hacking project-based learning

Audrey Watters shared Scott Gray’s post about Code Academy from which a discussion began about how programming should be best learnt and therefore taught.

I argued that self-paced learning and instruction only has a minor role in authentic learning at that modern technology makes project based learning possible for all learners, including novices.

While we see projects as starting with a blank canvas, attempting to re-create a known (by the teacher) solution to a known problem (valued by no one), we undervalue what modern technology makes possible. Modern technology makes it possible to easily build upon other people’s work, to pull it apart, improve it and learn from it.

Relevant, contextual, accurate and authentic.

what does modern learning look like?

…. iterative, participatory and collective.

Modern learning is iterative where technology is used to learn in small increments and inform (and validate) the next steps. This process enables us to learn where solutions (and often problems) are unknown.

Modern learners use social networking (twitter el at) to transparently share and narrate their learning and by doing so invite others to influence them resulting in better decisions. Greater participation leads to being better informed.

Modern learning is not isolated, individual, personal sense making but rather highly interconnected with other passionate co-learners.

influence overload

We determine when we are influenced.

If we share something a learning intention, a learning activity or a finished product, we invite feedback, we invite intervention but for this to happen we need engaged influencers who want to respond. They may seek to influence us because they are co-workers and their success relies on our success. They may seek to influence us because they have  an emotional attachment to either us personally or the object of our learning or activity.

We can also be influenced by others through observing them.

But who do we observe and when do we observe them?

Do we observe the experts, who probably won’t be able to assist us when we attempt to imitate them?

Do we only observe the competent or do we also observe the incompetent, is learning what not to do as important as learning what to do?

Do we observe as many as we can, seeking the richness that diversity brings but risking being overwhelmed?

who do you follow, who follows you?

Tony pointed to Seth Godin’s post on the trap of social media noise. I agree with Seth and have posted recently that social networking can be more powerful than numbers.

I also posted this morning some thoughts about how we might encourage the most desirable and beneficial types of social interactions but I didn’t post my twitter rules, so here they are:

1. Follow only those who follow back

This is because I believe twitter is about conversations and learning together (collectively) people who don’t follow me back stop me from using Twitter the way in which I want to use it.  I generally give people about three weeks and then I unfollow them.  At the start of 2011 I unfollowed all of the experts (and others) about 150 people who didn’t follow me, and I have never missed them!

I must admit I’m not a huge follower of people, I never spend time looking for new people to follow, something I may reassess in 2012.

2. Share  your findings (successes and failures), your activities and your intentions

My network has the ability to influence me, allowing me to make better choices that lead to better outcomes. The ability for the network to influence is limited by what I share and the immediacy in which I share.  For example, when writing I throw out ideas and see if they gain any traction, immediate feedback….really powerful. The fact that I limit my tweets to my work and learning may help, but then again if I was studying catering I may tweet what I’m having for lunch 🙂

3. Be diverse

I’m not limited by Dunbar’s Number (although the longer posts in Google Plus for example means this is a special Twitter rule) but I still think some rules are needed. Follow everyone back that is an individual, who isn’t trying to sell something and isn’t trying to play the numbers game that Seth is talking about.


Having followed these three rules for almost a year, I truly believe that not only has my Twitter experience been enhanced but that I have achieved learning outcomes I would not have otherwise. Go on, try it….



encouraging the right kind of social interactions

I’m currently writing about how social networking, particularly micro-blogging and narrating your work, can transform  personalisation by enabling self-directed learners to be better informed and therefore make better learning choices. In order for this to be successful, learners need to share appropriate information about their learning, moving from sharing their products through to sharing their learning activities and intentions. But sharing the “right stuff” is only half the battle, we also need to encourage and reward influencers to respond.

Social, seamless/frictionless sharing offers new opportunities for self-directed learners to be better informed and therefore make better choices at all times not only when they are seeking assistance.

We’re looking at a February release date for the white paper(s), if you are wondering 🙂

How Humana Used The Socialcast API For Rapid Web Dev details the nice way they have used aspects of social gaming to encourage and reward desirable use and interactions. It is worth a read.

measuring what matters, Global 2 trivia

I’ve been looking at the figures of the Global 2 blogging community, and it seems that there has been around a four fold increase overall in the number of blog posts published and comments made in 2011 as opposed to 2010.

