Monthly Archives: May 2014

#Octel Deep, Surface or Strategic learning

This week looking at the 3 different approaches to learning we had to consider the following

    • Have you seen these different approaches in technology-enhanced courses you teach? How did these differences manifest themselves in terms of online learning behaviour?
    • What approach are you taking in ocTEL, and if so why might that be?
    • Are learners who tend to take a ‘surface’ approach likely to learn more or less effectively online versus face-to-face?
    • How might we encourage ‘deep learning’ in online contexts?


Interestingly I have seen the different approaches in the different subjects that I have taught.  When I taught basic maths to adults (these were people who hadn’t enjoyed maths at school) a number of them exhibited a surface approach particularly at the start of the course.  By contrast in a lot of the learning technology training I deliver I get staff who are taking a strategic approach (show me the buttons I need to press so that I have “done” elearning).  Deep learning tends to occur when I get students to discuss or explain something with each other.

I also spoke briefly to someone doing an online course and found that he was great with the deep learning but not really taking a strategic approach to the assessment – which is to be expected because the student took the course to expand his knowledge not necessarily for the qualification.  The discussion was in the pub so I wrote it up using storybuilder

My approach in #OcTEL is deep and selective.  I started trying to get badges but as soon as I realised I wouldnt have the time to properly study the class I stopped bothering with badges/qualifications.  I am trying to do the only one thing, however I took the course last year so I am sometimes doing something different and sometimes just choosing and activity that interests me.  Same thing with the readings, I chose a few that interest me and I read a few blog posts of other class members and sometimes comment.  I then try to pull all the thoughts together into a blog post (this for me is the deep bit, taking what I have learned and organising it into something that makes sense).

I would suggest the surface approach (which is the weakest approach) is probably even worse online because there is so much you can read and engage with, it is likely that your attention will just skitter around with very little actually going in.

How might we encourage deep learning online?  Well I am writing in one solution now 🙂 getting students to blog about their course means they have to make sense of the information they are consuming and there is evidence that writing for an audience make them consider more carefully what they write.  An extension of this idea is asking students to comment on each others work, if this takes off you will find them having interesting discussions online about the course materials and the posts about the materials.


#Octel – Learning Machines

In having to look at how a particular person would react to the concept of Learning Machines I decided to look at Illich with his ideas for Deschooling Society and replacing it with learning webs based on 4 learning networks.

One of those learning networks was a Reference Service to Educational Objects, so could a teaching machine be considered an type of educational object? yes I think it could and if they were simply limited to that role then I think Illich would approve.

Here is a video of the “teaching machines” in action

For a modern version of the teaching machine try this  I think you will find that its a good example of using a “teaching machine” to teach you a concept.  It is likely that access to this kind of object as well as books, articles and videos would be considered a good collection of Educational Objects.

The points where I think Illich would disapprove are firstly everyone sitting in school in rows working away at their own machine (their only autonomy the speed at which they progress through the defined curriculum), he would have wanted them selecting their own machine diets at a time and place of their own choosing.  The second main point is that (I get the strong impression that) Skinner in the video appears to advocate that the machine learning will be all that a student needs to learn successfully rather than just one component (Illich has 4 learning networks in comparison!)

When the King of Macedonia wanted his son (Alexander the Great) educated he simply hired the cleverest man in the world.  Sadly not only does this solution not scale very well it is considerably more expensive than most of us can afford (for a more in depth look at this idea see “What Would Socrates Think About MOOCs?”).

Machines on their own will not be sufficient.  However as a tool used by competent teachers then learning machines can improve the ability to teach much in the same way that computers and humans are much better at chess than either humans or computers on their own (as detailed in this book).

For a more in depth look at the idea of teachers selecting particular tools to meet particular needs you might want to look at this blog post worth reading for the Gringotts philosophy.

In summary I think that Illich would approve of teaching machines as part of the solution but that a real education would be more complicated than that.  This is a point I often come across, humans tend to like a simple answer or a silver bullet to solve their problem which leads to over hype (ie MOOCs will solve all the problems of education) but for complex systems there is almost never a simple answer and education is one of the most complex systems that exists.  In education, its always more complicated than that.

Frontalunterricht mit Augen

#Octel – my practice, shifting dimensions

Our first Mooc task this week….

First, think about a learning activity and think about which quadrant these activities would lie on the matrix.

Now imagine how you might shift the activities into another quadrant and what other factors would be affected if you did so




I decided to look at my training course “Supporting collaborative learning through technology” because I am running it again next week.  There is group work and individual work and overall it is fairly directed (I go through the various collaborative options).

So I am going to look at what happens if I make it more Autonomous, allowing the students to look at the various tools and choose which ones they want to explore and give them the opportunity to include things they like to use or have heard about.

In order to do this I am going to have to move things a bit more online and get them to do various bits of work prior to the session.

I will send out a google form listing the tools inside the VLE and the tools outside and get them to fill in what they are interested in looking at.  I will also give them the opportunity to write in a text box what tool they have come across that they would like to use.

Then in the F2F session I will spend less time explaining and contrasting the tools and give them more time to explore them themselves.

#OcTEL Big question – What could learning be if we embrace technology?

I am doing the #OcTEL mooc and the first task is to think about what our big question is that we might answer by doing the mooc.  This year mine is “What could learning be if we embrace technology?”

When I did the first version of #OcTEL, I asked a question about changing cultures to get staff to use TEL.  Although I hadn’t answered the question by the end of the course (its the kind of question you can spend a lifetime answering) I have been giving it a lot of thought since  and I think I have enough to be working on for now.

So in this version I am going to be looking at what happens to teaching and learning when you use tech creatively.  This blog post by Mark Johnstone started me thinking, technology has totally changed how he teaches, so then I asked my PLN and it has changed teaching for them as well.  One nice comment was about how by trying to replicate online what we already do in the classroom, we can miss out on the potentials that technology might provide.

So technology has changed and shaped the world, it will change and shape the lecture/classroom as well even if we fight against it (in the past the most knowledgeable thing in the room was the teacher, now its your phone/laptop/tablet).  So what happens when we stop thinking in terms of control and start thinking of facilitating communities of learning?  What if we embrace the reach and sharing potentials of technology and use it to fan the flames of our students thinking?  What if we give our students the tools, support and peers to enable them to have brighter thoughts than any generation before?

Glühwendel brennt durch