Friday, February 22, 2008

It's All About Context...

I received some great comments on posting Stephen Downes's Reality video. In those comments, context was mentioned as being key to learning.

Well, turns out that context is key - it can even lead us to see and believe things that are nt there. A study at University College London has seen this. here is a quote from a report on the study:

"Scientists at UCL (University College London) have found the link between what we expect to see, and what our brain tells us we actually saw. The study reveals that the context surrounding what we see is all important -- sometimes overriding the evidence gathered by our eyes and even causing us to imagine things which aren't really there."

Neat stuff. One of the very interesting things that came out of the study is that a vague background context was more influential than a clear well-defined context - explains why different people see different things - a critical thing to remember when dealing with learners.

It also explains how illusions work, so if you are one of those people who believe in the magic, you may not want to read the study.

So there you have it - context is key - no context, no learning. Context explains why some people "get it" and some don't. Or does it? Depends on your context I guess. Hmmm...

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Stephen Downes is one of the leading lights of online education and learning. His blog, Half an Hour is a must read for anyone interested in education, learning and technology. He is always thought provoking and interesting.

This video "Reality" asks several questions about what is reality and what effect does reality have on learning and students. It's an interesting watch:

Learning is about creating reality. Stephen also defines what learning is not - it's not remembering, it's not content - it's about creating patterns in the mind - growing meaning - fascinating stuff that really makes you go Hmmm...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Subscription Learning - Sign Me Up!...

Like most institutions, the college I work at delivers its learning in the form of boxes - classes, courses, and programmes. Classes are regularly scheduled, course are offered by semester and programmes are anywhere from one to three tears in length. All are delivered on a regular schedule defined by the academic calendar. Learners fit their learning into this schedule.

But what if there were a different way to provide learning? One that is focussed on the convenience of learners, not the rules of institutions - what if a course had no actual end date, or start date, and it could be changed as needed while being offered and could accommodate different learning styles, then perhaps such a course could be "sold" by subscription. Learners would sign in and out of the course when they wanted to over the life of the subscription on a schedule that works for them fit. No different than how we read magazines, or watch cable channels or get RSS feeds - we subscribe to them and use them on our own time, at our convenience, not the convenience of the providers.

The design of a course delivered by subscription would have to be fully interactive and activity driven... a key would the evaluation of the activities and the artefacts they produce, for example, that can evaluate learner progress. A competency-based assessment system that allowed learners multiple opportunities to become successful and was both formative and summative would work best. A portfolio learning approach would also be a key element of subscription courses, giving the learner and the facilitators a clear picture of the capabilities of the learner.

This subscription model, which would give a learner a mostly indeterminate amount of time to complete a course would work very well in an online learning environment. It would allow people to learn at their own rate and in their own way... with support from other students and expert facilitators.

A subscription based course model would also require a curriculum that is not based on
weekly class schedules, fixed assignment times, and semesters. It would require an adjustment in thinking in that a facilitator could be assigned to a course with learners in many varying stages of completion, something we do not do a lot of yet. But it is a great way to model education without boundaries, learner and learning-centred education. Subscription based courses would also allow an institution to provide learning opportunities where formal outcomes may not be as important as skill development and community access. The community of community college. This model would work for both credit and non-credit courses.

So would subscription learning take over the current system of schedules, courses and semesters? Maybe not, but it would certainly provide one more learning-centred opportunity and truly be education without boundaries. I think it is something that needs further exploration...

(Photo - Cargo by Miskan)

The Canadian Health Care System Saved My Life...

As Canadians it's our God given right to complain - we complain about the weather, about taxes, about our government or a lack thereof, and particularly about our health care system - too slow, too hard to be seen by a doctor, you name it, we complain about it. depending on who you talk to we either have the best or worst health care system in the world. heck, with this being an election year in the USA, our health care system is getting knocked down there too.

Well, I will never complain about our health care system again, because last week it saved my life. I developed pneumonia nad had exhausted myself trying to breathe - I was later told I was only hours away from REALLY bad trouble. I went to Emergency where you hear of the multi-hour wait, but they triage patients and I was taken in right away. I was quickly assessed and treated and all of the doctors and nurses were absolutely amazing - I received amazing care. It was determined that I needed to be put on a ventilator to give my body rest and I spent two days in ICU, and seven days in hospital all together. I am now at home recovering nicely (I think).

During my whole stay in hospital I was treated incredibly well by the doctors, nurses, therapists, everyone was positive, caring, and obviously loved what they were doing. their compassion and empathy went a long way to helping me heal.

I just want to take this opportunity to thank each and everyone of them - Dr Petrie, Dr. Greene, and all of the Emergency nurses and staff, Dr. Gallager (a wee Scots gentleman - my Mother would have loved him), and all of the staff of the ICU, and all of the nursing staff and doctors (specially Turkie - thank you so much for your caring and gentle manner)on the 8th floor - you are all my angels and life savers - thank you so much.

So this is one Canadian who has one less thing to complain about - we have a health care system that works and is there when it is needed - for that I will be eternally grateful...