28 November 2006

NET11 Assessment tasks

Ok well I have the orientation and introduction out of the way, I am now looking at the assessment tasks. I noted from my quick scan of the curriculum that most of these are continuously drawn from the modules I'll be working on throughout the unit, so I think it is a good time to start planning.

There are four tasks or areas we are assessed on, three of them I can start working on straight away. These are:
  • Resource Project due in week 9 (26/01/07), worth 30%. In this project we must compile a list of web sites we think would be useful for someone learning the content of the first four modules of this unit - at least two links per module. In addition we are to annotate each link with a summary and discussion of how and why it might be useful. We should also try to identify which concepts they relate to or illustrate. We have a choice of either web site or blog presentations. Hmm.. decisions, decisions! This looks like fun, I really enjoy research and writing.
  • Participation in forum (tutorial) discussions, worth 10%. This will require me to keep pace with the other students, otherwise I risk becoming a 'lurker' catching up on old posts. We are expected to complete a module per fortnight, it is halfway through week 1 right now and I notice quite a number of students are powering through the first module. Unfortunately this week I am doing some rather intense study in my last unit for the final exam on Thursday, but I expect to do some serious catch up this weekend.
  • Learning Log due in final week (23/02/07), worth 30%. Yay, I've started this! As well as being part of my assessment, this log will serve as a record of work I've completed, as well as reflection on my experiences as I work throughout the unit - similar to the Learning Log I completed in my last unit for SSK12. The suggestion for this one is to set aside a couple of times a week to work on my log.
The fourth assessment task is an essay (eek!) due in the last week of the unit with the Learning Log submission. It requires reflection on the conceptual understandings acquired throughout the unit, hopefully this will be covered in my log and will be a matter of revision. I shall revisit this task a bit later in the unit. I need lots of practise in my essay writing.

NET11 Curtin orientation

Unit outline from OUA website:

This unit will help you to develop your skills and understanding of the internet to a more advanced level, mainly through practical exercises, but also through a parallel investigation of the concepts which underpin the way the internet functions as an information and communication system. The unit includes consideration of email, chat, newsgroup and other communications, blogging, websites, file sharing and information management.

Very enthused with this course after logging on for the first time yesterday and ‘meeting’ some of the other students. The unit is conducted entirely online so, unlike my previous unit I have not felt swamped with a lot of printed reading material. Everything is online, seems to be well organised and easy to navigate.

To begin, there was a brief orientation tutorial which was quite good because it didn’t go into too much depth but explained nearly everything I wanted to know, such as turnaround for email responses from tutor (72 hours) and expectations for the minimum amount of time required for this unit (10 hours per week). There was a short survey before and after the tutorial asking similar questions, so it was interesting to see how my responses changed. After the tutorial I felt a lot more comfortable with commencing my first unit with this university.

I logged into OASIS to set my password and had a look around. Apparently I need to check this system at least once a week for any official communications. It seems to be connected with the Library as well, I will have a better look around soon. There was not a great deal about OASIS in the orientation tutorial, which I noted in the feedback section of the survey. I think it would be helpful to mention OASIS and briefly explain the relationship of this system to our participation in this and other units. (I dimly recall logging into a similar system at Murdoch, but beyond initial login I don’t think I ever returned!)

Next I logged into WebCT. This is where I will be going every day to read up on unit and assessment information, find course materials and enter the online discussion forums. It is the same system used by Murdoch during my last unit, so it was very familiar.

After having a good poke around the different sections in WebCT, my next task was to introduce myself on the forum. I discovered the thread started by our tutor Cynthia, who provided some very useful information and guidelines for the unit. We are expected to complete one module per fortnight, and our participation on the forum counts for 10% of our final assessment.

Quite a number of students had posted after Cynthia and I took the time to read through their responses. Cynthia had introduced an interesting topic to help “break the ice” - our first experience of the internet. I was quite encouraged to see many of the other students have things in common with myself - such as geographical location, study goals, interests and personal situation. I took some brief notes of a few names and points as a memory jog.

This group seem very different, and more appealing than the group from my last unit. There are fewer students for a start, and the majority of us are here with a common purpose and interest in Internet Studies. A few of the students have started blogs and posted links, I shall probably share mine at some stage. I suspect my participation on this forum will be greater than it was on my last unit’s forum. I am looking forward to it.

25 November 2006

The situated self - Samovar & Porter

Samovar, Larry, A. & Porter, Richard, E. 2004, 'World views', Communication between cultures, 5th edn, Thomson, Wadsworth, pp. 85-86.

