Yannis Karaliotas 
   MA in ODE
OU, IET   
April 2000 

Perceptions of 'Distance' in Education
Effects on Teaching/Learning Transactions



Peer discussion in the H801 - MAODE fora, as it was initiated and evolved around the prescribed assignment questions, concerned the nature of Distance Education and its present state and position within the wider field of education. In search of those attributes which could shape our present and future practice, we each: 
  • contributed our critical understanding of relevant theoretical and pragmatic considerations as they appear in our course material and other sources, and 
  • reflected on our individual and collective experiences related to learning, teaching and the general educational practice. 
  • In our attempt to identify the existing trends in today's DE, we came to consider the concept and reality of openness and wider accessibility in education, the changing perception of 'distance' and the impact of new technology, new pedagogy and the new economy on educational theory and practice. 


    Part 1

      "I too speak rather in ignorance; I only conjecture." Socrates in Meno[ 1
    On the subject of DE 'generations', peer discussion initially drew on Nipper's (1989) account who distinguishes three generations of distance education according to the technologies used for production, distribution and communication[ 2 ]. I will attempt to follow the narrative line - as it appears to me - criss-crossing the H801 resources and the ebbs discourse by contemplating the question: 

    What is understood by the term 'Distance Education' today and how does the concept of 3 rd generation fit into this understanding? 

    Apparently, what makes DE distinguishable within the general field of education is the very element of 'distance' it carries and which defines her. From the early Christianity's Apostolic Epistles to the recent learning endeavours such as ours, the obvious function of Distance Education has been to enable knowledge/learning transactions at a distance. 

    As much as it is seemingly a paradox, one may reasonably claim that the problem of geographically defined distance had already been resolved since the moment the first decision was made to disseminate learning material at a distance using appropriate technologies of the time - as in the case of the Epistles. Even the time element involved in physical distance has been minimised, if not eliminated, with the advent of new communication technologies in our era ( Yannis-k msg#88,105 ). 

    Speaking of the last 20 years, tools that potentially defeat physical distance, by enabling unhampered world-wide content delivery and wide learner accessibility, have been present all along and waiting to be used (network technology and the World Wide Web). The bulk of relevant literature seems to acknowledge this, and Nipper's (ibid.) DE taxonomy and his conception of 3rd generation DE is apparently based on this premise. 

    The schema of 3rd generation DE premises the existence of highly interactive, two-way, one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many communication technologies (i.e. Computer Mediated Communication or Computer Conferencing - Network Communication) which potentially enable interaction between learners-teachers-institution and among learners themselves. However, Nipper warns against the sole use of a technologically determined historical classification of DE models in that it does not help adequately define the current state of DE since it apparently disregards important changes in the way we see education and the teaching/learning process. In Nipper's words: 

      " The question of production, distribution, and communication in distance teaching and learning is not merely a historical issue concerning the available technologies - whether they be one-way distribution channels or limited two-way communication technologies. It is first of all related to the basic pedagogical, social, and institutional concepts of adult learning. " ( Nipper, ibid.
    In short, technologically determined classification does not seem to link DE generations to changes in pedagogy and the economics of education ( Yannis-k msg#88,105 & msg#395,103 ). While such a taxonomy clearly embraces the technological promise, that new technologies "fundamentally change the instructional paradigm" ( Bates, 1996 ), by promoting DE to its 3rd evolutionary phase, it does not seem to acknowledge the necessity of pedagogical changes for its realisation. Without such changes, 3rd generation technology does not only fail to transform the instructional paradigm but it becomes the perfect supporting mechanism for the implementation of Peter's (1983) mass market /Fordist /2nd generation model ( Annette-o msg#369,103 ), an educational model which appears to be responsible for the lowering standards in education at large ( Leigh-p msg#349,103 related to Cambourne, 1987 ). 

    Consequently, in terms of educational models, one could reasonably claim that many contemporary DE programmes are still 2nd - if not 1st - generation models, since the delivery of " recorded lectures (that have already been given to face-to-face students) over the Web " may satisfy the technological convention of 3rd generation DE, but it is rather " just using technology to deliver old-fashioned teaching over a network " ( Nigel msg#93,105 ). 

    Indicative of the situation is the economically mandated and politically and institutionally driven North American trend for 'boxed' solutions and 'Diploma Mills' ( Agre, 1999 Perley & Tanguay, 1999 - Noble, 1997/98/99 - Moore, 1995 ) whose quest is for maximum profitability while provoking - or rather dictating? - minimum processing of learning material and minimum labour responsibility. The latter alone comes in direct clash with the much acclaimed need for more and better communication/interaction in the learning environment ( Nipper, ibid. ). 

    Drawing on my personal experience as a 5th year student with the OUUK[ 3 ] , a DE practitioner in Special Education and a netizen of many online affiliations and online projects[ 4 ], apart from very few exceptions of innovative experimental 3rd generation DE settings ( e.g. 5 or so OUUK courses including this MA programme, or Guy Bensusan's courses at NAU[ 5 ]), I find that the large number of DE globally offered courses are not far from the standards described by Nigel. 

    In conclusion, it appears that 3rd generation DE is still in the making despite the relatively long existence of enabling technologies. Its realisation clearly depends on our perception of 'distance' which guides our using of technology in the learning environment. 
     
     

    Part 2

      "[L]inking interaction into the qu[e]stion [of 'what is third generation today...'], leads me to believe that the inclusion of new technology in the educational model as an additional media does not create a new generation per se, but the effective use of that technology through improved understanding /and interaction does ...." ( Jon-h msg#84,105 ). 
    Our perception of 'interaction' in the learning environment seem to depend, once more, on our understanding of 'distance' in education. If we define distance as "the perceived limitations associated with limited opportunities for face-to-face teaching" ( Taylor, 1995 ), then we tend to ignore the pedagogical function of interaction as an attribute of the educational process and rely heavily on the interactive properties of 3 rd generation network technology for delivering teaching to learners (technological function) ( Wagner, 1994 ). 

