Sunday, November 24, 2013

The second phase of the instructional Design process (continued)

Step 2 Create a course map
A course map is the foundation of the instructional deign process. This is also a course map that allows to get a clearer picture of the course. It shows all the pieces of a courses. Some of the pieces can be: Overview, Introduction, Pre-test, Unit, Lesson, Post-test, Summary, Glossary, etc. Before laying out the course map one can do two things:
1. Lengthen the list of objectives by dividing topics in subtopics and writing each subtopic as an objective.
2. Refine the objectives by making them more specific
One can define a strategy component corresponding to a teaching strategy for each specific objective.
Step 3: Define a project style guide
In this step one decides of the theme, color scheme, metaphor, the look and feel of the project.
Step 4: Design lesson strategies, events and practice activities
In this step one creates the blueprint design document that shows the plan for the entire course. First the course is created in one's mind and one paper. Then one creates it in the computer. It is a question of putting together steps one and two in order to show the plan for the entire course.
Step 5: Evaluation strategy
In this phase one plans a way to measure how well the learners accomplish the goals and objectives of the course or lesson. One plans the lesson evaluation at the end of the lesson plan. The assessment can take several forms: a portfolio, a project, a test,  etc. A test is usually measured quantitatively. But other forms of evaluation can be used qualitatively. A portfolio and a project can be measured qualitatively where one can write a report on how well the learner reaches the goals and objectives of the lesson or course. The quantitative measure is very traditional and is still maintained as the most correct measure of evaluation. This measure is ridiculous because it requires the evaluation to be done by an instructor. But what's the evaluation measure of a self-learner and a lifelong learner? Out of school who evaluates the learning while one continues to learn everyday by experiences, reading and self-study?. I think in this case self-evaluation and society's evaluation are some measures of one's evaluation. For example one can use one's own judgement to determine if one has done well in a subject area or even in life. For example one can have good grades in college and not perform well in the exercise of one's profession. If you want to find a good physician you don't research his scores at the school of medicine but you research how well he has treated other patients. A good physician gets his patients by word of mouth. Once he treats them well  these patients refer other people to him. This medical doctor continues to learn by experiences, reading, attending seminars. The feedback that he gets from his patients and a sense of confidence in himself create a value for his competence that cannot be equated to a grade mark.
In a traditional measure of evaluation you give a test at the end of the lesson to see to what degree the learners consume the knowledge, skills and attitudes of what they are supposed to learn. When a student first take a course it is sometimes good to test the prerequisites to see how well they do. This can be pre-test. Depending on the results of the test one reviews the prerequisites before starting the course. All the tests of the actual course can be considered as post tests of this course. One test for a lesson can be considered as a pre-test for the second lesson when the lessons of the course are related.
I think a pretest and a posttest can be given for each lesson if the lessons of the  same course are not related.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The second phase of the instructional design process: the design

Engineers create a blueprint before undertaking any construction project. Similarly the instructional designer creates a "design blueprint" or "course architecture" before physically creating a course. This phase is the second phase of the ADDIE process defined in the previous post. It is the planning phase of a course and requires brainstorming and creative thinking. The course design blueprint includes a course map, lesson event strategies and treatments, graphical user interface design, assessment plan and storyboard. The following steps are used in this phase:
Step 1: Refine Course Scope and Strategy
Step 2: Create Course Map
Step 3: Define Project Style Guide
Step 4: Design Lesson Strategies, Events and Practices
Step 5: Plan Evaluation Strategy
Step 6: Design Storyboard and layout screens.

Refine Course Scope and Strategy

In this step one focuses on the goal of the course. One reduces the content to some specific topics and some particular aspects of a topic or topics.

This step consists in two tasks: Reduction of topics and organization of  the overall teaching strategy.

Reduction of topics

This task consists in reducing the topics of the course and organizing them in sequence or putting them in a certain order. One can assimilate this organization to a table of contents. The content is set according to the objectives and tasks. The content is arranged according to some guidelines: general to specific, frequency (first skills used first), simple to complex or logical sequence.

Organization of the overall teaching strategy

This task contains the following components:
1. Have a  clear idea of the objectives of the course. One can check the objectives set previously
2. Define the strategies to help students learn. These strategies and learning events depend on the content topics and objectives. Not all events and strategies are introduced in a lesson. These strategies are divided in : pre-instructional events, instructional events. Strategies are set for each objective.

