Strengths, Weaknesses and Disorders

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

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

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

Q&A: Learning Styles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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.


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.

3 flaws of Education

Education, as we traditionally know it, has 3 flaws:

The first flaw is that learning is considered a branch of psychology while it should be part of neurosciences. There are two reasons for this standpoint:

  1. learning is a function related to the creation and strengthening of links between neurons (Arbib, 2003 and Moldakarimov & Sejnowksi, 2009). The scientific laws that governs these dynamics should determine, define and frame our knowledge about learning.
  2. The second reason is that psychology focuses on fixing human weaknesses (Snyder, Lopez & Pedrotti, 2011), this is reflected in education where the majority of teachers are under the influence that their role is to “fix” the student habits and attitutdes. While education should focus on our strengths and should not bother with our weaknesses (Robinson & Aronica, 2009).

So learning should be investigated and researched by cognitive neuroscientists and not psychologists alone (Hirsh-Pasek & Bruer, 2007). Cognitive neuroscience should have more influence on learning theories that it does today.

The second flaw is that education assumes that peoples’ “learning character” (my term) can be shaped during adulthood. While neuroscientists say that our learning character is shaped by the age of 3 and it is almost impossible to change it after that age (Bruer, 2002). We can enhance it and improve it, but we cannot change it nor create it. This is a flaw in education because most teachers believe that students’ under performance is caused by laziness consequently tag students based on their weakness for the rest of their life.

The third fault is that educational assessment measures the wrong learning parameters. It measures retained information, while it should measure knowledge and learning parameters.

Recognizing the above will convert education from Theory-X to Theory-Y (adopting McGregor managers model, see the following post).


Arbib, M. (Ed.). (2003). The handbook of brain theory and neural networks. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Bruer, T. (2002). Myth of the first three years: A new understanding of early brain development and lifelong learning. New York: Free Press.
Earl, L. (2003). Assessment as learning: using classroom assessment to maximize learning. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.
Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York: Basic Books
Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Bruer, J. (2007). The brain/education barrier. Science (New York, N.Y.), 317(5843), 1293.
Moldakarimov, S. & Sejnowksi, T. (2009). Neural Computation of Learning. Chapter 15 in Byrne, John (ed.). Concise Learning and memory: The editor’s selection. (2009). Accessible partially from:
Robinson, K & Aronica, L. (2009). The element : how finding your passion changes everything.  New York: Penguin Group USA.Bruer, T. (2002). Myth of the first three years: A new understanding of early brain development and lifelong learning. New York: Free Press.
Snyder, C., Lopez S. & Pedrotti, J. (2011). Positive psychology: the scientific and practical explorations of human strengths. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE

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.

Should online teachers be requested to take training?

Question: Should teachers who want to teach in online programs be required to take some specialized training in the pedagogy of online learning and instructional design for online learning? If so, what should that look like? If not, why not?

Good teachers who focus on learner’s success will be able to do well in the classroom as well as the online teaching because their focus in students’ learning and not covering the material.  They will not require a formal pedagogical training. They might require training on some technical tools. These teachers, usually, request the training themselves or they will teach themselves. In most cases, they will be happy with a self paced online course. They might prefer collaborative activities that help them discover their online teaching style.

The remaining teachers should be asked to attend formal training, on the pedagogy, andragogy, network learning, methodologies as well as the technology. The training activities should have the following components:

  1. An online component.
  2. A face to face component.
  3. A component that addresses the shift they need to make to their teaching style.
  4. A component that helps them manage the online technologies, tools and methodologies.
  5. A component that exposes them to different teaching activities and methodologies that applies to online learning.
  6. A self learning component.

The delivery style should have a mix between behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism. A “crowd learning” component would add value. They need to be exposed to connectivism though this will be for the advanced earners.

