Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Re: Relaxation of peer pressure in distance education (was Paradigms...)

From: "Brad Jensen" <[log in to unmask]>

> From: [log in to unmask]
> While I disagree with Brad that knowledge is an abstraction,
> because when I walk my knowledge walks, I agree with him that virtual
> experiences are no different from so-called real experiences. Even when we are
> with people, what we experience is not them but our perceptions thereof. There
> may be exceptions to the above such as the Biblical allusion to "knowing" a
> woman ;-)
Well, that is certainly an abstraction, or perhaps at best an unreachable

Your physical experiences are input from your own senses, not 'facts in
themselves.' For example, the headache you get when you eat ice cream is
actually misplaced pain from the stimulation of the vagus nerve in your

> Where Brad may have entered new territory is in articulating
> the observable fact that students are "distracted from placing their full
> attention on the lesson by the overpowering social needs - culminating in
> self-image and social standing - created by classroom interaction."

Moore's description of 'transactional distance', while interesting, seems
simplistic, and in any case, does not seem central to the 'distance' of
distance education.

> In Japan it is an observable fact that peer pressure and its consensus can tip
> a class wholly for or against a lesson or teacher.

I once had several Japanese visit my business, in the process of selling the
rights to a software package to a Japanese company. The business
facilitator, who I considered partially acculturated to America, explained
that my own path of going out on my own, inventing software by myself, and
setting up a company to sell and support the software, all without input
from family, friends, or peers, would be considered the high of insanity in

> While some Westerners can believe that they don't care what their neighbors
> think of them,

The last time you saw a person sitting alone at night in a restaurant, what
did you think?

> hardly anyone acculturated or acculturated to Japanese culture would believe
> that. Their self-image derives mainly from their social standing. Most would
> rather be liked than to get good grades. Homework is the one place where they
> feel no peer pressure, which reveals incredible potential for distance
> education for the billions of East Asians and others with this cultural
> learning characteristic of vulnerability to peer pressure. Learning
> inhibitions may, furthermore, be caused not so much
> by the teacher as by the whole structure of the classroom, the larger the more
> so, whereby it becomes a public experience, whereas learning benefits from
> relaxation and is
> more decidedly personal.
> Collegially, Steve McCarty, Professor, Osaka Jogakuin College, Japan
> President, World Association for Online Education (WAOE) Related articles at:
Very interesting observations.

I believe in the tremendously liberating influence of distance education,
and of the Internet.

Brad Jensen


Re: Blogs, discussions, et. al

From: "Brad Jensen" <[log in to unmask]>

> From: "Charlie" <[log in to unmask]>
> Would such software be something like a Wikki?

Yeah, but I'm going to make mine furry and call it a wookie.


Saturday, June 18, 2005


Re: Some Ideas on Transactional Distance

From: "Brad Jensen" <[log in to unmask]>

> Please note that regardless of our views on TD, we highly respect the work
> done by Dr. Saba and Dr. Moore, and their continuous contribution to the
> field.
> Regards,
> Pambos
> Charalambos Vrasidas, Ph.D.
I'm sorry folks, this sounds like Tweedledum and Tweedledee to me.

Constantly trying to grab the spotlight and put it back on the teacher. It
ought to be on the learning.

Learning occurs in one and only one place - between the ears Of the student.
(begging the metaphysical question)

"Transactional distance" sounds like a hysterical response to the imagined
threat to the authority of the teacher.

Distance education is about mediated education. It began with the first,
hand-copied books. I saw a rather clever children's book the other day,
where it presents some information, then in the

last few pages asks questions, and the answers are ach behind a little
sliding door, two or three to a page.

This is a mechanical computer, and it is distance education without a doubt.

Actually I think what we are seeing now is a move away from distance
education. The computer is being used more and more as a real-time
communication tool. At some point the virtual reality of interaction will be
so good you will not easily be able to tell that the teacher is not in the
room with you, and the other students are scattered across the globe. Then
what happens to your hair-splitting and nomenclatures?

Since educational theories are so insufficient and almost irrelevant in
explaining learning, it seems to me to be more about who gets the money, and
the credit, and as a method of satisfying the human-nature need for cheap
certainty in the face of fundamental ambiguity.

