The Three Cs of the Interactive Internet: Content, Construction, and Collaboration

It has been a busy two weeks with three conference presentations on top of regular full-time teaching. I am very thankful that my school so graciously supports me in my forays outside the school walls. Two of the conferences were local to Montréal – the Quebec Association of Independent Schools Symposium and Springboards 2007 – English Language Arts conference. After months of much online conference involvement, the face-to-face conferences were refreshing and I was impressed with the calibre of presentations. Just as I prefer the blended approach to education, I can see that there is much value of having both online and face-to-face opportunities to communicate, interact and be presented with new ideas. I will be reflecting for some time to come on the new people and ideas from these events.

The Springboards 2007 Language Arts conference left me very impressed with some of the collaborative projects I witnessed. While they were not online collaborative projects, they were rich in multimedia use and fantastic opportunities for students to share their voices and tell their stories for a larger audience. Particularly impressive was the project that led to the publication of the book – Québec Roots: The Place Where I Live. The book is just beautiful with photography and writing from young students. It included writing from the Inuit children in the far north and shared a culture with which so many of us know so little. What a wonderful opportunity! I thought about how easy it would be for other sets of schools to do something similar – then use a tool like Lulu press to create their own publication to share in the school libraries and classrooms.

The first of my presentations was a collaboration with Scott Morrison (of Selwyn House School) and was called The Three Cs of the Interactive Internet. The wiki documents conversations Scott and I had about web 2.0 tools and their usefulness in the classroom and the pedagogy we have been using. Scott defends his dislike of the term web 2.0 – I have heard many who don’t care for the term. However, I continue to use it just because it has become so common.

I housed the next presentations on the same wiki – Listening to the Voices: Student Empowerment Beyond the Classroom Walls and reused much of the same material. The main points of the presentation were created on a slideshow web application called spresent which can then be embedded in the wiki. This way all of my content was readily available either on the slideshow or on another page on the wiki. It also left a wonderful artefact for others to go through later.

In particular, I wanted to demonstrate why web 2.0 tools should be used in education and what standards and curricular goals they meet both at our provincial level and the international level. It is so important to be aware of meeting curricular standards, especially when new tools and environments are involved. And, of course, I wanted to demonstrate the learning gains of my own students as they participated in authentic complex learning situations – many of them crossing cultures.

When I was in Mississauga at the Canadian Assoc. of Independent Schools Best Practices’ Conference, I was especially pleased to attend Konrad Glogowski’s presentation about using personal learning environments for teacher professional development. In essence, he examined a number of web 2.0 tools that facilitate professional growth for teachers. I followed his presentation and dove-tailed the discussion about the necessity of web 2.0 tools for education. We made a great tag team!

I later was able to record a conversation with Konrad about his PhD research of blogging in the classroom (please excuse the poor audio quality – we sound as if we are under water!). He described the qualitative study he had undertaken with his grade 8 students using a grounded theory approach. Teachers who are using blogging as a writing tool/environment in the classroom will want to hear his thoughts and reflections! Clearly it was a transformational experience for his students, but especially for Konrad’s ideas of the role of the teacher in a blogging community. I want to thank him for the conversation and hope it will enrich others.

Update on WOW2 Webcasts

Last week, we were thrilled when George Siemens came along with us on our webcast to discuss connectivism. The podcast is now available at podomatic. I am still cogitating actively on some of the discussions generated from the show. And tomorrow night, some of my colleagues and I will be discussing how to develop skills in our students in an age of connectivism.

Today I met with Scott Morrison, a teacher from Selwyn House just down the road from my school, to collaborate together on a conference presentation we will be making at the Quebec Association of Independent Schools Symposium next week. Our session is titled “The Three C’s of the Interactive Internet – Content, Construction and Collaboration” and we will be using a wiki as our shell for information and links. Scott and I plan to pose questions about web 2.0 (what is it? Why is it important for teachers to know about? What are some pedagogical practices? What are the dangers?) and present our viewpoints (at times odds with each other) in our presentation. Next week, I can share the wiki we create with you – right now, it is a work in progress. I like the idea because it demonstrates the power of collaboration and negotiation as we grope for meaning and understanding.

Tomorrow night, we have an exciting and potentially controversial theme for our WOW2 webcast – the Potential of Virtual Worlds for Teaching. Our guests are Beth Ritter-Guth is a pioneer who is teaching literature in Second Life (SL), and Dr. Allan Webb who is the founder of This is the very new, cutting edge frontier of education and the topic should certainly provide lively conversation in the chat room.

I have visited SL a few times (my SL avatar name is Heloise Chevalier), but as I really don’t have even enough time for my first life, I am not sufficiently interested to invest a good deal of time in SL. Perhaps if I were to be convinced of the educational potential, I would be tempted to make that investment. I have been invited to a few teachers’ gatherings and meetings and will likely follow up on those invitations soon as I always relish the opportunity to meet educators from around the world.

