This is a space where I will describe my struggle to convert information into wisdom. The basic formula I use is this:

Learning = converting Information to Knowledge.
Knowledge = Personalized information that becomes a subliminal drive for an indiviual.
Wisdom = Applying the knowledge to an every day situation.

Browse through these ideas to see my point of view. let me know when I am wrong.

Controlling Instincts 2: Qalam – The anthropological perspective

As mentioned in the first part, the Controlling Instinct model posits the existence of  a basic instinct that bridges the gap between animal instinct (DNA engraved instincts) and human instincts (brain evolved instincts). This instinct facilitates the development of advanced cognitive powers characteristics of humans. In the evolution ladder, this instinct appeared with the a specific hominoid species that resulted in the emergence of the sapiens.

Does science support this position?

Anthropological Perspective

In anthropology, there is ample evidence that something happened, few hundred thousand years ago, that developed the brain of the homo species which resulted in the emergence of the thinking species. Most theories attributes this jump to the discovery of cooking by fire. Eating cooked food, especially meat, helped divert most of the digestion energy to the other organs of the body especially the brain. Providing such increased energy to the brain allowed it to create a bigger organ that was able to develop new synapses other species do not have. The brain has the ability to develop beyond the norm.

However, this sudden supply of energy did not create the qalam, that is the ability to develop knowledge and dynamic cognitive powers. Another factor had to play a complementary role. This factor is the premature delivery of babies which is another unique quality of HomoSapiens compared to most other species. This prematurity allowed the brain to develop further while exposed to sensual experiences.

Here is the explanation. The increased size of the brain created a problem and a solution. The female hominoids with an evolved DNA responsible for the enlarged brain could not deliver the mature fetus because their womb and cervix could not handle the passage of such enlarged and fully developed brain like other species. As anthropologists puts it, most mother died upon delivery, few weaker mothers dropped their fetus prematurely. Few of these premature babies survived but they needed to complete the development of their brain outside the womb.  Neurologists, as will be presented in the next section, say that the complete development of the brain takes up to 3 years after birth. This means, the brain was growing and being developed while the baby/toddler is experiencing real life interactions through their 6 senses (5 being the known senses while the 6th is the emotional experience). This interaction at such an early stage allowed the brain to create new synapses that other species did not posses. One outcome of this evolutionary development is having a superior plasticity of the brain that let it grow based on sensual experiences at a level no other species could achieve. This is the qalam.

So, in anthropology, there are ample evidence that something happened that shifted a specific species from being owners of slow developing brain to incredibly flexible and adaptable brain that continuously change based on sensual incentive.


Related References

Harari, Yuval Noah; Vintage (2014). Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

Wolpoff, M. H.; Spuhler, J. N.; Smith, F. H.; Radovcic, J.; Pope, G.; Frayer, D. W.; Eckhardt, R.; Clark, G. (1988). “Modern Human Origins”. Science241 (4867): 772–74.

 

Control Instincts – 1 : the beginnings

Controlling Instincts (CI) is a term I coined that defines the behavior of an individual in every day life.

I started thinking about this concept in 1998. Ever since, my perception evolves with every new field I study, with every interaction I have and with every new scientific field that emerges..

My initial ideas were influenced by the works of Tofler and the likes who looked at evolution as a movement from agrarian mentality to industrial then Information Age, as well as, by the new field of positivity psychology that looks at human psyche through constructive lens.

Recently, my last iteration was influenced by 4 fields of knowledge Which I have been researching in depth since 2011. Some of them are emerging sciences, like neuroscience and quantum physics. Others are well rooted, like anthropology and religion. In addition, I am constantly influence by numerous individuals and concepts that I face day after day.

I feel my brain has switch its cognitive power to try to reflect and analyze every act I face on a daily basis to synthesize a new branch of the CI model and add value. This means, the idea is a dynamic concept that continually evolve with every incident I face.

I have interacted with many thinkers trying to find ways to refine it. I have interacted with many laypersons to validate my discoveries and to minimize any blind spots in my argument. Moreover, I have applied the model in different fields of life with a considerable success. I applied it in management, leadership, education, politics, virtual collaboration, child upbringing, to name a few.

I was planning to put all my findings in a doctoral research which unfortunately, due to a personal disaster, I had to drop it. More about this in due time.

So, this CI model gives me a good tool to look and understand people and life and it helps me to cruise my life smoothly despite turmoils. Above all, it allowed me to make a living by using its parameters in many of the projects I have undertaken since 1999. With a good level of success I may add. I feel now is the time to share my ideas with the world instead of keeping it to myself because I stopped looking for money.

In a nutshell

The CI posts that humans has two (maybe more) groups of instincts. The two basic groups are the animal instincts and the human instincts. We are born with the animal instincts (like drive for survival, eating, having sex, etc…) that are built in our genes at birth. Then we develop the human instincts as we grow. Like guilt feeling, curiosity, bravery, fear, abstract conceptions etc… Psychology terms them as subconscience drivers.