The importance of world view:

  • overarching philosophy which influences perception and behaviour in large and small ways

  • knowledge of a culture's particular world view can help to predict behaviour and motivations in dimensions such as business, where there is thought to be a direct link

World view is an 'overarching philosophy', directly linked to perceiption and culutre, and used as javascript:void(0)
Publish Posta basis for behaviour. If a culture's world view is understood, then it is possible to predict the behaviour and motivations in various dimensions such as business.

22 November 2006

Communicating at university - Bizzell

Bizzell, Patricia, 1986, 'What happens when basic writers come to college', College Composition and Communication, vol.37, no.3, pp.294-301

A discussion on the intellectual adjustment required by students entering higher education and the difficulties this can cause. Also provides an introduction to the work of William Perry who has provided an influentual scheme of the intellectual and ethical development required of students in the process of becoming acculturated to the Western university discourse community and its world view.

What do you think Bizzell means by her use of the terms 'outlandishness' and 'outlanders'?

Bizzell is using metaphor to describe the cultural disparity of some students entering higher education; while there may be some students seem able to blend into the culture of higher education there are others that stand out because of the greater difference between their home culture and the culture of the college. These students are like foreigners or outlanders.. they visibly stand out because they have quite obviously not acculturated into the college.

What are the three cultural clashes experienced by students in their acculturation to the university? How do these three interact?

The first obvious cultural clashes is language or dialect - the university dialect is of a specific standard, which creates different degrees of difficulty for students who are struggling to communicate in the university. The second is discourse or the manner of communicating, for example the writing style used for essays. Both language and discourse style are shown to contribute to a specific way of thinking, so if there are clashes in either of these it follows on there will be a cognitive clash. Bizzell argues that focussing on merely one or two of these is too narrow a view, and that they should be treated overall using the notion of a 'language community', which ties the three together to form a particular world view.

What world views do basic writers bring to college?

Basic writers bring a world view with them that is very different to what they encounter at college. It is so different that there is a 'clash' of cultures. It is a world view that requires some adjustment on the part of the student in order for them to progress through college.

What is the new world view demanded in college? What are the essential components of Perry's scheme of intellectual and ethical development?

The world view demanded in college is the outcome of the closely linked dialect, discourse forms and ways of thinking required in higher education. These all lead the student to question knowledge in a way which clarifies or challenges, to seek and produce evidence which supports knowledge, and to dispel assumptions which cannot be backed by logical thought.

Perry's scheme of intellectual and ethical development of students in the culture of higher education is one that recognises the learner as someone who believes there are no 'Absolutes', and questions even their own long accepted beliefs. In analysing and evaluating knowledge the learner must also examine how data is organised - how knowledge is backed up by evidence, compare this to other learners to form 'Commitments'. By forming a commitment the learner is establishing a relationship with other like minded groups, which rules out autonomous motives. The learner seeks integrity of knowledge, integrity of self and they are likely to preserve the links to home culture which help them achieve this.

Do basic writers have to give up the world views they bring to college in order to learn the new world-view?

As put forward in Perry's model of intellectual and ethical adjustment, it is likely the student will not give up their own world views, although there is just as likely to be some adjustment due to the critical and dominating nature of the new world view. In most cases the student's home world view will remain a guiding influence in the way they examine knowledge, it gives them a context while being guided within the greater context of the new world view of higher learning.

20 November 2006

Communicating at University - Ballard & Clanchy

Ballard, Brigid & Clanchy, John, 1988, "Literacy in the university: an anthropological approach" in Taylor, Gordon, et al. Literacy by Degrees, The Society for Research into Higher Education & The Open University Press, Milton Keynes, pp. 7-23

Argue that "learning within the university is a process of gradual socialisation into a distinctive culture of knowledge" and that 'literacy' "must be seen in terms of the functions to which language is put into that culture".

How do Ballard/Clancy define literacy in the university?

Ballard and Clanchy assert that a definition of 'literacy' needs to go beyond 'surface correctness', it needs to address the demands of the university's culture of knowledge and disciplinary sub-cultures. Literacy refers to a student's cognitive and linguistic abilities in performing functions required by the university, in ways and at a level judged acceptable by the university.

Why is it called an 'anthropological approach'?

The Concise Oxford English dictionary defines anthropology as "the study of humankind, including the comparative study of societies and cultures". Ballard and Clanchy are taking an anthropological approach to the concept of literacy in the university, by looking at the university culture, its language, way of thinking and what it means for students who are regarded either literate, or illiterate in that culture.

How do the authors define 'culture' in this extract?

It is referred to as the "culture of knowledge", which encompasses various distinct rituals, values, styles of language which affect how its members think and behave. The values and understandings which arise from the culture are what determines if a student is 'literate', their ability to effectively argue, produce evidence - think critically. 'Distinct' because most forms of literate behaviour fly in the face of the rules by which the university culture is bound.. eg. political discourse, literature.

