My DBR Proposal

Introduction

Successful design and implementation of a networked learning course not only requires familiarity with modern digital tools and resources, but also a strong understanding of the social, cultural and educational factors of the students and institutions it will support. While education systems in the Western world have undergone large scale reform over the past century, other nations can be tentative in their approach to pedagogical change. The following proposal will investigate how the implementation of networked and global learning (NGL) principles can achieve improvement of communicative English education in my role as a teacher of English in Japan.

Statement of Problem

In my context as a secondary classroom teacher of English as a second language (TESOL), I have observed that despite the fact many of my students have been studying English as a second language (L2) for more than five years, most still struggle to acquire the communicative skills to hold even the most basic level of conversation. Students were encouraged to practice speaking English with me in the staff room, yet this offer was never taken up in over four years. When questioned, all students informed me that they never used English outside of English lessons at school or private after-school tuition. Students and homeroom teachers explained that this was due to students commitments to club activities and their shyness to use English with a native speaker.

In interviews that I conducted with former co-workers in Japan, all agreed that there are significant issues with the way English education is delivered. Lack of opportunities to practice speaking and listening skills, excessive teacher focus in classrooms, inauthentic and unengaging teaching practices, and a lack recognition of the usefulness of English as a global language were given most frequently as reasons for ineffectual English acquisition. Analysis of test-data supports these conclusions with Japan ranking 40th out of 48 countries in 2016 on their average score on the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) (Educational Testing Service, 2016). While no longer recommended by the Japanese government, teaching in a Japanese classroom typically follows the grammar-translation method (Saint-Jacques, 2006). Students generally spend a significant portion of lessons being lectured about the use of specific grammar rules and then spend the remainder of the lesson practicing these rules by translating texts from Japanese to English or English to Japanese. This method of teaching language originated in Europe around the 1500s but by the late twentieth century had been rejected by most researchers in the field of education (Richards & Rodgers, 2001). Kotaka (2013) argues that task-based language teaching (TBLT) in Japanese classrooms would better foster communicative English acquisition, though he concedes that limitations in teachers’ understanding of its unpinning principles would require extensive teacher retraining to achieve this more modern approach/view of teaching, learning and the role of the teacher.

Research Questions

The primary research question of this proposal is:

How can implementation of NGL principles enhance L2 learning for English as a foreign language (EFL) students?

Secondary questions to be researched are:

-Which NGL principles best facilitate development of student English use with communities outside the classroom?

-What are the main challenges to implementing these principles?

Literature Review

Ikegashira, Matsumoto and Morita (2009) suggest that the greatest issues with English education in Japan lie with the Japanese education system and Japan’s exam culture. These place excessive stress on students and negatively affect teaching methodologies by encouraging or forcing teachers to focus on teaching to the test. Three teachers were found to have been given the responsibility for teaching more than five hundred students in one particular school, leaving teachers with inadequate time or attention to achieve satisfactory levels of communicative ability in their students. Ikegashira, Matsumoto and Morita identified a fear among parents, administrators and other members of the community that high student achievement in English education will have a negative impact on students’ first language (L1) skills. Ruegg (2009) challenged this idea as she believed the Japanese government has displayed clear evidence of commitment to high communicative English achievement through the implementation of communicative teaching methods in classrooms at increasingly younger ages. Ruegg believes that native Japanese teachers frequently lack English language skills and confidence in their communicative abilities, leading them to focus more heavily on teaching grammar and vocabulary. She suggests that students require greater exposure to more natural communicative experiences with native English speakers. Samimy and Kobayashi (2004) strongly disagree stating that their analysis of the introduction of communicative language teaching (CLT) methods in Japanese schools in the 1980s found these teaching methods to be “not adequate nor feasible” (Samimy & Kobayashi, 2004) for Japanese educational contexts. Educational and socio-cultural factors, claimed to lead to this conclusion, included students’ limited communication needs, limited exposure to English in daily life, most Japanese English teachers being non-native English speakers, a pervasive exam culture and differences in traditional expectations of learning methodologies and educational outcomes.

Friedman (2013) believes that aside from economic benefits that improved English language achievement will bring, efforts by the Japanese government to reform English education are aimed at allowing Japan as a nation to better shape foreign perceptions of the ideas and opinions of its people. With the goal of “developing English skills for persuasive writing, rhetoric, and argumentative analysis” and “to win over other nations and convince them of Japan’s good intentions” (Friedman, 2013), Freidman suggests that reform of learning outcomes is a necessity and is already well in the process of occurring. Similarly to Ruegg, he points to the Strategic Plan to Cultivate Japanese with English Abilities (“Japanese Government Policies in Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology”, 2011) as clear evidence of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s (MEXT) dramatic shift to more modern teaching and learning outcomes for students in the Japanese English language education system.

Research into the use network learning technologies existed even before the boom of creative tools brought about by web 2.0. An article Yang (1998) in the early days of mainstream Internet adoption focused primarily on the transformative benefits multimedia brought to the field of English education. Major benefits identified by Yang include the effective engagement of all language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking), student focused learning, greater feeling of student autonomy due to lowered focus on the teacher, increased flexibility of scheduling and location, and greater communicative access to other learners due to the removal of geographic barriers. At the time of writing, Yang noted the severe limitations networking, software development and processor power placed on networking technologies. Student social interaction was predominantly limited to text communication in early online tools and environments such as email, multiple user domains (MUDs) and object oriented MUDs (MOOs).

In contrast, Allen (2000) analysed the benefits the social and collaborative aspects of networked learning offered. She believes that community connected learning provides a range of opportunities for secondary English students including interaction in authentic environments and situations, integration of ideas and interests with the wider community, promotion of active learning rather than passive learning, the ability for students to make future professional network connections, access to professional work skills, and insight into opportunities at postsecondary institutions. Allen suggests project-based learning as a powerful tool for integrating multiple student abilities and areas of knowledge into English education, while at the same time fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration skills.

In a more recent paper, Jauregi, Graaff, and Bergh (2012) analysed studies involving university graduate education students’ use of networked learning technologies to complete collaborative task-based assessments. Results revealed students gained communicative fluency and displayed higher levels of interactive engagement. Students reported that Web communication environments offered more opportunities for authentic and functional interactions than they experienced in traditional classroom settings. Problems were encountered; technical issues and delays in communication could cause frustration or impede student progress. Test subjects felt that the use of this form of learning in secondary settings may carry significant risk. Suggestions included the need to ensure sufficient numbers of work partners, good access to the Internet and required technologies, and the ability to schedule synchronous sessions. With these conditions met, students felt networked learning experiences were worthwhile as the learning they experienced was more fun and rewarding, required innovative methods of thinking, used a variety of communicative skills and required more natural and interactive language usage.