In my model, the animal instincts are engraved in the DNA, while human instincts are developed in the brain as we grow. Some human instincts are so rooted in the conscience they appear to be unchangeable while some animal instincts, or DNA instincts, could be masked by human instincts to eliminate its effect. For example, fasting is a mechanism to curb or tame the animal instinct of hunger. While gluttony is a human instinct that amplifies the same hunger instinct.

The Qalam

There is one basic instinct that triggers the creation of human instincts and evolve them to become the human cognitive power. I cannot classify it as an animal instinct because animals don’t have it although it acts like one. This instict drives the development of all future human instincts. I like to call this instinct the “qalam”.

ZQalam is an instinct that differentiates us from animals. Basically, This “qalam” is (I believe) is a DNA based instinct that triggers brain activity that drives our curiosity and give us the instinct of the need to discover. It converts observed experiences into knowledge, abstract and or emotions in a very complex interrelated mental, cognitive and brain activities.

At the moment, I cannot tell when this kicks in in our life. But there are many studies that hints that the first 3 years of the life of a baby has a tremendous effect on who she becomes. It could happen sometime early in that phase of our life. This qalam is the instinct that makes the child recognize communication and then develop the ability to talk and comprehend. It is the instinct that makes the toddlers ask “the why” at an early stage of their being. It makes them formulate a way to interact with their parents and surroundings. It is the instinct that makes them human.

Do animals have this instinct? Maybe some has it in a primitive form. I yet need to find out.

The qalam drives the human to develop further human instincts. Like appreciation of time, role in a society, being dependent, independent or interdependent, the feelings and emotions that drive and formulate individual’s habits and attitude. All of these start at a very early stage of life. (I have done research that shows the experience babies face in the first few months will impact their eating instincts and their feeling of security).Further observations made me realize that most of the instincts we practice in adulthood are attributed to values little toddlers were exposed to in early ages. So, the social and cultural experience exposed to toddlers at early age go through the filter of the qalam instinct to form the human instincts that control the attitude of an adult.There has been many studies that talk about the impact of the first three years of a child. Some scientists are adamant that the impact of these 3 years is everlasting. Others argue against it. I agree with both. I will explain why in a due time.

Next: why humans have the qalam instinct? Are there any scientific proof to that? Anthropology, neurosciences and the theory of evolution provide some answers.

Triad and Religion: Questions about Trinity and Cognitive Triad?

A quick question: Does the Christian trinity relates to my 3 cognitive powers (internal, external and abstract)? Is the Holy Spirit the recognition of the Internal? Is the Father the recognition of the abstract while the son the recognition of the external physical reality? Did Jesus try to tell the followers to stop following the “religious line of thought” and endorse the philosophical line of thought (i.e. start thinking for oneself rather than following elder teaching)? Was it the real message of Jesus? Was his original message distorted to mean the holy trinity by wise men/woman who wanted to simplify it to the masses?

Many questions I am still looking for answers.

Triad and Religion: The Lenses

This is a continuation of the Triads I have been working on. Influenced by the ideas of Shahroue, I tend to look at religion through two different lenses that give two different perspectives about religion. One lens is the lens of beliefs based on human interpretation of the religion. The second lens is the lens of our today’s knowledge of the universe based on scientific discoveries.

For example: Satan is mentioned in many religions as the advocate of evil and the archenemy of God that drives us at a subconscious level to send us to hell. This is based on the first lens. If I want to use the second lens, I would use recent discoveries in psychology, sociology and neuroscience to say that Satan is the inner controlling instincts that drive us to do what we do not believe it is right. In psychology, this is the Id. So, in this lens mapping exercise, the Stan of religion is the ego of sciences.

Accepting this premise, re-reading religious beliefs would result in a new understanding of religion that matches sciences discoveries. This will be addressed in another post about the 2nd Lens interpretations of religion.

One note: Id, Ego and Super-Ego is a triad… are they related to my triad? Another thinking exercise.

Triad: Internal, External and Abstract

Another cognitive triad I have been contemplating is type of knowledge an individual has. I have recognized in me three different types of knowledge:

Internal Knowledge: That is the ability to know thyself. Especially, the controlling instincts that drives your values, actions, attitude feelings and extra-sensory perceptions (like pain, hunger, anger, etc…)

External Knowledge: That is awareness of knowing the universe outside yourself. This includes intrapersonal knowledge, knowing the physical world (space, time, science).

Abstract Knowledge: The knowledge of the non-existing realities like sur-real, time-space warps, the infinitesimal small and large, created and compounded realities, etc…).

FBE: How to raise our children

In respond to one of my Facebook acquaintances who wrote:

As parents (or future parents in my case at least) we should understand that religious indoctrination is nothing more but child abuse. 

We are essentially cutting off diversity by imposing our thoughts over the new generation’s thoughts. Thus harmful to us all, by attacking the evolution of human mentality and “teaching” them things like young-earth creationism and that homosexuality is unnatural and purely a choice. 

