Nerding out

I’ve started this blog as a place to display my nerdy work as I develop myself in coding and instructional design. Taking some MOOC courses, which are amazing by the way, on Khan Academy and edX, to learn some skillz. It’s a requirement for my instructional design course to share my work with the entire world, hooray!

My instructors want me to put my name on here but I’m paranoid. Suffice to say I’m in Sweden, I’m a lady, and I’m a nerd. I’ve been working in the SaaS world for awhile with “talent management” and learning software. Previously I worked as a management consultant advising HR and as a business analyst for a systems integrator. I feel the need to get just that bit more nerdy so I know what I’m talking about in front of technical specialists, so here I am.

Whilst googling I found this adorable image (above) of a NerdGirl, which is possible to order on a tote bag Order here at YuJean.

 

Does the US have a “progressive taxation” policy at the federal level?

paycheck

This came up during a social media conversation. One of my friends posted an article from Wall Street Journal (Saunders, 2018) with the title screaming, “Top 20% of Americans Will Pay 87% of Income Tax.” The article seemed to me intended to outrage higher earners who will pay the bulk of income tax contributions and therefore, carry the rest of the country on their backs. The article did not mention other forms of taxation, which people who do not earn enough to pay income tax in the US, still pay.

The distinction is important for me as a result of comments made by Mitt Romney when he was a presidential candidate in the 2012 race, deriding the 47% of Americans who do not pay income tax as entitlement-claiming victims who will always vote Democrat. (Moorhead, 2018) Many voters found his comments insensitive, as a large proportion of these 47% of people also work full-time at an hourly rate and have federal payroll tax deducted from their paycheck. Often these people do not meet the minimum income threshold for additional income tax liability.

By doing this research, I wanted to check whether the entire taxation picture for all US citizens is indeed “progressive” or not. When I was an Army officer I had an additional duty of Tax Officer. I used to help soldiers in my company file their income taxes so they wouldn’t have to go to H&R Block and pay fifty bucks. I enjoyed it and it gave my inner nerd a chance to shine.

My verdict:

The entire federal US taxation system is broadly progressive, although it’s hard to understand its effects when looking at comprehensive household income for people in various income brackets.

My calculations (assuming they are correct hahahaha) show that the households who pay only payroll taxes are nearly covering the same proportion of the raw contributions to the federal budget, at least in 2016. This is amazing!

Whether one believes progressive taxation is a good thing or not largely depends on a person’s values and what society one wants to live in. If data is something that lights your fire, at least one reputable study shows a strong correlation between progressive taxation in a country and the happiness level of its citizens.

What is “progressive” taxation?

The Wikipedia page on this is quite informative (see Sources below.) Broadly speaking it means as a taxable sum increases, the amount of tax burden on that sum increases. Wikipedia states, “Progressive taxes are imposed in an attempt to reduce the tax incidence of people with a lower ability to pay, as such taxes shift the incidence increasingly to those with a higher ability-to-pay.”

Often in terms of income tax, a certain amount of income is exempt from taxation, up to a certain amount is taxed at a flat rate for everyone, and any amount over that will fall into higher-taxed “brackets,” with the percentage required increasing for each bracket.

Tax included in a discussion of progressive tax doesn’t have to include only income tax. The US government collects revenue in forms of corporate, estate, Social Security, Medicare, and excise taxes. It can also include state and local taxes, but I’m not going there!

What are the primary sources and proportions of US federal government revenue?

Please see the Tax Policy Center links for more details.

The primary source of revenue in FY 2016 for the federal government was indeed income taxes, at 47.3%.

Next were:

  • 34.1 Payroll taxes
  • 9.2% Corporate income tax
  • 2.9% Excise taxes
  • 6.5% Other (includes estate and gift taxes, customs taxes and Federal Reserve deposits)

All working people, including the self-employed, pay payroll taxes. All people who purchase tobacco, alcohol, and gasoline pay excise taxes.

According to the Tax Policy Center in 2016, (Williams, R., 2016)  26.4% of households paid payroll taxes only. My rough calculation (see Notes) shows that these households covered about 23.3% of all the federal revenue collected. If my calculations are correct, these households are pretty much pulling their weight in terms of contributions. The trouble with ideology kicks in with the benefits and tax credits some of these folks receive. Some people believe they aren’t fair.

What are “payroll taxes”?