Design Principles

Improvement of learning of communicative English could best be facilitated by an environment that:

  1. provides opportunities for authentic language usage (Van Lier, 1996)
  2. integrates usage of reading, writing, speaking and listening skills (Li, 2012)
  3. has a focus on knowledge construction, rather than knowledge reproduction (Jonassen, 1999)
  4. promotes student ownership of work (Newmann, 1992)
  5. presents opportunities for students to reflect on tasks (Jonassen, 1991)
  6. supports collaborative construction and sharing of knowledge (Siemens, 2005)

The Intervention

In my context, I am proposing the use of formative task-based (or performance based) assessments that consist of the creation and sharing of online multimedia (Leek, n.d.). All Japanese public junior high schools possess at least one modern Internet connected computer laboratory. Well known platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, WordPress and Soundcloud are examples of tools that students would be encouraged to utilise. These tools would bring about transformative change to learning by allowing students to create, connect and share their work with global communities that pursue similar areas of learning. By building connections with global communities, it is hoped that the concepts of connectivism can be adopted to modernise English learning experiences in Japanese classrooms and move away from primarily summative assessment models. An example assessment activity for a group of students could be to produce a short informative YouTube video about a traditional Japanese festival. Students would need to research accurate information. This information would then be used, in combination with English language narration and digital video editing skills, to publish a publicly accessible educational video. Students would then receive feedback from online communities. This feedback could be used to reflect upon and improve the video that was published or used for future similar networked task-based assessments.

Authentic learning experiences encourage assimilation and connection of new knowledge, enhance application and transferability of theoretical learning to ‘real world’ scenarios, build students’ capacities to make professional judgements, and foster attachment to professional principles and knowledge (“Benefits of Authentic Learning”, 2015). This intervention meets the criteria for authenticity as it has real-world relevance, is ill-defined (requiring students to define the tasks), comprises of complex tasks to be investigated over a sustained period of time, provides opportunities for students to examine the task from different perspectives (using a variety of resources), provides opportunities for collaboration, provides opportunities for reflection, is integrated and applies knowledge from different subject areas leading to beyond domain-specific outcomes, is seamlessly integrated with assessment, creates a complete product usable in its own right, and allows for a variety of solutions leading to a diversity of outcomes (Reeves, Herrington, & Oliver, 2002).

Creation of online media requires students to engage in all four skills of communicative English. Reading and listening are required when conducting research of relevant literature, engaging and responding to online communities, analysis of the ideas and opinions of others and in interpreting the design work of collaborative group members. Speaking and writing skills are engaged while recording video and sound, collaborating in real-time through audio and video communication applications (Skype, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts etc) and during classroom planning and design work. With access to digital communication and collaboration tools, learning is transformed to allow uploading and sharing of large documents, and real-time high quality (and high bandwidth) video demonstration of processes, ideas and designs.

In an age when information is both overly abundant and easily accessible, to make decisions objectively, students need to learn the skills for effective analysis and assessment of information and its sources. By allowing students to construct their own meaning from multiple sources, they can be helped to understand that information must be viewed from a variety of perspectives for objective conclusions to be extrapolated (Monteith, 1998). By working on ill-defined or self-defined tasks, students are required to make independent decisions about what information they choose to seek, assess and utilise. This process also has the benefit of making students feel ownership of their work, as task completion is self-directed and collaboration is an active process (Mitnik, Recabarren, Nussbaum, & Soto, 2009). Research into online and independent learning has shown higher dropout rates, particularly in off-campus study (Patterson & McFadden, 2009). This means that teachers must ensure that students clearly understand assessment criteria, have access to motivational support and gain a sense of being part of a learning community for optimal learning outcomes to be achieved (Rovai, 2002).

By sharing their work and the processes used to complete their assigned tasks with members of online communities, students are given opportunities to reflect upon what decisions they have made and why they have made them. Publishing of work makes online community feedback available. The internet transforms reflection by exposing students to a range of perspectives previously unaccessable in offline learning environments (Towhidi, 2010). Japan has displayed an increased concern regarding Internet privacy and safety in recent years (Kommers, Isaias, & Issa, 2015; Thomson, 2015). This is not a concern without warrant and could be a significant impediment to the application of this intervention. Not using student’s real identities online may help to resolve this issue, though there is no guarantee this will ensure that student identities remain anonymous. At the least, all online communications by students while undertaking task activities should be visible to the teacher and school administrative staff to ensure student safety is not compromised. Further research and communication with government and school administrators would need to be undertaken to identify how this intervention would pass potential risk assessments.

Conclusion

While this proposal would almost certainly face challenges regarding student privacy, teacher training, acquisition of digital technologies, and community and administrative support, it is clear that innovative change to English language education is a necessity if Japanese students are to acquire the communicative skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly globalised world. MEXT has made it clear that new approaches to language education need to be adopted for Japan to remain economically competitive and for good relationships with the international community to be maintained (“MEXT : English Education Reform Plan corresponding to Globalization”, 2015; Okamoto, 2014). Through the integration of programs that promote NGL principles, transformative change to education will occur and a more holistic understanding of English will be achieved.

References

Allen, L. (2000). Involving English Language Learners in Community-Connected Learning (1st ed.). Omaha, Nebraska: University of Nebraska. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=slcediversity

Benefits of Authentic Learning. (2015). Clt.curtin.edu.au. Retrieved 20 October 2016, from http://clt.curtin.edu.au/teaching_learning_practice/student_centred/authentic.cfm

Educational Testing Service,. (2016). 2015 Report on Test Takers Worldwide: TheTOEIC® Listening and Reading Test (p. 5). Princeton, New Jersey: Educational Testing Service. Retrieved from https://www.ets.org/s/toeic/pdf/ww_data_report_unlweb.pdf

Ikegashira, A., Matsumoto, Y., & Morita, Y. (2009). English Education in Japan – From Kindergarten to University (1st ed., pp. 16-40). Matsuyama, Japan: Rudolf Reinelt Research Laboratory. Retrieved from http://web.iess.ehime-u.ac.jp/raineruto1/02RD2.pdf

Japanese Government Policies in Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. (2011). Mext.go.jp. Retrieved 19 October 2016, from http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/hakusho/html/hpac200201/hpac200201_2_015.html

Jauregi, K., Graaff, R., & Bergh, H. (2012). Learning by doing: Promoting language teacher competencies for networked teaching and learning. Procedia – Social And Behavioral Sciences, 34, 116-121. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.02.024

JICA Research Institute, (2004), Part I. Overview of the History of Japan’s Education. Retrieved 4 February 2015, from http://jica-ri.jica.go.jp/IFIC_and_JBICI-Studies/english/publications/reports/study/topical/educational/pdf/educational_02.pdf

Jonassen, D. (1991). Evaluating Constructivist Learning. Educational Technology, 36(9), 28-33.