Alternatively, we should teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with us. In my opinion, even the most intense religious indoctrinations can be overcome.

I replied:

You are absolutely right. We must be careful not to make your approach another “intellectual” indoctrination and indirectly influence on our children our “liberal” points of view. For this reason, it is essential to bring them up on “Mustapha’s Premises on Steroids”: we should prepare them to learn, unlearn, relearn and to think collaboratively (the steroid) at a very early age. This could be achieved in promoting the values of flexibility, adaptability and tolerance. Then let them build their own personality, as you said, through thinking [collaboratively with others] for themselves. Once they reach this stage, then they are free to indoctrinate themselves in any paradigm they choose. This is the “food for thought” I fed my son. 

PS: 1. To clarify collaboration vs cooperation. Cooperation is synergy among individuals of the same paradigm. While collaboration is synergy among individuals from different paradigms. 
2. Thank you, Mustapha Hamoui: for enticing this discussion. Valuable thoughts.

MOOC: Online Writing Course

I have just started another MOOC course on Coursera about writing. I was amazed to discover they have outlined 5 types of online offering. I am wondering why a writing course talk about online teaching? But I found its information worth capturing:

Type 1: Traditional Undergraduate Level Online Courses: have a great deal of instructor to student interaction,  follow the course content of the face-to-face counterpart, not self-paced, follow along with the entire class within a designated time period, do activities with other members of the class, also limited in size.

Type 2: Traditional Graduate Level Online Courses: the student is much more self-directed, not self-paced, but there is more interaction among the students with the instructor in a facilitation role.

Type 3: Mass Open Online Courses (MOOC): The interaction with the instructor is limited, the instructor mainly participates through designing the course and offering its content. The instructor will also participate in some of the discussion activities and is usually assisted by peer tutors or teaching assistants. Much of the course is conducted with technology providing the evaluation through machine graded tests and assignments as well as the use of peer graded work. These courses may or may not be self-paced based on the content and the design and usually have hundreds or thousands of students from all over the world.

Type 4: Hybrid (sometimes called Blended) Distance Education Courses: These courses usually occur in the traditional college setting and are partially online courses.

Type 5: Flipped Classes: take place in face-to-face classrooms in many colleges and universities. They implement online content and activities as a major component of the course delivery. Instructors determine what content for the course can best be done by students on their own (watching video lectures, read, do tutorials, etc.) and what parts of the course the students usually need help with (writing essays, solving problems, creating projects, etc.). Students complete the work on their own online before coming to class to work with the instructor on the components that are best done with instructor assistance.

Courses with Proctored Testing: Many fully online courses require the students to go to a specific place to do testing. Usually, the site for testing is the college campus or an alternative sited agreed to by the instructor and the individual student. (This class has no proctored testing.) Student integrity is very important in distance education programs because the college has to be sure that their courses meet requirements of governmental agencies.” 

(Ross, Barkley & Blake n.d.)

Although I like this classification and it makes sense, i still find their definition of the MOOC type to be wrong, or at least, incomplete.

References
Ross, L. & Barkley, T., Blake, T. (n.d.) : Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade by Lorrie Ross, Lawrence (Larry) Barkley, Ted Blake. Coursera Course. Week 1. Retrieved from https://class.coursera.org/basicwriting-001/class/index

Privacy, West and East

This week LAK12 topic is privacy and learning analytics. Erik Duval presentation made me contemplate on some Privacy ideas.

First, you need to know that I was born in Lebanon, lived all over the world then decided to finish my professional life in Canada. So, I have that cultural mix in me where I continuously shift my values between eastern and western connotations. Something like wearing the right clothes: pajamas to sleep and T-shirt/Pants to go to work. I will call it “value attire”.

Erik asked the question: What you worry about?

Trying to reflect on a good answer made me recognize that my answer depends on the set of “value attire” I refer to.

My Eastern value attire would answer: nothing. There is nothing to hide. I lived my life sharing everything about me and I expressed my opinion freely. I had nothing to hide. Even others were not offended if we were “politically incorrect” and attacked them. Personal judgement is part of life and it never forced anybody to shunt their ideas, identity and expression.

My Western value attire would answer: I am worried that I will be considered an “alien” and lose the privilege of being a “westerner” that I  value.

This made recognize that I am forced to have two faces: the real me who wants to be open and express my feeling the way they are without worrying about my image or my identity. The me who accepts criticism and do not consider them to be politically incorrect.

The other face is the one the forces me to hide my true feeling and shut up because I still do not know what is politically correct or not.

Then it hit me: does the western culture promote privacy because people need an environment where they can be themselves on their own without anyone else judging them?

At this stage I started analyzing further with no prove: do people in the privacy of their home think differently than outside that privacy? Why and how they developed this attitude? Is it education that “programmed” students at early age to react to life in a way that they are not? using two different attire values? What they value in their own privacy is different than the values they express outside? Is this why privacy is so important? More questions than answers.