Anas' Thinking Zone Rotating Header Image

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,

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

IV. Appendix: History of the versions of My Philosophy

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

Learning: Intrapersonal Interaction

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

TEDx: An effective Teacher must be less helpful

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

Cloud Tools

This is a list of useful Cloud Tools

  1. Google Docs users can now open, create, edit, save, and share popular file formats such as Microsoft Office and OpenOffice files as well as RTF, HTML, and text files through the Google Docs platform.
  2. Dropbox gives users a powerful and easy way to store files online for sharing
  3. Picnik a free online photo manipulation suite that gives you powerful image editing tools that were formerly available only though premium creativity applications such as Photoshop.
  4. Basecamp project management has forever been transformed by the cloud-based Basecamp service that provides online collaboration and management tools for team members and managers that are accessible from any computer or smartphone
  5. Evernote – This is a note taking application that works specifically with the cloud. Users save files on evernote, which can be accessed at any time by any internet using device.
  6. Pixlr is an absolutely excellent free online photo editor. An interface called Pixlr Express is provided for image editing novices. With PhotoShop, the full Pixlr Editor offers a very powerful range of tools. These include layers, a history brush, and wide range of real-time filters.
  7. Aviary offers suite of online media editing tools, including its Phoenix photo editor, Raven vector-based drawing package, and its Myna multi-track audio editor.
  8. Tonido is a smart way to access your applications and share, sync, collaborate with friends and family without relying on public online services.
  9. ADrive: Offers complete and secure solutions to store, backup, share, access, and edit files from virtually anywhere, at any time
  10. SugarSync: File sync and online backup for all your devices.
  11. Mint – A Cloud based personal finance tool to manage your money. Access all your balances and transactions together on the web or on your iPhone.
  12. Cloudo – A free computer that lives on the Internet, right in your web browser. This means that you can access your documents, photos, music, movies and all other files no matter where you are, from any computer or mobile phone. Cloudo is a hosted service, there is no hardware or software to setup and maintain, and the DDE is fully accessible from any internet connected device.
  13. Office Web Apps – Access, edit, and share your Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents online from almost anywhere.
  14. ZumoDrive – A cloud-based file synchronization and storage service operated by Zecter, Inc. The service enables users to store and sync files online and between computers using their Hybrid Cloud storage solution.
  15. Keep in Touch – Mailchimp is one of the easiest to use newsletter programs, with tracking tools that tell you who is opening your emails and what they are clicking on.


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: 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]: Accessed on 3 Dec 2011.

The World Bank. 2003. Lifelong learning in the global knowledge economy: challenges for developing countries. Obtained from: Washington, DC:The World Bank. Accessed on 3 Dec 2011.

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

UMTrends11: List of Data Sources

During my research for the future trends, I relied heavily on Google Reader to mine for information related technology and education. Below is a snapshot of my subscription and readership percentage (Click to Enlarge – Image is a snapshot of the Data on Google Reader Trends Data – check the previous post for earlier data):

Below is a description oftop 10 sites I had great interest in reading (I am ignoring blogs related to learners in UMTrends):

Cognitive Neuroscience: A blog site that talks about neurlogical topics that relates to learning. My interest in this site rise from my interest to mine if technology is impacting our brain/

Elearning SpaceLearning Analytics: A meeting point for the enthusiast about developing meaningful data related to learning.

Knewton: An interesting blog site managed by Knewton, a business that develops customized and personalize online learning material.

MindShift:Pages about how we learn supported by KQED which serve Northern California

The Innovative Educator: Lisa Nielson blog that covers topics about innovation in teaching and learning.

Dangerously Irrelevant: A blog managed by University of kentucky and CASTLE that address topics related to education and technology.

Bits: New York Times pages about technology.

Digital Delight: A ScoopIt page that aggregates information about the digital life.

Academica Group: The website of Academica which handles different topics that interest the academician

Other Feeds

In addition to the above, I receive regular emails from the below resources:

Educause: The famous organization whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology.

Chronicle: The higher education news aggregators.

