Critical Literacies and the Challenge of Online Learning with Stephen Downes #tesl15

1 pm on Friday, October 30

This is a liveblog, so I am hoping that what I am writing here will make sense. Also, this is my first time liveblogging, therefore I ask for your patience :)

I am in Stephen’s Downes session on critical literacies. The session happens to be during lunchtime so the audience is relatively small. Perhaps the #cdnelt community is not familiar with Stephen’s work and research in the area od educational technology and online learning and teaching, or perhaps it’s the lunchtime effect.

Aside from edtech and online learning, Stephen used to live in Manitoba, so another connection there. Currently, he works with the National Research Council.

Glen Cochrane introduced the featured speaker and mentioned that Stephen brings edtech and multidisciplinary approach to the conference.

Stephen started the session with a reference to LOLcats, images containg cats, or other animals, and grammaticaly incorrect text.

the MOOC – designed in such a way that can be taken by thousands of people. The first MOOC launched in 2008 had 2200 learners. After that Coursera, Udacity, edX, FutureLearn came about. There are thousands of MOOCs available now. xMOOC created by Standford focuses on content delivery, based on Khan Academy. Even though the first videos on Youtube were awful, they were immensely popular.

THere was no formal curriculum for the first MOOC. The designers created a network, where learners were assumed to create knowledge and learn from one another. On the other hand xMOOC provide the content.

Crticisms of MOOCs multifold

MOOC pedagogy was bad, is bad. The software created for them was awful. MOOC are mechanistic, do not egnage students. People are islotated, just looking at the computer. Types of participants, Stephen often falls into the observer category, like me. Event though a percentage of actual completions is small, it is a huge success to have those participants complete a course. *** Stephen is asking for a wider understanding of what a course is and what a participantion means. A wider conception of learning. He mentioend the morning breakfast buffet. Were we asked to start at the beginning and go step-by-step through to the end? No, you begin by finding your fork. Are they placed at the beginning of the table? soemtimes not. Newspapers – are we obliged to read every single article? No, we pick and choose. Excellent point!

In learning, the idea that you begin at a certain point and you move in a linear manner is irrational.

Common COre – bad idea, well executed. The importnat things is to understand whats going on, rahter then the formulas and principles. Language, all languages have a different approach to the verb to be. We want to go beyond the principles and rules.

What does it mean to be literate?

We need to get past the basci idea about meaning, comprehension and understanding.

Snow is white if and only snow is white. the search engine for emojis Stephen doesn’t know why people use them [laugh].

Meaning defined by what the word doesnt mean. Meaning is performative. Meaning is use.

The Critical Literacies

a heuristic device for understanding meaning, knowledge, science…see slides for the table

  • syntax – not just rules and grammar
  • semantics – purpose, goal, different ways of understanding meaning
  • pragmatics – use, actions, impact
  • cognition – what counrts as an inference, reasoning, explanation
  • context – placement, location, environment
  • change

Knowldege as recognition. Our knowledge itself is insufficient to account for these various dimensions of literacy. When we see our grandmother, we recognize her automatically.

To know something is to rezognize it.


Notes added after the session:

quite a mental task to listen to the presenter and try to write in an understandable prose

A colleague was looking for a link to my liveblog, and I am about to publish it now, so I might have misunderstood what a liveblog is :) Was I just taking notes? Next time I will try a google doc and share it.

Apologies for typos. Will not use WordPress on iPad again for this type of exercise.

digital footprint, digital tattoo, or digital immortality…

* re-blogged from my IDEL blog 

Immortality is the ability to live forever.  Biologically, humans are unable to live forever, although cloning might give us an opportunity to preserve our genes and create an eternal line of live: I could be cloned, and then my clone could be cloned, etc. In nature immortality is not unprecedented, one jellyfish Turritopsis dohrnii is capable of transforming itself into a younger self and cloning itself.

In his TED Talk Juan Fernandez refers to online tracks and traces as electronic tattoos. He claims that death is no longer the greatest threat for a human being, it’s outweighed by the immortality threat – the immortal threat of an electronic tattoo.

