Information ecology at the heart of knowledge

learning

While technology is changing the information environment (including information places and spaces), the transactional nature of information interactions and knowledge flow underpins learning. Information can comprise both physical and virtual parts for operation and interaction.

I see that a  major challenge for education is to enable and facilitate the generation of new knowledge via an appropriate information environment, to facilitate integration of new concepts within each person’s existing knowledge structure.

Information ecology presents the contexts of information behavior by analogy with ecological habitats and niches, identifying behaviours in biological terms such as ‘foraging’ (Bawden & Robinson, 2012. p.199). In this context of adaptive and responsive co-construction of knowledge, we can facilitate a viable praxis in digital environments, influenced by concepts of rhisomatic learning. Seen as a model for the construction of knowledge, rhizomatic processes hint at the interconnectedness of ideas as well as boundless exploration across many fronts from many different starting points. (Sharples, et al. 2012 p.33).

By creating curriculum and subject delivery which can be reshaped and reconstructed in a dynamic manner in response to changing environmental conditions or the personal professional needs of students, a digital information ecology provides the opportunity to work with information in the construction of knowledge in more dynamic ways, connecting learning experiences across the contexts of location, time, devices and platforms.

Researching how digital technologies may be used to create a more responsive learning ecology both in use of online tools and assessment practices can provide a valid way of examining effectiveness if the link between the use and the learning is explicit. Research to date rarely makes this link explicit and evaluations appear to be based on researcher beliefs about learning which are either not expressed or vague (Starkey 2011, p20.)

Starkey (2011) provides an excellent summary of the key concepts of critical thinking skills, knowledge creation and learning through connections that epitomizes 21st century learning. Technology can be used to evaluate learning, though the link between digital technologies and student performance is complex. Yet the digital age students, who can think critically, learn through connections, create knowledge and understand concepts should be able to connect and collaborate with others beyond a constrained physical environment; understand that knowledge is created through a range of media and created through networks, connections and collaborations; be able to think critically and evaluate processes and emerging ideas. The ability to evaluate the validity and value of information accessed is essential.

In such a context and information ecology, enabling learning involves the creation of assessments and environments for knowledge building to enhance collaborative efforts to create and continually improve ideas. This approach to knowledge building exploits the potential of collaborative knowledge work by situating ideas in a communal workspace where others can criticize or contribute to their improvement (Scardamalia 2012 p.238 ).

A communal workspace, a collaborative and formative framework for assessments, and research into the impact of all this on learning futures – now that would be grand to see!

Rhizomatic learning new to you?  You might like this fireside presentation from Dave Cormier about embracing uncertainty.

References

Bawden, D. & Robinson, L. (2012). Information behaviour. In Introduction to information science (pp. 187-210). London : Facet.
Scardamalia, M., Bransford, J., Kozma, B., & Quellmalz, E. (2012). New assessments and environments for knowledge building. In Assessment and teaching of 21st century skills (pp. 231-300). Springer Netherlands.
Sharples, M., McAndrew, P., Weller, M., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Hirst, T., & Whitelock, D. (2012). Innovating Pedagogy 2012: Open University Innovation Report 1. Milton Keynes: The Open University.
Starkey, L. (2011). Evaluating learning in the 21st century: A digital age learning matrix. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 20(1), 19-39.

Image: Learning (Photo credit: Anne Davis 773)

I won an academic award!

Who could have thought five years ago that in 2014 I would be a recipient of a Faculty of Education Award, from Charles Sturt University?  Not me!

Today saw the official announcement of the 2014 awards, and yes – my name was there.

tweetaward2I have to thank all my colleagues past and present who have made this possible. This is a little special for me, as it encourages me to keep doing what I have been doing to support learning, teaching and innovation in schools and beyond.

Thank you!

Image: Thank you CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by hellojenuine.

 

Launching Designing Spaces for Learning – our new subject!

Our newest program/course/degree (terminology depends on the part of the world you are in) has been keeping me very busy.  Here at Charles Sturt University I  launched the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) in March 2014.  We have just completed some of the subjects, and I will have to share the outcomes.

But before I do share this, I want to welcome my good friend Ewan McIntosh of NoTosh fame,  to CSU as a newly minted Adjunct lecturer – all ready and engaging as of this week with a new clutch of students. We have people from all around the world, who will be pulling and teasing ideas around with Ewan in the first iteration of the grand new subject.

Ewan said:

When most people find out that they are in line to create a new physical or virtual environment for their school, few have really driven deep into what the research says, and how it might pan out in practice. And, with deadlines in place, and architects producing their “masterplans” based on what they have been able to squeeze out of school communities, the clock is ticking too fast in most cases to begin that learning journey in a timely fashion.

School principals, deputies, librarians and innovator educators can base multi-million dollar decisions on hearsay, gurus’ say-so, and what the Joneses have done with their school. For the initial cohort of students on our inaugural Masters subject on Designing Spaces for Learning at CSU (Charles Sturt University), the story will be very different.

Do visit his blog post Launching a new Masters: Designing Spaces for Learning #INF536. and check out his wonderful welcome video.  Visit the course Facebook Page too!

Perhaps you would like to join our course and his subject in 2015?

Track those new Horizons!

While it was published a little while ago, I am still pleased to share the NMC Horizon Report 2014 edition, in case you’ve missed it.

Launched in 2009, the NMC Horizon Report > K-12 Edition broadened the reach of the NMC Horizon Report series to include primary, middle, and high schools. The K-12 Edition explores the key trends accelerating educational technology adoption in schools, the significant challenges impeding it, and emerging technologies poised to impact teaching, learning, and creative inquiry.

