Tuesday, 22 March 2005

Pedagogy-Agnostic Standards and a Much Needed Rant

For a title like this, the first thing I need to do is to look up the meaning of "agnostic", especially, its religious implications. [English is my second language!] Here is what I find:

Suppose you are to answer the following two questions:

(1) Does the sentence "God exists" express a proposition?
(2) If so, then is that proposition true or false?

If you say no to the first question, then you may be classified as a noncognitivist with regard to God-talk. If you say yes to it, thereby allowing that the given sentence does express a proposition, then you are a cognitivist with regard to God-talk. (Let us henceforth abbreviate these expressions, simply using the terms "cognitivist" and "noncognitivist".) All theists, atheists, and agnostics are cognitivists, so the second question applies to them: is the proposition that God exists true or false? You are a theist if and only if you say that the proposition is true or probably true, you are an atheist if and only if you say that it is false or probably false, and you are an agnostic if and only if you understand what the proposition is, but resist giving either answer, and support your resistance by saying, "The evidence is insufficient" (or words to that effect).

(from http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/theodore_drange/definition.html)

This is a bit long, but it gives us a good understanding of what is agnostic. Wiley continues to write:
I purposely choose “agnostic” because of its religious implications: a pedagogy-agnostic standard “doesn’t know if there’s a pedagogy or not.”

Unfortunately, I am not only religiously agnostic. I intend to ask one more question. If after showing that question 2 is true, there is a question 3.

(3) How many gods are there?

I am polytheistic - pedagogically speaking. Different people learn best differently under different situation with different subject matter.

IMS-LD is an instructional design expression. I would not call it a pedagogical design language. What is the difference? Instructional designs describe how instruction(s) is/are delivered. They do not address how learning actually occurs, what kind of learning has occurred and how effective is the learning. After all, learning happens between the ears. Short of opening of the skull and taking some measurements before and after the process expressed by the IMS-LD, can we tell if there is any change? If yes, is the change will be useful for the individual later in his/her life?

Wiley pointed out an interesting use of IMS-LD:

A key to good empircal work is replicability, which we almost never get in educational research reporting. You get garbage like “our constructivist approach worked better than traditional classroom instruction” without enough detail to ever dream of replicating either approach, let alone the study. If all reporters of educational research used IMS-LD to describe their methods, it would go a long way toward bringing needed rigor to our field.

One of the reason given by Wiley for any use of IMS-LD would be to automate "human activity". He gives an example, asking
Is it because people are so excited to use the automated support option when they call Dell after their Windows machine blows up?

Terry Anderson, in a comment to the post asks
how many people would perfer to use a human teller at a bank – especially one with a long linup in front of it, compared to using an ATM.

I would decide to use or not to use LD, in fact, any learning technology based on the subject matter and the context. Whether the learning partner at the other end is a real human or a software agent is not the issue.

One of the great promise of learning technology is "re-usability" and the ultimate objective of lowering the cost of providing effective instructions (ie situations that result in valid, enjoyable and memorable learning experience). I am not optimistic in the current approach to the design of learning standards and processes. In a previous post, I suggested that we should

forget about the notion of "pedagogical free" learning objects and framework. Let us try the other way around. Identify powerful and effective pedagogical approaches (learning structure) and implement solutions to these approaches. Instructional designers/teachers/course developers who subscribe to a particular pedagogical approach will be supported by the implementation solution based on that pedagogical approach. Hence there will be little or no compromise in terms of delivering the best pedagogy.

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