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International Flexible Education Symposium. Next generation Pedagogies and Technologies. Terry Anderson, Professor & Canada Research Chair in Distance Education. Introduction. Terry Anderson’s CV in Wordle Tag Cloud. Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada.

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International Flexible Education Symposium

Next generation Pedagogies and Technologies

Terry Anderson, Professor &

Canada Research Chair in

Distance Education


Terry Anderson’s CV in Wordle Tag Cloud

Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada

Fastest growing university in Canada

34,000 students, 700 courses

100% distance education

Graduate and Undergraduate programs

Master & Doctorate – Distance Education

Only USA Accredited University in Canada

* Athabasca University



Winter Olympics

Australia Wins Winter Gold!

Anderson & Anderson,( in press) Canadian Journal

of Learning and technology

Open and Flexible Learning

Do you Have to be an Aussie to Understand Flexible Learning??

  • Flexible learning is a set of educational philosophies and systems, concerned with providing learners with increased choice, convenience, and personalisation to suit the

  • An approach which allows for the adoption of a range of learning strategies in a variety of learning environments to cater for differences in learning styles, learning interests and needs, and variations in learning opportunities and; Approaches to teaching and learning which are learner-centred, free up the place, time and method for learning and teaching, and use appropriate technologies in a networked

  • Learning characterised by a mixed mode of delivery and assessment of instructional

  • Flexible learning, which includes e-learning, is about the learner deciding what, where, when and how they

Costello confused about 'confused' Rudd


  • Technological Determinism in Flexible Learning

  • Generations of Distance Education Pedagogy

  • What do our students say about new technologies and learning activities?

  • A Connectivist future for formal learning


  • We can (and must) continuously improve the quality, effectiveness, appeal, cost and time efficiency of the learning experience.

  • Student control and freedom is integral to 21st Century life-long education and learning.

  • Education for elites is not sufficient for planetary survival

You can’t have Open and Flexible Learning without Technology

The Man with the Magic Lantern,

a tribute to educator Ned Corbett

Educators reactions to technology determinism

  • Students today can’t prepare bark to calculate their problems. They depend on their slates which are more expensive. What will they do when their slate is dropped and it breaks? They will be unable to write!”Teachers Conference, 1703

  • From Thornburg, David. (1992) Edutrends 2010: Restructuring, Technology, and the Future of Education

  • Students today depend upon paper too much. They don’t know how to write on slate without chalk dust all over themselves. They can’t clean a slate properly. What will they do when they run out of paper?”Principal’s Association, 1815

  • From Thornburg, David. (1992) Edutrends 2010: Restructuring, Technology, and the Future of Education

  • Students today depend too much upon ink. They don’t know how to use a pen knife to sharpen a pencil. Pen and ink will never replace the pencil.”National Association of Teachers, 1907

  • From Thornburg, David. (1992) Edutrends 2010: Restructuring, Technology, and the Future of Education

  • Students today depend upon store-bought ink. They don’t know how to make their own. When they run out of ink they will be unable to write words of ciphers until their next trip to the settlement. This is a sad commentary on modern education.”The Rural American Teacher, 1929

  • From Thornburg, David. (1992) Edutrends 2010: Restructuring, Technology, and the Future of Education

Students today depend upon these expensive fountain pens. They can no longer write with a straight pen and nib (not to mention sharpening their own quills). We parents must not allow them to wallow in such luxury to the detriment of learning how to cope in the real business world, which is not so extravagant.”PTA Gazette, 1941

  • From Thornburg, David. (1992) Edutrends 2010: Restructuring, Technology, and the Future of Education

  • “Ball point pens will be the ruin of education in our country. Students use these devices and then throw them away.”Federal Teacher, 1950

  • From Thornburg, David. (1992) Edutrends 2010: Restructuring, Technology, and the Future of Education

  • Online Learning “is not a progressive trend towards a new era at all, but a regressive trend, towards the rather old era of mass production, standardization and purely commercial interests.” David Noble, 1998