Pre-instructional events help focus on the overview of your topic. They set up all the events that follow.
a. Gain attention. Can be motivational. State a problem to solve. A dramatic statement or question. Show a real object, a model, a video.
Use actions (a demonstration, a song, quotation, a survey of learner’s opinions, some gimmick or unexpected event).
b. Tell or show what is expected (the objectives)
c. Remind them of things they already know about the new topic or task. Make a bridge to your message & the learners’experience.
Instructional events (decide how much to do with students and in what sequence). Decide the scope of each activity. Sequence the events.
a. Present new knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Work with only 3- 5 key messages or new steps in each lesson.
b. Provide guided learning (interactive), such as: practice, examples, nonexamples, embedded assessment, questions and answers,
analogies, demonstrations, presentations, discussions, interviews, games, role playing, scavenger hunts, and application exercises.
Give frequent examples to help students visualize what you mean. Give tips and summaries often.
Follow-through events
a.  Summarize learning points (use a dramatic statement that sums up your key messages)
b. Final lesson assessment (students will act and respond to quizzes, questions, problems to solve, projects and worksheets to complete

3. Break the instruction into manageable pieces incorporating objectives and strategies
4. Putting these pieces in a logical order as follows:
  • Introduction, motivation, attention getting, review
  • Statement of objectives
  • Learning activity
  • Summary
  • Assessments. Assessments can also include non conventional forms: portfolio, projects, reflections, etc.
(To be continued)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Realization of the tasks of the Open PhD challenge in the learning contract

In continuation with a PhD I started a few years ago and for the fulfillment of the requirements of the OnPhD candidacy challenge at Peer-to-Peer University I am submitting the following links for each task:

 Learning history. Identification of knowledge, skills and abilities from prior work and experiences. The learning history is part of the learning contract I set in my OnPhD page at Wikiversity. The elements of the learning history are: formal learning, informal learning, background summary,  specialties, interests and professional experiences and educational portfolio.
 Domain of Study
Research Methodology
Skills and Knowledge development
Personal learning networks
Supervision and endorsements

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The instructional design process of a multimedia project

Instructional technology is a systematic way of designing, developing, implementing and evaluating the process of teaching and learning. It uses a combination of technical and human resources to make instruction more effective. It includes some elements of the instructional design, product development, interactive learning technologies, multimedia, distance education. library and information literacy. Each of these elements makes its contribution to the teaching and learning learning process. Instructional design is based on a process that makes learning more efficient. It consists in identifying the learner needs, setting some instructional goals and designing a teaching process that addresses those needs. The instructional method uses the ADDIE model that includes six phases: Analysis, Design Development, Implementation and Evaluation. The first step is developed below

Analysis. This phase comprises 8 steps:

1. Define the Purpose
2. Identify the Needs
3. Identify the Learner characteristics
4. Identify the Learning environment
5. Discover the Technical constraints
6. Write objectives
7. Decide the content
8. Prepare a brief project plan

Defining the purpose

In this phase the purpose of instruction is defined. The purpose includes the benefits that the learner will get from the instruction. Example the social studies teacher is teaching about the Industrial Revolution so that students understand how the Industrial Revolution influenced people at that time and how it impacts people's lives today.

Identifying the needs

In this phase is identified what the learner needs to learn or do in order to reach the goal of instruction. The learning prerequisites are identified. The gap between what students can actually do and what they need to do define the knowledge and skills that the students need to acquire. Example: In order to achieve a level of understanding of the past influence and the present impact of the Industrial Revolution the students need to describe some major aspects of the Industrial Revolution. Actually they lack the learning prerequisites about the Industrial Revolution or they vaguely remember the major aspects of it if they already learn about it. The focus of the Instruction at this point is to give the specific details about some major aspects of the industrial Revolution. This is what the students need to know at this point.

Learner characteristics

In this phase the designer learns about the learner's characteristics in order to match the instruction to the goals, attitude and abilities of the students. The essential information required is : age and grade, attitude, background experience, etc. the student's attitude determines if the students are interested or not about the subject. The background experience includes their current knowledge level about the topic to be taught. Other characteristics include the ability to learn through different media (audio, video, text), reading level, computer literacy, student's aptitude to learn the content, etc.

Learning environment

Some aspects of the learning environment include:
- location, facilities for instruction
- delivery platforms and medium
- teacher availability, involvement during instruction
- number of students involved
- learning done individually, in small groups or in class

Technical constraints

In this phase is analyzed the availability of equipment and program. For example: availability of computers, internet access, projector, etc. In cases where equipments and programs are not available, plans can be made to provide or substitute them.

Writing of objectives  

In this phase are written the objectives which are the actions the learner are supposed to perform. The objectives are also skills related to the topics that have to be taught. They are also based on course goals and what is needed for the students to accomplish.  Objectives need to be observable and measurable.


In this phase are outlined the topics needed to be taught. They are based on the objectives stated.