Jonassen, D. (1999). Designing Constructivist Learning Environments (pp. 215-239). Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Kommers, P., Isaias, P., & Issa, T. (2015). Perspectives on social media (p. 134). New York: Routledge.

Kotaka, M. (2013). Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) and the Japanese English Classroom (1st ed., p. 65). Tokyo: Tsuru Repository of Academic Institutional Library. Retrieved from http://trail.tsuru.ac.jp/dspace/bitstream/trair/629/1/Y-017047.pdf

Leek, N. Education In Japan. Culturequest.us. Retrieved 21 October 2016, from http://culturequest.us/culturequestsummer/afterschool.html

Li, J. (2012). Principles of English Language Learner Pedagogy (1st ed., pp. 3-4). New York: College Board. Retrieved from https://research.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/publications/2012/8/researchinreview-2012-3-effective-english-language-learner-pedagogy.pdf

MEXT : English Education Reform Plan corresponding to Globalization. (2015). Mext.go.jp. Retrieved 21 October 2016, from http://www.mext.go.jp/en/news/topics/detail/1372656.htm

Mitnik, R., Recabarren, M., Nussbaum, M., & Soto, A. (2009). Collaborative robotic instruction: A graph teaching experience. Computers & Education, 53(2), 330-342. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2009.02.010

Monteith, M. (1998). IT for learning enhancement (p. 180). Lisse, the Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger Publishers.

Newmann, F. (1992). Student engagement and achievement in American secondary schools (pp. 23-26). New York: Teachers College Press.

Patterson, B. & McFadden, C. (2009). Attrition in online and campus degree programs. Online Journal Of Distance Learning Administration, 12, 1-8. Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/summer122/patterson112.html

Reeves, T., Herrington, J., & Oliver, R. (2002). Authentic activities and online learning. Research And Development In Higher Education: Quality Conversations, 25, 563-564. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.482.9557&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Richards, J. & Rodgers, T. (2001). Approaches and methods in language teaching (2nd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Rovai, A. (2002). Building a sense of community at a distance. International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 3, 1-16.

Ruegg, R. (2009). How student-oriented is English language education in Japan?. The Journal Of Kanda University Of International Studies, 21. Retrieved from https://www.kandagaigo.ac.jp/kuis/about/bulletin/jp/021/pdf/018.pdf

Saint-Jacques, B. (2006). The Paradox of English Learning in Japan: Problems and Policies (1st ed., p. 4). Fukuoka: University of British Columbia. Retrieved from http://paperroom.ipsa.org/app/webroot/papers/paper_5322.pdf

Samimy, K. & Kobayashi, C. (2004). Toward the Development of Intercultural Communicative Competence: Theoretical and Pedagogical Implications for Japanese English Teachers. JALT Journal, 26(2), 245-258. Retrieved from http://jalt-publications.org/jj/articles/2620-perspectives-toward-development-intercultural-communicative-competence-theoretical-

Okamoto, S. (2014). Japan Creates an English Education Reform Plan Corresponding to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Emerging Strategy. Retrieved 21 October 2016, from http://www.emerging-strategy.com/article/japan-creates-an-english-education-reform-plan-corresponding-to-the-2020-tokyo-olympics/

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal Of Instructional Technology And Distance Learning, 2(1). Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm

Thomson, R. (2015). The cross-cultural psychology of Internet privacy concern. In-mind.org. Retrieved 21 October 2016, from http://www.in-mind.org/blog/post/the-cross-cultural-psychology-of-internet-privacy-concern

Towhidi, A. (2010). Distance Education Technologies and Media Utilization in Higher Education. International Journal Of Instructional Technology And Distance Learning, 7(8). Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Aug_10/article01.htm

Van Lier, L. (1996). Interaction in the language curriculum. London: Longman.

Yang, P. (1998). Networked Multimedia and Foreign Language Education. CALICO Journal, 15(1), 75-88. Retrieved from https://calico.org/html/article_444.pdf

Peer Review

Before I began writing my DBR proposal, I posted a rough plan. David pointed out that the plan was missing design principles and advised that I follow a template, which he provided. I followed his advice and it was extremely useful for giving me a solid structure to base my proposal on. His advice also assisted me in making the decision to analyse both TESOL education and NGL integration into TESOL education.

Natalie very generously dedicated an entire blog post to offering me feedback. She suggested that the scope of my intervention could be expanded to learners in non-traditional classrooms, such as those who do not have access to English education due to geographic isolation. While trying to keep the scope of my proposal limited, her suggestion encouraged me to consider a variety of applications of my intervention, rather than the context it was based upon alone. She also made the suggestion that variables such as language, socio-economic circumstances and internet access need to be carefully considered in my proposal. I agreed entirely and this suggestion led me to another finding; there appeared to be significant differences in expectations of educational outcomes between Japanese and Western academic literature. I also encountered this difference in the responses to my questionnaire. There appeared to be an underlying fear among Japanese citizens that excessive focus or achievement of English educational outcomes may diminish students’ connection and respect for traditional Japanese culture and language. I think it is important to acknowledge and respect this concern. I believe that if I am to disagree with this sentiment, I must make sure that my beliefs and arguments are as objective as possible.

Natalie’s suggestion about the use of creative commons led to a response by David regarding what learning theories are truly concerned about. While I didn’t integrate creative commons into my final proposal, the information I gained from this discussion did influence the focus of the analyses I made.

When initially planning my DBR proposal, I identified a problem that I felt needed resolving in my teaching context as a TESOL teacher in Japanese public junior high schools. To minimise the effects of my own biases and perspective, I made a questionnaire for my professional colleagues. The questions in this questionnaire attempted to identify what others felt about the situation and what kinds of solutions they thought would be effective. One colleague is not a native English speaker, so I conducted an interview through the mobile messaging application ‘Line’, as I was not confident she would be able to interpret the formality of the English used in the questionnaire.