Gartner: which is the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company.

Classroom 2.0: the social network for those interested in Web 2.0 and Social Media in education.

OLDaily: topics addressed by Stephen Downes


LinkedIn Groups:  Learning, Education and Training Professionals Group; Tomorrow’s International Professor: Faculty for Education Abroad Group.

Managing the Information

I use mainly Diigo to manage all the information I want to capture and share with others. I have created different groups. I use Diigo private lists to somehow organize the bookmarks based on topic, assignment and projects.



Learning, Education and Training Professionals Group

Cloud Learning

I have chosen “Cloud Learning” to describe my focus trend for UMTrends11. One reason is that it is a buzz word nowadays. The second reason is that my ideas are driven from the particularities of the field of Cloud Computing. But the real reason is because I cannot figure out a better name. Your suggestions and ideas are welcome.

“Cloud Learning” in my context is not the concept of storing learning data, tools and servers in the cloud as indicated by its technical connotation. It is a new learning model that is emerging based on trends suggested by the cloud computing. It is a new track for learning that is happening outside the traditional educational framework. I have strong indications that this will evolve into a full fledged learning environment in the near future. At the moment, it is emerging.

Trends of Cloud Computing and its impact on human paradigms

I will start my post explaining the trends that cloud computing have passed through then relate theor effect on human learning.

The term “cloud” as used in technology, started with a doodle depicting the complicated telephone infrastructure. The doodle always looked like a cloud, so the term “cloud” was used to sum up the massive infrastructure that operates the telephone network. In the 90’s, the doodle and the cloud term migrated into the world of the Internet. Now, the cloud simply means the Internet.

“Cloud Computing”, as a term, became popular in the early 2000, when Internet services emerged as a potential new economic market. Out of the few reputable organization that  defined the term, I prefer NIST’s (National Institute of Standards and Technology) which states that:

“Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models”. (Mell & Grance, 2009, p. 2)

Evolution of the Technology: The ideas that govern the cloud computing as an external massive power predate the Internet. In the 1950s, Herb Grosch, postulated that the entire world would operate on dumb terminals powered by about 15 large data centers (as cited in Ryan, P., Merchant, R., Falvey, 2011). Between Grosch’s data centers and present day cloud computing, many events took place that shaped our society, economy, life and… learning.  However I have chosen three events that triggered paradigm shifts that changed human perceptions and values about teaching, learning and education:

1. Telecommunication: The invention of the telecommunication in the early 1900s (Pool, 1977), from telephones to global networking including television, was the basis that shaped the internet and global connectedness. This technology introduced a new notion about instantaneous communication. Before, instantaneous communication between two individuals could happen only face to face which required effort and displacement. With the telephone, for example, instantaneous communication could happen from a distance. This had three impacts. The first impact is that currency of news and information became possible which promoted reliance on facts and currency instead of myth and heresy. The second impact was that knowledge became widespread among laypeople while before it was limited to the elites like priests and academicians. The final impact is that it permitted human philosophical interaction at a global level while before it was limited to selected individuals meeting in a predetermined place. These factors have evolved creation of knowledge from being attached to a physical location (Like Palto’s Academia in in 300’s BC, the Royal Society in 1700’s in London and the present universities) to become possible with anyone located anywhere.

2. Virtual machines: One limitation that telecommunication imposed on global interaction was the need to use specific equipment. In the 1990’s the virtual machines provided a possible solution to access computer power using cheap and dumb devices. What started as a Citrix, a remote desktop solution, evolved to become Amazon Silk which offers super browsing powers utilizing powerful internet servers with “super-dumb” devices like Kindle Fire. This permitted a shifted in human attitude to become machine independent. Instead of being productive only in an office, on a desk using a PC, individuals became “over-productive” anywhere using any device. This had two added values to the creation of knowledge. The first one is the possibility of accessing global knowledge and power anywhere using mobile devices. The second is offering this type of resource access to the masses because the devices become very cheap.