    If, on the other hand, the distance which separates the learner from the knowing is the one that matters and its presence is recognised in both f2f and DE environments ( Yannis-k msg#99,105 ), interaction, as an element capable of reducing the distance between learners beliefs and "the contexts of relevance in relation to which educational goals and methods are formulated and put into practice" ( Agre, 1999 ), must be seen as an inseparable part of the teaching/learning process. 

    Perceptions of the notion of interaction in the DE learning environment, as they appear in Juler's (2000) explicit account on interaction, seem to evolve within the continuum suggested by the above premise. The implications of these varying perceptions, in relation to the most recent impetus to the convergence of 3 rd generation technologies represented by the Internet, are vividly described in Resnick's assertion: 

      " The Internet acts as a type of Rorschach test for educational philosophy. When some people look at the Internet, they see it as a new way to deliver instruction. When other people look at it, they see a huge database for learners to explore. When I look at the Internet, I see a new medium for construction, a new opportunity for learners to discuss, share, and collaborate on constructions" ( Resnick, 1996
    Not surprisingly, this technological-to-sociocultural perception of interactivity continuum appears to correspond most accurately to the continuum of instructionist-to-constructionist perceptions of the learning process, with the plethora of corresponding eclectic positions in between. 

    More explicitly, what appears to be determining reliance on technological interactivity for bridging distance is the philosophical position of the Representational View of Mind ( Putnam, 1988 ) which regards the mind as a mirror accurately reflecting external representations. According to it, learning is a process of immaculate perception and, therefore, distance can only be conceived as physical. Hence, there is no need for interaction other than the 'smart' presentation, through the enabling media, of the qualified, expert-prepared material and, perhaps, of the expert's 'talking head' or 'voice through', in order to accurately replicate class stimuli at a distance. 

    In contrast, learning can be viewed as a constructive process which occurs on both individual and collective levels. We come to 'know' by constructing our own, individual interpretations of what we perceive, which, in order to be validated as shared meanings, are constantly modified, reframed or transformed through a social dialectic (interactive) process which ties together individual meaning making with conventions and practices in the wider community - i.e. a process of an unremitting co-construction of a taken-as-shared basis of understanding ( Yannis-k msg#435,103 ). 

    In this latter approach, distance is viewed as more than physical, existing in all educational practices which can, therefore, be empowered to overcome the 'tyranny of distance' or 'proximity' ( Taylor, 1995 ), as the case may be, by 

      " creating educational communities in which teachers, learners and others are linked in discourse wherever they may be through networks appropriate to their circumstances ". ( Juler, 1990 in Hawkridge, 2000 p.15
    Under this view, learner independence/autonomy perfectly coexists with sociocultural interaction and collaboration in the learning environment ( Juler, 2000 ), and new ways of learner control over content and institutional goals can be negotiated, as the case of MAODE demonstrates[ 6 ]. Furthermore, although not encouraged by the recent economics of education, as - once more - the case of MAODE indicates[ 7 ], openness and wider participation are potentially enabled by the non-elitist, inclusive constructivist approaches. 

    In an interaction network such as the one described by Juler, (ibid.) imagination and creativity can well become true elements of a 'dance' learning process, re-establishing the learning=life=imagination equation ( Arturo-e msg#206,104 ) and overtly challenging the Cartesian either/or dichotomy on the nature of truth which Bernstein (1986) called the Cartesian Anxiety

      "Either there is some support for our being, a fixed foundation for our knowledge, or we cannot escape the forces of darkness that envelop us with madness, with intellectual and moral chaos" (p.11) 
    By replacing 'embodiment' with 'embeddedness, artificially organised with naturally organised matter, debasing meaning and forcing it into an artificially created environment with eliciting structuring activity in an everyday life or physical or imagined reality, it could be proven: 
      " .... that nothing counts as justification unless by reference to what we already accept, and that there is no way to get outside our beliefs and our language so as to find some test other than coherence." ( Rorty, 1979
    Unfortunately, current economic trends seem to favour the representational side of the continuum as its philosophy conveniently coincides with mandates of mass markets, cheap delivery, highly reusable materials and 'rationalised' institutional and human power costs. But, as Tom Bentley of Demos (UK) puts it: 
      "Just because you know the government won't do anything, it doesn't mean you should stop pointing out what's wrong." ( Bentley, 2000 in the Guardian - March 28


    Conclusion 
    In the light of 3 rd generation technology, interaction and in particular sociocultural interaction in the learning environment is being increasingly recognised as an essential element of the teaching/learning process. The fact that its case can more effectively be made from inside the Distance Education field due to its 'special distance needs' brings DE in the position of an agent of change affecting the Paideia of today ( Yannis-k msg#99,105 ). 

    Meanwhile, many educational providers of today can justifiably claim that they position the nature of their operations in the centre of the said continua - as it is clearly the case with the OUUK. Keeping a centre position may be that you share the best attributes of both approaches; it can also be that you share none! 

    Hence, I'd like to concur with Robbie McClintock's exhortation: 

      "We need to join pedagogy and power. Educators inspired by visions of human potentiality need instruments of action, substantial agents of change, with which to work. Technologists creating new means for bringing intelligence to bear upon the work of the world need a civic agenda, a vision of historic possibility, consciously espoused and responsibly defended. Without power, educators will continue cloaking their delivery of lame services in high-minded impotence. Without pedagogy, technologists, bleating complacent corporate compromise, will recreate the injustices of the contemporary world with the new-forged tools that might otherwise transcend it. Educators need power, not purity; technologists need vision, not predictability. Together educators and technologists have the historic opportunity to improve the civic prospect." 
    ( McClintock, 1992




     

    References 

    Agre, P. (1999). The Distances of Education. Online source: http://dlis.gseis.ucla.edu/people/pagre/academe.html

    Bates, A. W. 1996. The Impact of Technological Change on Open and Distance Learning. Online source: http://bates.cstudies.ubc.ca/brisbane.html

    Bernstein, R. J. 1986. Philosophical Profiles. University of Pennsylvania Press. 

