04 November, 2010

Influence as a Measure of Learning (a draft)

This is my initial (planning) for the post, but I can't seem to get it finished, can't really conclude it properly and am starting to worry that its a load of rubbish anyway. I need some objective feedback please. I've numbered the paragraphs to make feedback easier. Also I have a diigo account (iwoods2807) if someone wants to share their diigo notes. Anyway here it is:
  1. Like Chris, the idea of reciprocity keeps pinging around in the back of my head and that it is somehow very closely linked with how an individual's learning may be both assessed and evaluated. Interestingly, assessment and how it would occur was one of the focus questions I set myself back at the beginning of PLENK2010, although, to be perfectly honest, I hadn't really been "focussing" very hard.
  2. I am trying to work out how the influence we have on each other (as a by-product of reciprocity) could actually be used as a measure of our own learning. That maybe there is a mechanism by which that influence can be measured in a way that indicates both an individual's depth and breadth of knowledge.
  3. Recognition of Expertise
  4. The amount of learning that can said to have been gained by an individual within a MOOC needs to be recognized somehow and I think this would be an exceptionally hard thing to do if it wasn't for the fact that individual clusters form around people who are interested in a similar topic or topics.
  5. I am still quite surprised at the robustness of the network that I seem to have found myself in. The same few names keep popping up in forums and blogs that I am reading and posting to. These people have discussions, ask questions and suggest solutions to each other's trains of thought and obviously have an impact on each other's understanding.
  6. However, I would argue that we are also forming opinions of each other's areas of expertise so that we know who to turn to for help with a specific question. That in fact we are already making an informal evaluation of each other's depth and breadth of knowledge and that it is already an intrinsic part of our PLN's.
  7. The clusters themselves are not composed entirely of newbies. As an analogue of a university faculty we have the experts at the top (the professorships and doctorates) and then a number of individuals at different points on their road to understanding (under-grads, post-grads, masters, etc.) all of which ask questions and post suggestions that trigger further understandings and questions for the other members of the network.
  8. At any point, you should be able to ask someone (or more likely 'all') within the network to evaluate the "learning" of the other members and would be able to get a pretty reasonable snapshot of the relative understandings of the individuals within the network.
  9. The specific nature of the network indicates the field of learning (what are you learning about?) and the individual members of the network should be able to recognise at least some of the different levels of expertise of the other members of the network (who are the experts, leaders, etc?)
  10. n.b Some nomenclature for the different types of personalities within the network would be really useful here. I know the terms lurker, gleaner, but that's about it. Is there an actual list somewhere? If someone has a definitive(ish) list, could you let me know?
  11. Stephen Downes started a discussion in week 5 of PLENK2010 "Evaluation by Recognition". His opening statements were:
  12. Learning is recognized, not measured
  13. Recognition is global, not particular
  14. A lot of the discussion concerned how we recognise learning in individuals. Largely, the discussion centred around "testing" and how hard it could be to have learning recognised without passing a test. Given that the test could only measure a "snapshot" of the information taught or learned, it wouldn't necessarily give a clear picture of the level of competency or knowledge achieved by an individual. "Cramming" for an examination is an obvious way of trying to get by in a test without actually 'knowing' the course content.
  15. My thoughts concerning Stephen's initial points are that we are able to recognise that somebody is an authority in a field without asking them to do a test on the spot. The evidence they present when we are in communication with them will generally be examples of expert knowledge, informed on-the-spot conjectures and if an answer is not known, then reasonable pointers toward the gaining of such knowledge.
  16. The longer that the dialogue occurs, then the more likely that the recognition of expert knowledge will either be confirmed or denied. Or, from the point of view of evaluation, that the level of understanding of an individual can be identified.
  17. If this evaluation had to be assessed by an individual teacher, then the amount of time involved becomes a major obstacle to an informed assessment of an individuals understanding. However, if the assessment is based on real-time analysis of the interactions between members of a network and how individuals are referred to by the network then assessment of learning for a specific piece of knowledge may be done by simply looking for traffic containing key words and how the different members of the network interact with that traffic. Assessment can become an intrinsic part of the network.
  18. What do WE know?
  19. In terms of assessment or evaluation then, the key is the quality of sustained dialogue between the testers and the "testee" (careful not to drop an 'e' here). But how do we measure this?
  20. Traditionally, assessment occurs as a form of dialogue between the teacher and the class and is usually some form of a test or task. Any longer form of dialogue would be difficult because of the time involved. One of the discussion points raised was that the sorts of dialogues that would expose learning could only occur on a one-to-one or one-to-few basis. A teacher would have to continually monitor and make notes of his/her students and essentially assess the entire body of work produced by the class.
  21. I would argue that this is where the strengths of PLE's and PLN's come into their own. The network itself is already a sustained dialogue between its members. We are producing an enormous amount of information and because it is electronically stored, maybe it can also be electronically analysed using tools like Google Analytics or Gelphi (neither of which I have any experience of, so I am taking a leap of faith that such analysis is possible)
  22. What do YOU know?
