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Posts Tagged ‘NBT’

By far the most definitive week of discussions around PLENK for me, this week’s Friday discussion is worth multiple rounds of further investigation and discussion. I cam in a trifle late and it was difficult to catch up without a starting context, so I caught up with the recording later. Here are my notes and deductions – my version of the conversation between George and Stephen. As always, please feel free to add or correct me in case of any thing I missed or misinterpreted.

Stephen Downes

  • There is a Tool selection or Dashboard approach to classifying technology experience
  • There is no great application out there that allows me to read and write like gRSSHopper. This is the workflow approach. We need to model workflow, provide end-to-end functionality and that is the most daunting piece.
  • Should we be looking at a theory of everything (like Atlas in geography or Set Theory of everything)? Technology will evolve over time, but the core patterns of use may not (in fact, they may).
  • Is there was a way to hide the modalities, so that we focus on the core?What are these core ideas? Personal autonomy, distributed knowledge and social learning. There are frameworks like the 21st century skills frameworks. These are very widely  fragmented. I would add pattern recognition as a fundamental skill – is the optimal tool one that would be based on network theory and pattern recognition?
  • Machine analysis can give us a syntax. The human side would give us semantics.
  • Can we figure out, in technological terms, how humans do it – derive meaning? From the neurological sense, it is a very organic process that evolves over time, not intentional or deliberate, each new experience creating more understanding.
  • Is the tool of everything going to be a pattern recognition tool?

George Siemens

  • First time adoption of tools is difficult, not because of the tools, but because of concepts.This is where companies like MS or Facebook helped by aggregating functionality and establishing common ways of completing standard tasks
  • Tools that are available but the level of integration is too low at this point. With connective specialization, it is an each to her own preference. Also at the point of adoption, it adds to the confusion.
  • Do we need a tool of everything or do we need a way to build capacity?
  • The theory of everything: maybe with a combination of critical literacies and attributes or ideas of the disciplines?
  • The hiding of modalities is important.
  • There are two dimensions to pattern recognition – technological and human. The technological example would be reading through a mass of data vs. navigating a structured analysis of the mass of data. On the human side, Learning Analytics tools provide valuable patterns of use. That is what computing can do and visualization is going to be very important.
  • That does not mean that technology will be able to model personal or network use of the resources, but technology can help.
  • We need to have a balance between what a computer does well and a human does well (form vs. meaning).
  • Experts and novices think differently – experts think in patterns and novices think sequentially, or (Cris2B) plan ahead vs plan backwards. Conceptually, once some patterns are built up, some context, we are able to recognize more complex patterns.

My 2 cents.

I think that we must first start by presentation and analysis (as best as the computer can visualize in a simple way) and let humans and our networks derive the meaning. This is what I hope an NBT will achieve.

Maybe at some point, the insight from how humans use that information for semantics, through reflection and practice,  will start becoming progressively templatized as we understand or build tools and processes that can model how humans function – how we evolve from novices to experts in an area. I call this Native Collaboration and see it permeating every function in learning.

The discussions are fast evolving to a stage where some formal models of Native Collaboration (which attempts to model, functionally and technologically how we learn) and NBT (my terminology for Network Based Training – an evolution from Web Based Training or WBT) will emerge where the NBT environment encapsulates the modalities in a fairly standardized manner while allowing personal autonomy and includes specific connectivist techniques for Native Collaboration. This is really exciting!


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So are LMSs now part of a technology trend that is headed south? Will incorporation of Web 2.0 features make them more enticing? Will learning really become more effective if Web 2.0 happens to these LMSs? Will they start working on a networked learning SCORM advanced API soon, maybe by defining standard runtime Web 2.0 interactions with services such as Facebook and Twitter? Do we bid adieu to learning objects?

These are uncomfortable questions that must be asked. Scholar360 attempts to be one effort to move away from LMSs as we traditionally know them by keeping the social network at the core.

Let us try and visualize what would really happen if the network really was the core and learning, the process of making connections.

Firstly, the definition of what constitutes content would change. It would become highly personal. This is because it would be pieced together from every learner’s perspective from the content already available to her.

Secondly, content would generally come from connections, which is to say that each learner would share her raw or synthesised perspective with her network and those who have access to that network will learn through evaluating the content and perhaps engaging in discussion. Perhaps rather than a learning object with pre-filled content, it would become a network map of ideas and concepts peppered with individual insights. So a “course” written by an “expert” would become a “network of ideas” weaved together by a “weaver”.

