Archive for April, 2011

This post may feel a little awkward on my professional blog.  But one of the aspects of attending Brigham Young University as opposed to a secular university is that we openly strive to blend academic learning with spiritual knowledge. So before we dive into the academic literature that might help develop a framework for blended learning, Dr. Graham wants to look at what the scriptures and prophets have said about becoming, which he feels is at the apex of learning (joined with knowing and doing).

I’ve been reading the talk that Lynn G. Robbins gave in the April 2011 General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye To Be?” Elder Robbins addresses parents in particular, though his remarks are important for all, I think. He begins by discussing the inseparability of be and do. Do without be is hypocrisy, portraying a false image to others. Be without do is void, portraying a false image to oneself. Nevertheless, he points out that Christ said that be is “weightier,” and that changing one’s heart will change one’s actions. As parents (and instructors) we must be careful not to make actions appear as identity, which can adversely influence our chidlren’s self-perception and self-worth. He quotes Carol Dweck, “Never let failure progress from an action to an identity.” (Dweck’s research has been very interestingly portrayed by Po Bronson in “How Not To Talk To Your Child: The Inverse Power of Praise,” from The New York Magazine.)

Dweck argues that focusing too much on intelligence (“You’re so smart!”) actually undermines motivation. “Smart” kids may be fearful of attempting difficult tasks, for if they fail at them, they undermine their identity as smart. On the other hand, if you praise actions (“I like how you worked hard at that task”), a child feels free to fail without calling into question their sense of worth.

How does this fit with becoming-doing-knowing? I’m not completely sure. Some of the other quotations made me think that knowing came first, then doing, then becoming. But Dweck seems to be saying that focusing too much on what kids are (“smart”) can actually hurt their willingness to do, if there is a chance they will fail.


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During the fall semester, I took IPT 520, a “foundations” course for the program in Instructional Psychology and Technology.  For one of our assignments, Dr. West had us review various journals for trends in topics and methodologies.

Dr. West approached the editor of Educational Technology, who agreed to publish our journal analysis papers as a continuing series. And my group’s article was chosen to go first, due May 1st!

So our group worked to verify our coding, and then I was in charge of revisions.  Time crunch with the end of the semester, but Dr. West gave fabulous assistance and edits. Just this morning I sent Dr. West the final batch of changes.

So that is done! Exciting to have an article that will be published!  In addition, we’ll present the research at the AECT Conference this November.  Jacksonville, here we come! (If we can ever find a reasonably priced flight — they keep popping up for $335, but I haven’t yet managed to nab a ticket before they jump to $480 or even $630!)

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I am so excited to be working with Dr. Charles Graham on a theoretical framework for blended learning.  He saw overlap in our interests through my paper about instructional conversation. As I do readings for this research, I’ll continue to post my ideas to this blog. In addition, this semester I will be taking IPT 661 on Evaluation, and so will post on that topic as well.

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I finished my paper for Dr. Graham’s class!  It’s a relief to have completed it.  It’s not perfect, but it was a good effort for a pretty huge topic. I sometimes wish I had developed a research project, as did my classmates, around a narrower topic.  However, as they spoke in class today, I know that their topics, seemingly narrow, still had lots and lots of reading and lots and lots of unanswered questions.  So their tasks felt immense for them, too.

This has been a very interesting class.  I felt like a novice in the field at times, in terms of learning of the theories and authors.  But at least I had the real-life experience of teaching for an online school, so I could speak from experience about distance education.  I’ve very much enjoyed blogging on our readings (though I missed last week — last week was my horror week!).

Final Paper (4-19-11). Enjoy! 🙂

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This article by David Brooks in today’s New York Times is interesting to me, as I work with conversation as a metaphor for instruction.  Brooks quotes Lakoff, who I was reading last night.  Brooks writes that:

In his fine new book, “I Is an Other,” James Geary reports on linguistic research suggesting that people use a metaphor every 10 to 25 words. Metaphors are not rhetorical frills at the edge of how we think, Geary writes. They are at the very heart of it.

I Is an Other sounds interesting, too.  Wish I had time to read it now (but alas, the end of the term is upon me).

Brooks discusses the way in which particular metaphors pervade different subjects: health for relationships, food for ideas, war for arguments.  When we were involved in the legal battle over Rachel’s adoption, Taylor commented to me just how frequently our lawyer used war terminology. Guess his profession is one filled with fighting metaphors!