(In the Tao te Ching, it says something like : "In times of chaos, loyal
ministers appear.")

The strength and ubiquity and multiplicity of learning processes in the
individual are so powerful, that we can't do much to derail learners. Well
except for whole language, maybe.

What the Internet (and now blogging) are giving us is a multiplicity of
voices. It's the informational equivalent of the invention of differential

We are moving from ritualistic, fact-based knowledge to dynamic,
process-based knowledge. The answer we have today will always be superceded
by what we learn tomorrow. In that sense, every fact is in error.

I like to say "Small minds have the consistency of hobgoblins."

Fortunately, we now have the Internet and our collaboration as

the beginnings of a metamind.

I was discussing excessive sweating with my 83-year-old father the other day
by email, and he replied 'have you Googled that yet?' - he already had - and
it wasn't so much embarrassing that I hadn't, but awe-inspiring that he had,
and had pointed it out to me.

Elearning has escaped the LMS, and the experts riding herd on it.

Brad Jensen


Re: Blogs, discussions, et. al

From: "Brad Jensen" <[log in to unmask]>

> From: "Clint Brooks" <[log in to unmask]>
> Don,
> I'd have to argue that your point on citations is somewhat of a fallacy. What
> matters much more that the medium a source comes from is the peer-review. I
> suspect there are some dubious print sources out there as well. The WWW may
> make those dubious sources easier to produce that in the printed world, but
> the
> dubiousness has nothing to do with the medium. In other words, the number of
> bad resources does not automatically negate the good resources in the medium.
There is a bigger problem. Who gets to choose the peers?

Look at what happened to cold fusion. We could have been 15 years further
down the road, but the 'peers' saw a threat to their peerdom (not to mention
their gravy train) and piled on.

Chemists thinking they know something about physics? How dare they, that's
OUR paradigm!

Of course, now we know that Pons was right, crystalline structures do have
the same effect as humongous (pardon my use of a technical term) pressures.

(I'm assuming everyone has read about the announcement of the peer-reviewed
experiment where they did room temperature fusion - not Pons but someone
else, and the writer was either clueless or decided not to give Pons and
Fleischman credit for their theory and experiements.)

A couple of far-out predictions for you. At some point in the future someone
is going to figure out that the internal ehating of the earth is from, in
effect, cold fusion. Also that oil is not a fossil fuel, but a mineral
cooked up in part from the byproducts of the internal fusion. (I read
recently that the Russians are debating what they call the abiotic theory of
the formation of opil, though I haven't googled it yet.)

Oh yeah, and the dinosaurs died because the earth suddenly lost a whole lot
of atmosphere. They were adapted to high opxygen availability, and when that
went poof, the mammals, which was a fringe adaptation for high altitudes,
took oover the environmental niches.

My guess is that the culprit in the extinction of the dinosaurs was an
asteroid - or many - that hit the moon, not the earth, sending the moon
temporarily into a highly eliptical orbit that caused large amounts of the
atmosphere to be accelerated to escape velocity, thinning the atmosphere

Just thought I'd throw that in. you guys can make sure I ge the ecredit when
some guy with the c.v. publishes the official theory.

Brad Jensen


re [DEOS-L] Blogs, discussions, et. al

From: "Brad Jensen" <[log in to unmask]>

> Brad,
> Do I detect some cynicism? :-)
If you did the moderator must have inserted it because it left here as pure

> As mentioned in the posting, anecdotal information abounds in the popular
> press and this is a new research area. It might come across as being funny to
> you but publishing research on this emerging electronic phenomenon in
> paper-based journals is still de rigueur in academe. This practice will
> probably be with us for some time to come into the future until such time
> academic journals are produced in an electronic format as opposed to
> paper-based.

Yes, the web has been rip-roaring along for about ten years, and research
about the Internet is still published with quill and parchment by flickering
candle light.

Why even call it 'publishing' if the research is basically private? With the
Mickey Mouse (I mean that literally since it was written for Disney)
copyright laws, the information won't be freely available until years after
you are dead.