    Cambourne, B. 1987. A sure-fire, never-fail K-12 recipe for producing dependent alliterate learners. In H801 Readings (17). 

    Hawkridge, D. 2000. Terms and Rationales in ODE. Block 1, Section 1 in the Study Guide. H801, MAODE, IET, OUUK. 

    Juler, P. 2000. Interaction in ODE. Block 1, Section 5 in the Study Guide. H801, MAODE, IET, OUUK. 

    McClintock, R. 1992. Power and Pedagogy: Transforming Education through Information Technology. Cumulative Curriculum Project Publication #2, New York Institute for Learning Technologies, 1992. Online source: www.ilt.columbia.edu/text_version/academic/texts/mcclintock/pp/contents.html

    Moore, M. G. 1995. The Death of Distance. pp.1-4 in American Journal of Distance Education 9, no. 3 (1995b) 

    Nipper, S. 1989. Third generation distance learning and computer conferencing. In Mindweave: Communication - http://www-icdl.open.ac.uk/mindweave/mindweave.html

    Noble, D. 1997/98/99. Articles on Digital Diploma Mills: Part I: The Automation of Higher Education October, 1997 ; Part II: The Coming Battle Over Online Instruction March,1998; Part III: The Bloom Is Off the Rose November, 1998; Part IV: Rehearsal for the Revolution November, 1999. Online source: http://communication.ucsd.edu/dl/index.html

    Perley, J. & Tanguay, D. M. 1999. Accrediting On-Line Instructitutions Diminish Higher Education. Online source: http://chronicle.com/colloquy/99/online/background.htm

    Peters, O. 1983. Distance Teaching and Industrial Production, a Comparative Interpretation in Outline. In H801 Readings (14). 

    Putnam, H. 1988. Representation and reality. Cambridge: Bradford Books. 

    Resnick, M. 1996 -Distributed Constructionism - Proceedings of the International Conference on the Learning Sciences Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, Northwestern University, July 1996. Online source: media.mit.edu/groups/el/Papers/mres/Distrib-Construc/Distrib-Construc.html 

    Rorty, R. 1979. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton University Press. 

    Taylor, J. 1995. Distance education technologies: The fourth generation. Australian Journal of Educational Technology 1995, 11(2), 1-7. Online source: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/gen/aset/ajet/ajet11/su95p1.html

    Wagner, E. D. 1994. In Support of a Functional Definition of Interaction - The American Journal of Distance Education, Vol. 8 No.2 1994 (In H802 Block 4 Readings). 
     
     

    Appendix 

    1. PLATO: MENO, translated by Benjamin Jowett - online at: http://www.ilt.columbia.edu/projects/digitexts/plato/meno/meno.html    || cited  
    2. Nipper (1989) argues that there are three generations of distance education. The first generation uses correspondence teaching based on printed and written material. The second is based on broadcast media, such as television and radio, as well as on distribution of video- and audiocassettes. The third generation uses computer conferencing systems. Each generation utilizes the media devised in earlier generations. 

    3. || cited
    4. See  http://users.otenet.gr/~kar1125/cva2000.html  

    5. || cited
    6. See  http://users.otenet.gr/~kar1125/education.htm  

    7. || cited
    8. See  http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~caucus/reginfo.html & http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~hgb/drguy.html  

    9. || cited
    10. e.g. The examinable component of H801/97 was changed, in mid-course, from a sit-down invigilated exam to a project like deliverable - evidently, a product of a critical reflection and re-evaluation process in which students were active participants.

    11. || cited
    12. Privileged learner at a cost of $5,000 or 1,400,000 Greek drachmas per course.

    13. || cited
    Peer Messages 

    Msg #88 of 88 posted 3/29/00 by yannis-k 
    H801 2000: Welcome... |TMA Workshop |TMA 02 discussion |TMA02 Part 1 |3rd generation DE ... |Am I a third-gener... |When 3rd Generation? |Are the generation... |pennies - DE gener... | 

    pennies - DE generations, 3rd and above 
    Ever since the first decision had been made to disseminate information at a distance using appropriate technologies of the time, chunks of potentially meaningful information have been reaching human minds, at a distance, in a variety of single or combined 'textual' forms - visual, aptic, aural, etc. - represented in the human and/or non-human media (disciples, couriers, tutors - papyri, scrolls, books, telephones, radiophones, tv screens, digital devises) and corresponding to our available sensory organs. 

    This, technology dependant, historical process can be seen as a description of the evolution of DE which has been defined as a sequence of (1st, 2nd and 3rd) generations. Even in the most recent, mixed delivery, 3rd generation DE settings, technology and the mode of delivery seem to be the factors determining the overall texture of the setting, being by and large the major preoccupation of administration, content builders and teaching faculty. 

    In the bulk of 3rd generation cases, pedagogy and the facilitation of knowledge acquisition seem to be taking second place in the range of institutional concerns. Major concern of most DE agents worldwide appears to be the development of mass-produced, re-usable learning materials whose design and implementation continue to be based on the renaissance old and conveniently appropriate philosophical position of the representational view of mind, or on eclectic positions which attempt to combine the notion of learning as an active construction with aspects of the representational view of mind. 