But Social Construction Allows us to Co-Determine Real Use

  • Interpretative Flexibility

    • each technological artifact has different meanings and interpretations

  • Relevant Social Groups

    • many subgroups can be delineated

  • Design Flexibility

    • A design is only a single point in the large field of technical possibilities

  • Problems and Conflicts

    • Different interpretations often give rise to conflicts between criteria that are hard to resolve technologically – stimulating solution resolutions

      • (Wikipedia, Sept, 2009)

Three Generations of Flexible Education Pedagogies

  • Behaviourist/Cognitive – Correspondence, Self Paced, Televised courses

  • Constructivist – Paced online and blended programs

  • Connectivist – Flexible learning future

Image by Synthia SAINT JAMES

Behavioural/Cognitive Pedagogies

  • “tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em,

  • tell ‘em

  • then tell ‘em what you told ‘em”

Gagne’s Events of Instruction (1965)

  • Gain learners' attention

  • Inform learner of objectives

  • Stimulate recall of previous information

  • Present stimulus material

  • Provide learner guidance

  • Elicit performance

  • Provide Feedback

  • Assess performance

  • Enhance transfer opportunities

Enhanced by the “cognitive revolution”

  • Chunking

  • Cognitive Load

  • Working Memory

  • Multiple Representations

  • Split-attention effect

  • Variability Effect

  • Multi-media effect

    • (Sorden, 2005)

Behaviourist/Cognitive technologies

New Content Providers - ITune U

  • But iTunes is not simply a repository of more than 8 million songs, audio books, videos and 70,000 or so iPhone applications.

  • It also has the world's largest, constantly available, free educational resource — iTunesU.

New Competitors

“The teaching staff mainly consists of hired part-time lecturers

who are still at the very entrance level to an academic career.”

eLearning in the USA: The Standard? The Benchmark? Rolf Schulmeister 2004

New Information Competitors

  • Publishers as full meal deal providers

    • Web sites; mobile quizzes, audio and video podcasts, interviews, online and mobile versions, Powerpoint slides, testing

  • Professional & Academic

    • full service web sites

Individuals as free tutors


See calculus derivatives:

The End of Content Scarcity

  • Massive Global decrease in costs, complexity, convenience and access

Who Succeeds at Independent Study

  • Swedish study of flexible and open enrollment students:

  • “The result shows that the most important predictors of academic success in the course is an achievement-oriented approach to learning. The second most important predictor is expectation of the learning process as an individual activity” Ollssun, 2007

Pedagogical end of the line??

  • “programs that affect daily teaching practices and students interactions have more promise that those emphasizing textbooks or technology alone." Slavin, Lake & Groff, 2009 p. 839

  • What is the role of higher education in a world saturated with self-learning resources and opportunities?

    • Credentialing?

    • Authoring resources?

    • Prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR)?

2. Constructivist Pedagogy of Flexible Education

  • new knowledge is built upon the foundation of previous learning,

  • the importance of context

  • Errors, contradictions useful

  • learning as an active rather than passive process,

  • Focus on meta-cognition and evaluation as a means to develop learners capacity to assess their own learning

  • learning environment should be learner-centered

  • the importance of multiple perspectives - groups

  • Need for knowledge to be subject to social discussion, validation and application in real world contexts

    • (from (Honebein, 1996; Jonassen, 1991; Kanuka & Anderson, 1999)

2. Constructivist Pedagogy of Flexible Education

Image from Constructivism in the library

Where does Effective learning Happen?

  • “learning as located in the contexts and relationships, rather than merely in the minds of individuals”

    • Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, (2009)

  • The Context of the our age is online

Assessing students using Constructivist Learning

  • What is important is the process of knowledge acquisition, not any product or observable behavior. Jonassen, 1991

Constructivist OFL is the mainstream of “e-learning” today

  • Paced, aligning with institutional administrative systems

  • LMS designed for teacher directed, constructivist teaching/learning

  • Little or no persistence beyond the course level

  • Problems with scalability (the 30 student cohort – max!)

Constructivist Evaluation

  • the frequency with which students participate in activities that represent effective educational practice, is a meaningful proxy for collegiate quality and, therefore, by extension, quality of education.

  • What are effective practices?