But to me, I made peace with my privacy rules: I am open and I have nothing to hide. My ideas and thoughts are to be shared with the world openly with no restrictions. And at point, if I am politically incorrect, I will look for the root cause/reasons/values that made me react in that way and eradicate it at the root so it comes out naturally in a politically correct manner without having to sugar coat it unnecessarily.

Other questions that comes to my mind:

– how much lawyer have to do with this privacy culture? Are they promoting it for their own benefit?

– I noticed that the eastern culture has far more wars among themselves than western mentality countries. Does privacy have anything to do with it?

I Learn by Trial and Error

What a synchronicity!

In my doctoral studies, I had a heated discussions about Learning Styles and why I consider them incomplete, and to some extend, useless or counterproductive (the post is elsewhere). One minor argument I used is that my learning style is based on trial and error. I challenged my co-learners to prove that there is any learning style theory that address this type of learning. I did not get a reply to this challenge. I was wondering why? Is it because no one found it, or is it because no one read my reply!

When I formulated that stand point, I was basing it on my own experience in the first place. But more importantly, based on all my male friends who hate to read instructions or guides. They prefer to try it themselves. Our wives (in majority) consider this approach to be a total waste of time. I do the same and survived many arguments with my wife. When I reflected on my habit, I discovered that I find joy going through the discovery process… it gives a thrill. We might make many mistakes, we might have to un-assemble the kit because we assumed one piece goes to the wrong place. But that gives me a joy. Not only that, I discovered that this experience becomes engraved in my personality and I, intuitively, refer to it in the future. It becomes part of me. More than just a knowledge, it becomes an intuitive habit. If this is not learning, what is? So, I learn through Trial and Error… and I find joy doing that. Shouldn’t a learning style theory include such an approach?

Anyhow, I am mentioning this now because yesterday, when I was working on a TEDx project for my community, I discovered a TEDtalk video that supports my argument. What a discovery. Here it is, enjoy. (P.s. if there is a woman who learns this way, please make yourself known to me to rewrite the above post and include you!)

Smart Convenience Stores

I was wondering today about a diet program I am following. It is working fine and helping me a lot. However, this post is about the services offered and not the diet. I just recognized that the model followed resembles how business in the knowledge age will look like. You pay for buying smart items based on knowledge. Let me elaborate.

Grocery StoreIn my younger years, my mom used to send me to buy her groceries from the convenience store next door. The owner was an illiterate person who uses his own signs and doodles to keep track of his account. His only expertise was knowing what price to tag the food based on the hour of the day to avoid spoiling them. He would talk about politics, who had a fight in the neighborhood and maybe what ingredients a recipe needs. Simple man.

In modern days, this has changed. The diet shop is an example. The lady who is running the shop is well versed with nutrition and diets. She gives advice and suggests eating programs based on who you are. Her advice and time is free. She makes her money from selling the right food that suits the customer nutritional needs and diet. Every thing you expect to find in a traditional convenience grocery: Eggs, Soups, desserts, sweet bars, drinks, condiments… Except that the seller is knowledgeable. Her advice is free, but you pay for the products she sells!

What an evolution. Nice merger between making money from selling products and selling knowledge and information. How will this merger be applied in other business areas? Hair cutting? Banking system? Above all, in the classroom? Something to ponder upon.

Strengths, Weaknesses and Disorders

In a recent discussion with PhD students, I touched base on how Positive Psychology should shape our world instead of surrendering to the negativity of traditional psychology. When I was challenged to prove that positive psychology could help people with anxiety and or personality disorder without medication, I reverted to Clifton’s strengths as a support. Then a epiphany happened. I related stress and anxiety to strengths and weaknesses. I said that: anxiety (e.g. stress, fear, insecurity, etc) happens to a person who is forced to live, study or work in areas of his weaknesses.  Personality disorder (e.g. compulsiveness, impulsiveness, addiction, etc.) happens to a person who has strengths suppressed.

So, to help a person under stress, let him change his environment to capitalize on his strengths. To help a person with personality disorder, help him rediscover then relate to his strengths.

This deserves a serious research. A topic for my PhD thesis? Do I want to get involved in the messy world of psychology? I doubt it.

Q&A: Learning Styles

Learning Styles TreeIn a recent academic discussion about learning styles, I was inundated with questions related to my standpoint about Learning Styles. I though I should summarize my philosophy in this post.

1. Do you feel the models are really that important?

Yes. At this stage of the educational game, learning models are important stepping stones essential to push education. Before Kolb introduced his model, educators believed that there is only one type of learning and that learners who do not conform to this type are lazy, incompetent, under-achievers, at risk and all the negative labels attached to such failure. Kolb introduction of his model in 1986 forced education to adjustment the curriculum and teaching to accommodate for different styles, consequently giving an equal chance for students to learn. This was a powerful shift of the blame from the student to the teacher. As Hogan mentioned in 2002, This led to a new educational paradigm where the teacher became the ‘facilitator of learning’ instead of the teacher.

