Thursday, July 23, 2009

Doc Talk part two

The Definition:

“The study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.” (AECT definition)

At first glance I found it somewhat difficult to align my study with the
definition because the language in this brief definition all seems rather dedicated to the value of efficiency and a scientific tradition. My worldview is one that has roots in the humanistic tradition that lives inside of a technological framework. I do not believe that cause and effect has a place in the complex study of human life. Frederick Edwords sums up humanism as, “a philosophy for those in love with life. Humanists take responsibility for their own lives and relish the adventure of being part of new discoveries, seeking new knowledge, exploring new options. Instead of finding solace in prefabricated answers to the great questions of life, Humanists enjoy the open-endedness of a quest and the freedom of discovery that this entails”(1989).
Upon deeper reflection however while reading within the text again I found something more in keeping with my philosophical perspective. The word facilitating is more about creating an environment that is suitable for exploration and the democratic use of technology not the control we once understood. I struggle with our societies desire to improve performance. My study will not measure performance. I do not believe that teaching in the 21st century is about performing better it is about living well with uncertainty. This new notion of knowledge is about going deeper and making more connections. The learning that will be revealed from my work is knowledge that is constructed and connected in the activity of shared understanding in listening to the stories of teachers.
So after all that I think my work will sit out on the edges of this framework and reside within the words study and reflective practice. “That is study refers to information gathering and analysis beyond the traditional conceptions of research”(2008, p. 1).

Edwords, Frederick. (1989). What is Humanism? Retrieved from

Januszewski, A., Molenda, M., & Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (2008). Educational technology : a definition with commentary. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

The Time that is Given

I took some time this morning to go through all of my delicious bookmarks in order to sort and sift to find links for my pathfinder. What a wonderful experience. In our busy lives we do not often take the time to look through our closets to find old treasures and useless junk. I have come to a point in my life where I am reflecting on the journey so far. As Gandalf said "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." The time that is given to us is indeed limited. As humans we seem to forget this until something comes to remind us.
Often it is a little reminder and sometimes it is a big smack.

The journey through the bookmarks was a little one... but there were other ones yesterday. My 90 year old neighbours moved out of their house to spend the rest of what has been given to them in assisted living . I hope to get to that place also one day but when I do I really want to reflect and look back with a twinkle in my eye and remember a life well lived connected by many.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pathfinder - The begining

I have begun to work on my pathfinder. I know that we have the date of July 31st for a peer review but I thought it might be helpful if we all kept each other informed in the different ways we may want to shape this work.
For my masters work I used dreamweaver and webdisk space provided by the university to create an e-portfolio. I had a page or more for each class I took. I found this very helpful when it came time for me to do my exit project and it served as a personal knowledge base. I think I want to do something similar here. The big difference now is interactive thinking. I now have this blog and the potential to include your voices on this journey.
For this activity I wish to mesh together constructive connectivism and use this blog and my stand alone webpage. I want to also weave into this tapestry my use of open source tools such as Youtube, Zotero reference management and delicious social bookmarking. All of these except Zotero will be connected to each other and be made public.
You can find this work in progress at my webpage

Sunday, July 19, 2009

dialogue with the problem statement

After listening and reading the responses from my previous post this is my response:

Is the current effort to shift teacher practice in the 21st century informed by the realities of the life-world of teachers?

My own sense of reality I believe is called Metaphysical, because of this I would not think it appropriate to work from the traditional scientific method. I think that the way I sit in the world shapes the kinds of questions I put upon it. Like constructivists I believe we construct our own reality based on how we live, act and move in the world. However I also believe there is a reality that is unseen and unlived by me. I believe in more than I can see. Whether you call it God or not does not matter to me. My perspective stems from a Christian tradition. Reality is big and the world I live in has edges that I cannot get at. There is so much going on in our lives that we cannot attend to everything until something makes us look. So when I say that I want to awaken the reality of a teacher’s life-world, it means I want to help them see what they may or may not be paying attention to in their classrooms, and I believe this can be done through dialogue. I wish to engage in a conversation with teachers about how they see 21st Century learning happening in their classrooms. Perhaps through dialogue, we can then come to a share understanding of reality.
I believe I must also define what I mean by dialogue. My notion of dialogue is both hermeneutic and practical. Dialogue is something that happens when we share words. It is an event for understanding. It is a form of play. Bohm, Factor, and Garrett state, “Dialogue is concerned with providing a space within which such attention can be given. It allows a display of thought and meaning that makes possible a kind of collective proprioception or immediate mirroring back of both the content of thought and the less apparent, dynamic structures that govern it” (1991 ¶ 12).
Creating a Landscape
It is my thinking that I will approach the network of teachers that I currently know to see if anyone would be willing to dialogue with me over a school year at their convenience. I would also ask them if they knew of others. I wish to speak with teachers that feel they are giving 21st century learning a go. I do not feel I need test their practice with a criterion. It is enough for me that they see themselves as trying to teach this way. The knowledge gained from this is a ‘picture’ of knowledge. My point of viewing is not so much about the ‘picture’ that represents this phenomenon but also the philosophical frame I choose to place it in.

