Week 6 – Knowing, learning and teaching in NGL


This week we start thinking more directly about your “as teacher” task and Assignment 2. The aim here is to give a lot more thought to what and how you might harness netgl ideas for you in your teaching practice.

If you haven’t already, now would be a good time to go and read through Assignment 2 and start thinking about what you are going to do. In three weeks time you will start working on Assignment 2.

The biggest challenge

For me, the hardest part about Assignment 2 is to think differently. To really come up with something transformational, rather than simply an enhancement of what is already done. To move beyond what you have experienced and know, toward something that is different (and informed by netgl). Breaking out of our normal patterns of practice is really, really hard.

In most formal teaching situations, the ideas around netgl challenge the foundations that underpin the practice of teaching. It challenges the “grammar of school” (Tyack and Tobin, 1994). The grammar of school is what provides most of us with our experience and thus our normal patterns of practice.

Some guiding questions

One of the readings you’ll be asked to read below is Siemens (2008). In that, Siemens suggestions that

Adopting a different framework for education requires answering some critical questions. For example:

  • What would be the role of the educator? How would we teach
  • What would be the role of the learner?
    • Wayfinding, self-directed
  • How would curriculum be created? Shared?
  • How would research be conducted?
  • What would be the role of the university in society?
  • What would education “look like”?How would we mark? Accredit?

As you work through the rest of the semester, keep asking yourself these questions. Keep a track of possible (different) answers or perspectives that may be given in the readings you come across. Build a concept map or some artefact that helps you map out the various alternatives, especially as they apply to your role “as teacher”.

Feel free to modify the questions slightly. e.g. you may not be working in a University context, so change that question.

Getting started

Before you get started on the work this week, I suggest you write a blog post that provides answers to the questions from Siemens (2008) as applied to your current practice “as teacher”. Forget about what you might like to do, focus on what you do and think now.

Preparing to think differently

The following are a small collection of resources/inspirations to help you extend your thinking during the following.

Obvious to you, amazing to others

Let’s start with the quick video that I shared on Diigo in the last week or so and perhaps should have shared much earlier.

I hope you can see the connection with the course, NGL and your practice as student, learner and teacher.

How does this idea from this video apply to your students?

For example, in an organisational context (e.g. the use of e-learning in higher education) there are often staff who have developed useful and unique knowledge about how to perform a particular task. These people often assume that everyone else already knows how to do this task. Can NGL principles and practices help surface this knowledge?

Diversity, learning environments and fast food

Let’s start with one of my favourite quotes (this link should play an MP3 audio file) about learning environments from Professor Chris Dede (pictured). A similar argument is made in Dede (2008, p. 57-58).

Taking on board the advice that individual learning is significantly more diverse than many of the “theories of learning and philosophies about how to use ICT for instruction” enable, I’m going to avoid giving a set reading or three here. Instead I will provide a collection of pointers to potential readings and encourage you to search out more insights about how NGL might transform the nature of learning and teaching in your context “as teacher”.

Horsey, horseless carriage thinking and the grammar of school

Horsey, Horseless Carriage

The ideas of schema and the grammar of school offer one example of this failure. This earlier post includes the following quote from Cavallo (2004) establishes the link

David Tyack and Larry Cuban postulated that there exists a grammar of school, which makes deviation from our embedded popular conception of school feel as nonsensical as an ungrammatical utterance [1]. They describe how reform efforts, whether good or bad, progressive or conservative, eventually are rejected or denatured and assimilated. Reform efforts are not attempted in the abstract, they are situated in a variety of social, cultural and historical contexts. They do not succeed or fail solely on the basis of the merit of the ideas about learning, but rather, they are viewed as successful based upon their effect on the system and culture as a whole. Thus, they also have sociological and institutional components — failure to attend to matters of systemic learning will facilitate the failure of the adoption of the reforms. (p. 96)

The idea of this metaphor is to think about listening to someone talk. Imagine they say a sentence that doesn’t align with the rules of grammar that you are familiar with. There are three standard ways of dealing with this:

  1. You see it as utter nonsense and reject/ignore the sentence.
    This might one explanation for when someone doesn’t adopt a new approach to learning and teaching. The approach is just so different it sounds nonsensical.
  2. While the sentence is nonsensical, it sounds a bit like another sentence, so you interpret the intent that way.
    This is where the idea of horseless carriages come from. A brand new approach – the internal combustion engine – is developed. But the use of that new approach is used by adding an engine to a horse drawn carriage.
  3. You understand that the sentence actually did use a very different rule of grammar, you seek to understand the principles and reasons for this new grammar rule, and then start using that rule in your own speaking.
    This is the approach I’m hoping you can achieve for this course.

