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Friday, June 11, 2010

Critical Literacy Course: An Online Distribued Learning Model adhering to a pedagogy of self directed learning using a PLE–Introducing #CritLit2010

Some Background

I became aware of connectivist, networked models of learning whilst completing my MA in the use of interactive and collaborative technology for Adult Distance Learners in 2008. I immediately appreciated the fantastic learning opportunities afforded by web 2.0 or social software and during this time I developed a model, of learning which I termed SCORE 2.0 (Synchronous Community Orientated Reflective and Experiential). A lot more research and development needs to be done but essentially i see this model as a combination of formal learning with the informal self directed connectivist model of learning. I look forward to revisiting and refining the SCORE 2.0 Model to compare with the Online Distributed Model of Learning that drives this course as i am keen to work connectivist learning into formal learning situations. Additionally whilst being a learner on CCK08, the first Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) I became aware of this much larger (Massive J), more open way of learning.

Why I enrolled

I enrolled on the course initially to learn more about critical thinking skills. The course also gives me a focus for learning, a motivation to put the hours to read and think more deeply than if i was just perusing the web for learning opportunities. Although the course is built around self directed learning there is a loose structure and more importantly a simultaneous group effort focused on the same themes at the same time (spread over a 6 week period).

What I found

After reading the course details further I found that the focus of the course whilst embracing critical thinking is primarily focused on the critical literacies that are needed to work with technology in a networked personal learning environment. Perfect – I get to:

  • · Think more about Critical Thinking Skills
  • · Think more about Critical Literacy Skills in relation to networked PLE’s
  • · Practically develop my PLE and Networking skills in this MOOC environment.
  • · Learn about Learning

First Thoughts

Firstly I needed to get organised – Do not want to miss any possible postings in this distributed environment. Prior to the course my own personal learning environment has revolved around using tweetdeck to monitor twitter activity. The easy setting up of search columns makes this a great application to monitor twitter activity. John Mak and Irmerli Aro and Michelle Drechsler have recently awoken me to the to the fantastic media rich and connectively sweet environment that is facebook. (I have never fancied using Facebook educationally in a formal class, but adopting it for use as part of your own personal learning network is a WIN WIN WIN situation).

So, for this course I Joined up to the Daily (aggregator of course news), but the best thing at the moment is using Google alerts – a quick and easy notification to my Google mail of anything related to the course using the hash tag #CritLit2010. Started to gather all #CritLit2010 feeds in Google reader, but have reverted back to just working from the alerts in Google Mail.

Found most useful to read the Course details page on the wiki to orientate myself to what this course was all about. The Blog posts of Jenny Mackness, John Mak and Heli Nurmi have initially kept me orientated. I feel; as though I am struggling to catch up, but we’ll see how we go. Mike Bogle’s Warcraft guild for CritLit2010 Blog post and his suggestion of using the gaming arena as a vehicle to facilitate learning seems good to me – I am a strong believer in synchronous online activity to strengthen bonds especially in conjunction with problem or task based learning. Unfortunately have not had time to engage much with other learners yet.

So what is Critical Literacy and what are we (me) to learn about

The Course Introductory page on Moodle states that:

Technology has brought changes to the way people learn and some “critical literacies” are becoming increasingly important. This course is about these critical literacies.

In the context of this course I expect to learn more about Critical Thinking Skills in general and Critical Literacy Skills in relation to networked PLE’s.

Critical Thinking Skills

John Mak posted a link to a useful presentation on the topic of Critical Thinking. The presentation initially asserts that Thinking is a purposeful, organised, cognitive process that we use to make sense of the world”.

The presentation goes onto explain that there are two types of thinking i)Creative Thinking - left side brain activities that generate new ideas and ii) Critical Thinking – right side brain activities involving for example analysing, evaluating, reasoning. There are a couple of definitions offered revolving around the themes such ash reflecting on the meaning of statements, examining the offered evidence, forming judgments around the facts – ultimately it is about checking facts, making assumptions, drawing conclusions, challenging assertions and exploring other points of view.

To quote from the presentation (Module 1: Introduction to Critical Thinking, Zaid Ali Alsagoff 2007)

Critical thinking is the general term given to a wide range of cognitive and intellectual skills needed to:

  • Effectively identify, analyse and evaluate arguments
  • Discover and overcome personal prejudices and biases.
  • Formulate and present convincing reasons in support of conclusions.
  • Make reasonable, intelligent decisions about what to believe and what to do.

