Category Archives: Connectivism and Connective Knowledge

Thinking about change

As I was reading Bradley Shoebottom’s thought-provoking post about “the only constant in life is change – the changing roles of educators” I noticed the possibly related post link below it. I was hooked once again to follow a lead. The post was “The Business of blogging”. The author was Greg Whitby. He had read an article by Ian Grayson in the Australian on blogging in the corporate environment. I read that and then returned to Greg’s site. I mention all this to let you know my habits and how I learn from wandering here and there. I just feel compelled to follow these leads, and the pay-offs are usually great! Anyway, Greg was blogging about how the education sector can learn a lot from industries who are using blogs in productive and creative ways. He went on to state how these tools are no longer fads, but proven technologies that help organizations improve the way they work. Greg asked

“Why is the education sector lagging behind? Why isn’t our industry leading the thinking and application of such capabilities? Surely we must be on about questioning, challenging and innovation, isn’t this part of our core business? Aren’t things like communication, collaboration, personalisation central to the work we do in schools?”

He followed with this:

I am beginning to suspect it’s because educators rarely venture out of their own networks or jump into this world themselves. I don’t think you can effectively engage in this agenda in the abstract, you have to be an active participant. This means that educators have to blog, use wikis, have a facebook page, use del.icio.ous and the like.

I think a big part of why educators are not out of their own networks is that their day is filled with other priorities that the teacher has to accomplish. I wish schools would make reflection and learning time for teachers a priority that nothing could interrupt. Students need the same. I agree that educators need to blog, use wikis, del.icio.ous and the like but until the educators’ learning and growth is truly made a priority within our schools , I don’t think we will make the progress we need to achieve. We need leaders that make this happen. A reflective culture of learning and growing must be nurtured in our schools. Bob Garmston and Bill Powell have written on how it needs to be a cornerstone of our schools’ culture. I could not locate their articles online so if someone has links to them, please share. I have found that using blogs with students to reflect about what they are learning and how they learn lets them write their way into their own understandings. It lets them discover answers to the questions they need to ask. A blogging class of students can work together, reflect, pass ideas back and forth and have the ability to reach out to a larger audience to share and learn from one another. We need to encourage our students to tell the story of what they are learning – not just a regurgitation of the facts but one where they explore how they might use these facts or share how they have applied those learning of facts to something that is going on in their lives. Students need help putting their experiences into words, especially at the elementary level. They are very capable of this but we need to give them lots of opportunities to write about their learning. Blogging is a perfect space for that to happen. That’s one of the ways I’d like to see students using blogging in their classrooms.

My interest was next captured by the 20 or so comments that followed Greg’s post.

Judy O’Connell shared how her professional learning would be practically non-existent if it weren’t for blogging, sharing delicious links, twitter, etc. I know it has been life-changing for me, too. Finding others who share your concerns, your hopes, and especially connecting with those who want shifts in our current education is awesome. We really need education to be leading in this area. It seems insane that we are not.

Another commenter, Roger Pryor pointed out that the internet has provided him with access to other communities of leaders, and the opportunity to learn a plethora of ways which actually enhance, rather than diminish our ability to build human capital. Again, why are our students blocked from this learning? It makes no sense.

And yet another commenter, FManning talks about the culture in her school where all of them, staff and students alike are recognizing that they each have a voice that is worth being heard. She said her Principal has always maintained that reflection and evaluation of their work is of utmost importance in effective learning. Her school’s work with Web2 tools is based on this and this is what she feels is the basis of their success with social networking tools. We need more schools of this nature. I think this is one of the most important things we need to do in our schools – make time for reflection and conversations about the learning, both for teachers and students. We spend so little time on how we learn and way too much time on what we learn. We need to rethink all this.

The changing roles of educators – all this led me back to the original post I read on Bradleyshoebottom’s Weblog. I thought about his metaphor for his world. He talked of wayfinding and how it can be a useful term for the information domain. He relates that wayfinding was originally used to describe how people find their way around in the physical world. He thinks wayfinding is a useful term for the information domain, because ultimately learners must navigate the confusing number of competing ideas out in the world around any particular subject. He asks the question,

“Can we teach wayfinding? Or is wayfinding incredibly personal?”

He feels it is both and says we can teach the elements of wayfinding and use many of these internet tools in the process. I like the way he is thinking about this and it’s given me lots of food for thought. I think we should be teaching it and then having conversations about the journeys so that we can learn from each other. And I wonder how might we get change to move a little faster in our educational world?

Flickr photo paint from buenosaurus photostream

Still pushing through the CCK08 woods

I don’t know if some others have felt the same way that I have about this course but I am still sifting through the content, still going here and there with random and no particular direction. I have done quite a bit of reading, listening, and traveling from one link to another. I still feel like I should be completing something or at least posting my thoughts but my thoughts are still very scattered and really “just forming”. I tell myself that it is OK if I don’t post or participate but I still have that feeling of not doing my part. Again, I tell myself to get over it. I really have not had anything to contribute yet as I am still “in the woods”. I admit to a little impatience as we discuss theories and definitions as I am probably too much of a practical person. I want to discuss what might or might not work in our classrooms. Looking at all this with one eye on the needs of elementary students is quite a challenge.

