Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When rich and poor are too far apart there are real effects on health, lifespan, trust...and education

I listened to this presentation from the point of view of an educationalist working in a system that is currently broken. The education system in general is being blamed for not addressing (or even is seen as creating) many of the ills of societies and communities in a range of countries around the world. However, what Richard Wilkinson presents tends to suggest that policy makers are focussing on the wrong things. While education may not be meeting the needs of traditionally underserved students, the issue is way bigger issue, and the broken education is arguably a symptom not a cause. Education is seen as tangible and in a sense knowable and definable, and thus fixable, whereas addressing economic inequalities across the board for an entire country is practically and philosophically untenable. So what's the answer? I'm not sure but would recommend you watch the video, and would love to hear your thoughts
The blurb from the TED site reads:
We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong. Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust.
In "The Spirit Level," Richard Wilkinson charts data that proves societies that are more equal are healthier, happier societies.
For decades, Richard Wilkinson has studied the social effects of income inequality and how social forces affect health. In The Spirit Level, a book coauthored with Kate Pickett, he lays out reams of statistical evidence that, among developed countries, societies that are more equal – with a smaller income gap between rich and poor -- are happier and healthier than societies with greater disparities in the distribution of wealth.

While poverty has long been recognized as an indicator for such social ills as crime, obesity, teen pregnancy, Wilkinson and Pickett have demonstrated that societal well-being bears no relation to per capita income. They’ve also found that the symptoms of inequality trouble all levels of society. Across the board, mental health, levels of violence and addiction, even life expectancy are affected by the psycho-social stress caused by income gaps and status anxiety.

In the UK, The Spirit Level won support from politicians both left and right. Wilkinson, who is Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, also co-founded The Equality Trust, a nonprofit that aims to reduce income inequality by educating and engaging the public while supporting political commitment to address the problem.
He says: "While I'd always assumed that an equal society must score better on social cohesion, I never expected to find such clear differences between existing market economies."

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Characteristics of eLearning: A model and associated resources

Rachel Roberts whet my interest when she shared the diagram below, along with the following comment "This resource was created to provide professional readings and practical ideas for eTeachers". I followed the link to where the diagram is hosted in Flickr, and had a good look at Concord's eLearning model, which appears to offer a clear, well-informed set of characteristics of an online learning experience (you can download a .pdf here). My next stops on their site, where most of the resources appear to be research-informed as well as 'researched' (see papers and publications here), were
It's definitely worth spending some time having a look around the site. Would be good to hear what you think, if you found anything useful, and why you think it's useful :-)

Image Attribution:

Friday, March 16, 2012

The future, facilitating online, and interactivity: eLearning Watch has it all

Richard Elliott has done it again :-) I must admit that every month when his resource, the eLearning Watch (which you can subscribe to here), pops into my inbox I see it as a treat to be savoured. I always find something from the variety of emerging trends, events, resources, and tools that is of real value to me and my professional learning.
I'd like to highlight the following from this month's eLearning Watch:
Facilitating online: A course leaders guide (a .pdf file), which, Richard observes, a "lot of work has gone into producing...., and a very useful resource it is. Lots of ideas and suggestions to ensure the online experience for the student and tutor alike is productive and of value". I was particularly taken with the descriptive principles of arriving, conversing, facilitating, creating and applying for participants. In addition, the rubric, which has descriptors for beginning, intermediate and expert facilitators, is well thought out with skills for the facilitator, rather than the focus being on what the facilitator 'does' to the participants.

The second resource is a video. The description from the site reads: "On January 24-26, 2012, one hundred distinguished thought leaders from all over the world were invited to come together in Austin to mark the tenth anniversary of the NMC Horizon Project with a very special convocation and retreat. Over its decade of work, the Horizon Project has grown to the point that it may very well be producing the single most important body of research into emerging technology within the world of education. With more than one million downloads and 27 translations in the past ten years, the NMC Horizon Report series provides the higher education, K-12, and museum communities across the globe a key strategic technology planning tool that is continuously refreshed and updated. The following videos from the retreat were taken of the speakers' six minute thought pieces."

The third resource has a range of science resources for students and teachers that Richard describes as follows: "There is a reasonable list of links to a range of interactive resources relating to science for all ages. The web site also has sets of links to other sites containing interactives, grouped into a half a dozen high level academic subject areas. All worth exploring for that gem that will make a difference to your student's learning".