Useful to consider from the presentation also these Critical thinking Standards:

  • · Clarity - e.g Can you give an example to illustrate your point?
  • · Accuracy - e.g Is the information source valid and accurate?
  • · Precision - e.g Could you be more specific?
  • · Relevance - e.g How is that connected to the question?
  • · Depth - e.g How are complexities addressed?
  • · Breadth - e.g Is here another way of looking at the question?
  • · Logic - e.g You have two contradicting statements - How do you square that :-)
  • · Fairness - e.g open minded, impartial, free of distorting biases and pre-conceptions.

Suggested Barriers to Critical Thinking Include:

  • · Egocentrism
  • · Sociocentrism
  • · Unwarranted assumptions
  • · Wishful thinking
  • · Relativistic thinking

Critical Literacy Skills (in relation to networked PLE’s)

To paraphrase the course designers this course is designed around the notion that to learn effectively in a PLE a certain set of skills and competencies are required. The course has in part been designed to test whether learners can in fact employ these skills to effectively self direct their own learning in a PLE OR whether and additional pedagogy is required prior to the use of a PLE. Note to self: Need to ascertain the role of the facilitators and whether more interventions on their part constitutes an additional pedagogy or whether teacher as facilitator is part of the pedagogy it just depend to what degree they scaffold and assist learning. The competencies identified are drawn from Stephen Downes presentation on the pedagogical foundations of learning. The Critical Literacies required are deemed to be:

  • Syntax – the ability to recognize and use forms, grammars, patterns and other structural properties of communication. This would include information literacy and ontology of information.
  • Semantics – the ability to connect communicative elements to underlying purposes, goals, objectives, theories or meaning, denotation, reference, truth and understanding. Including new ways of interpreting information and evaluating media, through aggregation and filtering for instance.
  • Pragmatics – the capacity to use communicative elements in actions, or to take actions using communication, to express, commit, interrogate, and engage in interactions. Including being active participants in the world and on the Web versus passive consumers.
  • Cognition – the capacity to infer, or detect faulty inferences, to use communicative elements in order to describe, argue, explain or define. Including the power of reflection, authority of knowledge, stability of knowledge, communication as conversation or as dialogue.
  • Context – the capacity to locate a communication in a wider environment, to understand the impact of this environment on semantics and pragmatics, and to assemble and understand sets of communications as expressive of frames, world views, or deontological constructs. Including issues of power, control, and ownership; motivational and affective issues.
  • Change – the capacity to reason dynamically, to detect and comprehend processes and flows, to understand the impact of progressions and differences, to reason employing dynamic events such as games and simulations.

The bullet pointed list above is an Extract from Critical Literacies Online Course Details and Learners in this type of course are expected to exercise the capacities described above.

Course Modus Operandi - Learner Expectations

Four types of activity are expected in this connectivist type course:

  • Aggregation (of content) e.g access Moodle for recommended readings, google alerts, RSS feeds
  • Remix e.g. Keep track of what you have read, maybe via a blog, social bookmarking, post in the moodle discussion boards
  • Repurpose e.g Put your own spin on the content you have aggregated, outline your own understandings
  • Feed Forward e.g. Share your repurposed work with others - Blog about it tweet about your blog or interesting links, share in a social bookmarking group.

Other points to Consider

Early discussions from course members identified the following critical literacies:
  • Management of Time, Workload and Prioritising –Jenny Mackness
  • Relationship Building and Development – John Mak
  • Wayfinding behaviors and Strategies in Large Virtual Environments
  • Literacy of Memory – Transliteracy
Other useful documents in relation to critical literacy competencies is Gráinne Conole's 'New Schemas for Mapping Pedagogies and Technologies' document

Final Thoughts

This initial blog post has allowed me to establish a base anchor from which to now consider the themes of the course. I have consolidated here the main competences and working practices initially expected by the course designers and have briefly started the process of collating others view on what critical literacies are important when learning in a networked environment. I can use this blog post as a reference checklist when analysing my own level of critical literacy. I shall also have a good read of this web article Critical Thinking Development: A Stage Theory to help me understand better the development process with regard to critical thinking. As we are well into week two - I'll need to crack on and move swiftly to consider readings and opinions of others on week 1 theme 'cognition' and wekk 2 theme 'change'.


Sui Fai John Mak said...

Wonderful Steve, A great summary of the critical literacies. I like your approach, weaving the literacies together, and making sense in our learning experiences in the spaces - FB, blogs etc.

Steve Mackenzie said...

Hi John, thanks for the comment. I've added two more critical literacies to the list as mentioned by the CritLit2010 and wider community

1. I observe data visualisation as an emergent critical literacy - ruth howard coment

2. information management mentioned as a crtical literacy network student

EJ said...

A very comprehensive blog post, indeed! I want to suggest a Podcast called The Critical Thinker. I think its a good addition to your PLN.

Educators of this course could certainly use elearning authoring tools to create more engaging content that exercises both the right and left brains!

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