Monday, September 27, 2010

Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin

Bakhtin is a thinker who is well worth looking up, although how much of what you find out is going to be autobiographical mythology remains an open question. Russian, did philosophy and or literary criticism, lost a leg.
I’m not going to explore his life and times, but rather to describe two idea’s of his which seem as if they should be important in education. The first idea is a kind of human uncertainty principle, the idea that we can never truly describe or understand someone in their entirety, because a person is a mutable and ever changing target, evolving and changing as life goes on and aims and goals and abilities change.
The second is a concept of multiple versions of the truth. Here the notion is that our assumption that if two people have differing views about something this implies that one of them must be wrong is called into question. The thought being that just as there are many different viewpoints in life, there may also be many versions of the truth, which, although mutually inconsistent are not necessarily privileged with respect to each other.
Again I think this has clear educational implications, where there may be many differing narratives in a group activity and no clear reason for saying that one is better than the other
1. Deborah Haynes, “Universe Magazine - Reviewing Monet Story,” spring 1998,
2. wikipedia, “Mikhail Bakhtin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,” accesed sept 27 2010,

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

And I thought I was doing so well

Your social circle as determined by Google is currently a blank slate.

You can create a rich social circle and start seeing social search results by following a few simple steps:

* Add new people to your social circle by adding them to the "Friends", "Family" or "Coworkers" group in your Google contacts
* Create a Google profile and add links to services where your friends create content
* If you would like to see more content from your Google contacts, encourage them to create a Google profile and add links to their content there

Note: this is a recent snapshot of your social circle. Changes you make to your connections will be reflected in the next snapshot. Learn more »
Source:Google Dashboard

So what does Google know anyway!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Whats a PLN for anyway?

As a profesional you build up a set of tools which you use to face the chalenges of your job. In the old days your library was one such resource, and if stuck you would look up the information you needed.
The role of your PLE is similar, except now you are adding people into the equation. If we phrase the PLE as a PLN it makes it much clearer that this is a network of like minded individuals, facets of whose activities overlap, and who can aid each other like fellow travelers where this ocurs. For me the primary purpose of my PLE/PLN is to leverage on the experience of others and avoid re-inventing the wheel.

Monday, September 20, 2010

PLE's and Higher Ed.

At the end of the day what is my purpose in setting up my Personal learning environment (PLE)? It’s simply this. I want to see further. I want to see things that others see. I want to know what’s around the corner, what’s up the road and what’s coming after me.
If my PLE gets too big it’s like the control room at three mile island, a hundred alarms going off and no one knowing what’s going on, and that brings me to my next thought.
Maybe the new role of higher educational institutions is going to be to act as a filter, removing the dross and passing on the paydirt This role may give Higher Ed a legitimate role in the PLE, though it’s not clear at this point how or where that interface would slot in.

Licking Alliens

This is distinctly weird. ’ve just spent ten minutes sticking my tongue out and licking aliens off my computer screen.
And there actually is a serious purpose to all of this.
I’ve been trying out some free accessibility software, “Camera Eyes” ( here, a 5MB download), which uses the webcam built into your laptop to track your head movement, and allows you to use head movement as a mouse substitute. The software is designed to allow users with limited or no movement below the neck to use a computer. The program comes with a training video game where you just have to put the cursor on top of random images of aliens, and they blow up. This is where I got the aliens.
Finally, to explain myself, when you first start the software it finds your webcam and asks you to highlight some facial feature which it will then track. I started out using the crossbar of my glasses, which worked fine, but it then occurred to me to try using the tip of my tongue as the feature for the web cam to track. The tip of your tongue works very well, the camera picks it up easily, and my response time for the program came down by about 40% (that’s edu-speak for “I was killing the aliens on average about 0.5 seconds sooner”). Just don’t try this with your laptop on the way to work, or it might have unintended consequences.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cybernetics feedback loops and education

Arising from PLENK2010 there was a discussion on management cybernetics in the context of teaching. There are a couple of interesting notions arising here. The first overarching (there I’ve used it that means I’m an educationalist not just a teacher) idea is to view educational systems as a system of feedback loops and control mechanisms. For me this is an interesting perspective as it makes me think about signal paths and time constants in an educational setting. This is interesting because it allows us to consider the difference which the use of IT in an educational setting makes. Thus, for example, a program, which provides students with near instantaneous feedback as to whether their answer to a mathematics problem is correct, differs in a significant way from assigning the same exercise as homework. This difference can be characterised primarily as a time constant.
The second notion coming out of this is that of requisite complexity. This is a concept from cybernetics that for any model to accurately reflect the behaviour of a complex system it has to have a commensurate degree of complexity. Again I map this into the various educational models and theories to which I have been exposed and it generates the notion that in many cases to do justice to the educational setting under consideration we need an amalgamation of theories and understandings as the entity under observation is by its nature too complex for a simple system to do a good job.

Ideas here ultimately derive from the work of Dr Stafford Beer (organizational cybernetics) and Ross Ashby (the Law of requisite variety) There is more on their thinking here:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thinking about PLE's

This is in response to a post in PLENK2010 claiming that PLE's are a web 2 phenomena.

My PLE predates web two. One classic component is the personal library, and of course our network of experts from whom we get topic specific advice.
What seems to have changed is the time constants.
Book v.s. blog post, a week vs 3 minutes.

A second issue is authority. As we become more exposed to polarised data sources, we become more sophisticated at reading the side chanell information which can indicate that the author is a kook!