Adult 640 #7: Connectivism-I am a node

Connectivism puzzle
Connections are like the nodes of a puzzle.

A discussion of learning theories is an essential component of the Adult 601 course.  Students cluster into small groups when asked to explore and present each theory. Presentations culminate in a rather loud discourse as to the merits and value of each theory.  It’s common for several students to swell as peacocks when asserting, “I am a constructivist.”  This display of pomposity deflates when learners recognize that something may extend beyond the traditional set of five (5) learning theories. Enter the theory of “Connectivism.”

The comprehensive guide, Learning in Adulthood (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner) showcases the Five Orientations to Learning as Behaviorist, Humanist, Cognitivist, Social Cognitive, and Constructivist. Connectivism is similar to each of the five (5) theories in that it has (p.p.295-296) learning theorists, a view of learning, a locus and a purpose for learning. The role of the instructor, as well as the way in which learning manifests for adults, is also similar to that of the other five (5) orientations.

Connectivism
Connectivism
  • Learning theorists:  George Siemens, Stephen Downes (primary)
  • View of the learning process:  informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning and occurs in a variety of ways (i.e. personal networks), is a continual process, lasts for a lifetime.
  • The Locus of Learning: the concept of a “node” where learning can be fields, ideas or communities, learners face a challenge to recognize patterns that might be hidden, learning can reside outside of humans
  • The Purpose of Learning: learning is required in a knowledge economy
  • The Instructor’s Role: the instructor can be technology, which rewires the human brain, human instructors, to help the learner recognize and adjust to pattern shifts
  • The Manifestation in adult learning: capacity to form connections create patterns, chaos can be a new reality of individuals as knowledge workers,

However, Connectivism is not considered an actual learning theory by all in the field of adult learning. Testing, evaluating networks, the application of chaos and self-organizing theories, according to Siemens, occur in a rapidly changing environment. The ability to make a decision about the way in which learning proceeds is a principle of connectivism.

There are several distinct elements of this course, Adult 640, which I perceive as components of connectivism:

  • I know that the members of this class have diverse opinions.  They may need time and a feeling of safety in order to surface more fully. Others may not share these opinions as a result of personality, cultural or situational learning.
  • We’re all considered nodes of information, individuals who are able to share their knowledge with others in the class as well as to provide connections that may support the program module of learning each is developing.
  • The non-human appliances that we use such as the class blog, our own blogs, and Twitter accounts are a source of learning.
  • I can assume that as a group we have the capacity to learn moreDavid Weinberger, a Senior Researcher at the Berkman Center for the Internet & Society suggests that “As knowledge becomes networked, the smartest person in the room isn’t the person standing at the front lecturing us…” “The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room and connects to those outside of us (p. xiii).”       
  • The class site joins all of us together to share the ideas that we have gathered through our use of the net and though our weak links.  We are not lectured by someone standing in front of us.
  • The nurturing and maintenance of these connections occurs when those in the class read, react and respond to blogs and tweets.
  • Information flows from the class blog to those in the community.
  • As learners, each person in the class has selected a project that engaged decision-making. What we “think” at the beginning of this study of e-Learning may shift dramatically as a result of learning.

In terms of the project that I have selected, I am a little apprehensive about how the concept of connectivism will unfold.  I have a tendency to become very excited about new technologies and ideas that surface as a result of my learning.  I have been described as someone who gives you “a run for your money.”  This uber-enthusiasm has caused difficulty in the past.  With this knowledge of myself, I will exercise caution when creating the module.  What I would provide is detailed examples of how specialists can supplement the learning in the module when interacting face-to-face with the learners for this module.  A primary obstacle may lie in the descriptor provided to me of the “typical” educator who will complete the module.

The module that I will create will certainly be a non-human appliance that will store knowledge for the adult learners in this program. It is possible that the learner’s capacity to gain greater knowledge may be enhanced through hyperlinks or provisions for additional learning and resources.  Links for discussion boards may be opportunities for educators to share success stories thus becoming both nodes of information as well as weak links to support others in their own decision-making.

