Gogy: Peda, Andra and Situated Cognition

I was reading an article called "The Problem of 'Pedagogy' in a Web 2.0 Era"  and it got me thinking about how often we throw around that term in higher education even though very few educators at that level have any formal training in it.

Higher education faculty don't get any courses on pedagogy or learning theory in their degree programs. Faculty members in four-year universities are often researchers and their focus is on their research and not on how learning occurs and perhaps not even as much on their own disciplinary knowledge as those at other colleges.

Of course, there should be faculty development efforts at all colleges and those should include workshops and presentations to increase awareness of the basic research in learning theory of the past few decades as well as what is being found currently.

All teachers learn by teaching. That in itself is a learning theory that has several names attached to it. But that learning process is made more efficient by exposing faculty to what we know about pedagogy. That doesn't mean just learning the language of constructivism or Bloom's taxonomy. It means trying out lessons and being exposed to new approaches to what is often very old content.

And if you are teaching older, non-traditional students, then you really should be aware of what has been found to work in the field of andragogy. Pedagogy literally means "leading children" and came first from studies of students in grades K-6 and then later included those in secondary school. Andragogy was a later area of study. Malcolm Knowles and others theorized that methods used to teach children are often not the most effective ways of teaching adults. I think many college professors would say that their students are often somewhere between those two -gogies. The 18 year old freshman, the 21 year old senior, and the 23 year old graduate student are very likely to sit in a classroom with a 28 year old freshman, 35 year old senior and a 50 year old graduate student.

I would love to be in a discussion with a group of interested educators about some learning theory like "situated cognition." If the topic is new to the participants, all the better. Situated cognition is the name given to the theory that knowing is inseparable from doing. It proposes that all knowledge is situated in activity which is bound to social, cultural and physical contexts.

To take this theory on means nothing less than making an epistemological shift from empiricism. To put it into action in a classroom would mean encouraging thinking on the fly rather than the typical back-and-forth of knowledge storage and retrieval. Cognition cannot be separated from the context.

If it sounds radical, it's because it is radical. And yet, students and teachers have been doing it throughout their lives - though probably not very often in a classroom setting.

Do I think this should be the new way to teach? No. But I would love to hear educators talking about it and about learning theories, pedagogy and andragogy with some of the same passion that they discuss their research, promotion and tenure, and contracts.

Top Global Thinkers 2012

The 100 Top Global Thinkers 2012 list from Foreign Policy has caught some academia attention because amongst the usual suspects (Bill & Melinda Gates, Bill & Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama) is Sebastian Thrun. The name doesn't sound familiar? He is the founder of Udacity which pioneered the massive open online courses we now call MOOCs.

But MOOCs didn't get him on the list. It turns out that Thrun, a computer scientist from Palo Alto, made the list "for revving up the robot-car revolution. They say that his work to develop driverless vehicles might make him “the Henry Ford of a new era.”
No mention of Udacity or MOOCs.

Those Impatient Web Surfers

In his online column, Dr. Jakob Nielsen, links to a study by Professor Ramesh Sitaraman who analyzed 23 million cases of users trying to watch online videos and calculated the bounce rate depending on the delay in having the video start playing.

If you thought that your students were impatient, then look at this general population where the study found that 6% more users abandon the video for every 1 second extra delay.

Yes, a one second delay means another chunk of your audience is gone. A five second delay means you lost 30% of your potential viewers.

Nielsen says that "The new data obviously confirms old usability findings about the importance of fast response time on the web. A few years some user interface commentators questioned the notion of fast response as a design priority, but I don't think anybody truly believe these detractors anymore. Furthermore, the study's plots of the decay function clearly demonstrate that there is no one cut-off value that shows "how long users will wait" (as we're often asked about). I have long said that user behavior cannot be captured by a single number. Rather, the more usable something is, the more use it will gain, but even designs with low usability (e.g., slow response) will get some use."