I’ve been along for the journey in every K-12 edition as a member of the K-12 Expert Panel, which has been amazing! Now we have this amazing collection that tells an extraordinary story of change, development and innovation in education as part of the mapping of new horizons.  It is fantastic to be involved at this level in education – I love it :-)

> Download the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 K-12 Edition

Check out the trends, challenges and technology forecast in the report. Look for the opportunities where you can contribute to your school’s development, especially in ways that technology can be embedded into the curriculum programs.

Creativity and education


A regular criticism leveled at education is the function (and sometimes the lack of) creativity in motivating and inspiring learning.  Creativity these days is seen as something ‘special’ and worth capturing.

However, when it comes to creativity in education, there are many aspects to consider. Every student is creative in some way, and the job of educators is to release and support that creative talent in an appropriate manner. Of course, not every student is a  musical Mozart or a scientific Stephen Hawkings. That is not the point for educators. The point is capturing creativity to empower knowledge transactions and in so doing also help prepare students for the digitally diverse and changing nature of our society.

A working definition of creativity is offered by Faultley & Savage (2010, p.6), which does capture nicely the transactions taking place in a learning environment such as a classroom.

Creativity involves mental processes;  can involve action; is within a domain; is purposeful; and is novel (to the individual – ‘everyday’ creativity)

Teaching creatively and for creativity entails taking students on a creative journey where their responses are not predetermined. Teaching for creativity means that students will be producing ideas that may well involve novelty and possibly, experimentation. Teachers and students involved in teaching for creativity will be engaged with processes and although products may well be important it is in the process of creation where the true focus lies.

Craft (2005, p 42) identifies that teaching for creativity involves:

  • the passing of control to the learner and the encouraging of innovative contributions;
  • teachers placing a value on learners’ ownership and control, when innovation often follows;
  • encouraging students to pose questions, identify problems and issues;
  • offering students the opportunity to debate and discuss their thinking;
  • encouraging children to be co-participant in learning, resulting in further control for learners over appropriate strategies for their learning;
  • being at the least considerate and ideally ‘learner inclusive’, thus prioritising learner ‘agency’;
  • encouraging ‘creative learning’, the construction of ‘creative learners’ and ultimately the ‘creative individual’.

So then what is meant by creative and critical thinking in education contexts?

Langer (2012 p. 67) proposes two major purposes that help shape our expectations, both of which result in “mind in action”, meaning-making moves with distinct functionality and motivation.

  1. to gain information and build concepts. (motivated primarily by an information-getting, retrieval, connecting and/or applying purpose)
  2. to engage in a more fluid and open-ended experience where we are not sure to where it might lead. (motivated primarily by a search to see purpose)

Together they contribute to intellect, and it is their joint availability that permits us to engage in the kinds of flexible cognitive interplay that supports intellectual functioning and intellectual growth.

Exploring horizons of possibilities, in a creative experience, we are guided by the open-ended search for ideas. To do this we not only call on what we can imagine,  but also what we cannot yet imagine, in response to ideas or stimuli that we meet along the way of our search.

I can imagine that all these aspects of creativity have a good chance of being unleashed at the Pegasus Bay School.  They want to broaden their horizons!

References

Craft, A. (2003). The limits to creativity in education: Dilemmas for the educator. British journal of educational studies, 51(2), 113-127.

Fautley, M., & Savage, J. (2010). Creativity In Secondary Education. Learning Matters Limited.

Langer, J. (2012). The interplay of creative and critical thinking in instruction. In Dai, D. Y. (Ed.). (2012). Design research on learning and thinking in educational settings: Enhancing intellectual growth and functioning. Routledge.

Image: GoogleTV by lynetter

Design Thinking – an opportunity not to be missed!

From the very first moment an education institution begins the process of even thinking about the construction of a new space for learning, be that physical or digital, the process itself sets a course for potential error.

It is with this very proposition that Ewan McIntosh from NoTosh begins the learning journey in a  14-week challenge to learn and engage with Designing Spaces for Learning, a new subject to be delivered by Ewan in the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation).

The biggest challenge for educators is not, in fact, understanding the technical skills of the digital or buildings architect. The biggest challenge is one of scope, of seeing the possible rather than seeking the “not possible” of budgets, building constraints and “real life”. In short: the challenge is learning to think like a designer, to think differently about the world around us, and recognise which elements of our expertise in other domains lend themselves to the design process.

Ewan is more than an innovator – he is one of those global leaders in education who is genuinely making a difference in the concepts and practices we need in a digital age to empower organizations in all sectors to be responsive to global change needs in education.  NoTosh has flourished since late 2009 into one of the world’s most innovative education companies, working around 40% with creative industries, and the rest with schools around the globe.

NoTosh has created significant impact on student performance in schools in Europe, Asia and Australia. No other consultancy on the planet is managing to work daily with both creative firms and with schools, bridging the gap between design thinking and robust formative assessment, research and practice.

See what Ewan had to share at TEDx, London.

You may not be a student in the MEd(KN&DigInnov) but you CAN be part of this learning experience with Ewan.  You may enroll in this subject, as a single subject enrollment at Charles Sturt Univeristy, and take advantage of all the benefits of engaging with Ewan within the participatory experience with other students.

Single Subject Study at CSU: https://www.csu.edu.au/distance-education/study-options/
single-subject-study

The subject code is INF536  The Subject name is Designing Spaces for Learning.

This subject would provide automatic credit into the new degree if you take up admission in 2015.

Image: CC BY-NC 2.0  Ewan McIntosh

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