    Therefore, I tend to agree with the (mainly) Ausie view that DE practices which challenge the reign of the representational view of mind and attempt to address - as equally important aspects of the economics of education - issues of knowledge acquisition at both individual and collective level by promoting and supporting social interaction, can be seen as the emerging 4th generation cases in DE. 
    || cited a    || cited b


    Msg #395 of 395 posted 4/4/00 by yannis-k 
    H801 2000 : Welcom... |TMA02 Workshop now... |Part 1 contributio... |The Generation Game |3rd, 4th, 5th gene... |What if | 

    What if 
    What if we link generations to pedagogy and consider interaction as both static and dynamic, where static is with "texts" and dynamic is social? (msg#86,105 & msg#88,105) What would generations look like in this context? 
    || cited



    Msg #369 of 369 posted 4/1/00 by annette-o 
    H801 2000 : Welcom... |TMA02 Workshop now... |Part 1 contributio... |Some differences.... | 

    Some differences.... 
    The following are some of the major differences that we have mentioned (or not) as I understand them. Refs. to articles are not supposed to produce cries of “Oh, expletive deleted, more expletive deleted reading refs.” but in the hope that they reduce our communal ‘searching’ and share some relevant stuff. 

    1. Msg.#366, Cathie. Growth of Internet access in economically developed countries. 

    C.f. Taylor “Death of Distance” http://www.usq.edu.au/electpub/e-jist/vol3no1/article1/index.htm where he says “It is estimated that the Internet reached 50 million users in 5 years compared with radio that took 38 years to reach the same number”. 

    Jacqueline dates “Mindweave” as 1989 instead of my erroneous 1985. So Nipper must have been aware of the Internet but it wasn’t within his scope in his section in “Mindweave” on CMC. Personally in Romania in 1989 so I’m not aware of the state of the Internet then. Any insights? But, anyway, he’s looking forward to the ‘promise’ of CMC and not looking at the implications of the Internet, either for online collaborative courses OR as a ‘carrier’ of learning materials OR as a resource. As Cath says, that’s a big difference. 

    2. #366, Cathie. Globalisation. 

    Continuing from the above technological support for online courses in 3rd gen., we have some that Nipper didn’t mention or perhaps envisage: 

    (a) The dominance of the Western values/ English language on the Net. 
    (b) The ‘widening gap’ that Cathie cites on access 
    (c) The dominance of economically advantaged countries in developing courses using both 2nd and 3rd gen. technologies for/to an ‘open’ market (often with active marketing and negligible ‘tailoring’ despite inappropriacy – an area where even the UKOU which properties ‘integrity’ is guilty through its “OU Worldwide” arm). 
    (d) Increased problems in actually being able to cater for such widely heterogeneous student needs and backgrounds 

    Nipper’s viewpoint is firmly within his own cultural context. In many ways his optimistic and positive attitudes seem curiously innocent - they seem to me to relate to that first flush of enthusiasm and relief that the technological developments had enabled the development of ‘purely’ DE courses without compromising pedagogic beliefs or values based in social collaborative theory. At last, the accepted -even orthodox - f2f practice and methodology could be paralleled in DE (but perhaps that never existed in HE in general??? This ‘goodstuff’ has not been created through DE or Online Courses, despite what some articles seem to claim). This seems to me to be supported by e.g. Paulson’s ‘Online Pedagogical Techniques’, http://www.hs.nki.no/~morten/cmcped.htm which are mostly accepted f2f activities and approaches. Although cited and respected there’s really nothing new there – and the reason that they work is that they’ve been developed and honed in other f2f education and training contexts. Well, that’s what I think - and it seems to me also to relate to Leigh’s questions about ‘evolution or improvement’ in # 365. This was more than just an evolution. It was a ‘hallelujah, bring on the bands and let there be dancing in the streets’ difference to DE that completely cut the ‘difference’ between DE and f2f. But it’s just too big a leap from the more homogeneous f2f contexts where the methodology was developed to the disparate global contexts that we’re now looking at. 

    3. #366, Cathie, #365 Leigh and his ref. to Genevieve’s #104,102 on the sit. in Ireland and Canada., Rosanne #107,102 on “uniqueness and diversity”. Inequality of Access/New Skills. 

    Relates to above but Leigh intriguingly (for me) extended it to those that, for whatever reason, do not wish to use computers as a study medium. Lack of access isn’t only because of economic barriers. Yes! Nipper doesn’t refer to the fact that communication is technologically mediated, is a barrier, with all the new skills that involves (plus, for the designer, the Catch 22 of how, in an ‘online’ course are you going to get them online, never mind happily online, that Leigh’s e.g. paralleled). Steph referred in her (his?) #105,102 to the ‘new rules’ of the discourse medium and there are now masses of articles dealing with the ‘problems of computer conferencing’ which have been thrown up by the experience of CMC that we have today but Nipper didn’t. (e.g. as discussed in ‘The Social Dimensions of Asynchronous Learning Networks”, Wegerif, http://www.aln.org/alnweb/journal/vol2_issue1/Wegerif.htm and “Fragmented by Technologies”, Mike Davis, http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~ipet-j/1997/n2/davis.html. ). 

    Also in the Block Activities, someone raised the issue of personality as well as the distinct preference for particular media which Rosanne referred to in #107,102 and where Gardner (sic?) has been influential as well as the good old Myers- Briggs tests. I think this again relates to ‘context’ (and, good grief, Schon also) that in the f2f social-collaborative context the teacher/tutor ‘tweaks and responds’ almost automatically – and also consciously follows the students expressed needs/wants. Online, it’s just not that easy any more. Nipper’s assumption (as I see it) that you would be able to ‘do the same but perhaps better’ in the distance context as in the f2f is just too…simple? 

    4. Power struggles between admin. and faculty in HE. 

    Noble’s ‘Diploma Mills’ (all 4 in Nazira’s Resources under Online Articles) show the central debate in HE over whether innovations are driven by teaching/learning considerations or by a profit motive. Again, it seems that 3rd generation technology has fuelled this since, under a mass-marketing system, ‘content’ can be divided from ‘support’ – especially tutorial support which can be ‘outsourced’ on a part-time contractual basis (erm.. like trad. OU tutorial support…). Two articles that I found interesting here were “Accrediting On-Line Instructitutions Diminish Higher Education” http://chronicle.com/colloquy/99/online/background.htm whose arguments you can imagine and the rather more measured “Digital Diploma Mills: A Dissenting Voice” http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue4_7/white/ which refutes Noble to a certain extent. 