Payroll tax includes Social Security and Medicare contributions. All working people earning wages pay these taxes. For 2017, the Social Security taxable maximum was $127,200 [annually] (Frankel, 2017). If you earn more than this, you don’t pay Social Security on that marginal amount.

Medicare is taxed at the same rate for everyone up until $200,000 (Frankel, 2017). So any amount earned beyond that will drive a small increase in amount withheld from the paycheck.

What is the proportion of household taxation paid by those who only pay payroll tax?

This is devilishly difficult to figure out and it seems there are plenty of figures available for taxation subtracting benefits, but not including household income.

I’ll try to do the simplest simulation possible on a single wage-earner, assuming the person does not purchase alcohol, tobacco or gasoline and therefore pays no excise tax. The person does not claim dependents.

10, 399                Gross annual income (10,400 is the threshold for income tax filing)

-644.74               Social Security contribution @ 6.2%

-150.79               Medicare contribution @ 1.45%

Total tax bill: 795.53. This implies a 7.65% tax liability on gross annual income.

This person has then 9603.47 left over to live on for a whole year, theoretically. Lucky him or her!

How does the tax burden as a proportion of household income compare, payroll tax payers only vs. income tax payers?

I have to do a little comparative simulation again on the most boring income tax filer ever, who is single, can’t take anything but the standard deduction etc. I’m using the Tax Foundation table on tax brackets (Pomerleau, 2016).

 

100,000              Gross annual income (this seems like a liveable amount at the 28% bracket, and 6,350 is exempt)

-19,203               Income tax bill

-6200                   Social Security contribution @ 6.2%

-1450                   Medicare contribution @ 1.45%

Total tax bill: 26,853. This implies a 26.8% tax liability on gross annual income.  This person has 73,147 left over to live on, theoretically. Lucky him or her!

This simple simulation gives some evidence that the tax system for all people earning wages is progressive. The Tax Policy Center makes the same conclusion when considering taxation mitigated by benefits and credits, not a proportion of total household income (Williams, R.C. 2016). Some people believe that offsetting payroll taxes with various tax credits means these people have a net-zero contribution to their society.

Who are the people who don’t pay income tax? How much “free stuff” are they getting?

Forbes provides a really interesting breakdown though (Williams, 2016):

  • 60 percent of those who pay no income tax will work and owe payroll taxes.
  • Most of the other 40 percent are retirees whose income is too low to owe income tax. One assumes that they worked their entire lives or don’t work at all.
  • Of those who work, two-thirds will have payroll tax liability in excess of any refundable income tax credits.
  • Thus, only about 9 percent of households have their payroll tax fully (or more than fully) offset by those refundable credits.

For those who assert that people whose payroll taxes are offset by refunds, pay “nothing” toward their society, they are correct for nine percent of American households.

Is “progressive” taxation a good thing or a bad thing?

This is an emotional question of one’s fundamental values. I have heard some people complain that poor people “pay nothing” but get all the advantages of a developed society such as infrastructure, public education, and defense. My humble personal opinion is that a stable society depends on working people who contribute their labor and pride in having a purpose in life. Additionally, that person’s labour contributes to mention fulfilment of the business owner’s dream, shareprice for shareowners, the overall economy etc. Their labor is not “nothing!”

There has been a considerable amount of attention research recently into income inequality in developed economies and the numbers are out there for those who are interested in the trends. I happen to live in one of the most income-equal countries in the world as measured by the Gini coefficent, Sweden. By many measures it’s a great place to live and we Scandinavians regularly top the happiness lists, but my research shows that there is a weak statistical correlation between the Gini coefficient and overall happiness in a country.

My opinion only: do you believe everyone should have broadly the same minimum standard of living in the society you live in, and whatever someone chooses to do beyond that is up to them? If you believe it’s acceptable for people in your country to live in destitution even if they work hard, with all the other potential implications that might have such as crime, substance abuse, sheer waste of human capital, etc. perhaps you believe it’s onerous for those with a greater ability to contribute to the society should do so.