The grammar of school problem is linked to the idea of schema which links to the following quote that I first saw in Arthur (2009) and which is taken from Vaughan (1986, p. 71)

[In the situations we deal with as humans, we use] a frame of reference constructed from integrated sets of assumptions, expectations and experiences. Everything is perceived on the basis of this framework. The framework becomes self-confirming because, whenever we can, we tend to impost it on experiences and events, creating incidents and relationships that conform to it. And we tend to ignore, misperceive, or deny events that do not fit it. As a consequence, it generally leads us to what we are looking for. This frame of references is not easily altered or dismantled, because the way we tend to see the world is intimately linked to how we see and define ourselves in relation to the world. Thus, we have a vested interest in maintaining consistency because our own identity is at risk.

As noted here, it’s not easy changing our schema. It’s not easy achieving change #3.

Replacement, Amplification, Transformation (RAT) framework

Picking up on the M in the CLEM model, I’d like to offer the RAT framework as a model to help you think about how NGL is going to impact your role “as teacher”. Some of you may already be familiar with the RAT model or its slightly more popular cousin the SAMR model.
picture of a rat with definitions of Replacement, Amplification, and Transformation

The idea is that whatever change you make to learning and teaching should be used to either amplify or transform learning and teaching. If it’s simply replacing prior practice, then there is no value. Even some limited forms of amplification (e.g. slightly more efficient for the teacher) might be questionable.

For more information, you can take a look at the R.A.T. Model page maintained by (Joan) Hughes (@techedges) – the original creator of the RAT model. More recently the SAMR model has received attention for much the same purpose, but the RAT model has some benefits over SAMR.

An example of the RAT model can be drawn using the evolution of the idea of an encyclopedia. An idea that started life as a collection of print-based books. Digital technology was then used to amplify the encyclopedia idea in the form of multimedia encyclopedia’s such as Microsoft Encarta. Encarta was distributed on CD-ROM. It includes audio, video and other multimedia. It had a search facility. These provide some significant advantages over the print-based encyclopedia approach. However, it was still fundamentally a information resource produced by a publisher drawing on a number of experts.

Wikipedia transformed the idea of the encyclopedia through the use of Wikis (and arguably similar ideas that underpin NGL). Rather than simply provide additional advantages, the wiki idea was used to do away with the idea of only the publisher and their experts being able to make changes.

Write a blog post?: Might be a good time to write a blog post “as learner” using the SAMR model. Think back on your studies – perhaps your current studies – and see what learning activities you’ve engaged in using technology and place those activities into each of the SAMR categories.

New structures and spaces of learning

The following reading spends some time placing recent developments in network technologies in a broad context; talking about the nature of change; and, describing a conception of learning that is much broader than often considered, before thinking about what education (focused at a University level) might look like if it was informed less by history and more by the premises introduced earlier in the reading.

As you read this consider how the assumptions, changes, models and future possibilities apply (or don’t) to your teaching context? What resonates? What confronts? What seems interesting? What might participatory pedagogies look like in your context? Do any of Siemens (2008) systemic changes appear relevant to you and your context? Could you ponder these? What else might you do? Is systemic change beyond your capacity for Assignment 2? Will you be limited to your own practice, or can you consider aiming for more systemic change?

Reading: Download and read Siemens (2008).

Knowing and knowledge

One of the challenges in preparing this page has been trying to find an accessible discussion of the changes that NGL (especially the network aspect) is bringing to conceptions of knowledge and knowing. The challenge isn’t finding something, but finding something that will fit that you could read in a shortish amount of time and get a feel for the changes. Knowing and knowledge is a huge and complex field that lends itself to weighty tomes that don’t quite fit a small part of this week’s work. What follows is a compromise.