    I’m not sure here. The Block 1 Readings, the Feenburgh article I referred to (Activity 3.2?), Noble etc. all seem to suggest that it is the Peters’ model mass market/Fordist/ 2nd generation approach which the administration want to pursue in harness with commercial organisations (funded by, even exploited by, rather) but it also seems that 3rd generation technology makes this possible – that you can employ a ‘globally available’ tutor for your global mass markets. It is knotty and complex and I find it hard to distinguish ‘dye-hard, pro-sinecure, elitist’ arguments from the ‘non-elitist, you’ve been coasting too long’ ones. Both seem to have right and wrong on their sides. Several TMAs on its own. It seems related to: 

    ? Wider-scale economic changes, away from industry and towards ‘services’ where HE can reasonably be seen as a ‘service industry’. 
    ? Political commitment to economic rationalisation and promotion of free market economy 
    ? The context of JIT learning and Learning for Life where the ‘traditional’ educational system is blown away and DE becomes the preferred mode for those who are not able to study full-time 
    ? The focus on the individual – rather than society 

    Again, the perspective is all very ‘Western’. But who else agreed with both the pro and anti ‘user pays’ arguments in the Readings? I know we’re all unconsciously manipulated by Keynes’ “madmen in authority”… but to what extent? And to what extent is DE and, especially, the ‘newer technologies’ implicated? 

    Anyway, Nipper wasn’t talking about that. He was just a ‘good guy’, interested in teaching and learning….And so, I hope, are we. Here’s hoping we don’t get mugged by manipulative interest in DE or look like mugs with hindsight. 
    || cited



    Msg #349 of 362 posted 3/29/00 by leigh-p 
    H801 2000 : Welcom... |Block 1 Discussion |Activity 3.8 |To all the lefty-p... |Summerhill? |Thanks! |Model T | 

    Model T 
    The article was extremely interesting and I agree that it would be wonderful (in theory) to be able to operate our educational system in the unoppresive ways described. ie. independent learning. Having read some of section 6 (and I may be way off the mark here) it seems to me that we operate our schools in a 'Fordism' type of set up. ie. low levels of process inovation or product variety and dare I say it labour responsibility (i'm not a teacher so please put me right, but surely the National Curriculum reduces innovation etc) What results are production lines to churn out particular specifications of school leavers that can be used as assets by the marketplace. I'm scaring myself now!! 
    || cited



    Msg #93 of 93 posted 4/1/00 by n.curson 
    H801 2000: Welcome... |TMA Workshop |TMA 02 discussion |TMA02 advice and o... | 

    TMA02 advice and other matters (long) 
    Hi everyone. I thought you would appreciate some advice about the impending TMA and other matters. 

    1. TMA01 (and TMAs in general) 

    In respect of the first TMA I think everyone tried hard to engage with the subject matter of the question. Those of you are perhaps not used to thinking in such abstract terms (and expressing your theorising in words) probably found aspects of the TMA quite intimidating, but there was good material in all the submitted TMAs. I think some people could have drawn on their own practical experience more and related it to the question, but perhaps didn't do so because they felt the need to appear as 'academic' as possible in their writing. Don't feel you all need to be budding Erauts - try and strike a balance. Relating theory to practice and vice versa is what this MA is all about. 

    Some of you were probably disappointed by your mark. In some cases, although there was good material in the assignment, there were more marks to be gained by sticking more closely to the TMA question. I'd like to emphasise the importance of this again - check what the question is asking you to do and tailor your answer as closely to the question requirements as possible. In the case of two- or multi-part questions, note the marks allocated to each part, and focus your effort and word count accordingly. If Part 1 of a question carries 30 marks, it should only occupy 30% of your time and (roughly) 30% of the word count, however interested you are in answering that bit of the question. Some of you wrote too much in one part at the expense of a good answer in the other part. Please make sure that you draw on any resources specifically named in the question, such as the EBBS conference - unless there are exceptional circumstances I can't award marks for what isn't there. 

    Again I'd just like to stress that you are all producing good work, and if you stick closely to the requirements of the question then you will gain marks as a result. 

    2. TMA02 

    a) Part 1 

    The first part of the question asks you discuss what you understand *today* by the term 'third generation' in distance education. Note that this part carries only 30% of the marks and should be no more than 500 words in length. Also note the use of the word *today*. Don't get too bogged down in Nipper's definitions, which were written some time ago. Instead think about how to define a third generation in terms of today's (and tomorrow's) technology. 

    Can I *gently* encourage those of you who haven't been able to yet to participate in the Part 1 online discussion so that you draw on your own and others contributions for your answer (and get more marks by doing so!). You encountered Nipper fairly early on so the idea of generations will have been percolating in your minds for a while. I'd caution you about being too concerned with particular technologies - as has already been noted in the online discussion, it's the use that is made of technology that's important. For example, one American university I know of delivers recorded lectures (that have already been given to face-to-face students) over the Web. Is that third generation, or just using technology to deliver old-fashioned teaching over a network? What do you think that a *fourth* generation might be like? 

