Monday, October 25

Using PLE/Ns effectively: skills, mindsets, and critical literacies

Apple, Orange Or A Real 'Lemon' ? 
The focus has shifted to the skills needed to ensure success within PLE/Ns. What impact does literacy have on a learner's ability to not only function, but flourish in a digital world ? George Siemens believes that being literate requires technical skills, conceptual mindsets, as well as an attitude of tolerance of complexity and ambiguity.
A bit of fun - an online tolerance of ambiguity test. Additionally, an interesting study which explains that 'personality and tolerance of ambiguity' are also referred to as language ego, ego boundaries, or cognitive flexibility (Guiora,1981; Ehrman, 1993)It seems that various studies have shown that learners who can tolerate moderate levels of ambiguity are more likely to persist in language learning.

As I see it, the greatest hindrance to comparing theories is that there is no universally accepted definition of any of them. As with the PLN/PLE debate, it appears to boil down to 'scholarly' opinion. And what is quite unnerving to the student, if 'academics' disagree after studying a theory in great depth, what sense of clarity are the 'others' expected to achieve.
Firstly why do so many theories begin with "C" ? If I was going to submit a theory at some stage, I certainly wouldn't give it a title which began with "C". Connectivism, Constructivism, Constructionism, Cognitivism. Perhaps something with "Z" or "X" would make it easier to remember. However I can't think of one which suits so I'll go with the 'C' bandwagon and suggest 'Complexitism'. Humans are too complex to be pigeonholed according to any criteria which has a cognitive functioning component. If its so clear, why so varied ? 
Theories have their place - I enjoy reading about them, however I act according to my intuitive barometer. Their value lies in facilitating discussion and refinement of strategies which is the toolbox of the educator.I don't rally behind the banner of any one exclusively. Our ability as educators to critically evaluate learning theories is limited to a great extent by the degree of 'at the chalkface' experience. I look to my experience over 35 years of teaching and modify my approach according to my analysis of learner needs. I believe there are disadvantages in attaching pedagogical practice to the bandwagon of any one theory. Experience is the most humbling of teachers. If one accepts the concept of 'individual differences' there can be no justification in placing 'all the eggs in one basket'.

The Executive Summary of the 1990 Delphi Report from the American Philosophical Association (Critical Thinking: A Statement of Expert Consensus for Purposes of Educational Assessment and Instruction) states:
The ideal critical thinker is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair- minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters, diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are as precise as the subject and the circumstances of inquiry permit. Thus, educating good critical thinkers means working toward this ideal.
Daunting task for both educators and students ! I expect a highly evolved, well balanced personality would be a good place to start. Hands up all those who have evolved thus far ? My hands shall stay by my side for now !

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