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: 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…).

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!)

Community of Practice

I have met Etienne Wenger in 2000 when we were working on creating the LINC (Learning International Network Consortium) with Prof. Dick Larson in MIT. He introduced his Community of Practice to us as a group and I was fascinated with it (although I just comprehended it fully!). We had a nice chat especially about my Controlling Instincts theories which, somehow, complemented his theory. I do not remember whether I felt he accepted it because I was proud of myself or he dismissed it and I chose to ignore the fact. Few years later, I met him again at a conference held by University of Alberta… and to my amazement, he did not remember me although he remembered the project. It was an understandable shock.
Anyways, I read and reflected on his Community of Practice sporadically over the years until I was forced to study it as part of my doctoral studies. It was an optional topic that I opted to choose for I thought I could finish it quickly. To my amazement, it was a transformational experience. I saw it through a totally new eyes. Then I started seeing the world in a totally new eyes as well. I saw it as a complex field of circles. People who walk into the circle learn new language… they understand things in a way that people outside the circle cannot understand. Now, when I talk with someone, I try to figure out which circle he belongs to, I reflect to figure out if I know the paradigm of that circle, then I start using his terms. If I do not relate to his circle, I shut up, listen attentively and just nod. When I have a chance, I try to translate the conversation to terms I can relate to.

An Epiphany that has many applications.

One intimidate application is another epiphany I got when I was watching Gardner video (see it below). I related very quickly to his ideas. I am in his circle. Yet, in his talk, he hinted that many reputable theorists rejected his ideas. How can anyone reject Gardner’s ideas? They are so logical and natural. Then it hit me when he said: “my work in neuroscience influenced me”. Using CoP, he belongs to two circles: psychology and neurosciences. I can bet $100 that those who are opposing him are well versed in psychology, but not neuroscience… or some other circles I am not aware of… an epiphany: Wenger ideas could be applied here as well… What a great idea this “Community of Practice” is…

Another application: the above two experiences, the Wenger and Gardner, had an influence on a doctoral assignment I had to submit. It is simple: create a concept map about the relationships of the Learning Theories. However, based on the above two experiences, and based on my interaction with other doctoral students, I discovered that most educational studies classify and categories learning theory based on psychological paradigm (that is the Community of Psychological Practice). I thought: maybe I should come up with a new model that classify learning theories based on the Community of Practice of its curator… In this way, I will have an effective tool to understand where the theorist is coming from, what values and vocabulary they use, the connotations behind their words and, above all, understand in a better way those who criticize the theory.

What a week.

Below is a partial and an initial map I came up with which requires further analysis and compilations (click to enlarge):

Ah, I was almost going to forget Gardner’s video (it is long, but worth watching if you are interested in the background around Multiple Intelligences):

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:

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 ;-).

X-Teacher and Theory Y-Teacher

In the 1960’s, Douglas McGregor from MIT came up with the Theory-X and Theory-Y to describe styles of managers. It became very popular in the field of HR and it was a model that helped shift management from the negative paradigm to a positive spin. I would like to apply the same theories in Education describing Teacher-X and Teacher-Y. I have copied and pasted the theory directly from  and replaced management terms with educational terms. So, work becomes study, employees becomes students, managers becomes educators, and so on. I have placed the words I could not find an alternative between square brackets.

Theory-X

In this theory, [which has been proven counter-effective in most modern practices], educators assume students are inherently lazy and will avoid studying if they can and that they inherently dislike learning. As a result of this, educators believes that students need to be closely supervised and comprehensive systems of controls developed. A hierarchical structure is needed with narrow span of control at each and every level. According to this theory, students will show little ambition without an enticing incentive program and will avoid responsibility whenever they can. [According to Michael J. Papa,]  if the educational goals are to be met, theory X educators rely heavily on threat and coercion to gain their students’ compliance. Beliefs of this theory lead to mistrust, highly restrictive supervision, and a punitive atmosphere. The Theory X educators tends to believe that everything must end in blaming someone. He or she thinks all prospective educators are only out for themselves. Usually these educators feel the sole purpose of the student’s interest in the school is [????]. They will blame the person first in most situations, without questioning whether it may be the system, policy, or lack of training that deserves the blame. A Theory X educator believes that his or her students do not really want to study, that they would rather avoid responsibility and that it is the teacher’s job to structure the work and energize the students. One major flaw of this teaching style is it is much more likely to cause Diseconomies of Scale.

Theory-Y

In this theory, education assumes students may be ambitious and self-motivated and exercise self-control. It is believed that students enjoy their mental and physical learning duties. [According to Papa,] to them learning is as natural as play. They possess the ability for creative problem solving, but their talents are underused in most organizations. Given the proper conditions, theory Y educators believe that students will learn to seek out and accept responsibility and to exercise self-control and self-direction in accomplishing objectives to which they are committed. A Theory Y teacher believes that, given the right conditions, most people will want to do well at their studies. They believe that the satisfaction of doing a good job is a strong motivation. Many people interpret Theory Y as a positive set of beliefs about students. [A close reading of The Human Side of Enterprise] reveals that McGregor simply argues for teachers to be open to a more positive view of students and the possibilities that this creates. He thinks that Theory Y teachers are more likely than Theory X teachers to develop the climate of trust with students that is required for learning. It’s human resource development that is a crucial aspect of any organization. This would include teachers communicating openly with students, minimizing the difference between mentor-learner relationships, creating a comfortable environment in which students can develop and use their abilities. This climate would include the sharing of decision making so that students have a say in decisions that influence them.

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.

UMTrends11: Pictorial Trends Tracking infrastructure

I am still working on my tracking environment. As of today, 15 October 2011, the environment I use to track trends is depicted in the below diagram (Click on the image to enlarge it):

 

As the diagram shows, I divided the infrastructure into three areas:

(1) Sourse: that is the sources I used to get information related to advancement in technology, teaching and learning.

(2) Filtering: that is the list of tools I use to aggregate and filter the information I get. I have categorized the tools based on when do I get the information. The real-time help me get instantaneous information on my mobile devices. The hourly tools are the tools I check for 1 minute every hour. The others are self explanatory.

(3) Storing: that is the tools I used to store the information I need to act on later. I have grouped the storing tools into two types: the cloud tools that allow me to access the information anytime, anywhere and any-device, and the local storage on my home server storage for safe keeping.

Comments?

UMTrends11: List of Trends

Here is the list of trends that I will include on my initial draft:

  1. Mobile Devices
  2. Augmented Reality
  3. Khan Academy
  4. Layman’s Tutorials
  5. YouTube Tutorials
  6. Wiki Collaboration
  7. Gaming
  8. Social Media (VideoTweet,…)
  9. Open Online Initiatives (MOOC, MIT OCW,…)
  10. New behavioral theories (The Elements by Sir Ken Robinson, Strengths by Clifton, Habits by Covery, Wikileaking by Tappscot, Connectivism by Siemen’s…)
  11. Split Cloud computing by Amazon
  12. Knewton, or adaptive learning
  13. Onepager: Open LMS’s
  14. Cloud Notetaking (Zotero, Prezi, Slideshare,..)
  15. Disruptive Innovation (an innovation that requires change of long standing educational values for the sake of improvement.)

Details will be posted soon.

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.

TEDx: An effective Teacher must be less helpful

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?

Anas’ KWL

I have uploaded my KWL chart in Bubbl.us format on my site because EDDL 514 blog system does not support embedding. Let me know your thoughts by commenting here.

Michelle/Tracy: Is Bibbl.us format acceptable or do you still want me to publish a tabular form?

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.

TAP: Subways and Mac’s

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?