The obstacles that may surface could surround the level of experience of those who interact with the module.  The desire to use a digital format as opposed to that of a face-to-face instructor controlled format may present challenges.  In the absences of nothing, one can only speculate as to the level of engagement on the part of the learner.

In the TEDxNYED presentation, there are many powerful ideas that will certainly impact my practice as I move from infancy to maturation.  Several thoughts which resonate with me at this point in my learning are:

“The act of showing others how we are learning is an instructional task.” (11:14)

“Every expression is an opportunity for connection in a digital space.” (11:23)

“Problems can’t be solved by an individual. They can be solved by a network.” (14:16)

Lab chewing a bone
Something to chew on…

What resonates with you from Siemens’ talk?  Where are the challenges and struggles for you at this point in your learning?

References:

Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2012). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. John Wiley & Sons.

Pazdzion, A. (2017, October 11). Connectivism. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URcLQNywS_E

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International journal of instructional technology and distance learning2(1), 3-10.

Siemens. (2010, April 13). TEDxNYED – George Siemens – 03/06/10. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BH-uLO6ovI

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EDUS 660 #5: The Power of Transformational Leaders

Leadership that Transforms
 Leadership that Transforms

Food for Thought-Search online journals to find a research project involving a panel study. Describe the nature of the study design and its primary findings. Include a link to the article.

Transformation is such a powerful word.  When joined with leadership the idea of empowerment and change surface as a reminder of the past semester studying organizational change and change strategies.  The longitudinal panel study that I considered for this week’s “Food for Thought” is Toward Understanding the direct and Indirect Effects of Transformation Leadership on Well-being: A Longitudinal Study. (The full text is located through the VCU library.)

Background:  The researchers are associated with Umea University and Umea Social Services, Sweeden. Their interest in pursuing this line of study stems from the absences of research in the possible effects that transformation leadership may have on the well-being of employees, primarily in the field of social services. While most studies, in their experience, employed cross-sectional designs, little work surrounds long-term transformation. Researchers contend that studies of leadership in the field of social service is a national dilemma.  The problems of burnout and stress are well documented in the Swedish social service field.

Transformation Cartoon

Purpose for the research-The team chose to further the understanding of the possible effects of transformation leadership on the well-being of employees over time. The researchers suggest that “Climate for innovation” has proven to influence well-being, framing  the conceptualization for this study. The researchers use the describe innovation as an intentional process. This process engages the application of ideas, and products.  Procedures that are unique are of interest to them when designed to yield favorable outcomes. They suggest that the perception of “climate,” in relation to organizational literature, is receiving considerable attention. It is used to predict both individual and organizational outcome variables.

Understanding Transformation Leaders-Emotional contagion suggests that transformation leaders who experience optimism, happiness and enthusiasm throughout the day are better able to influence group performance and affect. The importance of collective action may occur through idealized influence.  Leaders who replace feelings of isolation are able to transform employee well-being.  When lowering the levels of burnout and reducing stress, affective well-being is increased.

The Present Study-Researchers decided to conduct the research over a 12 month period of time.  Two hypothesis were formulated:

Hypothesis 1: TL is positively associated with affective well-being, both cross-sectionally and 1 year later.

Hypothesis 2:  the positive relationship between TL and affective well-being is mediated by perceptions of an innovative      climate, both cross-sectionally and 1 year later.

Method: Participants and Procedure-This research project engaged a longitudinal panel design. The sample was comprised of 2,700 social service employees from a large Swedish municipality. Questionnaires were distributed on two occasions.

Time I:

  • 342 employees who were randomly selected from staff records.
  • 158 individuals participated.
  • Questionnaires were mailed to the participants.
  • 79% female/11.5 years avg. employment/51% university degree/43.2 years avg.age
  • care assistants, social workers, nurses
  • Representative in comparison to population of organization

Time II:

  • Panel Mortality-22 respondents
  • 101 of 136 remaining returned 2nd questionnaire
  • 745 response rate
  • 81% female/13.0 years avg. employment/46% university degree/44.6 years avg. age
  • **81% of participants had same supervisor as time I

Measures: Research employed these measurement tools-

Transformation Leadership:  The most common measure of transformation leadership was used. Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (Bass and Avolio, 1995). It operationalizes four theoretically identified dimensions of transformation leaders: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation ,and individualized consideration.