Some trivia:

Arts Blog had the biggest comment to post ratio with 58 comments per post.

All Happening! blog published the most posts in 2011, 824 in total.

Mr Shiell’s Classroom Blog post Family Blogging Challenge had the most comments for a single post, 219.

We also have posts and comments per blog,  posts and comments per school and the number of visitors, but to be honest these figures don’t mean much at all. So how do we move beyond vanity metrics, and how do we understand the quality of the conversations that are happening in student blogs?

Our next step is use content analysis to examine a sample of the posts and comments.  We’ll look at the function of the blog post or comment, what the author was trying to achieve, for this we will use the Collective Knowledge Construction model described in the Understanding Virtual Pedagogies for Contemporary Teaching and Learning white paper. This will help us to understand whether the blog is simply show and tell or whether rich interconnected mean making is occurring, or somewhere in between!

We will also record whether the blog is a class blog, a student’s blog or a teacher’s blog. We will also record the broad theme of what the blog was about.

This will give us a rich picture of how Victorian students and teachers are using their Global 2 blogs, but it is a slow process, maybe it is just easier to look at the vanity metrics.


when we speak about inquiry based learning

When we speak about why modern technology enables a transformed inquiry -based learning is far more desirable and effective model for our schools than the transmission of content, we still need to clear about the role and place of content.

Larry Sanger has recently written a piece on why content is still important and why inquiry-based learning is folly. I’m not sure if Larry is deliberately try to mislead the discussion but it serves as a reminder for those of us who are championing a pedagogy and curriculum that uses modern technology to enable inquiry-based learning, that we need to clearly articulate the role of content in the learning process.

1. Students learn content and facts as they undertake inquiry-based learning but the content is needed.  This has the major benefit over the transmission of facts as it provides a context and a opportunity to validate the learning.  The context also gives indication of what is needed to be learnt.  The design of inquiry-based projects are therefore crucial. This is not to suggest that content is the only goal, learning how to learn effectively and autonomously is also the goal.

2. Instruction from experts still has a role (although to much lesser extent) with inquiry-based learning, there are still non-negotiable instruction that needs to occur as determined by the teacher.

Do education systems really resist innovation?

An article on Techcrunch today explains that Technology Cannot Disrupt Education From The Top Down suggesting that the US “education system resists innovation at every turn.”

Or could it be that the “innovations” given as examples are not really innovations at all, just people trying to sell stuff?

The challenge for all stakeholders is to demonstrate and clearly articulate, how the innovative use of modern technology can change the nature of how students to learn together.

Technology changes the nature of what we can achieve together

I’ve been looking into group project management/communication applications, so far Asana and Do seem really interesting.

Why are they so interesting, well as Justin Rosenstein (of Asana) says near the start of the video below, its not just about being faster and more productive but that technology “changes the nature of the kind of projects we can take on together”. I agree, and I believe that there is great scope for students using collaborate and social project management applications in their inquiry-based learning.



Why I don’t think we fully appreciate social networking

Gary Stager pointed to Joe Bower’s post on why he doesn’t like the edublog awards, I don’t like them either but to me it is a non-issue as I don’t think any sensible person takes any award seriously. Awards generally measure vanity metrics, and by doing so trivialise the object of the award, in this case blogging and the power of modern technology.

When reading the comments one of Gary’s statements caught my eye.

Gary writes “Social media IS junior high school. It’s all about counting followers, “friends,” retweets and the number of comments” I think social media is far more than, sure some people might act like that but unlike high school we don’t have to interact with them.

Social media/networking allows learners to achieve beyond what they could without modern technology. Social media takes knowledge construction from being individual and personal to being collaborative and collective. Social media enables self-directed learners to better informed and therefore make better choices. Social media radically changes the nature of projects and inquiry-based learning.

Yes, people can get caught up in follower counts, but to reduce social networking to that is to miss the power and the point.