So I thought I might contribute some of my thoughts as an elementary teacher who strives to impart that feeling of learning that she has experienced from being connected on the web to her students. I have been blogging with (mostly elementary students) since 2002. I remember the first day I arrived at the university getting ready to start a new job – a colleague introduced me to blogs. I thought wow, that has possibilities. I wonder how I could make use of it in a classroom. That started an incredible journey. Blogging is empowering to students. Writing begins to matter to them. The outside connecting audience is one of the motivating factors. I can recall many moments that have been real “aha” moments for students. These “aha” moments are connected with Things You Really Need to Learn.  (Thanks Stephen for this worthy list.)

It has always struck me as odd that we seldom spend time with students, particularly those at the elementary level, talking about how they learn. It’s always what they are to learn. So I have worked at helping elementary students reflect about their own learning and to share what works for them in their learning with each other. They need practice in this area and a blog is a perfect place to do that.

Another thing I’ve been doing is taking numerous side trips down participant’s blogs. They are fascinating and all the different perspectives are so interesting. There is so much information available that I get lost on the trails – good trails though!

Then today when I read “New Schemas for Mapping Pedagogies and Technologies” I thought – ahhhh we are getting closer to the classroom applications. Grainne Conole discusses the implications of Web 2.0 for education provided a thoughtful analysis on the different learning theories and how we might need new ways of thinking about how to map different pedagogies to the use of tools. Then he focused on the learning principles for a particular learning situation that were mapped against four key characteristics of learning – thinking and reflection, conversation and interaction, experience and activity, & evidence and demonstration. Now I need to do some more thinking on all this and what the implications are for learning.

I still have so much to learn but one thing I will keep doing is thinking about the possibilities.

Strolling in the CCK08 woods

woods

On The Daily, Stephen pointed us here. This post by Andreas Formiconi resonates with me. I think I am strolling though through those woods but oh the stops here and there have me thinking and exploring many side trips. I haven’t been able to complete a thing but I think that is OK for now and I am just enjoying the journey. I am working at trying to see if I can change some of the “old” thoughts of learning that I still carry around with me. Thoughts like completing all assignments, feeling that I have to “have something to say”, having a clear overall picture when I start, etc. I’m still trying to sift through and figure out how to make this work for me as a participant and a contributor. While I work at a university at heart I am an elementary teacher and as I learn I am always wondering how I can apply what I learn to be a better teacher and help students discover possibilities, too! I want the concepts of “connectivism” or whatever anyone chooses to name it to work in some way for younger students.

Here’s how I’ve proceeded so far….

First I read many of the introductions and thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of our group. It’s mind boggling. I plan to get through more of them. Then I had to take take a look at participants blogs….very interesting and helped me get a feel for the group. I’ve wandered through the Moodle forums. Then I have tried to read the materials and had to end up just scanning and noting where I wanted to return. The list grows. I was unable to get to the Elluminate sessions but did listen to the first one later. The Daily is most helpful and that led to some more side trips of learning.

It took awhile for me to download the CMap tools. I’ve only had time to take a brief look at it and plan to get back to it, hopefully soon.

Next, I’m going to try to carve out some time to comment on some blogs and other places.

Lastly, I have to say it is really strange to be feeling comfortable in a space that normally might be stressful for me. So either I am progressing or I’m totally out of it. Hmmmm.. maybe the lightbulb will come on later on that point but once again, I say thanks to George and Stephen for providing this opportunity.

Flickr Photo Credit: Mist Filled Morning from digitalART2’s photostream.

Initial Thoughts on Connectivism and Connective Knowledge Course

George Siemens and Stephen Downes have created a massive online course, Connectivism and Connective Knowledge, that now has 1700 participants! I can’t wait to see how this unfolds. George had a great introductory video to help us get started. He suggested that we accept a degree of unsettledness as we move through this course and he talked about how we simply can’t stay on top of all the information available to us. Unsettledness I can handle. I think I’ve been living with unsettledness for awhile, heck, it’s become my way of life. I’m taking him up on his good advice. I thank both George and Stephen for organizing this learning opportunity. I thought earlier that I must be crazy to take this course based on the fact that I already have more than I can do but as I read through all the materials I knew I would be crazy not to take it! Wow! I have literally dropped everything today and spent time reading the course outline, reading a lot of the pre-week materials, reading introductions, and browsing many of the participants’ blogs. excitedGeorge also told us in his video that they thought they would be able to provide us with a broad enough theoretical and conceptual works that we would be able to start to see how this type of approach to learning can be applied to individual classroom and even broader. It’s a 12 week course through the University of Manitoba. Learners all over the world are participating and it is an incredible opportunity. It is so well organized and full of activities. The Moodle forum is the central hub in the course.The conference tag is CCK08. I have a feeling this is going to be an exciting journey. I am really looking forward to this opportunity for learning!


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