CCK08 and Connecting the Dots

Perhaps it was more than a little ambitious of me to attempt participation in CCK08 while beginning a new job, while maintaining meaningful contact with educators in Africa, while taking a French course, while fulfilling some of my previous consulting contracts. Oh yes, and I have a family, too, who occasionally appreciates my household management skills!

However, I am pleased about the direction of the CCK08 course in the coming weeks. Finally we will be discussing implications for practice of connectivism in educational contexts.

This is particularly relevant to me as I return to the high school classroom this year playing multiple roles – teacher of English, computer studies and providing tech support to the staff. It is really my dream job!

It has been a few years now that I have used a blended approach (face-to-face and online environments) to teach my courses. Last year was a fine year for me as an intellectual-type sabbatical from classroom teaching as I created curricula for Quebec’s online school. It gave me time to reflect and think on best practices. Now, I am gratefully back in the classroom with all the complexities of dealing with real learners in real contexts. And I am having fun!

My students each have their own laptop and our school has unfiltered access to the Internet. This permits me a great deal of freedom to explore the possibilities of providing opportunities to become 21st c networked learners. Now I just have to figure out what exactly that means and what is the best way to go about it.

The CCK08 course content possibilities are vast. So many readings, forum posts, blog posts and multimedia files to explore. I lurk, skim, filter, listen, sometimes respond, and try to make good judgment calls on what is worth spending time on versus what is not pertinent or relevant to my current situation. At first, this was quite difficult because of some of the more colourful personalities who had a way of diverting my attention….

As I have witnessed the almost relentless introduction of new online web 2.0 tools, and have experimented with many of them, I have had cause to wonder about the difference between the “gee whiz” factor and the tools and environments that truly can be used to support learning for high school students. I have looked around for valid research that supports the use of web 2 tools in education – and often have become frustrated. A few months ago, I decided to revisit the research literature I used from my pre-web 2.0 thesis about online collaboration for high school students and was surprised about how relevant to web 2 that it was. Reflection, metacognition, self-monitoring and self-regulation can all be supported with one tool/environment or another. And I have discovered that a good deal more research is now being published in order to support these skills.

I very much enjoyed one of the readings from the upcoming week of the CCK08 course. Grainne Conole provides an attempt at mapping out an alignment between web 2 applications and various pedagogies. So far, I think I am on the right track with the pedagogical decisions I have made with my students. This past week, my grade 7 students finally received their laptops and I was able to introduce blogging and wikis to them. The blogging community will serve as an environment to promote reflection, responses, and practice writing skills. The wiki will serve as a hub of collective information. They love it! It is a great way to link both of my English classes and to foster democratization of voice and interaction.

Still, I am groping about what it is to be a networked learner, so I have high expectations for the next few weeks of the course.

Some of my questions:

  • What skill sets represent a networked learner (a high school student in my situation)?
  • What is the right pace to introduce new tools and environments?
  • How can I best assess a networked learner? Where is the balance between formative and summative assessment?
  • How can I persuade my colleagues that these are valuable approaches?
  • What is the role of sociality (too little or too much) in order to foster learning in a web 2 environment?
  • How can I find that balance between social collaborative learning and individual responsibility for learning?

Looking forward to the next few weeks!