A 5-point scale ranging from 0 (not at all) to 4(often, if not always).

Reliability: Time 1: . 94, Time 2: . 96

Climate for innovation: The questionnaire, QPS Nordic, used to measure innovation, using a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree/never) to 5 (strongly agree/always). Three items measured the degree of possibility to take initiative at work.

Reliability: Time 1:.80  Time 2:  .77

Affective well-being: The Perceived Stress Questionnaire (PSQ, 1993) was selected because it was context-free. The eight positively worded items on the test asked participants to report how well they felt the week of the test. The response scale, ranging from 1 (almost never) to 4 (most of the time) posed statements such as, “I am happy with my life,” or “I am filled with energy.”

Reliability:  Time 1: .85   Time 2:  .86

  • Results and Discussion: Researchers report the following positive correlation for both Time 1 and Time 2 for transformation leadership with climate for innovation and well-being. when testing for stability, they were confirmed using a stability model. The researchers came to three main conclusions when discussing the results of direct and indirect effects of transformational leadership on employee well-being over time: No direct effect of TL on well=being over time.
  • Differences in the level of well-being in employees can be explained, in part, by the level of innovation created by the TL.
  • TL has a direct and positive association with well-being.  It needs to be measured at the same time.

Theoretical and Practical Implications: The researchers contend that their findings contribute to the literature that exists. Overtime, Transformational Leaders have an effect of the well-being of employees over time and cross-sectionally. Because the subscales for transformational behavior were highly correlated, they cannot pinpoint which transformation behavior explains the effect on climate for innovation and well-being. They could not tell which specific behavior led to the outcome that they sought to explore.

Limitations and Future Discussion:  The researchers felt that the main weakness in their study was the use of the questionnaires.  The data was self-reported, which they felt could lead to problems with common method bias. The size of the sample was small.  The researchers felt that a larger sample might strengthen the study.  A stronger study would allow for more concrete conclusions to be drawn. The lack of variables concerned the researchers. The study was conducted in an organization comprised almost entirely of females. Could the result generalize to other settings or types of organizations? Sources of spurious dependency could be ruled out as a result of the stability coefficients that were built into the study.

Strengths: Occasional factors and biographical factors he testing of models to make sure that the scales used in the study were distinctively different. They used several procedural design remedies discovered during the literature review phase of their research.

I found the overall premise behind this study interesting to me to consider after organizational change and development. One of the key components of change is understanding that buy-in must be from those in a leadership position.  What I would have enjoyed learning more about would be the organizational learning that occurred through the design and development phase of transformational leadership. An added bonus was all of the vocabulary words that I didn’t need to look up as they were a part of last week’s reading! Yeah!

Dr. Richard Boyatzis has several wonderful videos that he’s created about leadership.  One that I found particularly interesting to me discusses the concept of brain development and leadership:

Something to chew on-

What are the qualities in a leader that encourage you to pursue innovative ideas?

Which qualities in a leader make for a climate of well-being in your organization?

How often does the leader in your department or organization participate in training for the expressed purpose of transforming his/her skills?

Adlt 641-7: “Send in the Clouds”

Years ago I remember my education professor talking about the “tools” that I would need to carry with me as a student teacher.  The curriculum lab at my college was the source for all the materials and supplies that I would need to prepare to become an  elementary teacher.  I spent hours pouring through files, exploring the cabinets for objects to complete a learning center and for BOOKS  to generate interest in the new unit that I had created.  Information about this new experience, student teaching, was found in her office in the lab. This incredible center of information was available to students during school hours and periodically during the weekend. Grades were kept in a secret compartment in the professor’s office, which was certainly off limits and unknown to me until the end of the semester.  The Blackboard was a place to project sheets from the overhead or to scribble notes to copy!  The toolbox that I would use with my new third grade class closely mirrored that which my professor used with me.  Welcome to the 1980’s!