I am doing my best to stay neutral here. I reckon most people, regardless of their income level, would be much happier living in say, Scandinavia than they would in a country without the benefits provided by progressive taxation, income equality and a formal economy. I consider the “pillars” of a optimal society for good quality of life to be: infrastructure, a clean environment and water, universal healthcare, education including university level, social security, good police and defense. These make for a peaceful society where everyone has the ability to succeed if they work hard. Whether these pillars are possible without progressive taxation, I am not sure. But guess what, at least one study I found shows a correlation between progressive taxation and overall happiness! (Oishi, S., Schimmack, U., & Diener, E., 2012)

Just for fun: What about very wealthy US citizens who pay comparatively little income tax?

Wealthy US citizens have the means to structure their wealth in legal constructs such as trusts, as well as to move some of their wealth to jurisdictions where it will not be taxed by the US government. Even some wealthy people who don’t take these measures can earn a significant proportion of their living through capital gains on their investments. Capital gains are taxed at a much lower rate than earned income is (see Salary.com article), with the rationale that this policy stimulates investment in the US economy as a whole.

My personal opinion only: It’s certainly nice to have had the advantages in life which allows one to earn a living this way, either through having sufficient support, resources and education to start your own business, have the knowledge to save and invest wisely, to have inherited a fortune, or all of these things. I don’t begrudge these people their fortune. It’s important to feel that one has the possibility to get ahead if one studies and works hard, and if you have saved and worked hard you want to be able to leave something for your children when you pass away.

Whether or not I believe very wealthy can afford to pay more tax, I disagree with the disparaging attitude and conviction that someone got that fortune because he or she is a “winner” and poor people are lazy “losers.” It’s also important to acknowledge that not everyone has significant advantages in life from a very early age, and we should not be disrespectful of people because they have not. So much pure human capital, which could benefit all of us for generations to come, is wasted on potentially brilliant kids who live in poverty. We can only guess at how much.

Also for fun, an international perspective on every day taxation for a typical middle-class person.

As a “higher” earner in Germany, my income was taxed at 48%. There were no additional income taxes. Sales tax applies to everyone and when I lived there it was 18% (I believe). I paid 50% of my health insurance costs, my employer paid the other half. My healthcare was bloody brilliant, best I’ve ever had.

In the UK my income tax was 35%. We also were required to pay council tax each month, which was rated based on the categorical “niceness” of our residence, regardless of whether rented or owned. VAT was 18% most of the time I lived there. Healthcare was free and I was lucky enough to have an employer who offered a supplemental policy as a benefit. I paid for this myself.

In Sweden my income is taxed at 39.5%. We do not have state taxes. VAT is 25% on most items (I believe less for groceries?) Healthcare is free with a small co-pay for each visit up to SEK 1500 per year. Some employers offer a supplemental healthcare policy as a benefit, which allows you to access private specialist services more quickly. I didn’t choose to purchase this.

Sources:

Saunders, L. (2018, April 6). Top 20% of Americans Will Pay 87% of Income Tax. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/top-20-of-americans-will-pay-87-of-income-tax-1523007001

Moorhead, M. (2012, September 18). Mitt Romney says 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/sep/18/mitt-romney/romney-says-47-percent-americans-pay-no-income-tax/

Progressive Tax. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_tax
No author cited

Williams, R. (2016, September 6). Most Americans Pay More Payroll Tax Than Income Tax. from http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxvox/most-americans-pay-more-payroll-tax-income-tax

Frankel, M. (2017, April 12). 2017 U.S. Payroll Tax: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from https://www.fool.com/taxes/2017/04/12/2017-us-payroll-tax-what-you-need-to-know.aspx

Tax Policy Center. (n.d.). What are the sources of revenue for the federal government. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/what-are-sources-revenue-federal-government
Cites Office of Management and Budget, Table 2.1 https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/historical-tables/

Pomerleau, K. (2016, November 10). 2017 Tax Brackets. Retrieved from https://taxfoundation.org/2017-tax-brackets/

Williams, R. C. (2016, August 11). Federal Taxes Are Very Progressive. Retrieved from http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxvox/federal-taxes-are-very-progressive

Williams, R. (2016, July 12). A Closer Look At Those Who Pay No Income Or Payroll Taxes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/beltway/2016/07/12/a-closer-look-at-those-who-pay-no-income-or-payroll-taxes/#53b96d2c5696

Oishi, S., Schimmack, U., & Diener, E. (2012). Progressive taxation and the subjective well-being of nations. Psychological Science, 23, 86-92. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797611420882

Why Mitt Romney & Other Wealthy Investors Pay Less Taxes. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2018, from https://www.salary.com/why-mitt-romney-other-wealthy-investors-pay-less-taxes/

No author or publishing date visible on page.