A digital tattoo seems like a more relevant metaphor to describe online presence than a digital footprint. Digital footprint seems too ephemeral; one can easily cover its tracks in RL: footprints can be covered with surrounding material or blown away by wind. Online presence is more permanent than that. However, a tattoo is visible as long as the human body it’s part of lives. This means neither a digital footprint nor a digital tattoo are permanent. Immortality sounds more appropriate to describe the longevity of the tracks and traces we leave behind. One advantage of the online immortality that comes to mind is family tracking, great-great-great-grand children won’t have problems finding out what their ancestors were up to.

I’ve created a little infographic to visualize the tracks and traces we leave and are left of us by others. I think the brick and mortar image is quite appropriate for the notion of immortality; the tracks and traces are there out in the open for all to see, permanent or until something intentional is done to delete them, e.g. the right to be forgotten in EU. The venn diagram shows the duality of online presence, it’s not just us who create our online presence. Once we enter online, we have audience, followers who share, mention, add their own two cents…Further, the CC license is sort of a permission, that’s the deal we make with ‘online’ when we are “born” into it. Our artifacts will be shared, modified, used, maybe even sold. We are in control of what we leave behind; we are not in control of what others leave of us, ‘the uncontainable self’ (Barbour and Marshall 2012).

 Tracks and Traces infographic(1)

To protect one’s digital immortality, one needs to keep track of one’s online presence on a regular basis. Below are some tips I collected mostly from the IDEL14 participants on Twitter.

Click Tips for Online Identity Protection (storified)

OER for your Ear – Adapting Audio Material for Language Learning

Excellent blog post written by Glen Cochrane re: OER and authentic language learning materials for listening practice.

A Point of Contact

Here’s a post for this month’s ELTresearch blog carnival on Listening – for info click here.

Article:Using internet-sourced podcasts in independent listening courses: Legal and pedagogical implications

I chose this article, involving listening, because it brings up the issue of Open Educational Resources (OERs) that I find interesting and important. However, the article doesn’t quite get into the OER topic as much as I thought it would. I’ll provide a short summary of the article (in note form) and then some comments and suggestions of my own.

Podcasts and audio files have become popular in Language Learning (LL) because

  • Decreased cost (of internet, mobility, etc)
  • Increased access to content
  • Podcasts are good source of authentic language

Discussion arose out of designing a “Listening for Scientists” course for University level LLs

  • Students were weak in listening
  • Students has little time
  • No commercial material for specific content needs
  • Authentic materials…

View original post 677 more words

Week 8 – Creating instructional plans

  • Describe the difference between a program planner, instructional designer and facilitator

It is good to finally arrive at an answer to my question that I posed at the beginning of the course
in relation to the difference between a program planner, an instructional designer and a teacher. It turns out, in many cases, if not most, all of the three roles are embraced by one person. The sequence of tasks between
the three roles is: from Program Planner to Instructional Designer to Instructor.

A program planner does the needs assessment and creates a profile of the learner group. Next, he/she makes a list of objectives for the course based on the needs of all stakeholders. An instructional designer takes over and creates an instructional plan of the training, a series of lessons and activities for the potential learners. This would likely be a general outline (not a minute-by-minute lesson plan) and would include information about handouts, equipment and general teaching approach. Finally, an instructor creates specific lesson
plans outlining the exact timelines and activities for the day, makes handouts and supplementary teaching resources, finds suitable readings and multi-media, invites guest speakers, and possibly scripts the lesson. The instructor would have a much more precise idea of who the actual learners were going to be, and would adapt and adjust the more general activities of the instructional plan accordingly.

  • List eight components of an instructional plan
  1. General information – time and date, title, location
  2. Objectives – course aim and objectives
  3. Assessment
  4. Content/topics
  5. Activities
  6. Resources for the instructor and participants, including room arrangement
  7. Transfer-of-learning
  8. Budgetary
    and other considerations
  • Describe a process for creating instructional plans

First, I need an instructional plan template, which will help me organize my work. It is absolutely vital to have a good template in hand because it allows for analysis and documentation of what happened. Being a reflective practitioner, I always go back to my instructional plans to evaluate what took place and determine what might need to be changed. Next, I write down 3-5 learning objectives, depending on the length of a program, using Bloom’s taxonomy, which is indispensible in creating specific, relevant and measurable goals. Once the objectives are ready, I start thinking about how I will assess that the participants have achieved the objectives. After I have nailed down the assessment part of my plan, I start working on activities that will help the participants to achieve the objectives. I keep the objectives in mind at all times. The final step of creating instructional plans is always going back to the beginning and analyzing every single item on it and linking it to the objectives and the program aim.