Brief project plan

A brief project plan includes the project and main phases due dates., people involved and their role. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The different faces of open education and my contributions

The Open Education movement has been considered inclusive by eliminating barriers that limit access to traditional education. Before the development of computers and the invention of the internet open education exists with the correspondence schools. Correspondence schools deliver courses to participants through mail. These participants have to read, study the courses and do the assignments that they have to send back to the schools for evaluation. Open Education in its informal aspect was and it is still delivered through live radio and television broadcasting. It was also delivered in a larger scale of openness through radio and television cassette recording. With the development of computers and the internet an electronic form of learning called elearning took place through computer discs (CD) and the web. Some european universities like the Open university in UK enrolled thousands of students by eliminating university admission.

Open education originates in the free culture movement. The free culture movement is a social movement that allows to distribute and modify freely Creative Works by using the internet and other forms of media. Creative Works are considered to be works in the Arts, Literature,  Music and Software. Open education learners are responsible for their own learning and take a personal and social approach to reach their learning objectives. They are also more interested in hands-on learning. In a formal learning setting facilitated by educators learners discuss and share their learning in communities. The instructor provides the learning materials through a Learning Management System (LMS) and is responsible to guide the students. Synchronous lectures are delivered through special platforms or through live videos on YouTube or other platforms. Other resources can be provided in the form of PDFs, links, etc. Learning facilitators communicate with learners synchronously (video-audio, audio only, instant messages) and asynchronously using email or other asynchronous forms.

Open education was developed through many concepts and resources such as open courseware, open educational resources (oer), open access, etc. Open courseware consists of course materials made available by some universities and other educational institutions freely on the internet. Open courseware started in the early 2000's with MIT that decided to put their courses freely online. Since then many other universities throughout the world followed suit. MIT and Harvard have decided to create an online platform, EdX, to teach open courses. Other professors from renowned universities started their own open courseware or teach in other ones. Coursera, Udacity, etc are well known new platforms delivering open university courses for free to anybody located throughout the world.

Open Educational Resources are educational resources that others can use, remix and distribute freely to others under certain types of licences. Creative Commons issue different types of licenses for open educational resources. Those licenses are necessary for others to copy, remix and distribute these resources thereby eliminating traditional copyright permission. The common licenses used are: CC BY, CC BY NC, CC BY SA, CC BY NC SA. An author creating Open Educational Resources uses CC BY so that others can use his work by attributing credit to him. The CC BY NC license is used so that other authors remixing the resource can use it for  for non-commercial purposes and don't have to license the derivative works using the same terms of the original license. In the CC BY SA license that can be used for commercial purposes other authors remixing the resource have to license the derivative work under the same terms as the previous license.Under the CC BY NC SA other authors use the previous work for non-commercial purposes and have to license the derivative work under the same term as the previous one. Acknowledgement of the previous author is required in all the licenses mentioned below.    The licenses allow others to copy. remix and distribute the work of the original author.

There are many open courseware and open educational resources sites in the web. An organization called OER university comprised of some universities has taken the initiative to evaluate and give credits for informal learning but learners have to continue their education at these institutions and it is unlikely that an amount of learning equal to a degree can be evaluated to confer a degree earned only through self-directed learning without matriculating at any educational institution. Instead of matriculating at an existing educational institution self-directed learners use a PLN (Professional learning network) and/or a learning plan to reach their educational and professional goals. Some self-directed learners like myself, Leigh Blackall. Peter Prawsthorn, etc use Wikiversity and Peer- to- Peer University to develop a plan and execute it using our blog and other social platforms to reach a level of graduate learning called Open and networked PhD (OnPhD) or simply Open PhD. I have already taken 21 credits towards a PhD and I intended to continue the journey by pursuing an Open PhD. This takes an enormous amount of time, self-discipline and cooperation to develop a common plan and figure out individually some personal approaches. Such an approach of an Open PhD is not completely different from the traditional approach. That's the reason why we have discussed about being guided by PhD professors and supervisors. The goals of my open PhD are to develop skills that enable me to develop online or not educational projects, online and traditional courses, online and traditional tutoring, educating online informally and developing individual and lifelong learning skills along the way. All these skills are also based on my previous formal, informal learning and teaching experiences. I have started developing Open Popular University and I am still inviting people willing to support this educational endevour in any way they can and participate actively by contributing to advance its mission. People interested can contact me. New Direction Education Services provide face-to-face and online tutoring in Math, French, ESL and Spanish. It provides also online courses and some other services.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Learning, literacy and digital literacy

