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 Forum on Quality - Week I

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Quality standards set by communities of knowledge – are they necessarily conservative?
I. Are the expectations from teachers too conflicting and demanding?
II. The context of quality evaluation
III. Constructivist Approaches

Every group while undergoing a process needs time for warming up. This may be the reason why people find it easier to contact us personally outside the virtual forum. There is no way to enjoy the facilities of the Web Forum other than overcoming the initial difficulties. The input, large or small, of everyone of you will make this process advance.

I. Latest Resources in our Forum

1. In the Forum Herve Legenvre expands on the concept of scientific paradigm as applied to innovation. To see all the thread you need open each of the messages.

2. Rimon Levi tell us that he thinks that extent of use (popularity?) is a good measure of quality of resources in the Web.

3. Edwin James the Chairman of the OECD Group on ICT and Quality of Learning suggested several resources for our discussion “The first is the ICT and the Quality of Learning project site, with records of activities, publications and papers. The second refers specifically to the publication Learning to Bridge the Digital Divide.
In addition, to be published (I hope) on 8 November is Learning to Change - ICT in Schools, which looks extensively at the issues for quality use of ICT, extending to enhanced teacher professionalism and home-school partnerships.”
These resources are now in the Links Treasury section of our Forum.

We have had many visitors to the Forum ( 38 ) but still not many contributions to the discussion. It occurred to me that we, are actually engaged in a little experiment that reflects the larger issues we are to discuss:

II. Exploring new environments

1. To all of us the Virtual Workshop is a completely new environment. The EUN Web Team which designed and set it up dedicated a lot of thought to have all the necessary functions in place for supporting online learning:

  • A non-formal space called the Bulletin Board.
  • The alternative for one to one and one to many mailings with CMAIL;
  • Online synchronous chats that can be established from accessed from the list of members
  • The opportunity to upload documents and create a library of resources by the moderators and the participants;
  • A Links Treasury where we can suggest interesting links and comment on them.
  • The main Forum where we can make observations regarding the questions being proposed; propose new issues; develop threads of discussion.

2. We need to master a task similar to that teachers have when confronted with the need to incorporate ICT in their work: experiment, explore the new environment, try alternatives buttons and see what happens, what works and what doesn’t and so on.

3. In such new environment, most of us is lead by mixed motives. We are afraid to blunder; perhaps with unintended consequences; it is not clear if the time needed to master the environment is worth the trouble and so on…

4. If we overcome these initial anxieties we may discover that we are able to map the functions of the new environment; discover its rationality; to become able to transform an unknown place into an area full of tools that may be employed and to relate through them to the task at hand and with other people with similar concerns.

5. The seminal author regarding curiosity and exploration is Berlyne, see:
“Curiosity is the motivation to discover new knowledge when faced with an unfamiliar situation (Berlyne, 1971). It promotes self-directed learning by rewarding behavior that results in the assimilation of new knowledge.
Berlyne, D. E.: 1971, Aesthetics and Psychobiology, Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York...things are boring if either too much or too little is known about them (Schmidhuber, 1997). Schmidhuber, J.: 1997,
What's interesting? Technical Report TR-35-97, IDSIA, Lugano, Switzerland.

III. Are we a community?

The common element among the 135 persons registered for our Virtual Workshop is their professional involvement with issues related to innovation in education, Quality in various contexts, ICT in education. Many of us are participating in other fora dealing with the same issues. Prometeus; CEN/ISSS Learning Technologies Workshop; the OECD working groups on ICT and the Quality of Learning; the ETB team; the EUN network and others.

Will we be able, following the expected give and take in this virtual environment
to make the transition from a loosely assembled community of users of a Web space into a more substantially focused team with an agenda that includes the various aspects of Quality of Web-based learning resources and the related areas of the development of norms, resistance of change, the development of communities of practice and work teams, the concept of knowledge…?

See you at the Forum !

Dov Winer
admin@makash.org.il



I. Are the expectations from teachers too conflicting and demanding?

The background document for the workshop on “Teachers Role and Teacher Training” (EUN Conference 2000) states:

(see:http://www.eun.org/conference2000/Docs/workshop4.doc)

“…teachers are not just called to change or adapt their classroom practice. They are called to get to grips with a ‘culture of change’, that requires new learning skills and roles for both teachers and students. (…)

Training entails the notions of professional accountability as well as self-fulfillment and development. This is linked to a general problem of teachers ‘professionalism’ as defined by the multiplicity of stakeholders in teacher’s work. In our societies, teachers are meant to be serving the pupils, the parents, the local community, the schools, the whole society, ending up with some kind of ‘need overload’, if not conflict, tension and anxiety. (…)

It has been argued that increased intensification of teacher’s work, the increased demand for continuous professionalisation as well as de-/re-skilling have led to a situation that deprives teachers of essential control of their work and the ability to respond to or initiate change. (…)

Would the consequence of the demands for innovation and change made on teachers by different  and contradictory constituencies lead to a conservative entrenchment reaction?