It's obviously immoral and antisocial to publish scientific information in
such an artificially restricted way, when better methods are widely known
and freely available.

Why do the people of the academic and research communities put

up with this? Do you have no sense of outrage, or are you just

weenies? Or maybe the purpose of publishing the research is to

get degrees, items for your C.V.s, and five copies for your Mother.

If it is supposed to be useful and encourage professional discourse and
further research, why isn't it in the most useful (and cheapest) form?

> The articles can all be located in an electronic format using
> subscription-based electronic article repositories such as EBSCO and Education
> Full-Text.
"Those who do not trust enough will not be trusted."

Public digital information is alive and will contribute strongly to the
directions we go in the future. Private research is dead and paper-based
information is basically irrelevant. In a few years that paper will be

Perhaps researchers feel they have no choice but to use the traditional
publishing methods. It can't be that they disrespect their audience and

How can anyone be expected to take paper-based discussion of digital
technology seriously?

> I have been blogging for the last couple years. As you are aware, the person
> who creates a blog can control who is able
> to access and read the entries. Mine is private whereas yours is public.
That sounds like keeping a journal in invisible ink. Not that There's
anything wrong with that. I don't blog very much. Most

of my public writing effort goes into listservs. Part of the reason for that
is habit, I was posting on Fidnoet before I ever got to the Internet.
Another part is that I like the interaction of email and particularly the
interspersed commentary format, which I don't see on blogs.

Blogs are more like broadcasting, and email is more like conversation.

> As a researcher, I also spend more time reading other people's blogs than
> blogging per se. Go figure, eh?
I don't really read blogs very much, except (which is more like
a posting site than a blog) and Stephen Downes, which is delivered by email
and again is not so blabby.

I posted my dinosaur and social security essays in my blog just to give them
some permanent existence. The blogging software its on sucks horribly. You
have to read and study to be able to do things, then you have to remember
how to do them. (I know, whine whine whine.)

What I would really like to do is duplicate my listserv postings to my blog,
but of course they aren't much use without the comments I am commenting on,
and there are copyright issues there.

I've been thinking of writing some blogging software that would act more
like a listserv (allowing interspersed comments and allowing event-driven
subscription.) It would need some collaboration features also.

RSS doesn't do much for me, I've never used an aggregator. It seems like a
royal pain, and limiting. RSS would make a lot more sense if it were
delivered by email - not to your regular email account, but to an email
account that is read by your aggregator program.

> Gail


Re: Paradigms in e-learning

From: "Brad Jensen" <[log in to unmask]>

> From: "Dr. Steve Eskow" <[log in to unmask]>
> The debate here between Stephen Downes and Farhad Saba features two powerful
> minds engaging each other--or perhaps failing to engage each other.
> To add to the transactional distance of the discussion, here
> are a few comments to Dr. Saba.

Oh good, I was hoping more of we of normal intellect would show up.

> The theory and practice of distance education owe much to Dr. Michael Moore,
> and of course it was Moore who introduced these ideas to the field. Here is
> the core of these ideas in
> Moore's own words:
> "The concept of transaction. is derived from Dewey (Dewey and Bentley 1949).
> As explained by Boyd and Apps(1980: 5) it 'connotes the interplay among the
> environment, the individuals and the patterns of behaviors in a situation'.
> The transaction that we call distance education occurs between teachers and
> learners in an environment having the special characteristic of separation of
> teachers from learners. This separation leads to special patterns of learner
> and teacher behaviors. It is the separation of learners and teachers that
> profoundly affects both teaching and learning. With separation there is a
> psychological and communications space to be crossed, a space of potential
> misunderstanding between the inputs of instructor and those of the learner. It
> is this psychological and communications space that is the transactional
> distance.""

I think this is in some cases, absolutely backwards. The social stresses of
the classroom situation, both among student peers and in relation to the
authority figure of the teacher, actually increase the 'transactional
distance' between the student and what really matters - the learning
process. The student is distracted from placing their full attention on the
lesson by the overpowering social needs - culminating in self-image and
social standing - created by classroom interaction.