The aim here is really for you to get some insight into the idea that the very idea of what is knowledge and what it means to know something is changing. Beyond this to get some idea of how it’s changing. The solution I’ve come to for this problem is to

  1. Point to one review (there are many others online that give different perspectives) of “Too big to know” a book that explicitly gives one perspective how how knowledge might be rethought given the rise of the network.The review is intended to give some (limited) insight into the larger question.
  2. Point to a video that covers some of the broader implications of knowledge moving away from the tree metaphor toward the network metaphor.
  3. Point to some more detailed discussion of networks and knowledge.This is the done in the next optional reading.

I’m suggesting that you take the time to read the review and watch the video. Any further reading is entirely up to you.

Additional (optional) reading

Siemens (2006) – “Knowing Knowledge” is one of the texts that sparked interest in connectivism. It spends some time focused on knowledge and how its changing.

If you wish – it is entirely optional – you might like to take this trail

    1. Read from page 8 of Siemens (2006) and “We exist in multiple domains” through to page 12.
    2. What domains of knowledge does your teaching/learning cover? What types of knowledge are valued? What types ignored? What are the artificial constructs used to contain the knowledge that is considered important (e.g. learning areas, courses etc.)?
    3. Read from page 20 – starting with the second paragraph – to the end of page 21.
    4. Reading from page 23 – starting with the second paragraph – until the end of the section.
    5. How much of your learning in this course and the broader program has involved sorting and filtering ideas into your existing containers? How much has involved active cognition?

Learning and teaching

At this point I could provide a set of specific readings for you to complete. However, given the point about diversity above, the nature of NGL, and not to mention the idea of re-definition from SAMR I’ve decided that would be just a little silly. (Though not doing that may also be a little frustrating for you)

Instead, your task is to (and this is not meant to be a purely sequential task performed in the following order, you’ll skip back and forth)

      • Have a skim through the readings and other resources that have been tagged with ltngl (learning teaching NGL) in the Diigo group.I pre-populated this list last year and then other participants have added to it.
      • If you have or find any readings or resources that touch on learning, teaching and NGL principles, then please share it with the NGL Diigo group and use the tag ltngl and perhaps some others you deem appropriate.It may be a good idea to look specifically for publications that discuss NGL type ideas in your specific “as teacher” context.
      • Read and share your reflections on the sub-set of readings you deem appropriate for your role “as teacher”. (See the final step below as an alternative)
      • Return as needed to any step in this process and repeat.

This doesn’t have to be completed this week. You may well revisit this process over the coming weeks as you work further toward Assignments 1 and 2.

One final step

Write a blog post?: Now might be (or it might not be) a good time to take what you’ve read and considered this week and write a blog post that re-engages with the Siemens’ questions from the top of this page. You might like to outline some of the changes or different perspectives against each question that you’ve seen in your reading. You might like to identify where there hasn’t been much in terms of different perspectives. Ponder those areas as indicators of where you might need to explore further afield.


Dede, C. (2008). Theoretical perspectives influencing the use of information technology in teaching and learning. In J. Voogt & G. Knezek (Eds.), International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education (pp. 43–62). New York: Springer.

Hughes, J., Thomas, R., & Scharber, C. (2006). Assessing Technology Integration: The RAT – Replacement, Amplification, and Transformation – Framework. In C. Crawford, R. Carlsen, K. McFerrin, J. Price, R. Weber, & D. A. Willis (Eds.), Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2006 (pp. 1616–1620). Orlando, Florida: AACE. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/22293/

Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing Knowledge (p. 176). Lulu.com.

Siemens, G. (2008). New structures and spaces of learning: The systemic impact of connective knowledge, connectivism, and networked learning. Actas Do Encontro Sobre Web.

Tyack, D., & Tobin, W. (1994). The “grammar” of schooling: why has it been so hard to change? American Educational Research Journal, 31(3), 453–479. Retrieved from http://aer.sagepub.com/content/31/3/453.short



8 thoughts on “Week 6 – Knowing, learning and teaching in NGL

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