II. The context of quality evaluation

The dominance of values for innovation and change versus those perpetuating existing traditional practices in an ICT rich environment may be related to the context in which the evaluation of the resources takes place.

The paper “Web-Enabled Communities of Practice”
(see:http://www.knexsis.com/Press&Pubs/White_paper_COP.pdf) by Martin Roulleaux Dugage  presents the following diagram prepared by Dirk Mahling (mahling@sis.pitt.edu).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He states  that a community of practice is very different from a community of interest or a geographical community, neither of which implies shared practices and learning. The diagram positions different types of communities according to organizational reach and member cohesiveness. Work teams are focused on a common mission; communities of practice are gathered around common tasks and processes. Members actually share their experience, methods and techniques with a common objective, which can be (1) to provide a problem-solving forum for community members. (2) to organize, manage and service a body of knowledge (3) to innovate and create ideas, knowledge and practices.

Best practice communities are more loosely tied together. Members share knowledge as a benchmarking exercise with the expectation that others will put it into use. Communities of interest assemble people with different and possibly conflicting goals, with different work processes and different language. An Economic Web is what e-portals and e-marketplaces call their “community” - typically a customer base of people who regularly visit the site for content.

Dugage puts the three core questions related to the definition of a community of practice as being: (1) What is it about (2) How it works (3) What it produces. If those dimensions are made clear to participants such communities can thrive. This means that communities need to be managed.

Would teachers, while voting anonymously on their preferences for educational resources in the Internet express conservative and traditional preferences adequate to their usual mode of teaching? On the other hand, while working in work teams or communities of practice with a task defined as the incorporation of the Internet in their curricula, would they express innovative tendencies?

Additional references on Communities of Practice:

III. Constructivist  Approaches

Gavriel Solomon (http://cybercon98.harvard.edu/wcm/sal_article.html ) addresses the (1) Nature of the learning outcomes expected from novel constructivist learning environments (2) The kind of mental organizations of knowledge students are likely to prefer as a consequence of constructing (3) The possible effects of navigating the information avalanche of the Internet on the construction of knowledge.

“Knowledge is believed to be actively constructed, tightly connected to the individual’s cognitive repertoire and to the context within which this activity takes place, hence it is situated. Accordingly the learner is more a maker than a spectator.“ (…) knowledge comes to serve one’s organization of the experiential world, not the discovery of an objective ontological reality (…). While the Piagetian cognitive development approach, emphasizes the individual and the way he or she construct knowledge, a socio-cultural approach emphasizes other aspects. (…It) is concerned mainly with the social process of interaction and participation, the socially-based appropriation of meaning, that is – with the way the situative social system, not just the individual, interactively operates to construct shared knowledge (…).

Salomon  asks what learning outcomes may be expected in a constructivist environment. Granting the reciprocal relations between the cognitive and the socio-cultural approaches to such environments, one is still left with the question of what learning outcomes – with the learning environments and of them are we to expect and evaluate? He alerts that with a few exceptions we tend to fall back (…) on the domesticated version of constructivism: The application of constructivist pedagogy to attain traditional goals. (…) limit constructivism to its practical delivery and technological aspects.

(…)

It may be argued that one of the most important and interesting outcomes of constructivist learning environments might be students’ improved ability to work in a team to solve new, complex and ill structured real-life problems, showing their coordinate abilities to access information and turn it into viable knowledge. Knowledge, then, would not be something possessed for its own sake, but rather something accessed and constructed when needed to solve a problem  or design something useful.

(…)

Activities such as constructing a hypermedia or multimedia product are of particular interest because exposure to the web-like, non-linear organization of information of hypermedia may be isomorphous to the way information becomes organized in one’s mind. (…) Meaning among other things is a function of the density, complexity and organization of such a cognitive web. The denser and better organized the web, the more does it function as a web of meaning. (…)

(…)

The Internet offers a seductive flood of information. (…) For the educator with the Internet, the whole world looks like a well of infinite knowledge. But does a flood of randomly accessed information aid in the construction of knowledge? Not very likely. Fascinated by the information highway, and quite unknowingly, we are drawn back to greatly esteem factual information, assuming that it is the major source of knowledge.

Additional references on  Constructivism:


Information:
Author: Dov Winer
Web Editor: Riina Vuorikari
Published: Tuesday, 11 Sep 2001
Last changed: Tuesday, 9 Oct 2001
Keywords: ETB, quality, workshop, forum, communities of knowledge, evaluation, constructivism

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