Week7

First, was a little quiz on block 1. I got 9/10.

Second :

The TV series Triumph of the Nerds is based on a book by Robert X. Cringely, Accidental Empires (1996). Cringely had been a newspaper columnist for a number of years, writing ‘Notes from the Field’ – a weekly column for InfoWorld . He had previously been a professor at Stanford University, and he lived in the computing hot spot Palo Alto in California.

In Activity 6 you have a chance to think about the different ways ideas can be presented, as written texts and as multimedia texts such as TV programmes.

A6: Searching YouTube

Activity 6

Timing icon Your decision

  • Search YouTube for items described as Triumph of the Nerds.
  • View a selection of the items you find and take notes about what you see. You could use the following questions to inform your viewing:
    1. What kinds of information do you get from viewing rather than reading?
    2. What kinds of video clip have been made available?
    3. What issues do the video clips focus on? Can you think of reasons why they might have been uploaded?
    4. What information can you get from seeing these video clips that would be difficult to convey by written text?

These questions link back to something you considered in Week 1, where Activity 4 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] asked you to read extracts from the CIBER report about the Google Generation and Activity 6 gave you the option of viewing a webcast on the same topic. These comparisons were developed in Week 5, where you considered possible differences between media. This issue is an important one in H800, because it links to media choice in relation to teaching and learning.

On the broader theme of an issue you may engage with if creating a global-intake module such as H800, note that YouTube may not be available to students in all countries. And if you cannot reasonably provide captions or a video description, perhaps because the video clip might be removed without notice, the learning will not be accessible to those who are deaf or use screen readers. Note, too, that the automatic captioning on YouTube may be of poor quality.

The video/DVD of Triumph of the Nerds, with some additional resources, is available from the PBS TV website. Viewing it is entirely optional and is not a module requirement, but we’re giving you the link just in case you are interested.

And now to Week 7c…

…where you have the chance to explore a way of interacting that uses ‘the interpersonal action-learning cycle’. Bob Zimmer asks you to consider ways in which people express themselves online, or do not – and how they listen to what others are saying, or do not.

Week 7c: Handling multiple perspectives

Written for H800 by Bob Zimmer

Two key aims in H800 are to enable you to:

  1. gain an understanding of a range of theoretical perspectives and current debates within the field of technology-enhanced learning
  2. relate these perspectives to your own and others’ practice.

So this module asks you to:

  • take in the perceptions of others alongside your own
  • compare and contrast these perceptions with one another and with your own
  • decide critically which parts of each you will keep for yourself, and how you might creatively combine them.

I would suggest that the English language, like many others, contains a trap that can stop people from doing these three things.

Week 7c examines this trap and offers a simple yet precise way to avoid it, called the ‘interpersonal action-learning cycle’.

Activities for Week 7c

Here are the activities for Week 7c.

  • Activity 7, To invite thinking, attentive comprehension. Reading about the ‘interpersonal action-learning cycle’.
  • Activity 8, Your experience of the Block 1 forums. Looking back on your experience of the forums and relating it to the interpersonal action-learning cycle.
  • Activity 9, Promoting inclusive, collaborative discussion. Using the cycle to compare academic discourse to collaborative discussion and to competitive debate.
  • Activity 10, Making sense of your perceptions. Relating knowledge of the interpersonal action-learning cycle to knowledge as acquired and knowledge as participation (Sfard).

Problems

There is a trap in many languages, including English, which can stop people from meeting the two key H800 aims mentioned earlier. This trap is manifest in every sentence of the present paragraph – namely the tolerance of the language for sentences which presume that the way in which the speaker perceives something is the way that it ‘is’. Such a presumption imposes a requirement on everyone else to see it in the same way. The result is replacement of collaborative discussion by competitive debate.

I see a second side to this trap also, which can prevent me from understanding accurately the perceptions of others. Namely, if I assume that the way I perceive something is the way that it ‘is’, then I am making no distinction between what someone says and what I hear in it. So I am assuming that whatever I hear must be what was meant.

I see a third side to this trap as well, which can prevent me from listening to other people at all. If I think that the way in which I perceive something is the way that it ‘is’, then I can easily assume that other people see it in the same way – i.e. that I know their perceptions without even bothering to listen.

An offered solution

A way for me out of the first side of this trap – in which I require everyone to see things as I do – is to report only my own perceptions and what sense I can make of them, as in the present paragraph.

For example, here is a translation of the first paragraph in the preceding section, into such a report of my own perceptions:

I’ve noticed a trap in many languages, including English, which can stop me from putting other perceptions alongside my own for comparison and contrast. This trap is the ease with which I can put together sentences that presume that the way in which I perceive something is the way that it ‘is’. If I think in this way, I am requiring everyone else to see it in the same way – thereby sinking out of collaborative discussion and into competitive debate about ‘what is’.

For comparison, here is the original repeated:

There is a trap in many languages, including English, which can stop people from meeting the two key H800 aims mentioned earlier. This trap is manifest in every sentence of the present paragraph – namely the tolerance of the language for sentences which presume that the way in which the speaker perceives something is the way that it ‘is’. Such a presumption imposes a requirement on everyone else to see it in the same way. The result is replacement of collaborative discussion by competitive debate.

In addition, a way for me out of the second side of this trap – in which I assume that what I’ve heard is what was meant – is to take care to check my understanding of what people say.

Finally, a way for me out of the third side of the trap – in which I don’t bother to listen to other people at all – is to listen specifically for people’s own perceptions.

In summary

To avoid all three sides that I see in this trap, especially in online work, I take the best care that I can to:

  • offer my understanding of other people’s perceptions, even if these seem obvious; i.e. what I hear them as having noticed and inferred, how they feel about that, what they wonder,so that they can feel accurately understood and perhaps inclined to listen to me further,

    thereby maximising my own chances of being listened to rather than ignored.

