JiME Reviews October 2013

We have the following books available for review at JiME:

Marilyn Leask, Norbert Pachler (eds.) Learning to Teach Using ICT in the Secondary School - A companion to school experience (3rd Edition) Routledge (2014) – 262 pp.

Phyllis Jones (ed.) Bringing Insider Perspectives into Inclusive Teacher Learning – Potential and challenges for educational professionals. Routledge (2014) – 209 + xvii pp.

If you or anyone you know would like to be our reviewer then get in touch via Twitter (philosopher1978) or through this website.

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Sociology & Big Data

Can sociological researchers make use of big data?  Should they? There’s something equivocal going on between the allure of massive data sets and the temptation to try and explain everything in terms of that data…

New Sociological Approach to Big Data » Sociology Lens.

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JiME Reviews: September 2013

Fresh off the press, we have a new volume available for review at the Journal of Interactive Media in Education. If you’re interested in reviewing the following volume for us, please drop me a line.

Marilyn Leask, Norbert Pachler (eds.) Learning to Teach Using ICT in the Secondary School - A companion to school experience (3rd Edition) Routledge (2014) – 262 pp.

Here’s the blurb:

Learning to Teach Using ICT in the Secondary School offers teachers of all subjects a comprehensive, practical introduction to the extensive possibilities that ICT offers pupils, teachers and schools. Under-pinned by the latest theory and research, it provides practical advice and guidance, tried-and-tested examples, and covers a range of issues and topics essential for teachers using ICT to improve teaching and learning in their subject.

The third edition has been fully updated in light of rapid changes in the field of both ICT and education and includes six brand new chapters.

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Socratic Method, Mazur and ‘Peer Learning’

I realise I haven’t been keeping up with blogging here (the perennial blogging complaint), mainly because I’ve been contributing blogs to the OER Research Hub project.  But I think there should be a bit more activity here as well as a bit of cross-posting (oh for the ability to re-blog between .com and .org installs on WordPress…).

What’s prompted this is a presentation I’ve just attended by Kari Arfstorm of the Flipped Learning Network.  I hadn’t previously been aware of an explicit connection between the ‘flipped’ learning methodology and a particular kind of pedagogical approach.  For those who are unaware, here’s the skinny on ‘flipped’ learning from the FLN site:

Flipped learning is intended to make more efficient use of classroom time by making sure that passive learning (e.g. reading, watching lecture) takes place away from the classroom and the time spent in the classroom makes the most of discussion, debate and inquiry.  Kari made an explicit connection between this approach and Socratic method – one I hadn’t made myself until now.

I confess to still being a little unclear on exactly how Socratic we should take flipped learning to be; or the ways in which flipping encourages a certain kind of pedagogy.  Kari suggested in the session that some subjects (e.g. mathematics) we might abide by a more authoritative teaching model in order to reflect the ‘hard’ nature of the subject while in the humanities we might employ a more authentically Socratic method.  I’m behind the curve on the whole thinking behind flipping, but a few thoughts come to mind:

  • Part of my confusion seems to arise from the fact that I understand Socratic method as anti-didactic.  Of course, it’s still a form of instruction (hence the irony) but ultimately a kind of facilitated self-instruction.
  • Socrates does in fact use this method to ‘teach’ mathematics.  In Plato’s Meno he takes a young slave boy and demonstrates his innate knowledge of Euclidean geometry by asking him questions rather than ‘teaching’ him.
  • Do you observe, Meno, that I am not teaching the boy anything, but only asking him questions; and now he fancies that he knows how long a line is necessary in order to produce a figure of eight square feet; does he not?

  • ‘Flipping’ seems (at least at first glance) to be an irony-free approach to pedagogy, which makes its Socratic status unclear to me.
  • In some dialogues, Socrates is often regarded as a mouth-piece for Platonic ideas. We don’t mean this kind of instruction when we talk about Socratic pedagogy but obviously there’s a lot of debate about when & where this is happening and why.

In any case, it seems that simply ‘flipping’ the classroom need not in itself result in more critical forms of reasoning and/or learning, though it’s easy to see how having a bit more time devoted to discussion or ‘higher-order’ pedagogical exercises might facilitate this.

When I asked Kari about this aspect of ‘flipping’ she said that the connection was not simply to Socratic methods but to some of the pedagogical approaches inspired by critical approaches.  Foremost among these seems to be physicist Eric Mazur‘s concept of peer instruction which dates from the early 1990s.

Peer Instruction encourages more interactive engagement by replacing lectures with small group discussions of concepts, supplemented by larger discussions punctuated by mini-lectures between questions. Students contemplate answers individually then discuss the explanations for their answers with their peers and come to agreement on the underlying physics (or models).

Here’s an outline of the process based on C. Turpen and N. Finkelstein (2010).