    • Level of academic challenge

    • Active and collaborative learning

    • Student-faculty interaction

    • Enriching educational experiences

    • Supportive social interaction.(National Survey of Student Engagement, 2003)

  • Emphasis on process, rather than outputs

Jonassen 1992

Taxonomy of the ‘Many’ – A Conceptual ModelDron and Anderson, 2007


Conscious membership

Leadership and organization

Cohorts and paced

Rules and guidelines

Access and privacy controls

Focused and often time limited

May be blended F2F

Metaphor :

Virtual classroom

Formal Learning and Groups

Garrison and Anderson, 2001

  • Long history of research and study

  • Established sets of tools

    • Classrooms,

    • VLEs

    • Synchronous (F2F, video & net conferencing)

    • Email

  • Need to develop face to face, mediated and blended group learning skills

Critical Tools for Group Learning Environments

  • Collaborative tools

    • Document creation, management, versioning

    • Time lines, calendars,

    • Strong notifications

  • Security, trust

    • hosting on institutional space?

    • Behind firewalls, away from search engines

  • Decision making and project management tools

  • Synchronous and asynchronous conversations/meetings

Why Groups?

  • Students who learn in small groups generally demonstrate greater academic achievement, express more favorable attitudes toward learning, and persist …

  • small-group learning may have particularly large effects on the academic achievement of members of underrepresented groups and the learning-related attitudes of women and preservice teachers. Springer, L., Stanne, M., & Donovan, S. (1999) P.42

Impact (Mean effect size) of Cooperative versus Individualistic Learning contexts

From Johnson and Johnson (1989). Cooperation and competition. Theory and research

Cohort Communities of Practice

  • Wenger’s ideas of Community of Practice

    • mutual engagement – synchronous and notification tools

    • joint enterprise – collaborative projects

    • a shared repertoire – common tools, LMS, IM and doc sharing

Problems with Groups


Paulsen (1993)

Law of Cooperative Freedom

Restrictions in time, space, pace, & relationship - NOT OPEN

Often overly confined by leader expectation and institutional curriculum control

Usually Isolated from the authentic world of practice

“low tolerance of internal difference, sexist and ethicized regulation, high demand for obedience to its norms and exclusionary practices.” Cousin & Deepwell 2005

“Pathological politeness” and fear of debate

Group think (Baron, 2005)

Poor preparation for Lifelong Learning beyond the course

  • Groups are necessary, but not sufficient for advanced forms of learning.

Third DE Pedagogy based on Connectivist Pedagogy

  • Learning is building networks of information, contacts and resources that are applied to real problems.

Eight core principles of Connectivism:Siemens (2004)

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.

  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.

  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.

  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.

  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.

  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.

  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.

  • Decision-making is itself a learning process.

Connectivist Pedagogy Technologies

  • Individual resources (especially OERS) +_

  • Groups +

  • Networks +

  • Collectives



Shared interest/practice

Fluid membership

Friends of friends

Reputation and altruism driven

Emergent norms, structures

Activity ebbs and flows

Rarely F2F

Metaphor: Virtual Community of Practice

Networks Add diversity to learning

“People who live in the intersection of social worlds are at higher risk of having good ideas” Burt, 2005, p. 90

Communities of Practice



Share common interest

Self organizing


No expectation of meeting or even knowing all members of the Network

Little expectation of reciprocity

Contribute for social capital, altruism and a sense of improving the world/practice through contribution

(Brown and Duguid, 2001)

Blog Rubric (Jones & Magill, 2003)

Ed-blogs: the use of weblogs in

learning, teaching and assessment

  • Students not informed?

    • “We find little to no relationship between online privacy concerns and information disclosure on social network sites.”

  • Students Cope:

    • Students manage unwanted audience concerns by adjusting profile visibility and using nicknames, but not by restricting the information within the profile.

    • Mechanisms analogous to boundary regulation in physical space, like walls, locks and doors, are favored;

    • little adaptation is made to the Internet's key features of

      • persistence,

      • searchability, and

      • cross-indexability.

    • Zeynep, T. (2008). Can You See Me Now? Audience and Disclosure Regulation in Online Social Network Sites.

Connectivism Connects Formal and Informal

  • (Selwyn, 2009) examined the log activity of over 900 UK undergraduates to identify their use of Facebook appears to

  • “provide a ready space where the 'role conflict' that students often experience in their relationships with university work, teaching staff, academic conventions and expectations can be worked through in a relatively closed 'backstage' area.