Note and calculation:

According to the Tax Policy Center in 2016, (Williams, R., 2016)  26.4% of households paid payroll taxes only. Payroll taxes (see below, are paid by all who earn wages, so some, but not all people who pay income tax also pay payroll tax.)  My rough calculation (see Notes) shows that these households covered therefore about 25.5% of all the federal revenue collected.

In 2016, 7.2% of households paid income tax but no payroll tax (because they have non-wage earned income). This means 92.8 of all households paid payroll tax.

Assuming payroll-tax-only households purchase the same proportion of goods subject to excise taxes as those who pay income tax and they are very unlikely to pay the “Other” types of taxes, their share of the federal collection plate is the proportion of payroll taxes they paid plus proportion of excise taxes paid.

((.341 x .928) – (.341 x .264)) + (.029 x .264) = (.316-.09) + .007, which comes to 23.3%.

[proportion of payroll taxes paid by those who paid income tax also] – [proportion of payroll taxes paid by those who ONLY paid payroll taxes] + [proportion of excise taxes paid by those who only paid payroll taxes]

Designing learning programmes to digitise workers

Recent political events as well as advances in autonomous driving have made me ponder, “how do we reskill all of these people whose jobs have gone or soon will go away?” It’s a concern for me because in Sweden we have recently experienced a huge influx of refugee migrants, which has been politically unpopular with a significant proportion of the electorate. Traditionally, lower-skilled work such as taxi driving has been a way to absorb new migrants as they get established in their new home. Additionally I read about thousands of lower-skilled manufacturing jobs being offshored whilst manufacturers desperately seek engineers and other workers able to operate sophisticated technology. There are a shortage of these people, and a surplus of people who didn’t finish high school. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates “employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.” (2017) Where will the workers to fill these jobs come from? Is it even possible to retool say, a coal miner to be a web developer? This is one subject I am doing independent research on in the next few months.

It turns out it is more than possible to transform a coal miner to be a web developer! I read a case study on a company called BitSource in Tennessee, which hires former coal industry workers. (Thompson, 2017) The founder, Rusty Justice, mentions that miners “are accustomed to deep focus, team play, and working with complex engineering tech.” Deloitte’s outlook expects all workers, including blue-collar ones, need to master soft skills such as “problem solving, creativity, project management, listening, judgment, and decision-making skills.” (2017) Dr. Siemens (2005) also mentions that the impact of technology on our life and work have made deciding what to learn, mentally connecting what we learn to what we already know, finding the best ways to get new information quickly, and cultivating personal knowledge networks the key skills we need to develop. Coding and technical skills are just the beginning!

As a personal project I would like to come up with a framework for remodeling an existing manufacturing employee to translate their existing expertise into a new, digitised role. Additionally guess what, it’s not just technology skills this person will need. They will need to be more autonomous than before, managing their own work and potentially projects. I expect that this type of intervention would include ALL of the learning theories in some capacity in a fully realised Complex Learning Experience. This experience would go in several stages and take years as the learner grows and develops. Here are a few brainstorms:

Behaviourism: an excellent technique for someone who is just getting started with a new skill, say coding, and needs continuous confidence-boosts. This could include gamification e.g. how Khan Academy works.

Constructivism: a mentor or cohort leader who has more experience can guide the learner. These learners usually already use smartphones in their personal lives, how can we build that existing knowledge to generate enthusiasm for building and using technology at work?

Cognitivism: short practica in industry in the type of role the learner could expect to have in the future would be aimed to stimulate self-efficacy and further confidence. Technology naturally organises itself logically into building cognitive “schema.”

Connectivism: leverage the experience the learner already has with social networking platforms as a source of encouragement and help during the learning process, with targeted moderated learning communities.

Andragogy: continuously incorporate reflection on personal experiences and skills the learner already brings to bear. Again, short practica or real-world smaller projects provide the opportunity to immediately use what is learned and make mistakes. Seeing how real-life project work happens gives the learner significant perspective as they return to the classroom.