Over the course of the last thirty years, I have embraced staff development in many different forms.  The 180 points necessary for teachers in Virginia to maintain a state teaching license requires me to take a three credit course every five years.  While many teachers lament over both the cost and the time involved in taking a course, I have enjoyed the experience of returning to the classroom. It’s refreshing to be on the other side where I am not in charge of  planning and implementing the class.  Most of these classes supported me as an educator.  While content reflected contemporary thought and movement in the world of education, implementation and assessment did not.

Eleven courses and five universities later, I am introduced to the concept of a learning management system! In fairness to the first two courses and universities of my graduate experience, a management system did not exist. Imagine my surprise when learning that one did during the last several years! Hey, this doesn’t sound too bad, I think!  No longer am I a prisoner of the ditto system of paper management.  I have one location to open to find everything that I will need for the course, providing that  the professor knows how to use the system and does so routinely.  I like to work during the weekend and into the evening, which is perfect when the LMS is functioning correctly. I am a big picture person.  It’s important for me to be able to see where I will go during the semester, where I have been and how to plan my work accordingly. This is perfect when the professor is willing to post materials ahead of time and when materials remain after the class is over. All of this sounds perfect for the student who enjoys the professor who is the sage on the stage, the fountain head for all knowledge, and for students who resemble baby birds waiting for regular feedings. In the year 2012, I  am not interested in a culture of dependency, but rather wish to maintain a sense of autonomy. My learning, when controlled by a traditional management system, resembles the graph of learning “ups and downs” vs. one of exponential growth.

Blackboard could easily become the “mother ship” where students dock  on a regular basis. According to Jon Mott,the learning management system employed by many universities does little to encourage students to become independent learners who take responsibility for their learning. As both a 21st Century educator and a life long learner I continuously ask, “What does it mean to learn?”  Not only do I question what I give and expect of my students, but also what I am allowed to use as a learner.  The ability to connect with people in a variety of different ways means that I need tools, such as Twitter to back channel with classmates or to form relationships with new people through a hashtag.  The opportunity to engage in dialog allows me to create and publish ideas in the form blogs and wiki-spaces.  The creation of a social bookmarking system and social readers allow me to leverage the network in a way that greatly impacts my research.  These tools are powerful to me as a learner and signify that I am taking ownership of my education.  Unfortunately, they are not found within the learning management system that is available to me, but is rather a part of the personal learning network that my professors invite me to create!

Mott suggests  in order for learning to persist over time that students must have access to people, content and ideas.  His talk, The Genius of “And,” explores the idea that Learning Management Systems and Social Network Sites do not necessarily need to be viewed as an either/or situation.  I understand the legal and ethical reasons for controlling the flow of information from the university to the outside world. Universities and learners do not need to align themselves as in political parties.  Educators do not need to fall into the “this or that” path of thinking.

As a young child, I was fond of daydreaming.  It was not uncommon for me to hear an adult tell me to pull my head out of the clouds and to return to earth. Mott suggests that we consider integrating an Open Learning Network, which couples a secure, traditional system with an open “cloud-like” system. The “cloud-like” system would  allow me to create my own content. I am intrigued by the “middle ground” which employs the best aspects of both systems. This short interview presents  BYU’s Loosely Coupled Gradebook System.  I think that the subtle way in which the interviewer counters Mott is rather hilarious and found it both entertaining and to the point.  I was raised during The Free To Be, You and Me educational philosophy of the 1960’s and 1970’s. (Hey, a few of my teachers were hippies!  I loved them!) Unfortunately, that movement has long been replaced by stringent standards for learning in both the public school setting and institutions of higher learning. While I understand that academic institutions have standards to uphold, I know that I am thriving in an atmosphere that couples the best of both the LMS and The Clouds!  (My apologies to Judy Collins.)  Send in the clouds…don’t bother they’re here…