2. What is the impact of the large number of learning styles

I foresee that the explosion in the number of learning styles will definitely force education to make more paradigm shifts with more focus on learners’ success. No one can tell how it will look like as much as Graham Bell was able to tell that his invention of the phone will lead to the iPad. But we can sense the change in many new educational ideas like the one promoted by Aviram and Amir in 2008. For example, some emerging teaching programs permit, if not encourages, that each student learn differently although they are taking the same material and supposed to pass the same assessment. This is not permitted in traditional education because every student is expected to demonstrate learning along the same norms. Without the ideas of differing learning styles, there would have never made the shift to this teaching approach.

3. Do we have to teach to a particular student’s learning style

Depends on the scenario. You asked about “teaching” so I will limit my reply to the “teaching” scenario. When I teach for certification (like Project Management or Safety), I use one style because the certification expects one type of learners consequently diversification is counterproductive. Obviously, I disagree with this approach, but I use it. On the other hand, when I teach transformational courses, I do consider the different learners’ learning needs ahead of the course to ensure effective learning.

I cannot help myself to point out that the ideal approach is to stop teaching so students can learn. This is new educational paradigm that I hope the multiplicity of learning types will bring to the educational table.

4. Do you feel that the set of Learning Types will ever be complete?

My “feeling” is I do not care. Having complete command over all learning style is a waste of my time and my resources. Few of them are enough for me. However, if you ask me if I want “them” to complete the picture? I’d say yes. The future of education is in technology. Computers will be able to customize the learning of each individual far better than any human teacher. For computers to do a good job, the whole framework should be complete. I think they are doing a great job individualizing the online shopping experience, I hope that approach extends to individualizing learning.

4. Is it better to follow a given model or to instead be aware of the many varied ways students might learn and focus instead on strategies for both educator and student.

If we are “teaching”, then following a given model, or combination of models, is really helpful. For example, I find Kurucz learning orientation model an effective approach to use with multicultural students. I find some underlying concepts in VARK and NLP to be effective “communication” (and not learning) tools. For example, I make sure my teaching material includes the 4 VARK mediums, while I use the NLP concepts to read deeper into my student personality through observing their usage of words and bodily gestures when they are conveying a message. Above all, I find Clifton’s model to be an effective reference when I need to help those who fail my courses to succeed in their life. My courses receive high merit evaluation from the learners, yet, always, there is that one learner who considers it to be the worst course ever! So this approach still needs refinement.

On the other hand, if I am “not-teaching” to make my students learn, I do not need to use any of these models for the students will follow their own natural learning abilities. I do not think I should interfere to ruin their learning ;-).

Diamonds and education

[Pre-notes: I was browsing the knowledge world where I stumbled upon the below article in Wikipedia about diamonds. I looked at the “diamond cutting” process and found that it matches so well my ideas about learning orientations. I will adopt this poece to education later. For now, I just copied/pasted it from Wikipedia (because I assumed it might change very soon). I highlighted the ideas that require reflection in red, and I recommend, for now, change: diamond to learning orientation, cutting to education, jewel to person, facets to strengths, crystallographic structure to synaptic formation,…]

The mined rough diamonds are converted into gems through a multi-step process called “cutting”. Diamonds are extremely hard, but also brittle and can be split up by a single blow. Therefore, diamond cutting is traditionally considered as a delicate procedure requiring skills, scientific knowledge, tools and experience. Its final goal is to produce a faceted jewel where the specific angles between the facets would optimize the diamond luster, that is dispersion of white light, whereas the number and area of facets would determine the weight of the final product. The weight reduction upon cutting is significant and can be of the order of 50%. Several possible shapes are considered, but the final decision is often determined not only by scientific, but also practical considerations. For example the diamond might be intended for display or for wear, in a ring or a necklace, singled or surrounded by other gems of certain color and shape.

The most time-consuming part of the cutting is the preliminary analysis of the rough stone. It needs to address a large number of issues, bears much responsibility, and therefore can last years in case of unique diamonds. The following issues are considered:

The hardness of diamond and its ability to cleave strongly depend on the crystal orientation. Therefore, the crystallographic structure of the diamond to be cut is analyzed using X-ray diffraction to choose the optimal cutting directions.

Most diamonds contain visible non-diamond inclusions and crystal flaws. The cutter has to decide which flaws are to be removed by the cutting and which could be kept.

The diamond can be split by a single, well calculated blow of a hammer to a pointed tool, which is quick, but risky. Alternatively, it can be cut with a diamond saw, which is a more reliable but tedious procedure.

After initial cutting, the diamond is shaped in numerous stages of polishing. Unlike cutting, which is a responsible but quick operation, polishing removes material by gradual erosion and is extremely time consuming. The associated technique is well developed; it is considered as a routine and can be performed by technicians. After polishing, the diamond is reexamined for possible flaws, either remaining or induced by the process. Those flaws are concealed through various diamond enhancement techniques, such as repolishing, crack filling, or clever arrangement of the stone in the jewelry. Remaining non-diamond inclusions are removed through laser drilling and filling of the voids produced.