Learning is a survival human skill and literacy is an activity that allows it. Learning has been equated to literacy including digital literacy thanks to a perpetuating belief that confuses learning with literacy creating a bipolar world of learners and non-learners, literate and illiterate. The formalization of the educational system has deepened the divide between these contrasting categories by ignoring those who are informal literate and informal illiterate learners. In fact learning is a natural skill of the human beings and starts from conception to death. Learning and knowledge exist well before the symbolic representation of knowledge, the invention of print and the formalization of learning through schooling. This formalization contributes to widen the gap between social and economic classes marginalizing some vast categories of people. Literacy as a subproduct of formalized learning denies the illiterate the power of learning. In fact it would be impossible for a human being to survive without the ability to learn. We are all learners whether literate or illiterate and whether as literate we learn formally or informally. Technology as a creation of the social structures that create the formalization of education has evolved to the point of breaking out the structures of formalized learning and ways of social living. The open education movement and the creation of learning materials in the web allow people to learn less formally and more informally. Web technologies allow people to communicate. share and collaborate virtually to a certain low degree. Structures of formalized learning and detrimental traditional ways of living persist through technology which is a mirror of the social structures that create it. Traditional ways of learning find their ways in the digital learnng. Consequently literacy as a way of learning find its way in the digital world as digital literacy.

Digital literacy encompasses an umbrella of literacies enabled by digital technology and called "new literacies". Digital literacy can be defined as the ability to find. use, evaluate, summarize, critique and create information. Information and communication tecknology is widely used in digital literacy. It involves the use of computers, hardware and software, the internet, web technologies and various telecommunications systems. The digitally literate is able to navigate the web, create content using digital spaces, use different web 2.0 tools to save, communicate and share information. The digitally literate uses the web for learning, innovating and different social functions. Blogging, sharing different types of information through text, photos and videos, emailing, posting information, communicating are some common actions performed by the digitally literate.

Traditional concepts of learning such as literacy, fluency, etc persist in spite of the development of digital technology.This development has the potential of providing the marginalized illiterate tools of learning that don't rely on the ability of reading and writing. Perhaps this development can eliminate the printed word and replace it with auditory, visual, kinesthesic and many other ways of learning therefore putting aside the dichotomy of literate and illiterate. The use of cognitive abilities can still be used without the existence of the printed word. The transformation of society through tools created by the dominant social structures seem to be an utopy but meanwhile technology can be used to reduce social inequalities by making its tools more affordable and useful to the majority of people. For example the cost of computers, cellphones, telephone and internet services could be reduced to facilitate access to more people. Computers and cellphones can be built with a lot of educational software allowing the user to access to information without paying for additional services. The so-called illiterate can learn without using the printed word through cheap computers and cellphones. Some educational software can be created in digital devices allowing the illiterate to read, write and learn automomously.        

Friday, February 15, 2013

The use of story and digital story

A tentative definition of story

1. A narrative, either true or fictious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse or instruct the hearer or reader. A narrative is an account of events, experiences, etc.
2. The plot or succession of incidents of a novel, poem, drama, etc.


During our child and adolescent formal and informal education we read stories of different types and tell also stories orally. While written stories can reflect account of different cultures, oral stories reflect national culture and are transmitted from generation to generation. These stories are generally told between family members or friends in the young age mostly at night. It is specially interesting to tell these stories outside of the house when a full moon projects its light on earth.

What is interesting about story is that its use has been expanded in society not as a fictional account but as a true one. Many leaders in different fields use stories to propel themselves ahead in their career. Life stories are particular important because it can show the ups and downs in someone's life. Stories may reflect some kind of behavior that is repetitive. They can be used to predict the probability of an event. Stories are used in the medical field in order to treat a physical or mental symptom. In the professional field a resume or a portfolio is a story of different events happening in someone's educational and professional life. Science fiction stories have played a great role in the development of science since most science fiction stories have become reality. Story can play an important role in someone's personal life as an evaluation tool. Personal imaginative stories can be used to project one's personal desired future.

Stories are often categorized according to their use,  An imagined personified story lends language to animals and gives life to inanimated objects. An explanatory story can be used to explore a scientific phenomenon. From this perspective a story can be used in any human field specially in the academic field. Explanatory stories are used even in the most rigorous sciences like mathematics. Explanatory stories can be used to solve a mathematical problem and to demonstrate a theorem for example. The transfer in mathematics is very easy as a story is the account of a set of events and mathematical problems are solved by following a number of steps that can be compared to an account of a number of events. The educational implications are important for transfer from one subject to the other. A student well versed in litterature and history can transfer his story skills in mathematics and science. An educator can help facilitate this transfer by using the word story in the solution of a problem.For example some students tend to skip some steps in the solution of problems. By knowing that the resolution of a math problem is a story the student knows that he has to state all the steps of the solution to make the story coherent. A stoy has a beginning. a development and a conclusion. Otherwise the story is not coherent and nobody would understand it. Even in a fictional story conceived to amuse coherence is important. Otherwise it won't produce the desired result. Likewise if the story of the resolution of a math problem is not coherent the solution will be false.