Sources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. (2017, October 24). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Computer and Information Technology Occupations. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm

Thompson, C. (2017, February 8). The Next New Big Blue Collar Job is Coding. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from https://www.wired.com/2017/02/programming-is-the-new-blue-collar-job/

Deloitte. (2017, May). The Connected Worker: Clocking in to the Digital Age. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/consumer-business/deloitte-uk-the-connected-worker-052017.pdf p. 27

Siemens, G. (2004). A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning. Retrieved December 7, 2017 from http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm

Source for image:

Davinci Coders. (n.d.). Coding Bootcamps. Retrieved December 14, 2017, from https://www.davincicoders.com/codingblog/2017/2/15/blue-collar-python-coding-bootcamps

Microlearning: Recording Degreed Using Jing

For this week’s assignment I taught myself how to use the Jing application (see Jing.com) to demonstrate Degreed.com. Degreed provides a free platform for learners to record their lifelong learning from everywhere, which will be very useful for me. It was mentioned in the source article assigned by the instructor (Gallagher, 2017) , and the description “Learning Experience Platform” piqued my curiosity. Jing allows you to capture screengrabs or videos of what you are doing on your screen. This is right in line with the Microlearning philosophy of keeping content to a manageable length.

Jing imposes a limit of five minutes for your recordings and it’s meant to be a very quick, informal way to create content. The five minutes does impose a bit of discipline! I realised it goes by quickly, so you have to think about your demo in advance and what you are going to say.

To learn the application I watched one help video from Jing and read one help page, then I was ready to get started. After two false starts I finally came up with a good-enough recording. I’ve uploaded this to Screencast and here is my handiwork (NOTE: I found out you need to have Flash player to view the recordings as I’m using the free version. That may be an issue which one could avoid by buying the paid version or perhaps by buying SnagIt. In that case you can create an MP4 video, which is more easily shareable.)

Degreed.com Demo Using Jing

I would say I used Connectivism and Andragogy as the primary learning theories to teach myself these two applications, for these reasons:
1. I evaluated options and decided myself what would be worth learning, consistent with both theories.

2. The items I chose were immediately useful to me in my work and life (Andragogy).

3. The items I chose to learn were conceptual “nodes” or an offshoots of materials provided by the instructor (Connectivism).

4. I looked at the online help materials to teach myself the basics. I had to experiment a bit and search forums to troubleshoot a couple of technical issues (Connectivism).

5. I was free to experiment and make mistakes. It took me three attempts to get a video I was reasonably pleased with (Andragogy).

6. I’m publishing my experience for my peers to review and provide feedback (Connectivism).

Source:

Gallagher, S. (2017, November 6). As Corporate World Moves Toward Curated ‘Microlearning,’ Higher Ed Must Adapt. Retrieved December 10, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-11-06-as-corporate-world-moves-toward-curated-microlearning-higher-ed-must-adapt

Connectivist Learning Experience

My latest professional role was as a Client Success Manager for a software company. At least half of the job involved being a deep subject matter expert on the product, and being fully aware of all implications of quarterly version upgrades for our clients. This monkey was probably smarter than I was after a quarterly release.

Our initial certification work on the product was well-designed but rather lockstep and focused on passing a certification exam as quickly as possible. This provided us just enough information to be dangerous. The real learning started once we started working with clients.

Our clients typically are trying to shoehorn existing complex business processes into a product which will only support about 85% of what they want to do. Part of our job was first, to understand what the business need was for the remaining 15% of requirements. If there was a compelling enough case or the client wasn’t willing to change, we had to figure out how to work something out in the system.

As we have several hundred practitioners globally, we leveraged several Connectivist ways to help each other and share knowledge:

  • Our EMEA team had a Skype chat, which enabled us to ask each other questions and provide answers in real-time. Unfortunately it was difficult to archive the great stuff coming out of this tool for later use.
  • Our client success team maintained a secure blog with discussion threads. Practitioners were expected to search carefully to check whether the answer already existed. If not, the question would go to a designated expert and we would normally have an answer on the blog within 24 hours. We could also answer questions if we had a better answer. Several times my colleagues reached out to thank me for taking the time to do this as it helped them out of a jam.
  • We were encouraged to provide corrections and additions to the product’s Online Help function. This benefited clients as well.
  • Finally for product upgrades, the product managers recorded short videos explaining the new features and impacts for clients. These were assigned to us through our learning management system. We could post questions, which showed up during the video. We normally got an answer within 24 hours and the answers were available to everyone.
  • During release testing, clients could post questions on a discussion topic and the product managers normally answered them within 24 hours. The answers then benefited all clients as well as us practitioners.

