A sense of wonder and discovery: in support of methodological pluralism

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Introduction

I have been thinking a lot about methodological pluralism recently.

This is, in part, in response to the remarkable virtuosity that is now evident in approaches to the observation and analysis of performance. It is also in response to a colleague’s dilemma at a university in the United Kingdom. As she seeks to open up conversations about methodologies and the availability of rich resources in social media, some of her colleagues are keen to close down discussion asserting their own paradigmatic certainty.

I do think these are exciting and uncertain times for conversations about methodologies and the epistemology and ontology exchanges that can arise from them.

In this post I draw upon insights from then (Herodotus) and now (George Siemens) to explore the opportunities for pluralism nourished by a sense of wonder and a delight in discovery.

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The Histories

Julia Kindt has an article in today’s Conversation in Australia.

Her subject is Herodotus and his Histories.

Some of the points in her article that resonated with me were:

  • The opening sentence of The Histories: “Herodotus of Halicarnassus here displays his inquiry, so that human achievements may not become forgotten in time, and great and marvellous deeds … may not be without their glory”.
  • “What specifically sets Herodotus and his enquiry apart, then, is the proto-scientific way he explores the inner workings of the world. The question “why” drives this inquiry in all its aspects.”
  • “He is careful to tell his reader from where he derived his information on foreign lands, whether he witnessed personally or learned from a reliable source”.
  • “To Herodotus, at least, measuring the world, mapping new territory, noting the features of distant lands and territories are all part of the process of ‘sense-making’, in which the new and unknown is related to the well-known and familiar”.

Julia concludes her article with these observations:

The Histories stand at the transition from an older, mythical worldview – that of the heroic or archaic age as represented in Homeric epic – to a new, classical outlook that manifested in the exacting mode of enquiry into the workings of the world.

And:

What makes the work stand out above all is the Histories’ sense of wonder and discovery. Herodotus’ Histories remain a classic testament to the pleasures of researching and learning.

Methodologies in a Digital World

Two weeks ago, George Siemens discussed the future of learning at a conference in Norway. The subtitle of his presentation indicated that this future was digital, distributed and data-driven.

In a blog post to accompany his presentation, George asks:

What is our obligation as educators and as researchers to explore research interests and knowledge spaces? What is our obligation to pursue questions about unsavoury topics that we disagree with or even find unethical?

There are 115 slides in George’s presentation. I am particularly interested in his discussions about self-regulated, self-selected and self-directed learning.

Four slides helped me think about these issues:

A quote from Maria Popova (slide 80)

MP1

These connections are made (slide 89) at a time when there is:

GS1

As Herodotus pointed out, this challenges us to make sense (George’s slide 90):

GS2

This stitching can take place locally (slide 100):

GS3

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Wonder and Discovery

My friend’s conversations in the United Kingdom are about a disciplinary issue AND a meta-learning issue.

My friend seeks to live in a feedforward world where excitement, discovery and vulnerability combine to surprise and delight.

This is a post in support of her quest for sense-making in a pluralist world.

I will encourage her to read The Histories and to think about the parallels between ‘historia’ (critical thinking) and her flourishing in a world that welcomes diversity of views woven into new sense-making. I will invite her to share George’s thoughts on different world views with her colleagues.

My hope is that dialogue is much more preferable to edict.

Photo Credits

Need a Rear View Mirror (EightBitTony, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Messages (Nicola, CC BY 2.0)

_MG_7756 (Ben Rodford, CC BY-NC 2.0)

A Souq-Like SOOC

There has been a lot of discussion recently about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

I am grateful to Stephen Downes’ OLDaily and George Siemens for regular updates about MOOC opportunities and debate.

I was fortunate to be a participant in the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (CCK08) open online course. George Siemens writes of this:

In 2008, Stephen Downes and I offered an open online course Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (CCK08).  As our registration numbers increased to about 2300 students, Dave Cormier and Bryan Alexander dubbed the course offering a “massive open online course” or MOOC. The term has stuck and both Dave and Bryan will eventually be inducted into the edtech hall of fame for great word inventage. Since that first course, Stephen, Dave, and I have offered a whack of different courses: CCK09, CCK11, CCK12, Future of Education, PLENK, LAK11, LAK12, Change11, Critical Literacies, and so on. All told, we are likely approaching about 20,000 registrants for our MOOCs (there is overlap from different courses, so the unique registrants would be less).

My thinking about learning was transformed by CCK08 and has been developed by peripheral participation in a number of the other MOOCs George mentions.

I have been contemplating a modest alternative to the MOOC … a SOOC (a Small Open Online Course). I do think the principles of MOOCs are scalable.

I like the idea of a SOOC that has characteristics of its like-sounding souq. According to Wikipedia a souq is:

an open-air marketplace. Historically, souqs were held outside of cities in the location where a caravan loaded with goods would stop and merchants would display their goods for sale. Souqs were held when there was a caravan or more available. At that time, souqs were more than just a market to buy and sell goods; they were also major festivals and many cultural and social activities took place in them.