I have been talking in the previous paragraphs about story and its use in different areas. I am going to explore different things that a  digital story can be. Digital story is a story using digits. Digit is defined as being a finger, a toe or a figure from 0 to 9. A written story written by hand couldn't be considered as a digital story?. In this sense we can say that digital story is very old dating from thousands or millions of years. The word digital has been used in science to refer to something that has to do with numerical values. Computers convert any data in numerical values. So any data made from a computer is cosidered digital. But many things like sound, pictures, writing exist before computers were born. So digital story considered as any story made using computerized technology doesn't make sense since stories have been told using different medias that  now become digitized. What is now interesting is with computer technology or software applications it is posible to create several artifacts that can relay a story. Based on the stoy of "digital" I agree with Alan Levine who writes in his blog he doesn't know what a digital story is. He continues further to say that the media is not the story. The story is what is conveyed to the media. In this sense can we say that technology has a bad effect here in the sense that we tend to focus on the digital effects of pictures, sounds, movies etc on our snses than the real value of the story?. Technology can be used to enhance the value of something not to influence the viewer to agree with the author's viewpoint or to incite people to do something without using their own will. Anything in life has its good and bad aspect. So one has to use any tool wisely exploiting the positive aspects for everyone not the positive ones beneficial to a few nor the negative aspect detrimental to everybody or the vast majority of people.

Digital story can have many educational uses as story in general. Digital story can be used to help students understand abstract concepts. In a 5th grade science class a teacher uses a digital story to explain the anatomy of the eye. Digital story using several media such as pictures, sounds, etc can be used to describe many scientific concepts. In this sense many scientific documentaries use sdigital story to explain different concepts to the public. Digital stories can be adapted to different learning styles: visual.auditory, kinesthesic.etc. Educators can use it to introduce any content. Since digital story has been used in class through documentary movies students can learn to make their own digital documentary or story to show their understanding of something learned in class. But here power of choice should be given because educaion has been viewed too dogmatic. If you don't do something exactly as it is said to be done it is not good. An educator might tend for example to tell  students to use pictures.sounds, etc to represent something learned in class. But some students might not have skills in all the media and may be more skilled in presenting something using text and pictures. Their work should be accepted as long as long as the media they used served as vehicles of transmission of their work, Several literacy skills can be developed in using digital story telling. These include research skills, writing skills and organization skills. Technology skils can also be developed with the ability of using some media devices and some multimedia authoring software. Presentation skills, interviewing and problem solving skills can thrive through the use of digital story teeling. Historical events can be analyzed from a personal and present viewpoint using digital storytelling. Stories have been part of human life since man's existence. Now we might be more aware of it. Let's use it to our advantage.      

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Introduction for ETMOOC

This post is my introduction for ETMOOC, an online educational media course. I have subscribed to this course, have been listening to lectures and read the different posts related but I haven't had time to be an active active participant. I'll take advantage of this course until its end in March while I will continue with my posts for this Open PhD.

As my introduction to the ETMOOC community I'll start by expressing my pleasure to participate in this course and to take benefit of it for my own learning and professional development. My educational background is in Civil Engineering, Math and Science, Educational Administration, Curriculum and Instruction. Having interrupted a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction for reasons irrelevant to me I decided to pursue it independently with a few colleagues specializing in open learning. People interested in the Open PhD can visit this page Doctor of Philosophy. I am an experienced educator in Math, Science and other subjects. I provide tutoring services in Math, French,ESL and Spanish at New Direction Education Services. I started Open Popular University for which I am looking for human and material resources for its development. I own 4 blogs that I update regularly and I am an active social media participant. For more information you are welcome to explore this blog and its different links. Any suggestion, possible collaboration or advice will be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Personal learning networks: tools and applications in practice