It’s the End of the University As We Know It (and I feel fine)


I will be attending the NJEDge.Net Annual Conference this week (November 28-30, 2012) and will be doing a presentation on Friday.

My presentation will be part of an IGNITE session where five presenters each get five minutes to speak accompanied by 20 auto-advanced slides at 15 seconds each. The challenge is to “ignite” the audience on a subject - generate awareness and stimulate thought and action on the subjects

My session is titled "It’s the End of the University As We Know It (and I feel fine)" and it comes out of my ideas about how the next ten years will transform universities in ways that will be frightening for anyone hoping to hold onto the university model that has
existed for almost 900 years. It is very likely that, powered by technology, movements such as open educational resources, MOOCs, big data, non-degree programs and alternatives to a traditional university degree will lead to the end of University 1.0.

What will be the tipping point that brings about not only University 2.0 but also a broader School 2.0?

If you are attending, please stop by my poster session in the afternoon and tell me your thoughts.  For non-attendees, I will post the slides after the conference in a post here.

Thanks Giving


There are many "charities" that you might turn to during this holiday season. One I chose to write about this Thanksgiving Day has a strong web connection and an interesting approach to the idea of helping.

It's Kiva, a site that provides loans to the working poor. Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. Kiva is a Swahili word meaning "unity."

You can choose someone who is requesting a loan on Kiva.org and "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor reach for economic independence.

The loans run about 6-12 months and you can receive email updates from the business you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.

I don't know if this is a good project for a class or school group to do, but it's an interesting economics and flat world model to at least explore with a class. It's "microfinance" and I know there are other examples online of providing financial services to the poor in developing countries. Your small, short-term "microloans" goes to poor entrepreneurs who don't otherwise have access to capital. Maybe a student council or student government association could enroll.

Kiva follows the principal that teaching a man to fish is better than simply giving him fish. Recipients "already know how to fish, they just need a loan so they can buy a net," says Fiona Ramsey, spokeswoman for microloan facilitator Kiva. Through Kiva, people can loan sums as small as $25 to individual entrepreneurs they select on kiva.org. Kiva works with local microfinance institutions that screen all applicants and it says the default rate has been only 0.2%. Interest goes to support those microfinance groups rather than to the lenders

Here's a sample from their site: Name: Santa Javier Doate, Location: Sabana Grande de Boya Community of Yamasa, Dominican Republic Primary Activity: Clothing Sales; Loan Requested: $300 Repayment Term: 6 months - repaid monthly Loan Use: Purchase of new clothing products in bulk Posted: Nov 21, 2007 "Santa is twenty-eight years old, and she and her husband have two young girls, ages five and seven. Santa has recently begun selling women's clothing and fashionable shoes to members of her community. Santa plans to use her loan to buy more clothing at bulk rates, improving her profit margin and limiting the number of trips she will have to make to purchase the clothing she sells outside of her community. Santa envisions her business becoming a "grand store with a large selection of chic attire." She explains that the income from her business will help support her studies at the local university and help her to safeguard her children's health."

You don't have to loan the entire $300 either. You can $25 dollars to the total. It's not "charity." In fact, loans made through Kiva are not tax-deductible because they aren't a charitable contribution. When a loan is repaid, the money can be either withdrawn or lent out again. You can even purchase "gift certificates" and let others select loans. They start at $25.

I know that this is the start of the season for giving and the season for people asking you to give. I sent out my donation last week to The Smile Train. It's a charity I feel confident in because I've done some reading about them and 100% of your donation goes towards programs that help children and 0% goes to overhead. My donation is enough to pay for a cleft surgery which is a modern-day medical miracle. It's a surgery that would probably cost at least ten times that here in the U.S. and most people I know (including me) wouldn't hesitate a second to pay for it if it was our child. I'm sure the child who ends up getting the surgery from my donation will get a new smile and possibly a new life.

Tim and I wish all of our readers a season of good things. I know that we have a pretty good number of visitors from outside the United States who don't celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday, but I'm sure you have some comparable day. We hope that you can spend it surrounded by family and loved ones.