Opening Content for Deeper Inquiry


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Advancements in learning technologies are being driven from an increasing diversity of domains of practice and research. The “open” agenda – open architecture, open source, open standards, open access, open learning, open networks, open data, and open educational resources – is very much at the forefront of these advances for a growing international community of practice. While this agenda is valued highly in the education sector, openness is not the only driver of change or innovation with ICT. Social media continues to shape the nature of much engagement online and the late 20th century mantra that “content is king” is giving way to a fresh focus on so-called “21st century skills” and competencies where digital literacy is as important as critical thinking and problem solving. Meanwhile, discourses on sense-making and developments in knowledge management and knowledge-sharing infrastructures continue to inform the theory and practice of e-learning. This presentation acknowledges these trends and a broad range of narratives that track the evolution of e-learning as a means of contextualising a frontier ready for further technological innovation: the stimulation and support of questioning online. In particular, research into why-questioning is highlighted. Why? Because the semantics involved typically involve ambiguity, dialog or further inquiry. More specifically, investigation into why-questioning reveals that the object it seeks is explanatory content – and content that can be characterized as such presents a number of challenges for learning technology design.

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  • The English language is so flexible that we can also describe warfare as an extreme example of “open conflict”
  • But digital content now involves many formats & it is interesting to note that prominent initiatives for sharing open content (CXN & OU) have created different technical specifications & protocols! Interoperability is always a challenge
  • But within this picture of evolving “openness” also lies a lot of tribalism around whose version of openness is more open (or more important)
  • Note the irony – openness here is not “indivisible” at all. It is licensed & is promoted from a dotcom domain
  • October 2012
  • Similarities but key differences
  • Opening Content for Deeper Inquiry

