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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Connectivism in the Classroom

Some of you participating in the connectivism conference can go into the connectivism Moodle, however some of you haven't been able to participate since the conference is closed.

I have been watching with interest the phenomenal discussion that Jason Hando started about bringing connectivism to the classroom. I'd like to share with you two comments that got me thinking tonight!

Practical ways to facilitate connectivism in a school classroom?
by Jason Hando - Friday, 2 February 2007, 12:19 PM
I am interested in finding out practical ways to adopt connectivism in the classroom [particularly under 18 year old education]. I can imagine that incorporating global projects, where students collaborate with other schools and experts in subject areas, would be one way. Are there other ideas?
Re: Practical ways to facilitate connectivism in a school classroom?
by Peter Clitheroe - Friday, 2 February 2007, 12:28 PM
I wonder whether there is some fundamental work to be done with learners to help them get used to the connected environment and to develop the skills of creative and critical thinking through which that environment can help them learn.
OK, I'm largely working with adult learners but I'm seeing lots of them taking a very tentative look then retreating back into wanting a return to safe comfortable modes of teacher-led instruction.
It's almost a question of "Don't make me think, just give me the knowledge".

My response:

In my own classroom, I saw that at the beginning of using what some would classify as a more connectivist learning structure (for those who agree that connectivism is a theory) there was a definite initial hurdle to overcome. You do have to shift students to a more exploratory learning format where they seek information and read and use their discernment to determine the facts. (Mine then post via wiki, blog, google video, or youtube or whatever tool we are using at the time.)

Fresh or Delivered!

I guess it is like having to go to a garden and look for the ripe vegetables versus going to a grocery store. It is harder to find the produce in the garden, but it means more and is much better for you when you find it in its natural state.

It takes more class time initially to push students out there to non-teacher-led instruction, however after the initial learning curve of teaching my students to collect and share information, they now "take over" when I give them a project.

A place where the project manager is fired up not fired!

I now give the class an assignment and allow them to elect a "project manager" to create the wiki for a project. The project manager creates the teams and holds groups accountable. I facilitate and make sure everything is working smoothly and keep people searching in the right direction when there is a question. I assess and handle things that get off track. But I saw such a great learning opportunity in managing projects -- I already know how to manage and delegate and they do not!

Thus, it is a much more student-centric model of learning -- however I am still very necessary as the teacher because I keep the focus and accountability. It also requires my knowledge to create the projects and determine the appropriate next step. (Something that changes from class to class depending on the sources of information and class interest in a particular angle.)

Yes -- it is easy to go back to a teacher-led model of instruction and sometimes we do have a more lecture style discussion.

Do teacher-led classrooms REALLY teach more or just "cover" more?

I see how a teacher could also "claim" that they cover more material because they just charge through content without assessing student understanding and effectiveness of the delivery method. But teaching is about not showing how much the teacher knows but about producing students that will eventually surpass the teacher because they become self-learners and passionate about the topic.

It is a much more exciting method of learning.

A classroom where learning is fun

My five year old told me yesterday -- "Mom we can't take toys to school because we're not supposed to have too much fun there."

Let them have fun and let them learn. Let them make connections and let them connect to the things that they are passionate about to instruct them on the topic at hand. Harness the power of student passions to teach.

We have a great gap between the majority of students and their teachers. It is time for such teachers (who harness passions and allow students to connect via a network of other students) to become the norm and not be so extraordinary that the few who do it have a movie made about them.

Teachers, shed your fear and join in the conversation!

It is also time for teachers to become engaged in discussions with theorists and administrators.

The difference between reading about a kiss and kissing!

I look at it this way -- I can read all day about how to kiss but a thousand books won't teach me as much as thirty seconds of my first french kiss.

Likewise, theorists can pontificate all day, however, the process of teaching is often best understood and expressed by those who teach. We have a valid perspective!

I must say that I've been nervous about participating at all in such a conference and a lot of the discussion and terminology has required me to do research just to understand a snippet of conversation between the mega-theorists.

However, I am a teacher and it is time for us as teachers to accept what I think should be included in the new definition of professional ethics of teachers: that we contribute to the theoretical discussions in our profession.

How to fight useless workshops!

Have you ever sat in a workshop and whispered to another teacher, "I don't think that consultant has ever been in a classroom?"

Well, it is time for you to give feedback BEFORE such things come to your doorstep. (I am very fortunate in that I love workshops! I have so much to learn!)

And if you don't, you have no right to mumble. You have the opportunity to have a voice. Use it. Comment on blogs of the "experts," blog, listen, learn, share.

But most of all, join in the conversation. Stop just reading and get out there and communicate your viewpoint. It is important! You are important! Most of us teach because we want to leave a legacy -- your legacy grows when you contribute in such ways!

You are the one's out there teaching, for goodness sakes, you do it every day. You do it in your sleep. You know what you're talking about.

Do not let the rhetoric you do not understand deter you from communicating the truth you know. (And if theorists and educators look down on us and belittle us for asking "dumb" questions then they can no longer call themselves a teacher, can they? Good teachers can always teach beginners. Thankfully, many of these people who are kind to those who know less theory and have more practical knowledge like me are participating in this conference!)

Also, don't let the fact that many people afraid of this new teacher empowerment are often blocking the greatest professional development tools created in the history of teaching! Go home and read the blogs of those you respect! Read and give your input!

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