3. The open source phenomena: Wiki tools, like Wikipedia, and opens source projects have taken the global interaction two new facts. The first fact is that many small drops of water do make a sea. In other words, the combined trivial contributions of massive number of individuals lead to a valuable body of knowledge. Wikipedia is an obvious example. The second fact is that chaos leads to conformity. Again, Wikipedia is a good example. Open source project is another good example. Education do not accept them because they contradict its traditional wisdom were conformity and structure are an essential element in its design.

So what?

What does this have to do with education and learning? A lot. Let’s put the above presentation in the perspective of human knowledge. Socializing used to happen in one room, now it happens globally. Information was limited to those who had access to specific hardware whether books or computer. Now it is open to all. Knowledge used to be built by the infinitesimally few, now knowledge is constructed by the masses. Brain knowledge extensions, like computers and internet access, used to happen when connected to a specific computer, in a specific location and using specific software, now you we can access the same information, if not more, from anywhere, with cheap software independent devices. Cloud Computing allows us to be free in accessing our information and creating our knowledge based on who we are and the way we want to be without worrying about the technology or the medium. Not based on predefined norms and standards determined by others. We, as individual, determine our own norms and needs because the resources are open and available to us. This contradicts educational wisdom. So, I foresee that a new learning paradigm is emerging were an individual determines their learning needs, based on their current situations and facts, based on their abilities using the most up to date information. Traditional educational systems cannot afford to provide such an environment.

In other words, using educational terms, learners will decide their curriculum, their learning outcomes, their own assessment and their learning activities, anywhere, anytime, when needed and on the fly. No need for teachers or mentors. People will learn on their own based on their global network of interest.

You may say I am a dreamer. But I am not the only one.

This is emerging. It did not mature yet. But it wide spread. It will require some time to become a recognized main stream. Just consider the time it took people to move from using the telephone as a luxury in the 1900’s to become a socializing tweeting device in 2010’s.

This new learning paradigm, I call it Cloud Learning, is emerging. Here are some examples:

MOOC: To me, the Massive Open Online Course, is the embryonic manifestation of cloud learning. Although it tries to adhere to the traditional educational paradigm by having facilitators, setting a structured curriculum and guidelines, yet, it is learner driven where learning is personalized and individualized. Participant choose and develop their own learning needs and environment. Then they build their knowledge based on interacting with the right community of learners.

Online games: online gamers have their own learning society where they learn new skills and develop their own knowledge based on their needs at that point. As McGonical (2010) pointed out, the global power of the young gamers could solve the most complicated world problems. So the younger generation can build their knowledge, i.e. learn, on their own. They ask for help from their friends and they build their knowledge based on situation they are facing at the moment without reverting to teachers. This is a model that education is having trouble to explain or comprehend.

Positive Psychology: the movement of positive psychology demonstrated by the ideas of Robinson’s Elements, Buckingham’s Strengths and others, is trying to individualize the human experience. Consequently, promotes converting learning systems to redesign the education experience in ways that promotes diversity instead of conformity. But, once an individual know his or her own strengths and abilities, do they really need a teacher to learn? Wouldn’t learning become natural?


So, the cloud learning is an environment where an individual can learn dynamically based on who they are and not what others want them to be. As such, I like to adapt NIST definition, to define cloud learning as:

“Cloud learning is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable learning resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal teaching effort or learning provider interaction”

Any improvements is encouraged.


Gruman, Galen (2008-04-07). “What cloud computing really means”. InfoWorld. Retrieved 21 Nov 2011.

Ryan, P., Merchant, R., Falvey, S., (2011). Regulation of the Cloud in India. Journal of Internet Law, Vol. 15, No. 4, p. 7, October 2011.

McGonigal, J. (2010). Gaming can make a better world. TED. Obtained from: Accessed on 15 Dec 2011.