The SOOC I have in mind is a mother SOOC that will lead to daughter and granddaughter SOOCs. I am planning a five topic SOOC in The Observation and Analysis of Performance in Sport. One of the challenges for me is how to support non-linear personal learning. At present the SOOC’s five topics are:

  • Connecting and Sharing
  • Observing Performance
  • Visualising Data
  • Knowledge Discovery in Databases
  • Augmented Reality

I see the Connecting and Sharing topic as the key to supporting involvement in the SOOC. I am keen to persuade colleagues that sharing is the competitive edge in sport. Thereafter there will be a weekly progression through the topics but I realise that the caravans that bring ideas and energy may not coincide with this rhythm.

I am exploring too how this kind of approach resonates with open badges and formal recognition of learning through a qualification framework.

My concept of the SOOC is that it is a fractal of all other activity imbued with a commitment to open, self-paced intrinsically motivated learning.

I see each step in the geneaology of the SOOC triggered by the parent SOOC but increasingly open through generational change to including and crowdsourcing participants’ interests and knowledge. I hope that this approach establishes the connectivist aspirations of this form of sharing.

I am looking at ways to develop this SOOC with tools developed by Adam Brimo at OpenLearning.

Photo Credit

Life offers you tools …

Souq, Aleppo

Treasure Trove

Introduction

Last week was another treasure trove week for me. It started with my daughter Beth’s first blog post and concluded with news of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) running at present.

Treasure Baskets

Beth’s post about treasure baskets set me off thinking about the possibilities of guided discovery in play. I thought too about the personalisation that might occur in learning as teachers and coaches adapt the idea of a treasure basket to their own learning environments. A treasure basket is a collection of everyday objects chosen to stimulate the different senses. I followed up on Beth’s discussion of the role the basket has in heuristic play.

Elaine Lambe notes that heuristic play “is the term used to describe play for babies, infants and toddlers that actively encourages exploration by using and developing their senses.” As with all treasure troves one discovery leads to another and through Elaine’s post I found Elinor Goldschmied‘s work. Valerie Jackson has provided a great insight into Elinor’s work. I liked Valerie’s observation that:

Elinor understood the importance of accepting every child as a unique and gifted individual. She didn’t waste time trying to categorise or label children as having special needs, additional needs or anything else. They were all children and we were all the people tasked with the responsibility to encourage and raise good citizens.

She understood that learning to negotiate and compromise are positive skills to allow children to develop so that friendships grow and become strong in the nursery years so that the process of maturation and finally reaching adulthood becomes less arduous and isolating. If a child has one particular adult with whom they can develop a positive relationship during their time away from family, such as in the nursery, then their stay is less traumatic and their play and learned behaviours become more positive. From this, the idea of a key person has evolved and is currently promoted by the Early Years Foundation Stage in the United Kingdom.

Elinor worked with Sonia Jackson to write about People Under Three. I think their work has enormous implications for all learning. I will follow up on their key person ideas. “The key person makes sure that, within the day-to-day demands of thesetting, each child for whom they have special responsibility feels individual, cherished and thought about by someone inparticular while they are away from home.”

MOOC

The concept of a key person was reinforced for me this week with news of two MOOC events. Learning and Knowledge Analytics (LAK11) has been underway for a week. After my participation in CCK08 I have viewed George Siemens as a key person in my learning and trust implicitly his making sense of the world. I am impressed constantly by George’s energy as a guide and catalyst for learning. I will struggle to be an active participant in LAK11 and hope that legitimate peripheral participation is acceptable. There are some great resources available at LAK11 … a wonderful trove. I liked Dave Cormier’s post this week about the roles that can be played in a MOOC.

Stephen Downes is another key person in my learning. I have been writing about Stephen’s work from the origins of this blog. Many of my posts are inspired by links Stephen shares in OLDaily. Stephen is facilitating CCK11 with George Siemens. The course outline is here and week 1 news is here. I was interested to read George’s observation that “We are doing away with the central-space of Moodle – our final break from the LMS and will be using only the commenting feature within gRSShopper. While it might not seem like a huge change on the surface, it is probably our most significant experiment to date.” I found a newer version of Kroc Carmen’s post about RSS via a link in OLDaily.

Both courses are treasure baskets for me. It is great to start the day in Australia with news of goings on in Canada. I have an opportunity to explore ideas some fifteen hours ahead of convivial discussion in the Northern Hemisphere.

Conclusion

Sonia Jackson points out that Elinor Goldschmied’s first job was “in the junior school of Dartington Hall, the “progressive” school in Devon, where she stayed for five years. Dartington in the 1930s provided an exciting cultural and political environment which changed her view of the world.” The post that started me off on this reflection on treasure trove was written by a pupil at the Park School, Dartington. Beth was at the school in the late 1980s and like Elinor has been profoundly influenced by the possibilities of play in learning.

I am immensely proud of Beth’s entry into blogging. Her vision is to find ways to share knowledge and connect parents of young children. She, George and Stephen have a great deal in common in the altruism of connecting.