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

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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)

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/

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

Filter Bubbles

In a previous post, David brought the concept of the “filter bubble to my attention. While I was partially aware of the concepts behind the filter bubble I had never investigated the effects of them in detail.

Filter-Bubble-Over-Personalised-Internet-Behrouz-JafarnezhadA filter bubble is usually the result of systems that personalise the information that is viewable to individual users. Filter bubbles are encountered when using services including Google Web Search (Google), the Facebook social networking site (Facebook), YouTube (Google) and Windows 10 (Microsoft). These companies, as well as many others, attempt to provide more “relevant” and “personalised” information and content based on what they know and assume about individual users. This filtering is usually done to achieve more efficient and enjoyable experiences for users and increase the chances of users encountering content that they are likely to spend money on. Customers should be happier and corporations should be more profitable.

Unfortunately, as outlined in the youtube video below, this is not always what users want or in their best interest.

I find it extremely uncomfortable thinking that corporations have control over what content I am able to see and not see. Why should they decide what news or social causes I should be made aware of? Corporations and governments have their own interests that may conflict with my own. Taking this into account, I don’t believe it is an intelligent course of action to rely on them to recommend what content is most relevant to my own needs.

Another interesting concept attached to filter bubbles is the idea of the “echo chamber”.  “Echo chamber” is a metaphorical term to describe situations where information, beliefs and ideas are  amplified through repetition within a closed environment. Filter bubbles create closed environments limiting the diversity of discussion users are exposed to within online communities. Studies have found that this promotes more extreme views and lowers open intellectual discussion (Del Vicario et al., 2016).

So how can we avoid filter bubbles? One suggestion is to use anonymous modes that are built in to most web browsers. This can hide your identity from websites, limiting their ability identify and make assumptions about you. Unfortunately, online tracking has become much more complex than many are aware of and there is no way to truly know if you are still browsing within a filter bubble or not. As a student, I think it is important for me to become more aware of who is supplying the information that I am exposed to, what their motivations are and what kind of liberties they are taking to “personalise” my experiences.

Update: I’ve just noticed an earlier post by Brigitte touched on this same subject. Her analysis brings up some excellent points.

Reference

Del Vicario, M., Bessi, A., Zollo, F., Petroni, F., Scala, A., & Caldarelli, G. et al. (2016). The spreading of misinformation online. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, 113(3), 554-559. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1517441113

A Response to “SAMR Lenses” and “LEARNING AND THE SAMR MODEL”

Angela and Brigitte’s posts on the SAMR model both brought up some excellent points. I agree with them that the model does an excellent job of helping us categorise and identify how and to what extent our use of technology is changing student learning.

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I have a difference of opinion with Brigitte’s suggestion that her blog work would be considered a Substitution in the SAMR model. I agree that if there are no viewers of a blog, it offers little more than a personal journal, however I still believe that it’s digital nature would place it in the Augmentation classification.

I hold this view because blogs allow for “real-time” viewing of changes as they are made and the ability for audience members to peer review through the use of commenting systems. Multimedia content can also be presented directly on the blog. Lastly, it is possible for multiple users to have access to and upload to a single blog. This allows for a great deal of simultaneous collaboration to take place, creating the potential for large scale blog networks such as those maintained by Gawker Media (soon to be shutdown). This connects with the ideas presented in earlier week 3 readings (Dron & Anderson, 2014).

References

Dron, J. & Anderson, T. (2014). Teaching crowds (pp. 71-92). Athabasca: Athabasca University Press.

Response to “Learning analytics and beyond”

I really enjoyed reading Brigitte’s post about her concerns with data collection by universities. This is an area that I have strong views on and am very concerned about the direction public opinion is moving. Social media giants (Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter etc) have created social norms that promote the idea that sharing is right, and by extension, safe. An environment has now developed, where discussion or protest about the lack of transparency regarding retention and usage of our personal data is often met with accusations of being anti-social, paranoid or supportive of criminal activities.

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Two Pew Research Center surveys found that many Americans hold “exceedingly low levels of confidence in the privacy and security of the records that are maintained by a variety of institutions in the digital age” (Madden & Rainee, 2015). Interestingly, closer to home, a report by the Centre for Internet Safety found that “overall, women feel more secure than men online, and younger people (18-29 years old) feel more secure than older people (50+ years old)” (2012). So why is there not greater protest for governments to better protect the privacy of citizens? One reason may be that corporations and institutions are deliberately making their terms of service and privacy tools excessively difficult for users to understand (Bryant, 2010).