Bohm, D., Factor, D., & Garrett, P. (1991). Dialogue - a proposal. Retrieved August 4, 2006, from

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I'm so dizzy

I was asked today to define Hermeneutic Phenomenology but not much came out of my mouth. There is much to consider before one begins such a thing. Like...where do you sit in the universe? Anyway here it goes, I'll do my best. As I know it in this moment of time, it is an extraordinary study of the ordinary from the inside. Which is partly why it is difficult to pin down. It is the study of things and happenings as they appear to us in our consciousness. We live in the world so it really is impossible to pretend we can remove ourselves from it to study something. I believe it is not really a method of generating knowledge but a way of thinking about knowledge. It is an art and a different way to classify meaning. It is often applied to the interpretation of human actions, utterances, products, and institutions. A hermeneutic interpretation requires the individual to understand and sympathize with another's point of view without ignoring your own.
A couple of key points:
  • The world is rich and complex with many causes and effects
  • Truth is a personal experience not universal
  • Knowledge does not have a subject-object relationship
  • Understanding and interpreting are essentially the same thing
  • Interpretation is a task
  • Language is the medium of all understanding
  • Language is not a tool but an activity between the speaker and the listener in order to play with understanding
  • Knowledge lives in the learner
  • Verification comes from dialogue not repetition
  • Dialogue leads to a shared understanding of personal experiences
So... a phenomenological inquiry may give me an opportunity to give voice to that which may not be easily heard over the sometimes overpowering drone of traditional research methods. Have we really listened to what teachers are saying is happening in their classrooms in the 21st Century?
Understanding comes by being in the world together. By creating forums in which people can join one another as co-participants to shape something new. It requires a connection in culture through language.
My experience with teachers is that they have such busy lives. If we are not careful we will reduce teaching to the 101 things I have to do every day to please all the people I really don’t like so much kind of job. Teachers do not need someone from outside telling them they have to change their practice, yet I do see a need for change. One day they may be trusted enough to be asked what they think and involve them in the process of change.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Taking a step outside your door...

Those of you who know me know my connection to "Lord of the Rings". There is a line in the Fellowship that the character Bilbo Baggins says that I am often fond of saying. "It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might be swept off to."
I think that is just what Bilbo was after...not the dangerous business but the adventure of what you could not see from the couch.
So I wonder is that what draws us to research, the adventure part not the danger. I think it could be exciting ending up where I did not intend to be.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The First Day of School

Today was my first day of school. Well not the first First day that was a while ago, but a first none the less. Today I began my doctoral seminar for ed Tech at UofC. This is the beginning of the end for me. I can now change my profile from a first year doctoral student to a second year. It is the last class I take before I get all my...stuff together before I approach candidacy. The first day of school and I got to bring all the colours in my crayon box to use and a whole new lot of brilliant people to play with. I am thrilled! I have gotten over the scared silly part (for the most part). In this class I get to design my own path.
I have been asked to think about a definition for an Educational Technologist. For me it is all about learning and living in a connected world. In order to do this well I will need to be good at a few things like; taking charge of my own learning(personalized learning), develop good friendships that will support this learning (Quality Networks), find ways to organize what I learn so that I and my friends can find it again(Structure), and find ways make all this fun. It just has to be fun.
What I keep in my mind all the time is that knowledge does not stand still. At one point in my recent reading I came across the term "living knowledge". For me that means a playful approach to learning. But please do not confuse play with a childish activity, I am very serious with the notion of play. It is this understanding that shapes the kind of questions I ask and the place where I look for answers.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The first day of school

Today was my first day of school. Well not the first First day that was a while ago, but a first none the less. Today I began my doctoral seminar for ed Tech at UofC. This is the beginning of the end for me. I can now change my profile from a first year doctoral student to a second year. It is the last class I take before I get all my...stuff together before I approach candidacy. The first day of school and I got to bring all the colours in my crayon box to use and a whole new lot of brilliant people to play with. I am thrilled! I have gotten over the scared silly part (for the most part). In this class I get to design my own path. Soon I will give a whole room full of grade two students a first day of school and I plan to let them also design their own path.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I want to go to "Tinkering School"

Watch this and imagine. What if schools were really interested in need driven learning and not higher test scores. This kind of learning is deep and wide. The school focused on "doing better" is only interested in being right or wrong. Pleasing the people above and controlling those below. That seems more long and thin thinking to me. We hear a lot of talk from the people in control of education about "personalized learning" but everyone is so afraid to be wrong and make a mistake, perhaps look weak. Nothing personal is able to emerge in this environment.

I am thinking that what may be at the heart of this is the modern notion of technocracy and efficiency. In schools we still suffer from one way communication, from this only silence is able to grow. We do however see an interesting shift developing as more teachers are engaging in dialogue outside of their blocked school rooms. One example is classroom 2.0 . More voices connected to each other grows a harmony of voices. No one is as smart as everyone. This sort of communication becomes collective action within a technical sphere. Andrew Feenberg calls it democratic rationality(p. 108). We are gradually tinkering with the communication system and that challenges the power structure rooted in this notion of being efficient and a universal truth that is tied to subjugated knowledge.