Below are links to PDF documentations of responses to my questionnaire

michelle-response

valerie-response

samantha-response

kazuko-response

From the responses these teachers provided me, the following concerns appeared multiple times:

  • excessive focus on rote learning and the grammar-translation method of teaching
  • insufficient opportunities to use English both inside and outside of lessons
  • excessive attention to reading and writing skills and insufficient attention to listening and speaking skills
  • focus on traditional summative assessments (exams)
  • lack of authentic learning opportunities leading students to feel English is not useful or necessary
  • teaching methodologies are uninteresting and unengaging

Combined with the literature review I undertook, these insights were integral to helping me identify which design principles would be most important for my proposal.

Overcoming Design Difficulties with my Literature Review

Just sharing my process as my intervention proposal comes together. I’ve had a lot of trouble with designing and structuring the literature review section, as this guide the design of my intervention. Below is a video I often refer to when writing literature reviews.

I find David Taylor’s explanation very clear and concise. I think it’s easy for students to fall into the trap of designing their literature review to support their expected findings/outcome, rather than reviewing literature to form a finding/outcome. I was finding I was unconsciously making this mistake when the scope of my literature review was too broad, so I attempted to decrease the scope to something closer to the teaching context that my intervention will be applied to. Below is the current state of my literature review and the design principles I extrapolated from it. The first paragraph focuses on literature regarding the Japanese English education system. The second paragraph reviews literature about integration of networked learning into English education; successes/benefits and limitations/risks. Any feedback or comment is welcome and appreciated 🙂

Literature Review

Ikegashira, Matsumoto and Morita (2009) suggest that the greatest issues with English education in Japan lie with the Japanese education system and Japan’s exam culture. These place excessive stress on students and negatively affect teaching methodologies by encouraging or forcing teachers to focus on teaching to the test. Three teachers were found to have been given the responsibility for teaching more than five hundred students in one particular school, leaving teachers with inadequate time or attention to achieve satisfactory levels of communicative ability in their students. Ikegashira, Matsumoto and Morita identified a fear among parents, administrators and other members of the community that high student achievement in English education will have a negative impact on students’ first language language (L1) skills. Ruegg (2009) challenged this idea as she believed the Japanese government has displayed clear evidence of commitment to high communicative English achievement through the implementation of communicative teaching methods in classrooms at increasingly younger ages. Ruegg believes that native Japanese teachers frequently lack English language skills and confidence in their communicative abilities, leading them to focus more heavily on teaching grammar and vocabulary. She suggests that students require greater exposure to more natural communicative experiences with native English speakers. Samimy and Kobayashi (2004) strongly disagree stating that their analysis of the introduction of communicative language teaching (CLT) methods in Japanese schools in the 1980s found these teaching methods to be “not adequate nor feasible” (Samimy & Kobayashi, 2004) for Japanese educational contexts. Educational and socio-cultural factors claimed to lead to this conclusion included students’ limited communication needs, limited exposure to English in daily life, most Japanese English teachers being non-native English speakers, a pervasive exam culture and differences in traditional expectations of learning methodologies and educational outcomes. Friedman (2013) believes that aside from economic benefits that improved English language achievement will bring, efforts by the Japanese government to reform English education are aimed at allowing Japan as a nation to better shape foreign perceptions of the ideas and opinions of its people. With the goal of “developing English skills for persuasive writing, rhetoric, and argumentative analysis” and “to win over other nations and convince them of Japan’s good intentions” (Friedman, 2013), Freidman suggests that reform of learning outcomes is a necessity and is already well in the process of occurring. Similarly to Ruegg, he points to the Strategic Plan to Cultivate Japanese with English Abilities (“Japanese Government Policies in Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology”, 2011) as clear evidence of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s (MEXT) dramatic shift to more modern teaching and learning outcomes for students in the Japanese education system.

Research into the use network learning technologies existed even before the boom of creative tools brought about by web 2.0. An article Yang (1998) in the early days of mainstream Internet adoption focused primarily on the transformative benefits multimedia brought to the field of English education. Major benefits identified by Yang include the effective engagement of all language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking), student focused learning, greater feeling of student autonomy due to lowered focus on the teacher teacher, increased flexibility of scheduling and location, and greater communicative access to other learners due to the removal of geographic barriers. At the time of writing, Yang noted the severe limitations networking, software development and computer processing technologies placed on networking technologies. Student social interaction was predominantly limited to text communication in early online tools and environments such as email, multiple user domains (MUDs) and object oriented MUDs (MOOs). In contrast, Allen (2000) analysed the benefits the social and collaborative aspects of networked learning offered. She believes that community connected learning provides a range of opportunities for secondary English students including interaction in authentic environments and situations, integration of ideas and interests with the wider community, promotion of active learning rather than passive learning, the ability for students to make future professional network connections, access to professional work skills, and insight into opportunities at postsecondary institutions. Allen suggests project-based learning as a powerful tool for integrating multiple student abilities and areas of knowledge into English education, while at the same time fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration skills. In a more recent paper, Jauregi, Graaff, and Bergh (2012) analysed studies involving university graduate education students’ use of networked learning technologies to complete collaborative task-based assessments. Results revealed students gained communicative fluency and displayed higher levels of interactive engagement. Students reported that Web communication environments offered more opportunities for authentic and functional interactions than they experienced in traditional classroom settings. Problems were encountered; technical issues and delays in communication could cause frustration or impede student progress. Test subjects felt that the use of this form of learning in secondary settings may carry significant risk. Suggestions included the need to ensure sufficient numbers of work partners, good access to the Internet and required technologies, and the ability to schedule synchronous sessions. With these conditions met, students felt networked learning experiences were worthwhile as the learning they experienced was more fun and rewarding, required innovative methods of thinking, used a variety of communicative skills and required more natural and interactive language usage.

Design Principles

Improvement of learning of communicative English could best be facilitated by an environment that:

  1. provides opportunities for authentic language usage (Van Lier, 1996)
  2. integrates usage of reading, writing, speaking and listening skills (Li, 2012)
  3. has a focus on knowledge construction, rather than knowledge reproduction (Jonassen, 1999)
  4. promotes student ownership of work (Newmann, 1992)
  5. presents opportunities for students to reflect on tasks (Jonassen, 1991)
  6. Supports collaborative construction and sharing of knowledge (Siemens, 2005)

DBR proposal plan

Any suggestions or feedback are welcome and appreciated 🙂

Introduction

-Brief overview of why traditional, unconnected teaching methods alone are ineffective at achieving communicative language usage in students

-Brief introduce NGL and digital learning tools and how they may be used to address some of the deficiencies mentioned above

Statement of Purpose

-My teaching context

-Students spend 10 years attending English lessons yet very few achieve even basic conversational level fluency

-Why is this?

