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: 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…).

LAK12: 3 ingredients that made up a new LAK side dish

The learning analytics has been slow burning on my mind since I enrolled in the lak12.mooc.ca course. I usually dedicate Monday afternoon for the LAK focused reading and reflections in preparation for Tuesday activities. But the idea is placed on a slow cooking pot throughout the week where I add an ingredient based on an incident here, anecdote there, or a info I gather. Then on Monday, I taste the pot to see if I can make something tasteful out of the mix. Today, I feel I can uncover a good side dish: analyzing the controlling instincts. Here where it came from.

The first ingredient: In an argument with my wife, I discovered that we sometime say something while we mean something totally different and we usually do not recognize that. For example, to me, prepare the table to eat means having plates and cutlery distributed on the table. To my wife, it means the feel and look of the elegance of the table which should include a red cover, lit candles and romantic music. She never said them in those words and she adamantly rejected this notion but admitted this is what was desired(yes… go figure). So, the same thing means different things to ourselves as well as to others. How can we develop an analytic system that can understand our behaviour and habits if we, ourselves, many times, do not understand them.

The second ingredient: we had couple of colleagues to dinner and we were chatting about validity of profiling tests. The discussion got to the MBTI profiling test. One conclusion that came out of the discussion was that MBTI wording of the questions measure “what you want to be” and not “who you are”. So, if the most famous measuring analytics cannot measure who we are, how can learning analytics measure our learning by analyzing data that resides on the internet. Mind boggling indeed.

The third ingredient: Buckingham newest book was sitting on my desk since my son bought it for me for Christmas. I decided to read it. To my amazement, around page 23, he indicated that our natural reactions are not random that depends on outside factors, but are based on recurring patterns that are deep  rooted in our personality. Those recurring patterns are our strengths! [My first aha: can we define a term called “our learning strength”? which is determined by a set of recurring learning habits or reactions? But how? add this ingredient to the pot].

Buckingham answer to the same question did not convince me that we can apply it effectively as a learning analytics. But its gesture has many good potential applications. He said that he applied the stimulus/reaction approach. [My second aha: maybe learning analytics should include processes to identify responses based on certain stimuli that the learner consistently exhibits while learning or surfing the net, consequently, one can determine the recurring pattern that formulate the learner’s learning strengths]. I am not sure yet that I want to add this ingredient to the pot. It needs more research.

So, recognizing that sometimes we do not know ourselves, recognizing that existing profiling tests cannot measure accurately who we are and recognizing that we need to look for recurring learning patters are 3 ingredients that makes a light side dish that still need more ingredients to make it tasteful. Let’s see what week 2 brings.

References

Buckigham, M. (2011). Standout: The groundbreaking new strengths assessment from the leader of the strengths finder. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.

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.

Yen Yang of education: First Attempt

The Chinese believe that polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and that they give rise to each other in turn (from Wikipedia). In my recent doctoral researchers and exposures, I have discovered some dichotomous situations and concepts that might require the Yen Yang philosophy to explain. In this post, I will list some of my finding hoping to elaborate further in the future.

Natural and Artificial Learning: When reviewing Vygotsky, Gardner, Lavit and Wenger’s work, I discovered that they advocate that learning happens naturally when an individual is placed in the right social environment, like Community of Practice. Deeper reflections and further investigation in cognitive neurosciences, made me discover that there is a good possibility that individuals can learn naturally on their own merit. This made me wonder: is traditional education an artificial learning environment? If Yen Yan premesis are correct, it is worth investigating this topic under that light!

(P.S.: I used “traditional education” because I have witnessed many educators who deviated from traditional education methods and actually created a natural learning environment in their classes.)

Copycat and Creative: Interacting with Sir Ken Robinson’s ideas about dismissal of creativity in preliminary school, and few other readings about Clifton positive approaches made me think if the learning processes that individuals go through since birth would yield one personality out of two: either a copycat personality or a creative personality. The copycat get his (or her) creativity from borrowing ideas from others, while a creative personality can imagine and visualize unrealistic images.

This idea was enforced again when I was watching a video of Pauolo Coelheo describing two types of authors: one who write based on experiences they go through themselves, and those who create new realities that they have never experienced. Watch the video: (P.S., I am wondering if I an a copycat or creative person. what do you think?)
Watch Coelho video:

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.

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.

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.