In Joyce Seitzinger's Professional learning environment she uses a four quadrant work/office model to describe four discrete functions of a PLN. The first quadrant is called Staff Room and involves high personal profile and high levels of communication. It is based on the use of microblogging tools such as Twitter where one subscribes to a number of different accounts to share the users' ideas and converse with them. This type of connections works if one subscribes to an enough number of accounts or is followed by other subscribers. The level of profile and communication varies according the individual's interests. Some people might be interested only in getting information and sharing. This is my case. I read other's tweets and links and occasionally share them. I share also information but I don't converse. I find not having time, need and not being in an atmosphere of motivation of doing so. My first attempt of conversation was to ask people to support Open Popular University in any way they can but my appeal has been unanswered. This is a permanent appeal that can be read on the site of Open Popular University and can also be accessed if someone reads my twitter profile. I believe that my twitter profile has been read by many people and so far I haven't found any support.  But I think twitter conversation is something to work on. I find also it is not easy to initiate and maintain a high level of communication in social media. We live in a solitary world and people are more concerned about taking care of their own things instead of establishing and maintaining relationships with others. Social media allow to maintain and cultivate relationships in a long distance if in the real word people are interested in doing so but in a society where even the basic institutions such as the family are in crisis it is obvious that if people are not interested in being connected in the real word the same behavior will reproduce in the digital world,

The second quadrant of Joyce's model is called Filing cabinet and it's low in profile and level of communication. It provides users the opportunities to store their content and possibly share it with others. Tools such as Diigo, Delicious and are used for that purpose. Other tools such as wikis can also be used for that purpose. In terms of collaborative tools Google drive can also be included. Bookmarking tools allow to store, categorize, share content and converse with others. Diigo has some interesting features where one can annotate some web pages and write some notes. Besides tagging content can also be categorized in lists. One can also take a screenshot of a part or a whole web page. There is also a feature that I haven't used yet where one can annotate, add sticky notes to a web page and share it in social media. I use Wikiversity to share different educational resources and use it to collaborate with others on an open PhD. Talking about Diigo what I found not convenient is not to find one's content from tags. When I click on one tag I might not find all my content. However if I type the keywords in the search box I might find all of it.

The third quadrant of Joyce's model is called Newspaper. It is low in profile and level of engagement. This part of a PLN uses push technology (RSS feeds, Google Reader). magazines, Collected magazines, Isuu magazines, blogs, etc, can be included in this category. Blogs can add a level of engagement in this category provided that readers comment on posts.

The fourth quadrant of Joyce's model is called Portfolio and is high in profile and low in level of engagement. Blogs and other authoring tools are used in this category. Using blogs, wikis and Google docs can imply a high level of profile but the level of communication can be low if readers don't comment on posts.

Applications in Practice

Staff room

It is made of people we learn from. It can be people who are family members, friends, colleagues and people met at the internet. I listen to some educational talk show radios regularly. I follow a number of experts in some social media such as Twitter, Google+, etc. I also follow some curators in I belong to some groups in Facebook and LinkedIn. I followed some experts in Scribd and Slideshare. I belong also to other educational communities where people get together to share educational resources. I subscribe to some Google groups and I receive information from people from a number of different sources.

Filing cabinet

 I use Diigo, Delicious, Blogger, Pearltrees,, Wikiversity and Collected etc to store, tag and categorize information. I subscribe also to some Diigo groups. I find Diigo very interesting and I stopped using Delicious. My level of profile is high in where I publish various magazines categorized in a number of subjects such as Open Education, Health, Science, etc. I published some educational magazines such as Open Educatiion , Alterzine, DIY learning, etc. I found some very interesting articles from topics I follow.


 I subscribe to a number of feeds in Google Reader. I list a numer of blogs I read in my blogs. I subscribe to a different news feeds in different subjects of interests. In this blog can be seen a number of different blogs I read as well as a number of news feeds in Open Education. I subscribe and made a number of lists from Twitter and Facebook in a number of different subjects. I made some magazines where I access information in subjects of interests. As I mentioned above I access many articles from topics I follow in Scoop. I subscribe to a number of different subjects in Stumbleupon and I find it very interesting and rich. The problem is to find time to access this kind of information. The most important thing is that I have to my disposal a wealth of information that I can access when I need and feel to and I can also share with others.


I use blogs to publish educational content and my thoughts. I also use them as repository of content I learn. I use this blog to publish and store content for my Open PhD. Most of all it is a place where I can share my reflections on a number of different subjects and where my thoughts are shaped. I published 4 blogs: Open PhD, Alterzine, Alteredzine and Haiti Reconstuction. I use Google Docs to write courses I teach and other documents. I edit Open Popular University with a lot of educational resources. My profile is high in Facebook where I use status updates to share my opinions in a number of different articles I read and I find it very interesting. I subscribe to a number of people and sites in Facebook. Whenever I went to my newsfeeds I find some interesting articles that I can comment and share. What is discouraging is that there isn't a number of people with whom to engage with especially when one comments and publishes an interesting article. One interesting feature of Facebook is to "like" something that someone publishes and it is very difficult to find people doing so. I try myself to model this example by "liking" and commenting on interesting content that other people publish on Facebook. Most people don't use social media to educate themselves and use it mostly to publish photos and status updates. Even when they use it to publish and access content they don't know the kind of behavior to use to make their time on social media more usefuful