    You might also wish to relate your Part 1 answer to the Part 2 issue of interaction. What aspects of new technology are more likely to deliver interaction, and what can course designers do to make this more likely? Or if not interaction, what about the relationship between the learner and the institution in third generation courses? 

    b) Part 2 

    For Part 2 clearly the key text is Juler's Section 5 on interaction. But again, please notice what the question is asking. How is the notion of interaction *changing* as a result of developments in *today's* third generation distance education? So you need to consider carefully how notions of interaction have developed over time and how new technologies are challenging this and offering us new definitions. As David Hawkridge has suggested to his group, you may wish to attempt your own classification of interaction. Be bold - your opinions are valuable (and valued!). 

    c) A general note 
    Note that for *both* parts you are encouraged to use the Online Resources to search for relevant articles on media and technology in distance learning. The Online Resources are accessed from the course home page. An answer that draws on these resources will receive more marks than one which only uses the EBBS discussions and the course readings. 

    3. MOVING FROM BLOCK 1 TO BLOCK 2 

    Today is also the day we officially begin Block 2. Block 1 has a lot of reading, and if you haven't made your way through all of it then concentrate on material relevant to the TMA and come back to the other stuff when you have time. As a graduate of the programme my advice is to keep moving forward :-) 

    4. QUASI-VACATION 

    I am going to be away from home from around April 18th to April 25th. This may slightly delay my marking of TMA02. However I will be online while I'm away (have notebook computer, will travel) so you'll still be able to contact me via e-mail. 

    5. VIRTUAL GRADUATION 

    As some of you will know, the first group of graduates from the MA (including myself) participated in the world's first virtual graduation ceremony yesterday. It was a very exciting and proud event for me, and an excellent culmination of three years of very hard work. I hope you will be encouraged, both by the fact that I got there in the end, and by the fact that I know how hard you are all working. 
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    Msg #84 of 84 posted 3/28/00 by jon-h 
    H801 2000: Welcome... |TMA Workshop |TMA 02 discussion |TMA02 Part 1 |3rd generation DE ... |Am I a third-gener... |When 3rd Generation? | 

    When 3rd Generation? 
    When I first starting pondering the question 'what is third generation today...' - my first thought was that Nippers proposal was 11 years ago and technology has changed so much in that period that surely we must be in a fourth + generation? ( and this thought was partially backed up by an article I read: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/gen/aset/ajet/ajet11/su95p1.html 

    However linking interaction into the qustion, leads me to believe that the inclusion of new technology in the educational model as an additional media does not create a new generation per se, but the effective use of that technology through improved understanding /and interaction does - i.e. when the use of the media becomes two-way. 

    In the course notes p17 David Hawkridge notes that the OU still is not third generation - but moving that way...(not sure how new these notes are?) - computer conferencing has been around for quite some time, but I would suggest that it is only now that we are beginning to understand some of the wider implications of it's use and effectiveness in the learning situation. 

    Going back to Activity 1.2, the scenario with Art... simply using the computer to display paintings is using an integrated multi-media approach - but the ability to change those pictures, move them around, discuss these changes with the tutor is introducing an element of interactivity whereby the student is interacting with the material, their own creative instincts and the tutor. 

    The part I am still debating is what part does independence play in this? - I woud suggest that on a large majority of courses, there still has to be a reasonable amount of direction from either tutor/printed materials / peers etc to ensure that a student is studying effectively ( back to interaction)..collaboration is the word used by John - I suspect that this still needs to occur quite a bit to achieve effective learning outcomes. 

    So a bit of John's thought and a bit of Martins there. 
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    Msg #99 of 99 posted 4/3/00 by yannis-k 
    H801 2000: Welcome... |TMA Workshop |Peer Concerns (long) | 

    Peer Concerns (long) 
    Dear colleagues and cohabitants of this e-space, 
    Let me contribute to our taken-as-shared conception of Distance Education and attempt to resolve possible misunderstandings by addressing some of my personal (and perhaps shared) concerns in relation to 'where you come from', 'where you are' and 'what you do' to improve the situation you find yourself in. 

    My interest in DE has derived from personal experiential motives rather than from institutional prescriptions or personal conceptions of global market economy mandates. Being involved in Special Needs Education for quite some time has made me aware of aspects in the teaching/learning process which are not as obvious or challenging in mainstream educational settings. In working with a blind learner, for example, you often come to question many taken-for-granded conventions of the teaching/learning practice regarding both means and ends. 

    DE appealed to me as a 'sister' field to Special Education in that, historically, seems to have been catering for the 'disadvantaged' and the 'underprivileged' in terms of distance, time, mobility, lack of early opportunity etc. With the aid of today's Information Technologies, its potential for successfully covering 'special needs' appears stronger than ever. 

    Having solved the problem of geographically defined distance with the use of ICTs (msg#88), DE has been increasingly recognised as a valid mode of formal educational delivery, existing settings have been gaining higher status and prestige, and there has been a rapid and ever expanding emergence of new ones. Indeed, DE has practically achieved independent status becoming a separate field in its own right and, lately, is being promoted by national and supranational decision making bodies as the promise for revolutionary changes (life learning and the learning society) and as the panacea for all societal ills (unemployment, exclusion, poor educational standards). 

    My personal observations, deriving from relevant literature, DE experiences (MAODE included) and peer exchange in online professional conferences for the last 10 years, are that the current economical trends have been catalytic to the upgrading and rapid development of the field. DE has been, evidently, perceived as a cheap (perhaps the cheapest) mode of educational delivery and, as a strong and rapidly emerging outsider non confinable to brickwall institutional norms, capable of breaking the long held tradition of public schooling. Those properties could help free market economy with its drive for maximum capital  accumulation and individual wealth by facilitating the cut backs on public expenditure and preparing the ground for the emergence of a private educational industry. This trend may account for some of the conclusions I have come to in msg#88 regarding the definition of 'Generations' in DE. 