-Lessons are teacher focused rather than being student focused -> Student time for application of skills in lessons is insufficient

-English language is almost never used outside the classroom -> lack of reinforcement of what has been learnt

-English usage is almost never authentic -> skills learnt do not transfer to real-life situations/usage

-Students perceive that English is optional, not essential -> lack of awareness that globalised connectedness relies on shared communicative skills (NGL can help bring about awareness of this)

Research Questions

-How can implementation of NGL principles enhance L2 learning for EFL students?

-Which NGL principles best facilitate development of student English use with communities outside the classroom?

Literature Review

-Literature review organised based on time period (pre-90s’ (pre-Internet), 1990-2000 (early Internet ~1994/5+), 2000-present (web 2.0 ~2004+) (difficult to plan before reviewing the literature))

The Intervention

-Introduction of course based on content and media creation

-Example platforms include YouTube, Vimeo, blogging platforms, programming communities (Newgrounds?)

Conclusion

-Summary of research findings and suggestions

Thoughts on the Documentary “Web”

things-087Below is a touching documentary about the impact the Internet is having on learning globally.

http://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/single/621208643743/Web

The above documentary “Web” follows Michael Kleiman as he lives with a family in the extremely poor and isolated towns of Antuya and Palestina in Peru. While not going too deeply into the theory of connected learning, I thought this documentary touched on some very important points. Various academics and website founders express the idea that since the advent of television, the original meaning of “community” has largely been lost. It is suggested that “True” communities can only be maintained through face-to-face meeting and a sense of shared experience and vulnerability. The founders of the web services Foursquare and Meetup explain that the goal of their web tools is allow people to focus on exploring, experiencing and learning from the physical world around them without needing to worry about digital technologies.

Kleiman questions a number of politicians about the impact of cultural homogenisation that the Internet will likely cause in these traditional communities. Their response is that the extinction of indigenous traditions is an inevitability and that it is questionable for outsiders to decide whether it is for the best or not that these communities be exposed to connective technologies. I wasn’t convinced that this answer was sincere. The fact that the politicians, business people  and academics questioned about this issue were all Americans meant that the perspectives expressed were influenced by American interests and values. From my personal observations, the Japanese have done an admirable job of trying to retain awareness and value for their own traditions.

Kleiman questions the meaning of the word “friend” and it is suggested that this word has become “damaged” as it is now used to express too many different kinds of connections. I think Aristotle’s three definitions (Pedemonte, 2014) cover the traditional meanings of the word before the digital age. In short, these three definitions of friendship are based on utility, pleasure and goodness. Friendships are now often defined by digital connections. As these digital connections become more automated, what will happen to our real sense of connection? In my opinion I think we are already seeing the effects of this. People are often connected digitally to hundreds or thousands of social network “friends”, yet loneliness remains a worsening issue.

untitled

I really enjoyed watching the lesson Kleiman gave to the students as they were connected to the Internet for the first time. He began by introducing his home of New York city and demonstrating that students could find out almost everything they wanted to know about the city through the use of the Internet. Once students realised there was no information about their own small town, Palestina, they were given the mission to work collaboratively to produce a Wikipedia entry. This was a fantastic lesson plan as it was authentic, formative, collaborative and intrinsically motivational as it allowed students to engage in their own interests.

Reference

Pedemonte, A. (2014). Aristotle´s Nichomachean Ethics: “Three Types of Friendship” (Based on Utility, Pleasure and Goodness).-. La Audacia de Aquiles. Retrieved 18 September 2016, from https://aquileana.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/aristotles-nichomachean-ethics-three-types-of-friendship-based-on-utility-pleasure-and-goodness/

Web. (2013). New York.

Playing Catan Online

Due to changes in my living arrangement I’m no longer able to play Settlers of Catan with my old group of friends. I’ve considered a few digital solutions to this problem.

Microsoft recently released a version of the game that runs on Windows operating systems. Unfortunately this product is almost unplayable. This software has not been developed or tested properly and allows players to win through exploitation of bugs. This is a shame as an organisation as large as Microsoft has access to tools, knowledge and budgets that should have ensured this simple online game was released in a well polished state.

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Microsoft’s version of the game is near unplayable…

An alternative is a browser-based game client that is getting better reviews. Unfortunately, this product is still in development and I was unable to gain early access. From what information I could gather, this game promotes play with other random players. I really hope that features such as being able to invite specific people to games, friends lists, pre-game lobbies and in-game chat are implemented as for me, these would be necessities for effective community building and on-going connection to established communities. I’m a little skeptical about implementation of the ability to communicate through text or speech. These features would increase the chances of players being harassed by less friendly members of the online community. It would also present safety risks for younger players and lower the demographic that the game could be marketed to.

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This browser-based version of the game is looking much more promising but remains in development

Quick Thoughts on Critical Theory

Critical theory is a school of thought that promotes the idea that heavy scrutiny, by all, of the established facts of life is necessary as all facts, even those of scientific nature, are shaped by human interest. According to Friesen (2008), the goal of critical theory is to “generate alternative knowledge forms, specifically, those shaped by social interests who are democratic and egalitarian”.

Finding objective information on this subject was a considerable task as views on critical theory are highly polarised. It has often been used as a powerful tool for justifying or discrediting political ideologies. During my research on the subject, many of the videos I located on YouTube were highly critical of critical theory as it has been frequently used by those on the “left” side of the political spectrum to challenge the traditional values held by conservatives. In my opinion, this theory isn’t innately biased to one side of a political spectrum as critical analysis of claims can be used to argue against any position of belief if sufficient evidence can be sourced.

I can see connections between this topic and David’s post (2015) about the importance of frameworks that incorporate solutions from a variety of models, rather than expecting a single model alone to effectively service all organisational needs. Open and frequent critical analysis of entrenched assumptions is a necessity if the ongoing development of new, more flexible and more effective solutions are to be achieved in educational settings.

