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Connectivism #CCK09

September 19, 2009

FactoryWhat follows is my first post as part of an on-line course called “Connectivism & connective knowledge” that I am going to try to keep up with over the next few weeks. The questions I am responding to are.

Does the concept (of connectivism) resonate with you? Why or why not? Are you learning through different methods than you did 5 or 10 years ago?

Connectivism, the notion that the act of connecting is the key to learning does resonate with me and I found the arguments within Richard Schwier’s interview with George Siemens on Connectivism persuasive and illuminating. I will return to the theoretical reasons for this in the future but I will start with the practical.

Late in the interview George talked about the misconception that we can know in advance what a learner needs to know, leading him to suggest a ‘participatory pedagogy’ is necessary, that we need curriculum crafted with learners, not courses delivered to them. The co-creation of curriculum, moving away from predesigned, one-size (even heavily elasticated) fits all approaches to teaching and learning is, I agree, the direction in which we need to move. Having grappled with the implications of a responsive and appropriate approach to curriculum design and am increasingly of the view that the only real way to achieve this is to throw all notions of a school in the conventional sense out, and start again.

Educational reform often has a pedagogical and curricular focus but the organisational structure of schools needs to be addressed if we want anything more than a superficial facelift of educational institutions. In the vast majority of countries and school systems students progress through schools in much the same way they have done since they were conceived. Constructivism helped to bring the individuality of the learner into education and push schools away from a factory model, but so much of what schools do still limits the possibility for real and authentic learning to take place. Of course, the reasons for this are as much related to pragmatism as they are to theoretical concerns. Societies need somewhere for children to be while the adults are working. However, as long as we go on placing groups of twenty to forty students of similar age into classrooms with one teacher for blocks of time that roughly add up to the equivalent of a working day then we will not see a significant shift in the effectiveness and appropriateness of our education systems.

There is a shift happening within education though that suggests that learning and potentially the structures that support it are about to finally evolve. The web is the tool that is starting to push learners into the higher order cognitive areas that Benjamin Bloom identified more than fifty years ago. This is not to say that teachers across the world will not spend an awful lot of time next week helping students remember and understand things and considerably less energy with them analysing, evaluating and creating things. However, as more and more of us devote time to discussing, writing and critiquing and the sheer readiness of knowledge reduces the temptation to think that just knowing something is enough, learning is changing.

Five years ago I read the odd journal and article about my profession, now I spend significant amounts of time every week discussing ideas I have found or been introduced to with my colleagues. This is partly due to the shift from being a classroom teacher to a curriculum coordinator and classroom teacher. I have taken small and intermittent steps at moving my on-line learning from reading and floating to participating and contributing. Tentatively I am moving into dialogue. This post, this blog is an attempt to do that, but my solatary comment shows that I am still in the early stages of that.

I suppose the extent to which my learning methods have changed in ‘on-line collaboration’ terms depends on whether this post provokes some dialogue rather than a still useful opportunity for me to organise my own thinking around topics I am interested in.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. darcymoore permalink
    October 14, 2009 6:10 am

    Colin,

    It is going to be fascinating to observe and participate as schools change. I’m looking forward to the ‘evolution’. I believe that Connectivism is a useful way forward form many of us, and our systems, as they grapple with change.

    I look forward to seeing more of your ideas as ‘the course’ unfolds.

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