I think the answer to this issue is evident. New laws need to be made that give citizens the ability to better protect their own data and personal information. Corporations and institutions need to be more transparent about the data they collect and held accountable, when privacy laws are breached. Unfortunately, I think there is little chance of these changes occurring, while those with the power to create and enforce new legislation and influence public opinion are benefitting from easy access to the personal data of unwitting populations. Perhaps when the inconvenience of personal data being unprotected finally reaches a breaking point, sufficient pressure will be placed on governments to bring about necessary change.

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References

Bryant, M. (2010). Users Tell Facebook: You’re Too Confusing. The Next Web. Retrieved 20 August 2016, from http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2010/04/06/users-facebook-confusing/

Centre for Internet Safety (UC). (2012) (p. 1). Canberra. Retrieved from http://www.canberra.edu.au/cis/storage/Australian%20Attitutdes%20Towards%20Privacy%20Online.pdf

Madden, M. & Rainee, L. (2015). Americans’ Attitudes About Privacy, Security and Surveillance. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved 20 August 2016, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/05/20/americans-attitudes-about-privacy-security-and-surveillance/

Me as a Student

What is your educational background?

I completed a bachelor degree in languages after high school and worked in schools part-time while completing this degree. For my final year I studied abroad in Yogyakarta, central Java. That was an amazing experience and fuelled my love for working overseas. The following year I worked as an English teacher in the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta.

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Yogyakarta, 2008

I began to worry that I needed a “serious” career and came back to Australia. I completed a diploma of network engineering and worked for two years in the IT industry. While I was successful, I grew to realise that working in an office wasn’t for me and I really missed working in classrooms.

I quit my junior systems admin job and applied for the JET Programme in Japan. I was successful and spent 4.5 years working in public elementary and junior high schools. I’ll never forget the experiences and friendships I made during that time. While working in Japan, I decided to improve my professional credentials by taking a Master of Education at USQ. I thought it would be a simple matter of some light study during break times and after work. Boy was I wrong. I’ve found my online education experience very stressful as I rarely felt any connection to my course mates or teachers. I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved as I’m now in my final semester of study but it’s been a difficult journey. There’s truth in my father’s comments on the situation, “if it were easy, everyone would have a masters degree”. 

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Kobe, 2016

I’ve now been back in Adelaide for almost 2 weeks and am going through reverse culture shock. I’ve returned to apply for an on-campus course to gain teacher accreditation. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to work in classrooms again!

Group, Network or Collective?

 

Are the participants of NGL a group, network, collective or something else?

groupSimilarly to Natalie’s post (“Groups, Networks, Sets, Collectives”, 2016), I believe that participants of NGL (a university subject I am currently undertaking) are a group. I will justify this statement by addressing some of the criteria laid out by Dron and Anderson (2014).

Each can play a role in the learning experience for anyone affected by them.”

Our experiences in our shared journey to better understand the topics we are studying influence one another. The postings and responses that each of us make have an influence on all other students who take time to read them. Assessment activity 2 requires peer review, which will directly influence the decisions each student makes when developing their final essay.

Groups often have formal lines of authority and roles.

Each member of the course has a designated role as either an enrolled student or, in David’s case, the teacher. These roles govern our behaviour and responsibilities.

They (groups) are structured around particular tasks or activities.

Our course is structured around successfully completing the two assigned assessment tasks. Upon completion of these tasks, our goals will have been achieved and the group will disperse. Does this mean that groups are time based? Does each new semester of this NGL course mean a new group is created or that the same group continues as members change? I believe the latter is true. The purpose of the group is what defines it, not its members.

Groups often have schedules: members frequently use and create opportunities to meet face-to-face or online through synchronous activities, and their modes of interaction are typically many-to-many or one-to-many.

This too, is true for the NGL participants. Assignments have specified due dates and postings need to be made frequently. A Zoom session has also been conducted to allow real-time communication.

References

Dron, J. & Anderson, T. (2014). Teaching Crowds: Learning and Social Media. Athabasca: Athabasca University Press.

Groups, Networks, Sets, Collectives. (2016). Nat8117. Retrieved from http://nat8117.weebly.com/teacher/week-3