Yesterday’s presentation by Will Richardson at the Connectivism Conference was titled “Connective Teaching: How the Read/Write Web Challenges Traditional Practice”. The session was incredibly well attended in an Elluminate online conference environment by over 180 people from around the world and the chat during Will’s presentation was rich and interesting.
There is much stimulating discussion also taking place in the moodle environment which has been created for the conference.
For me, the meat of the presentation was when Will made some suggestions about how teachers can become connectivists.
Here are some main points that he suggested for this to happen:
- Teachers as learners first (an old refrain, but well worth being reminded of)
- Teachers need to be networked learners (ahhhh…. this is new! and a valid point)
- Transparent learners (tools of the web, such as wikis, blogs, and social bookmarking facilitate transparency)
- Flexible learners – “nomadic learners”
- Reflective learners
- Social learners
- teachers as mentors who are on call in a 24/7 way
- more focus on inquiry-based curriculum
- teachers as connectors – connecting and building a local and global community
- connectors of students to students globally
- connectors of students to mentors, authors, experts
- students to resources (rss feeds and social bookmarking tools facilitate this)
As interesting were the obstacles Will mentioned which prevent teachers from creating a learning network for themselves and their students:
- Fear of change
- Fear of technology
- fear of transparency
- fear of being outside of comfort zone of context
- LACK OF TIME (Will stated this was the #1 reason teachers leave the profession – interesting!)
Time is a precious commodity to a teacher. Indeed, it took me nearly 24 hours to respond to his presentation because of a lack of free time. Actually, I wouldn’t even suggest that the time I have now to write is free – it is stolen time. It is a constant battle for me to manage my time. In fact, just as I sat down to collect my thoughts and do some writing, my 17 year old daughter dropped by my office, sat down, and shared with me some difficulties she was experiencing. Rarely do I have time with her to myself, so I cleared the decks and nothing was more important for me than the half hour we talked. Such are the “outside, real-life” demands on a teacher’s time!
Teaching is also a lonely job – especially for those of us who are trying to be change agents in institutions that are not aware (or pretend not to notice) that learning happens outside the four walls of a classroom. Creating a personal learning network has certainly helped me to cope with that sense of loneliness and isolation. In fact, it has been my lifeline in the last six months.
School in a Box
I see many teachers compartmentalizing their teaching practices as if “school-induced learning” took place in a box. While it gives one a sense of control, it does not represent the reality of today’s digitized world. At the end of his presentation, Will made the very excellent point that students are creating their own networks anyways – with or without our help. For their sake, it would be so much better if they experienced guidance and modeling so the development of critical thinking skills and a sense of ethics were provided by their more mature mentors – their parents and teachers.
The Women of Web 2.0 were very fortunate to have Will Richardson as a guest two weeks ago. I asked him the question that is most important to me – what advice could he give to the ordinary teacher (like myself) to be a change agent in a school where the recognition that interactive tools and environments of the web is slow? He encouraged us to continue to be providing models and he stated that openness, encouragement and support was needed by the administration to foster change. I wholeheartedly agree. The administration opens doors, creates and provides opportunities for teachers, and most importantly, provides a vision that affects the entire culture of a school.
We need more open, supportive and encouraging administrators!
I welcome your thoughts and comments about this post.