I would expect that students with say, one year's experience interacting
with asynchronous, non-teacher-mediated lessons would learn factual material
(the only thing that can be accurately and absolutely impartially tested for
comprehension) with greater accuracy, depth, and at

a higher rate than in teacher-led classes.

> What becomes immediately clear is the conflation here of two
> quite different meanings of the term "distance." And this blurring and
> blending of two meanings is a flaw from which the theory cannot escape.

When I first read this some years back, my unlettered reaction was 'what
planet are these guys on.' Not being schooled in education, I don't get
Dewey-eyed about the mystical founders of the paradigm.

> The "distance" in "distance education" and the "distance" in
> "transactional distance" have nothing in common.

They might both impress Jodie Foster.

> The spatiality of one can be measured in meters and miles. There
> is no such space in the concept of "transactional distance": that "distance"
> is poetry, a metaphor, a borrowing meant to suggest that "psychological space"
> and physical space are somehow related.
> They are not.
> Further: that "the separation of learners and teachers. . .profoundly affects
> both teaching and learning" is asserted,
> not demonstrated and supported by the kind of "experimental evidence" that Dr.
> Saba demands of others.
I don't take his constant cries for research very seriously. Most every
'research' I've read in the educational field (not much, granted) has relied
on measurements of student evaluations of this and teacher evaluations of
that. That's not experimental research, that's surveys. 'Galluping off in
all directions'.

> Dr. Moore and all who embraced these ideas recognized clearly that the sage on
> a stage just a few feet from his or her student might be more distant from
> them psychologically than
> a sage many miles away on a computer, but this uncomfortable
> fact did not prevent a rush to the theory.

Have you ever found yourself expressing yourself more clearly,
cogently, and succinctly in email than you ever could face to face? So much
for transactional distance.

> We have no robust theory, no paradigm, no defensible system.
> And perhaps we don't need one.
> Steve Eskow
> [log in to unmask]
What I feared most has come upon me - you are starting to make sense.

(that is meant in a lighthearted and respectful manner, of course.)

(You don't have to agree with me just because I happen to agree with you, we
can keep our transactional distance.)

Brad Jensen IIHITWGH (If I had Initials They Would Go Here)


Re: Paradigms in e-learning

From: "Brad Jensen" <[log in to unmask]>

> Subject: Re: [DEOS-L] Paradigms in e-learning
> From: "Farhad Saba" <[log in to unmask]>
> Hi Stephen: Thanks for your response. I appreciate the intellectual challenge.
This lead me to the observation that blogs are the Socratic method

> So far, in human history, scientific evidence has been the best and with all
> the postmodernist argumentation in recent years, it remains to be the best for
> most of the social sciences, including education. Our methods do not need to
> emulate those of physical sciences. As I have demonstrated in Saba (2003) they
> can be based on the American school of pragmatism as inspired by the radical
> empiricism of William James. Otherwise, the truth of all knowledge claims are
> equal; and as such, one would be no more useful than the other for praxis. You
> can choose almost anything as some do in many schools of education :-)

Science is a method, what you are speaking of is a philosophy.

> We have reached a point in our field for this generation to offer some
> evidence for their knowledge claims as Wilbur Schramm, for example, did a
> generation ago for educational television.
> Now as far as new words or phrases, are concerned, if "online" learning, for
> example, is distinguished by the existence of a network, why not call it
> "networked" education or N-learning? Words have meanings. Online conjures up a
> physical line. Network does not.
Only to horse-and-buggy people. I go online all the time without wires, and
everyone around me agrees that is what I am doing, and the experiences I
have and the capabilities I have are the same, all without wires.

I went to a movie with my adult son this evening, and afterwards he said
lets go get a beer (a first for me, he's just out of college) and we went to
a biker bar (another first) near the office, and while talking to me he went
online - on his phone - text messaging (emailing).

Online means connected to a network, wires are irrelevant.

> Further, if "transactional distance" in this environment is different from
> what Moore (1983) has described, is there any
> evidence that show this claim is true? Have there been any studies to
> substantiate this claim and clearly identify the difference not in prose
> analysis, but in substantial testimony? Would you please point me to specific
> articles?
As Dr. Eskow has said, a collection of metaphors, not a scientific theory in
any way.