Brooks, David. “Poetry for Everyday Life.” The New York Times. 12 April 2011.

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I hadn’t read much on connectivism, but Terry Anderson’s email to the ITForum caught my eye.  Anderson mentioned that the most recent issue of IRRODL focused on Connectivism.  I looked at the issue’s contents, and found an article by Ravenscroft entitled “Dialogue amd Connectivism: New Approach to Understanding Networked Learning.”  This opened up a whole new layer of thinking on conversation (or dialogue, the term they use).   I will attempt to define connectivism and then show how Ravenscroft connects it to dialogue. But first, a few side comments:

  • What is the difference between conversation and dialogue? BEATS ME!  I sure wish I could find someone who has clearly defined and compared the two terms. I do think of dialogue as happening more between pairs, but that’s simply because of the di- in the word.
  • Interesting etymology to the word “conversation”: the Latin conversor means to “abide or keep company with,” which broken even further refers to a furrow, or, literally, a turning of the plough, from vertere to turn. In conversation, our conceptions and thinking are “turned about” by those we keep company with.
  • I really liked Ravenscroft’s article, but I did notice that about half of his cited references are to his own works. Tsk tsk! I guess that’s one way to increase your Publish or Perish rating! 🙂

First let me define connectivism.  A good definition is given by Downes (2006), one of the sources from which Ravenscroft defines the theory.  Downes writes:

connectivism…asserts that knowledge – and therefore the learning of knowledge – is distributive, that is, not located in any given place (and therefore not ‘transferred’ or ‘transacted’ per se) but rather consists of the network of connections formed from experience and interactions with a knowing community.

In addition, Downes states: “These trends combine to form what is sometimes called ‘e- learning 2.0’ – an approach to learning that is based on conversation and interaction, on sharing, creation and participation, on learning not as a separate activity, but rather, as embedded in meaningful activity such as games and workflows” (quoted in Ravenscroft, 2011, p. 141).   Thus Ravenscroft will show that conversation or dialogue processes are compatible with the theory of connectivism.

Before getting to that, however, I’m going to quote the eight principles of connectivism that Ravenscroft lists (based on the writings of Siemens, which I have yet to read firsthand), because this is something new to me and I want to record the ideas fully:

  1. Learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions.
  2. Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources.
  3. Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  4. Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
  5. Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  6. Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  7. Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  8. Decision making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

This list did make me think again about my three essentials (agency, purposefulness/intent, and shared energy).  I’ve already been feeling like purposefulness is just a subcategory of agency.  (Holler if you disagree.)  So I’ve been thinking to perhaps replace it with something more unique.  “Decision making” (principle 8 above) is something that comes up in Gibbons’ definition, so it caught my eye here.  Moreover, as Ravenscroft repeatedly refers to the “dialogue processes” of reflection, clarification, and negotiation.  According to Ravenscroft, “ongoing evaluative processes…such as critical inquiry, reflection, and negotiation are considered more important than informing about or acquiring static knowledge” (141). Is a necessary essential of instructional conversation that it include some kind of reflective, critical, evaluative negotiation of meaning?  Pask would definitely agree to an extent, and Harri-Augstein & Thomas certainly liked to concept of reflection (especially self-reflection) in their theory of conversation.  Somehow Ravenscroft’s use of the term “reflection” is more meaningful in terms of conversation than Pask and Harri-Augstein/Thomas.  Pask seemed focused on a back-and-forth till the learner got the right answer. (I know this is putting it far too simply.)  Harri-Augstein & Thomas seemed so internally focused.  But here, reflection, clarification, and negotiation are part of the conversation.  These processes are part of critical thinking.

Here are a few other statements Ravenscroft makes to connect dialogue to critical thinking:

  • Thinking in networks will usually mean thinking through collaborative dialogue. (142)
  • …use dialogue, as our most intuiticve semiotic system, to articulate & express what we think, share our thoughts & ideas with others, and collaboratively create meaning and understanding to make joint inquiries or to solve common problems. (142)
  • …the primacy of dialogue in learning. (142)

Ravenscroft also discusses the difference between dialectic and dialogic exchanges.  Dialectic exchanges are intent upon reaching a synthesis, and strive to reach it through argument and dialectic.  Dialogic exchanges, on the other hand, are more focused on the emotional and interpersonal dimensions of the dialogue. Ravenscroft thinks that both types have room underneath the umbrella of connectivism. I found it interesting to have these two types of dialogue/conversation clarified and given terminology.