References

Friesen, N. (2008). Critical Theory. Ubiquity, 2008(June), 2. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/1403922.1386860

Jones, D. (2015). All models are wrong, but some are useful and its application to e-learning. The Weblog of (a) David Jones. Retrieved from https://davidtjones.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/all-models-are-wrong-but-some-are-useful-and-its-application-to-e-learning/

How NGL can inform my role as teacher

Networked learning has always been a valuable tool for learning. Recent advances in information and communication technology have helped to make networked learning more implementable in school settings and allowed the reach of networked learning to extend globally. Unfortunately many educational institutions have been “slow to embrace the full social and collaborative strengths of the web” (Harley, 2008). With the ever-increasing ubiquity of the Internet, it could be assumed that students of today have an easier time than ever of sourcing and deciphering information effectively, however recent research indicates that this may not be true (Carr, 2010). As various entities endeavour to “claim control over” and “wall-in” the digital environments that we most frequently access, most users are unwittingly having their experiences filtered to serve the best interests of gatekeepers of information (Cochrane, 2012). Now that I have a clearer understanding of these realities I hope to improve my teaching by implementing changes that focus on students learning to learn, engage, be flexible and adaptive, find communities, and encourage them to have ideas about the things they want to do in the present (Connected Learning Alliance, 2012).

In this post I will present two possibilities for transformative change in my teaching context. Though now, my time in Japan has come to an end, I will use my time there as the context for these examples as that role is my most recent. Though teaching in Japanese schools was an amazing experience and the teachers I worked with showed genuine care for their students, there were a few concerns I held for the teaching methods commonly employed. Teaching was almost entirely outcomes focused. This meant that teachers often lost perspective of why students needed to learn what they were learning, leading to lessons being almost completely de-contextualised from real-world applications. The result of this was that most students were unengaged and quite vocal about their resentment of having to learn English. This is in contrast to the methods of networked and connected learning, which are more focused on finding out what experiences students need, to achieve optimal engagement and learning (Ito et al., 2013). Two major interests that I noticed were shared among my students were visual art and digital games.

The below video (Institute of Play, 2013a) is about an American student named Charles Raben.

Charles discovered that a local newsstand owner, who had been working in that location for 25 years, was being pressured by the local government to  vacate the land that his stall occupied, in order to make way for new commercial developments. The plight of this local community member struck a chord with Charles and he was inspired to gather community support to allow the newsstand owner to remain at the location. Charles achieved this through use of both digital and non-digital methods. From what is shown in the video, it appears that Charles was also driven to use his considerable skills as a portrait photographer to portray the newsstand owner as a valuable asset to the community and an aspect of the city to be valued.

Charles’ sincerity and obvious burning desire to learn and contribute to his community really inspired me to use the promotion and awareness of community causes as a tool for learning. I believe the impact of this, if successful, would be a greater awareness of our moral responsibility to contribute and improve communities, both locally and internationally. If connected with the right cause, students would benefit from intrinsic motivation to design ways for their knowledge and skills to be utilised to assist with meeting community needs. Students would need to seek out organisations and groups with similar goals that could lend examples and models for solutions that have been successful in other locations. In my own context as an English teacher in rural Japan, an good example of a local community cause could be residents of the city who have recently emigrated to Japan. Information about the city and its laws is rarely provided in English so this could provide and excellent opportunity for local students to lend their creativity and knowledge of the English language people in need. The greatest cost would be time and a need for more flexible scheduling. The current culture doesn’t allow for students to deviate from their normal weekly schedules. For this kind of independent work, I think students require some autonomy over their own time-management. Depending on students’ ideas, funding could be sourced from the community. This could be act as an additional opportunity for learning. Sites such as GoFundMe.com and kickstarter.com could offer modern methods of charity raising in combination with effective marketing on social media or other publicly viewable websites. Effective use of these sites offer opportunities for learning to become transformative, according to the RAT framework (McHugh, 2014), as social media allows students’ work to be globally accessible and interactable. The recent invention of online crowdfunding provides simplified methods of donation collection that remove barriers, such as differences in currency or payment method, in addition to the ability for supporters to see ongoing developments and receive rewards dependant on the size or nature of their donations. Limitations that would need to be taken into account include the fact that any use of social media or online publicising may pose privacy concerns or risks. These risks would need to be negotiated with parents and school administrative staff in advance. Administration of monetary donations may be best handled by an adult to avoid legal issues. Risks may also need to be assessed in advance, depending on what kinds of causes and work students choose to devote themselves to.

The second possibility I’ve considered, though a bit more complicated to implement, I think has incredible potential. It is integration of digital simulations. An example of this is demonstrated in the below video (Institute of Play, 2013b).

In this example, students used the city building and management simulator, SimCity. Each lesson, students were given a goal to accomplish, though how this goal was achieved was left up to the students themselves. Two boys are shown discussing considerations for the design of their city such as energy production, cost, pollution generation and job creation. The impact of implementing this kind of learning would be that students would have access to authentic feeling learning expriences and to act in authoritative roles and observe the consequences of their actions and decisions. Classroom work could be given as broad goals, giving students autonomy over the methods they utilise to achieve these goals and allowing their own decision-making processes to be reflected upon. The benefits of this would be heightened levels of student engagement, due to learning being situated (Hanks, 1991). This method of learning, like my first example, is transformative in nature as this simulation software can harness the Internet to allow the decisions that students make to impact other students. In fact, SimCity itself has this functionality as players “in a region can share or sell resources, and work together” (Vore, 2012). The cost of implementing this kind of technology in schools would not be any more expensive than other forms of software often licensed for educational use. Teachers overseeing this kind of learning would need to have a strong understanding of the software in advance to ensure that goals set for students were achievable within the functionality of the software. The greatest limitations with implementing a solution of this kind would be the limited selection and quality of software that is currently produced. Simulations of this kind can be extremely expensive to develop. Increased interest and collaboration between software developers and educational institutions would likely help to resolve this.

Overall, the examples of networked learning I’ve been exposed to from taking this course have really opened my eyes to the ways that transformational learning tools can be harnessed to dramatically improve students’ engagement and attitudes to learning.

References

Carr, N. (2010). The shallows. New York: W.W. Norton.

Cochrane, P. (2012). Internet freedom: Why we must throw off our online shackles. TechRepublic. Retrieved 6 September 2016, from http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/european-technology/internet-freedom-why-we-must-throw-off-our-online-shackles/

Connected Learning Alliance,. (2012). Connected Learning: Interest, Peer Culture, Opportunities. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/37639766

Hanks, W. (1991). Situated learning (p. 4). Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press.