  • List and apply two criteria to an instructional plan to determine its likely effectiveness

a)   Participants’ reflection on the workshop outcomes.

b)  Transfer of learning

  • Create an instructional plan for a two-day workshop

Done and submitted by email.

As to the video of how not to teach, it was hysterical…anyone, anyone?

Program Planning_Week 2 Assignment 1

Planning Theory According to Sork

  1. How would you characterize
    the early development of program planning theory?

In 1949 program planning theory was defined as four guided questions looking at the purpose, content, method and evaluation of a program. In 1950 the theory was complemented by adding learner needs. In 1966 social and political aspects of program planning were added – the more elements that were added, the more flexible the process became. Starting off as a technical and very linear procedure based on behaviouristic principles, the planning process became detailed and elastic and as soon as humanistic learning principles came into
play acknowledged the importance of various stakeholder contributions to the process.

  1. How does the feminist
    critique affect program planning processes?

According to Sork, the feminist critique confronts the lack of gender considerations in conventional program planning. Although literature on women as learners and the role of gender in education exists, it has minimal
influence on program planning.

In her blog, Jer mentioned some challenges female learners face as they enter formal educational
programs. Her example of pregnancy as a major obstacle to the continuation of a female’s learning path is very common even in the 21st century. I am hoping that that the increase in online learning will alleviate the problem. At the same time, I agree that measures need to be taken to make formal face-to-face education more ‘access-for-all’.

  1. What is the core principle
    of postmodernism, and how does it show up in program planning?

The core principle of postmodernism is to question everything that has been defined because there is no objective truth. A postmodernistic approach to program planning involves an understanding of who the stakeholders are and what their interests include.

  1. What is “critical theory”,
    and why is it important to program planning?

Critical theory is concerned with social change which is important because any educational activity should bring about emancipation and empowerment.  Critical theory also helps us understand the role of power, which in the case of program planning lies in the hands of the program planner, who invites stakeholders and decides on the content of negotiations.

  1. What is required in order
    to work as an “ethically-responsible” program planner?

To work as an “ethically-responsible” program planner, I must understand why and how certain decisions are made so they can be justified in a particular context.

  1. Make notes of the kinds of
    actions that a program planner operating in each of the three domains
    might take.

Three domains of program planning

Type of a
Technically-capable planner Asks surface-level questions, i.e. how- to:How to market the course? How to include
learners in planning? How to evaluate the course?
Socio-politically-aware planner Looks at the human dynamics in program
planning, e.g. how stakeholders engage and arrive at decisions as a group
Ethically-responsible planner Looks at the justifications for decisions
made by the group

Neither the craft, nor the
artistry should be neglected in program planning. I would place equal
importance on each of the domains.


Interactive Model

  1. Compare the diagram on page 10 of
    the Sork article and page 21 of the Cafarella textbook.
  • Both models are non-prescriptive, i.e. they serve as flexible guides rather than blueprints
  • Both contain the key elements of program planning
  • Both are interactive and represented in a circular framework of equal elements
  • Caffarella’s model is task-based, whereas Sork’s model is question-based
  • Caffarella’s model has 12 elements, whereas Sork’s model has 6
  1. Near the top of page 22, Cafarella
    talks about program planning as a “people activity”. How does this
    influence her model?

The word ‘interactive’ in Caffarella’s model suggests that all sorts of interactions are going on at the planning
table between the program planners and the stakeholders. It is the people who sit at the table and their world views and experiences that influence the nature and shape of the program being discussed.

  1. Notice the checklist on pages 23
    and 24. These can serve as an invaluable reference if you are developing
    new programs. Compare the sequence of this list to your file cards. How
    were the positions of different planning elements similar or different?

The sequence of my planning elements is similar to that of Caffarella. I also start with content planning and then move onto more administrative tasks. Building a support base comes later on my list
considering the context of my planning position.

  1. Read through the assumptions on
    pages 26 to 28 of Cafarella. Are there any that you question or outright
    disagree with? Why or why not?

I agree with all of Caffarella’s assumptions. They take into consideration the dynamics of the program planning
process and especially the human factor, which brings a variety of perspectives to the table and needs to be heeded and represented in the final result.