The Circle of Academicians

The last 5 weeks of my doctorate studies focused on the realm of academics. We discussed many topics about traits and characteristics an academician should acquire to be successful in this field. Good discussions took place. Out of these two topics, I want to share here two concepts that was raised. Both of them were mine. One I shared with the rest of the team, the other one I kept to myself, and now for you.

The first idea was related to Clifton’s strengths. I made a bold statement that a successful academician should have at least one of the following strengths: Ideation, Intellection, Learner, Connectidness or  Restorative. I would if my idea will pass the research test. it could be a thesis for one of my assignments.

The second idea is the Community of Practice. Some of the participants doubted the rules of the academic world. At the same time, during my MOOC course, I discovered that the Mooc’ers wanted to adapt their approach to the academic world. I am opposing this approach. I feel the academic world is a different community of practice than the Mooc’ers, which are different that common wisdom of the layperson. Each one follow different set of rules.

As an illustration of the situation, I like to use the following two scenarios:

(1) Consider a person who does not drink alcohols joining a wine tasting club. That person will be counterproductive to himself and the members. it is the same story. A person who does not appreciate the academic environment and wants to obtain a PhD will lose himself and make the experience of the other PhD’ers bad.

(2) Consider a person who gambles by playing Poker. If her tries to play Black Jack with the poker rules will definitely lose all his money, even if he won a couple of rounds. Consequently, if you want to study PhD, you should play by the rules of the PhD otherwise the study will be a total of loss, even if he won some arguments.

Just two illustration I wanted to capture before i perish.

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?

Berge’s Types of Interactions: Add 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 intice self-reflection as well as presenting suitable content and facilities for interactions among individuals. Your thoughts?

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.

Customizing Teaching for Personalized Learning

Philosophy Statements about Teaching and Learning, v. 4.1

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: My teaching recognizes 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)

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.

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.
Version 4.1: articulated in 2010: References were added.

Reading: 3 types of People

Another interesting article I read recently is about the Creative Leader by Howard G. Haas. Some of the brilliance in his areticle are:

– There are 3 type of people in business: Value Destroyers, Value Creators and the workers.

– Value Destroyer look at short term, consequently destroy assets and events.

– Value creators are those who set foundations for improved productivity that creates wealth, new possibilities and vitality.

– The workers are those who do the work and require little vision.

A creative leader requires:

  1. Technical Competency in at least one aspect of the business
  2. People Competency: communication and listening to spoken words as well as the unspoken feeling.
  3. Conceptual Skills
  4. Participants observer: Creating vision that creates value. This is golden!
  5. Learning Skill: Ready, fire, aim, fire again”.  The entire life of a leader is a learing experience.
  6. Character:
  7. Optimism.

Learning: Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality is a new science that is emerging where technology act as an extended tool for our reality. Such tools allow us to recognize more facts about the physical reality that human faculties (like memory or 6th sense) does not recognize. One of the first layperson such tool was the MediaLab 6 sense I showed it an earlier post. With the sophistication of the mobile devices, augmented reality is becoming more popular than anticipated. I think this has a major impact on teaching and learning. Future education, if it survives, will find teaching facts to students is obsolete. The real focus will be developing basic faculty skills and train on methods of utilizing knowledge obtained from AR tools. An example:

As you can see from video, education is trying to get the AR into the classroom. But I think, real AR technology will take learning away from school into real life. Wait for more posts about the topic.

Learning: Two modes of Learning

This is an old idea that I mentioned before and now I want to express it in a different way.

Now I believe that learning has two modes: natural and forced. In natural learning mode, we want to learn because we have a natural drive to learn. This drive comes from our talent and who we are. The force learning mode is when something want us to learn in an area that is not natural force. Theat we find difficulty to relate in a natural way. For example, trying to learn math when we hate math. Or to play basketball when we do not like sports. It could be more global. Like wanting to drive a car when the State does not permit it. Or learning to enjoy straight sex when you are gay! Or forced not pray when you have an urge for it.

Schools are created to promote forced learning. People do not need teachers to learn their talent. Most poets never went to school to learn poetry. Musicians do not need formal teaching to develop their music ability. They go to school only to complement their and enhance talent. I still need to find a real musician who does not have talent and a school system helped him to develop it. Similarly artists.

I just wanted to jot down these ideas while they are fresh in my mind.