It is difficult to keep this simple but I will try. I now have a new notion of truth and with that a new notion of knowledge. My notion is nebulous like the universe, not thin like a ladder. I want to go to Tinkering school because only when I am in charge and struggle with what I need to know when I need to know it will I learn what I need to learn. Technology is not the servant of my seeking it is the place I play in.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Technology and Democracy

I have made it known that I have an emerging understanding of philosophy, because of this I have been unhurriedly reading through Gadamer’s “Truth and Method” as well as Andrew Feenberg’s “Questioning Technology”. I have found myself taking many side trips in order to give myself a more knowledgeable position to take all of this in. One thing I do understand well now is that we live in the world not as independently as we might think. The voices of those who came before us hum quietly almost unheard to many. We call this tradition and if we are not mindful we are in danger of just singing the same song through time with no thought of the consequence. Feenberg points out a rather pessimistic tradition of technology (p. 75). The thinking that humans have simply become cogs in their own machinery. He highlights for me the term, Technocracy. A social system viewing technology as a neutral instrument outside of our control, leaving no room for democracy or social interaction.
I have recently spent time exploring the 20th century’s use of technology as a read only culture in the early days of my blogging (mind map ). Yes it is complicated as you can see.

Feenberg brings to light Max Weber and the theory of rationalization, a process whereby social actions and interactions became concerned with efficiency and how it can be measured quantifiably rather than how effects us as people or how we feel about it emotionally. It seems to me that in the modern world of the 20th century people with this thinking lost the connection we had to each other as humans. Gadamer also reminds us that as humans we need to find gaps in our speaking in order to listen to each other. I have spent time thinking about this last fall. You can find this work on my webpage. For me that is the notion of a read-write culture, a culture in dialogue with each other. As Feenberg puts it we need to replace this notion with a, “Democratic” rationalization. In the read only culture that Max Weber was describing we put our faith in progress. Technology is only considered social through the purpose is serves and this would depend on ones personal perception of the purpose. This deterministic view holds that if need be we adjust ourselves to the structure of technology not the other way around (p. 77). Ouch I feel the pinch!

Constructivism argues a different point. We have a choice here; we can look differently at efficiency. When we look at the toys that technology has provided for us rather than saying how can I adapt to this toy and make it work for me? Another way is to look upon this more democratically as a choice between alternatives. To look for a fit between devices and the personal interests and needs a user may have and we as users do definitely shape the design process (p.79). Look at the “I’m a Mac”, “I’m a PC” thing. Cute advertising yes but it demonstrates this point. Two different devices with different design histories shaped by different needs. Good designers respond the feedback of the users. Feenberg tells us that technological determinism ignores this social complexity by focusing in on a cross-section of objects in our life. Gadamer may say this sort of clarity is not enough for living knowledge.
This sort of view has led us to look at dilemmas in a rather simplistic dualistic manner in the form of trade offs. It’s the red vs. blue situation. If we have more of red then we have less of blue.

One altered notion is Connectivism. George Siemens describes it as: "the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing" In our connected world we now have opportunities to think in a more nebulous way.
Feenberg’s writing fills me with hope. He suggests that technology can be more than a means to an end; we can look upon it as a variety of possibilities linked together. We do have choices.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Endings make new beginnings

So I find myself on another edge. My job of Learning Leader for the Calgary Board of Education has come to an end. I was surplussed. It makes me sad. My job was going to schools and working with elementary school teachers in their classrooms on projects that involved technology. It was called the 21st Century Learning Project. Most teachers did not think they needed to shift the way they work...but some where so keen and eager, that is what made the job fun. Those of you that know me know that fun is the name of the game. Any way the job is over and it is just too soon. All I did was get into a few classrooms and show a few teachers a few little tricks. I did not get to explain the whole deep and wide of connected learning and how to create learning environments that are flexible for more ways to learn. That would take more time and more trust. I could go on but I can not see the point with the sky being so beautiful this morning and the air so fresh and clean (I'm in the mountains). The point is I feel a sense of loss with work undone. I also feel a betrayal of sorts in that the work that I did do was not widely recognized. The only feedback I received was that "it is important to build effective communication patterns to support the building of strong relationships." Since the teachers I worked with only communicated supportive messages can I assume that I do not toot the horn loud enough? That I think would be true. I carry the shy gene but I also believe deeply in the notion of dialogue. I struggle with telling people what to do or think. Communication should be a lived experience.
So that is over now what will I do with this new opportunity that has been placed before me? I need to adjust my thinking, move on and accept my new position. They have placed me in a grade two classroom at a brand new school with all the new toys to play with. It should be fun. I do not doubt that I will have fun. I just am still struggling with this sense of loss and what was wrong with me attitude. I guess I just better get out and enjoy this day that has been given to me.