What are sub-cultural rules?

Sub-cultural rules have developed over time from study of different subject matter - methods of thinking become differentiated and specialised within different disciplines. There exist 'sub-cultural' disciplinary rules which govern how thinking and language may function in specific contexts of knowledge, within the wider context of the 'culture of knowledge'.

What importance do the authors place on spelling and punctuation in student's writing? Why?

Authors point out that generally, academics give higher priority to the structure and development of argument than the correctness of language. In exploring the concept of literacy, the authors are suggesting that things like spelling and punctuation are simply at the surface and to address problems at the surface does not deal with the problem entirely. While correctness of language has a place, it is more important to look deeper into the cultural demands which determine literacy.

Why is it that students can perform well in one discipline and not in another?

This is touched on a couple in one of the questions above - sub-cultural rules present in different discipline can be quite different and if the student does not recognise this it can affect their performance within two or more different disciplines.

How does this article relate to the idea of world view as discussed by Hobson (and the next reading by Bizzell)?

Hobson states that all knowledge we encounter at university is within a certain context - it is attached to a particular person or group of persons, within a particular time, culture and context. The authors in this article state that the culture of the university is a culture of knowledge, and that this is expressed and maintained through language and values.

18 November 2006

Thinking critically at university

Marshall, L, 2006, "A guide to learning independently", pp 42-44, Pearson Longman, Frenchs Forest NSW

Critical thinking is central to university culture in the environment of debate and discussion; each student enters with their own particular world view and will encounter other world views.

Education that focuses on critical thinking encourages students to identify and question their own world view, be open to other world views, develop a position on topics under discussion and present a cogent argument.

Elements of critical thinking pertinent to studies include:

  • presenting arguments - thesis, supporting points

  • debate - dealing with differences, opposition

  • reflection - asking questions

  • is both private and communicative

  • outcome is making a decision and acting on what one comes to think or believe

  • involves emotion as well as reason (refer Brookfield)

  • requires openness

Critical thinking skills may vary from discipline to discipline, even from teacher to teacher. Important to develop skills in addition to other learning skills - reading, listening, discussing.

17 November 2006

What it means to think critically

Brookfield, Stephen D., 1989, "What it means to think critically", Developing Critical Thinkers: Challenging Adults to Explore Alternative Ways of Thinking and Acting, Jossey Bass, San Franciso, pp. 3-14

Brookfield opens with evidence from contemporary journals and reports, of a growing appreciation for the importance of critical thinking to society. He points to practical outcomes of this which is evident in the case studies of education for critical thinking - research grants, conferences and the movement for teaching "critical literacy" in schools.

He points out that the activity of critical thinking is not something new, it is something that can be observed in many facets of adult life. He goes on further that there is no clear evidence that the critical thinking skills taught in schools are transferable to the contexts of adult life.

Recognising Critical Thinking

  • Critical thinkers actively engaged in life: when we think critically we become aware of the diversity in the world and the potential for change and development. Critical thinking is a productive and positive activity.

  • A continual questioning of assumptions: one of the central tenets of critical thinking is that we are skeptical of any claims of universal truth or certainty. Critical thinking is a process, not an outcome.

  • The indicators that reveal whether people are thinking critically can be internal or external; manifestations of critical thinking vary according to the context in which it occurs.

  • In any circumstance of change we begin to re-interpret our past actions and ideas from a different vantage point. Critical thinking is triggered by positive as well as negative events.

  • The process of critical thinking produces emotions which should not be ignored. Critical thinking is emotive as well as rational.

Components of Critical Thinking

  • Critical thinkers identify assumptions and examine their accuracy and validity, search for new assumptions that fit more closely their experience of the world. Identifying and challenging assumptions is central to critical thinking.

  • Hidden and uncritically assimilated assumptions are important to shaping our habitual perceptions, understandings and interpretations of the world. Challenging the importance of context is crucial to critical thinking.

  • Realising that so many ideas and actions spring from assumptions that might be inappropriate for their lives, critical thinkers look for new ways of thinking about aspects of their lives. Critical thinkers try to imagine and explore alternatives.

  • When we realise alternatives always exist we become reflectively skeptical of claims to universal truth or ultimate explanations. People who are reflectively skeptical do not take things as read. Imagining and exploring alternatives leads to reflective skepticism.

How others contribute to critical thinking

Practically all adults function in some way as critical thinkers. In times of change, thinking at the past and future and discussing this with a "helper" (could be a therapist, or a friend) is helpful and provides opportunity for reflection and analysis - in short assists people to become critical thinkers.

