onsdag 14. desember 2016

Erfaring med nettbasert, humanistiske og praktiske studier

The Norwegian title can be Google translated! And joy of joys it's a relevant thing to do since I am writing this post in relation to our conference on Higher Education in a Digital Age. 

So in a few minutes it will be my turn to talk about my new on-line digital arts course at Nord University. I will be uploading the text later on - but alas! it will be in Norwegian!

mandag 12. september 2016

She MOOCs again

Is there a difference between MOOCs and on-line teaching in the humanites and what is it?

I am off to Rauma for a conference to talk about my work in digital arts education in teacher education. And I see that one of the papers in my session is about MOOCs and arts education. This will be very interesting indeed! Some MOOCs have specialised on arts and arts education - and not just the digital stuff. But I see that noe many of these get off the ground sufficiently. So let's see what comes about later this month. I will keep you posted!

torsdag 5. mai 2016

It´s about MOOCing time

I finally finished a MOOC. Completed it. After I don´t know how many I have started - three, four, five? I must say I am quite proud of that because learning by MOOCing is quite hard.

Don't get me wrong. The courses are for the most part short, simplified versions of courses that are otherwise available from different universities - both top notch and not so top notch. The actual course material is probably just a scratch and sniff of the real deal.

But then again, I think, for your average C student at the majority of universities - how much more than that scratch and sniff do they actually pick up and retain? I should know more about this, or at least be able to point to a whole load of sources on the matter (that will have to be a later post). For now, I will have to rely on experience. Of the vast material presented to them, and if they actually read "the book", I hope for the core themes or at least the core message to be retained and presented in the exam. Flawed, usually, such student exams none the less manage to pull in a D. Their level of detailed knowledge and ability to critically address the material increased as the grade increases, but for the vast majority I hope for a C. Managing to grasp the core concepts, having some degree of detail and facts, and having some ability to apply that knowledge to cases or in exam questions is - for my grading scale at least - a C. And that is an okay grade.

Not so much when what you are taking to begin with is a shortened course to begin with. But hey - if I was out for the credit I would have signed up for a net-course somewhere and gone all in.

So I am pleased with having finished my tiny course. For having worked on a themes/course for four to six weeks, done the hand-ins and met people on line. It is nice to have the certificate to prove it - although my "certificate" is a cut and copy screenshot from the Coursera page. Still. Chuffed.

What is interesting though, is that while I am happy that I finished the course, I feel I learned something from all of them, also the one's I didn't finish. But the result of having completed one - yeah, I signed up for three more.

onsdag 13. mai 2015

It´s super hard

Yup - I dropped out of my MOOCs.

I accept defeat.

It was simply too much in light of the everyday workload of my job and all the rest. Unfortunately, I don´t think it is possible to do MOOCs like the ones I was signed up for at your own pace. If it was possible, I would have stuck with it, since I have to say they are really fantastic opportunities to learn something new. However small and short an introduction a MOOC is to a college course, and however little of the necessary interaction and feedback you would otherwise get from a college course, the MOOCs offered glimpses into fields of study which I have never had the chance to look into.

Are MOOCs the next big thing in higher education? I don´t think so - and charts would support me on that one - but they are a great resource none the less. Perhaps, however, even a better PR resource.

SO - I started another one and the great adventure in Learning by MOOCing continues. I have signed up for Coursera´s Public speaking course. And I will keep you updated.

In the mean while, I have been inspired by this guy who has taken 250 MOOCs.

onsdag 5. november 2014

Sticking with it and bowling alone

OK, I am not going to lie to you - sticking with a MOOC is hard. Not because it is hard work; in comparison to a university course, a MOOC is not difficult, or socially demanding in any way (shape or form). From the two courses which I am currently in - where the one is very presence heavy and the other is more traditional lectures - I can honestly say they are a far cry from a university course. We are talking apples and oranges. Perhaps even so much, that WHY they are different deserves som thought.

Firstly, I think the main difference between the two is the social, physical presence factor. Where class is, well class - even if it means only seeing your classmates twice, thrice a semester. So, while you may not see them on a weekly basis, you still have enough time to make social connections, which in turn mean that if you slack off, don't do the work, etc, you will look like (or feel like you look like) a dummy in comparison to every one else. It is basic psychology - we have chosen this social arena to associate with and hence follow the social codes which we (think) everyone is following, too.

On MOOCs, there is no f2f. You may meet people on web chats - which btw are great - but it is not the same as feeling any pressure to deliver simply because you will never be in the same web chat group again. I wish someone would think up some algorithm where the group of say 6 people gets 1-2 people exchanged each week. So there is SOME familiarity, but on the whole you have to face up to your colleagues. Now, bear in mind you will probably never meet these colleagues in rl, but for media savvy having to meet the same people and address them by name is very similar to actually meeting them. You feel some sort of responsibility to deliver.

Secondly, you know there is no test, no grand finale. For school/education/learning positive people such as myself, that actually sucks. I would LIKE a test, an exam. And actually, if that is the case and an exam is a major part of my motivation, I should probably consider taking The future of education, for example as a university course.

The problem with taking that MOOC - as an example - as a university course is that I cannot just go off to London every week to meet my fellow students at the University of London (mind you as  MOOC student through Coursera, you are not actually a student of the University of London, just associated through Coursera). I don't have the time, and my family situation is as such that that is a totally impractical and unlikely thing for me to do. Also, taking a university course is expensive. Even though a lot of university education in Europe is free/cheap doesn't mean you have no expenses.