Not only would it be personal, but it would also be dynamic with very little control by the “weaver” in determining the boundary or tone of the ideas, once it is “out there”.

So a new learner who “enrols in the course” (read, “decides to learn”) would, around the broad parameters of the learning experience, start building certain types of awareness.

The first awareness would be of the mass of ideas. The second would be of the people. The third would be of the technology that enables her to navigate between people and ideas. The fourth would be a growing awareness of the learning process itself.

This awareness would continue to grow through the “course”. The process of learning as mandated by the “weaver” would be a responsible contract between the learner and the “weaver”, as would be unwritten rules of conduct in collaboration and communication in the network. Certain technological  peculiarities may also need to be learnt or adapted to.

Imagine walking down a road all times of a day and night over many different seasons. Imagine watching a kaliedoscope of people, houses, shops, all change over time. Imagine recognizing something new in the landscape that has changed since you were last there. That is how the network of ideas that the learner creates will change in response to the evolution of the learning experience that is being woven as the “course” progresses.

The weaver’s job will be to acclimatise the learner to the changing landscape, provide an understanding of the environment through initial idea networks and through an empowerment in terms of tools, technologies, processes and social conduct perhaps. It will be the learner’s job to practice and reflect.

The job of technology then transcends the social network provision or the provision of Web 2.0 tools such as blogs and wikis. Technology should now be harnessed “network” each dimension of the learning experience, to help the network really become the core.

For the weaver, technology should provide a way to negotiate the changing nature of interaction/collaboration, of the explosive network of ideas that she set the seed for, of the mechanisms for maximum impact of these ideas on learners. Not only that, it must allow for her the ability to derive a measure of her effort.

For her, the “weaver”, the experience will repeat multiple times. But each time, her network is enriched by the thought processes of her learners – past and present, so that it is never the same experience.

Technology’s greatest challenge will be this immersion into the network, both visually and conceptually. It will not be simple. Atleast not as simple as pushing Web 2.0 collaboration over a social network or inserting a social network (and tools) into a course.

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NBTs, the natural evolution (in my opinion) from WBTs, are a solution worth evaluating. Let us look at NBTs from two aspects – one within a learning context and the other from outside that context.

Typical online training involves the use of self paced digital media or virtual classrooms. The major aspects are:

  1. The very nature of self-paced training is that it is a solo effort at learning for the learner.
  2. It is also confined, in terms of the experience it offers, to the expertise, imagination and skill of the subject matter expert, instructional designer and visual designer.
  3. The course structure is fixed and typically the core learning tasks happen inside the framework itself.
  4. Episodically, if designed so, there are assessment sections which then can send information to the LMS.
  5. Course managers then print off reports on who did, when and how well.
  6. This is sometimes backed by evaluations conducted with learners on course parameters and these are collated to report on overall effectiveness.
  7. The course itself is episodic, a snapshot reflecting the state of knowledge at that time. New developments need periodic updates.

The basis of Connectivism is that learning is connection forming and knowledge really is the network. Simply put, it is the exact inverse of what is a WBT paradigm. Course becomes the “un-Course”. And then it percolates right down to the reporting on effectiveness thus rendering the role of LMSes in the new paradigm, obsolete, especially as they relate to WBTs. So does, SCORM, more so in implementation than the actual concept.

So in an NBT,

  1. The very nature of network based training is that it is a collaborative effort for all learners.
  2. There are no barriers (except those that may be imposed by corporations for protection of intellectual property and confidential information), in terms of the experience an NBT offers. Learners can also bring in diverse perspectives and updated information to the learning process for the benefit of all learners. The expertise, imagination and skill of the subject matter expert, instructional designer and visual designer can form a starting point and tools exist (or should be created) that can enable learners to contribute complex media.
  3. The course agenda may be fixed, but the structure may be flexible enough to allow these interactions. The core learning tasks happen inside and outside the framework.
  4. Assessments undergo a change themselves. More emphasis is placed on an individual’s contribution to the network, her “ranking” and techniques for group assessment such as peer review.
  5. Course Managers – the role changes to a facilitator, someone in-charge of providing and ensuring network characteristics such as diversity and autonomy, as well as facilitating inclusion and access.
  6. Overall effectiveness would need to get measured very differently as a consequence. For the first time, possibly, the course manager and SMEs would need to take on-going responsibility for supporting the course and making sure the network is strong, flexible and reliable.