Join us tomorrow night at our webcast and learn more about virtual worlds and their potential for education!

Basic Connectivism – Or “Connectivism for Dummies”

Connectivism and K-12 education

Tomorrow night we will be having George Siemens as our guest on the WOW2 Webcast. I have been following George’s discussions about the new learning paradigm, connectivism, for a couple of years now. When I mentioned that we would be discussing connectivism on an upcoming webcast, one of my friends couldn’t quite recall what she had heard about that particular learning approach when she had been in college way back when. I pointed out to her that, in fact, this paradigm had really only been around for a couple of years! At that point,she sheepishly admitted she didn’t know a thing about it.

Because our webcasts are designed for educators in the K-12 arena,
we want to keep our discussion about connectivism pertinent to the K-12 educational experience. While there have been many engaging discussions about connectivism and whether it is a viable theory of learning, we want to keep our discussions as practical and useful to the K-12 educators as possible.

And so, I was encouraged to write a post on “Connectivism for Dummies”. I checked with George first, to be sure not to cause offense. He generously gave his permission for me to write my thoughts about connectivism and quote his book.

I want to apologize for what I write about this because I know I will not be able to do justice to the topic. Please feel free to comment and straighten me out!

A few months ago, I went through George’s book Knowing Knowledge and have isolated some of the text that presents a condensed version of the tenets and features of connectivism.

In today’s developed world, we are hyper-connected by the Internet, cell-phones, mobile pagers, and the like, to the extent in which we are over-saturated with information. How, what and why we make sense of this information and knowledge (and George does distinguish between these two entities) to make meaning from it is what we would call connectivism.

Below are excerpts from Knowing Knowledge:

    We are trying to force the changed context and expressions of knowledge into structures and processes that served a previous age.

    For most of us, we find our higher-level understanding through reflection and informal learning, where we engage with knowledge to gain new understandings. The skills and processes that will make us people of tomorrow are not yet embedded in our educational structures. While there are many who are attempting new approaches, the vast majority are ensconced in structures, preparing students and employees for a future that will not exist.

    Social tools are emerging which permit rapid exchange of knowledge, and high levels of dialogue. Communication can now occur collaboratively (wiki, online meetings), through individual broadcast (blogs, podcasts, video logs), and in shared spaces (social bookmarking). Knowledge, when buffeted by numerous forces and factors, is under constant scrutiny by the masses.

    A property of one entity must lead to or become a property of another entity in order for them to be considered connected; the knowledge that results from such connections is connective knowledge.

    Knowing and learning are today defined by connections. Connectivism is the assertion that learning is primarily a network forming process.

    Technology is providing new affordances for individuals to become involved in publishing, knowledge exchange, and access to experts.

    The more closely the content is positioned to the point of doing/need (i.e. just-in-time delivery?), the more effective the learning process. Additionally, it is important to acknowledge that learning is much more than exposure to content. Social, community, and collaborative approaches to learning are important.

    When we stop seeing knowledge as an entity that is possessed within a person and start to cast it as a function of elements distributed across a system, we notice a dramatic impact on the education process:

    * the educator becomes a supporter (not the center),
    * the content is not as critical as the connections,

    * learners find value in their aggregated perspectives

    * learners become content creators,

    * and learning is continuous, exploratory, and sustained (not controlled or filtered by only one agent).

    Change is shaping a new reality under the fabric of our daily lives. Seven broad societal trends are changing the environment in which knowledge exists:

    1. The rise of the individual

    2. Increased connectedness

    3. Immediacy and now

    4. Breakdown and repackaging

    5. Prominence of the conduit

    6. Socialization

    7. Blurring worlds of physical and virtual


    Individuals have more control, more capacity to create and to connect than in any era in history.

    Relationships are defined by convenience and interest not geography.

    We can work wherever and whenever. Time and space no longer limit global conversations.

    People are able to connect, share, and create. We are co-creators, not knowledge consumers. Content generation is in the hands of the many.

    Co-creation is an expression of self…a sense of identity…ownership.

    We own who we are by the contributions we make.

    We are no longer willing to have others think for us. We want to read what concerns us. Listen to what we want. We want only the pieces that interest us, and we want to repackage it so that it makes sense to us.

    What is the impact of changes to knowledge?

    Overload of Quantity
    We can no longer manage the quantity of knowledge ourselves. We cope by relying on networks of people and technology.

    Overload of Diversity. Knowing resides in the collective of many differing, diverse viewpoints. This requires new skills of interacting and functioning, especially since our schools are still teaching basics for an era that no longer exists.

