December 17, 2017

Self-direction goes beyond learning

Here is the presentation I mentioned in the last post (with some revisions). The bigger argument goes beyond learning and it is this one: We’ve been concerned exclusively in the West with externally driven freedoms i.e., those that come from the environment. To a large extent we’ve solved these questions but done so while neglecting the issue of internally driven freedoms, i.e., the psychological ones.

The notion of self-directed learning has been around for some time, but I ask why not take it to its logical conclusion – the self-directed life? The new choice and freedoms that living in a networked world offers are not complete until we are psychologuically ready for them.

And what's even more important is that anyone can learn the skills of this mysterious psychological freedom.

Much more on how that is done in later posts.

Ken Carroll

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  1. Ken Carroll says:

    Here are some great questions (and my answers) from Wang Yurong, who participated in the presentation:

    1. Motivational Strategies for Online Tools and Resources: you mentioned at your website that “Applying effective motivational strategies to a team is the very basis for leadership. You can’t force people to do great work these days. You can only motivate them.” In your knowledge, how can you apply or embed motivational strategies at a website to keep learners coming and returning?

    My answer: Engagement. It has to be compelling and relevant to their needs. Too many make the mistake of formatting learning content in a textbook fashion. At ChinesePod we spent a great deal of time and energy creating mini-dramas that pulled the learner into the beauty and practicability of the Chinese language. Stories are very powerful.

    2. Sync and Asynch Communication for Language Learning: Different language websites embed different tools, i.e. asynchronous communications among the learners in the community, such as comments or posts, and synchronous communication feature, such as voice chat or language partner with whom learners can communicate and collaborate synchronously and orally with native speakers, or other members in a learning group at the website. Since communication in the target language in a real language context is very important in language study, do you think it is a must to embed both synchronous and asynchronous functions at the language websites?

    My answer: Yes. If you can do that, great. The magic of the web is that it provides us with unlimited content and unlimited access to other people. Both help learning and this is true whether it’s language learning or any other content area. At the very least there needs to be a blog or forum-like platform but live action is even better.

    3. Podcast/Mobile Learning can be Uni-Directional: Some websites promote mobile learning by offering mobile applications such as downloadable podcasts, but this is mostly a one-way communication between the learner and the content. How can collaborative learning among learners or between learners and instructors be better promoted with mobile devices, i.e. anytime and anywhere?

    My answer: The podcast is a one-way medium (like the book) and so the key is in how you follow up on it. If the podcast offers rich and engaging content and is designed for follow up – by posing questions inviting comparisons, etc – then you have the basis fir human interaction in discussion groups, or over other media. I’m not sure we’ve found a highly effective way to do that in a purely mobile sense, but mobile is certainly a tool that can help.

    4. Future of Mobile: In your opinion, what is the future of mobile assisted learning? In what aspects can learning in general and collaborative learning be strengthened with the help of mobile learning? In what aspects can mobile assisted language learning be further developed in the future?

    My answer: We made some big best on m-learning in the past and they didn’t pay off. M-learning is still a ways off. When will it happen? I don’t know. In a sense I think that ‘m’ is for ‘maybe’. Mobile is certainly part of the equation but, depending on your definitions, it isn’t the whole thing.

    5. Role of Researchers in Design of Mobile Applications and Podcast Shows like ChinesePod: In your knowledge, how much do researchers get involved in in-field practice, such as a website designing, development of new applications of devices and tools, etc? What do you think is the role of a researcher in these fields?

    My answer: In academic terms, field-research is essential, but in reality people who run profit-based organizations rarely have the time/resources for it. Often, the applications are driven by groups of individuals who know the subject and know who’s problem they are trying to solve. By embedding themselves into the target community they get a feel for it and go with the most inspirational stuff they can then come up with. There’s more judgment calls than science but passionate people generally infuse that into the work. It can certainly go wrong but it has worked for us.

    I hope that helps.


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