The nature of this debate could extend to virtual classrooms as well. Although, for the duration of the class session, there is a collection of individuals. However, the remaining characteristics remain virtually the same.

Both the WBT and  the VC (virtual classroom) are teacher-led places or “sites of instruction”. That is, a WBT is launched from an LMS (or portal) and is a direct one-way instructional experience. The VC is situated in a virtual environment, but is still a place for teacher led instructional mechanisms. This is a direct result of porting other physical experiences (live classroom, text book) to new (and enhanced) delivery formats enabled by the digital revolutions.

They should really be “sites of collaborative learning” instead with a vastly different role for the teacher. An NBT could be a learning resource that becomes a part of a site of collaborative learning. And the site could itself be a framework that allows multiple NBTs and other learning resources to seamlessly inter-operate and share each other’s data.

So imagine a “place-site” of collaborative learning where content, context and networks blend. Some have called this, or aspects of this, a Personal Learning Environment.

So what happens to WBTs or VCs. Surely organizations have spent too much effort, time and money building these to just throw them away when a new way appears. NBTs can fit the gap with an intermediate solution if there is a way that it can pull and push/share data with network aware services. Just like SCORM was build to standardize the runtime interactions, maybe we can come up with a way to integrate the network (and thereby, collaborative learning) into an existing WBT or VC so that it genuinely provides a meaningful way forward. This is the within-the-learning context.

Of course, a full fledged “place-site” of collaborative learning, would need to include both these NBTs but also WBTs, VCs and social media as well. This would be a view from outside the learning context. This site would then need to integrated with many different systems and content types. It would also start innovation in terms of new collaboration techniques, new authoring tools, network analysis and management tools and so on.

Maybe we will have a Learning Network and Content Management System (LNCMS) at some point?

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I have written earlier about what I am proposing as the evolution from the CBT and WBT – the NBT or Network based training, for some time now. NBTs provide a framework for organizations who want to adopt Web 2.0 and networked learning (the connectivism way) in their systems. The main components of the NBT would be both learning process and tool based.

The NBT consists of the following components:

  • a learning process that emphasizes learner participation prior to the course in setting up goals and sequences
  • definition of agreed upon sequence of focus areas and learning events based on a temporal sequence
  • agreed upon rules/structures of participation with weakly or strongly defined compliance
  • defined initial roles for participant and educator (and others) that is consonant with a networked learning strategy
  • initially defined ecology of 2.0 tools (blog, wiki, discussion forum, live conference events, other collaboration techniques etc) to be enmeshed in the course
  • choosing appropriate collaboration techniques e.g. Delphi, shared maps,
  • if required, avenues for structured peer review (could have multiple levels) and group work; if so required an expert review
  • resource repository that captures suggested content for review and discussion; could include documents or web collaboration resources
  • collaboration using techniques specifically suited for the context of the course; e.g. grouped concept maps if a goal is to create a resource base
  • policy for sharing; e.g. if sharing with a wider audience is agreed upon, some way of sharing blog posts, discussions with personal blogs or social network could be explored
  • statistics for the facilitator role to judge quantitatively and tools for analysis based on qualitative criteria
  • setting up of a default network for the participants of the course (as more people join, a historian role is defined that brings them up to speed using a special mechanism for navigating the content, maybe through learner contributed summaries or commentaries)
  • post assessment of learning experiences to evolve the learning ecology
  • some way of integrating and reporting on the experience in both directions – organizational and personal learning environments
  • norming of the participants on how to use; overcoming barriers to use

These would define an ecology within which much learning could happen. One possible view is that each NBT could become a “slice” of learning that could be linked to the PLE. Several such slices could be linked and could potentially inter-mesh to allow cross-disciplinary or cross-network linkages to promote diversity.

Obviously, from a technology point of view, one could go in two directions. One, allow loosely coupled 2.0 service integration. Two, create generic tools to store localized data and build bridges so that this information can be ported to available 2.0 services. The first allows for easy extensibility when a new 2.0 service or app comes along. The second encourages careful selection of appropriate learning tools (not just mash up anything with anything irrespective of the impact on learning – if something is indeed effective, one would rather build it in to the system in a generic fashion, giving far more control).

From a learning process orientation, specifically a connectivist orientation, it will be necessary to position the NBT somewhere along the range between individuals and groups, connectives and collectives, in an attempt to engender the greatest possibilities for leveraging the power of networked learning, collaboration and innovation. The prime challenges and constraints will lie in shaping policy, between open-ness and protection of IP for instance.

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