  23. I think that the number of times an individual is referenced, invited to discuss, quoted or cited could be a fare indication of the level of knowledge that other members of the network feel that that individual has. Is it possible to reverse this relationship and assess someone's knowledge by looking at how much recognition or influence they exert over the network?
  24. There are some issues in the different ways influence can work: An individual may produce one piece of work which demonstrates a deep understanding of a particular topic, that is referred to many times. Their influence may be large but the breadth of knowledge exhibited by the artefact may be relatively narrow (although profound).
  25. Alternatively , there may be a member of a network who works hard to nurture his contacts and appears all over the place (a nod to Chris Jobling,your efforts are much appreciated!). His influence is that he provides little titbits of knowledge that assist the members of the network. The titbits themselves may only help a couple of people but the individual may influence many people in a multitude of different ways. This may indicate a wide breadth of knowledge but little depth and yet still exert a similar amount of influence to the example above. (I'm now NOT referring to Chris as I feel he demonstrates both depth and breadth of knowledge).
  26. In reality, individual members of the network probably exert influence in both ways. We may produce an artefact that is referred to many times and also provide smaller titbits all over the place.
  27. What I would like to know is, is there a tool or tools that could measure depth and breadth of influence. I think that influence can be measured by looking at the number of citations and references, but don't have the expertise to be able to test the theory.
This is where I got bogged down. I can't seem to bridge to my rather shaky conclusion:
When embarking on a learning journey it is important that you establish a Personal Learning Network for the following reasons:
  1. You quickly establish a dialogue that protects and time-stamps your intellectual investment
  2. Your learning about subject is instantly recognised (evaluated) informally by the members of your network and may be established formally (assessed) by using tools such as Google Analytics and GELPHI.
  3. Your understanding of the subject will improve more rapidly because you engaged in an ongoing dialogue with a number of different people who all at different stages on the same journey
  4. Your influence is recognised and appreciated by the other members of your network
  5. Reciprocity is important because it both encourages development of your network and also improves the amount of influence you have on the network, thereby improving any assessment of your learning that might take place using network analysis tools.
  6. Your value as an individual within the network is determined by the amount of recognition and influence that you earn.
Other references I had thought were useful but hadn't yet found a home for.
  1. Emma Stoedel's PLENK10: Competency levels for building and managing a PLE - Annotated
  2. A note of my own about reciprocity:
  3. The members of your network have a vested interest (they themselves learn more) in understanding and encouraging your learning.
  4. Reciprocity is important therefore, as the central idea behind the MOOC and PLE's/PLN's is the building and strengthening of networks that help you learn. Without reciprocity, your network won't grow and the amount of learning you can achieve may be relatively small. You have to nurture the relationships between individual members of the network in order for them to feel it is worth their while supporting you.
  5. Issues of Plagiarism
  6. It is possible that one individual may pass themselves off as an expert (as a doctor, or airplane pilot, etc.) but these are situations in which sustained dialogue should quickly expose the fraud. Susan O'Grady's concern (in the original Influence of Reciprocity discussion) that "lurkers" may use the ideas posted by someone else, I would therefore suggest is not necessarily an issue.
  7. It is entirely conceivable that an individual may steal an idea and claim it as his or her own, and they could even build up support for the idea amongst their own network. However, since their interests are likely to coincide with that of the original authors' network, there will inevitable be some sort of a show-down in which the two camps try to claim ownership of the original idea.
  8. I think that this is likely to be resolved favourably given the nature of the tools we are using in this course. All the artefacts we produce are pretty much open to public scrutiny and are date/time stamped. It is therefore in participants best interests to post ideas and have them be scrutinised by the members of their networks in order to protect and develop their intellectual property under the protective guidance of their network.
  9. Using web tools to analyse the structure of networks
  10. It may be possible to measure the influence of a PLN by using some form of network analysis tool (Tony Hirst used GELPHI to identify the network cluster in the twitter messages about PLENK2010). JGChesney's response and suggestions for the network analysis also incorporate the strength of the influence (i.e tweeting original though or re-tweeting has different impact on analysis).
  11. Collaborative Learning is more beneficial to the population than individual Learning
  12. Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups -- Woolley et al., 10.1126/science.1193147 -- Science
  13. Implications for teaching kids that can be taught to share an wait their turn may do better as part of the group than they would as individuals, (use Socratic dialogue)
  14. Group intelligence improved by the sharing between community members rather than individual intelligence.
  15. Is Citizenship more important than content in education?
  16. In the Evaluation by Recognition discussion, Chris Foster made a point about the evaluation of two students:
  17. "...one is naturally good at math and wrote down all the right answers. The other put in some extra work, wrote down mostly right answers, and got some special dispensation from the teacher (extensions, hints, offers of extra credit, etc.) 30 years later, I'll bet the student who was less good at math will be the more successful one."
  18. I think then that it is much more important that the particular qualities that the individual brings to their assessment are recognised in the assessment. That we do not just judge understanding of content but instead value the qualities of citizenship and work ethic that an individual applies to their work. I think this is most easily recognized when that individual makes a noticeable effort to help those around them.

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