  • So rather than enhancing directly participation in formal learning, the social networking services to help learners develop, reflect upon and share their identify grow and conflicts.” (Selwyn, 2009)

  • “positive relationships between intensity of Facebook use and students' life satisfaction, social trust, civic engagement, and political participation” Ellison Steinfield & Lampe 2007.




‘Aggregated other’

Unconscious ‘wisdom of crowds’

Stigmergic aggregation

Algorithmic rules

Augmentation and annotation

More used, more useful

Data Mining

Never F2F


Wisdom of Crowds

Formal Education and Collectives

“a kind of cyber-organism, formed from people linked algorithmically…it grows through the aggregation of Individual, Group and Networked activities” Dron & Anderson, 2007

“They follow not the logic of the network but of the set. They are aggregations that appear in some ways as a single entity” Dron & Anderson, 2009.On the Design of Collective Applications

  • Collectives used to aggregate, then filter, compare, contrast and recommend.

  • Personal and collaborative search and filter for learning

  • Allows discovery and validation of norms, values, opinion and “ways of understanding”

  • Educational semantic web

Connectivist Learning as Trace Mining

  • We leave traces as we learn and use the Net

  • How can we use these traces to improve learning?

  • Can the crowd learn to teach? (Dron & Anderson, 2009)

Collective Tools

Crowd Sourcing

Connectivist Technology Examples at Athabasca

  • Elgg - – Social networking, persistence

  • Easy M-Cast (Podcast, vidoecasts, screen casts)

  • Tutor “office hours” & recorded via Elluminate

  • Presence in immersive worlds ie Second Life,

  • University related groups on FaceBook

  • Students RateMyProfessor



Stepanyan, Mather & Payne, 2007

Boundary Controls in Elgg

Connectivist content production Models- From production to produsage - Axel Bruns 2008

  • Users become active participants in the production of artifacts:

  • Examples:

    • Open source movement

    • Wikipedia

    • Citizen journalism (blogs)

    • Immersive worlds

    • Distributed creativity - music, video, Flickr

University of the People 2009Tuition Free, Connectivist Education?

Using the power of peer learning and cooperation

What do are our students really need and want??

N = 820

Draft Results, AU Unpaced Learners Social Software Survey, Anderson Sept 2009

N = 621

Draft Results, AU Unpaced Learners Social Software Survey, Anderson Sept 2009

Draft Results, AU Unpaced Learners Social Software Survey,

Anderson, Sept 2009.

Draft Results, AU Unpaced Learners Social Software Survey,

Anderson, Sept 2009.


N = 820

Draft Results, AU Unpaced Learners Social Software Survey,

Anderson, Sept 2009.

N = 820

Draft Results, AU Unpaced Learners Social Software Survey,

Anderson, Sept 2009.


Draft Results, AU Unpaced Learners Social Software Survey,

Anderson, Sept 2009.




Draft Results, AU Unpaced Learners Social Software Survey,

Anderson, Sept 2009.

Draft Results, AU Unpaced Learners Social Software Survey,

Anderson, Sept 2009.

Survey Conclusions

  • We have a very hetrogeneous population of net users and non users

  • Many of our learners are “don’t know” about web 2.0 tool use in formal education

Challenges of Moving to Connectivist Pedagogy

  • Personal competence, literacy and tools

  • Crystallized ways of thinking about our educational models

  • Resolving our own sense of privacy and Net Presence

Open Net

Research/Community Networks





Read & Comment rights




Course Development


Open Athabasca




Bookmark Collections


Athabasca University


Course units




Single Sign on


Media lab



Secondlife campus

Shameless, Non Commercial AD

Upcoming Emerging Technologies in DE edited

by George Veletsiano


  • Behavioural/Cognitive models are at economic and pedagogical dead end for most forms of higher education

  • Constructivist models seem, OK for cohort groups, but problems with scale, isolation and dependency

  • Connectivist models and tools are flexible learning’s future

  • All of us need to develop our personal learning networks and net presence

"He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”Chinese Proverb

Your comments and questions most welcomed!

Terry Anderson


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