Concepts of Critical Thinking

Central to developing critical thinkers must be some minimum level of consent on the part of those involved - otherwise just about any action could be justified by claiming it assists the process of critical thinking.

The concept of critical thinking has been interpreted in a number of ways, but it is generally conceptualised as an intellectual skill to be developed by those involved in higher education. However, this is but one of the settings in which it is practised, particularly in adult life. The ability to imagine alternatives to the way one currently thinks and lives one's life often entails a deliberate break with rational modes of thought (identifying and challenging assumptions.)

  • Emancipatory learning -Â evident in any learner becoming aware of the forces/influences that have brought them to their present situations and taking action to change some aspect of these.

  • Dialectical thinking - thinkers engaged in continual process of making judgements about aspects of their lives, identifying the general rules implicit in these judgements, modifying the judgements in light of the appropriateness of these general rules.

  • Reflective learning - compare, test, project justification for our thoughts and beliefs to a range of varying interpretations and perspectives

Brookfield writes "Critical thinking is a lived activity, not an abstract academic pastime. It is something we all do, though its frequency, and the credibility we grant it, vary from person to person".

15 November 2006

The Critical Self

Warren, Karen, 1995, "The Critical Self", Murdoch University

Warren opens with an hypothesis on the importance of applying critical thinking to learning - that without critical thinking, no amount of preparation is sufficient for the learner to fully engage with knowledge or articulate an argument.

She expands this further to say that critical thinking is important in all contexts of life, and is possible even from a young age. Her work with children demonstrated the benefits of applying critical thinking to learning, even from a young age - improvement in classroom discourse, engagement in what is being learned and personal development such as increase in self-esteem.


Warren draws on an definition of critical thinking from Robert Ennis (1981), as "reflective and reasonable thinking aimed at deciding what to do or believe". Operationally, she says this means critical thinking consists of certain skills and dispositions.

Skills such as giving and assessing arguments, claims etc; ordering and classifying information; comparing and contrasting; problem solving; asking questions to clarify or challenge; and using metacognition.

Dispositions such as open mindedness; contextual sensitivity; interpersonal sensitivity (?); sensitivity to contrasting points of view; persistence; decisiveness; and willingness to explore background information.

Warren goes on further to explain that critical thinking is but one aspect of reflective thinking. There are three components, which she calls the "three C's" of reflective thinking - critical thinking, creative thinking and content knowledge. Taken together they produce a whole - critical thinking involves correctness, creative thinking involves richness and novelty, and content knowledge provides the relevant subject matter.


Warren introduces the rational self by introducing the philosophically dominant western view of the self, time-honoured since Aristotle defined a human being as a "rational animal". No-one totally denies that rationality is what separates humans from non-humans. What is debated however, is what consitutes rationality, what role do emotions and intuitions play. What status does rationality confer onto humans (?are we superior to non-humans?)

She links the reflective self with the rational self by pointing out that part of being a rational self is exercising the skills and dispositions which operationally define critically thinking. While the skills create a common parameter for critical thinking she points out that the critical thinking self is not one kind of self. There is latitude in style and application of critical thinking skills and dispositions, influenced by:

  • Culture, world view "The critically thinking self is a socially constructed, historically situated and socioeconomically fashioned self." (Warren, 1995)

  • Relational - knowledge is contextual; unlike the Cartesian rational self (objective, impartial, knowing self) the critical self is an embodied, feeling, self-located relational in a community of other similarly situated selves.

  • Domain (subject matter) specificity - application of critical thinking skills is affected by the academic discipline or subject matter.

There are also variables introduced by the critical self engaged in creative thinking - open minded, exploring alternate avenues and elaborate on an idea in multiple ways.

Similarly the critical self has relevant background (content) knowledge; the giving and assessing of arguments is not context free.

Warren asserts that "[t]he more reflective a thinker one becomes, the better one is at critical thinking, creative thinking, and gaining the relevant and requisite background knowledge."


Critical thinking is necessary to learning. (I would argue it is useful to learning - since I don't think her statement has been put into context).

  • To more fully realise one's potential as a learner (eg. reading the newspaper)

  • Essential to the gathering and processing of material, engaging with it

  • Personal development - increases one's self-esteem, sense of empowerment

  • Living in the Information Age, keeping up with the pace of technologies and events, must have the necessary critical thinking skills to access the knowledge

  • Metacognition - in order to transfer a skill to a context other than the one which it was learned it is necessary to metacogitate about the skill (think about the thinking)

METACOGITATE: ask questions at three stages

  1. Before a task - define aims and method

  2. During a task - check/refine aims and method

  3. After a task - review outcome and method