CCK08: Paper 3 – On change

This final paper is less formal and can be seen as a free roaming thought piece. Reflect on the opportunities and resistance found in society and organizations in adopting different approaches to teaching and learning. Why is it so difficult to change the practice of education? What kinds of opportunities can we embrace if we are able to make fundamental and systemic changes? What can we learn from voices of resistance? Can our current world of weak ties and easy connections produce the depth of learning required to meet the complex challenges facing our future?


Ray Kurzweil, in his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, talks about his Law of Time and Chaos. The law is stated as:

In a process, the time interval between salient events (that is, events that change the nature of the process, or significantly affect the future of the process) expands or contracts along with the amount of chaos.

As the level of entropy decreases, that is, an increase in orderliness becomes apparent, the interval between salient events decreases. By implication, he provides a sublaw, the Law of Increasing Chaos, stated:

As chaos exponentially increases, time exponentially slows down (that is, the time interval between salient events grows longer as time passes).

He posits an inverse sublaw, the Law of Accelerating Returns, stated:

As order exponentially increases, time exponentially speeds up (that is, the time interval between salient events grows shorter as time passes).

And…

Order is information that fits a purpose…For example, a new theory that ties together apparently disparate ideas into one broader, more coherent theory reduces complexity, but nonetheless may increase the “order for a purpose”…

How does this relate to the challenges and opportunities that we face in any area, not just education, and not just with Connectivism but different approaches to teaching and learning?

I believe that it provides one effective way to think about how change can be brought about – by moving to more orderliness.

And how can we move to more orderliness? To understand this we must look at the elements that hinder the change and the main drivers that would facilitate it – the resistance and opportunities in adopting different approaches to teaching and learning.

For many, the real barrier to change is change itself. This is perhaps more common than we care to imagine. Patterson, Purkey, and Parker (1986, p. 98) state (quoted from SEDL – School Context: Bridge or Barrier to Change) that:

Lasting fundamental change (e.g. changes in teaching practices or the decision making structure) requires understanding and, often, altering the school’s culture; cultural change is a slow process.

That technology, innovation and new ways of learning and teaching will always be encouraged in any academic institution or process is not true. Attitudes and beliefs about the way the world works or personal preferences, knowledge and infrastructural limitations, affect how a change will be perceived and embraced. As an example, let us look at the questions around openness raised by Matthias in CCK08: Week 10, Openness.

The enormity of what Connectivism asks us to do can be realized in this very context – re-evaluate the role of educators, think of the network or connectedness as the base architecture for learning and re-assess notions of identity, power, law, authority, expertise, assessment and control in the light of the new theory.

At the level of implementation, much is still not clear – maybe not so much at the level of the individual course or two, but at the collective level where logistics, the forces of demand and supply, information asymmetry, politics and culture play important and influential roles. This is where I think there will be the most barriers to change.

I submit that Connectivism is not anything less than large scale, disruptive change, and attempts to incorporate it within an existing system would be to dilute the meaning and essence of the theory itself.

But what the ongoing debate in this course does not give us at this time, is time itself! To be able to propose something new at this scale, its utility or effects have to be demonstrated and documented. And that takes time. After all, the effects of technology or any new development often do not appear immediately, but take a while to appear. For example, research that proves that use of mobile phones is harmful for children may well throw mobile learning out completely for that segment.

I think the biggest opportunity at this time is to focus on the implementation specifics of theory and allowing its refinement and further amalgamation of other related areas e.g. HCI and personalization, through practice and reflection.

But this will require some concerted effort, some orderliness. To start with, the networks that have emerged here in CCK08, should continue to only expand in future editions of this initiative, with new people and ideas continuing to expand and diversify the network.

Secondly, I think from the perspective of need (cost, time, quality of learning), the adult education space may be more suited to start with. The time is ripe for the next generation of learning formations and technology to be introduced on a wider scale and there will perhaps be the least resistance here (I may be wrong!).

Adrian Hill references the Innovation Time Off motivation technique from Google. In an article from Chief Learning Officer Magazine, Summerfield talks about how IBM has successfully applied “intelligent mentoring” in global integration. Sheila Forte-Trammell, a learning consultant and co-author of Intelligent Mentoring: How IBM Creates Value through People, Knowledge, and Relationships, says:

“With regard to integration, we’re looking at connecting every person and every process, regardless of geography, time differences and cultural differences,” she said. “That integration starts with two people, and then we extend that practice across the business. We can’t operate in an individual space anymore.”

These efforts are a tiny sample of the changes that educators are trying to bring about and will continue to. Whether the ripples will change into a stream and a stream into a flood will depend on the ability of proponents to spread awareness of and enable educators to implement new models through, justly enough, the very network that they espouse.

There will, inevitably, be counteracting forces that will offer much to learn from. These are not just forces of resistance, but also wise counsel and diverse thought that shall only serve to enrich thinking about theory and implementation.

Can this world of weak ties really help us meet the challenges of now and the future? Well, it does now and it can in many ways in the future – provided we use these ties in consonance with an overall purpose, especially in a learning context.

In summary, my call to change, as Einstein said:

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

References

2 thoughts on “CCK08: Paper 3 – On change

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  1. Viplav

    What a thoughtful, thought-provoking post. I wonder if the global possibility of connectivism resides in local action and practice?

    Your post is one of five brought to me today by Google Alerts. It is early morning in Australia but I have already had access to a world of thinking and sharing.

    It has been very interesting seeing your work develop during CCK08, Viplav. Like you I am hopeful that there will be opportunities to continue our shared explorations of learning after the conclusion (in temporal terms) of the course. I think our conceptual and practical sharing will be timeless.

    Keith

    Like

  2. Hi Viplav,

    I always enjoyed reading your post. Your academic rigor is impressive, and every paper is well researched.

    I like doing research – it’s my top favourite. I did publish papers years ago in journals, but have not been active nowadays. I have been a convenor/member in assessing various research articles for development awards and scholarships, and have found such role pretty rewarding. Nowadays, I enjoy writing blogs which are more informal.
    It was great to meet you on that Elluminate session.

    Hope to catch up with you even after this course

    John
    http://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com

    Like

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