    Skills Outdated
    . The skills that have served us well for navigating hierarchical, structured knowledge no longer serve our needs. We require sensing skills (to sense what is happening, how things are changing)…and improved capacity to respond/react.

    Dehumanizing. We have yet to learn how to be human in this space. We need to learn how to communicate our emotions (empathy, courtesy) in virtual spaces.

    Validation/Authenticity. How is authority created? How do we know who we can trust? How do we know an idea has value? Is the validation of peers in a distributed environment as significant as the validation of knowledge through established models by experts?

    Identity. . What is happening with identity? How do I know you are who you say you are? …thirdparty voices can speak into the process; they can validate and comment on our authority and identity.

    What types of skills do our learners need?

    Anchoring. . . . Staying focused on important tasks while undergoing a deluge of distractions.

    . . . Managing knowledge flow and extracting important elements.

    Connecting with Each Other
    …..Building networks in order to continue to stay current and informed.

    Being Human Together. Interacting at a human level, not only utilitarian, to form social spaces.

    Creating and
    Deriving Meaning
    Understanding implications, comprehending, meaning and impact.

    Evaluation and Authentication …. Determining the value of knowledge…and ensuring authenticity.

    Altered Processes of Validation
    . Validating people and ideas within appropriate context.

    Critical and Creative Thinking . Questioning and dreaming.

    Pattern Recognition. . . . Recognizing patterns and trends.

    Navigate Knowledge
    Landscape .
    . . . Navigating between repositories, people, technology, and ideas while achieving intended purposes.

    Acceptance Of Uncertainty . Balancing what is known with the unknown…to see how existing knowledge relates to what we do not know.

    . Understanding the prominence of context…(understanding seeing continuums…ensuring key contextual context games) issues are not overlooked in context-games.

    The artist and the scientist

    The artist is the individual who sees the magic in learning. They may not know exactly why something worked well, but can see (and dare I say, feel?) that the learners are changing, growing, and developing.

    The artist of learning sees beauty in the dialogue, in the interaction, in the connections formed between what is known and what is becoming known. The artist sees (and accepts) the beauty of uncertainty and values learning as both a process and a product. In creating a knowledge environment, the artist splashes the magic of learning across the entire canvas of life. Tools are used like paint brushes to create the desired painting of learning.

    We need the voices of both the scientist and the artist. Neither one is necessarily better than the other. In some cases, a business may require the metrics and method of a clearly-defined, scientific model. In other cases (especially when pursuing innovation and creativity), they may desire the beauty of learning created by the artist. Both, held in balance and for the appropriate task, are needed for learning and knowledge.

I found the section on the need for reflection to be especially thought-provoking given our hurried information-overload society:

    Pascal has apparently stated that “all of man’s problems stem from his
    inability to sit in a quiet room alone.” 96 In a learning sense, we have a
    similar challenge. It seems that we will utilize any tool of distraction to
    prevent a “quieting of our minds.” Save a few minutes by using a search
    engine, spend more time searching other resources. Save time by having
    technology manage part of our knowledge, immediately set out to
    experience even more.

    Learning has a reflective component. Most people will trust a bad idea
    they read in a book sooner than a good idea they arrive at through reasoning
    and reflection. Our restlessness is a challenge to learning.
    We rarely slow down enough to begin to use our advanced thinking
    skills. Instead we skim the surface of knowledge, learning to distrust
    our own intuition and cognition.

    When a learner sits down and thinks, she/he is engaging in a reflective
    process. Nebulous thoughts and feelings are put to words. External
    ideas are scrutinized. The natural capacity of harmonizing our emotions
    and thoughts with ideas and concepts is evoked—a small cognitive and
    emotional oasis in the desert of busyness, and, I imagine more learning
    occurs in only a few minutes here than hours anywhere else…

I find that reflection is a practice that takes discipline and is not well-promoted or valued in our contemporary culture.

Once a month I meet with a group of colleagues at my school for a Critical Friends Group dinner. We chat informally about professional development issues and the group represents a mix of educators (francophones and anglophones) from kindergarten to grade 12 across all subject areas. The issue of digital literacy and information overload arose recently and I mentioned the lens of connectivism which presents some strategies to cope with this new age of knowledge oversaturation. So we looked at some of the connectivism material a month later and now, next week, our “homework” is to provide concrete ways in which we could provide educational opportunities for our students to develop the skills mentioned above (i.e. anchoring, filtering, connecting with each other, etc.). I confess that I am going to ask George to help me with my homework when we chat with him tomorrow night!

Please join us tomorrow night as we discuss practical ways we can use a connectivist approach with our students!

Our chat can be found here at WorldBridges and a channel there will be carrying the webcast live. Or we will, as always, post the podcast later.