    1. 1. Diverse Perspectives for Global ImpactOpening Content for Deeper Inquiry Jon Mason Charles Darwin University
    2. 2. Two Themes • Openness • Inquiry 2
    3. 3. What is “openness”? 3
    4. 4. open• wide usage and versatility – noun, verb, or adjective• Australian Macquarie Dictionary: >80 entries – ‘not shut’ – ‘to disclose’ – ‘an unobstructed space’ – ‘to render accessible to knowledge’ – ‘to cut or break into’ – ‘to begin’ – ‘to uncover’ … etc 4
    5. 5. “The Indivisibility of Openness”Geunther & Trungpa, 1975, The Dawn of Tantra 5
    6. 6. 6
    7. 7. 2003 How Linus Torvalds became benevolent dictator of Planet Linux, the biggest collaborative project in 7
    8. 8. 8
    9. 9. 9
    10. 10. 10
    11. 11. 11
    12. 12. Open Agenda … themes of Web era• Access• Licensing• Sharing• Systems interoperability• Public domain (public funding = public access) Open Educational Resources – a “game changer”? 12
    13. 13. Giving Knowledge for Free: TheEmergence of Open EducationalResources 2007 13
    14. 14. Scope of OERTeaching, learning & research resources: – accessible in the public domain – released under open licenses Tools & Services More than content! Content Standards & Infrastructure 14
    15. 15. MOOCs: a tidal wave of change throughhigher education? 15
    16. 16. Prefix “liber” in English (from Latin roots) means “free, book” 16
    17. 17. Is content still “king”?Openness a prominent driver of change – but not the only one! 17
    18. 18. A Snapshot of e-Learning inputsLaurillard – Re-Thinking Friesen – Re-Thinking University Teaching e-Learning Research Laurillard – Re-Thinking for the Knowledge Society 18
    19. 19. Numerous narratives on the evolution of e-learning& the impact of the Information Age 19
    20. 20. • Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills: “learning to collaborate with others and connect through technology are essential skills in a knowledge-based economy” (ATC21S, 2011)  essential skills also include: • critical thinking Inquiry, analysis, reflection, … • ICT literacy • problem solving
    21. 21. Pedagogical Perspective learning activities Effective learning never just about learning learning the content resources supports Key Conceptual Elements of Online Learning DesignRon Oliver (2001) – Developing online learning environments 21
    22. 22. InquiryOpen Learning:Independent, inquiry-based,and self-determined learningMaria Montessori (circa 1911)John Dewey (1933) 22
    23. 23. Open Learning (1911-30) SCORM (2002) (2012) • Independent • Single user • Self-determined • Self-paced • Inquiry-based • Online instruction• Learner focused • Content focused – Reusable – Sharable – Interoperable 23
    24. 24. Research Focus• Asking why• Learning why• Understanding why• Knowing why• Explaining why how to scaffold these activities in e-learning what ICT tools might support these activities 24
    25. 25. Inquiry & Learning “learning begins with questions” The virtuous circle of inquiryUniversity of Illinois Inquiry Project (2001-2010) 25
    26. 26. Inquiry & Learning• “why” questions prominent during early development of children & an important foundation for learning (Dewey, Piaget, Schank)• “Inquiry-based learning” evolved out of “critical thinking” movement• Impasses & conundrums important for learning• “Thinking is not driven by answers but by questions” Paul & Elder, (1999). Critical Thinking Handbook 26
    27. 27. Inquiry & LearningMy mother made me a scientist without everintending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklynwould ask her child after school, ‘So? Did you learnanything today?’ But not my mother. She alwaysasked a different question, ‘Izzy,’ she wouldsay, ‘Did you ask a good question today?’ Thatdifference – asking good questions – made me ascientist.1944 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Isidor Rabi 27
    28. 28. Inquiry & LearningWe propose reversing the order of things. What if… questions were more important than answers?What if the key to learning were not theapplication of techniques but their invention?What if students were asking questions aboutthings that really mattered to them?Thomas & Seely Brown, (2011). A New Culture of Learning 28
    29. 29. Rothstein & Santana (2011).Make Just One Change:Teach Students to Ask TheirOwn Questions 29
    30. 30. Inquiry & LearningProblem:The Web’s mainstream tools for discovering andretrieving relevant information are overwhelminglydominated by a search paradigm that is configuredto search for information and facts rather thanexplanations.Why? One answer is that queries instigated by keywordsin most cases will have semantic roots to primitive Q’s:who, what, when, & where 30
    31. 31. Three perspectives on IT• information technology• interruption technology• intellectual technology N. Carr, (2010). The Shallows
    32. 32. The Search Paradigm• Powerful mainstream tools for information-seeking• Search is the key operator on, and organizing technology for, content• Inquiry instigated by keywords – the aboutness of content• Retrieval of content biased toward explicit knowledge• A “fast food” approach to inquiry 32
    33. 33. Why-questions• Seek a (plausible) explanation• Instrumental for • Sense-making • Understanding • Inquiry More complexity than meaning- making & the parsing of semantics
    34. 34. Information & Explanation• Essence of information – a message or fact• Essence of explanation – a story 34
    35. 35. Information & Explanation The Primitives ofInformation Retrieval • Who • What • When The Journalist’s Questions • Where • Why Causal Teleological Gestaltic 35
    36. 36. 3 Kinds of Explanation• Causal Why E? Because C (C= Cause)• Teleological Why E? In order to P (P = Purpose)• Gestaltic Why E? For these reasons, R (R = Reasons)• Why did it flood in Queensland? Because of extremely heavy rain• Why did Jon go to Singapore? In order to attend ICCE 2012• Why is Jon completing PhD studies? For a number of reasons Evered, R. (2005). A Typology of Explicative Models 36
    37. 37. Information & Explanation• Who descriptive ‘primitives’ of• What information retrieval Information e.g., DC-Kernel Processing• When• Where conditional, motivational or• Why explanative ‘primitive’• How Knowledge Construction & procedural or• If rule-based ‘primitives’ Understanding 37
    38. 38. Frontiers for Development• Scaffolding for reflective practice – Wikipedia, wikibooks, wikiversity, … – E-portfolio systems• Automated Question Generation –• Query tools for focused inquiry – Inquiry that propagates questions• Tools specific for why-questioning• Metadata for explanatory content 38
    39. 39. Questions?Papers available at: 39