  • Instructor poses question based on students’ responses to their pre-class reading
  • Students reflect on the question
  • Students commit to an individual answer
  • Instructor reviews student responses
  • Students discuss their thinking and answers with their peers
  • Students then commit again to an individual answer
  • The instructor again reviews responses and decides whether more explanation is needed before moving on to the next concept.

  • Here’s a lecture by Eric Mazur which explains his approach to peer-based learning.

    I feel like I’ve learned something today as I have a better understanding of some of the pedagogical principles underlying the idea of ‘flipping’ the classroom.  But I also feel that it may be better to think of these approaches as encouraging a kind of intellectual or critical autonomy (undoubtedly a Socratic aspiration) rather than thinking of them as Socratic per se.

    Interestingly, the idea of Socratic reasoning also came through in a separate presentation today. Thanh Le (of the Vital Signs project) explained how ther schoolchildren use negative method of hypothesis elimination in order to improve their knowledge of native and invasive flora and fauna.

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    Internet Paranoia


    by wond.
    Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

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    Critique and Openess

    My slides from last week’s presentation at London Conference in Critical Thought.

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    LCCT Programme

    The schedule for the London Conference on Critical Thought is now available here.

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    Flipping Philosophy

    Too many people at the Fontana di Trevi

    Last week I went to the 6th International Conference in Critical Theory, based at The John Felice Rome Center of Loyola University Chicago in Rome.  I got some useful stuff out my my presentation, both in terms of some headspace to work on the essence of what I wanted to say in some of my PhD work and in that there were some useful comments to come out it too.  I’m newly confident that there’s a reasonable journal article in there somewhere.

    It’s been a while since I spent a full three days listening to philosophy papers.  No doubt I’m a bit rusty in terms of my ability to listen, but I repeatedly found myself thinking that reading out from a prepared manuscript is rarely the most stimulating or pedagogically effective way to present material.

    The idea that we should aspire to be innovative in how we present information is kind of a given in the environment I work in at present.  Experiments in form have value in themselves.  But philosophers tend to stick to a long-established way of doing things.  You write a paper in advance, print it out, and then read it out load for anywhere between 50% and 99% of the time available for the session with any leftover time devoted to discussion.

    Not all philosophers do this, and for those that do the benefit is that you say exactly what you want to say, no matter how vexed or convoluted.  When you’re trying to explain something complicated, it’s easy to get it wrong especially when you’re presenting to a room full of people who are very keen to point out any mistakes.  For many presenters who are shy, a script to hide behind can be a comfort.

    However, there are a few things that have come to irk me about this way of doing things.  Firstly, there aren’t many concessions being made to the audience when you are effectively asking them to digest something like a journal article or book chapter in one go, often without a paper copy of your own to follow.  It can be hard to keep a question in mind if you want to keep up with the presentation.  Perhaps this is exacerbated when you’re trying to listen in a language that is not your own; I was chairing at a conference recently and one audience member complained loudly to this effect.  A whole day of passively listening to people speak is fairly draining no matter how interesting the presentation, and it’s hard to think that people can sustain this for a number of days.

    You have a great deal of collective intelligence in the room at seminars like these, but it’s hard to see how reading is a good use of that time.  At the conference in Rome there were academics and graduate students from around the world.  Lots of resources have gone into putting these people in the same room.  It’s a chance to have a really good discussion – or at least it would be if everyone had the materials in advance.

    This got me thinking along the lines of the ‘flipped‘ classroom, where you do the information delivery (lecture, video, etc) outside of the class and keep the precious (expensive) contact time for discussion and activities.  Students can digest the material over time, through multiple viewings if need be.  If we were to do the same thing with conference sessions you could have all kinds of new formats, or work towards producing something tangible.  (It’s quite ironic that the complaint about technology creating barriers to human interaction is used to defend reading your paper at an audience.)  It also relies on people being organised enough to produce materials in advance but there’s no reason why it need be compulsory.

    I’m coming out in favour of the flipped conference.  I understand that a similar call has been made by Alan Levine and Audrey Watters.   There are issues, though, especially to do with recording unfinished or progressing work.  I can’t see many people in the humanities going for that.

    They’re a conservative (with a smal ‘c’) bunch, really, philosophers.  I imagine most of the humanities are the same, however:  they like the old ways of doing things and that’s partly how they ended up where they are.  It’s quite telling that when you are in an educational technology conference everybody is sitting on there devices, tweeting, checking things, looking things up and so on.  At a philosophy conference very few do this.  When I went on Twitter there was only one other person on there and we were both looking for some sort of hashtag or conversation to follow.  There’s a sense of defence of a sanctified space among these communities but I wonder how much of that is about the most effective use of that space.

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    Social Pathology & Postmetaphysical Thinking

    My slides from today’s presentation…

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    Perspectives on Open and Distance Learning

    I’ve just had notification that Perspectives on Open and Distance Learning: Open Educational Resources: Innovation, Research and Practice (for which I co-wrote a chapter has now been published… you can download directly from here.

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