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Is Big Brother Listening? Social Learning Analytics

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The opening paragraph of this paper by Dawson et al. neatly summarises a major weakness with learning analytics - that the data gathered is gathered incidentally rather than with pedagogical intent.

The obvious question to ask is 'what data would be more useful?' and then 'how can we collect that data?'

Social Learning Analytics is based on the premise that the answer to the first question is 'information about the interactions between learners' based on the observation that knowledge is increasingly distributed and learning has become less about learning knowledge from a 'wise sage' and more about connections and collectively held knowledge.

The second question - how can we collect that data? - presents a problem. It is not difficult to track forum contributions or similar within an institutions VLE. The interactions can be automatically tracked and the length, time of and words within those posts can be classified and codified but the assessing the quality of engagement requires human input. This is merely the first issue: most interactions between students don't happen within the VLE. However slick an institutions VLE is it is unlikely to be as intuitive, familiar and easy as platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. Students will opt for easy for them over helpful for the institution.

The idea of any institution monitoring and analysing my Facebook and WhatsApp conversations is creepy!




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Learning theory and innovative pedagogy

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Thursday, 7 Mar 2019, 22:22

A few reflections about the 2019 Innovating Pedagogy Report. 

Playful learning - I think there may be some behaviourism underpinning this pedagogy. Play is, by definition fun, and behaviouism rewards the learner with something they enjoy or desire. I can imagine the gamification which playful learning seems closely linked to could easily be analysed as conditioning. 

Action learning - this seems very closely linked to connectivism and the idea that collectively we can be and know more than an arithmetic sum of our parts. 

Place based learning - I would put this idea mostly under the umbrella of constructivism. If I were to study the Roman Empire at length I would know quite a lot and a visit to Rome to see to Colosseum would be meaningful to me in a way in would not be to someone with no knowledge of the Roman Empire. Both of us would learn from our trip to Rome but we would be constructing a little more knowledge on to our existing knowledge. 

Some of the innovative pedagogies in the 2019 paper seem, to me, to be technologies rather than pedagogies. Drone based learning isn't a new way to learn - it's a new technology which will enable better, easier, more rounded or more engaging versions of existing lessons to be taught. 

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Connectivism - my thoughts

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The internet has changed things. It's changed things very rapidly and by things I mean all things including people. Knowledge, prior to the internet, was solid and dependable. Generally things were known and remained static. Even when changes in knowledge happened it too a long time to disseminate the new approach, idea, information so changes were slow. 

Now 'knowledge' does exist as before - like a mountain range subject to small and gradual changes but essentially fixed - but as a flower bed with weeds sprouting every few days and a constant cycle of growth and change. 

Knowing things became less important compared to knowing how to find out things. Why memorise the world's highest mountains when the information is stored and accessible within seconds on any smartphone? I need not learn something if I can easily and immediately collaborate with someone who already knows it. This was we both can get a deeper and more detailed knowledge of our own respective areas rather than duplicating a more shallow knowledge on each other's areas. 

It seems obvious that a new theory of learning is necessary as the nature of knowledge is so changed. 

Previously my knowledge was mine. I accrued and collected it. In connectivism the network of people and technology enables all of us to share a much greater and deeper collection of knowledge than the sum of the knowledge we would have amassed under the old way. 

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