Archive for July, 2010

Are PLEs the inflection point?

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

I did some thinking about the development of learning. Back in the ancient Greek the teacher had a group of a couple students and taught them the absolute basics, meaning philosophy, maths and physics.
The teacher had the chance not only to adapt the topic to the recent situation but to every student. He knew every student, his strengths and his weaknesses. He could create different examples for different students providing them with the first kind of personalized learning.

During the industrialization the industry needed a vast amount of standardized trained workers for their machine halls. The design of studies changed from personalized to job-centered. Only classes that are needed on the job are being taught. The result is a student that can do exactly what he is trained for, but nothing more.

My complains are that these fact hasn’t changed since then. Soft skill classes had been introduced once “team ability” has been identified as key value for employees. What studies are chosen by students are guided mostly by the fact how much money an according job is generating, not by interests or talents. In my opinion this is the fist step towards “unhappiness” and in extreme cases even burn-out-syndrome.

The motivation for learning should be a passion, a vocation not thrive for money. In other words it should be an intrinsic motivation, not an extrinsic motivation.

Viktor E. Frankl pointed in his talk 1972 out that the percentage of students that name “make a lot of money” as their dedicated goal for life was 16%. 78% specified “finding a purpose and meaning to my life” as their goal.

I’d say this percentage clearly has changed since then. Learning went from beeing a desire and priviledge to a tool in order to “make a lot of money”.

The upcoming of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) could mean an inflection point of this development. PLEs in my eyes is the summary of all your tools, habits and sources you use during your personal learning process. In adapting new tools and habits one is structuring and creating a learning process. In doing so he is getting in touch with new topics and areas. So in using a PLE instead of the traditional frontal lecture type of learning, students could build up or rediscover responsibillity for their learning process. The earlier a student feels responsible for their “path” of learning in their life, the earlier they can take action and steer their path towards their interests and talents. This will also help them finding out what their “Element” is, as Sir Ken Robinson calls the true vocation,

In using and creating PLEs we also express our believe in people that they are willing to develop and learn, or as Goethe did say: “If we take man as he is, we make him worse, but if we take man as he should be, we make him capable of becoming what he can be”.

What do you think PLEs are good or bad for? What is the future of PLEs? Please comment.

I’ll learn … but why?

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

I always wondered why there are some students highly motivated and some students seemed to be bothered by the class they chose. Viktor E. Frankl postulated in his masterpiece “Mens search for meaning” that the meaning behind an action is highly important for the one acting and can provide the power to go through with something. Nietzsche already talked about that when he said “He, who knows why, can bare almost any how.” (“Götzen-Dämmerung”)

So my question is: “Do students always know why they ought to learn a certain topic?”

Asking this question a couple teachers I got different answers. One of the most told answers is: “They will need this in their future life”. In their what? How do they know? We train students for a future that nobody can say nothing about. Most graduates take on jobs that didn’t even exist four years ago. And even if they need a specific knowledge for their future life, how are they suppose to know why they are learning this? Most teachers don’t even know themselves. So how are students supposed to imagine why they ought to learn it?

My personal experience have taught me (painfully) that there are things in life you learn and you WILL need it later. I rejected math classes as far as I could back then, when I started to do some graphical programming it dawned on me that all that math is worth something. Especially matrices haunted me.

I guess if I would have been told an example, for instance something breathtaking within 3D graphics or something like that, I would have brought up more motivation for that topic. Especially if I would have discovered by my own why I need that.

Dan Meyer has reconstructed a math lecture so that his students have to develop the formula for a calculation themselves instead of just giving it away and let them fill in the values. That shows that finding out for yourself forces you to really dig in the topic. So it seems the reason why a student is learning is strongly tied to the creation process of intrinsic motivation. The next question in my eyes would be if an intrinsic motivation could be supported or even created by computer systems?

What do you think? Please comment!