Harley, R. (2008). The Fall of the Wall: Beyond Walled Gardens in Higher Education. Brisbane: ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation. Retrieved from http://stereopresence.net/newsblog/the-fall-of-the-wall-beyond-walled-gardens-in-higher-education

Institute of Play,. (2013a). Charles Raben, 9th Grade Student at Quest to Learn. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/59098372

Institute of Play,. (2013b). SimCityEDU: Engaging 21st Century Learners. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/77705483

Ito, M., Gutiérrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., Rhodes, J., & Salen, K. et al. (2013). Connected learning: An agenda for research and design (p. 5). Irvine: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. Retrieved from http://dmlhub.net/wp-content/uploads/files/Connected_Learning_report.pdf

McHugh, S. (2014). The RAT, SAMr, Transformative Technology, & Occam’s Razor. Digital Literacy Blog. Retrieved from http://doverdlc.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/the-rat-samr-transformative-technology.html

Vore, B. (2012). Interview: A New Multiplayer Focus. Gameinformer.com. Retrieved 7 September 2016, from http://www.gameinformer.com/games/simcity/b/pc/archive/2012/07/06/interview-a-new-multiplayer-focus.aspx

As a student, participation in NGL was useful to me

When first looking through the assessment information for this course, I thought the assignment tasks looked quite easy. A few blog posts didn’t seem too daunting. After a few weeks had passed, I started to realise that networked learning assessment methods were quite different to any other kind of study I had undertaken before. I was initially slow to post on my blog. Assessment was much more formative than I was used to. This kind of assessment couldn’t be completed within a short period of time, like an essay or report. I had to free up a lot more time to dedicate myself to doing work every day. I wasn’t confident what I was posting was relevant enough or being done correctly. Seeing other students struggling with the same dilemmas definitely helped ease my mind. Eventually this lead me to realise that the blog belonged to me and that I was responsible for what was relevant and needed to independently direct the course that blog posts took. With a small number of students in the course and each of us working at different times, it was sometimes difficult to find posts to respond to. This was a challenge that Angela, Brigitte, Miranda and Natalie all reported similar feelings about. I overcame this hurdle when I was encouraged to reach outside of the course for sources and communities to respond to.

Networked learning (a form of facilitated learning), in my opinion, can be a mixture of formal, non-formal and informal education. While formal teaching methods have traditionally been popular in school settings, non-formal and informal methods of teaching are still yet to be fully legitimised in many parts of the world (UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning, 2006). I think that NGL hasn’t yet been widely adopted by educational institutions due to the amount of trust that needs to be placed in students to independently take control of their learning and produce appropriate and sufficient amounts of evidence to prove that learning has taken place. With traditional teaching methods, even with minimal effort from students, evidence of learning can often be produced through simple reproduction of facts that have been supplied to students. There may be a fear that, as most students have spent their academic lives working under formal learning conditions, sudden implementation of non-formal and informal learning will require excessive amounts of time and effort to allow students to adjust. Non-formal and informal teaching methods often illicit negative responses from students. A blog post by Maryellen Weimer (2014) illustrates the negative responses some students exhibited when transference of accountability for learning shifted from the teacher to the students. Student centred learning was misinterpreted as laziness, unprofessionalism or lack of care on the teacher’s part. This response from students may sometimes be due to misuse and misunderstanding by some teachers of facilitative learning teaching methods, however I believe the solution to this problem is clearer communication and demonstration of the benefits of facilitated learning.

Using networked learning this semester has helped me in variety of ways. It has allowed me to see that other students are similar to me and often face the same hurdles while trying to grasps new concepts. This improved my confidence and helped me to affirm that my understanding of readings and the processes I was using were correct. Learning through observation of other students, known as “peer learning” , is an integral aspect of all courses. Without it, students are believed to experience “an impoverished education” (Boud, 2001). Being able to observe the work that other students had produced, both this semester and in prior semesters, allowed me to analyse how other students had planned out their writing projects and use these models to improve my own work. David’s feedback to the blog postings of others helped me to correct similar misunderstandings that I held myself and avoid making similar mistakes in my own postings.

The concept of “multiperspectivity” refers to the idea that evaluation and presentation from multiple viewpoints provides a more accurate and holistic interpretation of events or ideas than the more “perceptually, epistemologically or ideologically restricted nature of individual perspectives” (Hartner, 2012). Learning through posting and communicating on my blog allowed me to draw attention to my failings and use them as opportunities for learning and development. My peers regularly responded to my concerns with constructive suggestions and feedback that greatly enriched my learning experiences and helped me understand things from perspectives that I wouldn’t have been able to see alone. Being exposed to a range of perspectives helped me to remodel my erroneous conceptual understanding of various topics by confronting my personal beliefs, forcing me to “construct scientifically more correct models” (Zirbel, 2006).

Sharing our thoughts and findings with each other and developing a blog over time allowed us to build our understanding incrementally through sharing of independent research that was of genuine interest to us. Having control over the ideas we explored promoted intrinsic motivation. Incremental learning meant that the development of our understanding was an active process. This made learning constructivist in nature, building progressively upon knowledge as we acquired it (Pagán, 2006). Blogging allowed me to learn at my own pace and I developed genuine feelings of pride as my posts become more frequent, higher quality and of interest to others.

The social bookmarking system, Diigo, has been an excellent tool, as annotations left by other students was of great help.  Members of the group acted as highly effective identifiers of information of key relevance and through its use I was connected to informative artefacts that built upon knowledge I had discovered independently. I feel that if I had built closer social bonds with fellow students, I would have been more confident sharing with others. I often worried at times, that my own interests didn’t align with those of my classmates. A blog post by Tania Sheko (2014) expressed similar feelings of being excited by the potential of this application but feeling a need to build stronger connections with Diigo group members. Similarly, the news aggregating application, Feedly, has been an excellent time-saver for sourcing and filtering news feeds for articles relevant to my needs. A huge benefit of both these applications has been that bookmarked content was archived, making it easily accessible from almost any computer or mobile device connected to the Internet. My only criticism of these tools, at their current stage of development, is that they can be a little complicated to setup and this could present a minor obstacle to some users. My own web browser of choice (Safari) was not well supported, however I felt integration with other browsers was accomplished well.

Now that I have experienced and better understand these benefits, I am excited to continue, after completing this course, blogging, sharing and connecting for both professional and personal development.

References

Boud, D. (2001). Peer learning in higher education (pp. 1-17). London: Kogan Page.