Thanks, as always, Richard - and I look forward to April's gems.
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Designing an ecology that supports students to be critical thinkers, engaged in problem-solving

The spaces that we exist in have an effect on our learning. When you are comfortable, the noise is low (or is the noise that you like to listen to such as waves breaking or music), the limbic system in your brain dials down the stress (fight or flight for example). Also part of the limbic system, the Hippocampus (required for the formation of new memories and the maintenance of cognitive maps) and Amygdala (performs a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions) are more likely to be engaged if you are comfortable (physically and emotionally). So, the spaces in which you learn are important.

These are a couple of engaging resources that talk about learning spaces. The first is a TED-x video entitled Re-imagining Students As Agents Of Change. The speaker, Christian Long, gives some examples from his experiences with people in different environments and how they influence the ways they, and we, think, act and interact.

It was great to see an online article (recommended by DK) in Chicago Architect, which "featured Trung Le in a two-page article about his thoughts on the design of learning spaces. In it, Le discusses a number of projects he’s currently working on, The Third Teacher and trends he sees shaping the development of 21st century learning spaces" (source).

Trung Le is quoted as saying "Do you want your kids to be critical thinkers, engaged in problem-solving? We can design the ecology to support those goals", and  “If we want students to be engaged, we need to design the entire ecology to support that”. Have a read and see what you think - please leave comments below.

Tessa Grey also shared the following here: "Some of you might be interested in the open learning spaces blog hosted by Chris Bradbeer (Associate Principal in Auckland), embarking on a research masters program on the subject of pedagogy and classroom spaces). He writes",
If you’re in the Auckland area you may well be interested in theOpen Learning Spaces Professional Learning Group. The idea is to bring together teachers and leaders who are interested in open/ flexible/ innovative learning environments on a termly basis to investigate the opportunities and challenges that they present.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How the brain works...and how emotional stability at home is the single greatest predictor of academic success!

DK shared this video of a keynote from ISTE 2011 by Dr John Medina. Dr Medina is an entertaining definitely won't fall asleep!! :-) He starts by exploding myths such as right brain / left brain 'ways of thinking'. And "the emotional stability of the home is the single greatest predictor of academic success bar none"!!
Roughly "if all you do is memorise you are in danger of creating a bunch of robots", and if all you do is work on creativity without revisiting key concepts you "run the danger of creating a bunch of people who can only play the air guitar".

DK advises "Feed your brain with insights on how it learns from Dr John Medina, last years ISTE 2011 opening keynote presentation. Great for teachers, educators and other mortals... how do you learn?"

Friday, March 2, 2012

Learners' Participation, Retention and Success in e-learning: Some findings

Rachel Roberts shared the following post in another community, and I felt it was too valuable a resource not to pass on...and thanks, Rachel :-)

"By way of MichaelDEANZ - this elearning report out on Education Counts. Though this is tertiary research there is much of relevance for the schooling sector.
"Peter Guiney (Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis) has released an annotated bibliography of literature related to participation, retention and success in e-learning. The key finding of this annotated bibliography are:
  • E-learning provides additional flexibility to traditional delivery by allowing students to study at a time, place and pace of their choosing.  E-learning can also reduce isolation by better connecting learners to their peers, teachers and institutions – especially for learners studying part-time or through distance education.
  • E-learning can provide greater access to a wider range of resources and experts than is available through traditional delivery.  The fact that all students can equally access these experts and resources is of benefit to non-mainstream learner groups e.g. disabled students.
  • Teaching practices and pedagogies, institutional support and student characteristics and attitudes are all critical in tertiary learners’ retention and success in e-learning.  Of particular importance are appropriate teacher-student interactions.  Courses need to be designed to incorporate e-learning’s strengths.  This includes selecting appropriate technology and ensuring that e-learning is linked to assessments and authentic learning experiences.
  • For best results, institutions need to provide ‘user-friendly’ systems, processes and appropriate pastoral and technical support.  Students also need motivation, self-direction and independence as well as having prior experience in e-learning.  Students with positive attitudes towards technology tend to do better in e-learning than learners with negative attitudes towards technology.
  • The evidence supporting younger learners being more successful than their older peers in e-learning is inconclusive.  While some studies support the assertion that younger learners are more effective in e-learning, others do not."
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