Connectivism and the K-12 education “real world”

Kick-Off to the Connectivism Conference

I was not able to be at George’s synchronous presentation on Friday because I was in the classroom watching my own students try to make connections. They were making public speaking presentations this past week and some of their thoughts and ideas were excellent.

Unfortunately, it seems that there have been some problems with the audio recording, so I have had to rely on the slideshow notes that George has provided in order to see his presentation. I am sure it was a terrific presentation and I will be sure to read the others’ comments about it.

I have been following George Siemens’ and others’ thoughts about connectivism for some time now. Because I had been spending a good deal of time reading and studying for my own thesis work in educational technology in the last two years, when I came upon the description of connectivism, I was very interested. Much of the approach resonated with me – certainly because of my own interest in online environments and a networks approach to communication.

A Context Filter

I am certain I was one of the first to sign up for the Connectivism Conference – within minutes of the rss feed going out, I had read about the conference and signed up. It is a particular privilege to be asked to be a “context filter” for the conference. I will do my best to be a filter that represents those who represent Women of Web 2.0 – and to me, that means those who are trying be change agents in the K-12 education system around the world to promote better learning through the use of technology tools. It is a challenging task to attempt to discern and speak for so many of whom I have the highest regard!

In my experience, the difficult issues of the digital information age are alarming and somewhat frightening to those educators who are beginning to become aware of them, particularly those who realize they are not prepared. Frankly, I have never seen as wide a gap as now between our students and their teachers in terms of facility of technology. The response of many school administrators seems to be to close everything down with filters and closed ports rather than deal with the real issue of creating a meaningful information literacy programme and a pedagogy that matches the technology tools that we use and provide to students.

Connectivism Connecting with Real Teachers

It was in this context that I recently brought up the topic of this new learning theory of connectivism to a group of my colleagues at the school where I teach. Over dinner for an organized prof. development evening (Critical Friends Group), we were discussing how to cope in an environment of information deluge. How do we create the best learning environment where there is so much easy access to information – some of it very shallow? How do we teach critical thinking skills to manage this deluge of information? How can we control it? Can we control it? The strong undertone was that this was a curse of technology and that these tools had opened a Pandora’s box for which we were not prepared

Because I had been reading George’s book, Knowing Knowledge, I was able to offer a few thoughts about connectivism to the group of teachers – a group which represented gr. 1 to gr. 12 teachers from different disciplines. They were intrigued. I had earlier passed around Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, to a few of them, so they were even more intrigued that Siemens had incorporated some of Pink’s material into his description of connectivism.

Teachers do not want to hear about a learning theory that is based on technology or changes due to technology. At first glimpse, it may seem that connectivism is exactly that and only that. The real appeal for teachers is to see balance and relevance to their own teaching situations. They want to see an approach that retains the human-ness of their students. The teachers with whom I spoke were especially interested that this approach factored in the need for reflection as well as a recognition to a spiritual component of their students.

Because I missed George’s presentation, I am going to rely on my reading of Knowing Knowledge to share some points I had highlighted as I read.

What types of skills do our learners need?

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

Filtering. . . . 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, not only utilitarian, level…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 an 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.

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

I see from George’s slide presentation that he did highlight a few of these, notably pattern recognition, acceptance of uncertainty, critical and creative thinking, network formation and evaluation, and contextualizing. As I look over these key points, I ask myself what would be new to the teachers that I know? And really, all but critical and creative thinking would be probably be outside of the lexicon of the average teacher. The challenge will be for teachers to develop these skills themselves and be active practitioners of them.

The challenge for the future will be developing an easily disseminated pedagogy for teachers to use to teach such things as network formation and evaluation and contextualizing if teachers are not practicing them already or if they simply do not recognize the value of these skills. How do we shift a culture of high stakes testing on knowledge that may not be relevant in five years?

What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Connectivism and the K-12 education “real world”

  1. David Georgina says:

    The U.S. Government’s Office of Educational Technology (OET) reported on a study of student computer and internet use in 2003; the study was completed by the Institute of Education Sciences (DeBell and Chapman, 2006), and reveals that among students attending Nursery School, 66% were actively using computers, and 23% were actively using the internet. The percentage of usage increases as the students move through their education. In grades 9-12, 97% of the students are using the computer, and 79% are using the internet (p. 6). Universities and colleges are admitting students who have been using technology since early childhood.

    In Higher Education, many faculty belive that by creating Power Point slides, they are using technology (ouch)–for me (higher education educator) the problem is multi-foliate: while 51%of all public colleges have a wireless infrastructure, little monies are being spent in the training of incorporating technology into pedagogy. A majority of the faculty are quite interested, as life long learners, to embrace technology, but have little or no input into the training system.

    The point is that when students from k-12 enter college, their styles of learning will be forged through technology use. Simply, they will have competent techno-literacies. If higher education offers little techonolgy, student learning may be affected in a negative manner.

  2. As a teacher, I believe it would be necessary for me to connect to myself personally and professionally before I can expect teachers, principals, parents, or my K-12 learners to do it.

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