Dr. George Siemens (2005) mentions these Principles of Connectivism, and here is how this scenario compares:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.

Sometimes colleagues had an even more clever workaround than the designated expert. Additionally getting perspective from colleagues about what their clients did helped us tell clients when they were better off changing their business process.

  • Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources.

We used several highly-specific sources to find solutions to our questions.

  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.

We maintained rich digital sources of information for maintaining and growing knowledge.

  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.

Agreed, it was not possible to know absolutely everything about the product “off the top of one’s head,” but it was critical to know where to find the answer quickly.

  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.

Contributing to the community made one more visible to colleagues and thus, someone who could more easily get help when needed. Although I was in Sweden and far away from the headquarters in California, a lot of people knew who I was.

  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.

Sometimes we could use a part of the system to support a business process, even if it was designed for something completely different! An example: After understanding the business requirements for a training nominations process, I could help the client use the Succession/Talent Planning module to support it.

  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.

Absolutely, which is why these very searchable, digital artifacts were so important to maintain. The product was upgraded quarterly and patched every two weeks.

  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

This is the nature of software today. Everyone working in the technology industry is trying to run a marathon whilst simultaneously undergoing open heart surgery. However  I think we had less scope for “deciding what is important to learn” in the specific context I mention here, and this principle may be less relevant to the scenario.

Sources:

Siemens, G. (2004). A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning. Retrieved December 7, 2017 from http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm

Image:

No photographer attributed. Retrieved December 8, 2017 from https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/bionics/monkeys-type-12-words-per-minute-with-braintokeyboard-communication

 

Cognitivist-Connectivist Learning Scenario

I am not an artist but for some reason I could see these two learning scenarios as compatible with an art history subject at art school. For example the students are studying Chinese Art of a certain period, say the Song dynasty. The learning objectives are to understand what influenced the typical subject matter and techniques of that period. The students are asked to demonstrate their understanding through group work and practical artistic submissions. (See below for feedback from my brother, who is indeed an artist!)

One amazing thing I have learned in this course is that for group work to be enjoyable and educational, it’s absolutely critical to “form and norm” first. Please see this amazing paper from Dr. Donald R. Woods on this subject. So any Cognitivist or Connectivist group work needs to include as many of these techniques as possible before the group starts producing anything.

In a Cognitivist scenario, the instructor could assign some initial readings on the history and selected literature of that period, as well as an overview of the most famous artists and their work.

The students would come prepared to class to work in groups. They should summarise key themes from culture, politics and literature which are obvious in the artwork they had to review. The groups should present their findings to the entire class. Then the entire class agrees on the three or four themes they find most relevant.

Then the instructor can review some standard subject matter, symbolism, leading artists and relevant artistic techniques of the period, perhaps confirming what the groups have found, perhaps adding more. Then there is an individual assignment to create two original works– one a more traditional example of the period, and one including more modern subject matter and symbolism but still using the artistic techniques from the period.

The individuals bring their work to their group for discussion and feedback. Each individual has the chance to refine their product based on several rounds of feedback. In addition, there is a group project, which is refined over some time based on peer feedback from the rest of the class.

In a Connectivist scenario, this subject matter still probably works best for a group of people who are meeting in person regularly. However the instructor can be more free with the prework assignment, providing some background but encouraging students to seek out additional background based on their own research.

As part of prework before a class session, the instructor could ask each student to analyse a typical work of the period that they find online themselves. The student should summarise subject matter, symbolism and even some background on the artist, if possible. Students will be asked to review each others’ prework before class, give feedback and vote for the submissions they find most enriching to their learning.

In the classroom, the instructor can ask some individuals to present their prework and get feedback. The group activity would be much the same as in the Constructivist scenario, however there is a class blog available for each individual and group to maintain their portfolio. The work is digitised and available for the entire class to work with during the term.

In both scenarios, as is mentioned in Dr. Woods’ paper, it’s important for the students to do self-assessment and peer assessments, as well as a group after-action review.

Postscript: Feedback from an actual artist who went to actual art school:

“Overall it sounds fairly realistic, not insane,  well conceived,etc.
The Chinese art as a theme sounds great and the way it wraps in history, tools and technique is all good.
I guess the only thing i can add as an artist is that the reality is this- it’s good to make artists try varied subject matter and techniques for sure. But in execution it would be better served to try broad subject matters like abstract cubism, chinese watercolor, to have a real flow with a group. Too specific might be too limiting in execution.
If its about studying art instead of actually creating art in a group then anything goes!
But if it’s about making art in class then the scope shouldn’t be too narrow.