Monday, February 4, 2013

Personal learning network as learning communities

"A personal learning network is a set of learning communities to which someone belongs. If a learning community equates somewhat with a course then our learning network is equivalent to a degree program. Each community is a node on the network" (Siemens,2003). In this sense one can learn a program and achieve a degree similar to a degree earned in an university by belonging to several learning communities of which each one is equivalent to a course. I believe this can be achieved by carefully choosing these communities. The problem is to find structured communities where this goal can be achieved. There are some learning communities organized around some specific subjects. For example LinkedIn  Facebook, etc have different groups to which one can subscribe. One can follow several people and organizations in twitter. One can also subscribe to different groups in Quora. One can follow different magazines curated by different people. One can also follow organizations, people in Google + and subscribe to different communities. One should select carefully these communities and doesn't tend to participate to several communities which are not interesting or for which one doesn't have time to visit and participate. One is attracted to subscribe to several communities but sometimes time doesn't allow ourselves to participate in all these groups. Another problem is that some communities are not very active. I am thinking also while writing this post to unsubscribe to some groups that are not useful or active and focus on those that correspond more to my interests. I think MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)  and other open courses constitute also learning communities. One thing that is very stressed in learning communities is communication. I find this very hard as people are not sufficiently connected to communicate, are not interested in communicating or may not find something to say. Communication depends on affinity and reality. Affinity is the degree of emotional connection between members of a community. Reality is some sort of understanding of what is being communicated. One or two of these factors can impede communication. Sometimes it is better to focus on learning and not worry about communication. I attended online courses and MOOCs and the lack of communication is a pattern. This is also true in social media. Frustration can lead someone to leave a group if this person believes that the group doesn't satisfy his/her needs for example if someone asks for something in the group and no one answers or doesn't adequately address this person's needs. Another example is if one finds oneself as the only contributor in the group while others who can be active choose to be passive or if there is no interaction and acknowledgement

Alternative ways of learning instead of courses include Communities of Practice (CoP), archives, access to gurus, self-reflection/expression forums, etc. In LinkedIn I found there is a section where one can subscribe to posts of several leaders in different fields. These leaders or gurus price highly their seminars. Following them can be somewhat beneficial. Belonging to a productive learning community can make us knowledgeable in a field of interest. One doesn't limit to the knowledge learned in the community. One has to complement this knowledge by doing further research much like one attends a course and does further research in physical libraries and the internet.

A learning network can be defined as the connection of learning communities with he intent of sharing experiences/resources and a self-defined goal of competency/knowledge. In other words one belongs to a learning community in order to achieve competency and knowledge not to be just  a reader who glances at discussions without learning something or someone who cares only about voicing his/her own opinions. The intent of competency/knowledge can be compared to a degree which is the intent of a school program. One can argue that a degree is more structured, etc. But a degree is not equivalent to knowledge. A degree is conferred in a  piece of cardboard paper after having forgotten most of what one was forced to learn to pass an exam and not to achieve knowledge and competency. In this sense competency and knowledge achieved in learning communities are worth much more than what is learned in school in the sense that one is more interested and has time for self-reflection. Some components o learning communities allow to update knowledge and provide access when it is needed. One has access to new information in learning communities and this information can be accessible any time and anywhere.

 A portfolio allows to track one's learning. It holds workshops, seminars, etc. Online seminars are also an important part of a learning community. I belong to learning communities that invite me to different online seminars by mail. I just attended some online conferences this past weekend from CO2013 Integrating technology in teaching. These seminars are recorded and if one doesn't have time to attend them they can be attended later. A personal portfolio is a proof of past learning just like a transcript is a recording of courses attended. A piece of paper or degree is a proof that someone attended some courses and passed them. A degree is not equivalent to knowledge and skill. These are learned and cannot be fully actualized in a piece of paper. A community that witnesses the production of one's knowledge can attest someone's worth. A community can attest an active participant's worth. The media (physical or online) offers the possibility to judge someone's knowledge. Some people have been recognized for their knowledge because of books they have written. Some are recognized because they are good TV or radio speakers. Now with the web many people are recognized for their contribution or the expression of their knowledge in blogs and different online spaces.          

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Origin of the term "personal learning network".

