Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A model of a PLE: Socratic questioning or connectivist participation in an information stream?

Maria Andersen presented at #PLENK2010 today. She discussed her ideas of a Personal Learning Environment. she proposed a new model of education, rather than to rebuild the old system. A revolution, rather than an evolution as she couldn't really see institutions changing very much.

Her ideas for a PLE are quite different from the connectivist model and this has in my view a lot to do with her view of knowledge. As a mathematician she still sees a place for a basic body of knowledge that can be built upon, while I think connectivists prefer to see knowledge as a mesh of interwoven connections at which learners  pull and push to give it shape by actively engaging with and in it.

She would like learning button where people could go to for answers to Socratic questions about a certain topic. Of course first a great number of people should be willing to ask the questions, but if enough people engage in it, a world of questions would be out there related to the interests of many people. She sees intrinsic motivation as the major driver to learning and envisages learners to want to engage to satisfy their natural curiosity. You can find a paper in which she elaborates on it here.

My guess is that connectivists will find the questioning too structured as people would not be in control of their own learning, and won't be actively engaged in producing artifacts. But if the pool of questions would be large enough in the fashion similar to the development of the wikipedia, and  reach a tipping point, the thing would start to lead a life of its own,  people would like to get involved and people would be able to see it as a bit of fun, some intellectual sparring.  I think it could work especially if semantic elements were to be built in, where questions would be suggested by friends, or recommended after engaging in earlier question and answer activities, and friends would be able to help out and give feedback on answers.

I can't wait for the first batch of questions relevant to me and my interests to appear in my PLE. I will have to wait a while for it, but not that long, I don't think! It seems that more and more people are interested in PLEs and their development.


  1. I think it takes more than just a content expert to ask Socratic questions. I've asked my students many a leading question, only to realize I had skipped too far ahead of them. I too like Maria's idea of a "LEARN" button, but keep wondering if, even given the technology and coding, it would be that simple. At best, it seems a mass of review questions could only cover the first layer in Bloom's taxonomy, recalling the content.

    I think her proposal to turn learning into a game holds promise for applying, experimenting, adapting, perhaps even creating, at least for certain subjects. The "World of Teachcraft" project intrigued me.

  2. I think we are at a development stage: we don't quite know where the new possibilities of the Web will lead us. How we can integrate information recommenders and a 'Socratic questioning system' is not quite clear yet, but several research groups around the world are working on it!