Source:

Woods, D. R. (2012, January 17). Having Students Work in Groups? 5 Ways to Get the Results You Want. Retrieved December 6, 2017, from https://www.cte.cornell.edu/documents/events/Woods-Cornell%20group%20work.pdf

 

 

Learning Theories Compared

I understand this graphic may not be large enough to read unless you increase the zoom on your browser. You can download the PDF as a document to read more conveniently by clicking on this link Learning Theories Comparison Matrix

Here are the sources I found most valuable whilst I was completing coursework and indeed this matrix:

Behaviourism:

Keramida, M. (2015, May 25). Behaviorism In Instructional Design For eLearning: When And How To Use. Retrieved November 16, 2017, from https://elearningindustry.com/behaviorism-in-instructional-design-for-elearning-when-and-how-to-use

McLeod, S. (2015). Skinner – Operant Conditioning. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html

Cognitivism:

McLeod, S. (2014). Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html

McLeod, S. (2012). Zone of Proximal Development. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/Zone-of-Proximal-Development.html

Author not attributed. Jerome Bruner. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome_Bruner

Constructivism:

Smith, M.K. (2002). Jerome S. Bruner and the process of education. The Encyclopedia of Informal Education.

McLeod, S. A. (2016). Bandura – social learning theory. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html

Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning. EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST, 38(1), 43-52. Retrieved November 16, 2017, from http://faculty.washington.edu/farkas/WDFR/MayerMoreno9WaysToReduceCognitiveLoad.pdf

Connectivism:

Siemens, G. (2004). A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning. Retrieved December 7, 2017.

Downes, S. (2010, September 10). Connectivism and its Critics: What Connectivism Is Not. Retrieved December 7, 2017, from http://www.downes.ca/post/53657

Siemens, G. (2009, September 12). What is Connectivism? Retrieved December 7, 2017, from https://docs.google.com/document/d/14pKVP0_ILdPty6MGMJW8eQVEY1zibZ0RpQ2C0cePIgc/preview
Discusses how Connectivism differs from other learning theories.

Andragogy:

Finlay, J. (2010, May 17). Andragogy (Adult Learning). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLoPiHUZbEw

Pappas, C. (2013, May 9). The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – of Malcolm Knowles. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/the-adult-learning-theory-andragogy-of-malcolm-knowles
Cites Knowles 1984 but there are two sources in the list from 1984, not sure which one.

Constructivism-Connectivism Venn Diagram

Here’s how I see these concepts in my mind, hope it is interesting for you. I picture constructivism more as the individual learner being provided a foundation by the teacher, then building a house on top of it. If the learner is really motivated, s/he will decorate the inside and buy nice furniture too.

I picture Connectivism in a much less “boxy” way. The teacher provides some initial knowledge but encourages the learner to use that as more of a virtual knowledge “lilypad” to spring from. The learner is free to seek out connections and synthesise his or her own concepts, then come back to the community to share new learnings and insights. Their conceptual and social networks grow naturally as the quality of connections increase.

Sources for diagram:

Content:

McLeod, S. A. (2016). Bandura – social learning theory. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html

Siemens, G. (2004). A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning. Retrieved December 7, 2017.

Downes, S. (2010, September 10). Connectivism and its Critics: What Connectivism Is Not. Retrieved December 7, 2017, from http://www.downes.ca/post/53657

Siemens, G. (2009, September 12). What is Connectivism? Retrieved December 7, 2017, from https://docs.google.com/document/d/14pKVP0_ILdPty6MGMJW8eQVEY1zibZ0RpQ2C0cePIgc/preview

Discusses how Connectivism differs from other learning theories.

Images:

Grandjean, M. (2015, March 16). Social network analysis and visualization: Moreno’s Sociograms revisited. Retrieved from http://www.martingrandjean.ch/social-network-analysis-visualization-morenos-sociograms-revisited/

BeWiser Business Insurance. (n.d.). Bricklayer Insurance. Retrieved from https://www.bewiserbusinessinsurance.co.uk/our-products/bricklayer