Hartner, M. (2012). Multiperspectivity – the living handbook of narratology. Wikis.sub.uni-hamburg.de. Retrieved 2 September 2016, from http://wikis.sub.uni-hamburg.de/lhn/index.php/Multiperspectivity

UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning,. (2006). Non-formal education and basic education reform: a conceptual review (p. 13). Paris: International Institute for Educational Planning. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/iiep/PDF/pubs/K16.pdf

Pagán, B. (2006). Positive Contributions of Constructivism to Educational Design. Europe’S Journal Of Psychology, 2(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.5964/ejop.v2i1.318

Sheko, T. (2014). HYPER-CONNECTED LEARNING – USING DIIGO TO SHARE REFLECTIONS ON A POST REFLECTING ON ANOTHER POST. Brave New World. Retrieved from http://taniasheko.com/connected-courses-2/hyper-connected-learning-using-diigo-to-share-reflections-on-a-post-reflecting-on-another-post/

Weimer, M. (2014). “She Didn’t Teach. We Had to Learn it Ourselves.”. FACULTY FOCUS. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/didnt-teach-learn/

Zirbel, E. (2006). Teaching to Promote Deep Understanding and Instigate Conceptual Change (1st ed., p. 1). Medford, Massachusetts: Tufts University. Retrieved from http://cosmos.phy.tufts.edu/~zirbel/ScienceEd/Teaching-for-Conceptual-Change.pdf

As a learner, participation in NGL was useful for me

Upon beginning this course I embarrassingly had the idea that studies of networked learning entirely revolved around the development and implementation of networked computer assisted education software. I’m glad that this course has helped me to understand that, while technology is a major part of this area of study, the concepts of networked learning extend beyond technology and can be applied in almost any scenario where learning takes place. Having this very limited understanding of networked learning led me to believe that I had only been exposed to it in highly formal settings. Some examples that come to mind include open university courses and educational software utilised at a private English school I was employed at in Indonesia.

As I progressed through the course texts and became a more active member of our EDU8117 blogging community, reading other members’ posts and responding with my own thoughts and opinions, I began to recognise the frequent and various ways that I was exposed to networked learning in day-to-day non-formal and informal learning experiences. When playing complex and ever-evolving online strategy games, I often used the website Reddit to share the findings of experiments I had conducted to uncover statistics and data that was kept deliberately hidden by the developers of the games. Other members of these Reddit communities would peer-review my conclusions and report back with their own research to verify the accuracy of my findings. When undertaking casual independent study in pursuit of my own personal interests (languages, programming and maths), I often encounter concepts that I can not fully comprehend from textbook reading alone. This usually leads me to seek answers from YouTube videos that provide the information I seek in a condensed and simplified format. I many times contemplated improving on these videos by simplifying them further and producing my own YouTube tutorials. When living as an expatriate, working overseas, information about government services and obligations was rarely available in English. I frequently turned to and lent a hand to other members of expatriate communities to ask for and share information that was difficult to source elsewhere.

For this course, I chose to use NGL to improve my knowledge and skill at the popular board game “Settlers of Catan”. This is a game that I already possessed a shallow level of knowledge about. My limited experience playing the game with friends had been highly enjoyable. I learnt some great new strategies and online communities proved themselves to be extremely supportive and generous with their time. This led me to be more involved and communicative, rather than the more passive observer (a “lurker”) I had been in the past. Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) distinguishes motivation into two most basic forms, intrinsic and extrinsic. I had hoped that this activity would promote a great deal of intrinsic motivation as I wanted my drive to make frequent blog posts on my learning journey to be “self-sustaining” (“Motivating Students”, 2016). Unfortunately I was a little disappointed with the level of intrinsic motivation I was able to achieve. Ryan (2000) believes that the defining characteristic of intrinsic motivation is “doing something because it is inherently interesting or enjoyable” (Ryan & Deci, 2000). I wonder if perhaps the act of turning an activity into an academic assessment influenced me to become extrinsically motivated. I was often consciously aware that my actions were driven by a need to produce assessable blog posts. I believe this obstacle could have been overcome if my interest in the target  learning was greater.

While undertaking this course, I transitioned from residing in Japan to residing in Adelaide. In making this transition, I lost physical connection with many of my friends, who had introduced me to the board game and drove me to play it regularly. It was not only the board game but the socialisation with these people who fuelled my interest. A post by Vaught (2013), echoes similar thoughts, albeit on a much deeper evolutionary level, by analysing the phenomena of veterans of massively multiplayer online gaming communities lamenting that they had better experiences in older virtual worlds that placed players in more challenging and less fair conditions. Vaught argues that in many highly social activities, the activity itself is not the real source of motivation, but the community that has been built around it. He explains this phenomena by linking it to concepts of evolutionary self-preservation. “The purpose of a social group and the level it takes is often dictated by how well it serves to promote the survival of the members” (Taflinger, 1996) meaning that networked learning may derive motivation from its inherent social aspects at a much more primal level.

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Situated learning, the concept that learning best occurs “when embedded in a situation where the activity, belief, behaviour or culture to be learned is taking place” (Huggard, 2015), was touched on in our weekly course readings. Ascertaining whether learning is situated involves knowing the answer to the question “what kinds of social engagements provide the proper context for learning to take place” (Hanks, 1991). Situated learning can be divided into four elements; content, context, community and participation. Content refers to the learner’s application and reflection on knowledge and skills in daily life. While I was able to gain valuable information from online communities, moving overseas meant that I lost the ability to test this new knowledge against my group of friends who were able to challenge my current level of play. While knowledge acquired from online communities could be applied to a limited extent in daily life situations, being able to first see its application in board gaming contexts would have provided a much stronger frame of reference to draw comparisons. Context requires an instructional environment provide usage of the target knowledge or skills at the right time, place and situation (incidental learning). This again was something that I lost access to. With these two elements not sufficiently met, I feel my learning was not situated and may have contributed to my lack of intrinsic motivation.

Learning how to motivate myself and what motivations work best is ultimately a skill I am developing over time and this experience has been valuable in helping me better understand how to facilitate optimal learning experiences.

References

Deci, E. & Ryan, R. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Hanks, W. (1991). Situated learning (p. 4). Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press.

Huggard, D. (2015). Situated Learning Theory. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rCwwUT9t04

Motivating Students. (2016). Cft.vanderbilt.edu. Retrieved 5 September 2016, from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/motivating-students/#intrinsic

Ryan, R. & Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 55. http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/ceps.1999.1020

Taflinger, R. (1996). Social Basis of Human Behavior. Public.wsu.edu. Retrieved 5 September 2016, from http://public.wsu.edu/~taflinge/socself.html