Downes, S. (2006). “Learning networks and connective.” http://it.coe.uga.edu/itforum/paper92/paper92.html

Ravenscroft, Andrew. (2011). “Dialogue amd Connectivism: New Approach to Understanding Networked Learning.” International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 12, no. 3 (2011): 139-160.

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As I have tried to flesh out the components I think are essential to an instructional conversation, I used the term “mutual engagement.” By this I meant that no conversation is real if it just involves an instructor posing questions to which the instructor herself is not engaged.  Though this may seem idealistic (especially for teachers of the younger grades), I felt that this was essential to conversation.  Dr. Graham commented on one of my earlier posts in which I brought up this idea, and wrote:

…[A]s I have been thinking about theories related to blended learning one of the things I have been thinking about is how instructional conversations tend to transmit or diminish the energy of the agents involved.  A good conversation or interaction seems to generate energy seemingly out of nowhere – it breaks the law of conservation of energy because it is not energy transmitted from one participant to the other but something that energizes all participants.  On the other hand some conversations take a great amount of energy but don’t seem to generate energy at all.  The fidelity of the interaction and non-verbal cues seem to be part of what communicates energy in a conversation.  Talking with someone who is excited or passionate about a subject is contagious while conversing with someone who is engaged in a conversation because they are being required or coerced to doesn’t have the same energy.

After his comment, I changed my essential from “mutual engagement” to “shared energy.”  Since then I have tried to do some additional reading on energy, engagement, and enthusiasm in instruction.  Today I read an article (Murray, 1980) suggested to me by my classmate, Jered Borup (see his blog here).  That led me to a couple of other articles, and to thinking about the “Dr. Fox Effect.”

In the Murray article, findings are presented about the correlation between student ratings of professors and those professors’ “low-inference teaching behaviors.”  The behaviors that most correspond to high teacher ratings are clarity, rapport, and enthusiasm.  Murray hypothesizes that teachers who teach with enthusiasm will also have higher student achievement, since recall and attention are higher when teachers are enthusiastic and students are kept engaged.  However, his article does not research this.

In the article by Abrami, Leventhal, & Perry (1982), they utilize the term “educational seduction” to describe the Dr. Fox effect, wherein

Naftulin, Ware, and Donnelly (1973) found that an entertaining, charismatic lecturer who spoke deliberate nonsense received surprisingly high evaluations from an audience of educators and mental health professionals. (p. 446)

Abrami et al reviewed the earlier research, found inconsistencies, and conducted a meta-analysis to try to empirically integrate the literature’s findings.  They write:

Overall, we found that instructor expressiveness had a substantial impact on student ratings but a small impact on student achievement. In contrast, lecture content had a substantial impact on student achievement but a small impact on student ratings. (Abrami, Leventhal, & Perry, p. 446)

However, most of the article is spent critiquing the field of “educational seduction” research, not delving into the effects of enthusiasm on student learning.

I’m hunting down an article (the Ware & Williams one in the References section) which may comment more on this, though it is fairly old. If I had more time, I’d definitely need to spend some of it reading up on research about enthusiasm in instruction.  Yet even this does not fully cover the concept of “shared energy.”  A teacher can have a lot of enthusiasm for a subject, but share that without giving listeners the chance to converse with her about it. Thus teacher enthusiasm is too narrow to encapsulate “shared energy.”


Abrami, P. C., L. Leventhal, and R. P. Perry. (1982). “Educational Seduction.” Review of Educational Research 52, no. 3: 446-464. doi:10.3102/00346543052003446. http://rer.sagepub.com/cgi/doi/10.3102/00346543052003446.

Murray, Harry G. “Low-Inference Classroom Teaching Behaviors and Student Ratings of College Teaching Effectiveness.” Journal of Educational Technology 75, no. 1 (1983): 138-149.

Ware, J. E., & Williams, R. G. (1980).  A reanalysis of the Doctor Fox experiments.  Instructional Evaluation. 4. pp. 15-18.

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