My Philosophy Statements about Teaching and Learning v 4.2

[I have written this in 2010. I will reflect on it to move to v.5 in 2012 based on my learning growth in the last two years. The text in red need to be revised]

In April 2010, I wrote:

Philosophy Statements about Teaching and Learning, v. 4.1 > 4.2

I. Abstract

In my opinion, the best instruction is the 1-1 approach. Not in the traditional sense where a teacher teaches one student. This is not feasible using traditional teaching methods. In an ideal teaching scenario, the learners need to have “customized”, “personalized” and “individualized” teaching that caters for their learning style and talent through the innovative use of technology in all its facets. This applies in the face-to-face setting as well as online teaching.

II. Concepts and Values

This post highlights the set of values and definitions that governs my philosophy about teaching and learning. It includes a set of practices I follow when designing as well as delivering my courses, whether face-to-face or online.

Role of Teachers: Following Entwisted (1990) line of thought, I believe that the primary professional responsibility of teachers, trainers and online courses is to maximise the learning opportunities of their learners. Some would use the term “facilitator” but I still like to use the traditional term, teacher, with added contemporary connotations.

Learning, Information and Knowledge: Information, knowledge and their relation to learning is one of the vaguest concepts in the literature (Fox, 1991). Harris supplied the definition which is closest to my heart:

“knowledge is private, while information is public. Knowledge, therefore, cannot be communicated; only information can be shared. Whenever an attempt to communicate knowledge is made, it is translated into information, which other learners can choose to absorb and transform into knowledge, if they so desire” (Harris, 1995, p.1)

According to this description, I believe that learning is the process of personalizing information and experience thus creating knowledge. Collective knowledge includes skills, attitudes and beliefs. Teachers’ role is to create the desire in the learner to absorb and transform the information and experience into their own knowledge.

Assessment: is defined as “the process of documenting, usually in measurable terms, knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs” (Wikipedia, Assessment). I believe that this definition mixes up between knowledge and information. In my courses, I like to define assessment as “the process of documenting, usually in qualitative terms, the incremental knowledge attained during the teaching process”. How to do this? I have few ideas that I hope will be firmed in version 5 of my philosophy.

Curriculum: I like to categories the curriculum into two types: the regulated curriculum where outcomes are clearly quantified and regulated (like army training, government regulated courses, professional tests) and free-form curriculum where the outcomes depends on the learners’ achievement within clear guidelines (example: art classes, architecture and medicine). I believe courses in the regulated curriculum address learning at the information level. Free form courses tackle the learning at the knowledge level. Each of these two types requires different teaching styles and methodologies. The difference is recognized in the design and delivery of each type, although, personally, I avoid handling regulated courses as an online course.

Learning Spaces: Brown (2005) used the term “Learning Spaces” to replaces the traditional classroom term. I like to use the same term to indicate any space that induces learning in individuals: a classroom, my office, a cafe, over the phone, on a forum, blog, wikipage, online, offline, and all the new medium of learning that is available.

Learning Styles: ** This is evolving. My old me said:

My values recognize that individuals learn in multitude of ways. Consequently, the process of creating the desire in learners to learn should match the learners’ style. The literature offers at least 13 different schools of thought in this area (Coffield et al, 2004). Out of these schools, I find that Allinson and Hayes Cognitive Style Index to be the most suitable because it has “the best psychometric credentials” (Coffield et al, 2004, p139). I believe, to use learning styles as motivators to learning, I must include other factors like the set of intelligences acquired by the learner (Gardner et al,1995) and the set of strengths that determines their talent (Clifton & Nelson, 1992). My teaching should include drivers that ignite the learning desire based on the learners’ profile. Technology makes achieving this approach more plausible. I find the 4MAT approach to learning styles (McCarthy, 1990) the most suitable. This approach advocates that teaching should:

(1) Promote self reflecting, analysing, and experiencing.
(2) Inspire transitioning of information into knowledge
(3) Allow the individuals to digest and create content
(4) Encourage learners to express themselves

And I like to add a fifth one:

(5) Facilitate creation of knowledge through collective collaboration and network communication (Tapscott and Williams, 2010)”.

My new me would like to add something related to: “there are different learning styles as much as there are learners. This will come in 2012.

Learning Theories: As outlined by Anderson in his CIDER Webinar of April 2010, effective teaching should apply a mix of learning theories (behaviorism, cognitive, constructive and connectivism). I am a strong believer in this approach.

Generational Differences: Tapscott (2008) coined the term NetGen to describe individuals who were born in the digital age. I agree with him that NetGen learns in ways different than what traditional education is able to offer. Consequently, my delivery will recognize the different learning drivers dichotomies as presented by Coffield, (2004).

Parallel Education: As suggested by Brown (2010) and McGonigal (2010), new learning paradigms are emerging where the younger generation are building their knowledge outside the traditional educational systems. Some refer to this as the parallel education. The learning in this paradigm is naturally motivated and based on discovering personal talents through “virtual-real-life” experiences in areas not recognized in the traditional educational understanding. In my courses, I need to identify learners who are following this approach and encourage them to exploit it in the learning of the material. This is not easy especially that the concept is new. Maybe it will be the core driver for my philosophy version 5!