> I agree that as far as e-Learning, or online learning is concerned, so far we
> have a cluster of fuzzy concepts. Now we have to make the fuzzy clear by
> showing evidence that the list of constructs you have produced are valid as
> discrete measurable, observable entities and that their validity have
> been determined by a reliable method.
It seems to me that the greatest justification for educational

research is to find the best methods, and avoid the worst methods, of
educating students. How should we spend our time and money - and the time
and money of the students.

In the face of rapidly changing technologies and economies of interaction,
it seems that it would be better to make the focus more pragmatic and less

However, the other purpose of educational research is to establish and
maintain the reputations and careers and influence of educators. That
demands theories and more theories.

The notion that a network is not a network because it doesn't have wires,
even though everyone who uses it experiences it the same as a wired network
(and whose users may never even know if they are wired or unwired!) smacks
of Scholasticism.

Is the phone in your kitchen not a phone because it is not wired? Do you
need research to prove this to yourself?

Moore zeroed in on what the educator most feared from the new technology -
the educator's supposed loss of personal interaction and influence on the
student. Actually the digital network has the opposite effect. It supports
more personal and individualized, and more frequent interaction between the
teacher and the student. As long as we are mish-mashing words, we can say
that the real transactional distance is the cost of the transaction of
interaction. Digital processing and networking continues to reduce both the
economic and attentive costs of those transactions, making possible and
likely a richer educational environment for everyone, student and teacher

(People are welcome to research this if they like.)

> With warmest regards Fred
Back at ya.

> Farhad Saba, Ph. D. Professor of Educational Technology San Diego State
> University CEO,
Brad Jensen OKIAJ

(Someone rather affectionately referred to me as the 'Obnoxious, Know-It-All
Jerk' based on my online postings - almost a decade ago now - and I still
rather like it. After you have been called that, most flames and shames
don't count for much.)

Also, in the interests of brevity and with no reputation to enhance or
destroy, I've presented some arguments here rather directly and forcefully,
with no intentions of disrespect to anyone.

I appreciate that you honored academicians engage in conversation with me
from time to time, if only to prevent impressionable minds from straying
down the path I blaze.


Re: Paradigms in e-learning

From: "Brad Jensen" <[log in to unmask]>

> I believe the shift to be at a more fundemental level of learning - at the
> epistemological strata, how we view knowledge. I suggest we should bring our
> discussion down to the roots. If knowledge is built witin the minds of the
> learner, as the Constructivists would have us believe, then how is it mediated
> through an electronic medium or web interface? For those of you interested in
> my developing doctorial research in 'telepistemology' I invite you to my
> website at:
The learning process occurs within the mind of the learner - or not at all.

'Knowledge' is an abstraction and doesn't occur anywhere.

The experience of the student always happens in the same place - within
their own mind. As I pointed out in a previous email, virtual experiences
are real experiences. In the mind of the student, as, for us all, reality is
a simulation.

> Cheers Anthony 'Skip' Basiel Work Based Learning Development Tutor UK eTutor
> of the Year 2004 Macromedia Education Leader
Two more lines and you would have a resume!

Brad Jensen (I wonder if I could get Google to let me adsense these lines
after my name)


Re: Blogs, discussions, et. al

From: "Brad Jensen" <[log in to unmask]>

> -----Original Message-----
> From: <[log in to unmask]>
> Perhaps, but at this point in time offline citations to
> peer-reviewed sources are the only ones that can be trusted
> academically. Online sources are so dubious in accuracy that

> I suspect I could use them to build a massive list of
> citations to prove that the Holocaust never happened.

And people do that offline also.

Certainly there are online peer-reviwed journals. That's what
the web was invented for - scientific (or in this case
academic, not to beg the question) research.

Brad Jensen


Re: Transactional Distance Theory

From: "Brad Jensen" <[log in to unmask]>

> Sorry for the self-promotion, but let me invite you to a critical analysis of
> TD theory recently published in Quarterly Review of Distance Education:

TD sounds more like a romantic notion than a theory, but in any case I don't
understand why people would spend time on it rather than issues in Distance

Brad Jensen


June 2005  

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