Jmhuebner's Blog
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Public Displays of Connection

“The most famous photograph of Times Square is surely Alfred Eisenstaedt’s chestnut of the kissing couple, which summed up the national mood in 1945 because it combined all the right elements: the returning soldier, the woman who welcomed him back and Times Square, the crossroads that symbolized home.” Michael Kimmelman, art critic for The Times, 1997

This week’s focus – connecting LMS and SNS — was an amazing learning experience for me.  It was as if I had been knocked off my feet by a soldier in Times Square, combining all the right elements:  a whole new understanding of our course pedagogy, constructivist theory, and the crossroads between learning management and self-organized learning.  You might be asking why the sudden wave of affection?  Check out this article by Christian Dalsgaard.  In it, he lays out the EDUCATIONAL VALUE of tools using social constructivist pedagogy as the starting point for choosing corresponding learning tools.  In other words, I was connecting to the message, not overwhelmed by the tools.  In a nutshell, here is what Dalsgaard had to say about how a student- centered e-learning is approached.  Notice how this follows the learning strategies of ADLT 641:

  1. Using a management system for administrative issues
  2. Offering students personal tools for construction, presentation, reflection, collaboration, etc. (In our case offering and exploring)
  3. Facilitating networks between students within the same course
  4. Facilitating networks between students and other people

As for the tools themselves – simply put, LMS’s were designed with education in mind, SNS were not.  For me, this explains it all.  One is structured and rigid by nature; one is open and unencumbered by nature.  I don’t think we do either of them justice by forcing a love match.

Further, LMS were designed to manage the delivery of learning, not as a learning tool themselves, but there is a currently a push to fit a square peg into a round hole.  The article by Coates, James and Baldwin states that “Most LMS were commercialized after originally being university development projects.”  This is the opposite of SNS which were not developed for educational purposes, but had to find – and are still finding – their way there.  Perhaps this is why LMS remain so stringent.  They are driven by the desire for efficiency (NOT effectiveness) in teaching, by the desire for data (proof of accountability) and management (read:  control), by the desire to compete with others (keep up with the Jones’).  All of these are valid reasons for management, but not for learning.  And, to me, that is ok. Data driven decisions are a good thing in education.

Since I didn’t see much difference myself while ‘noodling’ in Blackboard and Moodle, I decided to see if there were any comparative data available, and found a great article, written in May of 2010, by Alaa Momani. In it, Momani does a great job of breaking out the two into six components:  pedagogical factor, learner environment, instructor tools, course and curriculum design, administrator tools, and technical specification.  The only TRUE and important differences I could really see between the two is that Moodle is open source and Blackboard is not – and that one has been more widely used in the global market (70 languages) and one in the states (8 languages).  As Moodle does require a server to host it (which is a cost), I’m not sure of the overall economic benefit.  Most likely if a teacher is using an LMS it is not by their choice, but by the choice of institution.

“An extreme alternative to the use of an LMS would be to place students in front of a search engine on the web.”   Dalsgaard

In the Johnathan Mott article, he describes the PLE as the “educational manifestation of the web’s small pieces loosely joined.”  Mott’s discussion about training and support for students as they develop their PLE as a weakness was interesting to me.  I see how time consuming this has been in our class alone.  Yet, I can’t help but think of another comparison – keyboarding class.  Yes, it still exists at the middle school level, and in many schools all students have to take keyboarding in sixth grade to learn how to type.  In SIXTH grade — when they’ve been keyboarding practically since infancy.  Next are two grueling semesters spent learning the various programs of MicroSoft Office.  In today’s education environment, this is not the horrible waste of time that keyboarding is – but consider this instead:  introducing students to the various tool options to build their PLE from an earlier age. Evaluating tools and making choices for personal use in learning is a life-long skill, as we all know the tools will come and go over time. “Resources are not learning materials until they are used actively by students” (Dalsgaard).

Mott  proposes an interesting OLN (Open Learning Network).  The model seems to bring together the best parts of LMS with PLN.  This may be the model I often ask about in class – the one place that does it ALL.  Interestingly, the ‘bridge’ is the gradebook.

So the question to be answered is integration or separation?  Should I squelch my desire to organize ‘everything in one place’? For effective learning to occur, should we be more tolerant of public displays of connection?

LMS + PLE 4ever?


4 Responses to “Public Displays of Connection”

  1. I really enjoyed this post…some wonderful thinking here about the CMS / PLE connection. Your idea that “…we don’t do either one justice by forcing a love match” is insightful, and I tend to agree. I do however think there are learning practices (network literacy?) that make me think we should be looking to social media to help facilitate learning that is distributed and online (read networked). The CMS notion might be enhanced by integrating some of that practice capacity…but maybe it will just be by-passed altogether.

  2. I strongly agree that “Resources are not learning materials until they are used actively by students” by Dalsgaard. I think that learning does not occur until learners absorb the learning materials and it makes changes for learners.
    I read “Comparison between two Learning Management System: Moodle and Blackboard.” It describes what functions Moodle and Blackboard have clearly. Thank you for providing good sources.
    I looked at Sakai. When I signed up in rSmart my Sakai, they even asked, “What is your role in your institution’s decision-making for learning technology?” It looks more instructor’s centered than Moodle.

  3. Very provocative post. Your pulling in the idea of constructivism got me to thinking about learning and how it is built with other people in a network. It is also usually considered situated in the environment where it is obtained, not transported. BUT — are PLEs and PLNs a way to make situated learning transportable? Can we make our learning apply more universally if it is virtual and connected? I think that deserves more thought. If we learn in a virtual environment, not connected to a real place, perhaps it becomes more useful to us in more situations, not bound by space, or even time.

  4. Thanks for all the information. I read this post more like the draft for an article than just an informal response. Great job!

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