diagram of the Edge of Chaos/Zone of Complexity Copyright © 2001, Brenda J. Zimmerman. York University, Canada. Permission to copy for educational purposes only. From Ralph Stacey, 1996
    49. 50. <ul><li>There is no PLE best practice </li></ul><ul><li>Work on PLE’s is needed to create Edge of Chaos context for our universities </li></ul><ul><li>“ the point isn’t to find the best learning strategy but to evolve systems that continually search, explore, and test out those strategies” Cooper et al.,2004 </li></ul>
    50. 51. “ Time Inc. to Eliminate Nearly 300 Magazine Jobs” (Jan 19, 2007) <ul><li>&quot;It really is a different world, and these legacy businesses are going through a wrenching transition . . . they have to run the old business while building the new one.&quot; Harold Vogel </li></ul>
    51. 52. Conclusion <ul><li>The context of both formal and lifelong learning is changing rapidly, creating great opportunity and considerable risk. </li></ul><ul><li>Positive adaptation requires allowing student and teacher choice, support and opportunity to exploit affordances of Net technologies. </li></ul><ul><li>Role of management is to create an ecology of innovation, testing and reflection. </li></ul><ul><li>There is no single ‘killer app” in this environment - rather an evolving set of personal and social tools, pedagogies, and resources. </li></ul>
    52. 53. Thriving in a Net-Centric Learning Context <ul><li>Be the person you want your pupils to be – model desired behaviour (Stephen Downes). </li></ul><ul><li>Support a culture of reflection, innovation and teaching scholarship on the edge of chaos in your institution </li></ul><ul><li>Use open standard and interoperable tools. </li></ul><ul><li>Try a new tool in every course you teach. </li></ul>
    53. 54. The Great Community <ul><li>..a subtle, delicate, vivid and responsive art of communication must take possession of the physical machinery of transmission and circulation and breath life into it. When the machine age has thus perfected its machinery, it will be a means of life and not its despotic master. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>John Dewey (1927) The great community </li></ul></ul>
    54. 55. Your Comments or Questions Most Welcomed ! Terry Anderson [email_address] Final reference: futurelab (2006) Social software and learning