Technology in Learning: In my educational realm, technology helps to customize, individualize and personalize learning. For many thousand years, human learned based on one-to-one teaching (Toffler, 1980) until the industrial evolution came up with the idea of mass production that shaped our present educational system (West, 2001). This method is becoming obsolete to meet the new challenges (Tapsott & Wilson, 2010). With the advancement of the technology, we can go back to the natural way of human learning, i.e. one-to-one by customizing teaching to satisfy individualistic learning drivers through online courses and activities. [I need to address Cloud Learning, Connectivism and Crowd Learning]

Continuous Improvement: My courses will always contain learners feedback to continuously evaluate means of improvement. This philosophy will continuously evolve based on new discoveries, emerging technologies, my acquired knowledge and interactions with my learners.

III. References

Brown, D., (2010), An Open Letter to Educators, YouTube Video.

Brown M., (2005), Learning Spaces, Educating the Net Generation, Educause eBooks.

Clifton, D. O., & Nelson, P. (1992). Soar with Your Strengths, Dell Publishing.

Coffield, F. J., Moseley D. V., Hall .E & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: a systematic and critical review. London: Learning and Skills Research Centre/University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Entwistle, N.J. (1998). Improving teaching through research on student learning. In JJF Forrest (ed.) University teaching: international perspectives. New York: Garland.

Fox, S. (1991). The production and distribution of knowledge through open and distance learning. In D. Hylnka & J. C. Belland (Eds.), Paradigms regained: The uses of illuminative, semiotic and post-modern criticism as modes of inquiry in educational technology. Englewood Clifs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Gardner, H., Kornhaber, M. L., & Wake W. K. (1995). Intelligence: multiple perspectives, Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Judi H. (1995). Educational Telecomputing Projects: Information Collections, The Computing Teacher journal, published by the International Society for Technology in Education.

McGonigal, J. (2010). Gaming can make a better world. TED Presentation.

Tapscott, D. (2008). Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World, The McGraw-Hill.

Tapscott, D., & Williams, A. D. (2008). Innovating the 21st-Century University: It’s Time!, EDUCAUSE

Toffler, A., (1989). The Third Wave, Bantam Books.

West, E. G. (2001). Education and the Industrial Revolution, Liberty Fund Inc.

Wikipedia, Assessment, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assessment

Zukas, M., & Malcolm, J. (2002). Pedagogies for lifelong learning: building bridges or building walls? In R Harrison, F Reeve, A Hanson and J Clarke (eds) Supporting lifelong learning. London: Routledge/Open University.

IV. Appendix: History of the versions of My Philosophy

Version 1: articulated in 1981: The focus was on curriculum and teaching.
Version 2: articulated in 1992: The focus was student learning and success.
Version 2.5: articulated in 1996: The focus included the use of Technology.
Version 3: articulated in 2000: Constructivist concepts were adopted.
Version 3.5: articulated in 2008: Web 2.0 concepts were included.

Learning: Intrapersonal Interaction

Berge (1995) identified 2 types of interactions in learning: interactions with content and interpersonal interactions. I think we need to add a third one: intrapersonal interaction (i.e. self-reflection) since reflection is an essential learning activity that leads to understanding and appreciation (Boud, 1985; Schön, 1991). Otherwise, we will limit the learning to rote learning!

As such, I would like to paraphrase Berge’s statement to read:

“An educator designs a course that is to promote higher order learning, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, rather than rote memorization, it becomes important to provide an environment in which [the three] kinds of interaction [interaction with content, interpersonal interaction and intrapersonal interaction] can occur. (Berge, 1995, p.22).

Our online courses, like our classroom delivery, should include e-tivities that entice self-reflection as well as presenting suitable content and facilities for interactions among individuals.

 

References:

Berge, Z.L. (1995). Facilitating Computer Conferencing: Recommendations From the Field. Educational Technology. 35(1) 22-30.

Boud, D., Keogh, R. Walker, D., (1985). Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning, Routledge Imprints.

Schön, D. A. (1991) The Reflective Turn: Case Studies In and On Educational Practice, New York: Teachers Press, Columbia University.

TEDx: An effective Teacher must be less helpful

I have found this TEDx video on May 18th, and blooged about it on my Anas’ Thining Zone blog. I thought to migrate it to this one for I will need it for my PhD research.
Watch Dan Meyer video (11 min). He is advocating teaching Math in a new way where students define the problem. One interesting outcome he suggests is that teachers should be “less helpful”… How can being less helpful more effective in teaching!? Could this concept be applied in subjects other than Math? What are your thoughts?

Lifelong Learning

I see that present core values of traditional educational paradigm are based on socio-economical needs rather than on learner’s actualities. Toffler in 1989 mentioned that education is influenced by the mass production mentality of the industry. Bloom’s taxonomy, which is the corner stone, foundation, walls and every brick of the educational system, we discover it was based on military concepts and mentality. Check Pickard 2007, p. 45.