    However, in designing and implementing DE settings, DE practitioners have come up against specific learning/teaching problems (effective learner support, facilitation of meaning making, appropriate assessment and evaluation patterns etc.) deriving mainly, as most of the early discourse goes, from the lack of f2f contact and, therefore, nonexistent (or not as demanding) in mainstream f2f educational settings. Surprisingly, in tackling those issues, it has become clear that: 

    they are common to all areas of education 
    they are the result of the process of imposition (rather than negotiation) in teaching/learning 
    there have been recent attempts to redress them in other educational settings (e.g. communicative approach in language learning/teaching since the '70s) - see also Annette's msg#369 . Let me just add here that the interpretation of f2f as primarily visual blindly disregards the age long constructivist pedagogical methods and conversational techniques in teaching the blind. 
    Resolving these issues seems to have become a matter of life or death for DE as a valid mode of formal educational delivery, which brings it in direct confrontation to conventional teaching practices existing since the Renaissance in all levels of education. DE is forced to challenge the reign of the Representational View of Mind (Putnam, 1988) which regards the mind as a mirror accurately reflecting external representations, and lead the way toward the acceptance that the mind interprets, internalises and interiorises its own individual knowledge representations which are tested, revised, modified and reframed in a social negotiation process leading to a contextually framed, taken-as-shared basis of community understanding (Neurophysiology, Biosemiotics, Anthropology -normal educational practice principles in indigenous cultures). 
    On these lines, DE can be seen as a paradigm shift agent in education et large, in that it is making attempts to address and resolve those problems by theorising and realising progressive notions of learning and teaching which give power to learners and bring them to the centre. In doing so, DE may directly challenge the very concept of education as a knowledge conveyor belt and help redefine the role of educators as facilitators of and co-participants in knowledge construction. 

    Central to this premise is the notion that distance which matters is the distance separating the learner from the knowledge. Transactional distance as defined by Moore attempts to offer a framework for this issue and a pragmatic interpretation in terms of the two variables of 'structure' and 'dialogue' involved in the formation of learning settings and directly affecting the learning/teaching process. 

    However, there have also been considerations regarding the distance between learners' beliefs and teaching goals ("the contexts of relevance in relation to which educational goals and methods are formulated and put into practice" - Agre, 1999). According to these considerations, teaching goals seem to feed on the power derived from the process of either imposition or negotiation bringing to the fore questions regarding the whole teaching/learning process, from institutional learned cultures to knowledge assessment patterns. There is a current discussion on the subject, initiated by Ania Lian (AU), in the IFETS Forum ( http://ifets.ieee.org/discussions/discuss_apr2000.html ). 

    Implications for the H801 learning community 

    1. Co-constructing our taken-as-shared community base 

    According to Mason "the MA[ODE] is founded very squarely in a Western, ‘constructivist learning’ understanding of higher education, ...." http://iet.open.ac.uk/pp/r.d.mason/MAEval.PDF  Reffering to the MAODE and H802 in particular, she goes on to state that "the aim of the integrated model [of online courses] is to build on the inputs of the students within the carefully constructed online environment to create a self-sustaining learning community" and  that this model "provides the greatest opportunities for multiple teaching and learning roles"( http://iet.open.ac.uk/pp/r.d.mason/Masonfinal.htm). Why can't H801 follow this model, too? 

    Looking at the map of threads as they appear on the initial, group ebbs interfaces, it is clear that all threads are tied to assessment. Going even deeper in the threads, there isn't any tutor posted, prominent message initiating an open-ended, free discussion thread where group members can lay out their thoughts and engage in fruitful peer discussions away from immediate tma concerns and assessment mandates. Wouldn't it be possible to have such a thread (perhaps entitled 'Peer Concerns') initiated for each group by its tutor so that s/he would also participate in the online discussions, in initiating and directing new discussions and in keeping discussions on track? 

    Is it wise to exclusively consentrate all our efforts on composing the Tutor-Marked Assignments on the possible expense of intrinsic motivations? How, then, could we co-construct our taken-as-shared community base on the subject matter? Threads in the plenary, which could probably serve this purpose, can not be easily followed and they don't seem to generate the critical mass needed. On the other hand, moves towards the opposite direction are already visible in group tma activity messages, where references to "clocking up points" and "quality contributions" in relation to grading indicate a dry tma orientation. 

    2. Assessment of Knowledge 

    According to Mason (ibid): 

    "There are certainly educational benefits to be had from a re-thinking of assessment where online access is possible. We would welcome opportunities in the faculties to move towards more integrated, more learner-oriented and more collaborative tmas and even exams!" 
    and 

    "Current assessment procedures in higher education are long overdue for a rethink. They are particularly ill suited to the digital age in which using information is more important than remembering it, and where reusing material should be viewed as a skill to be encouraged, not as academic plagiarism to be despised." 

    I'd really like to exchange thoughts on this issue. Related messages can be viewed in the plenary area (msg#286, msg#289). 
    I hope that this message would not be viewed as a lecture, but it would kindly be received as an attempt to share insights with you, my peers. I also hope that I have managed to reply to peer concerns as they appear in msg#95 (Hi Edith!), msg#98 (Martin, no hard feelings mate! It's all part of the negotiation) in our forum. 
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    Msg #435 of 435 posted 4/7/00 by yannis-k 
    H801 2000 : Welcom... |TMA02 Workshop now... |Part 2 contributio... |And this seems tru... |An 'interpretation... |Some responses |Another response o... | 

    Another response on social construction of meaning 
    Can you explain (simply!) to me what you mean by your phrase 'social constructivist meaning making'? 
    Tobe - let's see if I can construct this right... Perhaps, one way of appreciating the social construction of meaning is to compare it to the representational model of meaning transfer, which is still the predominant model accepted (imposed) in mainstream teaching practice. It seems that most of us are accustomed to - if not indoctrinated by - the latter since it's the one we have grown up with, been trained for and called upon to implement in our mainstream practices. 