Clint in a post dated October 8, 2009 and titled "On historically defining Personal Learning Network" wanted to elaborate more on the attempt of Stephen Downes to find the origin of the expression "personal learning network". In his post Clint acknowledged Stephen's point in his article that the meaning of the term seems to evolve over time thanks to the contribution of a number of people. Clint has used the term very often and was very interested in finding a definition, He cited the definition of Daniel R Tobin mentioned in his article "Building your own personal learning network": "An important part of learning is to build your own learning network - a group of people who can guide your learning, point you to learning opportunities, answer your questions and give you the benefit of their knowledge and experiences". Clint found the definition very useful but was intrigued about finding the origin of the term.

He emailed Tobin with the link of Stephen's post and Tobin responded later. Tobin mentioned in his response that he didn't know if he is the originator of the phrase or not. He also stated how he used the term "personal learning network". "What I was referring to was my informal network of colleagues and professional acquaintances to who I could learn if I needed information i.e people who could help me learn whatever it was I was seeking. When I started using the phrase, I wasn't particularly thinking about this in the sense of a virtual P.C based network. In fact in 1998 there weren't many websites and discussion boards that could be used for this purpose".

Clint continued to dig further and and discovered a 1999 article written by Don Digenti ( Collaborative learning A Core Capability for Organizations in the New Economy, Reflections) which uses the term "personal learning network" along with the acronym "PLN".

The first paragraph in this document where the term "personal learning network" is introduced contains a reference to a 1998 unpublished manuscript by Digenti called "The Learning Consortium Sourcebook". Clint said he couldn't find the work that might be the source of the term "personal learning nework". He concluded that the term may be originated in the work of these two authors around 1998-1999.   

Monday, January 7, 2013

Personal learning environments

Defining personal learning environment as a learning environment where one is connected to learning materials and communities I have used personal learning environment long before the internet became popular. Considered as learning done outside of school, I have used personal learning environments all my life from primary school until now. During my primary school my personal environment was restricted and consisted in studying at home and doing homework. In secondary school it became broad consisting in home and group study for school work, borrowing books from friends and libraries, some poetry writing and discussion with friends. At the undergraduate level of university it consisted in a lot of home study, group study and acquiring a lot of books for school work and personal study. At the graduate level I attended several universities and some work was done collaboratively. During the first decade of 2000 I have used the internet extensively for graduate work at the master's and PhD level. Pursuing an open PhD now my personal learning environment consists in using a lot of web 2.0 tools and communicating with other PhD candidates from different countries around the world. For my personal and professional life I use a broad personal learning environment made of mainly of online resources but also of other resources.

Personal learning environments are considered to be systems that allow independent learners to take control and manage their own learning. It is to take advantage of both online and offline resources to learn independently. Personal learning environments allow the learners to set goals for their learning, manage the content and process of learning, share and communicate with others. The learner is the sole responsible of his learning. There is no school, no teacher, no curriculum, no administrator. Using the term "e-learning 2.0," Stephen Downes describes the PLE as: "... one node in a web of content, connected to other nodes and content creation services used by other students. It becomes, not an institutional or corporate application, but a personal learning center, where content is reused and remixed according to the student's own needs and interests. It becomes, indeed, not a single application, but a collection of interoperating applications—an environment rather than a system". Stephen Downes was defining PLE in a context where it is used by students. It can be generalized to any type of learner and defined in several ways by simplifying Stephen’s description:” a node in a web content connected to  other nodes of content”,” a personal learning center where content is reused and remixed”,” a collection of interoperating applications”. The PlE technically represents  a number of web 2.0 tools like blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, bookmark sites like Delicious, Stumble Upon, Diigo, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc set as a learning environment by the learner. In a personal learning environment (PLE) the learner is at the center of learning and connected to information and communities. The learner has his personal space that he can connect to other spaces for knowledge sharing and knowledge collaborative creation.. Anderson and Dron define communities as “groups”, “networks” and “collectives”. I tend to think that certain sites provide only personal spaces for content creation only. This is not true. The sites are not designed for building networks but they are tools that allow to create communities. For example a Ning provides one with personal space for content creation and allows creating communities. Blogger provides space for content creation but is not designed explicitly to build communities where one can share content but tools are integrated in the site where one can build a community around the content for sharing and collaborative knowledge creation.Some sites provide a space for sharing and communicating only. This is the case for Twitter. One can’t create content. One can publish and communicate only. Other sites provide the ability of creating content and sharing. For example Facebook allows creating content, publishing and communicating but I haven’t seen any tools allowing to create content collaboratively. Google docs allow to create content collaboratively and communicate around that content. Some bookmarking sites allow to save content, share and communicate. Diigo allows to save content and some little content creation by adding notes to the content. One can share content in groups and communicate in these groups