The scream of changing the educational paradigms is paramount-ing. Read the works of Tapscott, Taylor and Katz. What should we change?

There are many suggestive reforms around the world. Some driven by the UN, others drive by the EU commission. Even the World Hank has set its own educational framework. They all have different models, parameters and motives and recommendations. However, they all have one thing in common: they promote lifelong learning.

What is lifelong learning? We will disagree with the answer. Personally, I like how Lambs puts it. He says that the core of lifelong learning is for teachers to “promote the examination of students’ own assumptions and beliefs and thus to think more deeply” (Lamb, 2011, p.68).

The new educational paradigm should prepare individuals to think for themselves, challenge their own beliefs, be ready to change when they find their believes are not suitable anymore. This is the best reform we can offer. It works. Ask me for the proof if you are interested.

So, yes, educators should facilitate learners to reach new frontiers in their learning. And this should start at a very early age… before high school, even before toddler age… it should be included with the breast feeding… You don’t believe me? Read Bruer. If you’re interested, ask me why I believe in this.


If you are interested to know more, read some of the following:

Council of European Union. (2011). Notices from European Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies: Council conclusions on the role of education and training in the implementation of the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy. Europe: Council of European Union. Obtained from: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2011:070:0001:0003:EN:PDF. Accessed on 12 Dec 2011.

Katz, R. (1999). Dancing with the devil : information technology and the new competition in higher education. San Francisco, Calif: Jpssey-Bass.

Lamb, R. (2011). Lifelong Learning Institutes: The Next Challnge. LLI Review, 61-10.

OECD (2009), “Lifelong Learning”, in OECD, Education Today 2009: The OECD Perspective, OECD Publishing.

Pickard, M. (2007). The new bloom’s taxonomy: an overview for family and consumer sciences. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences Education, Vol. 25, No. 1, Spring/Summer 2007.

Tapscott, D. & Willaims, A. (2010). Innovating the 21st-Century University: It’s Time! EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 45, no. 1 (January/February 2010): 16-29.

Taylor, M. (April 26, 2009) End the University as We Know It. The New York Times, 26 April 2009. [Website]: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/27/opinion/27taylor.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=mark%20c.%20taylor&st=cse. Accessed on 3 Dec 2011.

The World Bank. 2003. Lifelong learning in the global knowledge economy: challenges for developing countries. Obtained from: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTLL/Resources/Lifelong-Learning-in-the-Global-Knowledge-Economy/lifelonglearning_GKE.pdf. Washington, DC:The World Bank. Accessed on 3 Dec 2011.

Tofler, A. (1989). The third wave. New York : Bantam Books.

Peace

In a letter to a friend, I mentioned that most of the people use the phrase “Peace Upon You”, “Shalom” and “Salamu Alaykoum” (which all mean Peace) without knowing what the Peace really means. Then a friend of mine statused his facebook with the phrase: “Kindness is to love others even if they do not deserve it”. Then it came to me. I commented on his status with “Peace is to love others without thinking if they deserve it or not”. What an epiphany!

This matches Jesus wisdom: Love Thy Enemy. I need to find reference in other religions!

Daydreaming: Subways and Mac’s of Education

Daydreaming

I want my online courses to be like Subway sandwiches and not like MacDonald buns! I want the learner to choose the ingredients of the course. To choose the style of activities that makes them learn. They cannot choose the objectives nor the duration.

Subway and Mcdonalds have the same objectives: to give you calories and nutritions. One style allows you to choose the ingredients that the you want. The other gives you limited alternatives to choose from. At Subway, if you aim is to lose weight, you choose more vegies than bacon. If you want to put on weight, you double the cheese, bacon and mayo’s. At Macdonald, you do not have this flexibility.

I want my online courses to be the same. They should have clear objectives: (1) the learning outcomes dictated by the curriculum; a and (2) a fixed duration by which the learner should complete the outcomes*. The course will offer a variety of activities. Paced and self paced. Traditional sequential reading material and leaping hyperlinked reading material. Videos and handouts. Synchronous and Asynchronous interaction. Learning by doing and learning by observing. Self reflection and networked interaction. Mayonaise and Catchup. Peer learning and self-learning. The list need to be completed.

The one who chooses to learn using my online course should know what they want and how they learn. Like the Subway customer: they know what they like to eat and know how to choose. For the others, let them go to a Mac restaurant (i.e. packaged courses) or to a fancy restaurant (i.e the structuredconstructivistinteractiving course) . Not mine. I want my student to “Learn Fresh”.

… and I woke up!


Questions:

  1. Was it a daydream or something that I can really make?
  2. Do you think there must be more objectives? Like assessment?
  3. Any suggestions for more ingredients I need to add the “menu of the course”?
  4. I know McDonals is far more popular and profitable than Subway around the world! Do you think traditional online/distant course delivery will prevail over my styles?