    Now, according to the representational model, a learner is expected to reach the stage of 'knowing' by simply internalising external representations of knowledge presented by the expert (i.e. teacher), accurately dublicating them in her/his head. Through this process of immaculate perception, prestructured external representations of 'qualified' meanings (absolute truths) are transfered into the learner's mind becoming her/his own internal representations and, thus, learning occurs. The conception of this learning process is based on the premise that the mind is a mirror capable of accurately reflecting meanings which are located in the outside world. Obviously, within this view, the process of learning is seen as purely individual, and the role of the teacher as of 'a sage on stage' acting in objectivity. 

    In contrast, knowing can be viewed as a product of a constructive process which occurs on both individual and collective levels. We come to 'know' by constructing our own, individual interpretetions of what we perceive which, in order to be validated as shared meanings, are constantly modified, reframed or transformed through a social dialectic (interactive) process which ties together individual meaning making with conventions and practices in the wider community - i.e. a process of an unremitting co-construction of a taken-as-shared basis of understanding. (Sorry, I don't seem to be able to avoid long words...) 

    In this view, intersubjectivity plays a central role. On the one hand, participants formulate their communicative acts so that they are understood as they intend - they act on the assumption that intersubjectivity will be attained. On the other hand, it is by making this assumption and attempting to communicate that disrepancies in individual interpretations become apparent. Previously unquestioned aspects of the taken-as-shared basis for communication can then become the object of explicit negotiation, in the course of which the participants modify their individual interpretations as they attempt to achieve intersubjectivity. So, intersubjectivity has to be assumed in order to be attained. Well, what's the role of the teacher in all this negotiative process? 

    Well ... maybe, Guy Bensusan, a long practising DE teacher can help us relate all the above to our immediate concerns about this MA programme, as well as the impact of new technologies on DE and the role of methods (models) in its development. In a message to the DEOS-L online conferences, he describes the interplay between technology and method in the learning environment, and he explores the role of the teacher in assisting and guiding learners through it. He says/writes that: 

    ... the implementation of new tools with new methods is a constant pingpong .... 
    One may begin with either the tool or the method, but what then happens is some extensive give and take when the two are brought together in a practical application of assignments, responses and subsequent interactions. 

    These latter bring an augmentation from the learners........ and if the teacher resists the temptation to grade each separate response by each learner, and looks for the indicators of what that individual response reveals of the student's learning style and obvious point-of-departure-of-that-moment, the teacher can adroitly ask a question which will help that learner move ahead to the next step ahead which is reasonable for that specific instance.... 

    Herein lies the third element:  the tools and the assignments are augmented by what the learners do with it, and the function of the teacher becomes that of following the ball as it goes back and forth among the learners. 

    That takes us to the fourth factor .... the openness, watchfulness, constancy, and confidence of the teacher, who by his or her continual inquiry, keeps all the separate pingpongs going and EACH learner puzzles through in the respective manner and  logical next step that the learner must take to move ahead in his or her way. 

    Much trust is involved here. As prof I MUST trust that the learner is willing and able..... and that by taking one step at a time he or she will advance in the many areas of knowledge, data, causation, information sources, contexts and intergrated relationships with other areas of study, and the whole process..... 

    But it does work, and the amount of simple PRACTICE of going beyond accumulating information leads the learner ever farther in to the complexity of the total picture.....  and while I can tell them all those things, and they can memorize them and tell me what they are, each learner is FAR MORE sold on the concept, information, source evalauation and relationships when THEY discover and argue about them (my emphasis). 

    So the point here is that the first two aspects are just the top end......and it is what happens with the interaction that counts...... 

    guy 

    That's all for now. I think I got carried away, but I felt the need to communicate all this. 
    Anyway, good luck to us all with our TMA writing. 

    Yannis 

    PS: Why do we say "good luck" in this instance? What does luck have to do with writing assignments? 
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    Msg #206 of 208 posted 4/9/00 by arturo-e 
    Francisco's tutor ... |TMA 02 Workshop - ... |TMA 02 - Part 2 |Interaction, (in)d... |Fashion |Learning is life a... | 

    Learning is life and life is imagination 
    Hi, Damian. 

    I also enjoyed Naziras's account. Juler's part was extremely enriching. 

    I think we are talking about the same thing here with different names. 

    I believe that what Juler does by making relative the concept of independence (he sees independence as a condition for interaction, nor withdrawal from it) is consciously or unconsciously referring to the eternal problem of philosophy: the dicotomy of subjet/object. 

    Now, Varela and Maturana established a theory in Biology where they define knowing as a process where the organism acts on the medium in order to know it, and, thus, any knowing implies action. Varela even portraits this process as a "dance"!!! (sounds familiar?) This process is circular, because the organism and the medium are being coproduced. The organism acts on the medium and knowledge becomes determined by it (the medium creates the organism). We extract the words organism and medium an we replace them by subject and object and we have the old problem. 

    It is impossible to be truly independent, because the organism's cognition is determined by the medium and the medium is subject to the organism's action (Popper covered the problem of the unintentional intervention of the subject in the object being studied). They are like two snakes that eat each other's tail. Other model: organism and medium dance a tango. 

    Let us be precise: there is no 'interdependence' (because 'inter' may lead to mean that the dependency can be between more than two elements), only there can be codependence (only two play the game: subject and object). Other subjects dancing around are objets for the subject that cognites. This is clear because Juler's interaction network can only be represented from the standpoint of ONE individual (the individual is in the centre of the concentric network). 

    In order to avoid the use of the word independence I prefer the use of the word autonomy. That's all. 

    Now, creation, or imagination, reflects the independence of the organism or the subject acting on the world. A videocamera can 'perceive' and record data but cannot imagine a name for the world it captures, cannot imagine the future, etc. Nazira, when she starts talking to the text, is imagining and therefore is being autonomous or independent in the codependency. More imagination, more autonomy (or independence, it is the same). 

    Do robots imagine? They do not, but bacterias do, otherwise they would have not survived environmental change. In other words, learning is life and life is imagination, not mere reception of knowledge. 
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    Yannis Karaliotas rev 2012

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