Therefore, thirdly as to why it is difficult, seems at odds with itself - there are no stakes. No stakes, low threshold, free to walk in and walk out as you please. No bleeding hearts' pleas to stay, no looking back. It is actually a really weird feeling, because never before have I felt like one little dot in a sea of pixels. It is strange to feel like - well, know - that no body will notice if you leave the group or give up. And it is a bit sad. I am glad a university education doesn't feel that way, simply because you can belong there, or chose not to belong, but at the very least relate to others in a positive, communal situation in ways which do not seem possible with a MOOC.  It is very Robert Putnam - but it is like bowling alone.

tirsdag 28. oktober 2014

Banking facts, banking skills: how schools can change education through arts

Course material concerning the critical view of banking (a term used in last week's sessions in The Future of Education) has got me thinking about a couple of aspects of arts and culture education in schools - and in particular arts education.

The implication of poor education of low quality teaching in the arts has been well documented by Anne Bamford in her well known publication The Wow factor, where Bamford discusses how poor instruction in the arts had a detrimental effect on learning in other subjects.

This, naturally, lead to a discussion on what actually constitutes good education in the arts - a topic of course which is rife with theoretical (and non-theoretical) stances claiming one thing or another. Bamford - ultimately - doesn't come with any one approach which is a better stance than any other. The object centred versus making centred perspective is perhaps the most common one to be found in literature in the field today; however, I claim that thought should be given to the third aspect of arts education  - the mind. Not only is it important in understanding and arguing for arts in education and arts education better, it is also significant in understanding how arts education has become perhaps the most significant part or education in the knowledge economy and education for the future.

As a counterpart to the hands-on/making centred approach, emphasising the importance of the mind in the process of arts education not only offers a more holistic approach to understanding the educational benefits of arts education, it also offers a deeper understanding of what arts education is and can be, if structured in appropriate ways in the classroom. To understand this we need to take two steps back.

Counteracting Cartisian dualism through the theoretical works by Gilbert Ryle and Susanne Langer, a marriage between Philosophy of mind and arts education also gives rise to the understanding of the intellectual implications of arts education and not just the cognitive benefits of learning to manipulate form and material with ones hands and body. Such research tells us much about the development of interacting with the world, but little about the development of abstract thought through working with pliable materials. This is precisely the type of praxis-centred learning that both navigates and ultimately links a students' understanding of the world with their own body and mind.

So what does this have to do about banking - and more importantly - can schools make a difference to education and the education what they offer?

To understand the link between the two, one naturally has to include the presence of an active, and appropriately informed teacher. To move away from the idea of banking, the arts education offered in the classroom has to resist the translated form of a fundamentally narrative education in other fields of education - which is skill banking for the purpose of pure skill development. This becomes difficult in real life when skill banking is often associated with arts education in general and the preservation of cultural heritage and heritage techniques in particular. The skill is transferred from the subject teacher to the object students; the students remain passive through not engaging with the core of the technique even though they are physically interacting with the material.

By the core of the technique I mean that they are coming to terms with the main objective of the activity. It is not merely making a traditional garment, it is making a dress with signs and symbols which identify a social and cultural group using the materials, colours and designs which are most relevant, easily attainable and commonly recognisable in a given group.

Just because students are physically touching and working with a material does not automatically mean the students are not passive in the operation of interaction. Students receive, memorise and act out a physical movement which results in the making of an object. There is no magic in the meeting of hand and material alone unless the students are invited into a discussion where their preexisting knowledge is taken to the fore, integrated into their meeting with the core ideas of an object and revitalising this through their own ownership of the newly made object.

Obviously, moving away from the banking of skills is problematic in that - in the arts as in many other fields - you cannot make anything without a baseline understanding of some skills and materials. This is in effect a critique of Freire because some banking of skills is simply necessary for students to make any progression in arts education. Also, in support of Freire, being able to discuss or interact with the material presupposes an informed mind. And, in relation to arts education, an informed mind is one which has theoretical, historical and physical/skills knowledge already.

So what can schools do to change education at that school through the arts? Firstly, underemphasising the importance of object production in the early years of education would allow for more interaction and the critical investigation of materials, signs and symbols. The development of abstraction and abstract thought could be emphasised by practical tasks based on open-ended, problems-based exercises where the students's already acquired knowledge from real life is central. Skill development needs to be concept-based and grouped accordingly so that the particular skill is seen amongst a family of associated skills. And lastly, drawing as a baseline translation of thought to form must be introduced at an early age.

To do this, schools - and headmasters especially - needs to approach the arts and arts education in a more progressive, holistic manner. Investing in the arts especially in the early years will give students more skills and teach them more about learning and abstract thought than what is done today. Headmasters needs to emphasise having informed teachers in all subjects - and naturally in the arts too - but be willing to take a different stance than that which they assume national authorities and parents are expecting of them. To be brave - and to invest in the future of education.

onsdag 22. oktober 2014

MOOC structures

The Bilingual Brain, the second Coursera MOOC I have signed up for, started today.

I am delighted to see that a long list of extra reading resources have been added to the week's work. I have missed more readings and a more traditional structure, even though the more postmodern structure to the course has been work intensive and fun.

I may have been working more, but I am not sure if I have been working smarter. So it will be interested to see how the Bilingual Brain goes: As opposed to The Future of Education, which made by an Education faculty includes lots of different forms of learning tools and opens for lots of discussion, The Bilingual Brain is all about lectures - funny that considering that it is the language department that has developed the course.

I will start on the lectures tomorrow - hoping for an exciting 8 weeks.