Mell, P. & Grance, T. (2009). The NIST definition of cloud computing, ver. 15. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Information Technology Laboratory. Obtained from: Last accessed on 27 Nov 2011.

Pool, I. (1977). The Social impact of the telephone. Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, c1977.

GMU (n.d.). The core of information technology: the history of virtual machines. [website]: Accessed on 27 Nov 2011.

Silk. (n.d.). Introducing Amazon Silk. [Weblog]: Accessed on 27 Nov 2011.

Ken Steele Styles of Universities

I am revisiting this idea about classification of Universities which I find useful. For now, I will capture the image for further reference (source:


Steele Styles of Universities

Trends impacting education.

In this post, I address the trends that I have captured and which, I believe, will impact the future of education. I have clustered them under two main categories. The first one is under “Internet” as the big title that includes all internet based tools and technologies. The second one under the “Education Paradigm” which includes the educational theories, initiatives and movements that are causing paradigm shifts away from traditional educational systems.

Trend 1: The Internet

The Internet is the global technology or concept that is setting the real future trends of education as well as humanity. Since its widespread introduction in 1990, the Internet has been instrumental in paradigm changes in education as well as civilization. The Internet users across the globe are on continuous increase (Morgan Stanley, 2010). The Internet has become the backbone of modern knowledge generation activities that is impacting education, humanity, the world economy, the social life, the communities and, to some extent, has created its own global culture (Brockman, 2011).

Within the internet topic, many sub-trends are emerging that will shape the future of education. Most of these are evolving rapidly and many of them have short life span. However, all of them, rely on the Internet as the backbone technology.

Mobile Internet

Mobile internet describes the collective trend that encompasses all the devices and services that offer. Originally, mobile computing referred to the wireless phone systems. To me, the whole idea of mobile computing revolves around the mobility of the Internet. The main milestone in this trend happened in 2007 with the iPhone which was the first device that integrates the fully blown browser based Internet with the phone systems. The concept mushroomed into other devices and services, like Android, that allows individuals to access the Internet knowledge virtually anywhere. A new trend that I believe will have a impact on the popularity of the mobile Internet is the technology introduced with the Amazon Silk (video) browser where the burden of code crunching is elevated from the devise to the cloud. This technology will make the mobile devices more powerful yet much cheaper and affordable by all the masses.

Smart Social Media: On a global level, and since 2009, the number of social networking users has  exceeded the number of email user which is an indication of its future dominance as the main communication medium (Stanley and Morgan, 2010). In the recent years, the social media started using smart tools that takes it beyond a mere communication into knowledge building and decision making. Some examples are: the Radar feature of FourSquare, Mobili that allows you to use your mobile device to see the world through the eyes of your friends and Whrrl (video) that allows you to use your social friend experience to get suggestions on places to go and even filter down to the types of places that interest you.

Augmented Reality: or mediated reality is a set of tool and systems that augments real world  elements with computer generated information. This trend has been around for a while, but the introduction of the mobile Internet devices created the real time generation of information and knowledge are generated based on the present physical environment and customized for the user background and information. The most famous tool is Wikitude (video) which is a location-based services and for web enabled phones.


Internet Tutorials: The widespread of Internet has brought with it varied ways of helping the students of the traditional education learn. The wide spread of cloud based video streaming like YouTube have promoted online tutorials. Some of them are geared towards traditional academic lessons, like the famous Khan Academy tutorials, others are designed by laypersons for all walk of life tutorials like cooking, construction, photography and so on. The majority of the free tutorials are published by ordinary laypersons.

Cloud computing: Finally, cloud computing is catching up to become the mainstream technology infrastructure. It will eventually dominate the IT industry because of the massive investment in it on a global level (Schubert, n.d.). Some of the emerging cloud tools include: The productivity tools, like Google Docs and Office live,the online presentations tool like Prezi, the note taking applications like Zotero, the business applications like Zoho, and the storage solutions like DropBox.