  • add my own perceptions to my understanding of theirs; i.e. in the context of theirs, say what I myself have noticed and inferred, how I feel about that, what I wonder,so as to start where they are ‘at’ so that they can follow what I’m saying,

    thereby maximising my own chances of being offered their understanding rather than being countered.

  • listen for their responses to what I’ve said; e.g. ‘Further thoughts welcome’ or ‘I hope this helps’,so as to set what I’ve just said as the current context and then to leave them free to respond,

    thereby maximising my own chances of having my perceptions added to rather than dismissed.

In other words, it’s in my own interest to do these three things.

More briefly

I try to take care to:

  • offer my understanding rather than counter other views,so as to be listened to rather than ignored.
  • add my perceptions rather than dismiss other views,so as to be offered understanding rather than be countered.
  • listen for people’s responses rather than ignore other views,so as to have my perceptions added to rather than dismissed.

As you probably can see, these three actions form a continuous cycle that invites itself in return. This is what I’ve called the ‘interpersonal action-learning cycle’.

Evaluation

I find that the interpersonal action-learning cycle works. Its usefulness for replacing competitive debate with collaborative discussion has been tested over several years in online etutoring and emoderating (Zimmer and Alexander, 2000; Zimmer, 2001; 2008), and there is evidence that it is effective. In particular, it has given rise to several verbal strategies for stabilising discussion.

I also find this effectiveness predictable. The three behaviours are the three that Carl Rogers identified empirically as the core of supportive interpersonal communication (Rogers, 1959; 1962). In addition, the sequence of the three, and their ability to invite one another in return, can be derived theoretically from first principles of systems thinking (Zimmer, 2001; 2004). This is where the ‘action-learning’ part of the cycle’s name comes from.

Implications

I’ve found that use of the interpersonal action-learning cycle can have profound effects in several areas of module-based education:

  • In module design, the cycle requires authors to share their own perceptions and to leave room for learners to do the same. In my experience, people who claim to know what’s what can have particular difficulty in doing this.
  • In module presentation, the cycle underpins the possibility of collaborative learning. In online discussion, the cycle is particularly well-exemplified by the forum-facilitating skill known as ‘weaving’ (Feenberg, 1989), where the moderator or other participants pull together the themes that have arisen in the discussion, raising areas of similarity and difference between the contributors, and inviting further discussion.
  • In assessment of learning, use of the cycle clarifies the distinction between:
    • a.teacher-centred assessment, wherein the learner is required to show understanding of the teacher’s thinking
    • b.learner-centred assessment, wherein the learner is invited to share his/her own perceptions and thinking.
  • In module evaluation, use of the cycle makes clear the distinction between learner reports and learner ratings. Although judgemental ratings of a module can flag up things that are wrong, they may not say much, if anything, about what is wrong, and can demoralise module providers. By contrast, learners’ reports of their own perceptions of a module say what learners themselves have noticed, and how they feel about it because of what they needed. Such reports do indicate what is wrong – and can go on to include suggested improvements.

A7: To invite thinking, attentive comprehension

Activity 7 is designed to give you an opportunity to examine the interpersonal action-learning cycle in detail.

Activity 7

Timing icon Your decision

  • Look at the book chapter Using the interpersonal action-learning cycle to invite thinking, attentive comprehension [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . The author is myself, in Luppicini, R. (ed.) (2008) Handbook of Conversation Design for Instructional Applications, Hershey, PA, Information Science Reference (IGI Global), pages 264–88.
  • Read the abstract and introduction first, pages 264–5. Then read the section called ‘Future trends: implications of the IALC for course design and assessment’, pages 281–3 (where IALC stands for ‘interpersonal action-learning cycle’).
  • Then sample the rest of the chapter as you wish: the first half is about principles, the second half about practice.

A8: Your experience of the Block 1 forums

Activity 8 gives you the chance to look back over your own experience of interactions so far in the forums.

Activity 8

Timing icon Your decision

  • Look back to some of the forum discussions, just to remind yourself of some of the flavour of these. In your view, how far have you and others in your group…
    1. …offered your understanding of other people’s perceptions, even if these have seemed obvious?
    2. …added your perceptions to your understanding of theirs?
    3. …listened for their responses to what you’ve said?
  • Consider any differences that these practices and their opposites appear to you to have made.

A9: Promoting inclusive, collaborative discussion

Activity 9

Timing icon Your decision

Use of the interpersonal action-learning cycle requires writing and speaking from an identifiable perspective, so as to leave room for other people’s views, and, ultimately, to invite and include other people’s views. In my experience, this generally requires speaking in the first person, and allowing other people to do the same. Such a practice may differ from your own view of normal academic discourse.

  • Speaking in the first person, compare and contrast such a practice with your view of normal academic discourse.
  • Consider the consequences for collaborative discussion as opposed to competitive debate.

A10: Making sense of your perceptions

Activity 10

Timing icon Your decision

The interpersonal action-learning cycle is founded on the idea that the only knowledge we have is our own perceptions and what sense we can make of them – and that different perceptions can be put side by side for comparison, contrast and synthesis.

  • Put this view of knowledge as constructed, alongside the two views that Sfard discusses – i.e. knowledge as acquired and knowledge as participation. Compare and contrast the three.
  • Use of the action-learning cycle, in my view, changes knowledge as constructed into knowledge as jointly constructed within collaborative discussion. What is your own view?
  • Consider, in particular, your knowledge of the interpersonal action-learning cycle itself:
    1. Have you constructed your knowledge from your own perceptions?
    2. Have you acquired your knowledge from what’s been said here?
    3. Have you participated in it by trying out the cycle?
    4. What has been your experience here?

 

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