Trend 2: Education Paradigm

The second trend could be categorized under the umbrella of educational paradigm shifts. There is an increasing movement within the educational circles to recreate and redefine many of the educational values and practices to meet the challenges imposed by the emerging technologies. In this section, I list and explain some of these movements that might lead to prospect future.

Shift of the focus: In North America, there are some dynamics of shifting the focus of the educational institutions from teaching to learning. That is a shift from “transferring of information through teaching” to “creation of knowledge through facilitation” (Brown & Long, 2006). While in Europe, the focus shifts further than knowledge to “applied wisdom” where learners “use their knowledge in adaptive, responsible and creative ways in new situations. Achieving and mastering such an adaptive competence requires they acquire cognitive, motivational and effective skills to self‑regulate their learning, and get ample opportunities to use and apply their knowledge in a large variety of contexts and problems” (De Corte & Fenstad, 2010 and Sternberg, 2001).

Individuality of the Learner: new behavioral theories are emerging that focus on the individuality of the learner. This is resulting in new trends where education is shifting to a new paradigm that individualizes learning based on personal traits. Some of these initiatives are promoted directly in education like Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence (Armstrong, 2010), Robinson’s The Element  (Robinson & Aronica, 2009), in psychology through the ideas of positive psychology (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) and in business as the concept of talent (Buckingham & Clifton, 2001). These concepts are being applied in many new learning tools like adaptive learning pioneered by Knewton.

Crowdsourcing which is the idea of sourcing tasks to undefined large group of people. This approach have been successful in many areas like Wikipedia, Open Source initiatives and Spring Revolutions in the Arab world. The Gaming industry is using similar approaches to use the “brain grid” of the younger digital generation (Weller, 2011) to find solutions to global problems (McGonial, 2010). In education, the idea is being applied in the Massive Open Online Courses ( initiative were education is open and the mass collaboration promotes the learning of the individuals.

Online Learning: An area that overlaps between education and Intenret is the online learning which is showing considerable increase in popularity. In the last 7 years, online course enrollment increase 9% while traditional course enrollment increased 2% only. In 2009, 30% of higher education students took at least one online course (, 2011). The online learning is taking three different faces: as a blended approach that compliments the classroom teaching, as a distant educations approach and as a self directed study activity.


Brockman, J. (2011). Is the internet changing the way you think>: The net’s impact on our minds and future. New York: Harper Perennial.

Armstrong, T. (2009). Multiple intelligences in the classroom. Alexandria, Va. : ASCD.

De Corte, E. & Fenstad, J.  (2010) From information to knowledge; from knowledge to wisdom: introduction. Portland Press Limited. Retrieved from: on 24 October 2011.

McGonigal, J. Gaming can make a better world: Jane McGonigal on Retreived from: Accessed on 24 October 2011.

Olton DS, Becker JT & Handelmann GE (1979). Hippocampus, space, and memory. Brain and Behavioral Science 2: 313–365.

Robinson, K & Aronica, L. (2009) The element : how finding your passion changes everything. New York : Penguin Group USA.

S. Marc Breedlove, Mark Rosenzweig, and Neil V. Watson (2007). Biological Psychology: An Introduction to Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience. Sunderland, Mass: Sinauer Associates.

Schubert, L. (n.d.) The future of cloud computing: Opportunities for European cloud computing beyond 2010. Jeffery, K. & Neidecker-Lutz, B. (eds.). European Commission: Information Society and Media.

Seligman, Martin E.P.; Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (2000). “Positive Psychology: An Introduction”. American Psychologist 55 (1): 5–14.

Stanely Morgan (2010). Internet trends. Morgan Stanley Research. Obtained from Accessed on 24 October 2011.

Sternberg, R.J. (2001) Why schools should teach for wisdom: The balance theory of wisdom in educational settings. Educational Psychologist 36, 227–245.

Weller, M. (2011). The digital scholar: how technology is changing academic practices. New York: Bloomsbury Publications.